Let Them Eat Cake

If I could eat cake everyday I totally would, that is if I could find a cake that had zero fat, zero calories and all the delicious flavor intact…not likely, so I guess I’ll have to settle for cake every once in awhile.  This is why whenever I’m invited over to someone’s house or have people over I always make cupcakes or brownies.  It is only recently I’ve been into cakes. Years ago I tried to make cake for a party and it was so dry and gross, I was so embarrassed that I haven’t made a cake since. Well, until this past weekend.  Last week I found a recipe for a chocolate peanut butter layer cake that look so delicious I was obsessing over it for days.  Thank goodness we were invited over to a friend’s house for a dinner party this weekend because I was going to make this cake either way, I’m just glad I didn’t have to eat the whole thing myself (which would not have been hard to do) and was able to share it with others.

I’ve only made a layer cake twice before, one was a disaster, the other looked like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but at least it was tasty.   I think the key to having a layer cake stay put is by not over filling the layers, which is hard especially if you don’t want the leftover filling to go to waste, I say it’s just more for you to snack on.  I probably could have filled this cake more, but I didn’t want to take the chance of any layers sliding off or oozing out, both of which are not pretty.

So here’s the recipe for the cake I made this last weekend.  If you like peanut butter and chocolate you’ll like this cake.  Be sure you have a big glass of milk to go with it, it’s pretty rich.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake (from Serious Eats )


 For the Cake:

2 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

3/4 cup hot coffee

1 1/2 cups  granulated sugar

3/4 cup buttermilk

1 large egg

1 egg yolk

7 Tbsp vegetable oil

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups  all-purpose flour

3/4 cup cocoa

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

For the Peanut Butter Mousse:

8 oz cream cheese

3/4 cup  confectioners’ sugar

1 cup cream peanut butter

2 tsp vanilla extract

Pinch salt

1 cup heavy cream

For the Peanut Butter Ganache:

12 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used semi-sweet)

1 cup plus 2 Tbsp heavy cream

2 Tbsp creamy peanut butter


 For the Cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans and line bottoms with parchment paper.

In medium bowl, stir chocolate into coffee and set aside. In large bowl, whisk sugar, buttermilk, egg, yolk, oil, salt, and vanilla until combined. In small bowl, whisk flour, cocoa, baking soda, and baking powder until combined. Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet until combined. Whisk in the coffee mixture until smooth.

Pour 1/3 batter in one pan and the remaining 2/3 in the other pan. Bake until just firm, about 20 to 25 minutes, respectively. Let cake cool in pans for 15 minutes, then invert cakes onto wire rack to cool completely before assembling cake.

For the Peanut Butter Mousse: In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese with sugar, peanut butter, vanilla, and salt on medium speed until creamy and light, about 5 minutes. Transfer to large bowl. Switch to whip attachment and beat cream on high-speed to stiff but not dry peaks. Fold cream into peanut butter mixture. Keep chilled until ready to use.

Slice the larger of the two cakes into two layers. Place on serving plate and stack cake layers with peanut butter mousse. Keep chilled until ganache is ready to use.

For the Peanut Butter Ganache: Using the microwave or in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, heat the chocolate and cream until melted and smooth. Gently whisk in peanut butter. Chill until just firm enough to frost, about 30 minutes. Frost cake and serve.


Verdict: Definitely have a glass of milk handy.  I’d make this again for sure.  Everyone loved it, I probably could have eaten two slices if I wasn’t full from our delicious dinner.  I should have kept the leftovers instead of bringing them to work, I was jonesing for some last night.  I settled on a handful of chocolate chips…just not the same.

So next time you need to bring a dessert to a dinner party or just want to make a cake, I suggest this one (pending you’re not serving this to people with peanut allergies).  If three layers seems a bit too much to handle, you can always do two layers not a problem, you’ll just have more mousse to eat later….oh darn.



Cooking Outside of the Box

Happy Hump Day!!!

I know the other day I promised to post the recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes, I’ve been trying to finish a project at home and totally spaced.  For the cake part of the  cupcake I use the Highway to Heaven Cupcake recipe.  If you have time to go through all the steps of making this salty, chocolate, sweet cupcake, by all means, go for it.  I’ve heard wonderful things about the end results, but I’m just too lazy to go through all those steps.   Here’s the cake recipe:

Highway to Heaven Cupcake  (From The Sugar Cube)


3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 3/4 cups granulated sugar

1 cup dutch-process cocoa powder

1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1 1/2 cups warm strong-brewed coffee or french-pressed coffee

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/3 cups vegetable oil


To make the cupcakes: Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.

Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, coffee, eggs, vanilla, and vegetable oil. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk just until incorporated and there are no lumps. (It’s a thin batter, but it will bake up beautifully.)

Divide the batter equally among the muffin cups, leaving about 1/4 inch room at the top. Bake until the tops spring back when lightly pressed, 20 to 25 minutes.  Be sure to cool the cakes completely before frosting.

Fun Tip:  About half way through baking, put a bite sized (not mini) Reese’s Cup.  I think they call them the “Fun-Size” or something.  It’s a nice little surprise.

I top the cupcakes with peanut butter frosting and a mini Reese’s on top.  The frosting is so easy.

Peanut Butter Frosting ( From Ina Garten)


1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 cup creamy peanut butter

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (I’d say this is optional, I don’t use salt)

1/3 cup heavy cream


Place the confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (I use a whisk attachment, I like a lighter, fluffy frosting). Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth. You can also double the recipe easily, though I tend to keep the 1/3 cup heavy cream the same and just add a bit if it’s too thick.

Verdict: Everyone at Eric’s office loved these.  I’m going to make them for my boss next week for her birthday treat.  I hope they go over just as well.

