Chocolate Peanut Butter Sandwich (Wedding) Cookies

Chocolate Peanut Butter Sandwich (Wedding) Cookies

A year ago today, I married Bobby. It was truly the best day I could ever have imagined, but the planning was incredibly stressful. I did a lot of the detail work myself – I made the invitations and a lot of the centerpieces, which, looking back, I don’t really recommend. I would have enjoyed the planning process a lot more, if I’d been a little more hands-off. One DIY thing that I highly recommend is doing baked goods for wedding favors. But not just any baked goods: these peanut butter and chocolate sandwich cookies are absolutely perfect in every way. They’re delicious (we got SO many compliments on them), they freeze very well, and they’re that wonderful combination of salty/sweet, chewy/crunchy – and they look super cute in little boxes, tied with ribbon.

I asked my mom to make the favors for my wedding, partially to save money, and partially to send guests home with a favor that they would actually enjoy having. The wedding best favors are edible, tasty, and of course visually pleasing, and you can personalize them with a simple tag or sticker added to the packaging. We decided on peanut butter and chocolate for the cookies, since I chose a white chocolate raspberry wedding cake – something Bobby would have absolutely no interest in eating. And if you read my last post, you know that peanut butter and chocolate is the only flavor combination in the world, according to Bobby. We were inspired by Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Ganache Sandwich Cookies from Two Peas & Their Pod, and didn’t do a lot to change the look of the cookie itself, because they really are stunning. But the original version wasn’t exactly what I was looking for flavor-wise, or make-ahead-wise, so we had to do some serious recipe experimentation.

The first task was finding a peanut butter cookie recipe that was stiff enough to sandwich without falling apart, but soft enough to give when bitten into, so the frosting wouldn’t squish out the sides. It also had to freeze well, so it could be made ahead of time – I can’t imagine how we would’ve pulled this off if my mom hadn’t been working on them in the months leading up to the wedding. After rounds of testing, with different brands of peanut butter, flourless vs flour-filled dough, (The version we made is not gluten-free, but the original is, so give it a look if you want something gluten-free) and different levels of sweetness, we settled on our cookie, and got to work creating the fillings. We loved the way Two Peas & Their Pod did it, piling on a sweet creamy peanut butter filling and a rich chocolate ganache, but needed to experiment with them to make sure the flavors went perfectly with our peanut butter cookie. The thing about chocolate and peanut butter is that you have to be very careful with the balance of sweetness/saltiness/bitterness to keep the flavor from being cloying or bland. We used my brothers as taste testers, and had them try so many combinations that they actually started joking about wanting to eat anything but wedding cookies. They’ve gotten over it, I think, because the batch I made for this post got eaten in all of two hours, once I’d finished photographing it.

We put three cookies in each favor box, which meant we had to make about 300 of them – 600 peanut butter cookies to sandwich together. Starting about two months out from the wedding, we made the peanut butter cookies and the fillings in large batches, frosted and sandwiched them,  and then froze them. We weighed the dough and the exact amount of frosting that went on each cookie so they’d be perfectly uniform. They keep so well in the freezer, even with the frosting, that when they defrost they taste and feel like they were baked that morning. They’re little peanut butter and chocolate miracles. We put them in favor boxes the evening before the wedding, straight from the freezer. Since the frosting was rock-solid, they were easy to package neatly, and they defrosted perfectly overnight.

The process of making tons of these cookies wedding-perfect is time-consuming and repetitive and demands attention to detail and lots of freezer space. It would be monumentally more difficult to execute for a very large wedding, especially if you’re not already an experienced baker. That said, these can be made literal months in advance – so you’ll have plenty of time to practice, and the effort yields superbly satisfying results. The recipe I’m posting here is scaled to make about 36 sandwich cookies, as opposed to 300, so the concept is perfect for smaller events as well. If you don’t require perfection and uniformity, you can skip weighing the dough and fillings and the results will still be completely delicious. It’s my plan to make these every October 8th for the rest of my life…and freeze a bunch and save them to eat later in the year, because why not? They will always remind me of the most wonderful evening, being surrounded by my friends and family, wearing my princess dress, and marrying the love of my life. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a cookie, but I there’s no cookie better suited than these.

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Sandwich (Wedding) Cookies

This recipe is heavily adapted from Peanut Butter Chocolate Ganache Sandwich Cookies from Two Peas & Their Pod

Ingredients

Peanut Butter Cookies

  • 2 1/2 cups flour 300g
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 14 Tbsps butter 198g
  • 1 cup sugar 200g
  • 1 cup brown sugar 215g
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsps peanut butter 284g
  • 2 eggs

Creamy Peanut Butter Frosting

  • 2 Tbsps peanut butter 32g
  • 1 Tbsp butter, softened
  • 3 Tbsps powdered sugar 25g
  • 2 Tbsp + 1 tsp milk
  • 1 cup powdered sugar 125g

Chocolate Ganache

  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips 85g
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 4 Tbsps salted butter 56g
  • 6 Tbsps cocoa 30g

Instructions

  1. Make the cookies: stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. Cream the butter with the two sugars, and then cream in the peanut butter. Stir in the eggs.

