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Mountain Dew Cake

8 Apr

My brother got married! I can’t believe it! It was a beautiful day for a beautiful wedding. The bride was lovely, the groom was happy, and everyone had a great time. I really enjoyed spending the past few months helping my new sister-in-law plan her wedding, and it was a lot of fun being the ‘wedding planner’ for the weekend.

While I helped plan some logistics and decorations for their big day, my oldest sister prepared the dessert table. After a few days in her kitchen, she had banana pudding cups, strawberry shortcake cups, over 200 mini cheesecake bites, and these mini Mountain Dew bundt cakes.

The bride wanted a rustic theme in lime green and navy blue. The groom kept trying to make that rustic redneck, and my sister helped that along with cakes baked with Mountain Dew, his favorite soda. But aside from these, the bride and I managed to swing the theme back toward rustic chic. With the wedding held outdoors at a vineyard on the first gorgeous North Carolina weekend of spring, it was perfect.

Whether you have a casual wedding or a weekend barbecue, try these cakes. They’re delicious little conversation starters.

Mountain Dew Cakes

Mountain Dew Cake from DuncanHines.com

Cake

1 box lemon cake mix
1 box lemon Jell-O instant pudding mix
4 large eggs
1 can (1 1/2 cups) Mountain Dew
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a mini bundt or cupcake pan.

In a large bowl, combine the cake mix with the pudding mix. Add the eggs and oil, then slowly add the Mountain Dew. Mix at medium speed until blended.

Pour batter into prepared muffin tins and bake for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the mini cakes cool for 10 minutes and then remove to a wire rack.

Glaze

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup Mountain Dew

While cake is still slightly warm, melt 1/2 cup butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add 1 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup Mountain Dew to the melted butter. Turn up the heat and bring to a boil, stirring often. Boil for two minutes and remove from heat.

Poke holes in cake with a wooden skewer or the tines of a fork, and then spoon the hot glaze over the cakes. Cool completely before serving.

On the dessert table

 

Linking Up With:

YOLO Mondays from Still Being Molly and Lipgloss and Crayons
Monday Meet Ups from Covered in Grace
Market Yourself Monday from Sumo’s Sweet Stuff
Your Great Idea Link Party from Or So She Says
Time for a Party from Fine Craft Guild
Made by you Monday from Skip to my Lou

Alfajores

11 Feb

Last month was my turn to host book club. I chose Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende, which a friend recommended. I loved it! It was the last book I read in 2012, and it was a great way to end my literary year. If you’ve never read any of her work, check it out.

For the club meeting, I wanted to prepare food that fit the theme of the book. Allende is Chilean, and the main character in this book, Eliza, is also. After some research, I come up with two dishes: empanadas and alfajores. I balanced it out with chips, guacamole, and a few other snacks.

Alfajores are traditional cookies in Spain and many Latin American countries. This particular version I found online as ‘authentic Chilean.’ I prepared them the day of our meeting, and they were amazing! It’s pretty simple…

Make some thin, slightly crunchy, round sugar cookies.

Cookie

Make some gooey, caramelly dulce de leche, kind of to the texture of taffy.

Dulce de Leche

Smush them together into a sandwich.

Sandwich

Dust them with a bit of confectioners sugar.

Dust

Serve. Mmm…

Serve

Alfajores adapted from Mummy’s Busy World

1/4 cup  and 3 tbsp butter, room temperature
1/4 cup and 3 tbsp sugar
3/4 cup and 3 tbsp of flour
1 egg
Powdered sugar for dusting
1 can of sweetened condensed milk

Cookie:

Beat the butter and sugar until creamy. Add the egg and flour, and mix until incorporated. Once combined, divide into two. Form each into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and freeze for 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Flour the surface of your work space and roll one section of the dough out very thinly — about 1/8″. Cut with a round cookie cutter and place on prepared baking sheet.

Bake for about 12 minutes or until edges get slightly brown.

Dulce de leche (adapted from CFE)

Most dulce de leche recipes call for boiling a can of condensed milk for a few hours. I decided to try a different route — one that wouldn’t take as long and seemed safer than risking an exploding can. Still, be very careful with this method. The candy gets hot enough to burn and really sticky.

Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a large mixing bowl. Microwave at medium heat for 2 minutes. Remove and stir with a whisk.

Continue microwaving on two-minute intervals until the dulce de leche has a taffy-like texture after whisking.

Assembly:

Once the cookies have cooled, form the dulce de leche into small coin-sized pieces. Sandwich the dulce de leche between two cookies. Use a fine-mesh sieve to sprinkle a dusting of confectioners sugar on top of each cookie. Serve.

