The Best Thing I've Ever Baked!

I am thrilled to announce the arrival of our new baby boy! After baking for 41 weeks Brody Oliver was born 9/20/11 at 2:42AM, weighing 8 lbs, 8 oz. I am completely in love!

More baked goods to come as soon as I get some sleep... :)

Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream

These cupcakes almost don't need words. Just read the name and look at the pictures. You really can't go wrong with chocolate and caramel. And the sea salt mixed into the buttercream just takes these to a whole different level. It cuts the sweetness of all the caramel, plus"salted caramel buttercream" sounds so much more sophisticated than just plain old "caramel buttercream".

And the best thing about these cupcakes? They are so easy! It's just a doctored up devil's food cake mix. (Shhhh. Don't tell all my friends that ate them last night. They think I made them from scratch!). I made them for Ross' 30th birthday yesterday, and the truth is I don't usually use boxed cake mixes, but being almost 41 weeks pregnant (yup, you read that right...41 weeks!), I wanted to take the easy route. I'm really glad I tried this recipe because it will definitely be my go to recipe if I don't feel like making a cake from scratch. Everyone raved about them and as soon everyone was done with their first, they eyed the table for someone to split a second cupcake with!

Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream
Recipe: Adapted from
My Baking Addiction

For the cupcakes:

  • 1 (18.25 ounce) package Devil’s Food Cake mix
  • 1 (5.9 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs; lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla

For the frosting:

  • 3 sticks butter; room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2/3 cup caramel syrup
  • 1 pound confectioners’ sugar
For garnish:
  • 24 rolos
  • chocolate sprinkles

For the cupcakes:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line (2) 12 cup muffin tins with paper liners or spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat together the cake and pudding mixes, sour cream, oil, beaten eggs, water and vanilla until well combined and smooth.
  4. Evenly divide the batter amongst the prepared pans
  5. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until top is springy to the touch.
  6. Cool cupcakes thoroughly on wire rack.

For the frosting:

  1. Cream the butter in the bowl of an electric or stand mixer. Add the vanilla extract, salt and caramel syrup and combine well.
  2. Begin adding in the sugar and mixing thoroughly after each addition. After all of the sugar has been added and mixed thoroughly, give it a taste and decide if you want to add in more caramel syrup. For thicker frosting you can gradually add in a little more sugar.

Pumpkin Cornbread

Is August too early to start baking with pumpkin? Maybe, but that's not stopping me...

The temperature was down in the 60's here the other day, making it really feel like Fall. All of a sudden the only thing I wanted to eat was a hot bowl of chili and some cornbread! As soon as I came across this recipe for pumpkin cornbread, that sealed the deal! The cornbread isn't overly pumpkin-y; it has just the right amount of pumpkin flavor hanging out in the background. It's perfect served with a drizzle of honey on top, alongside a bowl of chili!

Recipe: Adapted from SugarCrafter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup pumpkin purée
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and grease an 8×8″ baking dish. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, spices, brown sugar, and cornmeal.
  2. In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs, and then stir in the pumpkin, oil, milk and honey.
  3. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just until combined, and then pour the batter into the pan, smoothing out the top as much as possible.
  4. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Mini Carrot Cake Cheesecakes

When I was conceptualizing this dessert in my head I asked myself "Are you really going to cheesecake and top it with a cream cheese frosting?" The answer: A resounding yes!

I don't know if I should be ashamed of this cream cheese on top of cream cheese concoction or proud of it, but I do know that I am very glad I made it! And so is everyone else who got to try it. Somehow I justified this cream cheese overload to myself because I'm pregnant, but let's be honest, once the idea was in my head there was no turning back, pregnant or not!

If you're asking yourself it the cream cheese icing is really necessary, or thinking about making the cheesecake without the icing, let me just stop you right now. The icing is crucial. I tried one plain without it, and it just tasted okay. It really lacked that carrot cake taste. The cream cheese icing on top really brings out that true carrot cake flavor and brings the whole dessert together.

I thought this dessert was great as it is, but next time I might try incorporating some toasted walnut or pecan into the crust. Or maybe decorate the top with a nut (instead of making Ross fish out all the orange sprinkles out of a bag of multi-colored sprinkles). Also, it should be noted that the recipe could easily be doubled. I didn't trust myself with that much cheesecake around, so I made a small(er) batch. I used my mini cheesecake pan and got about 14 mini cheesecakes. They went fast.

Mini Carrot Cake Cheesecakes
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 8 0z cream cheese, softened
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and finely grated
  • 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 lemon extract (or a squeeze of lemon juice)
  1. To make the crust: Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray mini cheesecake pans with non-stick spray, or line mini muffin tins with paper liners. Combine graham cracker crumbs, butter, and sugar. Press into pans (I used about 1 tablespoon per cheesecake). Bake for 10 - 12 minutes until golden brown.
  2. To make the cheesecake: Beat cream cheese and sugar with a mixer on medium speed until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the egg. Add carrots, flour, spices, and vanilla extract. Spoon on top of crusts so they are about 3/4 full.

  3. Bake until set, about 18 to 22 minutes.

  4. Transfer pans to a rack and let cool. Refrigerate until ready to frost.

  5. To Make Frosting: In a medium bowl, combine butter, cream cheese, confectioners' sugar and extracts. Beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Frost with cream cheese icing. Enjoy!

Chocolate Covered Pretzles & One in the Oven!

Well some of you may have noticed that my blog has slowed down considerably over the last few months. If there was ever a good excuse, this is it... I'm pregnant! Very pregnant as a matter of fact, my due date is in less than a month! Ross and I couldn't possibly be more excited. This is our first baby and somehow time seems to be standing still and going in fast forward all at once.

