The Best Brownies

Brownies and I have a different kind of relationship. I love to eat them, but until now I never enjoyed making them. Recipe after recipe I just couldn’t find a winner. Overcooked or under-cooked brownie soup, they never came out right! Until one day it dawned on me… to check The Pioneer Woman blog for a recipe. Why didn’t I think of this sooner? Her recipes never fail me, SURELY they would be delicious. Thank goodness I was right!

These. are. fabulous.

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I took this recipe for Mocha Brownies and altered it slightly to fit my needs. I chose to opt out on frosting (for easy stack-able storage) and add some coffee flavor to the brownies themselves which is totally optional because I am sure they are amazing without it.

Ingredients:

  • 4oz unsweetened chocolate
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 whole eggs
  • 3tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cup Flour
  • Optional 1 Tbsp instant coffee

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 and line your baking pan with parchment paper. I used a 9×13 pan, although the recipe called for an 8″ square.*
  2. Melt chocolate in microwave safe bowl, in 30 second increments. Do not burn.
  3. In your mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy then beat in eggs one at a time.
  4. With mixer on low, pour in melted chocolate and vanilla.
  5. Add flour until just combined, being careful not to over-mix.
  6. Pour evenly into prepared baking pan and bake until the center is no longer soft. About 40-45 minutes.

*I found this time to be consistent even though I used a larger pan than directed.

The P-dub recipe adds a delicious frosting that I can’t wait to try next time I make these.

Enjoy!

 

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

Bread is what I would consider my favorite food group. A meal is not complete without a warm roll, crusty french bread, or just a nice piece of toast.

Naturally, I want to make all my favorite foods from scratch, so the mission this month has been bread. In an effort to eat more sustainably, I always purchase whole wheat bread from the store, but of course the best and tastiest kinds are about 4$ a loaf. I found this recipe, and I immediately love it before I try it because it costs about 2.75 per loaf, even with using the most whole organic ingredients I can find. Also this recipe only took about an hour of my time, which is incredibly worth it!

This bread is fluffy, rises quickly, and has immaculate flavor. Highly competitive with those store bought loafs. Take that, whole foods.

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Credit for this recipe goes to: http://www.sixsistersstuff.com

Ingredients: bread-3

  • 4 Cups very warm water (about 110 degrees)
  • 3 packets instant dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 10-11 Cups whole wheat flour

Instructions:

  1. In a large bowl – whisk together water, yeast, honey and salt. Let this rest for 5 mins, or until the yeast begins to foam.
  2. Add in flour 1 cup at a time with your mixer on low
  3. When the dough comes together and you’ve added all the flour, swap out your paddle attachment for the dough hook if using a kitchen aide mixer. Otherwise, knead by hand for about 5 minutes.
  4. If dough is sticky, add small amounts of flour, you will use somewhere between 10-11 cups depending on humidity. I used 10 + 2 tablespoons this time.
  5. Preheat your oven to 170 degrees, then turn the oven off.
  6. Place your mixing bowl inside the oven, and let the dough rise for 15 mins inside the oven.
  7. Carefully remove the bowl, flour your hand and punch down the dough.
  8. Split the dough in half, and shape into 2 greased standard sized loaf pans. (9×5 or 8×4)
  9. Preheat the oven again to 170, and turn it off.
  10. Let the dough rise in the pans for 20-30 mins or until doubled in size.
  11. Remove the dough and preheat your oven to 350 degrees
  12. Bake bread for 30 minutes, remove from pans immediately and let cool completely before cutting.

 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Dream Cake

I have had many requests for this recipe so I am putting it out there for all to enjoy!

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This Chocolate Peanut Butter Dream Cake was a magical idea for my baby sister’s birthday party. I wanted to represent one of her favorite things (peanut butter) in the best way possible! It’s a rich chocolate cake, filled with a peanut butter pie filling, and covered in peanut butter buttercream. The recipe seems long, but in reality it was quick and easy, and so so worth it. Every bit as rich as it was delicious! If you have a problem with peanut butter, now would be the time to walk away from this blog post!

