Archive for the ‘Desserts’ Category

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! 

I don’t think it would be a holiday at my house unless there were some sort of cupcake to celebrate with. Not only is it Valentine’s Day here at our house, but it is also our youngest daughter’s 1/2 birthday (I don’t normally celebrate 1/2 birthday’s but her’s falls on a fun holiday and she is 18 months old today, which is one of the most special of the 1/2 birthday’s)! 

I have had my heart set on red velvet cupcakes for quite awhile, but I wanted to wait and try them for Valentine’s Day. The color of the cake in this recipe is fantastic! Red is my favorite color and I just love how bright these cupcakes turned out. Not only do they look beautiful, but they taste amazing. The cake is moist and has a wonderful flavor that is complemented perfectly by the cream cheese frosting. This is the perfect cupcake to celebrate any holiday, but especially this Hallmark card one. It is not to late to make these for your special someone. Enjoy!

Red Velvet Cupcakes 

Red Velvet Cupcakes
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1 1/2 cups of sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter, softened
2 eggs, room temperature
2 1/3 cups of cake flour
2 tablespoons of Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of buttermilk*
1 1/2 tablespoons of red food coloring
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of distilled white vinegar

Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
5 tablespoons butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

*You can make your own buttermilk by adding a tablespoon of distilled white vinegar to milk and letting it stand for about 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Beat the butter and sugar in an electric mixer for 3 minutes on medium speed until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is fully incorporated. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure even mixing.

In a large bowl, sift together the cake flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl whisk together the buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla extract, and red food coloring.

Add a fourth of the dry ingredients and mix, then add a third of the wet. Continue adding in a dry, wet, dry pattern, ending with the dry ingredients.

Scoop into cupcake papers, about 1/2 to 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Rotate the pan after the first 15 minutes of baking to ensure even baking.

Allow to cool for one minute in the pan then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cupcakes.

Frosting Directions:
Combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Mix in the vanilla extract. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until totally incorporated, increase the speed and then beat until smooth. Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.

Adapted From: Cupcakes: Simply Recipes; Frosting: Annies Eats

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Lemon Bars with Oatmeal Crust

I never used to be a big fan of lemon bars, or many citrus desserts for that matter. But like many people, my tastes have sure changed and expanded over the years. Now I find something simple and refreshing about the flavors in a citrus dessert. After seeing the lemon bar recipe a couple of weeks ago from The Enchanted Cook, it reminded me that I had a recipe that I had been wanting to try since last year (I also plan on trying Veronica’s recipe soon also). The thing that I loved about this recipe was the addition of the oatmeal to the crust. The oatmeal adds a wonderful chewy texture to the buttery cookie crust.

I choose not to use the original recipe I had that called for the addition of the oatmeal to the crust because the lemon curd part of the dessert was made with a whole can of sweetened condensed milk. So in an effort to avoid that ingredient I found a different recipe and just added the oatmeal to the crust. So, if you already have a favorite lemon bar recipe, you could simply add oatmeal to the cookie crust and see what you think!

These bars are so tangy and refreshing. They are the perfect treat to give you a little glimpse of springtime.

Lemon Bars with Oatmeal Crust

Lemon Bars with Oatmeal Crust
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Cookie Crust
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup oatmeal (not instant)
½ cup powdered sugar
1 cup of unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Lemon Filling
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 to 4 tablespoons powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish.
Combine first 5 ingredients; beat at medium speed until well blended. Pat mixture into the prepared 9×13 inch baking dish. Bake for 18 minutes or until golden brown.
Combine 2 cups sugar and cornstarch. Add eggs and next 3 ingredients; beat well. Pour mixture over the warm crust.
Return the dish to the oven and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until set. Cool Completely then put in the refrigerator to chill completely. Sift the 2-4 tablespoons of powdered sugar on top before serving.

