God Bless The USA

Happy 4th of July!  I meant to post a few days ago, an actual meal too.  That’s right, we don’t only eat dessert at this house!  Life, however, got in the way and I got busy.  So instead, you get an entire menu for Independence Day!  Ok, maybe not a 6 course meal, but I have your appetizer, main dish, and dessert covered.  I know most menus for today generally consist of grilling of some sort, pasta and potato salads, and pie.  Unfortunately, the grill master of the house has duty today, and I was not about to attempt grilling for our special guests!  I wouldn’t even know where to start. 

Fourth Of July Menu

3 Layer Mexi Dip

Indian Flat Bread Tacos

Red, White, and Blue Layer Cake

Lets start with the dip.  This is not a pinterest recipe. Instead I picked up this recipe at our last duty station and it has become a staple at all get together, potlucks, or parties where I need to contribute a dish.  Its super easy, and super yummy, and lucky you, I have decided to share it!


1 brick cream cheese (8 oz) softened

Sour Cream (16 oz container)

taco seasoning to taste



First off, since you now have this recipe and immediately decide to make it, you place in a medium size bowl, the cream cheese (you put this out to soften and therefore are prepared!)and the entire container of sour cream.


The best thing I have found to use here is a hand mixer, unless you are looking for an excellent arm workout and decide to approach this armed with only a whisk. 


I have sad wimpy arms, maybe I need to use the whisk instead?  However you choose to mix this, keep going until it is creamy and smooth.  No lumps.  Then add in the Taco Seasoning.


I really like the Old El Paso brand.  I know you can make your own, but seriously, who has time for that?  I say to taste because, you might like only a little bit of spice or a lot.  So add until it suits you.  I usually go by the slight orange-y color it gets once you mix it.  Now take the dish you are preparing it in.  This one is my personal favorite.


Honestly, it is probably 12 years old, it was a wedding gift and is the perfect size for this dip! 


Now spread the base around the bottom of the dish until it is completely covered. 


Once you have the base spread out, take your salsa.  Again, your level of spice is completely up to your discretion.  Medium I think pairs really with the cool creaminess of the base.  And pour it on top.  If you get the standard size you will use the entire jar.  I used about half of this. 


From here you will take your cheese and it gets super complicated.  I like the Mexican blend from Kraft.  Man, with all the name dropping, maybe someone will send me something?  Probably not… 


I told you it was complicated!  Spread the cheese all over until it covers the salsa.  And your done.  Yep, that’s it.  Put it in the fridge to chill for a couple of hours. 


Now you could make a more even layer of salsa to match the creamy base, but I think this is perfect just the way it is.  I can not tell you how well received this is! 

Ok on to our next dish.  I am ashamed to admit that I didn’t get a photo of the Indian Fry bread with all its taco toppings on it.  I apologize, it was delicious though!


  • 3 cups All-purpose Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 3 teaspoons Baking Powder (slightly Rounded Teaspoons)
  • 3/4 cups Milk
  • Water As Needed To Get Dough To Come Together
  • Vegetable Shortening Or Lard For Frying                   

This recipe is from the Pioneer Woman.  I love almost every recipe she posts, and they are always easy to follow.  So take the flour, salt, and baking powder, place in a medium size bowl and mix with a fork.


Then add in the milk and mix with a fork until the dough starts to come together. 


It should start to look like this.


Now add in a bit of water until it is thoroughly mixed and doughy.  I used about 3/4 of a cup, but play with the measurements if you need to.  I started out with half a cup and went up a little bit at a time from there, until it looked like this.


Now cover with a clean dish towel and set aside for about 45 min.  Not because it needs to rise or anything, it just needs to rest.  While its resting, you could rest, take a nap!  I wish I could have, but I had more to do. 

Everyone well rested now? Grab a frying pan, place it on your stove top, just in case you weren’t sure where to fry these.  Take a good scoop of crisco and over about low/medium heat, I had my knob turned to about 3-4, let it melt and heat up. 


I took a cutting board and put a bit of flour down to pat each handful of dough so its not overly sticky. 


Pull and pat out the dough until its the size you would like it to be and place it in the pan for frying!  I used tongs to flip it after about a minute, maybe a little less.


Looks delicious!  It was so soft and warm and worked perfectly with the taco toppings.  Now in between each one, I folded paper towels to soak up any excess oil from cooking it.  You don’t want them to be soggy. 


These would be amazing with a little melted butter and honey or even a sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar for a breakfast fry bread.  

To make it a taco however, I had cooked up some ground beef the day before with taco seasoning on it, which I warmed up again.  On the flat bread, I layered the ground beef, cheese, shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes.   Top with sour cream, avocado or guacamole, or even the taco dip you made earlier! 

Now for dessert!  Seriously good cake by the way.  It looks complicated, but its mainly just a matter of stacking in the proper order. 

There are 3 groups of ingredients.  One for each color of cake! 

Lets start with the red layer

1 box Betty Crocker® SuperMoist® white cake mix (yes I actually used cake mix this time around!)

About 2 cups of strawberries, stems removed and hulled, pureed down to about 1 1/4 cup

1/3 c vegetable oil

3 egg whites

1 teaspoon red paste food coloring

Using a stand mixer place all the ingredients in and mix for about 2 minutes.  Separate into 2 8 in round cake pans and in a preheated oven bake for about 30 min.


Thanks to the strawberries, these layers have a nice light strawberry taste.  My taste tester agreed!


