Category Archives: Cake

Soft Ginger Cookies

ginger cookies

I need to be straight with you guys. I was off my kitchen game last week, hence my absence from the blogosphere. It wasn’t for a lack of trying. Oh no, I thought my persistence would pay off eventually, but sometimes a girl doesn’t know when to quit.

It all started on Saturday when I went to Joann Fabrics to look for feathers for my Halloween costume. I left without feathers, but with a donut pan (cause that’s the same). Sunday morning I woke up and was all, “I’m going to make pumpkin chocolate donuts with orange sprinkles in my new donut pan! Yay Halloween!” I then proceeded to make two batches of “donuts,” which looked awfully nice, but the texture was like bread and the flavor was like…well nothing. To the trash they went.

ginger cookies stack

Then I decided to make pizza dough so I could have it ready for baking throughout the week, and maybe sneak in some cooking photos before the early sunset (shorter days make life hard for the food photography perfectionist). I bought some pizza ingredients on Monday after work, then came home to find that the boy surprised me by coming back from “Deer Camp” early. Whatta guy. Instead of a new experimental dish, I used my pizza dough for our tried-and-true calzones, and decided to jazz things up by making a balsamic glaze for drizzling. Do you know what happens to balsamic glaze if you bring it to a boil and then forget about it? It turns to a solid…a solid that looks like a lava rock, and sticks to the pan like one too.

ginger cookies molasses

On Tuesday the boy’s mom brought us a Halloween treat basket with Trader Joe’s pumpkin bread mix. “Perfect,” I thought, “I’ll make some pumpkin chocolate brownies to bring into work on Halloween! How festive!” I baked them, tried a corner, and thought they tasted great. Fast forward 13 hours, when I grabbed one after lunch on Halloween and I realized the bars were under-baked, under-sweetened and…wet. Yes, wet. Embarrassed, I removed them from the communal kitchen and hung my head in shame.

ginger cookies sugar ball

It may have taken three failures to make me see the light, but I finally realized that it was just not my week in the kitchen, and certainly not my week to try to guide others on how to succeed in the kitchen. Rejection and defeat finally set in. As a golfer might say, I had a case of the shanks.

I was trying to figure out how to rebound from my week of failures when I received my first daily holiday cookie email of the season. I decided the best way to recover would be with an old favorite: soft ginger cookies that I make year-round, but more often around the holidays. I know it’s the first week of November, and that may seem a tad early to bring up “holiday” talk, but in my book it’s never too early for festive treats or feeling jolly. As a side note, I’m also a person who has already checked if my local Christmas music station has started up the seasonal tunes, so take my “too early” radar with a grain of salt.

ginger cookies stack halved

My college cafeteria had the most amazing ginger cookies, but you could never count on them being in the dessert aisle when you needed them. My friend Emma introduced me to them, and once I got my hands on one I was hooked. I don’t know if they didn’t make them everyday, or if they just didn’t make enough of them to keep up with the demand, but Emma and I would often be disappointed when we scoped out the ginger cookie situation. The recipe below is as close as I’ve come to replicating those evasive cafeteria cookies. They’re fluffy, soft, and full of warm spices.

soft mini ginger cookies

Since I made these baby-sized, they’re the perfect amount of sugar for a little bite of after-meal sweetness. However, if we’re being honest, I really wanted to make these baby-sized because mini foods are just so darn cute. I’m such a girl.

ginger cookies candles 2

And yes, those are Christmas candles in the images above. Yes, I just bought those this weekend. Yes, it’s just the beginning.
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Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Zucchini season has arrived in a big, bad way. In the little 4×8 plot the boy and I care for (okay, he might care for it more than me), we had big plans for beans, squash, herbs, garlic, onions…the works. What do we have? A zucchini plant that’s basically grown over all the other plants, and conspired with the tomato plants to become the king and queen of the garden plot. I love tomatoes, but I’m kind of “meh” about zucchini…what the heck do we do with all of it?

After picking a particularly huge zucchini this weekend, I mentioned to the boy that I wanted to try my hand at zucchini bread. His eyes immediately lit up. “Are you making chocolate zucchini bread?” No, I wasn’t planning on that…”Well, will it have chocolate chips or frosting?” No, I’m making bread, not cake…”Oh, well Terese’s mom used to make this really great chocolate zucchini bread with chocolate chips, and it’s really amazing…” he trailed off, disappointed.

The boy’s uncharacteristically strong reaction told me that this zucchini “bread” (let’s just call it what it is…it’s cake) must be something very special. Since I’m not one to turn away from a good dessert, or really anything involving chocolate, we called the recipe holder to get the scoop.

Best. Decision. Ever.
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Raspberry Cornbread Layer Cake

Raspberry cornbread layer cake standing

I’m a bit of a hypocrite. I know everyone is to some extent, and probably about several different things, but today’s focus is food (are you surprised?). Most of the time I’m all, “Oh I LOVE sweet and salty things. Can’t get enough” – of course this is a food trend right now, so you may also call me a conformist, but let’s keep this post to just one flaw.

With other sweet and salty combinations, however, I have a very firm critique. For example, whenever I take a bite of what I believe to be normal popcorn and it’s kettle corn, words can’t describe my disappointment. It’s not sweet enough AND it’s not salty enough. It’s like it has an identity crisis, and it’s stuck in some boring grey area. I feel similar about cornbread. It’s so deceiving in it’s deliciously yellow, spongy appearance, but then you bite in and it’s sort of…sweetish, but not really, and not salty enough, and don’t even get me started on when there are corn chunks.