Adapted From: Southern Living Incredible Cookies plus the addition of oatmeal to the crust

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 Mini Key Lime Cheesecakes

Tuesday was my birthday and I wanted to make something yummy for my birthday. That is right, I am made my own birthday dessert (I know that my fellow food bloggers will understand this quite well). Now my first thought (of course) was to make a super fun cupcake that I hadn’t tried yet, but then I remembered these delicious mini cheesecakes that I made this past fall, and I knew that was what I wanted. The ones I made in the fall were raspberry, but for some reason I have been on a lime kick lately, so I came up with the idea of a key lime flavored cheesecake. I knew that someone somewhere had created one already and I was right. I found a recipe at Smitten Kitchen and low and behold she even made them mini like I was looking for! In her blog I also noticed she had a neat mini cheesecake pan. I had never seen one of these before and was immediately fascinated so I hopped on my favorite gadget buying site, eBay, and found one for a good deal! This pan is adorable, that is if a pan can be adorable, and it makes adorable little bite sized desserts. How perfect is that? I digress…on to the recipe.

Mini Cheesecake Pan

The original recipe from Gormet, May 2002 was made for a full cheesecake and our friends over at Smitten Kitchen used half the recipe to make 12 mini cheesecakes. The recipe that I show below has been reduced and will yield 12 mini cheesecakes (with a little bit extra), that is why some of the measurements are a little odd. The original recipe also called for lime soaked mangoes to garnish the tops of the cakes, however I am not a big fan of mango so  I decided to go with coconut. After reading the Smitten Kitchen blog she put the “lime in the coconut” song in my head and I couldn’t get it out. I even played the song and sang it a lot while I was baking these. That song is addicting! I also used cinnamon gram crackers in the crust as this is my favorite way to make a cheesecake crust (my super fabulous cousin Hallie gave me the idea).

Mini Key Lime Cheesecakes

These cheesecakes were fantastic! They were exactly what I had imagined a key lime flavored cheesecake would taste like. They have the perfect tangy lime flavor and the cheesecake is soft and smooth. I loved these so much I think next time I will make the whole big cheesecake! 🙂

Mini Key Lime Cheesecakes
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For crust
3/4 cups fine cinnamon graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For filling
1 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese at room temperature
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh key lime juice (strained from about 1 1/2 lb Key limes) or bottled if you can find it
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large egg and 1 egg yolk

For topping
1/2 cup chilled heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup shredded coconut

Make crust: Preheat oven to 350°F. This recipe can be made in a mini cheesecake pan or in a muffin pan with or without papers.

Stir together crumbs and butter in a bowl with a fork until combined well, divide the crumb mixture into the 12 holes of your mini cheesecake pan (or muffin cups) then press evenly onto bottom of each hole of the pan. Bake crust in middle of oven for 4-5 minutes and cool in pan on a rack.

Make filling: Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.

Beat cream cheese with an electric mixer at medium speed until fluffy, then beat in sugar. Add lime juice, sour cream, and vanilla and beat until smooth. Mix in flour and salt at low speed, scraping down side as needed, until just incorporated, then add eggs all at once and mix just until incorporated.

Pour filling onto the crusts in each hole of the pan. Bake cakes in the middle of the oven until set in center, about 25-30 minutes (be sure to watch your mini cheesecakes as they can over cook very since they are small). Cool completely in pan on a rack. (Cake will continue to set as it cools.)

Run a thin knife around edge of each cake and push up to remove from the pan.

Make topping: Place the shredded coconut in a saute pan and heat over medium heat on the stove until lightly toasted (it is important that you watch it closely as it can burn very quickly).
Beat cream with sugar in a bowl with electric mixer until it just holds stiff peaks, then spread or pipe on top of each cheesecake. Then place the toasted coconut on top of the whipped cream and enjoy your bite sized treat!

Adapted from: Smitten Kitchen

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 Orange Sherbet

Well, here is the first delicious thing I made with my surplus of citrus from this past weekend. I know for most of you it is snowy and cold, but for us here in Southern California it has been very sunny and warm this past week. We have been having summer-like weather and there is nothing better on a warm summer day then a refreshing bowl of ice cream. With all the fresh oranges from my neighbor’s tree and the warm weather, I immediately thought of my favorite childhood summer treat…orange sherbert. My grandparents would always have those fun 50/50 cups with the wooden spoons when we would go and visit them in the summers and my brothers, cousins and I loved to sit in their big back yard and enjoy the warm summer air and our tasty dessert. This recipe is fantastic and with the first bite I smiled and felt like I was that little girl again in my grandparents back yard. It was a big hit with the rest of the family too. I can already predict that I will be making this recipe often this summer and I definitely plan to make my own 50/50 version too!

