Texas Cake

Gray’s teacher loves Pinterest, and periodically she ties some sort of project she’s found in with a lesson the class is working on.  This year, geography focused on the United States, learning states and capitals, lakes and rivers, and landmarks.  As a wrap up, she decided to put all the states in a hat and let each child pull one out and do a project on it – both a written report and some sort of visual aid.  Gray got Texas.

As we started gathering information, I asked him if he had any idea what he wanted to do with the visual portion because I too am a lover of Pinterest, and if he didn’t have an idea, I was going to take to my favorite source of all things crafty for inspiration.  But my boy did have an idea — he wanted to make a cake in the shape of Texas.  I was so proud.  Of course, we decided to run this past his teacher to make sure his visual portion could be edible, and well, she loved the idea too.

Gray is no stranger to making cakes; he makes one every year for the Cub Scout Blue and Gold Banquet.  Here was this year’s entry:

So this past Wednesday night, Gray made 2 9×13 chocolate sheet cakes.

Then Thursday night, we cut the cake and shaped it into the state of Texas.  I say we because it took all three of us cutting, placing, and gluing with frosting to get the shape just right.  Then Gray piped on the frosting, and Matt and I smoothed it out.  (We had to – trying to spread frosting on the cut sides of a cake is difficult — even for an adult!)

A remarkable likeness, I have to say.

And one kid that was extremely proud of his project!

I stopped by class after lunch on Friday to help serve the cake.  Based on the rave reviews of the students, not only in fourth grade but also those in seventh grade and the headmaster who also managed to score cake, his project definitely deserved an A.  And of course, I would completely agree.

Brunch

I promise this will be the last egg-centered recipe for a while. Most Easter weekends, we go visit my parents.  Of course, since my ‘testing retirement’ husband is obsessed with building this barn…..

….he wanted to have Friday and Saturday to work on it.  Whenever we do stay at home for Easter, I make a nice brunch after church.  I mentioned a number of frittata recipes, and Matt just couldn’t get excited about them.  “What I could get excited about,” he says to me, “is Eggs Benedict.”  Ugh.  The thing is, I’m a bit intimidated by poached eggs.  I’ve never made them.  I’ve watched chefs do it on television, and they always make it look so easy.  But there’s something about dumping an egg in a pot of swirling, simmering water that seems hard to me.

My grandmother made poached eggs every morning by using this metal apparatus that she set down in a pan over some simmering water, and they always turned out beautifully.  I went searching and found this:

Now his wish was my command.  Eggs Benedict, asparagus, fresh fruit, AND a delicious Candy Bar Cake made up the brunch menu Easter Sunday.  Here are links to the recipes:  Eggs Benedict……Candy Bar Cake.

I do need to add that while my Candy Bar Cake tasted delicious, it looked less like a candy bar and more like the thing floating in the pool in the Caddyshack movie.

 

Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting

48th birthdayForty-eight.  How did I get to be 48?  Most days I wake up, and I guess I feel like I’m in my mid-thirties.  There are days, however, when I do feel like I’m pushing 50 — when I get up at 4:00 a.m. a couple of days in a row, or when I run too many days in a row my right hamstring and hip start aching, or a day of yard work in the heat…..then I definitely start to feel my age.  I for sure can’t go at the pace I used to, and when I say pace, I mean in both running (my PB was years ago and I continue to get slower) and in just the day-to-day bustle of life.  But yet, even though the number continues to creep up, I still get excited about my birthday.48th birthday 2

I’m fairly certain it is because my parents, still to this day, go out of their way to throw me a birthday party.  I pick the menu, I pick the cake, my mom loads me up with presents, and I sit at the table and let everyone serve me.  Who wouldn’t love that?  The dinner menu hasn’t changed for years — this year I again requested my dad’s ribs. I typically request a crunchy coleslaw to go with it, but this year the green beans were in and so were the potatoes.  So my mom cooked up a mess of green beans and then she made ‘new potatoes.’  This was a term my Grandpa always used for little potatoes from the garden.  You wash and then boil them until fork tender, peel the skin off, and pan sear them in a little oil until the outside is crispy, and finally generously sprinkle them with salt.  It was one of his favorite ways to eat potatoes and truthfully one of mine too.

Now let’s get to the important part of this meal — the cake.  It’s funny because my dad and sister are always consistent with their birthday ‘cake’ requests.  I say ‘cake’ because my dad asks for banana pudding and my sister asks for cherry delight.  Let’s all say it together now — “YUCK!”

Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting (thank you insidebrucrewlife.com)

48th birthday 3
Cake
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup dark cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup cooled strong coffee
Chocolate Frosting
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark cocoa powder
Peanut Butter Frosting
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 2 Tablespoons whipping cream
  • 4 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups powdered sugar

Topping

  • peanut butter cups

Directions

Beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugars and beat again. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until mixed in. Stir in the vanilla. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir together the milk and coffee. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk mixture to the butter mixture. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour the batter in a foil lined greased 9×13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Remove and let cool. Cut the cake in half and set aside. (My mom baked them in 2 – 8″ rounds.)

