Send Inspiration!!! (Perfect Chocolate, Chocolate Cake)

Lately I’ve gotten tired of the same old questions, “what’s new?” “Nothing”, “Whats up?” “Same ol’ same old.”, “Hows work?” “worky”. I need difference in my life, I need excitement. Luckily with the weather warming, cabin fever is finally wearing off and we can go for hikes and walks outside. Actually this past weekend I got to (re)plant potatoes with a local organic farm and got really, really sunburn – lobster status.

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Look! A wild Heron!

However even with this slight change in the weather I am still caught up in the mundane patterns of society. I don’t even know what to bake anymore, I’m running out of ideas, motivation is slipping from my slightly tan, and rather dry fingers. Bold statement warning: PLEASE SEND IDEAS! Ideas for baked goods, ideas for blog posts, give me a topic I can work with that. Give me a news article I can form something around that. I JUST NEED VARIATION IN MY LIFE. Okay boring rant aside I did get to make a pretty awesome cake recently. When you are 80 years old where do you see yourself? What do you hope to have accomplished in your life? To celebrate 80 years I made a 3 layered “zebra” cake for this wonderful lady (see photo below). This by far was the biggest cake I have ever made and the only time I made a tiered cake. I was actually stumped ealier in the week, I did not know what kind of support this cake would need. After a trip to A.C. Moore and $80 later I got the cake support I needed as well as a bunch of things I didn’t need. Image What I really want to tell you about in this cake is the chocolate. I used my favorite chocolate cake recipe, Hersey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate cake recipe. This is by far the richest, wettest, chocolatlyist cake I have ever had. This is not the first time I’ve used this recipe, Pair this with a peanut butter ganache you have a heart breaker. Pair this with a Bailys butter cream icing you have a dream. IMG_7964 Without further ado, Chocolate addicts please feast your eyes on the greatest chocolate cake recipe you may ever encounter   Hersey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake Recipe This will make a double layer cake easy. This time I paired it with a Bailys buttercream icing, it was a beautiful mixture of flavors. P.S. This is the same buttercream icing I use on the Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes. Ingredients: Cake – 2 cups sugar 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour 3/4 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda 1 teaspoon salt 2 eggs 1 cup milk 1/2 cup vegetable oil 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 1 cup boiling water Frosting – 2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature 5 cups powdered sugar 6 tablespoons Bailey’s Irish Cream Directions: Cake

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees, and grease 2 9 inch round baking pans
  2. In a large bowl combine sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt
  3. In a stand mixer mix eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla.
  4. Add dry ingredients to wet along with boiling water and mix, the batter will be thin, this is normal.
  5. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  6. Cool ten minutes before removing from pan, wait an additional 15 before frosting.

Frosting:

  1. In a stand mixer whip the butter on medium speed for 5 minutes scraping the sides of the bowl down periodically.
  2. Add the powder sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing between each cup, until fully incorporated.
  3. Add the Baileys and whip until light and fluffy.
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How to Murder a 12 Year Old’s Dreams (The Best Brownies Ever)

What was the best birthday cake you ever had? On my 12th birthday I dreamed of my cake: rich in chocolate, light, melt in your mouth, the center piece of my birthday party. I never got it.

I have always been particular about my birthday cakes, and my mother has always delivered. Growing up you could say I had an elaborate imagination. I once had a fish themed birthday party and I wanted my cake to be a fish tank. You can bet your bottom dollar that my mom made a chocolate cake decorated as one. On my 18th birthday I told my mom to get creative, actually I told her that I just wanted cannoli’s.  She made a four layer chocolate cake with chocolate mousse icing, and cannoli filling between the layers. I still remember it today; the icing was so light, and so rich in chocolate with a hint of coffee flavor, and the cake, so moist, so light, paired perfectly with the sweet creamy cannoli filling with crunches of mini chocolate chips. It almost makes up for my twelfth birthday, almost.

Brownies

The best chocolate brownie ever!

Twelve was a weird age for me, while I was playing out in the dirt and on the basketball court; all of my friends were growing up and becoming more girly. They all started to care about their hair, boys, lip gloss and being popular. I just cared if I could make ten foul shots in a row, or make the game winning goal in field hockey (some things never change). I was torn between brushing my long matted hair, or cutting it all off to a short pixy cut. Things were definitely changing.

I made a big decision for my birthday that year, I wanted a big chocolate cake with pink icing (are you finding a pattern here with the chocolate). Pink. This was a big decision for me, normally I did purple, green, white, chocolate, chocolate with candy on top, never pink. My mother was slightly thrilled, I was finally embracing my girl side, maybe next I would start brushing my hair and wearing dresses (spoiler alert that did not come until college, the dress part at least). My mother agreed with the biggest smile on her face to make this the best cake ever. You know when your mother says something and you know she is being truthful, she says it with passion and the biggest smile on her face.

