Saturday, July 2, 2011

Dark Chocolate Microwave Mug Brownies

With two small children running around my home, there aren't too many "lazy" days this summer. But the other night, my husband and I were curled up watching bad reality tv, and all I wanted was a quick sweet fix. I found something that was not only quick, but did not even require turning on the oven! (we also didn't have 2 dozen brownies to attack, which is another plus)

I adapted the recipe to include dark cocoa and the white chocolate chips that have been sitting in my fridge since my last project... which was a great choice. I can't wait to make these again, although I'm a bit worried that now brownies are just 5 minutes away. :)

Grab a spoon, I give you... Microwave Mug Brownies!

Dark Chocolate Microwave Mug Brownies
(Makes 2 mugs full of chocolatey deliciousness)

4 tbsp unsalted butter
4 tbsp water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 dashes salt
8 tbsp granulated sugar
4 tbsp Hershey's Special Dark unsweetened cocoa powder
8 tbsp all-purpose flour
A few handfuls of chocolate chips - mine were white chocolate

Add 2 tbsp of butter to each mug and melt in the microwave... zapping each about 15-20 seconds. Next add to each 2 tbsp water, 1/4 tsp vanilla, dash of salt, 4 tbsp sugar, and 2 tbsp cocoa powder. Whisk with a fork, making sure it is blended well. Next, add 4 tbsp flour to each and whisk again, taking care of any remaining clumps. Top with a healthy handful of chocolate chips, and microwave for 60-90 seconds each. I did exactly 60 seconds in my microwave, and they were perfect -- just cakey enough, but still gooey. If you like your brownies on the very cakey side, I would imagine 90 seconds would suit you better.

Enjoy responsibly. :)

source: adapted from member Where's the Beef

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Compliment-Guaranteed Cupcakes

I've baked a lot of cupcakes. These, however, are quite possibly my favorite. Bizarre, given that they don't even contain chocolate. I would have to say that this recipe - this frosting in particular - has garnered more compliments than all of the other cupcakes that I've tried thus far.

It's a strawberry cupcake, iced with amaaazing strawberry meringue buttercream frosting. This particular batch was for a birthday, so all of the pretty ones were given away. Here we have one adorable and still very, very delicious reject. Continue on for the recipe...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wilton Dessert Decorator Pro

So, first and foremost, this is not intended to be a spot for product reviews, and I'm not getting paid by anyone to do anything. I just happened to receive one as a gift, and used it for the first time recently.

I really liked the stainless steel canister. It kept my icing pretty cool and didn't let my hands heat it up and melt it down as quickly as a pastry bag... I can't wait to see how it does with cream cheese frosting. It was also (for me) cleaner than using a pastry bag -- probably because I am still a baking novice and I probably do very little the proper way it ought to be done. It didn't hold as much frosting as a large pastry bag, however... I think I frosted roughly 8 cupcakes per fill. But, since refilling was much easier than with a pastry bag, I didn't mind much.

I have to say, it was awkward at first. I am left-handed, which already makes cake decorating hard because I can't see what I'm writing. I found it hard to figure out which hand I wanted on top and which on the bottom -- neither really felt comfortable. It also took me a few tries to get comfortable with the plunger and using uniform pressure. For me, it seemed like I had to almost lift the plunger to stop the flow of icing, whereas with a bag it's so easy to just release your grip a bit. So that took some getting used to.

All in all, I like it and will use it. I doubt I will ever use it exclusively, because frankly, I like the control of the pastry bag in my hand and I don't need to choose whether to use it left- or right-handed! I'd recommend it for filling pastries and cupcakes, and for decorating cupcakes, cookies, and anything that doesn't require too much detail. And I imagine if you are right-handed, you might like it better? Has anyone else tried this or something similar? Feel free to comment and share your thoughts!

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Baby Shower From Hell

Ok -- not really. It was actually a lovely jack & jill shower, held outdoors in a pavilion at the park for my absolutely radiant stepsister. Everyone had a blast, and my kids actually refrained from both crying AND pooping... and if you have kids, you know that this made for quite a pleasant afternoon.