Then, over Memorial Day weekend, my world was shaken when I went to my cousin’s wedding and experienced the cake. When I heard that the wedding cake was CORNBREAD, I was all, “whelp, no cake for me” – but ohhhh no, there was cake for me. In fact, this cake has rarely left my thoughts since. Sure, it was cornbread, but suuuuuper moist, and sweeter than usual. A fruit filling broke up the two layers of cake, and then there was this frosting on top…oh man the frosting. It was a simple buttercream, but a buttercream of champions. Light, fluffy, and so sugary it was almost granular…but in a perfect way.

So with some research, I did my best to recreate it. I imagined them as cupcakes at first, because I kind of can’t stop making cupcakes lately, but on this particular baking day I felt very impatient, and wanted to keep it simple and scrappy. So instead of making elegant cupcakes, I grabbed two pans that were (roughly) the same size and went for it.

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Dirty Cupcakes with Nutella Buttercream

Dirt Cake Cupcakes with Nutella Buttercream Top

Anyone who’s talked to me about desserts, so pretty much anyone who’s ever met me, knows one thing for certain: this girl loves dirt cake. And yes, I’m talking about the dirt cake you remember from your childhood: thick, smooth chocolate pudding laced with chunks and crumbs of Oreos, often served up in a bucket with a shovel. Of course, a dessert this refined should be saved for special occasions only, so my brother, sister and I look forward to our birthday buckets all year. It’s a family thing, this dirt cake fascination. It’s in my blood, like freckles and sarcasm. I just can’t help it.

Naturally, with my sister’s birthday happening this weekend, I anticipated my dirt cake experience all last week. In all my dirt cake daydreaming, I got to thinking…what would happen if I stuffed dirt cake in a cupcake, and then topped it with some absurdly delicious Nutella buttercream frosting? Inspiration had hit, and there was no going back.

Stop looking at me like that. I know it’s over the top, but before you judge me, here’s a little preview…

Dirt Cupcakes with Nutella Buttercream Bite 2

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Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies, A Love Story

Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies Cookies

Like most forms of love, my love for carrot cake is complicated, because I don’t even really understand it. As a vegetable, I kind of hate carrots, and as far as desserts go, I’m usually a chocolate girl, but there’s just something about carrot cake that gets me. I thank my good friend and former roommate, who I will annoyingly refer to as “The Bride” in the remainder of this post, for introducing me to my carrot cake love. When carrot cake day rolled around in our college cafeteria freshman year, she insisted that I try it. Being the way I am, I had of course thought that putting carrots in cake was for the birds, or at least people who like carrots. When I begrudgingly loaded up my fork and gave it a go, I knew I’d found a new dessert love outside of the chocolate realm. Yes, that’s right people, I’m a dessert polygamist. Deal with it.

Anyway, for this friend of mine, The Bride, carrot cake is nothing short of food crack. When she sees it, she needs it, regardless of time, place, or level of hunger. Her mom makes an amazing traditional carrot cake: fluffy, layered, and bursting with buttery, thick cream cheese frosting. It will knock your socks off and put you in a food coma. So, naturally, when The Bride’s bridal shower approached, I knew I needed to invite our mutual love, carrot cake. Since the festivities began midday, I didn’t want to make a huge, intimidating cake, so I decided to go the cookie route…well, the double cookie sandwich with thick cream cheese frosting squeezing out the sides route, but still, it seemed like a lighter option.

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Basically Perfect: Chocolate Fudge Cake

For some people, or perhaps most (according to my high school science teacher), smell is the sense most strongly tied to memory. Well, I only have half a sense of smell (it’s a long story, don’t worry about it), so I’ve always had to grasp onto other, more dependable things. As you may guess given the topic of this blog, I have many memories tied to food. For example, my grandma’s simple chocolate cake brings me back to when my brother, sister and I all lived at home with my parents, and my grandma would come over for steak dinner, potatoes (side note: I ate cheese bread at these meals. Literally white bread and cheddar, broiled), and dessert…my grandma never forgot the dessert. The cake showed up frequently, and as a sheet cake, could be decorated for various occasions: New Years Eve? Sure, write on the cake and bring some noise makers…Easter? Well we have the pastel frosting, might as well…an average Tuesday? Why not make that random day all the better?

As time went on and my grandma passed away, there came a distance between my family and our chocolate cake. That is, until a few weeks ago when my mom requested “Grandma’s Chocolate Cake” for her birthday dessert. My family does birthdays in a big bad way, so when mom requests a specific cake, you give it to her, and you don’t ask questions…or you shouldn’t anyway. As soon as my mom emailed me the recipe I started scheming about what I could do to make it more special. I knew I had a great idea when I realized my sister and I were thinking the same thing: transform the sheet cake into a round layer cake.

The day I was planning on making the cake I told mom I had to stop by to get my round cake pans. My comment was met with silence, and then, “Why? What are you doing to my cake?” I insisted that I wasn’t doing anything big, just making it better. “I asked for my chocolate cake. I like my chocolate cake as it is. Don’t screw with my cake.” She was overreacting, I was sure. What’s better than a chocolate cake? A layered chocolate cake, that’s what. “No, that will mess up the frosting. The frosting is the best part, don’t screw with my…no, wait, you know what? Don’t screw with your GRANDMA’S cake.” My mother, the sweetest woman in the world, was speaking sternly, and about food, no less. So I had no choice. I was going to make grandma’s cake, and not screw with it…well not much.

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