Chocolate milk with chocolate brownies... Can you ever have too much chocolate?

Chocolate milk with chocolate brownies… Can you ever have too much chocolate?

My birthday was just like any other, I played outside all morning with my neighbor. Somewhere between racing dirt bikes and climbing the sappy evergreen trees I decided I had to come home to get ready for my party. As soon as I pulled the heavy sliding glass door open, I could tell something was not as it should be.  Have you ever watched a show on TV where the evil genius has this crazy smirk on his face, it was kind of like that. My mother quickly ushered me out of the kitchen, assuring me that everything was fine and that company would be coming soon, I should shower. She was my mom, what else should little naive me believe?

Let’s fast-forward through the party; it was great, family and friends everywhere, different pasta and potato salads sitting on paper plates with flies trying to land on them, all my uncles were drunk, you know typical children’s birthday party. Time for cake.

I sat down at the big dining room table, feeling somewhat lost in the magnitude of the chair at the head of the table.  There was no cake yet, this should have been my first warning sign. The singing began all upbeat and happy, I saw my mother bringing the cake tray from the kitchen to the dining room. Something was not right; I did not see a cake. There was no pink fluffy frosting, no cotton candy clouds of white, no rainbows bursting from the cake in magical glee, in fact there wasn’t even a cake. In front of me my mom dropped with a thud, a flat, heavy, uncooked version of a chocolate cake. No icing, no candles, no nothing.  When the birthday song was over, which now sounded to me like a gaggle of drowning frogs, I did not know what to do. There were no candles to blow out, no wish to make, and no cake! My mom blurted out, “surprise, brownies instead!” everyone started laughing. Was it me they were laughing at, my misfortune, my flat, icingless cake?

I brushed it off. I was 12, tough 12 year olds don’t cry. The cake was never cut, it was thrown out. We had cookies and ice cream instead. Apparently my mom was so busy with preparing everything else she forgot a few key ingredients in the cake.

I never forgave her. Okay that sounds horrible, don’t get me wrong, I love my mother. But after that I was always hesitant to put my trust in her baking, especially after a  few years later when she tried to make me cookies. But that’s another story.

 

Watch out, Courtney couldn't even wait till they were out of the oven!

Watch out, Courtney couldn’t even wait till they were out of the oven!

The Best Brownies Ever

While these brownies are super chocolaty and quite possibly the best brownies ever, I have to warn you – the batter is better. If you can muster up the courage to actually eat the brownies you will not be disappointed.

Ingredients:

¾ cup cocoa

½ teaspoon baking soda

2/3 cup melted butter, divided

1/2 Cup boiling water

2 Cups Sugar

2 eggs

1 1/3 Cup Flour

1 Teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon salt

12 oz bag of semi sweet chocolate chip

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350

Combine cocoa and baking soda, mix in 1/3 cup of melted butter and boiling water, mix until combined.

Stir in sugar and remaining butter.

Add flour, vanilla, and salt,  and chocolate chips. Mix well.

Pour into a greased 9×13 pan, bake for 35-40 minutes.

 

A Lemon Christmas (Mini Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins)

I used to wish my Christmas tree would burn down.

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Using an old grater for my zest

I hated Christmas. I hated the fact that after Halloween (my favorite holiday), Christmas music would start. I hated the fact that it got cold. I hated slushy snow. I hated speeding hours in a kitchen with my mother. I hated spending countless hours, or multiple days, decorating an 11+ foot tall Christmas tree that we would get every year.

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Lemon and sugar mix

I guess you can call the child me a Grinch. I didn’t understand it. Why bother cutting down a perfectly good tree (as if humans aren’t doing that enough already), and spending countless hours arguing about how to decorate it, only to throw it out the week after Christmas.  Sure it looked pretty for that occasional family member that wandered over to drop something off, but what was the point?

We spent evenings that felt like eternities manipulating cookies to taste just like the ones from the store. What was the point? Couldn’t you just, I don’t know, buy them?!?! During the Christmas season everyone just complains about their diet anyways.

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Someone was interested in the Sour Cream mixture.

Looking back to how much of a Grinch I was, it makes me wonder how I got to where I am today. I cannot wait until snow hits the ground, this means Santa’s coming!!! The smell of the tree, while sitting next to the fire, looms my dreams for the rest of the 11 months. Don’t get me started about cookies; I think it is obvious what happened there (if not feel free to read my post on Chocolate Chip Cookies).

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Batter

An Odd thing about me and Christmas, for some reason I always associate Lemon with the holidays. Perhaps it is because almost every Christmas morning my mother would make Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins. Or perhaps it has something to do with the lemon drop cookies that I spent hours recreating. It could just be my obsession with zesting things and the smell that lingers on my fingers afterword’s.