However, I, the reluctant-yet-overly-ambitious baker, was in over my head. This post should really be entitled The Hell BEFORE the Baby Shower. After entirely too much hemming and hawing over recipes, I decided upon this: a whipped brown butter vanilla cake, with a lemon curd filling and lemon meringue buttercream frosting. As if that wasn't enough, I was also tasked with making 24 cupcakes. The last time I did that much baking was for my son's baptism, and I thought having two different recipes was overcomplicating it. I decided to do the same thing for the cupcakes, filling them with the lemon curd. Instead of keeping the process simple, I ended up chosing to do a recipe with a million steps... TWICE.

What's that you say? I'm a lunatic? But I'm not finished! I also decided to decorate the cake and the cupcakes with these dried pineapple flowers from Martha Stewart. Seriously, even typing this all out again is making me annoyed. This whole post is already annoying.

Let's continue this madness, shall we?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Baptism Cake

What a month -- so many parties, insane amounts of cooking and baking. We held a party for my son's baptism a few weeks ago and with family coming in from out of town, most of them meeting him for the first time, I really wanted the cake to be special.

I decided on a dark chocolate cake with sliced strawberries and white chocolate whipped cream filling, topped with a whipped cream frosting. I'd been drooling over it ever since seeing it on Annie's Eats. I have to say, the dark chocolate cake was wonderful. I would absolutely make it again. However, I had some issues with the filling/frosting.

It was such an insane day, I didn't even get the opportunity to taste it until the following day. It almost seemed like the strawberries had sort of fermented. They just didn't taste quite right, and my husband assured me that they were fabulous the day before. Not sure what happened there, but it wasn't too pleasing. I also felt that the white chocolate whipped cream filling kind of got lost. I couldn't really taste enough of the white chocolate to make it worth the effort that went into making it. The whipped cream frosting was delicious! But this was a cake I really wanted to have fun decorating, and it was a bit flimsy for anything too fancy.

All of that said, it was a great day, and everyone seemed to really love the cake and the cupcakes. The cupcakes! Yes, there were cupcakes too. I don't think anyone even got a picture of them, terrible I know. I opted for the opposite of my cake, with a white chocolate cupcake and chocolate frosting, topped with little white chocolate crosses and Ns for my son's name. Those were a big hit as well. Cake recipe is below - will do the cupcakes in another post.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

My husband is a chocolate peanut butter addict. So I knew that I really had to come correct for his birthday. After much researching, I decided on a sour cream chocolate cake, with peanut butter frosting, topped with a dramatic chocolate peanut butter glaze.

This cake is very rich, but really, really amazing. I was afraid that the flavors would be overwhelming, but everyone seemed to agree that this was not the case. I regret that I do not have pictures of this cake, however smitten kitchen does have pictures of it. Mine looked virtually the same, except that my glaze was a bit thinner, and my cake was MUCH taller. I'm not sure why on either count, but seriously my cake was towering, and carrying it to his birthday dinner, the thing had to weigh 20 lbs. Or at least it felt like it.

The recipe calls for 8" pans, but I used 9" pans and clearly did not have any issues with it. I would definitely make this cake again, and I'm pretty sure my husband would be on board with that as well.

Lemon Poppyseed Cake with Raspberry Curd Filling

(My pictures leave a lot to be desired, I know. And I don't have any pictures of the inside, either. But it was beautiful!)

My father-in-law is 85 years old. He is a brilliant man: an accomplished electrical engineer and woodworker, but he is also a very easygoing man. Every year he has but one request for his birthday: lemon. Make it lemon. Whatever it is... lemon.
While I personally don't see the merits of any kind of dessert that is solely fruit-based and does not include chocolate, I decided that it was not my very special day, and that I ought to make him what HE wants. Fine. But it won't be just any lemon cake -- no. Make it lemon poppyseed, with a delicious raspberry filling, and a lemon cream cheese frosting to top it off.

I have to say, even I liked this cake. I don't care for lemon, and I REALLY don't care for raspberries, but it was pretty darn good.