Ingredients:

For the Chocolate Cake:

  • 1 1/2C of granulated sugar
  • 1 C all purpose flour
  • 1/2 C cake flour
  • 1 C unsweetened cocoa powder (I prefer dutch processed)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 C unsalted butter (soft)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 C plain greek yogurt or sour cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla (or more)

For the filling:

  • 1 8oz pkg of cream cheese
  • 1 C creamy peanut butter
  • 1 8oz tub of cool whip
  • 1 1/4 cup of powdered sugar

For the peanut butter buttercream: 

  • 1 C salted butter – softened (or unsalted if you’re picky)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 1/2 C powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp heavy cream
  • 1/4 – 1/2 C creamy peanut butter — to taste

For the Chocolate Ganache:

  • 6oz Chocolate Chips (I like semi-sweet)
  • 3/4 C heavy cream

Directions:

To make the chocolate cake layers:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees
  2. Prepare 2 9″ cake pans.
    1. I like to spray them down with baking spray, then do a dusting of cocoa powder all around. As always, line the bottom of your pan with parchment paper. I have never had a cake stick this way!
  3. Place the sugar, flours, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl, and whisk to combine.
  4. Cut the butter into smaller pieces and add it to the dry ingredients.  Mix on low speed until the mixture resembles damp sand (30 seconds to a minute).
  5. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula after each addition.  When all of the eggs are fully incorporated, add the Greek yogurt or sour cream and vanilla, and beat on medium speed for about 60 seconds.
  6. Divide your batter evenly, and bake for about 28-30 minutes.
  7. The cake is done when it begins to pull away from the sides of the pan, and a toothpick comes out clean in the center. Let them cool 5-1o minutes in the pan, then remove to a cooling rack. Cake layers can be stored at room temperature for a couple days, or in the freezer (wrapped tightly in plastic wrap) for up to a week.

** at this point you have the option of spraying your cake with simple syrup. I do this sometimes if I am making the cake ahead, or doing a naked cake. The simple syrup locks in that moisture!**

To make the filling:

  1. Beat the peanut butter with the cream cheese until smooth. Add powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Add in the thawed Cool Whip and beat mixture until smooth, scraping the sides as needed.
  2. Place the entire mixture between the cake layers, paying extra attention to make sure that your cakes are stacked evenly. The filling is very soft, so you will want to be sure to refrigerate the cake for a few minutes while you make the buttercream!

To make the peanut butter buttercream:

  1. Cream butter until smooth, then add powdered sugar 1 C at a time, scraping down the side of the bowl as needed.
  2. Add in vanilla to taste
  3. While mixing on medium speed, splash in a couple Tbsp of cream.
  4. Next, add peanut butter. Start with 1/4 C and mix thoroughly, if you would like more flavor add up to another 1/4 C.
  5. Whip the frosting on high speed for a good minute or two
  6. Cover the cake with the peanut butter buttercream.
  7. I like to start on the sides, filling in the gaps between the layers
  8. Use the “crumb coat” method which first puts a very thin layer around the entire cake, freeze for 15 mins, then add the thick outer layer. This prevents crumbs from getting all mixed in with your frosting, and allows you to smooth out the edges nicely. If you don’t have a bench scraper, I recommend one for pretty edges!

To make the ganache and finish your cake!

  1. For the look in the picture, I put handfuls of mini Reese’s Pieces on the sides. They stick well to the buttercream.
  2. To make the chocolate ganache, place your chocolate chips in a bowl and set aside.
  3. Heat cream in a saucepan until it begins to bubble.
  4. Remove from heat and pour over chocolate chips.
  5. whisk mixture together until you have smooth ganache, allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.
  6. Gently spoon the ganache in a circle around the edge. sometimes it needs a little push, to get the drippy effect. Once you get the outer rim how you want it, go a head and fill in the middle.
  7. Top with crushed candies and more mini Reese’s to your hearts content!

 

 

  • Cake Recipe from bakingamoment.com
  • Filling adapted from The Pioneer Woman’s peanut butter pie.