See the white 4th of July tank? Yeah it was white for about 10 min,  shortly after his taste test there was a bit of pink batter at the top.  Then after our family arrived and we gave them a tour of the new house, he somehow managed to get dirt on the bottom of it.  I should know better, but I like white on him it makes his blue eyes really stand out.  Dirty or not, he sure is a cutie!

Next up is the white layer

1/2 box of Betty Crocker Super Moist White cake mix

1/2 cup of water

2 tblsp vegetable oil

2 egg whites

Mix all of the above ingredients together in a stand mixer.  And put in an 8 in round cake pan.  Bake at 350 for about 30 min, but keep an eye on it, I swear this baked a lot faster them that.


Blue Layer

1/2 box of Betty Crocker Super Moist White cake mix

1/2 cup blueberries, pureed in mixer

3 tblsp vegetable oil

2 whole eggs

1/2 tsp blue paste food coloring

3 tblsp white star shaped candy sprinkles or nonpariels

In your stand mixer, yes I washed my mixing bowl 3 times today,  I keep saying I want either another Kitchenaid, or at the least another mixing bowl, I wouldn’t have to do so many dishes all the time, mix together all the blue ingredients with the exception of the white sprinkles. 



Look at that lovely color!  I think the best name for it is Tardis blue! 


And spread it into, you guessed it, an 8 in round pan.  Those lovely dark bits are the blueberries.  This also has a nice fruity flavor to it.  Makes for a super yummy cake. 

Ok, once you have all your cakes baked, and cooled, its time to cut them up.


The red and white you are going to cut each layer horizontally in half so you have 4 layers of red, and 2 layers of white.  Now out of one of the red, I used a smaller cake pan, not sure of the measurements of it, and cut out the middle in a circle.  And with the blue layer, using the smaller cake pan as a guide, cut out the middle section (round) and set aside the middle for another day, and keep the ring handy.

Like this:


Now to layer them! Ok so your bottom layer should be red, place on the cake plate and spread a layer of frosting, or in my case cool whip on the top of the cake layer.


White comes next, and top that layer with your choice of white frosting or cool whip. Followed by another red layer.  At this point it should be red, white, red.Image

Now very carefully place the blue ring on top of the last layer, and with the icing frost the middle edges.


You should have a white and a red small circle from when you cut out the middle of 1 of each of those layers.  Place first the white one in to fill the hole, pressing down and then icing it.  On top of that, place the red, press it down slightly and frost the top of the cake and sides covering all the cake.  Decorate with sprinkles or something fun!


The fun part is when you cut into it and you see the flag your layers created!


Pretty cool, huh?

What did you make for your Independence Day menu plan?  Did you grill, or try something new?  Let me know in the comments!

As always, here are the original posters

The Indian Fry Bread: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2011/10/indian-fry-bread-and-indian-tacos/

And the cake: http://tinyurl.com/lq9fuhq 

I made the cake one a tiny URL since it was crazy long. 

Happy 4th Of July!! I hope you all had a safe and fun celebration, and a special thank you to all our military men and women serving today to make it possible for us to enjoy this day with our families!


your Bestie Baker


To Dream Of Caramel

Not baking for a week and a half was terrible!  I started to have withdrawals, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it since we were getting ready to move.  And where did we move you might ask?  Across the street and 4 houses down.  Yep, a little strange I can admit, but we got a better deal on rent, got to stay in the same neighborhood and school district and gained a playroom for the kiddos!  So, for a week, I was moving one room at a time.  Today is our 3rd day in the new house.  I couldn’t hold off baking any longer, I wanted it to feel like home, so I broke out the cupcake liners and made Samoa Cupcakes!  These are super yum, and if you like the Girl Scout cookies, then you will LOVE these!

Samoa Cupcakes:


For the Cupcakes:
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup natural cocoa powder
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups whole milk

I knew last night I was planning on making these so I went ahead and set my butter out to soften.  I wish I was always that on top of the game.  And then this morning when I got up, I set aside the eggs so they could come to room temperature.  Yep, I am rocking it this morning.  So organized.  Clearly this won’t happen again for a while, I can only be so on top of things before so long.  I blame it on my kiddos.  They have sucked my ability to think clearly. 

And now that you too set your butter out to soften the appropriate amount of time beforehand, place that in your stand mixer along with the sugar and cream together.



From here add in the salt, baking soda, vanilla, and coconut extract and mix until light and fluffy.  Usually about 3-4 minutes.  I had to smack a little hand at this point, since my middle crazy was trying to sneak a lick.  What is it with children wanting a lick of sugar and butter?

Then start adding the eggs in one at a time, beating the mixture in between each addition.


At this point, take the flour and add in the cocoa powder and whisk together in a separate bowl, you are going to incorporate this into the butter mixture alternating with the milk. 


I usually start with the dry ingredients and do it in 3 batches.  You want to make sure not to over mix also so the batter doesn’t get tough so to speak.  I know I mention that a lot, but it makes the difference between a light airy cake and a heavy dense one. 


This is a great easy batter to pull together for any chocolate cupcake or cake recipe.  The coconut extract is not overwhelming and if you aren’t a huge fan of coconut you can omit it. 


Milk chocolate cupcakes, one of my favorites! 

From here, spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling about half way. If you put in too much like I did, then they bake up too high. 


So take note that this is too much batter!


