Do ya like Lemon?

I love lemon!  Also, I have a secret love of zesting lemons.  There’s something about zesting a lemon or scraping seeds out of vanilla beans that makes me feel like a real chef.  I know it’s silly but I really do get a kick out of it.  So with this recipe I got to zest up a storm!

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This week I made a Lemon Crumb Cake to take to a pot luck brunch.  This cake was a very big hit.  I didn’t think it was overly sweet and it had the perfect amount of zip from the lemon.  Well, I think that cause I actually bumped up the lemon in the recipe.  I told ya, I love zesting lemons!!!

The recipe was very easy to follow and like the recipe says, you should use a spring form pan.  Don’t try to do this in a regular round cake pan. I followed the recipe for the most part, I only changed 2 things.  The first was with the crumb topping.  In the recipe it called for using melted butter.  I have found that crumb toppings actually come out a little better if you cut cold butter into the other ingredients. I like to put the butter in the freezer for a few minutes before I use it, I think it makes the butter easier to work with and makes gives you those nice big chunks of crumb topping.  Honestly, I could probably just be happy picking off the crumb topping on some things.  The second change I made was with the glaze.  I added the zest of 1 lemon to it.  I wanted to give the glaze just an extra little bit of zip and it did!

Also, there’s a nice cream cheese layer to the cake that was just the right amount. Sometimes these kind of layers can get over sweet and make the whole thing to start tasting like cheesecake and I didn’t think that was the case here.  Cream Cheese layer just added a nice richness to the cake.

lemon-crumb-cake

This cake was super yummy and just perfect for a brunch or an afternoon snack or a dessert or a midnight snack…stop judging me! It’s good is what I’m trying to say and I highly recommend it.  Even if you’re not much of a baker don’t let the several different layers intimidate you.  Once you get into it you’ll see how simple it is.  Now leave me be so I can go zest some lemons…stop judging me!

 

Chocolate, Chocolate and a little more Chocolate

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We have gone triple chocolate this week! Chocolate cake/cookie type base, Chocolate Cream Cheese center and Chocolate frosting….is it rich?  You better believe it!

This week I made Frosted Gooey Chocolate Cake Bars. Again with the extra long title and a little misleading on this one as well.  I didn’t really find this to be all that gooey but it’s 100% chocolate so I’ll give it that.

The recipe starts out with making a base with a chocolate cake mix.  I’m a big fan of using cake mixes in other ways than just cake so I always like to give these kind of things a try.  The bottom layer is just the cake mix, 1 egg and melted butter.  It is very thick when you finish mixing it together.  The second layer is a chocolate cream mixture, pretty standard stuff.  I didn’t make any changes to this recipe but I wish I had.  I would have added a little more liquid to the base mixture, maybe some sour cream or a little milk.  I found the bottom to be very very dense and almost a little too dry for my taste.  When I tried it last night I just ate the bar by itself but I would have liked some whip cream or ice cream to go with it.  I’m all for chocolate but this needs something to cut it down a bit.

It also recommended keeping it in the fridge, which I did.  I’m interested to see after letting it set over night if the texture of the bottom layer has changed any.  If so, I’ll have to make a not of that later.

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But as of now, I probably wouldn’t make these again.  The recipe was good and it was simple to make but I know I can make other chocolatey things that I would like much better.

My Strong Cheesecake Game Continues!

I know I probably shouldn’t have made back to back cheesecakes but I needed something to take to brunch on Sunday and well this has orange in it and you have orange juice for brunch so this is good for brunch.  Or at least that’s what my brain said late at night when I was deciding on this.  I’m not on trial here!

So anyway here you have the very delicious Chocolate Orange Cheesecake! Now I will say I’m not a huge fan of the chocolate and orange combination but as a cheesecake lover I was willing to give this a chance and I’m so glad I did.  This is a beautiful and delicious cheesecake, that was fairly simple to make.

And yes of course, I made a few changes to recipe but I’m sure the original recipe would also be just as good.  First, I didn’t use orange extract.  I’m not a big fan of this extract as I find it can be a little over powering and I wanted a good hint of orange not have it take over the whole cheesecake.  So instead I used the zest of 2 oranges and the juice of one. Secondly, the recipe said to use the extract before separating the mixture to make the chocolate layer but I didn’t add the orange zest or juice until after I removed part of the batter.  I wanted the chocolate layer to be pure chocolate.

The thing I liked best about this recipe (and I’m kind of kicking myself for not thinking of this) is that it recommended freezing the chocolate layer for 15 minutes so it would be easier to smooth out the top layer.  And in the heat I’m dealing with in my kitchen right now that piece of advice was a Godsend! I will be doing that with all of my layered cheesecakes from now on.

orange chocolate2

This was a delicious cheesecake and my friends really enjoyed it and that always makes me happy. The end result was one of the creamiest cheesecakes I’ve ever made and the chocolate and orange combination worked beautifully together.  The only drawback and this has nothing to do with the recipe is that the weather did make the cheesecake go soft a bit but once it was back in the fridge it firmed right back up.  So, maybe I need to lay off the cheesecakes until the weather cools a bit.  Stupid Heat Wave!!!

