Category: Desserts

Birthday with Dora

Last year we had a fairly large party for my nephew’s first birthday, with two monkey cakes and monkey cupcakes.  This year, the party was much more low-key.  But no matter what size party you have, there must be birthday cake.  Connor loves Dora the Explorer, calling her “Deera”.  And he even has his own ‘takpack’.  So the cake making team consisting of me, my Mom, and our family friend Nancy set out to make a Dora cake for the fiesta.

First, my Mom baked a Mexican cinnamon chocolate cake.  Even if you never have a reason to make a Dora themed cake, this is a great recipe!  We modified it slightly, replacing some of the water in the original recipe with coffee.  It is very moist, with just a hint of cinnamon.

We may not be professionals, but we took this project quite seriously.  Many Google searches were performed.  Nancy drew several stencils of Dora’s face and hair to use as a guide.  My Mom ran around town to find edible materials for the project.  Several eyeballs were made for practice.  I performed surgery on Dora’s face with a toothpick when we had a slight mishap.  We had a lot of fun along the way, and this was our final product.


Although this picture is a little blurry, I think Connor liked it too.


Cinnamon Chocolate Cake

2 c. flour
1/4 c. cocoa powder
2 c. sugar
1 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
1/2 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. oil
1/2 c. brewed coffee
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. buttermilk
2 eggs
1 t vanilla

Prepare a 13″x9″ pan by placing parchment paper on the bottom and sides.  Coat paper with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, stir together flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, and cinnamon.  Add butter, oil, coffee, water, buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla and mix until smooth.  Pour batter into a 13″x9″ pan which has been coated with cooking spray.  Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake at 350F for approximately 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

-Lightly adapted from

Decorating the Cake as Dora

1 can white frosting
1 can chocolate frosting
1 small batch homemade frosting (butter, milk, confectioner’s sugar)
2 tubes black gel
1 package Kraft flat marshmallows
Food Coloring
Red colored sugar

Make one stencil for Dora’s face, and one stencil for her hair.  Place stencils on cake, and dust with powdered sugar.
Tint a skin colored frosting by mixing white frosting with a small amount of chocolate frosting and yellow food coloring.  Spread on cake in the face area not covered with powdered sugar.  Spread chocolate frosting on the hair area not covered with powdered sugar.
Tint the homemade frosting with blue food coloring, and spread on all other areas of the cake.
Make Dora’s eyes by trimming two flat marshmallows, and adding chocolate frosting, black gel, and a tiny piece of marshmallow.
Make Dora’s mouth by trimming a flat marshmallow, dipping it quickly in water, and then coating it with red sprinkles.
Using black gel, outline Dora’s face and hair.  Outline Dora’s eyes.


Fall Pear Crisp

When life is busy and someone offers to cook for you, say “Yes”.  Always.  Last weekend, my Mom offered to make this amazing pear crisp because 1) she had all the ingredients in the house; 2) we were hungry; and 3) I could blog about it.  She even used Penzey’s Vietnamese Extra Fancy Cinnamon which filled the house with the scent of fall.


This recipe can be a dessert, side dish, or snack, but it could also be served for breakfast when paired with some plain yogurt.  It’s more decadent than a typical weekday breakfast, but perfectly acceptable for a Sunday morning treat.



This recipe makes the transition back into fall and student life a whole lot better.  That’s all for this week folks, see you Monday!


Bread Pudding with Bananas

It’s so much fun to buy a fresh baguette.  You tear open the loaf, dig into the squishy white bread, and quickly look around for some cheese and wine.  Hopefully you share the bread with family and friends, eating with joy until there are no crumbs left.

But if you do have leftover baguette, it becomes stale very quickly.  Stale bread is often used in French Toast for breakfast, or maybe a Panzanella salad for lunch or dinner.  In this recipe from, the bread is combined with milk, eggs, bananas, and raisins to create a dish that will satisfy any sweet tooth.  I have about 32 sweet teeth that loved every bite of this!


S’mores on a Stick

This recipe has been making it’s way around the blog world, most notably on CarrotsnCake.  It’s a dessert that’s super simple and super cute.  When my sister wanted to make them, I quickly agreed that we should give it a try.

All you need is marshmallows, chocolate chips, animal crackers, and skewers.  You put each marshmallow on a skewer, roll it in melted chocolate chips, and then roll it in crushed graham cracker.  After chilling in the refrigerator for a bit, they’re ready to eat!


Any S’mores purist will tell you that toasting the marshmallow is, like, the most important part.  And I kind of agree, even if I do manage to burn my fingers every time I actually try to make them.  But this is still a quick and easy dessert in it’s own right, and great for parties because guests can pick at them throughout the evening.

Rhubarb Sauce

It’s too early to be sure, but I think this could be a dessert-heavy week here on the blog. Usually though, people don’t complain about seeing a lot of sweet things. I never hear “you post way too many chocolate recipes” but rather “how about some normal food?”

If you remember, way back in June, my Mom and I had a rhubarb adventure when a neighbor let us harvest some from his yard. We got to work right away making some amazing rhubarb streusel muffins, but we had plenty of rhubarb leftover for another recipe. We decided to make a simple rhubarb sauce, using this recipe which calls for just butter, rhubarb, and sugar. I added a dash of vanilla and cinnamon as suggested in the comments. The sauce tasted great, but the sad part was that our sweet teeth had been satisfied by the muffins. So we let the sauce cool and put it in the freezer for another time.
When the rest of the family had to head home on the Fourth of July (you know, for real jobs and things…) my Mom and I broke out the sauce and some vanilla ice cream, and enjoyed a sundae while watching the fireworks and playing a game of Scrabble. Don’t worry, we didn’t eat all the sauce, there’s plenty leftover so everyone can give it a try. But you probably should bring your own ice cream.