Doesn’t look like too much, but apparently that was.  Put them in a 350 degree oven for about 21 min or so.  Rotate then pan halfway through.  Not sure why, I haven’t even done that before, but I am sure it has something to do with baking more evenly? 


See my pretty new oven?  Sorry it is a little blurry, apparently I was shaking with excitement.  It has some great features to it, the one I am the most excited to try is the Proofing one.  If you are not familiar with Proofing, you do it with bread, or cinnamon rolls so they can rise!  IN THE OVEN!  So I don’t have to turn the oven on and set the dough on top of the oven while it rises.  I also have a chicken nugget setting!  My crazies at a lot of nuggets, in spurts.  So this is a great feature. 

While your cupcakes are baking, this is a great time to do 2 things.  One, spread coconut flakes on a baking sheet and pop in the oven for about 8-10 min. Toasted coconut is one of my favorite things.  I love the texture and the crunch.


So easy and smells delicious!

The other thing you should do while you are waiting for your cupcakes to bake, and this batter will give you about 2 and a half dozen, so plenty of time for this step.  Start working on the frosting.  Take my word for it when I say its better to start this early, or even do this first. 

For the Caramel Frosting:
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut


1/4 cup milk chocolate chips

Lets get started on the frosting, or in my case, glaze. 


In a heavy duty sauce pan, place 2 sticks of butter and melt them.  Add in the brown sugar and salt, stirring occasionally and bring to a boil.  Now stir constantly for 2 minutes to dissolve the sugar.


Add in the milk and bring back to a boil and set aside.  I truly wish I had done this first thing, I was under a slight time constraint to get this done, I wanted my guests for the morning to be able to try them before they had to head home.  You are supposed to let this cool to lukewarm before you continue on with the rest of the ingredients.  I always place my mixing bowl in the fridge when I make frosting, I find it works out better when everything is cold.  I waited and waited as long as I could and then decided to proceed. 


From here add the butter and brown sugar mixture to the mixing bowl and add in the powdered sugar.  Now it calls for 4 cups, but I only added in about 2 because really, the caramel was already plenty sweet and I felt 4 cups would be overwhelming. 


Hopefully yours is cooler then mine was.  After you add in the powdered sugar, with the whisk attachment, beat it until it is nice and fluffy.  I could not get it to this point.  I even placed the bowl back in the fridge to try and cool it down a bit.  Just wouldn’t happen for me.  The recipe calls for whole milk, I used heavy whipping cream in the hopes it would “fluff” up for me into something I could pipe from a pastry bag.  Again, NOT happening.  I have made caramel frosting in the past, I should make it ahead of time so everything has time to cool properly.

About now, it should be time to pull the cupcakes out of the oven.


These were amazing!  I loved how light the cupcakes were, and had a very rich chocolate flavor.  I find sometimes when I make from scratch chocolate cake/cupcakes the chocolate taste is not as prevalent as I would like it.  I want to TASTE the chocolate.  These did just that!

And the frosting? Yeah it was more of a glaze.  That did not detract from the flavor combination at all.  I think it was perfect in fact.  Sometimes the cake can be overwhelmed by a mountain of frosting.  And with the cake as light and delicate as this, it was just right. 


Sprinkle the toasted coconut on top for that yummy crunch, and if you so desire drizzle with the melted chocolate chips.  I withheld the drizzle because I was too lazy and really wanted to spend time with my actual guests. 


One of my taste testers! He declared it to be “super, duper YUMMY!” I will take that!

So, when you run out of Samoa Girl Scout cookies, and you don’t have a spare box hidden away, cookie season is months away, make these! 

Here is the original post: http://sweetpeaskitchen.com/2011/04/samoas-cupcakes/  she has a lot of great recipes here. Make em!  Seriously. Your week won’t be complete without them.  You’re welcome.


your Bestie Baker




Red Velvet In A Store Southern Style

I can’t believe I found the time to make, document and blog a recipe today.  We were chosen back in April to host a Nerf Super Soaker House Party.  I have applied off and on for various ones over the past couple of years, and this is the first time we were ever picked.  Needless to say I was super excited about this.  My kids are HUGE Nerf fans, and love Super Soaker’s almost as much as a Nerf gun.  When I was deciding what to make for treats for the party, I instantly came to my Pinterest page.  And decided that I could do double duty, make something delicious, AND get a blog post out of it!

Usually when I make brownies, I do the 1 bowl route.  Rich and chocolate-y, no nuts because we aren’t huge fans here.  If I want to make them a little more special, I will add caramel to them.  So when I saw Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies, I knew I had to give them a try!  Red Velvet is one of those things I love, but don’t make very often.  And I am not sure why, its not like they are hard to make.  Maybe its the mess of red food coloring.  Because it gets everywhere! I felt like I was murdering the brownies.  These are totally worth the massacre though.

Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies:

Brownie Layer:

1/2 cup unsalted butter
2-oz dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoon red food coloring
2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350

To start, take the butter and dark chocolate and put in a microwaveable bowl.  Again you could take the double boiler route here, but laziness and I are good friends these days so, into the microwave it went.  I was limited to my chocolate choices today, I guess because Fathers Day is tomorrow?  And people like to make their hubby’s/Dad’s chocolate desserts?  Anyways there was slim pickings.


It is still Ghiradelli though, so I made do.  Once it has melted completely, stir until smooth and set aside to cool.