My Cheesecake Game Is STRONG!

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Peanut Butter Butterfinger Cheesecake…go ahead and savor those words a little bit!  I love making cheesecakes.  I think I have a pretty solid handle on them and 9 times out of 10 can get them to come out beautifully. For that 10th time, I’m going to blame my oven for any less than stellar cheesecakes.  You try baking in an oven that doesn’t have any temperatures on the knob. (Ah, the thrills of apartment rental living)

But this week I made, what I have to say, is probably one of the tastiest cheesecakes ever. Butterfinger would have to be in my top 5 favorite candy bars and so you add that to cheesecake and I’m sold!  The recipe is a pretty standard peanut butter cheesecake with crushed Butterfingers added to it.  The recipe recommends adding sour cream or yogurt to the base.  I used sour cream, I like the little extra tang it gives to the mix.  The biggest change I made to the recipe was with the crust.  The recipe advised doing an Oreo crust but I thought it might be a little overwhelming for the cheesecake.  Plus, sometimes I find Oreo crusts to be a little oily due to the cream in the cookies.  This could just be me. So instead I made a traditional graham cracker crust.  I thought the graham cracker crust gave it a good balance and helped put a little salty factor in the cheesecake. I also added the recommended peanut butter drizzle on top and yep it was super yummy.  Although, as my friends and I were enjoying the hell out of this we all thought it could use a drizzle of chocolate as well.  Next time I make this…that is so happening!butterfinger

When I started slicing it I could see immediately that this is a super dense cheesecake that needs to be cut in smaller slices.  When you put a slice on a plate and the plate dips…you know the piece is too big.  So, start small on this one.  Also, I served it with some whip cream but I think vanilla ice cream would also be amazing with this.  And if you’ve never tried ice cream with cheesecake, you don’t know what you’re missing!  Try it…trust me

So, in the end, Peanut Butter Butterfinger Cheesecake should be made and shared with friends.  And eaten in the middle of the night while watching the Olympics.  Or maybe that’s something only I do.  Either way, this is delicious and you should give it a try.

Fudge!

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I absolutely, positively love fudge!  It’s one of my favorite treats and I love making it.  This week I’ve made 2 versions of fudge that I’ve never done before but I’m so happy I’ve made them now.

First up let’s go with the more classic of the 2, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge. Just that name puts a smile on my face.  I love peanut butter cups and I love fudge so you know it’s gonna be good and it so is.  Now for people who have a fear of making fudge this is the recipe for you.  No double boilers needed, no candy thermometer needed…just a glass bowl and a microwave and you’re good to go.  But as easy as this is let me give you a couple of helpful hints.  You start out by placing whole peanut butter cups in the bottom of the pan. It was a little warm in my house so I put them in the fridge for about 10 minutes and this helps when it comes to unwrapping all of them.  Your hands get warm and those little suckers will start melting on you quick.  Now the recipe called for 3 cups of chocolate chips and again how many cups are in a bag? Well, it’s approximately 2 cups in a bag so you’ll need a bag and a half but you can eyeball this and still come out just fine.  Last helpful hint, make sure everything is dry before you start melting your chocolate.  Just a little bit of water can ruin chocolate and there’s no coming back.  If I’m melting chocolate in the micorwave I put my glass bowl in there empty first and heat it for about 20 seconds. If there’s any moisture in the bowl it will be dry now and it heats the bowl up giving the chocolate a little head start.  After melting everything down you just pour it over the peanut butter cups smooth it out and top it with chopped up peanut butter cups.  It is awesome….trust me on that!

Next up was the Red Velvet Cake Batter Fudge.  This recipe intrigued me because it’s really freaking weird. It’s start with dry red velvet cake mix, which is odd enough for fudge but then you heat it with butter and a little bit of milk.  When it came out of the microwave I was a little concerned because it had the consistancy of really lumpy cake batter.  Then I stirred in my white chocolate chips and the texture didn’t change all that much and I was honestly very concerned at that point.  Fudge is supposed to be smooth and creamy but this looked very grainy and weird.  Now I did go my own way on this recipe because to me, it’s not red velvet without the cream cheese frosting.  The recipe suggesting topping the fudge with white spinkles but I decided to swirl in some cream cheese frosting instead.  When I had it all together it looked like a horrifying mess and I was pretty convinced that this stuff was not going to see the outside of my kitchen.  But I covered it and put it in the fridge over night like the recipe said.  The next morning I pulled it out and it still looked a little odd but I sliced it and gave it a taste test and it was smooth and creamy and delicious.  I have absolutely no idea how that happened other than magic fudge elves came into my kitchen and worked a little magic on it.  I would be interested to see if you could do the same with other cake mixes.