Orange Sherbet
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7 ounces sugar (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
1 1/2 tablespoons finely grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice, approximately 2 to 3 pounds oranges
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups very cold whole milk

In the bowl of a food processor combine all of the ingredients except the milk and process until the sugar is dissolved, approximately 1 minute. Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl and whisk in the milk. Cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator until the mixture reaches 40 degrees F or below, approximately 1 hour.
Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and process until it is the consistency of soft serve ice cream. You may serve now or transfer to a lidded container and place in freezer until firm, approximately 3 hours.

Adapted From: Alton Brown

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Gingerbread Chocolate Chip Cookies

It is the time of year when I just can’t get enough gingerbread flavored treats. As I mentioned earlier this week, I absolutely love the flavors in gingerbread treats. I came across this recipe earlier this fall and just could not wait for this time of year to make them. These cookies are out of this world fantastic! They are unbelievably soft and chewy and I love soft and chewy cookies! They are the perfect soft and chewy ginger cookie with the added bonus of chocolate chips. I am already on my second batch of these because they are that good! The second time around I used mini chocolate chips and I think they are a wonderful choice for this cookie as you just get sweet little nibbles of chocolate with each bite of the spicy ginger cookie. Stay tuned as I have one more yummy gingerbread flavored treat coming later this week. Hope everyone is having a wonderful Christmas season!

Ginger Chocolate Chip Cookies
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2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup chocolate chips (milk chocolate or semi sweet)
1/4 cup granulated sugar, for rolling dough balls

Position a rack in the middle of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or just spray lightly with cooking spray.
Sift the flour, baking soda, spices and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.  In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and brown sugar until smoothly blended, about 2 minutes.  Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed during mixing.  Add the egg and molasses and mix until blended and an even light color, about 1 minute.  On low speed, add the flour mixture, mixing just to incorporate it.  Fold in the chocolate chips.
Spread the granulated sugar into a small bowl.  Roll a heaping tablespoon of dough between the palms of your hands into a ball, toss the ball in sugar to coat and place on the prepared baking sheet.  Continue making cookies, spacing them about 2 inches apart.
Bake the cookies one sheet at a time until the tops feel firm but they are still soft in the center and there are several large cracks on top, about 12-14 minutes.  Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then use a wide metal spatula to transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
The cookies can be stored in a tightly covered container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Adapted From: Joy the Baker

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 Gingerbread Snowflake Cookies

These cookies not only look beautiful, they taste fantastic! The gingerbread has the perfect spicy taste and the addition of finely ground pepper is fabulous! I absolutely love all types of gingerbread cookies and I can’t wait for this time of year to load up on them. You will see a couple more gingerbread flavored recipes from me this week too. 🙂 This cookie is soft yet firm and is perfect to decorate with royal icing. This was my first time working with royal icing and I had so much fun with it. I can see why so many people are addicted to making cookies with royal icing. There are so many cute things you can do with it. I am very much looking forward to using it again soon.

Gingerbread Snowflake Cookies

Gingerbread Snowflake Party Favors

I used these cookies as party favors at my daughter’s birthday a couple weeks ago. It was a fun way to say thank you to our guests.

Gingerbread Snowflake Cookies
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Printer Friendly Version – Royal Icing

6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
4 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon finely ground pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 large eggs
1 cup unsulfured molasses
Royal Icing (see recipe below)


  1. Sift together flour, baking soda, and baking powder into a large bowl. Set aside.
  2. Put butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until fluffy. Mix in spices and salt, then eggs and molasses. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Divide dough into thirds; wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough on a lightly floured work surface to a 1/4-inch thick. Cut into snowflakes with a 7- inch snowflake-shape cookie cutter. Space 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, and refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.
  4. Bake cookies until crisp but not dark, 12 to 14 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks.
  5. Put icing in a pastry bag fitted with a small plain round tip (such as Ateco #7). Outline the snowflakes with the thicke royal icing and let dry for one hour. Then use the thinned out icing to flood the area surrounded by the piping on each cookie.  If it does not completely spread to the edges, use a toothpick to help it along. If you want to add any sprinles or decorative candies, you must add them now before the icing sets. Let icing set completely at room temperature, about 1 hour. Store cookies between layers of parchment in an airtight container at room temperature up to 5 days.