    2. Chill the dough at least 4 hours, or overnight. Roll into 18 g balls, and place on baking sheet. Press the balls with the back of a fork to create a criss-cross pattern on the tops. Chill dough balls while preheating oven to 350 degrees (or while previous tray is baking). Bake for 7 minutes, 40 seconds; turn tray, bake for 2 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

    3. Make the peanut butter frosting by adding all of the ingredients to a mixer in the order listed, and beating until well combined and fluffy. 

    4. To make the chocolate ganache, heat the heavy cream in the microwave for 25 seconds. Pour over chocolate chips in a heavy bowl. Let sit 1 minute, then stir until smooth. Melt the butter, stir in the cocoa until smooth. Combine the two chocolates. Allow to cool to room temperature.

    5. To assemble the cookies, place 8g of ganache (roughly 1/2 Tbsp) on one cookie, and 16g of peanut butter frosting on another cookie. Press the two cookies gently together. 

    Cookies will be good in the freezer for up to a year, but will be at their best quality if used within 4 months of freezing. 





 

 

Vanilla Butterfly Cupcakes

Vanilla Butterfly Cupcakes

Cupcakes have been officially “over” for a while now, but that hasn’t stopped me from eating plenty of them. Trendy desserts are very different from trendy clothes, because even after they stop being the “it” sweet treat, they’re still wonderful. Cupcakes will always be endlessly customize-able, and also the easiest way to transport and share cake. No one turns down a good cupcake, so they’re still worth thinking about – even if they’re not the treat du jour like mermaid toast and cookie cakes.

The most overlooked thing about cupcakes is undoubtedly the cake part itself. Everyone gets carried away with cute toppings and frosting techniques, and a lot of the time the cake is a little dry and the flavor is off. I like to bake as much stuff as I can from scratch, but for basic yellow and chocolate cake, box mixes are a great choice. They require much less work than scratch cakes, they yield consistently nice results, and they’re pretty inexpensive.

When I was about 7, I had a Disney cookbook with a cupcake recipe that I made over and over. I loved that book and that recipe, but the cupcakes were terrible. They were dry, dense, and always had pockets of baking soda that never quite got mixed in properly (this cupcake obsession happened way before my mom got a KitchenAid). I had no idea that the cupcakes were so bad, because I just wanted to eat as much sugar as I could get my hands on. Any cupcake can be improved by putting a tub of frosting on it, like I used to. That 7-year-old metabolism was a beautiful thing, and I miss it.

Fast forward 20 years or so, and I’ve learned that baking a good scratch cake requires specific methods of adding and mixing ingredients. The recipe I like for scratch yellow cake is Fluffy Homemade Vanilla Cake from The Spruce, and the only thing I’ve changed is to increase the vanilla extract. The process involves creaming the butter and sugar until they’re fluffy, adding eggs one at a time, and alternating adding milk and dry ingredients until the batter is smooth. It’s more work than opening a box of mix, adding three other ingredients, and letting the mixer go for a few minutes, but it’s worth it. It’s a great recipe if you’re in the market for a scratch vanilla cake, or box mixes just aren’t your jam.

Now that we’ve covered the cake part, I can tell you about the decorations that make these cupcakes special. I actually dreamed them up for my boss’ daughter’s birthday, and I couldn’t be happier with how they turned out. She wanted butterflies on the cupcakes, and I didn’t really have time to run out and buy butterfly decorations. Instead, I found a simple butterfly image online and printed it out to use as a template. I used melted white chocolate to pipe the butterflies onto wax paper laid over the template. The best part? You can be absolutely terrible at piping and still have these come out nicely. Since you place them on the cupcakes piping-side-down, they look smooth and no one knows how much you struggled to stay in the lines. After they hardened, I broke them in half, and positioned the wings in the frosting at an angle, to make them look like butterflies perched on top.

I piped a simple buttercream frosting in the same rose shaped swirl I used for my Upside Down Lemon Raspberry Pavlovas, because I love the idea that the butterflies are sitting on sweet pink roses. The method I used for the butterflies can be used to make just about any decoration you can think of – I think the inspiration was from a Pinterest post about spiderweb cupcake toppers, done a similar way. These cupcakes are perfect for little kid birthdays, but they’re not cartoon-y at all, so they’d also make great desserts for a baby shower or an adult birthday. They’re an especially good option if complicated, cutesy decor isn’t your forte, and people will just love how adorable they are – and how great they taste!

 




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Vanilla Butterfly Cupcakes

Cake recipe adapted from The Spruce "Fluffy Homemade Vanilla Cake"

Ingredients

Cupcakes

  • 2 2/3 cups flour 345g
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3 tsps vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk

Frosting

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar - divided use
  • 1/2 Tbsp milk
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 4 drops red food coloring
  • 2 dashes salt

Butterflies

  • white chocolate, melted

Instructions

  1. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside. 

    2. Cream butter in a mixer on low speed. Add sugar and vanilla, and beat on medium speed until fluffy, this will take about 10 minutes. 