Alfajores

Linking up with:

YOLO Mondays from Still Being Molly and Lipgloss and Crayons
Monday Meet Ups from Covered in Grace
Market Yourself Monday from Sumo’s Sweet Stuff

Homemade Caramel Sauce

14 Jan

I usually am a chocolate person, but lately, I’ve been really excited about caramel. I’ve liked it more and more as I’ve gotten older, but I think this particular obsession started with this year’s apples with caramel dip.

(While you’re here, like W&P on Facebook!)

My grandma lives in Hendersonville, home of the North Carolina Apple Festival. It’s an amazing little mountain arts & crafts festival held every year on Labor Day. We always go up, stay with the family, and spend hours walking through the festival. Grandma lives only a couple blocks from downtown, so we can walk up to Main Street whenever we get bored or need a snack. The apple theme pops up everywhere, from the food to the crafts for sale.

This year, as every year, we had apple slices with hot caramel dip. We also had apple pie, a frozen apple slushie, and apple cider. And we took a bag of apples home. Seriously, there’s no end to the apple shenanigans.

Since then, I’ve been all about apples and caramel, though not necessarily together. And when my BFF Lauren told me about the “best caramel sauce ever,” I had to check it out. And really, this is the best caramel sauce ever. It never hardens into that chewy or hard caramel, even when it cools. It’s always perfectly smooth. And it’s super easy!

Caramelly

When I first made this, I just whipped up a chocolate cake from a box mix to go with it. I’ve made it a couple times since then, including a big batch I jarred for my mom and gave her for Christmas. So far, I’ve had it on chocolate cake, as a dip for apples, as a dip for brownies, and as ice cream topping.

Caramel on Chocolate... doesn't get any better than that

My mom was super excited about Christmas this year. She received both a huge jar of caramel sauce and a cotton candy machine. By 7am, she was eating caramel by the spoonful and adding dollops of it to her breakfast oatmeal. And by 8am, she was handing out cones of fluffy pink cotton candy. That’s Christmas!

A jar of caramel sauce is way better than a jar of jam, IMHO

By the way, the sauce tends to absorb into the cake. If you decide to top a cake with it, wait till just before you serve it to drizzle the caramel sauce on top. You could put your caramel in a gravy boat or some such dish and get all fancy with your presentation.

Drizzle

Homemade Caramel Sauce from My Fabulous Recipes

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Heat all except vanilla in a saucepan over medium heat, and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Once boiling, reduce to low and cook 20-30 minutes, stirring frequently until the sugar is completely dissolved and it has a caramel color. Stir in the vanilla and remove from heat. Can be served warm or chilled.

Beautiful

Linking up for:

YOLO Mondays from Still Being Molly and Lipgloss and Crayons
Monday Meet Ups from Covered in Grace
Made by you Monday from Skip to my Lou
Make Something Monday from Sarahndipities

Oh, Fudge!

7 Jan

Just before the holidays, my dear friend Hillary came over, and we spent an afternoon making fudge! We made huge delicious batches of chocolatey goodness to cut up and deliver to coworkers in cute little holiday packages.

I love making holiday treats for my office. I only have 9 coworkers, so it’s not that difficult to prepare for everyone, but some years, it just doesn’t happen. I have our huge annual fundraising event in early December, and it seems like by the time that’s over, I’m just wiped. I don’t have the energy for much.

But I had been thinking about it, and thought about possibly fudge. And the next day, Hillary called to say we should get together to make… fudge! So that seemed like a clear sign that it needed to happen. With a partner in the kitchen, who coincidentally was interested in the same project as I was, it was quite fun to whip these up. And, like all my favorite projects, it was super easy.

We set out to make 3 different flavors. Classic chocolate, salted chocolate peanut butter, and a double batch of mint chocolate chip. Yum!

And I may or may not have cracked myself up multiple times by muttering “Fudge!” when I screwed up or dropped something, and then realizing what I said. Ha.

FUDGE!

So here you go… 3 recipes in one post! It’s your lucky day.

Classic Chocolate Fudge adapted from Martha Stewart

2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 can (14-oz) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt

Coat an 8-inch square pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper, leaving extra paper on all sides.

Place the butter and chocolate chips in a medium heatproof bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds, then remove and stir well. Repeat, microwaving at 30-second intervals and stirring well between each time, until chocolate is melted.

Add condensed milk, vanilla, and salt. Stir well.

Pour immediately into prepared baking dish and spread evenly. Refrigerate until set, 2 hours or overnight (wrapped). Using the overhanging parchment paper, lift from pan and cut into squares.

Classic

Salted Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge adapted from Martha Stewart

2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 can (14-oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 cup chunky peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Sea salt (optional)

Coat an 8-inch square pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper, leaving extra paper on all sides.