For some reason, I love the way melted chocolate looks.  My adorable helper asked for a taste of the chocolate before I had put it all in the bowl so I gave her a little bit.  Its about 80% cacao so its pretty dark.  Needless to say, she was not impressed.

Now in a large bowl, combine the eggs, 1 cup of sugar, vanilla, and the red food coloring.  I use the Wiltons food coloring.  Its more like a gel so the color is deep and rich.  And if you are using red, it looks a lot like blood.  I think this would be great for a Halloween Party for that very reason!


Once you have all these together, whisk until smooth and uniform in color.


Thanks to my lighting, it almost looks neon!  From here, pour in the chocolate butter mixture from earlier.  Make sure its about room temperature though so you don’t cook the eggs.


I love the way the chocolate and the red look together.  Makes me want to make more red velvet desserts!  I also love that I didn’t have to drag out my Kitchenaid for this.  As much as I love it, sometimes its nice to just be able to mix everything quickly by hand and be done with it.


Today, I don’t have my usual helpers in kid form.  They are around, but too excited about the Super Soaker party to be much help to me.  So I called in support of a different kind.  The Hubs!  The past posts, I have taken the photos myself since my 9 yr old is still a little shakey, or aiming to the left of where I want him to.  Today Hubs got to play photographer.  I think he did a pretty good job.  So of course I had to get a photo of him.


I think he is pretty cute too.  And clearly he is eager for the brownies to be made and baked so he can try one out.

Ok, so you have all your wet ingredients mixed together, now add in the flour and salt.  This is one of those things you don’t want to over mix.  Stir until there are no more streaks of flour visible.  It should be fairly thick at this point.  I should have mentioned earlier that this is for a smaller pan.  8 x 8 to be exact.  Grease the pan with butter before you pour in the batter.


I would say pour in the batter, but its pretty thick so not a lot of pouring going on.  I tried though!


My photog for the day arranged this shot for me.  Isn’t he handy, its almost like he knows what he is doing.

Now spread the batter around until nice and smooth.


Now set this aside! You are going to make the cheesecake topping now.  This really is a super easy recipe to throw together.  It looks and tastes like a more time consuming dessert, I promise its not.

Cream Cheese topping:

8-oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

So in a separate bowl, place softened cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla extract.


I got out my hand mixer for this part.  Use a fairly high speed to mix this together until it is creamy and very smooth.


At this point it was still kind of chunky.  To be honest, I didn’t put out the cream cheese soon enough for it to be completely softened by the time I was ready to use it.  Forgetful and lazy today!  If this is the case, just pop it in the microwave for 15 seconds at a time until it is soft enough to mix.  You also want to make sure the sugar is mixed in and well dissolved so its not grainy at all.  Cheesecake, whether it is actual cheesecake, or on something like a brownie, should be smooth, creamy and grain free.

From here, take a spoon and plop it on top of the brownie batter in the pan.


The original recipe stated 8 “plops”, but I ended up using more.  Maybe mine weren’t big enough to begin with?  Everyone plops differently so no biggie!


Now you are going to take a knife, see I already have one ready above the pan!  Anyway, take the knife and draw it through the cheesecake and batter to swirl it back and forth.


Now pop it into the oven for 35-40 min.  Ok, I have to step in here and note that this took WAY longer to bake.  I preheated my oven to 350, and have never had any issues before with something not baking as quickly in my oven as directions stated.  I know some ovens can run hotter then others.  This has never been the case.  So at 35 min, I took it out to cool.  The directions had stated it would be slightly golden around the edges. It was!  But when I went to stick a toothpick in the center to make certain, I discovered it was no where near done.  So back into the oven it went.  I want to say altogether, this was in the oven for an hour and 20 min!!  That seems a little long to me for an 8 x 8 pan.  But finally it was done!


I have to say, this was a HIT!  So yummy.  It was the perfect Red Velvet Brownie, and the cheesecake complimented it brilliantly.  I was pleasantly surprised by this recipe.  If you are looking for a slightly different brownie recipe, this is a good one to try.  I know not everyone likes Red Velvet, but give it a go anyways!

I found this pin at this blog http://sweetpeaskitchen.com/2011/02/red-velvet-cheesecake-brownies/  I got quite a few from here in the beginning.  She has some great recipes!

How do you feel about Red Velvet? Like it or Hate it?

Let me know in the comments!


your Bestie Baker





Buckeye Battle Cry

Today I made my favorite thing so far.  Buckeye cupcakes.  Are we Buckeye Fans you ask? Um… no….  I had to look and see what type of sport I should be referencing here in fact.  Meaning, I don’t care about football… I am sorry.  Ok, I said it.  I hope that won’t deter any of you from reading on and making these!  I can only assume that when I pinned these, probably 2 years ago, that I was drawn in by the rich chocolate and peanut butter combination.  And trust me, if you like those 2 together, then get your rear, Buckeye fan or not, into the kitchen and make these!


Peanut Butter Ball Filling

2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the filling, it works best to use a stand mixer.  I used the paddle attachment.  Start off by putting all the ingredients in the bowl.  Pretty simple, right?  Whenever I measure peanut butter, I spray the measuring cup with some cooking spray.  This helps the peanut butter come out a little easier and you’re not left scraping to get it out.


Yeah I have the cheap stuff from Walmart at the moment.  Not my typical purchase, but it works in a pinch.


Once you have all the ingredients in the bowl, mix it up until it all comes together.