    3. Add eggs, one at a time, making sure that each is fully incorporated before adding the next one. Mix for five more minutes at medium speed, until batter is light and airy. 

    4. With the mixer still running, add 1/4 of the dry ingredients. When it is fully incorporated, add 1/3 of the milk. Continue alternating dry ingredients and milk until everything has been added to the batter. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. 

    5. Pour batter into cupcake tins, lined with cupcake papers. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until the tops are golden. 

    6. While the cupcakes bake, prepare the frosting. Cream together butter and 1 cup of the powdered sugar. Stir in vanilla, salt, and milk.

    7: Stir in remaining powdered sugar. When sugar is completely incorporated, add food coloring and stir until frosting is uniform.

    Optional, but highly recommended: Whip frosting in a mixer on high until very fluffy, about five minutes. Frosting keeps well in the refrigerator for several weeks.

    8. To make the butterflies, lay a sheet of wax paper over a printed template of butterfly shapes - see the blog post for a link to a good one! Melt white chocolate chips in a bowl in the microwave, stirring every 20 seconds. Transfer to a piping bag, and pipe the white chocolate over the templates. If you don't have a piping bag handy, you can also melt the white chocolate chips in a Ziplock bag, and cut a small hole in the corner to pipe through. Let butterflies harden completely before peeling them off the wax paper, and setting on the cupcakes. 


Chocolate Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Treats: No Marshmallow, Extra Crispy!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Treats: No Marshmallow, Extra Crispy!

This recipe was inspired by Mom on Timeout’s No Bake Snickers Crunch Bars, which essentially uses this version of a Rice Krispie treat as a base on which to put peanut buttery nougat and caramel. That sounds lovely and it tastes delicious – of course I tried it, how could I not? However, I found that the only part I was really interested in eating was the Rice Krispie part. I was that person who was just picking off the bottom and top layer and leaving the rest of the dessert on my plate. I know, I’m appalled with myself for wasting so much of a perfectly nice dessert. I set out to turn my favorite part into its own dessert, and with a few minor changes to the original recipe, I’ve achieved what I think is my favorite version of a Chocolate Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Treat.

These are unlike any Rice Krispie treats you’ve had. They’re the crispiest, crunchiest version out there, without being even a little hard or brittle. They’re also loaded with peanut butter and chocolate, so they taste exactly like one of those Little Debbie Nutty Bars. I’m pretty sure if you replaced the peanut butter with caramel, these would essentially be homemade Star Crunch (I may have had a Little Debbie problem growing up). The interesting thing about these treats is that they have absolutely no marshmallow, so they’re not chewy like you might expect. They’re held together with melted chocolate and peanut butter, and chilled briefly to make sure they hold their shape.

This recipe is wonderful because it calls for all of 5 ingredients, and takes 5 minutes to make. It’s made with semi-sweet chocolate, milk chocolate, peanut butter, peanut butter chips, and Rice Krispies. It really doesn’t get much simpler than that. Bobby, who has been known to give speeches about the virtues of Reese’s Cups, loved these, so they’re certain to satisfy any chocolate and peanut butter aficionado. You melt together the semi-sweet chocolate, peanut butter chips, and peanut butter, stir in the Rice Krispies and then press it into a pan. Top with a thin layer of melted milk chocolate, and drizzle with some melted peanut butter chips, and chill for 15 minutes. It’s the last-minute dessert you’ve always  dreamed of, and it’s a little more impressive than plain Rice Krispie treats.

The milk chocolate spread on top is essential to giving these the right amount of sweetness, and for holding them together properly. You can skip the peanut butter drizzle if it seems like more work that you don’t want to do, but I like it because otherwise people assume that this is an all-chocolate dessert, and then they take a bite and feel confused about their lives. I do that to myself enough, I don’t want it to happen to other people, too. The original recipe calls for butterscotch chips and Cocoa Krispies, so this concept is flexible to what you have on hand, and it’ll still end up delicious. These would be perfect to have kids help with, since this recipe is the opposite of complicated, and there’s a lot of stirring and spreading things into a pan involved. And since there’s no baking time, there won’t be any complaining about not being able to eat them immediately. Chilling them is a formality that helps them hold their shape, but we all know that I only put up with that since I needed to take pictures. If I’m just making these for family, we eat them in their just-pressed-into-the-pan state, gooey and falling apart slightly.

5 from 1 vote
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Chocolate Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Treats: No Marshmallows

Recipe adapted from Mom on Timeout's No Bake Crunchy Snickers Bars

Ingredients

  • 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 5 oz peanut butter chips - divided use
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter 128g
  • 4 cups Rice Krispies
  • 3 oz milk chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Melt together semi-sweet chocolate chips, 4oz of peanut butter chips and peanut butter in the microwave, stirring after every 15 seconds. 

    2. Pour Rice Krispies into the melted chocolate peanut butter mixture and stir until well mixed.

    3. Pour mixture into an 8x8 pan lined with wax paper. Smooth with the back of a spoon into an even layer. 

    4. Melt the milk chocolate chips in the microwave, stirring after every 10 seconds. Spread in a thin, even layer over the top of the Rice Krispie treats. Drizzle with melted peanut butter chips. Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes. Remove from pan, and cut into squares. 