Place the chocolate chips in a medium heatproof bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds, then remove and stir well. Repeat, microwaving at 30-second intervals and stirring well between each time, until chocolate is melted.

Add condensed milk, peanut butter, vanilla, and salt. Stir well.

Pour immediately into prepared baking dish and spread evenly. Refrigerate until set, 2 hours or overnight (wrapped). Using the overhanging parchment paper, lift from pan and cut into squares. Top with coarse sea salt.

Mmm... sweet & salty...

Mint Chocolate Chip Fudge adapted from Martha Stewart

2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 can (14-oz) sweetened condensed milk
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
Andes baking chips

Coat an 8-inch square pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper, leaving extra paper on all sides.

Place the butter and chocolate chips in a medium heatproof bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds, then remove and stir well. Repeat, microwaving at 30-second intervals and stirring well between each time, until chocolate is melted.

Add condensed milk and peppermint. Stir well.

Pour immediately into prepared baking dish and spread evenly. Top with mint chips, as desired.

Refrigerate until set, 2 hours or overnight (wrapped). Using the overhanging parchment paper, lift from pan and cut into squares.

Mint Chip

Linking up for:

YOLO Mondays from Still Being Molly and Lipgloss and Crayons
Monday Meet Ups from Covered in Grace
Made by you Monday from Skip to my Lou
Make Something Monday from Sarahndipities

Microwave Chocolate Pecan Toffee

24 Dec

It’s Christmas Eve! For those of you who celebrate Christmas, I hope you’re ready to enjoy a wonderful day. I have kind of mixed results on my holiday preparedness this year. I had most of my gift shopping done early, but we didn’t decorate our place at all. Once it got close to the holidays and we still hadn’t done anything, the BF and I agreed that it was kind of silly to put a lot of effort into decorations when it’s just the two of us here and we’ll be spending much of our holiday time at our parents’ houses. So instead of going all out, I just put little tiny star ornaments on our bamboo plant. That works, right?

O Christmas Bamboo O Christmas Bamboo...

All I have left to do is bake! Today, I’ll definitely be making a couple apple pies — one for each family’s house — and the apple cinnamon baked oatmeal. After I talk to my brother and sisters, that plan might be slightly expanded. After all, it’s not Christmas without coconut balls.

If you still need something to add to your family’s dessert table or something to take to a holiday party, try this amazing toffee. It’s super easy, so you’ll be able to get it done in between wrapping those last-minute presents and blow-drying your hair.

The only thing better than a delicious candy recipe is an easy delicious candy recipe. I had never made toffee before, and for some reason, I had it in my head that it’s a difficult thing to make. But it wasn’t at all. It was actually super simple. And DELICIOUS. Toffee is kind of like a hard caramel. Yum!

YUM

Somehow this recipe came to me through a long chain: a friend of the stepmom of an ex-boyfriend of a friend. So who knows where it first came from, but I’m glad it arrived in my inbox.

I made a few batches of toffee as gifts for volunteers who helped out with a big work event. It was quick and easy:

Microwave all the toffee ingredients together.

Step 1

Pour it on a pan and spread the chocolate chips over top that.

I have no idea what's up with that weird shadow.

Let it cool/harden, and then break it up into bite-sized pieces.

DONE

I packaged them up in cute little boxes that I got from AC Moore and tied some ribbon around them. Adorbs.

Packages tied up with string...

The only downside to this recipe is that it can get a little expensive. It doesn’t really make a ton of toffee, especially if you’re trying to fill a box, so I had to make quite a few batches. With butter, chocolate, and nuts… not the cheapest.

But it’s so delicious and good-looking, it makes an excellent gift. After I packaged all the pieces up, I collected all the leftover little pieces that were too small to load into the boxes, chopped them up even smaller, and packaged them in a jar as Toffee Crunch Ice Cream Topping. Yum!

Toffee Crunch Ice Cream Topping... It's a little frosty from the fridge, but dang if I'm not craving a bowl of ice cream now.

Well, all that’s left is the recipe. Hope you enjoy it. Happy Holidays!!

Microwave Toffee with Chocolate and Pecans

1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Coat the sides of a large mixing bowl with butter and place the remaining butter in the bowl. Add sugar, salt, and water; do not stir. Microwave on high for 11 minutes or until mixture begins to turn light brown. Pour onto a greased cookie sheet.

Sprinkle chocolate chips over the toffee and let stand 1 minute. Spread chocolate over the toffee to form a melted layer, and sprinkle with pecans. Chill until firm.

Break into bite-size pieces. Package or serve. Yields about 1 pound.

Delicious delicious toffee

Linking up for:

Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2012 + Holiday Cookie Recipes

17 Dec

Here it is… all the cookie recipes you could possibly need. About 576 of them, actually.