This is what mine ended up looking like, I thought it would be more of a smooth consistency but it seemed a little dry.  However, it still came together nicely into little balls.


I apparently am not good at making uniform peanut butter filling balls.  They are a bit misshapen!  Which I guess is fine as they will be covered in chocolate cake batter shortly and no one will see how disfigured they are.

Now for the cupcakes!

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
4 eggs
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon table salt
1 cup sour cream

I would also like to say here, if you have an aversion to butter or lots of chocolate, turn back now!  There is 4 sticks of butter all together in this recipe.  I love baking with butter, I don’t believe in substituting, to be honest.

In a microwaveable bowl, combine the 2 sticks of butter, 4 oz of chocolate, and the cocoa powder together.


Remember this?  Now it is only 3.5 oz, but I used it anyways, and trust me, the cupcakes are plenty chocolate-y.  I really do love this brand.  Intense is the perfect word for the chocolatey-ness you will experience with these cupcakes.


Now pop this in the microwave until it is nice and smooth.  The original directions, instruct you to do the double boiler method. Which works great, and is very easy to do, but I was in a lazy mood, (that seems to be happening often…) and didn’t feel like it.  And as long you do it in small increments of time and stir in between you should be fine.


Isn’t that gorgeous?  This was after a 30 second rotation, stirred and put back in for about 20 seconds.  Now set this to the side so it can cool a bit.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda and set aside.


And in another bowl, crack the eggs.  I did remember to take these out earlier so they could come to room temperature.  I feel like such a good baker!  Whisk, and then add in the sugar, vanilla, and salt.  Ok, so the recipe calls for a teaspoon of salt.  I felt like that was kind of a lot.  Also I rarely use table salt for anything anymore.  I have from Trader Joes, Pink Himalayan Sea Salt in a grinder.  I LOVE using this!  So I gave this a grind over the egg mixture.


Now take the chocolate you have cooling and pour it in to the egg mixture.


Now mix that up until it is nice and smooth.  If it is the right temperature, there will be no lumps.  If it is a little too warm, it can cook the eggs a little bit and that’s no good in cupcakes! Or any baked goods for that matter.  Nothing like biting into a cupcake and finding scrambled egg bits!

From here, you will add in about half of the flour mixture, whisking that until combined.  Now add in the sour cream.


Mix this in until just combined and the pour in the remaining flour and stir again until just combined. You don’t want to over mix the batter or your cupcakes will end up tough.  There is a scientific reasoning for this, but its late here and I will get into that another day.


I have no idea why this particular picture looks like my batter is upside down.  Anyway, it is a nice thick batter, which in my opinion makes a nice dense cupcake.  Its what I expect from a deeper chocolate like this.  Milk chocolate needs to be light and moist (UGH! I even hate typing that word, it sends shudders down my spine!) But dark chocolate, well, I think it needs to be a deep dense cake to hold up to the flavor.

At this point, you either need to put liners in your pan, or grease it.  I like liners for a lot of reasons.  They are fun and make the cupcakes feel like something special.  Also, and this may be my version of OCD, I kind of think its gross to not have them.  Even in my own pans.  I have to put liners in.  And I won’t eat them at someone elses house if they weren’t baked in liners.  Is that weird?


Aren’t these sweet?  I think I was trying to lighten the mood of the dark chocolate.  Chocolate is supposed to make you happy, not be serious or depressing.

In the liners, drop about a tablespoon of the batter, and press into the bottom of each one, one of the peanut butter balls you set aside much earlier.


Then top that off with a little dollop of batter, just enough to hide the peanut butter ball.


Do the same thing through out the pan.  Now, I bet you are wondering where my adorable little helper is.  I mean, chocolate is being used openly. Well, she didn’t want any part of this today, she was out playing with our little neighbor girl.  They are besties, so I guess I understand! Friendship trumps chocolate! At least when you are 5.  Instead I rounded up my oldest boy child.


Chocolate knows no gender.

Pop your cupcakes into an oven preheated to 350 degrees.  I want to add in here, I have seen several times on Pinterest, a pin about if you want taller, fluffier cupcakes, to put them in a preheated 350 degree oven and then turn the heat down to 325 and bake them, usually about 2-3 minutes longer. I tried this.  I have no idea if I hadn’t done this if they would have been flatter.  I guess they might be a little higher, but again, this is a denser cake, so I guess I will try again the next time.

I baked these for about 23 min


Beautiful! Let these cool for a bit before you make your frosting.  I have a raised cooling rack I think I have mentioned before, so they cool more evenly and a little quicker.

On to the frosting, and please take the time to make it, its super easy.  Using store bought frosting would be a tragedy of epic proportions!

Frosting Ingredients:

2 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 cup creamy peanut butter
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 cup heavy cream

For the frosting, take the first 5 ingredients, put in your stand mixer, that you so diligently washed after making the peanut butter filling.  This is why I keep asking for either another Kitchenaid mixer, or at least another bowl for it.  I would love to be able to mix 2 things at once! Its that overachiever syndrome of mine.


Not really recognizable as anything at this point.


I always use my wire whisk attachment when I make a buttercream, although I suppose this is peanut buttercream.  Mix until smooth and all the powdered sugar is incorporated.  Then add in the heavy whipping cream.  Whip until light and fluffy.