 


Gluten-Free Carrot Cake

Gluten-Free Carrot Cake

I know, I know. Carrot Cake for Easter, how inspired. But let me explain. See, this Carrot Cake is different. This Carrot Cake has the lovely texture and flavor of the Carrot Cake you’ve come to know and love, except that this one is completely gluten-free. Is it especially healthy? Not on your life. I don’t believe in taking all the sugar out of desserts. Is it perfect for gluten-intolerant friends and gluten eaters alike? It most certainly is. And to be perfectly honest, I’m almost as excited about the garnish as I am about the cake itself.

The last thing I wanted to do was pipe buttercream carrots all over the top of my cake. If I’m making something as popular as Carrot Cake, I at least want the topping to be unique. My garnish is made of carrot that I shredded with a microplane, with chopped walnuts, and dried, candied pineapple bits. Sprinkled on the top of the cake in layers, I think this garnish looks bright and fresh. I love the concept of taking fun ingredients from the cake itself and turning them into the garnish. It gives the top of the cake a little more interest, and displays what people can expect to find inside – this is particularly helpful with something as customize-able as Carrot Cake.

This recipe is adapted from What The Fork’s Gluten Free Carrot Cake, and hers was adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook. Gluten-free baking benefits tremendously from this kind of borrowing and adaptation, and I love it. When recipes go through enough work and transformation, with everyone adding their own improvements, you can end up with some seriously magical desserts.

In the spirit of benefiting the baking community in general, I tested this recipe with King Arthur, Bob’s Red Mill, and Maple Grove Farm’s gluten-free all-purpose baking blends. I very seldom use boxed gluten-free baking mixes, but in this recipe, which includes several heavy ingredients, the lightness that a mix can contribute helps achieve a cake with a great texture. The thing about gluten-free baking mixes is that they vary widely from brand to brand.  King Arthur was the clear stand-out, giving me a delicious cake with a great texture. If you decide to make this recipe, do yourself a favor and use the King Arthur “Measure for Measure” mix.

Bob’s Red Mill uses bean flours in their all-purpose baking mix, which is great in a lot of recipes. But it also gives Carrot Cake a bean-reminiscent flavor. The texture of that test cake was fantastic, but it didn’t have the exact cake flavor I was going for. The Maple Grove Farm’s baking mix is closer to King Arthur’s, and the flavor of that cake was perfect. The texture, however, was very soft, and the cake layers didn’t bake evenly, cratering a little in the center, probably because the Maple Grove Farm mix includes a higher proportion of starch than the King Arthur mix. This kind of variation in mixes is equal parts frustrating and exciting, because while it means you can’t use them interchangeably, it also means that underwhelming results in a recipe made with one mix might be improved by switching to a different one.

Everyone knows the most important part of any carrot cake is the cream cheese frosting, and this one is certainly not lacking in that department. Thick, creamy layers of frosting make this simple gluten-free cake taste like absolute heaven.  This cake is, however, delicious on its own, if you’re inclined to skip frosting to keep the calories low. As always, you can go further and really make this recipe your own. You can swap out the walnuts for pecans if you’d like, boost the flavor by adding shredded coconut (I left it out of this version because coconut and I do not get along very well), or omit the raisins and substitute currants instead. However you make it, this cake is a perfect addition to your springtime festivities. I would know – I’ve been celebrating spring with my test versions of this cake all month!

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Gluten Free Carrot Cake

Adapted from What the Fork's Gluten Free Carrot Cake Recipe.

Ingredients

Gluten-Free Carrot Cake

  • 2 1/2 cups King Arthur's "Measure for Measure" Baking Mix 350g
  • 1/2 cup almond flour 45g
  • 3 cups sugar 600g
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsps baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1 1/2 cups walnuts, chopped 130g
  • 1 1/2 cups butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins 40g
  • 1 8oz can crushed pineapple, mostly drained - not too dry 100g drained weight
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups pureed, cooked carrots (about 5 medium carrots) 320g, pureed

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 14 Tbsps butter
  • 1 3/4 cups powdered sugar 356g
  • 2 tsps vanilla

Garnish

  • 4 Tbsps carrot, shredded with a zester or microplane
  • 2 Tbsps chopped walnuts
  • 2 Tbsps candied pineapple, chopped small
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Instructions

  1. 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter 3 9-inch cake pans and dust with baking blend.

    2. In a large bowl, whisk together the gluten-free flour blend, almond flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Mix in the walnuts to coat them with the flour, then mix in the melted butter. Fold in the  raisins and the crushed pineapple, and set the bowl aside.

    3. In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Whisk in the pureed carrots and mix until well combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and gently mix until there isn't any dry flour. Pour the batter evenly between the 3 cake pans. I had roughly 720g of batter in each of my pans.

    4. Bake on the center rack for 35- 40 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let the cakes cool for 15 minutes in the pans before inverting onto wire racks to cool. 

    5. While cakes are baking, prepare your frosting. Cream the cream cheese in an electric mixer until very smooth. Add butter and vanilla and mix well. Gradually add the powdered sugar, and whip on the highest speed until light and fluffy.

