Year in pictures?

Yeah, I’m a bit behind here. And rather than try and write detailed posts for everything I’ve done since January, I’m just dumping a bunch of pics and one liners about each item and if anyone wants a recipe let me know and I’ll provide the link, this way I can start fresh going forward into holiday baking season!

Is anyone listening to me (if peeing your pants is cool, consider me Miles Davis). And I just lost my last reader to that somewhat obscure reference.

Here goes (and not even necessarily in chronological order because lord knows how my computer decided what order to load these)…

1. Spritz Redux: We remade the spritz that got jacked in the prior post for New Year’s Eve. Made in yellow with gold sprinkles. The 4 year old (at the time) was super excited about a cookie gun. Sigh.

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2. Chocolate cream pie – this was for New Year’s Eve too. It was awesome.

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3. I don’t even remember what I made these for but I think they were cake batter cookies. They were good.

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4. Superbowl Sunday football cupcakes. Nothing special, just chocolate cupcakes but frosted in football shapes.

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5. Valentine’s Day sugar cookies with my makeshift royal icing (I never have meringue powder on hand and am too squeamish for raw eggs so I usually just mix milk and powdered sugar). We used these for teacher gifts for preschool.

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6. Valentine’s Brownie Pops. Red velvet brownies cut into heart shapes, frosted with buttercream then shoved onto sticks. Except they were too heavy/dense to keep on the sticks and would roll over as soon as you picked them up. Tasted good though!

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7. St. Patrick’s Day thumbprint cookies. Just your typical chocolate cookies with hershey’s kisses, we just made them holiday appropriate with green sprinkles. I actually found them pretty blah.

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8. Chocolate chip cookie dough pie. The crust is a giant cookie. YES.

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9. Chocolate cake with salted caramel buttercream. OMG this frosting. I can’t share these recipes because they were from a dear friend who owns a bakery in California and is sweet enough to share recipes with me to use for the birthday of our twins we lost to prematurity. But this cake and frosting especially was AMAZING.

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10. Passover macaroons. Nothing special/fancy about these but we liked them. They’re not burnt, the bottoms are dipped in chocolate.

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11. Matzo crack. Like Christmas crack but made with matzo. I used sliced almonds for the topping.

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12. Easter cookies to follow Passover. Yeah, we’re confused. Just regular sugar cookies with royal icing but I got meringue powder and made real royal icing this time. It was a pain in the ass.

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13. Easter nest carrot cake cupcakes. These were all about presentation but also yummy! We brought them for Easter brunch at our best friends’ house.

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14. Purple cake. This was just a vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream, purple because it was the day of our annual March of Dimes March for Babies (and their trademark color is purple).

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15. Pumpkin whoopie pies. These are from just a week ago. I intended to just make soft pumpkin cookies and ice them but they were so cake like they reminded me of whoopie pies so I found a cream cheese frosting recipe and sandwiched them. BIG hit.

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16. Halloween cupcakes. Recipes from my bakery owner friend, both vanilla/almond cake (I tend to swap vanilla extract for almond) and the orange had vanilla buttercream, purple had almond buttercream. Monster and bats.

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17. Tart cherry cobbler. We stupidly signed up for a fruit/veggie CSA this summer (stupidly because we don’t have time to cook all the obscure things they sent and the kids wouldn’t touch most of it). But we did get nice fruit for baking. I had helpers.

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18. Chocolate cake with salted buttercream frosting again. Remade this for Gammy’s (my mom’s) birthday.

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19. Peach cobbler muffins. Another made with CSA haul, we got SO many peaches.

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20. Memorial day berry trifle. Not really “baked”, especially since we used store bought angel food cake for the cake part, but it looks pretty and is a prepared dessert?

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21. Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. These were more of a regular cookie (vs cake) consistency than the other pumpkin cookies we used for the whoopie pies. Delicious.

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Ok. Hopefully I’ll remember to post after each treat going forward so I can include more info. Thanks if anyone is still checking here ever!!!

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YUM (aka chocolate cake with toasted marshmallow filling and malted chocolate frosting)

This was my “Happy Birthday to Me” cake – as it was for the source blogger, Brown Eyed Baker. Recipe in its entirety at source here: http://www.browneyedbaker.com/2013/03/25/six-layer-chocolate-cake-with-toasted-marshmallow-filling-malted-chocolate-frosting/?crlt.pid=camp.jQkyeDqUDJD8

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It was labor intensive, and decadent, AND I ended up having to make it twice because something went awry the first time.

