Saturday, January 28, 2012

Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes

Me and box cake mixes have become BFF's. Not that we weren't friends before, but I've been using them a lot more than usual. I had a hankering for some chocolate cake the other day and made one. It was delicious.

This week, I've added strawberries to my BFF circle. I want strawberries every. minute. of. the. day. They are not my usual go to fruit in the winter months, but the past few days, I can't shove them in my mouth fast enough. So I thought, why not set my two latest food cravings on a delicious date.

The outcome? My stomach wed them in holy matrimony. 

Three times. 

1 box yellow or white cake mix (plus ingredients to make the cupcakes)
1 pound FRESH strawberries, washed, hulled, and chopped into small pieces*

1 package cream cheese
¼ cup butter
2½ cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

3 digestive biscuits or graham crackers, finely chopped

*I recommend using a hand chopper to get bite size strawberries.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line two 12-cup muffin tins. Combine ingredients according to back of cake mix box to make cupcake batter. Spoon about 1 Tablespoon of batter into the bottom of each muffin cup.

Add about 1-2 tablespoons chopped strawberries to the top of batter.

Top with cake batter (roughly 2-3 tablespoons), covering strawberries completely.

Bake for suggested time frame of back of box. (I used Duncan Hines and my cupcakes took about 17 minutes). Allow to cool completely.

Pipe or smear cream cheese frosting over cooled cupcakes. Add cookie crumbs. The crumbs are essential for giving it the 'cheesecake' effect. Top with a strawberry slice.

Yields: 24 cupcakes

Happy Baking!

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Indoor S'mores

Here is a funny thing about writing a blog. You learn quickly what you like and what you don't.

I'm not a fan of graham crackers. I mean, I will eat them, but I wouldn't cry if I could never have them again. Growing up, I was never a big cheesecake fan, unless it was from Lindy's in New York City (double drool) or I made it myself. Now I know why. It had a lot to do with the graham cracker base. Lindy's has this amazing creamy textured top with a just right cracker base. Mine is the same way. It's there, but only just. Unfortunately, that's my husbands favorite part, so when I make it, it takes up half the pan. 

I was never a fan of s'mores either. I know, *shock horror*! When we would have backyard campfires (one thing I really miss about living in the sticks) I would use one of the graham crackers as a spoon to eat the chocolately marshmallow goodness off the other graham cracker that served as a fabulous makeshift plate. 

My daughter has a playdate today and asked if we could make 'saaa-mores'. I didn't think she knew what they were, but apparently she does. Never one to say no to her sweet face,  I realized we faced a problem. First, we live is Suburbia. No open fires allowed. Second, it's like -145º outside and our barbeque grill in snowed in. Third, making them in the oven doesn't seem authentic. I would feel like I was cheating. Plus, they are so messy.

I remembered snipping a recipe off the back of a cereal box not that long ago. Off to my scary recipe folder I went and found these. Indoor S'mores. 


Gimme, gimme, gimme S'more!

Recipe adapted and slightly modified from the back of a Golden Grahams Box

5 cups Golden Grahams cereal
4 cups miniature marshmallows
1 cup chocolate chips
⅓ cup butter or margarine
2 tablespoons milk**
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup miniature marshmallows
½ cup peanut butter - optional, but so good!

**Here is a trick I learned many years ago when first learning to make Crispy Treats squares - or recipes that call for marshmallow as a binder. When I used to make them, they would go hard on me once cooled or shortly after, making eating difficult. Our 72-year-old neighbor told me to add 2 tablespoons milk to the marshmallow mixture as it's melting. The treats will stay soft and gooey. I don't know how or why it works, but it always does.

In a large bowl, measure cereal. Coat an 8 or 9-inch dish with non-stick cooking spray. In saucepan, heat 4 cups marshmallows, chocolate chips, butter, milk, and peanut butter, stirring after every minute, until melted and smooth when stirred. Stir in vanilla. 

Pour over cereal; quickly toss until completely coated.