    6. For the garnish, stir together carrots and pineapple. Sprinkle on top of the cake in a circle, or whatever pattern you choose. Sprinkle walnuts over top of the carrot/pineapple mixture. Sprinkle cinnamon lightly over the garnish. 


Balsamic Strawberry Nachos

Balsamic Strawberry Nachos

Strawberry Nachos aren’t a particularly new concept in the world of imaginative desserts, but they are a particularly delicious concept. Generally, they consist of some kind of cinnamon-sugar chip base, sweetened strawberries, a whipped cream component, and shaved chocolate. Mine follow all of these rules, but I’ve added the twist of balsamic vinegar with the strawberries to elevate the complexity of the flavors a little. It really takes the recipe from just “tasty” to “no, this plate is mine, go get your own!”

Strawberry Nachos are a perfect spring dessert. They’re quick to make, and don’t require a lot of baking time. The crisp cinnamon sugar chips take a total of 15 minutes in the oven for the whole batch, and all the toppings can be prepared during baking time. The best thing about these nachos is the combination of textures. The crunch of the chips with the soft strawberries and the smooth cream make each mouthful delightful. If you need a beautiful spring dessert, and don’t have time for something involved like Pavlova, these are the perfect solution.  Strawberries aren’t quite in season yet technically, but it doesn’t matter when you’re giving them a flavor boost with some sugar and balsamic vinegar. A lot of recipes that involve balsamic strawberries call for a balsamic reduction. As long as you use very high quality balsamic vinegar, this isn’t necessary for this dish. I use Florida Olive Oil’s 18 Year Balsamic Vinegar.

The cream that goes on top is part Cool Whip and part sour cream, with a little added sugar and cinnamon. It’s light and a little sweet, but also has some tang from the sour cream. It works beautifully with the strawberries and the chips, and has a distinctly different flavor than typical strawberry and cream desserts. Not that there’s anything wrong with those – writing about this recipe suddenly has me thinking of all the wonderful desserts I could make with strawberries when they do fully come into season!

After the chips are piled onto a plate, dolloped with cream and sprinkled with chopped strawberries, the whole dish is topped with shaved dark chocolate and sliced almonds. I can think of very few desserts that wouldn’t be improved by a sprinkle of chocolate and almonds. In Strawberry Nachos, the chocolate adds just a hint of flavor that goes especially well with the balsamic vinegar on the strawberries. Just remember that the actual assembly of this dish should take place right before serving, because the strawberries have a fair amount of liquid, and you don’t want that sitting on the chips for too long, making them soggy. Once you serve them, they’ll disappear quickly enough that the juice won’t be a problem.

I was thinking the other day about how fall baking is my favorite kind, what with all the gourds and stews and heavier components (read: piles of cheese and bread). Now that I’ve really gotten my spring baking rolling, I’m re-considering that stance. I could eat fresh, bright Strawberry Nachos every day, but they’re only truly satisfying in the spring and summer. Who wants a light, fruity dessert on a blustery November day? This April I’m focusing on appreciating the breezy, warm(ish) weather we’ve got here in the DC area, and all the delicious food options that go with that. It’s Strawberry Nacho season, and I plan to enjoy every second of it.

 




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Balsamic Strawberry Nachos

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 4

Ingredients

Cinnamon Sugar Chips

  • 3 7 inch flour tortillas
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsps sugar
  • butter or canola oil cooking spray

Balsamic Strawberries

  • 1 1/2 cups strawberries, diced
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 3 tsps high quality balsamic vinegar

Cream

  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup Cool Whip or whipped cream
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon

Toppings

  • 2 Tbsp shaved dark chocolate
  • 2 Tbsp slivered almonds, roughly chopped

Instructions

  1. Make the cinnamon sugar chips. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Stack the flour tortillas and slice them into eight triangles, like a pizza. I actually use a pizza cutter for this job. Spread the triangles in single layers on two baking sheets lined with foil.

    2. Spray the tortillas with a light coating of cooking spray. Stir together cinnamon and sugar, and sprinkle lightly over the tortillas. Bake each tray for 8 minutes.

    3. While the chips are baking, prepare the toppings. Stir together diced strawberries, sugar, and balsamic vinegar. Set aside. In another bowl, mix sour cream, Cool Whip, sugar, and cinnamon. Cover and refrigerate until it's time to use the cream mixture.

    4. When the chips are done, allow them to cool completely before assembling your nachos. You can make all of the components a day ahead, and store in airtight containers until serving time. Strawberries and cream should be refrigerated.

    5. Assemble the nachos. Place the chips on a serving tray, being careful not to have too many overlapping. Use a spoon to drop small dollops of the cream mixture all over the chips. You want the cream to stay in blobs, rather than spreading it around. Start piling strawberries onto the chips in an even layer, being careful not to pick up too much of the liquid in the bowl. Too much liquid with the strawberries will give you soggy chips in no time!