Ingredients: (specifics at source)

Cake:
flour
sugar
Dutch-process cocoa powder (I just used Hershey’s)
baking soda
baking powder
salt
eggs
buttermilk
strong black coffee
vegetable oil
vanilla extract

For the Toasted Marshmallow Filling:
marshmallows
powdered sugar
unsalted butter
vanilla extract
Marshmallow Fluff

For the Malted Chocolate Frosting:
unsalted butter
powdered sugar
Ovaltine Classic (I actually got malt powder – I wanted more malted flavor than from ovaltine)
vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
semisweet or dark chocolate chocolate, melted and cooled
heavy cream

So, I’ve spent enough of my life on this cake that I’m not spending as much blogging it. LOL. So, to summarize -Mix dry stuff for cake and wet stuff separately, slowly add wet to dry and mix 2 minutes. Pour equally into three round cake pans (I think recipe called for 8″, we used 9″. Bake approximately 32 mins. at 350 (rotate at 20 minutes).

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Toasted marshmallow filling – oy. You’re supposed to broil the marshmallows until brown then flip them. Um, no. Mine spread and flattened and were too sticky to flip. They then congealed into a sticky/crispy/solid-ish mess that was impossible to mix into the powdered sugar/butter/fluff mixture.

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Then, the frosting. Typical buttercream with powdered sugar and butter, plus melted chocolate chips and malt powder, and heavy cream.

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After all that, to assemble, you have the slice each cake in half to make six layers, then put the marshmallow filling between them, then frost with the frosting.

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(Does that look like three layers, not six? Congrats, you just passed preschool math. More on this later.)

Final product, first try.

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So – looks good right? Except the husband and I return from birthday date night, cut in, and he finds a little chunk of glass that he bites down on. EEK. Not sure where it came from but we were both too freaked out to eat any more after that, so we tossed it. I was sad. So two three days later when home from work with the kids I remade it but only did 3 layers to make it easier.

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It was really good – but I think the combination of wasting all the time making it twice plus the sheer richness ended up in me not adoring it. The cake part was amazing. And the frosting was amazing. But together, I think it kind of overwhelmed me. Not so much that I didn’t take sveral bites every time I opened the fridge until it was gone, though.

 

Pumpkin Cake!

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My brother’s birthday often coincides with our annual Halloween get together, so it seemed only fitting that he get a Halloween themed cake. I went with something that looked cute but wouldn’t have me up until 2am baking entirely from scratch so I decided on a bundt cake from cake mix. Didn’t really use a specific recipe other than borrowing from numerous things I saw on Pinterest.

Ingredients:

  • 2 boxes cake mix (I used chocolate – accidentally used 2 different mixes. Sigh. Different shades of brown).
  • Ingredients box mixes call for (typically eggs and oil I think).
  • Buttercream icing (powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, food coloring). I have any number of recipes on other posts for it. Do NOT used shortening because (a) it tastes bad (meaning you’ll have to start over with real butter if you’re like me), and (b) it says this on the box which is terrifying:photo 2
  • Glaze – I don’t even remember the recipe I used but I think it was mostly cream cheese, milk and powdered sugar. Sorry, I’m lazy, but you can google glaze recipes.
  • One green ice cream cone.

Bake the 2 cakes according to package instructions. Note that I used a shit-ton (technical term) of cooking spray to ensure clean removal from Bundt. Here I am with my weapon and wearing the awesome R. Kelly “Hot and Fresh out the Kitchen” apron the husband got my for Mother’s Day.

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Stack one cake on top of the other upside down to make a pumpkin shape. Drizzle with the glaze, then decorate detail with buttercream. Stick ice cream cone in middle for stem.

Mine was kind of a hot mess, but it tasted good!

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Chocolate Banana Truffles

It pains me to say this, but the fact that we made these 5 days ago and there are still some in the fridge doesn’t bode well for how this recipe fared in our home.

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Recipe from Domestic Rebel: http://thedomesticrebel.com/2013/05/06/chunky-monkey-truffles-ben-jerrys-week/

After a prior issue with Candiquik they very nicely offered to send me some free to try again, so I searched for some truffle recipes to try. This sounded great, but I think maybe the inside was just not interesting enough?