You are ready to frost some cupcakes now! Using a pastry bag is probably your easiest bet for frosting.  I used to make one of my delightful children or the Hubs hold the bag open while I shoveled in the frosting.  Getting it all over their hands, and making a mess.  Until I discovered this little trick.  Life changing, I tell you.


Yep, stick it in a glass.  It’s the perfect solution.

I also don’t use a coupler and a tip.  I guess maybe I should?  I usually just cut the tip of the bag.  I am not a decorator, just a baker.


They turned out brilliantly!


Remember the handsome boy from earlier?  Well, he stuck around while I finished up, can’t imagine why…  He loves to stay up a little bit and read with me at night.  And tonight he lucked out and got to be my taste tester.


He told me, “Mom, I feel like my taste buds have been introduced to Heaven!”  If that isn’t a sound endorsement, I don’t know what is.



Good stuff here people.  You must make these.  Even if you aren’t a fan of Ohio State.


He tried to convince me the plate was now clean.  Um ew.  Licking is not the same as washing.  Just saying.

I seriously recommend making these, soon.  Don’t deprive your taste buds a trip to Heaven!

Leave me a comment, I love getting them! And if you give these a shot, let me know what you think.


your Bestie Baker

P.S. pinned from here: http://sweetpeaskitchen.com/2011/10/buckeye-cupcakes/

Have Your Cake And Drink It Too…

Tonight’s recipe is another one from across the pond.  Which unfortunately for me, means conversions.  I hate math as it is, and converting grams, and ml into US measurements is less then fun.  Seriously, I would rather jab a pencil in my eye.  Kind of sad too since I would love to live or at least visit England some day, I will have to hire someone to do it for me!  So, I will be taking applications for “conversion artists” in the near future.  The other problem with conversions, at least in my case, and it may be because it makes my head hurt like there is a pencil in my eye, I feel like my measurements are slightly off.  In comparison to the original recipe, my cake is slightly more dense and my gianduja filling is not very fluffy.  I do have to say though, it is SUPER delicious! So more of a win then a fail here.  On to the baking!

This is traditionally a Christmas treat, but I felt like I needed one today, so here we go

Chocolate Brandy Layer Cake



75g unsalted butter  3oz or 6 tablespoons
50g cocoa 2oz or 1/4c
125g plain flour 4oz or 1/2c
5 large eggs, at room temperature
375g caster sugar 1 1/2c

Gianduja Filling

300ml milk 10.14oz
25g cornflour 1.67 tblsp  this is cornstarch by the way

remaining sugar and cocoa
300g Nutella 10.5oz
100g good milk chocolate, chopped 3.5oz


150gr sugar  5.2oz

50ml brandy 1.7oz

50 ml water 1.7oz
150g double cream 5.2oz


100g toasted hazelnuts, chopped 3.5oz

To make the cake, start off by melting the butter in a microwave proof bowl and setting it aside.  Honestly if all the directions were this uncomplicated, I would bake a lot more.


At this point you are going to sift together half the cocoa, or 1 ounce together with the flour in a medium size bowl. If you don’t have a sifter, or you are lazy like me and don’t feel like digging it out, use a fork or a whisk to blend them together.  It may not be as finely done as with a sifter, but it has always worked fairly well for me.


In a separate bowl take the 5 eggs that you remembered to put out MUCH earlier so they could be room temperature, and with a handheld mixer beat until frothy.  Now the reason being, is that room temperature eggs make for a fluffier cake.  Maybe that is the reason my cake is flatter, my eggs were cooler then room temperature?  I rarely remember to do this.  My solution tonight was to set them out, and then make my kiddos dinner.  My oldest offered to make it for him and his brother and sister, but he got caught up in watching something on Netflix, so I took over.  Aren’t I sweet?


Frothy, right?

Ok, so now slowly mix in 6.2 ounces of the sugar in thirds to the eggs until the mixture is thick, and the sugar has dissolved.  Again, apparently I wasn’t thinking tonight because I kind of just dumped it in.  You’d think I had never baked anything the way I am going!  Now fold in the flour mixture.


Folding is not the same as stirring mind you.  Its like a scoop and fold method, best done with a spatula.  Gently back and forth, turning the bowl and scraping the sides until all the dry has been incorporated into the wet ingredients.  It does take some patience too.  But worth it to keep a light and airy batter.  From here, go ahead and fold in the melted and cooled butter you set aside earlier.


Now the pan you are going to use is a jelly roll pan.  Its not as big as a cookie sheet, about 11.8 in x 15.75 in, line it with parchment paper, or in my case, since I was out, I used foil that I buttered.  Man, I am just making all kinds of changes aren’t I?


Now, pour in the batter smoothing it out nicely.


This is going to bake for 25 minutes at 350, thankfully, I didn’t have to figure that out! I don’t think I could have done any more.  Once its done, pull it out to cool.


Not a bad looking cake!  I like to set it up on a wire rack to cool since that allows air to circulate under it.  Cools a little quicker and more evenly in my opinion.

Next up is making the Gianduja filling.  In a small pan, whisk together, the milk, the remaining sugar, the cornstarch, and the other half of the cocoa, and bring to a boil.


Once it boils, remove from heat. And you get to add in the good stuff!  Otherwise known as Nutella and the “good” chocolate mentioned above.  Bringing these out really means your “helpers” will suddenly appear in the kitchen.


I do understand why my helper showed up, this is probably the first time we have ever had Nutella in the house.  From what I hear on the streets, its like crack.  Chocolate hazelnut crack.  My middle crazy thankfully was upstairs or I would have been peeling him off the ceiling.  Since this particular crazy can hold her chocolate, I let her have a taste.