    6. Top with shaved chocolate and slivered almonds, and enjoy!  

Upside-Down Lemon Raspberry Pavlova

Upside-Down Lemon Raspberry Pavlova

Pavlova is something I’ve dreamed of making ever since I found out about its existence. A light, fluffy meringue crust, covered in whipped cream and fruit? Um yes please. Give me some now. Except Pavlova takes a really long time to make from scratch – the meringue has to be in the oven for literal hours to come out right. It’s not at all difficult to make the meringue, I’m just very impatient when delicious treats take forever to bake. I finally gathered my patience (read: made lots of snacks to eat while the meringue baked) and decided that it was time to give Pavlova a shot.

I used a recipe from Eating Well, waited the prescribed couple of hours for my meringue to bake, and made some lemon curd and whipped cream to top it off. It was completely delicious, but a little too sweet, and very hard to serve. If you’ve ever made meringue, you’ll know that they don’t exactly slice cleanly, or keep well for more than an hour or two, once topped with gooey, wonderful things like lemon curd and whipped cream.

I added a raspberry sauce to subsequent test Pavlovas, to add more dimension to the flavor, and reduced the sugar in the meringue by just a small amount. This resulted in a much more interesting Pavlova that I was certain I wanted to eat approximately all of. The crunch of the meringue with the tart lemon and raspberry and silky cream is the most wonderful combination of textures and flavors. You don’t have to make any of your own fillings, if that seems like too much work – you can get lemon curd and whipped cream pretty readily in stores, and I’ll admit that whisking the lemon curd can feel a little tedious if lemon curd isn’t something you absolutely love. If you do make the fillings yourself, there’s plenty of time to get them all done while the meringue is baking.

The question of how to serve this dessert neatly was answered when I was browsing online and saw some of those frosting roses on top of cupcakes. Here’s a tutorial if you’ve never made them – they’re easy to do, but you do need a special piping tip: an extra large 2D or 1M will work nicely. I’ve known about them for a long time, but I’d never thought to make meringue versions (meringues take too long and all that). After that, it became a question of how to incorporate pretty, white meringue roses without slathering them with lemon curd and cream, as you would with a normal Pavlova. Turning them upside-down was the obvious solution, and I think it worked marvelously.

The Upside-Down Lemon Raspberry Pavlovas are perfect to bring to a party – I’ll be bringing mine to my family Easter celebration. I served mine in these sweet little glasses, but you could use any shot glass that you can fit a spoon into. You don’t have to worry about cutting and serving, since they’re all single-serve, and nearly all the prep can be done ahead of time. All you have to do is pop a meringue rose on top of each one at dessert time, and watch people ooh and ahh over how pretty they are. And then listen to them sigh about how delicious they were!




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Upside-Down Lemon Raspberry Pavlovas

Meringue recipe adapted from Eating Well: Lemon Pavlova

Lemon Curd recipe from from Eating Well: Lemon Pavlova

Servings 12 Pavlovas

Ingredients

Meringue Roses

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/3 cup superfine sugar
  • 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
  • pinch of salt

Lemon Curd

  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg whites
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 Tbsp butter

Raspberry Sauce

  • 1 cup frozen raspberries
  • 2 Tbsps powdered sugar

Whipped Cream

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 Tbsps powdered sugar

Instructions

  1. Start by making the meringue. Add egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt to a mixer, and beat on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Make sure that your bowl is very, very clean before starting, because any grease will damage your results. If you don't have superfine sugar, you can blend it in a food processor  - I used my NutriBullet - for a few seconds. Make sure not to let it go too long, or it will just turn into powdered sugar. Increase the mixer speed to high, and gradually add the sugar. Whip until stiff peaks form and the mixture is glossy white. 

    2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Turn one of your serving glasses upside down and trace the rim on the parchment paper, to create a guide for how large to pipe your meringue. Make 12-15 circles, and turn the paper over so the pencil marks are on the reverse.

    3. Spoon the meringue mixture into a piping bag, fitted with an extra large 2D or 1M tip. Pipe roses onto the parchment paper, starting in the center of each circle and moving in a swirl outward. Bake at 200 degrees for 1 hour, on the lowest rack in the oven. When baking time is up, turn off the oven, and prop open the door slightly. Allow meringue roses to dry completely in the oven for about 1 hour. When they're finished, meringues will be dry and light. 

    4. While the meringues are baking, make the lemon curd, raspberry sauce, and whipped cream. For the lemon curd, whisk together all ingredients except butter in a small sauce pan. Place pan over low heat, add butter, and whisk consistently for 5-12 minutes, depending on the temperature you're using. Mine took almost exactly 12 minutes. When you can coat a spoon with the curd and leave a mark when you run your finger across the curd on the spoon, it's done. Press curd through a fine-meshed sieve to remove solids (like the zest). Chill completely in the refrigerator before using. This can be make up to a week ahead of time. 

    5. For the raspberry sauce, combine frozen raspberries and powdered sugar in a sauce pan over low heat. Stir frequently until the raspberries soften and break down, and the sugar is completely dissolved. Press through a fine-meshed sieve to remove seeds. Store in the refrigerator. This can be made ahead, also. 

