Category: Desserts

Dark Chocolate Brownies with Ginger and Sea Salt

Sometimes it’s tough to be a food blogger.  I have to ask difficult questions like, “can brownies be too fudgey”?  Because these are the most fudge-like brownies I’ve ever made.  I used Ghiradelli Dark Chocolate Chips, cocoa powder, and Trader Joe’s 72% cacao Dark Chocolate.  That’s some serious chocolate power!  These brownies not only have a rich texture, but they also have an interesting flavor with the addition of crystallized ginger and sea salt.

I was not entirely sure that I was happy with how the recipe turned out.  Of course, that didn’t stop me from bringing them to a party.  It also didn’t stop me from eating the brownie edges.  (You know, the pieces that weren’t suitable to bring to the party.)  These are not classic brownies, but rather like squares of ginger and sea salt fudge.  Once your taste buds know what to expect, they’ll be happy indeed.





Carrot Cake, Take II

Birthday cakes are a pretty big deal in my family, and my sister’s request this year was a carrot cake with thick cream cheese frosting.  We made this Alton Brown Carrot Cake back in 2010, which was pretty good, but there’s always room for improvement, right?

I found this Spiced Carrot Layer Cake recipe from Saveur and then my family pretty much did the rest.  My Mom managed the cake baking process and once again, my Dad was in charge of grating the carrots.  The frosting in the original recipe uses mascarpone cheese and probably tastes amazing, but we went with a more traditional cream cheese and powdered sugar frosting.  I did actually help with this part, and finally we were ready to sing.  Someone was pretty excited to help blow out the candles!



This carrot cake was really unique with fragrant spices, coconut, and orange juice and zest.  The orange flavor in particular really stood out and made the cake taste very fresh.  There are a lot of ingredients, but even my Mom agreed that this cake was worth the effort.  Be sure to note that the recipe makes an exceptionally large cake.  We actually ending up freezing the 3rd layer to use another time.  Then again, perhaps we should have had a larger party.  🙂




Red Wine Chocolate Cake

The good news is that I have a week full of posts which highlight some great recipes, even if I can’t take credit for much of the cooking.

I took note of this Red Wine Chocolate Cake from Smitten Kitchen a couple of months ago.  Then my friend Susan made it, and told me it really was that awesome.  So when my sister asked what cake she could make for my birthday, this seemed like the perfect choice.

This cake also requires relatively little effort for such a large reward.  You need just one bowl and one cake pan.  The cake itself was really good,  like a flourless chocolate cake with a hint of sweet.  But the mascarpone and whipped cream topping was even better.  The instructions say to “dollop generously” and so we did, even though this was the night before Thanksgiving.  Although I love apples and pumpkins and cranberries in the fall, chocolate is always in season.



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.