I didn't plan on blogging so infrequently while I was pregnant, but it just kind of got away from me. It started with the first trimester nausea where I couldn't stomach the thought of being in the kitchen cooking. Then I took a few trips that had me out of town and away from my kitchen for awhile. And then I just kind of lost my baking mojo. I didn't seem to have the energy to bake, and when I did, I seemed to always forget to take pictures.

Now, with my due date quickly approaching, I seem to have my mojo back. I'm realizing that in one month I probably won't have the freedom (or energy) to whip up a back of cookies on a whim just because I feel like it. This has me taking advantage of what time I have left and all of sudden I have a long list of things I can't wait to make (and blog about)! I know I should probably be focused on making some freezer meals for after the baby is here, but I just can't help making a few sweet treats too.

These pretzels are an homage to my pregnancy. I didn't have any weird pregnancy cravings like pickles and ice cream, and I never sent Ross out in the middle of the night for something I just had to have, but I did develop a slight obsession with pretzels. It started in my first trimester when I was nauseous all the time; the only thing I seemed to want to eat was pretzels. I think I've consumed more pretzels in the past 8 months than I have in my entire life. I think it's something about the saltiness that really does it for me. And these chocolate covered pretzels, well they're just about perfection my eyes! The salty and the sweet are perfect together and the colorful sprinkles just make me happy!

Chocolate Covered Pretzels
  • Mini Pretzels
  • 1 lb chocolate (any kind will do) or candy melts
  • Sprinkles (optional)
  1. Melt the chocolate in a microwave or a double boiler.
  2. Dip the pretzels in the chocolate. I did this buy submerging the pretzels in the chocolate and then fishing it out with a fork. I would tap the fork against the side of the bowl to let any excess chocolate drip off.
  3. Place the pretzels on a baking sheet lined with wax paper.
  4. Apply sprinkles before the chocolate hardens.

The Perfect Peanut Butter Cookies

Even though I already had a peanut butter cookie recipe that I love, I had an itch to try a different recipe for no particular reason. And I am so glad that I did! This peanut butter cookie is indescribably good. It has a perfect peanut butter flavor and the texture is just what you want from a peanut butter cookie. The cookies are thick with a slightly crispy exterior and a thick, soft interior.

The cookie includes both chocolate and peanut butter chips. As a rule, I generally use dark chocolate when baking cookies, but peanut butter cookies are the one exception to this rule. I read in the Baked cookbook that milk chocolate is preferred for peanut butter cookies because the dark chocolate can taste bitter against all the sweetness of the peanut butter.

As a bonus, the cookies are rolled in sugar before they are baked. This step could probably be left out if you're short on time, but it does add to the texture, flavor, and appearance of the cookies. Either way you definitely want to have people to share these with, because trust me you don't want these cookies sitting in your kitchen testing your willpower. They will win!

Peanut Butter Cookies
Recipe from: Smitten Kitchen
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup peanut butter at room temperature (I used smooth)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter chips
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate)
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar, for sprinkling
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the flour, the baking soda, the baking powder, and the salt. Set aside.

  2. In a large bowl, beat the butter and the peanut butter together until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat until smooth. Add the egg and mix well. Add the milk and the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat thoroughly. Stir in the peanut butter and chocolate chips.

  3. Place sprinkling sugar on a plate. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls into the sugar, then onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving several inches between for expansion. Using a fork, lightly indent with a crisss-cross pattern (I used the back of a small offset spatula to keep it smooth on top), but do not overly flatten cookies.

  4. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Do not overbake. Cookies may appear to be underdone, but they are not. Cool the cookies on the sheets for 1 minute, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

Key Lime Pie Fudge

I absolutely love key lime pie, so when I saw a recipe for key lime pie fudge it took me all of .25 seconds to start writing down the ingredients on my grocery list. I had high hopes for this, and it did not disappoint. It's insanely easy to make. The only hard thing about this is keeping yourself from eating it all, because this stuff is addictive!

I thought this was really good the way it is, but when I make it again I think I'll increase the lime juice a little more. That's just a personal preference though. I like my citrus desserts to be really tart! I also added a pinch of salt to the fudge, which I think is necessary to cut the sweetness from all the white chocolate. With summer bbq's right around the corner, I have a feeling this will be making its way into my kitchen a lot!

Key Lime Pie Fudge
Recipe: Slightly adapted from Dozen Flours

  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1-1/4 cups finely crushed graham crackers
  • 3 cups or 4, 4-oz bars of good quality white chocolate, finely chopped
  • 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated Key lime zest, about 5-6 Key limes
  • 1/4 cup key lime juice – freshly squeezed is better
  1. Line a square 8"x8 baking pan with foil or parchment paper, extending it up and over pan (this helps you get it out of the pan later). Butter sides and bottom of the pan, especially the corners. Set aside.
  2. To make the crust: Preheat oven to 375. In a medium sized bowl, melt butter in them microwave. Stir in sugar with a fork, braking up any lumps. Add crushed graham crackers and toss to mix well. Spread evenly into the baking pan and bake for 4 to 5 minutes or until edge is lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.
  3. Stir white chocolate and sweetened condensed milk in a large heavy saucepan over low heat just until chocolate is melted and all the lumps are gone. Remove from heat and stir in zest and juice. Spread mixture evenly into the prepared pan.
  4. Cover and chill for two hours or overnight. Lift the fudge from pan using edges of foil. Peel off foil and use a heavy non-serrated knife to cut the fudge into one-inch pieces. (Tip: Keep a damp kitchen towel handy to clean off the knife after each cut. This will keep give your fudge a cleaner appearance.) Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.