Anyways, last night (while dancing to Christmas music) I made mini lemon poppy seed muffins for breakfast at work. These guys love when I bring in treats for them, and it gives me an excuse to eat all day. Throughout the morning I had countless people exclaiming how I am ruining their diet, while stuffing three mini muffins in their mouth and taking two for after they swallowed.

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My mini muffins in my cookie jar, almost gone that is

Looking back at my childhood I am almost 97.2% positive that my mother never made these from scratch. I think she cheated and used a mix. Well that cheater, cheater, pumpkin pie eater; try this one next time!

Mini Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

Ingredients

1 lemon, zested and juiced

2/3 Cup sugar

2 cups AP flour

2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 Cup sour Cream

2 large eggs

1 Teaspoon vanilla extract

1 Stick unsalted Butter, melted

2 Tablespoons poppy seeds

Directions:

  1. Preheat Oven to 400 degrees, grease muffin tins (or use liners, your call)
  2. In a large bowl mix the lemon zest in with the sugar. This is easiest done with your fingers. Mix until all the sugar is wet with lemon.
  3. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix this together well.
  4. In a medium size bowl whisk together sour cream, eggs, vanilla, and butter.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ones and mix until wet.
  6. Add Poppy seeds then stir to combine
  7. Fill muffin cups 3/4 of the way and bake for 10 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean.

Optional Icing

For icing I did not have any lemon juice, or lemons lying around. I only had 1 which I used for the muffins. I used a vanilla glaze, but a lemon glaze is what I intended on doing so I’ll give you both options.

Lemon

1 Cup Confectioners’ sugar

2-3 Tablespoons lemon juice (preferably fresh)

Mix till combined, drizzle over cooled muffins.

Vanilla

1 Cup confectioners’ sugar

2 Tablespoons milk

1/2 Teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix till combined, drizzle over cooled muffins

Makes 4 dozen mini muffins, almost 1 dozen normal sized muffins (amount ranges on size of the tins)

Just Sugar (Cookie) me up for Valentine’s Day!

When things say they are the best, I have to try them. Like Genos and Pats cheese steaks, they both say they are the best so I have to try both. And you know what my outcome was? They are both the same. But today was different. I was not looking for cheese steaks, I was looking for the best cake-like sugar cookie there is.Image

You know the sugar cookies that come prepackaged in the store with the pretty frosting? That was exactly what I was looking for. I found one recipe online that claims to be an exact replica, but I don’t have two days to let the dough chill in my fridge, I have about thirty minutes.

Finally I found one: “THE BEST SUGAR COOKIES”. Well, the best? Hmph, I don’t think so. I had to tweak the recipe, but don’t worry three batches later, I got it.

Not the best, THE PERFECT SUGAR COOKIE (and frosting)!!!

Cookie Ingredients:                                                                                                         

2/3 Cup butter, room temp

¾ cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 egg

1 tablespoon milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups all purpose flour

Frosting ingredients:

½ cup butter (one stick)

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups powder sugar

3 tablespoons heavy cream

several drops of food coloring of your choice

sprinkles (if you feel obligated)

Directions:

  1. With an electric mixer in a large bowl mix butter on a medium to high speed for 30 Imageseconds. Add the sugar, baking powder, and salt and mix till combined. Beat in the egg, milk and vanilla. Add the flour one up at a time beating it as you add the two cups. Divide the dough in half, and cover (I put in a gallon size zip block in two balls). Chill in the fridge for thirty minutes or until its easier to work with.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375. On wax paper place one ball of dough, place another sheet of wax paper on top of the ball of dough and flatten with  roller (I used tinfoil due to lack of wax paper). Flatten to about 1/4inch thickness. Use a cookie cutter to cut the desired shape. Place the cutouts 1 inch apart on a parchment lined pan (if you don’t have parchment paper you can just use an ungreased cookie sheet).
  3. Bake for about 8 minutes, just when the edges start to turn a light brown take out of the oven. Place on a wire rack to cool. Wait until cool to frost.

(ONLY MAKES 18 COOKIES)

Frosting directions:

  1. With the electronic mixer cream together the butter and the butter and the vanilla
  2. Slowly add the powder sugar and beat until smooth.
  3. Add in the heavy cream 1 tablespoon at a time until you get the desired spreading consistency.
  4. Add in food color, mix, and take finger and test it out… I mean, Spread on cookies with knife.

This came out fabulously but some things I learned on this adventure are: don’t put a pan that just came out of the oven on a zip block, it will melt it and don’t put the mixer on super-duper fast right after putting powder sugar in, it will go everywhere.

ENJOY.