Stir in 1 cup marshmallows.

Press mixture evenly in pan. I gently use the palm of my buttered hand. It gets the job done a bit easier.

Let stand uncovered at least 1 hour, or refrigerate if you prefer a firmer bar. I prefer these right out of the fridge. Store loosely covered for 2 days...if they last that long!

Yields: About 24 servings

Happy Baking!

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Blogiversary Banoffee Pie!

Wow. I actually did it. I made it to my one year blogiversary! Yay me!

To be honest, I wasn't sure if I would. As much as I hate to admit it, I'm a fad chaser. My husband often calls me 'Faddington Bear' whenever I embark on the newest fad quest. While I do enjoy a new, shiny toy every now and again, I get bored very quickly with it and my fad becomes a fade.

Since I love celebrations of every sort, I decided to throw one for myself. I settled on the delightful British favorite, Banoffee Pie. I personally never make it, but figured now's a good a time as any. Whenever we visit the UK, every home has it prepared for our arrival...well, that or Sticky Toffee Pudding, along with one of my most favorite British confections, Dolly Mixtures. It always makes me feel SUPER special!

All in all, this pie is so worth the effort. 

Channeling my inner Mary Katherine Gallagher, "My feelings for this pie would best be expressed in the musical style of Gwen Stefani....

"This sh*% is bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S!"

Really. It is. 

BANOFFEE (or Banoffi) PIE
Recipe adapted from my UK 'Mama', Angela

1 can sweetened condensed milk, caramelized* OR 1 jar Dulce de Leche
8 ounces (1 cup) digestive biscuits - if you can't find them, use shortbread or Rich Tea cookies. You can use graham crackers, but I think it loses its British authenticity if you do.  
4 ounces (½ cup) butter, melted 
4 large bananas - perfectly ripe, but just slightly green work best here!

Coffee Whipped Cream:
2½ cups heavy cream (35% fat)
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
OPTIONAL: 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules (dissolved in 1 cup heavy cream before whipping)

Chocolate shavings - To make pretty chocolate curls, chill chocolate and use a vegetable peeler to shave chocolate.

*To properly caramelize sweetened condensed milk, open can and pour into oven safe bowl. Tightly cover with foil and bake at 425ºF for 1 hour. 

However, because I am not a safe Sally, I use the stove top method *gasp*. If you choose to use the stove top method, please read carefully:  

Remove label and set sweetened condensed milk can in a saucepan. BE SURE THE CAN IS COMPLETELY SUBMERGED UNDERWATER! I cannot, cannot, cannot stress this enough! I don't want to scare you, but it's easily done where it can be forgotten and the water will evaporate from the pan. As long as you keep the can submerged, you shouldn't have any problems!

Bring to a simmer over medium heat; reduce heat to low and simmer, adding water as needed, about 3 hours. Remove can from pan; let cool completely. If you open can too soon, you can get badly burned, not to mention the mess! Think of a soda can under pressure once vigorously shaken! 

This is what you will get once cooked and cooled:

Preheat oven to 325ºF. Pulverize biscuits in food processor. Toss them into a bowl and add melted butter. Mix until incorporated.

Place crumbs into a 9-inch pie plate or fluted tart pan (which I used) and spread evenly over bottom. Use a flat-bottomed cup to press crumbs evenly over bottom of pan and up the sides.

Bake until fragrant, about 15 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.

Using mixer or whisk, whip cream, sugar, and vanilla until fluffy and thick.

To assemble pie, spread cooled sweetened condensed milk or dulce de leche over pie bottom, top with bananas, and finish with whipped cream.

Sprinkle with chocolate curls and refrigerate until ready to serve. Can be made several hours before serving. 

This pie is like revenge - Best served cold. Not that I condone revenge.

Yields: One awesome pie. 

Happy Baking!

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Brownie Bottom Cheesecake Cups with Peanut Butter Frosting - Part II

Tonight is Beth's party. It's a karaoke party.