 

 

Perfect Buttercream Frosting

It’s birthday season in my family, and with that said I’ve had cakes on the brain big time. I am constantly thinking of new ways to change or edit my cake recipes to make them even better. There is one recipe that I will not mess with, and that is my buttercream frosting.

buttercream

It’s no secret that frosting is the best part of eating cake, but bad frosting can ruin anyone’s day. We’ve all had bitter frosting, or frosting that tastes too much like butter (ew.) and frosting where you can feel the sugar eating through your teeth. That’s a lovely visual, I know.

I would like to share with you, my not-so-secret recipe that I use for most all my cakes and cupcakes, just in case you are looking for some perfection in your life! It’s smooth, creamy, and just the right amount of sweet!

Ingredients:

  • 1C. Salted Butter — Room Temperature and It must be salted y’all (can do 1/2 unsalted 1/2 salted if you’re bothered by the salt)
  • 3 1/2C. Powdered Sugar
  • 2Tbsp Heavy Cream
  • 1-2tsp vanilla (or flavored extract of your choice)

Directions:

  1. Using your stand mixer, with the paddle attachment whip the butter for about a minute to fluff it up a bit.
  2. Add extract of your choice
  3. Add powdered sugar 1C. at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl.
  4. At this point you will have a very very thick frosting.
  5. Add your cream with the mixer on medium speed
  6. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP: Turn your mixer to high speed and whip that frosting, and I mean whip it good. 3-4 minutes usually gets the job done. It’ll be soft, fluffy and oh so tasty.

**This yields a frosting is perfect for piping on cakes and cupcakes, you can make it more thick or thin by adjusting the amount of cream**

Cake Decorating

When I started baking I hadn’t really expected to be taking orders, making birthday cakes, and character themed cupcakes. I really just started doing what I love and experimenting and letting my friends and coworkers be my taste testers! Turns out, I have found my recipes. It’s like they are a part of me now, it’s MY vanilla cake recipe and it defines me as a baker and small business owner!

Finding and creating good recipes was the easy part, and I am never concerned whether people will love the taste of my cakes because well, they’re delicious. No, it’s the decor that stresses me out. I haven’t taken any classes, all I have are tutorials and photographs to learn from and it’s no easy task. I’ve come a long way from day one (only a few months ago) and am so excited to look back in a few years and see this learning experience grow!

I wanted to share with you some of my recent cakes, they have each brought challenges, and some disappointment (perfectionist, maybe.) but at the end of the day my customers loved them, and that’s what matters most! We are our own biggest critic, so remember that when you’re doing what ever it is that makes you as happy as baking makes me.

Pretty Pie

I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of many things in this world that are better than pie, and the best part about them is, they are so versatile! cream pies, fruit pies, pumpkin pie…. I’ll stop before I get anyone too excited for fall.

I love to make pie no matter what time of year, and I have a fun way of making any pie perfect for your occasion! Last fall I thought It would be fun to amp up an Apple-Cranberry pie with some fall leaf decorated crust. Although it may look challenging, it’s extremely simple!

First pick your shape of cookie cutter. If it’s valentines day, how about hearts? flowers for spring, or even snowflakes for Christmas. So many options! Second, purchase some pre-made pie crust. Yep, I’m breaking my own rule here, but I’m all about simplicity with this recipe. (Don’t tell Grandma!) Next, place the first crust in the bottom of your pie pan and press down. Fill the pie with your favorite seasonal filling (homemade or store bought). Lastly, cut your shapes in the second crust, and lay them on top of the pie. I always brush with egg wash to make sure they stick together. Bake your pie according to directions, I always put foil around the outer edges after they start to get golden, this will prevent burning.

