Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Heath Bar Cake

I would guess, if I had to, that the most requested birthday cake flavor is Funfetti. Everybody loves the yellow cake speckled with colorful candy sprinkles, and I am one that agrees with the crowd. Once, for a friend's birthday, I made a homemade version. The box was better! It was my birthday last week, and my chef boyfriend who hates to measure and bake in general whipped it up. The point is, it's a cinch.
But sometimes, sometimes, you want to put a little extra TLC into your cake. Especially when it's your sister's birthday. Especially when you need to kill… oh, say 6 hours, because Sunday football isn't your thing (sorry, America).

So I did just that. I spent a lot of time (and still not quite enough) making, assembling, and frosting this cake. And the results you ask? Well, magnificent. One of my bests… though not my most beautiful.

Alas, if you like chocolate, caramel, whipped cream or heath bars, I suggest you keep reading.

For the Cake:
2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water
1 container Cool Whip (thawed) – or your favorite whipped cream frosting
3 crumbled Heath Bars

For the Caramel Sauce
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup half-and-half or cream
1 tbsp vanilla
Dash of salt
1- 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.
2. Combine sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in bowl of a standing mixer. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water, and don’t be worried that your batter is thin… it’s supposed to be! Pour batter evenly into prepared pans.
3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely and frost with your Cool Whip or other whipped cream frosting. I did not give this enough time and my cake collapsed initially.
4. For caramel sauce, mix all ingredients except for sweetened condensed milk in a medium saucepan over medium-low to medium heat. Cook while whisking gently for 5-10 minutes, until thicker. Add sweetened condensed milk and stir until combined and easy to drizzle. Turn off heat and drizzle over cake. If sauce is thin, just continue cooking for a few more minutes

Thank you Hershey's and Pioneer Woman for allowing me to adapt your recipes.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bars

I moved two weeks ago. Still in Boston… still in the same neighborhood even, but the move was (as all moves are) tough. I lived in my old place only two years, but I loved it. Spacious, updated and most of all, it was mine. Two years of memories. Two years of laughter. Two years of pain. My things were on the wall, on the ground, everywhere. As my dad says, it was my dirt. 
Don't get me wrong. My new apartment is just lovely. And a big step. But when I opened the door expecting a blank slate for my creative genius (just kidding), I was a little bit horrified by how unpleasant the place was left. Food stains on the oven. Black residue in the shower. The toilet wasn't even flushed. Are you wondering where this is going? I would be too.

The point is, the place was a mess. And the previous tenant looked at me and said "I think it's pretty much good to go, here are the keys!" Reluctantly, and with a bit of a pit in my stomach, we went to town. My mom, dad, boyfriend and I cleaned, painted, and eventually I nested. But it wasn't until the other day that I baked… that it all came together. It was suddenly my kitchen. Suddenly my couches felt more homey. The candles really started emitting this cozy fragrance. The little things I once scoffed at in the place were now the character I so much appreciated. 

Alas, it is my new home. And I love it. But maybe, just maybe, the baking saved it all. Oh and by the way, I got these chocolate chip pumpkin bars out of my new cozy lovely little home as fast as I could… because, well, damn.

Dry Ingredients 
1 cup all-purpose flour 
2 teaspoons cinnamon 
½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice 
1 teaspoon baking powder 
½ teaspoon baking soda 
½ teaspoon salt 

Wet Ingredients
2 whole eggs 
⅔ cup brown sugar 
1 cup canned pumpkin 
¼ cup milk 
¼ cup oil 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1 cup chocolate chunks (in retrospect, chips would have been better) 

Cream Cheese Frosting 
4 oz cream cheese, softened 
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9x13-inch pan with non-stick spray. Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl and place aside. Meanwhile, in a stand up mixer, mix all wet ingredients until well combined. By hand, fold wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined. 
2. Fold in chocolate chips until evenly distributed. Transfer into prepared baking dish and bake for 14-15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool before cutting bars. 
3. In a mixing bowl using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth and fluffy. Stir in powdered sugar and mix until creamy. Add vanilla and stir until evenly distributed. Spread on pumpkin bars and top with more chocolate chips.

*Recipe from Layers of Happiness

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Easy Caramel Apples

I sort of feel like a fraud posting this as a "recipe." Especially when I haven't updated anything for almost an entire year. Especially when I hardly cook (or bake!) anymore. But then I thought, I have to post. Because it's September, and today people in Boston are wearing coats. People are ordering pumpkin spice coffees and drinking cider beers and slowly tank tops are being replaced with cozy sweaters. It's happening people. And I am not going to fight it.
Seriously, with fall comes a few or my favorite things. Pumpking patches, cool weather, football (just kidding), and most of all, apples.  Apple pie, apple strudel, apple coffee cake. And perhaps the king of them all? The oh-so-humble but ever popular caramel apple. Simple to make, a mess to eat, and reserved for a few short months as the leaves start turning and suddenly it's okay to use your oven again.
So caramel apples you get, people. Enjoy the easiest recipe ever.

Caramel Apples
6 apples of your choice (I used tart granny smiths)
14 oz bag of wrapped caramel candies
2 tbsp milk
Toppings (sprinkles, chocolate chips, peanuts)
6 popsicle sticks

1. Remove the stems of all the apples. Press your popsicle stick into the bottom and about halfway through. 
2. Place caramels and milk into a saucepan and heat on low until completely combined and smooth. Let cool for a minute or two, so caramel firms up.
3. Dip each apple into the caramel. If desired, wait a few minutes and then spread toppings along the bottom. Caramel may be very sticky and not at all firm yet, so be patient before adding toppings. 
4. Place in fridge to cool until caramel is set.