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Essentially, it’s banana pudding mix plus butter, plus powdered sugar. Roll into balls, freeze, dip in chocolate, top with a nut.

Ingredients in full:

  • 1 pkg. banana instant pudding mix
  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 & ⅓ cup powdered sugar
  • ½ pkg chocolate almond bark or Candiquik
  • About 15 halved walnut pieces

More specific instructions at source. I will say that the mixture was WAY too soft to make into balls so I had to refrigerate for a while first. THen made these:

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Then I melted the Candiquik, with MUCH better results than prior attempts, and poured into a bowl so it was deeper for dipping.

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Had better luck dipping than my prior truffles at least, and hubby to help with putting the nuts on top for each one. They came out well, I think, but just missing something and wasn’t too excited about end result.

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Next attempt will be Pumpkin Truffles with the white Candiquik!!!

Peanut Butter Pretzel Truffles

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Oh my dear lord. These are one of my FAVORITE things I have made. Recipe from Annie’s Eats: http://www.annies-eats.com/2013/04/12/peanut-butter-pretzel-truffles/ There are others on the web but this was the one I’d pinned and it was amazing.

Pretty easy to make , too, although mine never look as nice as the source.

Ingredients:
creamy peanut butter
confectioners’ sugar
unsalted butter, at room temperature
crushed pretzels
bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (i used Ghirardelli chips actually)
milk

Specific amounts at Annie’s link. Pretty easy to make – mix PB, sugar, butter and pretzels together. I had to use my hands though to kind of massage it, just mixing didn’t work that well. Then roll into balls and freeze for a bit. You can see here where 90% of the butter is embedded in that one ball up front/right.

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Meanwhile, melt the chocolate.

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Dip the balls in the chocolate (I don’t think it’s possible for me to post about making truffles without saying – “I wanna dip my balls in it“). Yes, I’m (a) old, for remembering the State, and (b) immature).

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Then make the drizzle from PB, sugar and milk, and drizzle atop it. Eat. Repeat (the last step, that is). Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. You get the picture.

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YUM. I could not stop eating them.

S’mores Bars

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Had a hankering for s’mores lately and was trying to decide between bars and brownies. The husband chose the bars, and they were SUPER easy, and AMAZINGLY delicious. Amazing. LOVED. I always like what I bake because I like food and sweets, but usually it doesn’t go past a bite or two and then I’m done. I could have eaten 30 of these.

Recipe from sugar cooking and link back for specific instructions so I don’t inadvertently take her traffic.

Ingredients = super easy.  Pretty much stuff you have around anyways plus s’mores makings. (Hershey bars, marshmallow fluff and graham cracker).

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PS – If you compare my recipe pic above to the actual listing in the recipe you may note I inadvertently forgot the white sugar and used only brown. WHOOPS! Funny thing is, they still came out ok!

Process was also super easy. Prepare batter as instructed in original recipe linkback.

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I had no issues notwithstanding my failure to include the sugar. Put half the batter in the bottom of a greased 8×8 pan, lay Hershey’s bars on it, spread with marshmallow fluff, lay remaining batter atop that layer (they recommend creating “shingles” and laying side by side) and bake 30-35 minutes at 350.

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Then cool, and cut into bars.

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HEAVEN.

They’re not as pretty as the originals but I don’t even care.

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You can reheat in microwave after they’ve cooled to re-goo. Enjoy!

Red Velvet Valentine’s Cookies with Cream Cheese frosting

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Finally – Valentine’s baking success!!!

Found this recipe on pinterest and chose it among 3 contenders, in part because it used a box mix which meant much easier to make with a 3.5 year old helper while the 1.5 year old napped. Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies from Two Peas & Their Pod.

Ingredients:

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1 box red velvet cake mix (original recipe used Duncan Hines, I used Betty Crocker; I’m sure it doesn’t matter what brand you use)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Powdered sugar, for rolling the cookies
Heart shaped cookie cutter, optional

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat and set aside. [Note – I have no effing idea what a silpat is. LOL. I used parchment paper. Which as I learned with Hanukkah cookies, is very much NOT interchangeable with wax paper (the latter of which should NOT be used in an oven while baking.]