Royal Icing

4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tbsp. meringue powder
5 tbsp. water

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on low speed until the sheen has disappeared and the icing has a matte appearance (about 7-10 minutes).  Transfer the contents of the mixing bowl to an air-tight container.  This will be the stiffest consistency of the icing, and at this point it is still too stiff to use for decorating.  Add water a very small amount at a time and stir by hand until fully incorporated.  Continue until the icing has reached a consistency appropriate for piping.  (Remember, if you are having any difficulty piping, it is still too thick.  Add a little more liquid and try again.)  Using a pastry bag, pipe around the edges of each cookie.  Let stand so the icing will set.  Make sure to keep the leftover icing covered at all times when not in use so that it does not begin to harden.
Once all the cookies have been edged, transfer some of the remaining icing to a separate air-tight container.  Thin out by incorporating a small amount of water at a time, until the icing drips off the spoon easily when lifted and then smooths in with that still in the bowl.  If you go too far and the icing is too thin, add more sifted powdered sugar to thicken it again.  Once the icing has reached the desired consistency, transfer it to a squeeze bottle (or a plastic bag with a hole in one corner), and flood the area surrounded by the piping on each cookie.  If it does not completely spread to the edges, use a toothpick to help it along.  Allow to set.
Use the remaining thicker icing for piping decoration as desired.  Gel icing color is best as it does not add a significant amount of liquid.  Liquid food coloring can be used as well – add powdered sugar as needed to compensate for any thinning that occurs.

Adapted From: Cookies from: Martha Stewart; Royal Icing from: Annie’s Eats

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 Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes

Here I go with another cupcake recipe, that makes three in a row, not that anyone is counting. 🙂 What can I say, I love cupcakes! That and I just threw my daughter a birthday party and I am still sharing all my fun recipes from that wonderful day.

Last year I decided to finally try the popular peppermint mocha from Starbucks and oh…my…goodness…was I sorry that I hadn’t tried it before! All year long I have been waiting for it to be back in season and I am so happy that the time is here! I have enjoyed quite a few of them already this season! 🙂 So when I was researching ideas for the party and I came across this recipe, it was like a dream come true. It was the perfect flavor cupcake to go a long with the winter wonderland theme of the party, plus the added bonus was that I got to fulfill my everlasting need for peppermint mocha.

These cupcakes were very delicious. The cake was very moist and chocolatey. The frosting was very light and fluffy and tasty, however when I make this recipe again, I would maybe try a buttercream frosting flavored with peppermint. The frosting was good, it was just time consuming to make and I think that buttercream has a better flavor with much less work. I colored the frosting pink because it was a birthday party, however the original recipe is to do the frosting in a red and white swirl which looks really cute and is festive for the holidays. These would be the perfect treat for any holiday gathering this season.  

Pepermint Mocha Cupcakes

Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes
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For the cupcakes:
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2-3 tsp. espresso powder
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 cup whole milk
1 cup strong brewed coffee
1 tsp. peppermint extract
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs

For the frosting:
6 large egg whites
1¾ plus 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
1½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 tsp. peppermint extract
1-2 tsp. vanilla extract

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt; stir together.  Combine the milk, coffee and peppermint extract in a liquid measuring cup.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugars.  Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Blend in the eggs one at a time.   Alternately mix in the dry and liquid ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing just until incorporated.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cupcake liners.  Bake 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.   Let cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the frosting, combine the egg whites and sugar in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water.  Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160° F and the sugar has dissolved.  Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes.  Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated.  If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more.  Stir in the peppermint and vanilla extracts and mix just until incorporated.
If you would like a red and white swirled frosting effect, remove about half of the frosting to a bowl.  With the remaining frosting in the mixing bowl, add red gel coloring and mix until you have achieved the desired shade.  Fit a pastry bag with a large tip.  Fill one side of the pastry bag with the white frosting, and then fill in the other side with the red frosting (this does not need to be exact – just enough so that both colors are included.)  Pipe a test streak until you see both colors coming out of the tip.  Frost cupcakes as desired, refilling the pastry bag in the same manner as needed.

Adapted From: Annie’s Eats

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