Strawberry Nutella Muffins

With an overflowing quart of local strawberries, I got the urge to bake. Oh, I ate plenty of strawberries right out of the carton, but fresh strawberries have a short life and I wanted to preserve a few. I found the recipe for Strawberry Nutella muffins, and decided to give it a try. I was concerned about having a dozen muffins and a jar of Nutella in the house when I was done, but it was a risk worth taking. (If you’re looking for a slightly less decadent strawberry muffin recipe, try this delicious whole wheat version!)

The recipe itself is a fairly simple one. After you put half of the batter in the muffin cups, you add a spoonful of Nutella to each cup and cover it with the remaining batter. The end result is a chocolate hazelnut surprise in the middle of each muffin. The first one out of the oven was the best, with just a little steam still rising from the top and warm Nutella in the center. I knew I had to get these to the freezer fast, to share with my family on Fourth of July weekend. If only I could forget about that jar of Nutella in the back of the cupboard.
The muffins kept well, but the Nutella lost that creamy quality. So my advice is to go ahead and make these but try to gather enough friends to enjoy them the very same day. It shouldn’t be too difficult to gather a group excited to try freshly baked Strawberry Nutella muffins!

Margarita Ice Cream Sandwiches

I hope everyone had a great Fourth of July weekend! My weekend extends through today, and the forecast dictates that I must be outside basking in the sun. But first, I’ll share the recipe that was indeed the hit of the weekend. My Mom suggested we make these Margarita Ice Cream Sandwiches, from Cooking Light. Wondering why the lime sherbet isn’t green? Because the local store didn’t sell any, so we went ahead and made our own. Cookies and ice cream from scratch on a holiday weekend!?! Oh yes we did…

First, we made the cookie dough very early in the morning. We formed the dough into two logs, wrapped them in plastic, and placed them in the refrigerator to chill. The dough was fairly crumbly at first, but firmed up nicely after a few hours. We sliced the logs into circles, garnished them with sugar, salt, and lime zest, and baked the cookies.

The cookies were really good just out of the oven, a sort of lime shortbread. We could have stopped right there and just had tea and cookies. But with our hearts set on ice cream sandwiches, we pulled out the Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker. It is really easy to make ice cream with the machine. I poured in half and half, lime juice, and more lime zest, and about 20 minutes later we had freshly made lime sherbet. Who needs green food coloring anyway?

Once the cookies were cool and the sherbet was frozen, we were ready to make the sandwiches. The assembly was really the trickiest part because you need to move fast before the ice cream and sherbet have a chance to melt. Then, you need to wrap each sandwich in plastic so that it holds it’s shape as it refreezes.
Finally, late that night, we sat down the enjoy the fruits of our labor. Some people like a margarita at the end of a long summer day, but we loved these margarita ice cream sandwiches. I am pretty sure your family will too!

Goat Cheese Blondies

The second recipe that I made for the BBQ was much sweeter – Goat Cheese Blondies, from the blog Real Food Has Curves. The assembly phase went very well; I beat the butter, cheese, brown sugar and white sugar for the full 6 minutes that was suggested, and everything went fairly quickly from that point. I popped them in the oven, and a short time later there was an amazing smell in my kitchen! I did run into some trouble cutting these out of the pan, and a few of them ended up a crumbly mess. My advice is to make sure the pan is greased and floured really well, and make sure the blondies are sufficiently cool before you try to cut them. And of course, any that aren’t good enough to take to a party are still fine for personal consumption.

The goat cheese here is pretty subtle, but you end up with just a slight salty flavor to balance the sweet. And of course any dessert with dark chocolate chips is bound to be good. This recipe takes an (American?) classic and makes it just a bit more elegant and interesting .

Chocolate Raspberry Cake

While my sister insists that one blogger per family is enough, she was actually the one that found this recipe for Chocolate Raspberry Cake and coordinated making it for Father’s Day. We had a party yesterday for three Dads, and made things they all loved like antipasto, steak, and chocolate cake.

The original post suggests using a devil’s food cake recipe from the Joy of Cooking, and normally we would make the cake from scratch. But there was a lot of other meal preparation required and a toddler underfoot, so on Saturday night we made the cake using a box mix. After the cakes had cooled, we sliced each one in half, creating 4 layers total. Using a tip from Smitten Kitchen we stuck the layers in the freezer which made them easier to work with on Sunday morning.

The cake may have been from a box, but the raspberry sauce was homemade, using frozen raspberries, sugar, cornstarch, and raspberry preserves. We also made the chocolate frosting using chocolate, butter, sugar, and whipping cream. The frosting seemed a little runny so I added some confectioner’s sugar, but it ended up almost too thick, so resist doing this yourself. Once the raspberry sauce and chocolate frosting were cooled, we were ready for the final assembly. The raspberry and chocolate layers are alternated, creating quite the tower of dessert, topped with fresh raspberries and a few dollops of sauce.

All three Dads seemed pleased with our efforts and enjoyed the cake. I hope everyone had a great Father’s Day weekend!

Yogurt Popsicles

Looking for a cool summer time treat? My nephew got to have his very first homemade popsicle last weekend! My sister purchased the molds at a discount store, but they are similar to these KidCo Frozen Treat Trays. She filled them with Stonyfield Farm Whole Milk Strawberry yogurt which made a great tasting popsicle. Well, I thought so…he was a little uncertain about the popsicle at first but got the hang of it just as it started to drip.

My nephew is not yet two and therefore still enjoys whole milk products, but I am curious to see if fat free yogurt can make popsicles for big people too!