2. In a large bowl, combine cake mix and flour. Whisk until clumps disappear. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together cake mix, flour, eggs, oil and vanilla extract. Mix until smooth. Take about 1 tablespoon of cookie dough and form into a ball. Roll the ball in powdered sugar until fully coated. Place cookie dough balls on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, or until edges are set and cookies begin to crack. [Another note – the recipe seems to imply you can roll the dough into balls BEFORE rolling in the sugar. Not so much. It was painfully sticky and gooey, and I messed up my first cookie trying to do that. After that, I would get a dollop with my tablespoon (I very much overfilled each to make bigger cookies to accommodate my cookie cutter size), drop the whole dollop into a shallow bowl of powdered sugar, then roll it until it could be handled easily, THEN roll into a ball.]

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3. Let cookies sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes. If desired, cut cookies into heart shapes, using a heart shaped cookie cutter. Transfer cookies to a wire cooling rack and cool completely. Eat the cookie scraps:)

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I didn’t get a pic of the scraps but I think my son ate about 12 cookies’ worth of scraps. LOL. He was a fan. I wouldn’t kick them out of bed either.

Note [from original recipe] -you don’t have to cut the cookies into heart shapes. They are great round too!

So, instead of leaving it at that, I really wanted to do some decorating as well (part of why I had originally shied from this recipe, as I love decorating desserts) so I decided to take it up a notch and borrow a cream cheese frosting recipe from one of the other contenders to decorate our cookies.  Frosting from Joy the Baker’s Red Velvet Cupcake Recipe (adapted by her from Hummingbird Bakery cookbook). The original recipe was a cinnamon cream cheese, but I just wanted regular cream cheese frosting so I left out the cinnamon.

Cream Cheese Frosting

2 1/3 cups powdered sugar, sifted (I never actual sift. Oh well.)

3 Tablespoons butter, room temperature (As usual I cheated and stuck in microwave to desired consistency.)

4 ounces cream cheese, cold (Joy the Baker used room temperature, mine was probably midway between cold and room temp)

Beat the powdered sugar and butter together in the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment (I don’t think I have a paddle attachment so I used the standard attachment).  Mix on medium-slow speed until it comes together and is well mixed. (I think I did something wrong because mine was still pretty much just powder after this step but I continued as instructed).

Add the cream cheese all at once and beat on medium to medium-high until incorporated. (Again, still way too dry, so I took it upon myself to VERY slowly add whole milk until desired consistency. I probably added 1 tbsp total).

Turn the mixer to medium-high and beat for 5 minutes, or until the frosting becomes light and fluffy.Do not over-beat as the frosting can quickly become runny.

My own additional step – add one drop of red food coloring (liquid, not gel) to make pink.

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Then, I put the frosting in a frosting bag with a small decorative tip and piped onto each cookie, and sprinkled red and white crystal sugar on the frosting.

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HUGE fan of these. So much that I considered making more after they were gone in a day (we wrapped up a decent # of them for various Valentine’s gifts to teachers, nanny, etc.).

Chocolate Cupcakes with Eggnog buttercream frosting

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Yum. Cupcakes were the tried and true Hershey’s recipe I made with peppermint buttercream last time.

Eggnog frosting was arrived upon after googling many minutes to find the ideal one. I went with the highest eggnog ratio I found which meant (A) Delicious with a strong eggnog taste but (B) much wetter than I prefer my buttercream (even after adding much more powdered sugar in an attempt to counteract.

The one I decided upon was based mostly on this recipe from Kitschy Girl’s Cupcakes

2 sticks of butter
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup eggnog
I probably ended up with about 3/4 cup eggnog and at least 5- 5 1/2 cups of powdered sugar. Beat together and frost cupcakes. I loved them as did my husband and sister in law. 4.5 year old nephew not so much. He took a bite, sat there silently looking like he wanted to cry until his mom offered him a napkin to spit it in. Such a compliment, LOL.
And I got to use my super cute cupcake holder/transporter!
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Peppermint Brownie Pie

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This pie was for the same party as the cupcakes in my prior post. It was also my very first time making my own pie crust instead of buying a frozen one – surprisingly easy!

Recipe came from Midwest Living (I actually bought one of these at the grocery store last week, putting the final nail in the coffin of my hopes of ever being young or hip again). Link back to original recipe here.