    6. For the whipped cream, place your mixer bowl and whisk attachment in the freezer for at least ten minutes. Remove from freezer and pour cream and sugar into the bowl. Whip at high speed until the cream thickens and stiff peaks form - this should only take a minute or two. 

    7. To assemble the Upside-Down Pavlovas, put whipped cream and lemon curd into piping bags, and pipe alternating layers of cream, curd and raspberry sauce into shot glasses until they're full. To create the layers of raspberry sauce, just drizzle a little with a spoon and tilt the glass to swirl it around and create an even layer. Make sure that the last layer is whipped cream. Just before serving, top each glass with a meringue rose (the meringue will go soft if put on more than a few minutes ahead of time). 


Triple Chocolate Hearts

Triple Chocolate Hearts

This recipe really counts as four recipes, because there are four homemade components that go into it. Triple Chocolate Hearts begin with a gooey brownie base. Next is a layer of smooth, pink, vanilla buttercream, followed by a layer of fluffy, moist, chocolate cake. The whole thing is topped with rich chocolate ganache, dripping down the sides of the cake. I wanted to create individual desserts of a similar size and cuteness as cupcakes, but in a more interesting form. I think these fit the bill perfectly.

Before you go running away because there are way too many parts to this recipe, let me make it easier. You can use a box brownie mix, a box cake mix, and a can of frosting if you so desire/don’t happen to have some extra time on your hands. Your treats will still be adorable and delicious, and you’ll only need to make a quick ganache from scratch. That said, baking is clearly my favorite hobby, so if I can find the time, I like to do it all from scratch. If you do have a little extra time, a quick way to improve canned frosting is to whip it with your mixer. This gives it a lot more volume, so you can put a nice thick – yet light and fluffy – layer between the brownie and the cake.

Triple Chocolate Hearts are extraordinarily rich, but I feel that Valentine’s Day calls for it. What is Valentine’s Day, if not an excuse to eat a lot of decadent chocolate-y desserts? Yeah, yeah it’s about love and all that, but the rest of the year can be about love if you make it, and wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing? Letting yourself indulge in desserts like this all year is definitely not going to work out as well. Love all year, eat extraordinary treats on Valentine’s Day.

These fit perfectly in little individual cupcake boxes, so you can package them with a pretty ribbon and hand them out to your favorite people. Be careful who you give them to, though – as soon as they take the first bite, I pretty much guarantee they’ll fall in love with you all over again.

You’ll be left with scraps of brownie and cake, and maybe extra frosting and ganache. I think it would be an absolute crime to waste all of this. Instead of just eating all the leftovers the very same day, I like to work them into other recipes. You can make mini triple chocolate parfaits, cake pops, or use the extra bits to top off yogurt or an acai bowl if that’s your thing. Of course, I’m not always the best at following my own re-purposing advice. I ate basically all of the scraps myself when I made these for co-workers last year. I was in the thick of planning my wedding; I promise I needed to eat the extras to keep from losing my mind. You can easily freeze the leftover cake and brownie pieces for self-medication purposes down the road, if you don’t want feel like turning them into something else.

You can change the concept here, and make adorable non-heart-shaped cakes with different sprinkles and white or chocolate frosting in the middle instead. These would make perfect birthday treats if you’re looking for something to make besides cupcakes. The only thing that won’t change is how delicious they are.

Every layer of Triple Chocolate Hearts has a different level of sweetness, so they aren’t overwhelmingly sugary. The varying textures of the layers make them much more interesting than a typical cake,  so you’ll keep coming back for another bite, and another. Just, do yourself a favor and have some milk on hand – anything this chocolatey requires milk.

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Triple Chocolate Hearts

I use the standard Hershey's Collector's Chocolate Cake recipe for Triple Chocolate Hearts.  I didn't invent this one, but I wish I had!

The brownies and frosting are just typical recipes for brownies and buttercream - nothing super special or innovative (but extremely delicious).

The ganache is an original recipe. 

Ingredients

Hershey's Collector's Chocolate Cake

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cups cocoa
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/3 cup water

Brownies

  • 2 oz unsweetened chocolate (I used Baker's)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Fluffy Pink Buttercream

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar - divided use
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 2 dashes salt
  • 1/2 Tbsp milk
  • 4 drops red food coloring

Chocolate Ganache

  • 4 Tbsp melted, unsalted butter 56.5g
  • 6 Tbsp cocoa 30g
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips 85g
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

Instructions

Hershey's Collector's Chocolate Cake

  1. Cream butter and sugar in large mixer bowl. Add eggs and vanilla; beat 1 minute at medium speed. 

    2. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; add alternately with water to creamed mixture (quickly, with the mixer running - takes about 3 minutes).

    3. Pour batter into two greased and floured 8-inch or 9-inch layer pans, or 13x9 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 - 40 mins for 8-inch; 30 - 35 mins for 9-inch; 37 mins for 13x9. 

Brownies

  1. Melt together butter and unsweetened chocolate, stir until smooth. Add sugar, eggs, vanilla, and chocolate chips. 

    2. Stir in salt and flour. Pour batter into a greased and floured 8x8 pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Do not over-bake. 