Melt the chocolate chips and butter in a saucepan. Let cool for 5 minutes. Beat in the sour cream. Sift together the powdered sugar and cocoa powder. Slowly beat into the mixture. Spread the frosting on top of one side of the cake. Place the other layer on top.

Beat the butter and peanut butter. Add whipping cream, salt, honey and vanilla and cream again. Slowly add the powdered sugar and beat until creamy. Cover the cake with the frosting. Add chopped peanut butter cups to the top, and halved peanut butter cups to the sides, if desired. Store in a covered container. Serves 14.  (So she says.  I say it serves about 8-10.)

48th birthday 4

I thought this cake was really good, but if I ever make it, I won’t use honey in the frosting.  It gave the frosting an unusual floral aftertaste.  Instead, I think I’ll use honey roasted peanut butter, which is what I typically use in peanut butter buttercream.  But overall, it was a delicious cake.

 

Flourless Marshmallow Crunch Brownies

It’s no secret that I love brownies — especially those with many layers.  I’ve seen this recipe floating around Pinterest for a while now, but for some reason it didn’t really appeal to me.  I can’t tell you why; after all, it has all my favorite things — a dark, fudgy brownie layer; marshmallow fluff; and peanut butter.  Regardless of why I hesitated, I decided to make them after we returned from North Carolina.  I was having cooking/baking withdrawal, and I needed something new.

My heavens, now I’m thinking — what in the world was I waiting for?  These things are to die for, and I now have a new favorite brownie.

Flourless Marshmallow Crunch Brownies

  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cup dark cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
  • 1 large container marshmallow fluff
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
  • 1 1/4 cups peanut butter
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cups Cocoa Krispies

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9×13 inch baking pan.  Combine the sugars and oil and beat until well combined. Add in the eggs and vanilla and whisk together. Beat for about two minutes.  Add the cocoa powder and salt to the batter and blend until smooth. Fold in the chocolate chips. Pour into prepared pan.   Bake the brownies for about 25 minutes.  Allow to cool.  Once cool, spread marshmallow fluff over brownies.

For the topping, combine the chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butter in a microwave safe dish. Microwave thirty seconds at a time, stirring at each interval, until smooth and melted. Fold in the Cocoa Krispies.  Lay dollops of the topping evenly across the top of the cooled brownies and then spread to cover the entire top. Wait until completely cooled to cut.

flourless marshmallow crunch brownies

And then do what I did — completely devour them.  I normally eat a few brownies from a batch and then share, but on these, I managed to polish off the whole pan except for the one brownie Gray wanted to try.  Then he just ate the bottom, and I had to toss the rest.  What a waste.

Ombre Brownie Cake

I usually live by the Baker’s One Bowl brownie recipe for virtually all my brownies, but I do admit to purchasing brownie mixes on occasion.  I typically buy them when Ghirardelli is on sale for when my sad, vanilla husband asks, “Can’t we just have plain, normal brownies?”

Recently, Kroger had Ghirardelli brownie mixes on sale so I picked a couple up.  When I got them home, I noticed this fantastic photo on the back of a round, 3-layer cake thing with different flavors of frosting in between — with the recipe right next to it.  As luck would have it, I had all the remaining ingredients in my refrigerator and cabinet.  So sign me up.  Sorry dear — no plain brownies out of these box mixes.

Ombre Brownie Cake

Ombre Brownie Cake

Ingredients:

  • 2 packages Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Brownie Mix
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup each 60% Cacao, Milk Chocolate, and White Ghirardelli Chips
  • 2 ¼ cups heavy whipping cream, divided into three ¾ cup portions
  • ¾ cup light corn syrup, divided into three 1/4 cup portions
Directions:
Heat oven to 325°F. Lightly grease and line 3 – 8″ round cake pans with parchment paper. Prepare double batch of brownie batter as directed. Divide batter evenly into 3 pans. Bake 35-38 minutes. Cool completely before removing from pans.  Place each type of chips into 3 bowls. Heat cream in microwave at 30 seconds intervals until it just boils. Immediately pour ¾ cup cream over each type of chips. Let sit for a couple minutes, then stir until chocolate melts. Add ¼ cup corn syrup to each, stir until shiny. Let cool 2 hours before whipping with an electric mixer until fluffy.  Place cooled brownie layer on a cake plate and spread different variety of ganache between each layer. Serve chilled.
 Ombre Brownie Cake Gray Eating
Between the cake — and the Shrimp Lo Mein, my son was incredibly happy.
Shimpo Lo Mein
“All of this on a Wednesday night?” he asked.  One last thing on this cake — besides the fact that it is yummy — it produces lots of dirty dishes.