Ingredients (for pie crust)

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • 4 – 5 tablespoons cold water

Directions

  1. Stir together flour and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in shortening until pieces are pea-size. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon cold water over part of the mixture; gently toss with a fork. Push moistened dough to the side of the bowl. Repeat moistening dough, using 1 tablespoon cold water at a time, until all the dough is moistened (4 to 5 tablespoons cold water total). Form dough into a ball. On a lightly floured surface, use your hands to slightly flatten dough.

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Shortening grosses me out. That there, my friends, is a cup o’ lard. Yummy.

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If you’re like me, and reading the above instructions, you get to “flatten with hands” and think you’re done. Color me confused when there’s no way that was thin enough to be big enough to cover the pie dish…lucky me jumped back to the filling recipe (appears before the crust in the original recipe site) and found that it THEN instructed to roll it out and put it in pie dish.

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I did this all at once, then covered and put my pie crust in the fridge overnight. I pressed the edges with a fork to make it pretty.

Ingredients for Filling

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  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • Pastry for 9-inch single crust pie (see above)
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup mint-flavored semisweet chocolate pieces (couldn’t find them so we just used chocolate chips and mint extract. The recipe for this, not on the main page but on the lead in page, said to use 1/2 tsp mint extract. I couldn’t find that when on my iphone though so ended up finding a similar recipe which called for only 1/8 tsp so my brownie pie wasn’t very minty. Hubby thought it was perfect though as he usually thinks I over-mint things. See e.g. Mint brownies, Peppermint buttercream).
  • Whipped cream (store bought – seriously).

Directions

  1. For filling: In a heavy small saucepan, melt butter and chocolate over low heat, stirring frequently. Cool 20 minutes.

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  1. Meanwhile, prepare and roll out pastry. Line a 9-inch pie plate with pastry; trim and crimp edge.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine eggs, sugar, flour and vanilla. Stir in the chocolate mixture and chocolate pieces. Pour into pastry-lined pie plate.

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  1. Bake pie in a 350 degree F oven about 55 minutes or until filling is evenly puffed and edges of filling are slightly cracked. Cool on wire rack (center will sink slightly as pie cools). Serve with whipped cream. Makes 10 servings.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peppermint Buttercream

These may be one of my favorite things I’ve made in a long time. Usually I get bored of stuff after a little while and end up tossing some or not wanting to eat it after it’s been in the kitchen for a few days. I couldn’t stop eating these ones!

Chocolate cake from Hershey’s, buttercream was a pretty standard recipe that I used peppermint extract instead of vanilla extract in (and determined the amount by checking several peppermint buttercream recipes and averaging what I thought was a good amount).

So, cake first (original recipe here):

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water (I didn’t boil it, just got it at highest possible temp out of our faucet).
  • 2  eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 cups sugar

Directions

  1. 1 Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans (I did cupcakes instead – just put the cups directly into the baking cups on the muffin pan).These were my “helpers”. The smaller one cried and yelled mommy and threw spoons around the kitchen through half of the process. :-/
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  3. 2 Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans. It was REALLY thin (like liquid) but actually made it easier to pour into the cupcake cups because I transferred it to measuring cup and then poured out of that into the cups. Only a little bit of mess on the first one! I always have trouble overfilling and did my best so far with only slight overlap of the cupcake cups vs. my usual.photo 2
  4.  Line muffin cups (2-1/2 inches in diameter) with paper bake cups. Heat oven to 350°F. Fill cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely. Frost. About 30 cupcakes.

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And now the frosting – again, no link back because I just used a generic recipe that was the same on many blogs…I halved the recipes that I found b/c I didn’t want a ton of cupcakes (I only made the one pan of 12). Info below is already halved.

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/8 – 1/4 cup milk
3/4 tsp peppermint extract

  1. Beat butter until creamy.
  2. Slowly add sugar and beat in with butter (it was very powdery and crumbly but I think that’s ok).
  3. Add milk as desired to get the thickness you want. [NOTE – I USED TOO MUCH SO MY FROSTING WAS A LITTLE DROOPY, I’D USE THE LOWER END OF THE RANGE NEXT TIME]
  4. Add extract and mix well.

I put the frosting in a frosting bag and used a decorative tip, both from a super cute cupcake baking kit my brother and sister in law got me for my birthday. I think they turned out surprisingly pretty!

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