Fluffy Pink Buttercream

  1. Cream together butter and 1 cup of the powdered sugar. Stir in vanilla, salt, and milk.

    2: Stir in remaining powdered sugar. When sugar is completely incorporated, add food coloring and stir until frosting is uniform. 

    3: Optional, but highly recommended: Whip frosting in a mixer on high until very fluffy, about five minutes. 

    - Keeps well in the refrigerator for several weeks. 

Chocolate Ganache

  1. Combine melted butter and cocoa in a small bowl. 

    2. Pour chocolate chips into another bowl. Heat heavy cream for about 25 seconds in the microwave - you can also do this over the stove. You just want it hot enough to come barely to a boil. Pour cream over chocolate chips and let sit for one minute. Stir until chocolate has melted and the mixture is completely smooth. 

    3. Combine the two bowls of chocolatey essence into one bowl of nirvana.

Tripe Chocolate Hearts

  1. Make Cake (I did a 9x13) and Brownies. While these are baking, make frosting and ganache. When cake and brownies are cool, use a cookie cutter to cut heart shapes from each. Cut off the excess cake/brownie that sticks out over the top edge of the cookie cutter so that both sides of your heart shapes are even and flat. 

    2. Use the brownie hearts as the base. Frost with a generous layer of the pink buttercream. Top with a cake heart, bottom side-up, to give you a smoother surface for the ganache. 

    3. Spread a thick layer of ganache across the top of the cake, allowing some to drip down the sides. Decorate the hearts with sprinkles, and try not to eat all of them immediately!





Chocolate Chip Crater Cake

Chocolate Chip Crater Cake

I’m going to tell you a secret that I hold close to my heart. I don’t always tell people, because they often react in shock and horror, but I think it’s time to proclaim it to the world. Click away now if you’re easily distressed. Ready?

I don’t like coffee.

I know you’re staring at your screen right now, mouth agape, wondering how this could possibly have come to pass. Who doesn’t like coffee? Most people practically live on the stuff! I don’t have anything specific against it, I’ve just never enjoyed drinking it enough to make it a part of my life.

You know what I do like? Coffee cake – all versions of it. Chocolate Chip Crater Cake makes an absolutely delightful coffee cake. You can also choose to enjoy it sans coffee, perhaps with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, as I do. It’s versatile that way.

Chocolate Chip Crater Cake is a long-standing favorite from my childhood. My mom couldn’t tell me exactly where we got this recipe, although she suspects that it came from Betty Crocker. This isn’t exactly a new recipe, but I haven’t seen it around at all lately, so I figured it was time to start bringing it back.

This cake is a different creature from a lot of typical go-to desserts. It’s got a fluffy, cake-ybase, a layer of gooey, melted chocolate chips, another layer of cake, and a buttery, cinnamon crumble topping that ties the whole thing together. It’s baked in an 8×8 pan, so the recipe doesn’t make a huge amount. I tend to prefer that in dessert recipes I know I love. If I don’t bake too much of it, I won’t eat too much of it. Seems pretty rudimentary, but portion control has never quite been my strong suit. Especially when we’re talking about something this delicious.

Chocolate Chip Crater Cake is the dessert equivalent of those tiny restaurants that don’t look like much, but serve amazing food. It’s not the prettiest or the most intricate, but the balance of flavors and textures really makes up for what it lacks in appearance.

This recipe originally calls for Bisquick, which you are perfectly welcome to use – your results will be perfectly fine. I use a homemade version of Bisquick that I like to keep on hand – it keeps well for a long time in the refrigerator. I’ve included it below the recipe for the cake, in case you decide to make it from scratch as well. I know a lot of people like to know exactly what ingredients go into their food, and commercial mixes can make that more difficult.

Whether you enjoy it by itself, with ice cream, coffee, or coffee flavored ice cream, Chocolate Chip Crater Cake is a dessert you’ll want to make again and again. It’s simple yet rich, and about as comforting as a dessert can be. Try it hot out of the oven, and I promise you won’t even remember that it’s winter.

5 from 1 vote
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Chocolate Chip Crater Cake

Course Dessert
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes

Ingredients

Cake

  • 2 cups Bisquick 216g
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Topping

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup Bisquick
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Step 1: Stir together Bisquick, sugar, and cinnamon. Add egg, vanilla, and milk, and stir until well combined. It's alright if there are some lumps; these won't matter once it's baked. 

    Step 2: Pour half the batter into a greased 8x8 pan. Top with chocolate chips in an even layer. Pour remaining batter over the chocolate chips and spread to cover them.

    Step 3: Use a fork to stir together topping ingredients, and sprinkle evenly over batter. 

    Step 4: Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes until the topping is golden brown and crispy. Cool completely and cut into squares.

 

 

5 from 1 vote
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Homemade Bisquick

Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 3 cups

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour 240g
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp buttermilk powder
  • 1/2 cup cold butter, unsalted

Instructions

  1. Step 1: Sift dry ingredients together in a large bowl. 

    Step 2: Cut in butter to the size of small peas. Refrigerate if not using right away - may also be stored in the freezer.