I love karaoke. I can't hold a tune to save my life, but I love it. I am one of those people that can get up to sing, completely sober, without a care in the world. Isn't that what it's about? I'm not a big fan of those that sing really well. I mean, how do you follow a Celine wannabe? We went to karaoke one night where the girl actually brought her OWN material. What the.....seriously? I might spring to sing Eric Carmen's, 'All by Myself' tonight. Or maybe butcher some Mariah Carey. I'll see what the atmosphere pulls out of me.

For tonight's edible portion of the show, I'm making some cupcakes. Brownie bottom cheesecake cups with a ridiculous amount of peanut butter goodness on top. Beth loves cheesecake. I thought I would pimp them up a bit more. 

After all, what's a party without cake?

Or a pimp. 



1 cup unsalted butter
8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (I used Ghiradelli chocolate chips)
4 large eggs
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup flour

Preheat oven to 350º. Line muffin tins with FOIL cupcake liners. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil and turn off heat. Combine butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set over pan of hot water. Stir occasionally until melted.

Whisk eggs together in a large bowl, then whisk in salt, both sugars, and vanilla. 

Stir in chocolate and butter mixture, then fold in flour. 

Fill cups about a third into liners. This recipe will make 24 cupcakes plus an 8x8 pan of brownies. Bake for 5-7 minutes to help set up the brownies. Remove from oven and set aside.

2 packages of cream cheese
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons buttermilk or sour cream

Combine ingredients and mix until well blended. Pour into cups over the brownie mixture and fill, leaving about a half inch at the top. The cheesecake will settle once removed from oven, so don't be alarmed if it seems full.

Bake for 20 minutes. Don't worry if you see cracks. They will be covered with frosting. 

Let set for a minute or two and carefully remove from pan.

Peanut Butter Frosting:
(You can also completely omit frosting and opt for cherry pie topping!)

½ cup butter
1 cup smooth peanut butter
3 cups powdered sugar
⅓ cup cream

Combine ingredients into a bowl, slowly adding powdered sugar. Otherwise, you'll end up with a cloud of sugar smoke.

Once cupcakes are completely cooled, place frosting in a piping bag with your tip of choice and apply. Add sprinkles or drizzle with caramel. I opted for peanut butter cups and dulce de leche.

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Happy Birthday BFF - Part I

It's my BFF's birthday today! Happy Birthday Bitches!

She is such a wonderful friend.

I first met Beth in February 2004. My husband and I were in a small bible study group of about 10 people. It was based around the book, The Purpose Driven Life. (If you haven't read it, I implore you do. It's amazing!) Beth's parents were in the group as well.

I get little panic attacks when I'm in a group of people - mainly when it's people I don't know. I don't know why this happens, but it's been something I've been dealing with for years. I learned to suck it up and hide it very well and often use humor to deflect my uncomfortableness. Beth's Mama, Bonnie, would laugh at the things I said. On several occasions, she mentioned, "You have to meet our Beth! You'd get on so well with her!"

The Dubya's** invited us to their home for lunch on Sunday afternoon to meet the rest of their family. About 10 minutes after meeting her, I was like, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE?"

Beth: Wanna go shopping?
Me: Always!
Beth: Wanna go now?
Me: Hell Yeah.
Beth: So, you like Value Village?
Me: Yeah I do!
Beth: Okay, let's go! 

Bonding over thrift items, I couldn't be happier.

You're an amazing girl Bethaniel. I'm so blessed you're in my life. I hope you have the best day ever. xoox

** last name kinda sorta changed to protect the innocent.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Cinnamon Roll Cake

You know the statement, "You learn something new everyday"? Here is a little fact that I learned today. Disney Fairies (as in Tinkerbell and friends) apparently smell like cinnamon. Not like flowers, not like pine trees, or a sunny Spring morning, but cinnamon. Hmm.

I am a cinnamon LOVAH. It's one of my most favorite smells. Except for cinnamon candles. They smell like a bad mix of artificial spices and old ladies. Not a pleasant aroma to the nose.