My most recent pretty pie was a Cherry-Berry patriotic pie! Here’s the recipe for ya:

Ingredients:

2C Sweet Red Cherries (pitted and halved, or you can use frozen whole)
1/2 C Blueberries
1/4C Raspberries
1/2-3/4C Sugar (to taste)
1/4C cornstarch
1Tbsp Lemon Juice
1tsp Vanilla
1/4tsp Almond extract (optional)
2Tbsp Unsalted butter (cut into cubes)
1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 Tbsp milk or water

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, stir the fruit, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, vanilla, and almond extract together until combined. Set aside to let rest while you preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place your first pie crust into your pie dish, and add the filling.
  3. Cut your shapes, and place on the pie carefully. If you are layering, always spread some of the egg wash down to stick the pieces together.
  4. Finishing brushing the top of the pie with the egg wash. At this point you can leave it as so, or sprinkle some coarse sugar, or sliced almonds on top.
  5. Bake the Pie for 20 mins on a baking sheet, then turn down the temperature to 375 and bake for another 30-35 minutes. Use your pie crust shield (or foil) after the first 20 mins.
  6. The filling will need to thicken, so plan on letting this pie cool for a few hours before serving.
  7. Enjoy your beautiful masterpiece! Food is art I tell you!

 

This recipe was adapted from http://www.sallysbakingaddiction.com

 

Strawberry Lemonade Cake

What makes you think of summer? The pool? Sweet Iced tea? For me, it’s always been lemonade. I don’t know why, but I adore a glass of cold, tangy lemonade. The best part is that there are so many fun flavors! You could mix it with tea for an Arnold Palmer, or throw in fresh strawberry puree for a sunshiny treat!

We’ve recently moved and this past weekend we decided to have some family over for a cookout. I’ve been so thrilled about the recent weather that I decided to make a dessert representative of my summer lovin’. What better than a strawberry lemonade cake?

Yeah, you read that right. Strawberry lemonade in a cake. Please don’t drool on your phone.

Layer cakes have been my new learning opportunity (I like to use that phrase rather than challenge, but they aren’t as simple as one might guess). I was extremely pleased with this one though, the layers baked perfectly flat, making my amateur self look like a cake stacking professional!

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Look at that level beauty!

**Baking Tip: Line the bottom of your cake pans with parchment paper before greasing them, this will help your cakes to come out nice and easy**

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I feel like I can hear angels singing when I look at this picture.

Stacking this cake was no challenge, but I did freeze my cake layers overnight to be sure they were extra cold to work with when decorating. (This helps when it’s blazing summer weather outside.)

Here is the official recipe for the cake and buttercream. The cake recipe is from Two Peas and Their Pod, but I made the buttercream slightly different.

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon zest
2 1/2 cups all-purpose Gold Medal flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1/3 cup cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup buttermilk
8-10 large strawberries, hulled and sliced

For the Strawberry Buttercream Frosting:

2 cups softened butter (I use half salted, half unsalted)
7-8 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons of fresh strawberry jam
3-4 fresh strawberries, chopped

 

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and spray two 9-inch round baking pans with baking spray.

2. In bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, place the butter, sugar and lemon zest. Beat until light and fluffy.

3. In a separate bowl, mix together dry ingredients and set aside.

4. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, one at a time, combining thoroughly in between. With the mixer still running, add the lemon juice. (batter will look curdled, but it’s not). Add one third of the dry ingredients and 1/2 cup of the buttermilk. Mix, then stop and scrape the sides of the bowl. Repeat, adding another third of the dry ingredients and the remaining 1/2 cup buttermilk. Mix, then stop and scrape. Add the remaining third of the dry ingredients and mix until completely combined and the batter is light and fluffy.

5. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake the cakes for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool before removing from the pans.

*This is where I chose to freeze the layers overnight, and I continued with step 6 the next morning.*

6. While the cakes are cooling, make the strawberry buttercream frosting. Cream the butter for a couple minutes, and add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until desired consistency is reached. Mix together on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the jam and strawberries and mix on high speed until the frosting is very fluffy and pale pink in color, with flecks of strawberry.

Optional: I added a touch of Wilton pink Icing coloring, to intensify the beauty

7. Invert one of the cake rounds onto a cake plate; generously spread with frosting and top with strawberry slices. Repeat with the remaining layer of cake and frosting. Frost the sides of the cake with your desired method. (I used a Wilton 2D tip to create rosettes) Put in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to allow the frosting to set. Serve at room temperature.

Cropped
And there you have it, the sweetest summer cake there ever was.