In the end I would give both of these recipes a thumbs up.  These would be ideal for holiday parties or gift giving.  The chocolate fudge is best at room tempture whille the Red Velvet seems to be best a little colder, just an FYI.  But you should totally give them both a try…even if it’s just to test and see if you have Fudge Elves in your kitchen too!

 

It was a weekend of Cake!

This weekend was all about cake and cupcakes!  Going away from my Pinterest list this weekend for a very special birthday and for the 4th of July.

First up was the birthday party for my niece, the adorable little Boo who turned the big 1 this year.  I love that I get to do the birthday cakes for her and her big sister.  Since she was turning one we had the regular birthday and the smash cake!  Her birthday party was butterfly themed so I immediately jumped on line and ordered a Butterfly shaped pan from Wilton.  This is a very cute pan and came with the decorating designs already shaped into the pan.  But here’s the problem, once you put your crumb coat of frosting down you pretty much lose the design and just have to free hand it.  Luckily for me, I live with an artist that is much more skilled and steady handed than I when it comes to the decorating. While I did do the purple sparkling center and the outline of the wings he did everything else.  Thank goodness!  And since I had some batter left over I made a few cupcakes as well.

DSCF3558I used just your basic vanilla cake recipe and a simple cream cheese frosting.  I always add about a half a lemons worth of juice in my frosting just to give a little extra zip.  And then I dipped the cupcakes in different colors of sugar sprinkles.  The picture doesn’t do them justice cause they really shimmered in person.

DSCF3557For her smash cake I used the same recipe in a 6 inch cake pan and once again I had my trusty friend Anthony do the writing for me.

Next up was the 4th of July!  I think cupcakes are always a good thing to bring to a large party so I did red and blue cupcakes with vanilla frosting.  Now with these I used a box mix…go ahead…be shocked.  But I am not a snob of the box mix.  In fact I look at it as pre-measured dry ingredients.  It’s what you do with them that makes a difference. The first thing to remember when using a box mix is to NOT over beat the batter. I know the package says to beat the batter for 2 minutes but to me that is just way too long. And even if you see small clumps they will cook out. Next, I substitute milk for the water, melted butter for the oil and I add an extra egg.  From there I mix in different flavors, a little dry instant pudding mix or just same plain old vanilla. And lastly, watch the time and rotate the pan half way through cooking. Most ovens don’t cook evenly and temperatures can vary so much, so keep a good eye on them.

4th of July

I covered them in the classic sprinkles and they were pretty damn tasty! And patriotic…see…red, white and blue…see what I did there!

So, next week I’ll get back to trying new recipes off of my Pinterest list but for now I’m going to sit back and enjoy a classic cupcake…or two.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Icebox Cake

icebox2I started out the weekend thinking I was going to make a cake with dark chocolate and raspberry filling and then the San Diego heat wave said….nah I don’t think so lady. I baked my cake and then I had visions of chocolate frosting sliding down the side into a big gooey mess.  So, I went back to my list and looked for a refrigerated dessert and voila we have the Strawberry Cream Cheese Icebox Cake.  And that’s a terrible name, it’s too long and I don’t know if I would really classify this as a cake but more of a layered dessert.  But the one thing I can tell you is that it was delicious and was perfect for a hot summer night.

The recipe is pretty simple, especially if you have a kitchen aid, you beat together cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk until nice and smooth.  Any dessert recipe that has sweetened condensed milk in it just about always gets a thumbs up in my book.  I love the stuff.  At some point I’ll have to tell ya’ll about my Hot Chocolate recipe that starts with a can of this stuff…yum yum.  But I digress,  next up was adding the instant pudding.  The recipe called for cheesecake flavor but I go my own way sometimes and went with banana. Mostly so I could say BANANA like a Minion. Plus, I love bananas and strawberries together.

Now the hardest part, assembly.  And that should tell you hard this recipe is. Start with Graham Crackers and I suggest leaving them connected together as much as possible because when you add your first pudding layer it will make it easier to spread it out.  Also, on that note, I recommend putting a good amount down to start with and use a small offset spatula to basically frost the crackers.  Add your sliced strawberries and then repeat. You want to top it with a little Cool Whip (and yes, I’m not a Cool Whip snob, it has its place in the culinary world too…don’t Cool Whip shame!) And then I finished it off with some crushed Graham Cracker crumbs.  It makes it all pretty like!  I refrigerated it for about 8 hours and it set up beautifully.

icebox1I used a metal spatula to cut and serve it and it came out perfect.  While eating this I kept thinking about all the different combinations of fruit and puddings that I can use.  I would love to do Lemon Pudding and Blueberries, I think that would be really good too.  And it’s a great dessert for potlucks and picnics.  So, a big thumbs up for this one and if the heat wave continues I see more cold desserts ahead.