Don’t worry, I did not let her double dip!

Ok, now that you have fed your crazies, and shooed them out of the kitchen, mix in about 10.5 oz of the crack, I mean Nutella, as well as 3.5 oz of chocolate.  I used this…


Love this stuff.  I have always been a fan of dark chocolate, which works out well for me.  I only have to share with my middle crazy!  This is also what I use when I make my sea salt chocolate chip cookies, soooo good.  But that is a post for another day.


Once all that is smooth and blended together, set aside.

For the syrup, bring the water and sugar to a boil, I ended up adding a teensy bit more water to this because it was mainly just a clump of damp sugar and I didn’t want it to burn in the pan.


Once it boils add in the Brandy.  I did not use Brandy, I used Scotch instead.  Why, you ask?  Well, we didn’t have any Brandy, and I didn’t feel like going to the liquor store for a tiny bit, and then have it sit until I needed it again.  I had a friend/neighbor who had Scotch, which after googling, turns out to be a fairly good substitute.  Let me just tell you, the smell is enough to practically knock you out!  Can you get contact drunk?  I think this would be the stuff to do it.  Thankfully, the boiling cooks out the alcohol, and leaves it with a rich yummy flavor.


See what a small amount that is?


I loved the way it bubbled up when I added in the Scotch.  I set this aside and went to work on the cake.  Take it out of the pan, trim the edges and cut into 3 equal segments.  And with a pastry brush, apply the syrup to the top of each layer.  Set these aside and finish up the Gianduja filling.  In the ingredient listing, it called for double cream, which after searching for on the internet, I discovered that its not something we have in the states.  Yay America.  But! I can substitute in heavy cream.


Pour the heavy cream into the Nutella custard and beat until thick.  Which I had a problem with.  Normally I have no trouble working with heavy cream, I make homemade buttercream frosting a lot.  Well, I couldn’t get it to really thicken up.  Maybe the custard wasn’t quite cool enough, I did put it in the fridge while I got the cake segments ready hoping it would thicken up for me.  But to no avail.  Oh well, it is still delicious!


Time to assemble the cake.  For each layer, brush on the syrup and then top with the filling and a sprinkling of chopped hazelnuts if you are using them.  I chose not to, mainly because they were out at our grocery store.  And my crazies are not a fan of nuts.


Now the filling.


Do this 2 more times, and you are done!  It is very rich and chocolatey which completely suits my mood today.  I only sampled a tiny bit though, since I am working my way into a mostly Lacto/Paleo diet.  But then I felt I deserved it since I am super sunburned after a day at the beach with my lovelies yesterday.  Sunburned feet and knees are less then fun.  Just saying.


I covered and put the remaining filling in the fridge and I may try to whip it again tomorrow at some point and see what happens.  Here is the original poster  http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/dec/19/chocolate-brandy-layer-cake-recipe  Great recipe, the flavors all work really well together.  Honestly I think it is simply the conversions throwing off the rise and what not of the cake.  I am considering purchasing a food scale so I can do more exact measurements.  Does anyone use one?  I would love some recommendations!  And if you decide to try your hand at the cake, link back in the comments to let me know how yours turns out!


your Bestie Baker!

Chocolate Makes Everything Better

The next recipe up on my Pinterest food board couldn’t be following a more perfect one.  I couldn’t have planned it better myself!  Before I get much further though, I wanted to update on the Apple Rose Tart, it was a very light dessert, but a little heavy on the orange flavor.  Perhaps my zesting got out of hand?  Should I decide to make it again, I would most likely make a Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream instead. The Hubs liked it though, which wasn’t surprising because he likes things to not be as rich as I do.  In my mind if it isn’t drenched in chocolate, is it really a dessert?

Today I tackled Chocolate Pie Sticks.  Ok, so maybe I didn’t exactly “tackle” them, seeing how ridiculously easy they are.   The point of these are to use up leftover pastry or pie crust!  I do tend to save mine when I make home made crust (which is every. single. time.  I NEVER buy store bought crust… )  Totally made that last part up, I do on occasion, when time doesn’t allow for it, or I don’t feel like it!  Here is the blog the post originated from http://domesticfits.com/2011/08/16/chocolate-pie-sticks/

Here we go!

The leftover crust I used was from the Apple Rose Tart recipe.  I think the little bit of orange zest in the dough will give the pie sticks more of a “gourmet” taste, but you can use whatever pie crust you have on hand.

Ingredients needed:

Chocolate Chips

1 tblsp cold water

1 egg (lightly beaten)

1 tblsp sugar


If you are using leftover dough, remove from fridge and let it warm up a bit so its easier to roll out.  I think I let mine set for probably about 20 min.  I don’t have a whole lot, so if you are wanting to make a lot of these, I suggest making dough just for this purpose.


I sprinkled a bit of flour on the counter before I got down to rolling so it wouldn’t stick.  Pretty typical stuff, like I said before, easy peasy!


I halved the dough so I had enough to roll out for the top and bottoms of the pie sticks.  You don’t want to make it too thick, or too thin.  Then my pizza cutter came in handy to cut strips.


Now with a pastry brush, brush the strips with a bit of the cold water, just enough to make it slightly damp.