Take 5 Brownies

The day after school let out, Gray and I traveled to Indiana to see my parents for a few days and so that I could also run a 10 mile race.  Then we headed to Greensboro, North Carolina where we met up with Matt.  After staying there a few days, we went to the Outer Banks for vacation and back to Greensboro so Matt could work a bit more.  Then off to Asheville so I could run a half marathon only to leave right after that to head to Lexington, Kentucky to visit some family, finally ending up back in Indiana for a graduation party.  I felt like I’d been around the world.  We had a great time vacationing and seeing family and friends but I sure was happy to return to my own bed — and to my kitchen.  I’d grown weary of eating out.

After being home for two days, Matt had to head back to Greensboro so my days of meal cooking were short-lived.  But I’d missed my kitchen so I took to baking, and a matter of two days I’d made cookies, chocolate dipped payday bars, and these — Take 5 Brownies.  I was reminded of this candy bar when, before school let out, Gray decided to make one of those posters for his teacher where it used a combination of candy and words to tell a story.  Apparently, Take 5 candy bars are out of fashion in Columbia, Tennessee because I had to go to three different stores before finding some.  Given my love of layered brownies, I started wondering if there was a recipe out there for Take 5 Brownies.  After a quick search on Pinterest, I found this recipe, reviewed it, and then came up with this version:

Take 5 Brownies

Take 5 Brownies

  • Bake a batch of brownies in a 9 x 13 pan using the Baker’s One Bowl Brownie Recipe, omitting the pecans and adding in a cup of chocolate chips
  • Once the brownies have cooled, with a hand-held mixer, mix 1 cup crunchy peanut butter and 2/3 cup powder sugar.  Spread on top of brownies
  • Arrange 1 1/2 cups waffle pretzels in a single layer on top of the peanut butter mixture.
  • Sprinkle 1 cup milk chocolate chips on top of the pretzels.
  • In a microwave safe bowl, heat 2 tablespoons of heavy cream and 1 package of caramel bits on high for 90 seconds, then stir until smooth.  Pour caramel mixture over the top of the chocolate chip layer and let cool.
  • Finally, place 2 cups milk chocolate chips in a glass bowl.  Heat 1/4 cup heavy cream to almost boiling and then pour it over the chocolate chips.  Let it sit for 3 minutes.  Stir until smooth and then pour over the top of the caramel layer.  Let the ganache cool before slicing.

There you have it — Take 5 Brownies!

Take 5 brownies gray eating

 

Snickers Cheesecake

Several years ago, my parents gave me a cheesecake cookbook for Christmas, and the first few cheesecakes I made from that cookbook were complete disasters.  The first time I did a water bath, the water leaked into the cheesecake and completely ruined it.  I had one that wouldn’t set.  Then there was the one where the crust was soggy.  Oh, and the one where the top cracked and looked incredibly ugly.  I could keep sharing disaster stories, but I think you get the idea.  Needless to say, I gave up on cheesecakes for a while.

Last month I shared a recipe for an Oreo Brownie Cheesecake.  I decided to give that cheesecake a try because it was a combination of cheesecake and brownie, and brownies are definitely my speciality.   That cheesecake success gave me the confidence to try another.  So when I ran onto this Snickers Cheesecake recipe from handletheheat.com, I knew I had to make it.  After all, it had total “Barbified” written all over it — chocolate cookie crust, cheesecake filling with snickers, all covered in chocolate ganache, and then sprinkled with more snickers.  If that doesn’t have my name written all over it, then I don’t know what does.  Let me just say, I’m so glad I gave cheesecake another shot.  This cheesecake is seriously delicious…..and quite easy.

Snickers Cheesecake Whole

Snickers Cheesecake

Ingredients:

  • 30 Oreo cookies
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 32 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups lightly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 18 fun-size Snickers bars, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 package Snickers miniatures

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Process the Oreos in a food processor until they become finely ground crumbs.  Add the butter and pulse until moistened. Press into the bottom and halfway up the sides of a 9-inch spring form pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Place on a wire rack to cool.
While the crust is cooling, beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth. Add in the sugar, cream, and vanilla and beat until combined. Finally, stir in the Snickers bars.
Pour the batter into the cooled crust. Bake for 1 hour, or until set and the top looks slightly dry. If the middle is slightly wobbly, that’s fine. Cool the cheesecake completely on a wire rack, then refrigerate at least 4 hours. Release the cheesecake from the pan onto a serving plate.
Place the chocolate chips in a medium heat proof bowl. In a small saucepan heat the cream just until simmering. Pour the cream over the chocolate chips. Let sit for a few minutes then stir until the mixture is melted and smooth. Pour over the top of cheesecake. Sprinkle the snickers over the cheesecake. Slice and serve.

Snickers Cheesecake Slice