Do you remember those crazy Hamburger Helper commercials from the 90’s?  I just love that little glove character, makes me want to high-five someone when I see him.  I actually love Hamburger Helper, it’s definitely a blast from the past.  The only problem with the boxed mix, is the sodium levels and half the ingredients I can’t even pronounce.  So, I began a quest to find a homemade version, where I could control what I put in it.  This is what I’ve found (I’ll post two of my favorites)

Basic Chili Cheese Hamburger Helper ( from Homemade Mixes,Main Dishes,The Farmhouse Table) go here for more variations


1 pound ground beef (or ground chicken/turkey)
1 cup hot water
2 cups milk (any variety, I use skim Lactaid)
1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded


Brown ground beef in a large skillet; drain.

Add hot water,milk,pasta and your homemade sauce packet (corn starch, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, sugar, and paprika).

Bring to a boil.

Cover and simmer on low about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender.

In the last few minutes of cook time, stir in the cheese; cover the pot again for the final few minutes of cook time.

When the pasta is tender and the cheese is melted, turn off heat and uncover. Let mixture stand, uncovered, about five minutes. It will continue to thicken as it stands.

Variation Recipe for Cheesy Beef (or Chicken/Turkey) Taco:
Using 1 pound ground beef, 1 cups hot water and 1/2 cup milk, 1 can of Rotel, prepare a sauce packet including 1 tablespoon corn starch, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Stir in 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded, near the end, then top with another 1/2 cup cheddar 5-minute standing period.

Side note: I add onions and garlic to the pan while browning the meat, I think I would just die if I didn’t add garlic to basically everything.

Awww, bummer, I thought I had a picture but I guess I didn’t save it 😦 You’ll just have to make it yourself to see how glorious it is.

Verdict: Always a favorite. Plus, if Eric doesn’t inhale more than one serving, it makes a great lunch for the next day.

Tonight is another “Fend for Yourself” dinner, I’m not sure what I feel like. My co-worker’s wife brough me some soup she wanted me to try, so I know that will be part of dinner. I can’t wait to try it, it looks awesome.

Pizza, Peanut Butter and Pandas, OH MY!

Happy Monday!!  Today is actually a great day because a cute little baby panda was born at the National Zoo last night.  I’ve been glued to the Panda Cam all day hoping to catch a glimpse of the new cub, however, I haven’t seen anything exciting except a lot of loafing around, which makes me really jealous as I sit at work.  I think once they put the baby on display it may be time to take a trip to the zoo, I wouldn’t mind going before then either, I am in need of a panda fix.  Of course this also means Quincy will be a panda again for Halloween…I better start getting him used to his costume now.

He looks like a sad panda, but he’s still cute!


Ok, now on to the good stuff.  Last night we had “make your own” pizza’s.  Personally I think this is a great weekend meal, especially if you’re going to take the time to make your own pizza dough.  I’ve tried a bunch of recipes and have found that Nadia G’s dough recipe is one of the best.  It’s easy, straight forward and hard to mess up.  Of course I make my own adjustments here and there.

Pizza dough still is the only “bread” I can make that doesn’t come out like a piece of concrete.  Maybe 2013 should be the year of dough, hopefully I can master some rolls that are edible.  Just because this is pizza dough, doesn’t mean you have to use this recipe for only pizza, you can do so many other things with it, like calzones, strombolis, sausage bread or any kind of stuffed bread (I’ve done chicken and eggplant parm stuffed bread, so good).

Nadia G’s Pizza Dough (if you have her cookbook, she has a bunch of delicious pizza recipes.  If don’t have her cookbook, what are you waiting for? Go buy it!)


1 teaspoon yeast (or just use 1 packet)

1 1/4 cups warm water

3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoon sugar

cup all purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1 cup whole wheat flour (I actually just use 2 cups of AP flour)


In a medium bowl, mix the yeast with the warm water and let sit for 5 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and sugar and whisk. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the all-purpose and whole wheat flours (or all AP flour)  Make a hole in the middle and pour in the yeast mixture. Slowly hand mix the flour until all the liquid is absorbed. If too wet, add more flour, 1/4 cup at a time. Sprinkle a clean work station with flour and knead the dough until smooth and elastic. Coat a large ceramic bowl with the remaining olive oil. Place the dough in the ceramic bowl and flip over to coat in the oil. Cover the top of the dough with plastic wrap and cover the bowl with a dish towel. Let rise until the dough has doubled in size, 2 hours. Punch down the dough and let rise for another hour.

I actually made the dough in the morning, let it sit and rise all day, punched it down an hour before I used it and it was good to go.  I’m a set it and forget it kind of girl who probably angered the pizza dough gods, but whatever, it was amazing.

Chicken Pesto Pizza

Verdict:  Since Eric and I like different toppings, I like to divide the dough in half so we can create our own culinary masterpieces.   I topped mine with homemade pesto, shredded chicken, onions and a tiny bit of mozz cheese, YUM! Eric loves red pizza sauce, he added onions, pepperoni and jalapeno (we have ton, might as well use them).  I tried his, it was awesome, better than any delivery chain for sure.

On to dessert, because sometime’s you just need a sugar fix at 9pm, especially when some of the cupcakes you made are “messed up”.

We’re doing this new thing at work where the person who had the last birthday makes or buys a treat for the person who has a birthday next, does that make sense?  Anyway, since my birthday was last I have to make something for my boss, who has a birthday coming up this weekend.   I think I’ve decided on Chocolate Peanut Butter cupcakes, but I’m not sure.  I did a trial run for Eric’s office and they loved them.   I’ll post the recipe tonight because I actually use two different ones and you will want to make this (if you aren’t allegeric to peanuts). But here’s a teaser until then.