Feel like you can do this yourself yet?  This would be a great recipe to bring in some little helpers for in fact!  I think I have one…


Here is that adorable helper I had with me the other day!  She is a chocolate lover like her mama so I called her over for one of the most important steps.


Yep, official Chocolate Chip tester!  She approved fully….


Turns out she is also an expert at lining up chocolate chips as well.  So I put her to work, I am thinking about promoting her!

Now you are going to take the other half of dough you set aside and roll that out and cut strips, just like you did with the first portion.


Layer those strips on top of the chocolate chips, making sure to seal the edges so the delicious melty chocolate doesn’t leak out the sides.


Prick the tops of the pie sticks with a fork to let out any steam once they are in the oven.  Which should be shortly!


Brush the tops of the pie sticks with a lightly beaten egg and then sprinkle them with sugar.  Pop in the oven for about 12 minutes at 350 degrees, or until a light golden brown.  Then force your kiddos to be taste testers, because it is clearly cruel for me to have offered them a yummy Chocolate Pie Stick…


All in all this was a simple little treat to put together with stuff you already have on hand.  Providing you recently made a pie…

Leave me a comment and let me know what you think!  I am pretty sure you could maybe substitute in other kinds of pie filling, butterscotch chips with coconut would be brilliant, I’m sure!


Apples to Apples

Pinterest is like a drug, and from the very beginning it drew me in with pretty pictures and promises of delicious meals.  I pinned and pinned and pinned!  And made maybe 1 out of every 10 things I pinned.  Kind of sad if you ask me.  I have all these great recipes, and when it comes time to make something for dinner, I go and look elsewhere.  I went to the very end of my food boards and decided to make EVERYTHING!  I started today, and well I am already overwhelmed.  Not surprising since I like to over challenge myself and then wonder why….


Meet the first thing I ever pinned, over a 1 year ago.  I thought it was pretty, and probably had no intention of ever making it.  Or maybe I did, hard to remember!  1 month ago when I went and looked at the site it was pinned originally from, I discovered it was a blog written in Bulgarian…

Challenge accepted!

Image  First thing I did was dig out my tart pan, it doesn’t get a lot of use, because honestly, who makes tarts on a daily, or even a weekly basis?  I also noticed there is a dent in the bottom.  Ok ingredients list:

Pastry Dough:

125 g soft butter   (1 stick)
’70 powdered sugar (I had no idea if this was grams, or what so I just did 1 tablespoon)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp grated orange peel
100 g finely ground almonds  (ok, I just kind of eyeballed this and tossed some in for texture)
150g flour (this comes to about 3/4-1 cup, I used 3/4 and had some dough left over)

Butter the bottom of the tart pan

This was fairly easy to put together, I let the butter soften and tossed it into my Kitchenaid.


Then added into the powdered sugar and vanilla and mixed. Now zest an orange!  If you haven’t ever zested something citrus, you need to!  I don’t know why I get such a big kick out of zesting, but I do. I also kind of like writing it…


Alright, from here, add the egg and flour and mix until it comes together as a dough.  I also tossed in the ground almonds.  Which by the way, you don’t have to do yourself.  I bought some.  Super easy.  Take the dough and pat it into the pan and up the sides until its fairly even, not too thin, and you can patch any holes.  Place in the fridge while you make the next portion, the pastry cream!


See my adorable helper?  She was fantastic when it came to patting down the pastry dough!

Now I found the next part to be a little awkward when I followed the directions.

Pastry Cream:

400 ml milk  (13.5 oz)

100 ml white wine (3.3 oz)

3 egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp grated orange peel

6 tablespoons sugar

4 tablespoons flour

What I should have done was separated the dry ingredients, beat the egg yolks and add in a bit of milk and then add that to the dry ingredients.



See what a mess that is?  It was tough to mix up and I should have done what I mentioned above.  Lesson learned!  Add in the rest of the milk and the white wine (I used Moscato) and stir until completely combined, bring to a boil.


I do realize that there may have been something lost in translation.  (See what I did there?)  Google Translate is brilliant!  Seeing a recipe completely post in Bulgarian is a little scary.  Add in conversions, and it becomes a major headache.  Look how nice I am to take care of all that for you!

After I brought the pastry cream to a boil, it had thickened up quite nicely and I set it aside to cool down just a bit.  Now take the tart pan from the fridge and pour the pastry cream over the crust, spreading it around so it completely covers the bottom.


Now comes the fun part, or the really hard part, depending on how much you like to punish yourself. The recipe calls for 5-6 apples, I used Fuji, but maybe something with a firmer texture would have been a better choice, so do some research and choose wisely my friend.  I ended up using about 8 apples.  You are going to take a vegetable peeler (make sure you wash your apples!) And peel!  Preserve the skin since that helps with making the roses.  The strips need to have some firmness to them so they don’t break, but not too much or they won’t roll up prettily.  Image

Look at that, 1 down.  I’m not going to lie, this was ridiculously time consuming.  I found myself wishing for either someone to come peel the dang apples for me, or was there some way I could only do one ring… But since I am a classic overachiever, or more likely just a glutton for punishment, I filled the entire pan.



And there you have it!  Isn’t it glorious?  Now the instructions on the other blog direct you to brush a glaze of apricot jam over the apple roses before popping it in the oven, but I neglected to pick some up at the store so ours went without.  Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes and the apples and crust are golden.

I chilled it and will be having a slice with my crazies tonight!

I will leave you with the original post this apple rose tart is from, let me know if you make one too!