Here’s the sitch on the GFBCS2012:

The GREAT FOOD BLOGGER COOKIE SWAP brings together food bloggers from around the world in celebration of all things scrumptious. The premise is this: sign up. Receive the addresses of three other food bloggers. Send each of them one dozen delicious homemade cookies. Receive three different boxes of scrumptious cookies from other bloggers. Eat them all yourself (or, you know, share. If you want. No judgement either way.) Post your cookie recipe on your blog. See everyone else’s cookie recipes. Salivate. Get lots of great ideas for next year’s cookie swap. Rinse and repeat.

I sent 3 lucky recipients my Chinese Chai Cookies:

Chinese Chai Cookies

Chinese Chai Cookies

And I received 3 batches of delicious cookies:

  • Peppermint Mocha Cookies from Traveler in the Kitchen. I usually am not a fan of coffee, but mint chocolate is my fave, so these cookies were amazing. The giant chocolate chunks were perfect.
  • Delicious cookies from Sweet Jeanette. They had an amazing kind of pecan praline thing going on.
  • Yummy, buttery cookies (If I can find the recipe, I’ll update)
Peppermint Mocha Cookies

Peppermint Mocha Cookies

The hosts of the Cookie Swap rounded up on the recipes and posted them on their blogs. If you need inspiration for your cookie swap party or your holiday dessert table, look no further! Love & Olive Oil is hosting the Recipe Roundup Part 1, and The Little Kitchen is hosting the Recipe Roundup Part 2.

Enjoy your holiday baking!

Linking up for:

YOLO Mondays from Still Being Molly and Lipgloss and Crayons
Monday Meet Ups from Covered in Grace
Linky Party from Fine Craft Guild

Chinese Chai Cookies

12 Dec

In my random internet roamings a couple months ago, I stumbled across the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. I was so excited to find it! The concept is very simple and right up my alley: I bake some cookies and mail them to 3 people. 3 different people bake some cookies and mail me a batch. We all have a chance to try delicious homemade treats and spread a little holiday cheer. How nice.

I knew that the shipping deadline was right around the time that I had a huge work event, so I even managed to get my cookies baked and shipped early. AMAZING. Seriously. Doing something before the last minute is a huge accomplishment for me.

I had a free afternoon a few weekends ago, so I started doing a little research. I narrowed it down to four recipe options and invited my BFF Lauren (a.k.a. Betsy Bundt) over to help. I was mostly concerned about durability — making sure the cookie could withstand shipping — and lasting freshness, since it would take a few days for me to bake, package, ship, and arrive across the country.

We found a delicious-sounding recipe for a Chai Spice Cookie. Based on preference and the ingredients I had on hand, we altered the recipe a bit and settled on a “Chinese Chai Cookie.” Chinese because instead of allspice, we included Chinese 5 Spice.

Chinese Chai Cookies

Chai is one of my favorite hot drinks, especially in the fall. As soon as fall season looks like it might be even just beginning, my car starts driving itself to Starbucks for chai lattes. This lasts until Christmas season, when my car knows that I really want peppermint hot chocolate. I make it through winter, and then I’m set. Until the next fall, anyway.

Tea & Cookies

These cookies were really good. They have a great texture and durability like a traditional sugar cookie. But they have an extra little flavor to them. They’re really not intense at all — the chai spice flavor is much more subtle than most chai lattes. But like a chai latte, they start out with a sweet flavor and finish with a warm spicy note on the back of your tongue. Amazing.

After we baked the cookies, I packaged them by rolling up a stack of cookies in clear cellophane wrap and tying the ends with a cute little bow.

Happy Holidays!

Really. I said a cute bow. See?

Tied with a bow

I hope you enjoy these! They make an excellent, sophisticated snack. Perfect for afternoon tea!

Chinese Chai Cookies, adapted from My Baking Addiction

2 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups white sugar
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons Chinese 5 Spice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 egg
1/2 tablespoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, ginger, Chinese 5 Spice, nutmeg, and black pepper. Reserve 1/4 cup of this mixture; set aside to reserve for rolling cookies.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and remaining sugar-spice mixture on medium for about 3 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla; mix until incorporated.

Slowly blend in dry ingredients until just combined.

Using a small scoop, form into balls and then roll in the reserved sugar-spice mixture. Place dough balls on prepared baking sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart.

Bake in preheated oven for 8-10 minutes. Let stand 2 minutes, then remove to cool on wire racks.

Yield: Approx. 3 dozen cookies

Linking up for:

YOLO Mondays from Still Being Molly and Lipgloss and Crayons
Monday Meet Ups from Covered in Grace
Made by you Monday from Skip to my Lou
Make Something Monday from Sarahdipities