I really love cinnamon rolls/buns, especially Cinnabon. Some of my favorite memories of dating my husband was introducing him to new foods. I remember this one particular time I made the six hour drive to see him and we went to the mall. (Later learning that he is SO NOT a mall kind of person, but I am appreciative he did those things to make me happy - and still does!) I introduced him to his first warm and gooey Cinnabon along with an ice cold pint of milk. I don't think I've ever seen a man so happy. 

As much as I love them, I find them tedious to make and can't be bothered, unless it's a special occasion or holiday. Until I found this number. It's got the star quality of a cinnamon roll/bun, but simplicity written all over it. 

Kind of like me. Gooeyness included.

Cinnamon Roll Cake
Recipe adapted and slightly modified from the Picky Palate

3 cups flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1½ cups milk
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
½ cup butter, melted

½ cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
⅔ cups nuts, optional

2 cups powdered sugar
5 Tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

In an electric or stand mixer mix the flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, milk, eggs and vanilla. Once combined well, slowly stir in melted butter. Be warned: Once the butter is added, the batter will creep up the beaters! Have a spatula/scraper on hand.

Pour batter into a greased 9 x 13 inch baking pan. 

In a large bowl, mix softened butter, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and nuts (if using) until well combined. Drop evenly over cake batter by the tablespoonfuls and use a knife to marble/swirl through the cake.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until toothpick comes out nearly clean from center. (My cake took the full 30 minutes).

Don't be alarmed if there is some movement when time is up. The first time I made it, I panicked as it was super buttery and looked a mess. This is why I changed the butter portion for the topping from 1 cup to ½ cup butter and that did the trick! As long as the cake portion is baked and the toothpick is clean, it's fine. As the cake cools, the topping WILL solidify.

To make icing, combine powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla in a large bowl. Whisk until smooth. Drizzle over warm cake.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Yields: 12-16 servings.

Happy Baking!

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Mini Pineapple Upside Down Cakes

It's been a wonderful holiday from beginning to end. Start to finish. I can't believe how blessed I am! I have a beautiful family who are happy and healthy, a lovely home in a lovely part of the world, incredible and amazing friends....I can't ask for more than that, but the Good Lord continues to bless me.

Of course with the holidays comes oodles and oodles of chocolate. I curse myself every New Year. I buy way too much and end up with even more. It's a illness I tell you. However, I would be lying if I said I don't get excited with the prospect of creating some new recipes or taking some I've had my eye on for a spin. 

However, this year I decided to bag up every last piece of chocolate and sent it with hubby to work. It's too tempting for me and figured it's better on their bums than mine.

Of course, asking me to abstain from sugar is like asking a fish to ride a bike. As amusing it would be to watch, it won't have a good outcome. 

So enjoy these mini pineapple upside down cakes. Sugar goodness. Chocolate-free.

But keep a chocolate stash close by. You don't want to hurt its feelings.


¾ cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 can sliced pineapple rings
6 maraschino cherries

For the cake portion, I used a box yellow cake mix. Easy peasy. Just follow instructions on the back of the box. I substituted applesauce for the oil and added a few tablespoons of the pineapple juice.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Spray your muffin tins with non-stick cooking spray.  I used a mini bundt pan, but if you don't have one, you can use a jumbo muffin pan or even a regular size pan.

In a small sauce pan, melt the butter and add the brown sugar. Stir on low heat for one minute.

Place a pineapple ring in the bottom of each muffin tin. Add a cherry in the middle of each pineapple. If you use a regular tin, you will need to cut the pineapple to fit.

Spoon over a layer of the warm brown sugar mixture. Pour cake mixture over to fill muffin tin ¾ of the way full. 

Bake for 20 -25 minutes, depending on pan size you will be using. Let cakes cool in pan for 3 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of each cake to help loosen in case it sticks a little. Place a wire cooling rack on top, and quickly flip over. 

Yields: 6 jumbo or 12 regular size cakes.

Happy Baking!

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