Chocolate Mint Cake with Fresh Mint Buttercream Frosting

I spent the better part of my day in the kitchen today – but some really yummy things came out of it, and so it was work well worth it! I tried two new recipes – this chocolate mint cake and chicken parmesan casserole (I’ll post that next). They both turned out so, so good!

This spring, I decided to grow some “easy” herbs – basil, rosemary and mint. So far, so good – it’s all still alive! Until today, I hadn’t used any of the mint and so I’ve been searching for something to do with it. My love for Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies made me naturally think of chocolate. I used a chocolate cake recipe that called for boiling water and infused it with fresh mint. I did the same thing with the frosting – instead of milk, I added mint water to help thin it out a bit, plus I added some finely chopped fresh mint.  It turned out awesome! The mint added such a fresh taste to the cake. The chocolate cake itself only had a hint of mint flavor, but the flavor was really present in the frosting.

Chocolate Mint Cake

1 1/4 cup water
25 mint leaves
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract

Fresh Mint Buttercream Frosting
1/2 cup water
25 mint leaves
2 sticks butter, softened
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 box powdered sugar (1 lb)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup chopped unsweetened chocolate (baking squares)
1 1/2 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
Garnish with chopped chocolate and fresh mint leaves

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line three cake pans with parchment paper and then butter and flour them. Set aside.
2.) In a small saucepan, add water and mint leaves. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
3.) In a large mixing bowl, add sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Combine well.
4.) Add eggs, buttermilk, vegetable oil and mint-infused water. Stir until well combined, but do not over-stir. Some lumps are okay. Batter will be very runny.
5.) Pour batter evenly into the three cake pans. Place in oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Insert toothpick to make sure cake is done. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes, then transfer to cooling racks. Allow to fully cool before icing the cakes.
6.) In the same small saucepan used before, add 1/2 cup water and 25 mint leaves. Bring to boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 8 minutes. Set aside.
7.) Using a stand mixer on slowest setting, cream butter and vanilla. Slowly add powdered sugar, then add salt. Add 1 or 2 tbsp of the mint-infused water to reach desired consistency. Add the chopped chocolate and fresh mint and mix until well combined.
8.) Once the cakes have cooled, add first layer to a cake plate and add slightly less than a third of the icing. Using an icing spatula, turn cake plate and spread frosting toward the edges until frosting completely covers the layer. Repeat for second layer. On the third and final layer, you should have slightly more than a third of the frosting. Spread as was done on the first and second layers. Garnish with chopped chocolate and mint leaves.

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This is the “stop taking pictures and give me a bite!” look

Adapted from FoodGaZm’s Chocolate Layer Cake

Brownie Bundt Cake with Chocolate Ganache

My husband is a chocoholic. The guy loves anything chocolate. So for Father’s Day, I made him the ultimate chocolate dessert – a brownie bundt cake with chocolate ganache. The idea began last night when he was searching for chocolate (to which we only had chocolate ice cream), and he started throwing out chocolate wish-list ideas. “I want chocolate cake… no brownies… no a brownie cake. But not with icing, with ganache!” Viola. A quick Pinterest search and I had a plan for the next day.

Brogan decided to help me make the Father’s Day cake – he’s getting good at measuring and stirring, so his assistance is more of a help than it used to be. This cake turned out awesome! It was fudgy, and rich (but not too rich) and totally hit the spot where a chocolate craving is concerned. To sum it up, Brogan swiftly said after taking a bite, “this cake is amazing!” I must agree. And most importantly, so did Blake. I just watched him have a second helping, this time topped with chocolate ice cream. Go figure. Hope you enjoy!

Brownie Bundt Cake with Chocolate Ganache

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter
4 ozs unsweetened chocolate squares, chopped
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 cups sugar
5 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
Butter and flour for bundt pan

Chocolate Ganache
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1.) Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2.) In a large microwavable bowl, add butter, chopped chocolate and chocolate chips. Microwave for until melted, stirring about every minute. Once melted, stir until smooth.
3.) With a whisk, stir in sugar and then the eggs, one at a time. Next, stir in vanilla, flour and salt.
4.) Butter and flour a bundt pan. Pour batter into pan and bake for 1 hour 20 minutes. Check cake with a toothpick and cook longer if needed.
5.) To prepare the ganache, place heavy cream in a saucepan and heat just until it boils. Remove from heat, add chocolate chips and whisk until smooth. Spoon ganache on top of the cake and serve.

Brownie cake adapted from Taste of Home’s Triple Layer Brownie Cake

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Chocolate Cobbler

I can’t believe I’ve been blogging about food (and my recipes) for 9 months and have not shared chocolate cobbler with everyone. Shame on me. I was inspired to make this dessert 4 or 5 years ago after having something very similar at a restaurant… it was so good that I had to figure out how to make it. Well I found this recipe online (been too long, can’t recall the source) and it is a really good copycat.  For a while there, this was my go-to… need a dessert? I’ll bring chocolate cobbler!  So nudged by my husband having a chocolate sweet tooth lately and having company over for dinner on Sunday, I thought I’d pull this guy out of retirement. And then I was reminded how good it is, and I’ll have to find an excuse to make it again soon.

This recipe is really simple, and it’s likely you’ve got  everything in the pantry to make this. It’s also a little strange – calls for you to pour boiling water over the batter… say what?!? Yes. You read right. So do it, and don’t ask questions. I whipped this together in about 10 minutes and it bakes for a little over 30. You must serve it with vanilla ice cream (and specifically, Breyer’s Natural Vanilla – the kind with the little black vanilla specks). Serve it hot with the ice cream melting into the chocolate sauce – yum, yum, yum. (I thought I’d give you the mental picture, because I forgot to snap one with the ice cream dangit… and of course there is none left).  So without further hesitation – here is the infamous chocolate cobbler. Hope you enjoy!

Chocolate  Cobbler

Chocolate Cobbler

6 tbsp butter
1 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar (for batter)
1 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder (for batter)
1/2 cup milk (if you don’t use whole, use part half and half to thicken up the milk)
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup sugar (for sprinkling)
1/4 cup cocoa powder (for sprinkling)
1 1/2 cup boiling water

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.) Melt butter in an 8″x8″ (or slightly larger) casserole dish while oven preheats.
3.) In a medium size bowl, stir flour, baking soda, salt, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 1/2 tbsp cocoa. Stir in milk and vanilla until smooth. In a separate bowl, stir together 1 cup sugar and 1/4 cup cocoa powder and set aside.
4.) Remove dish from oven and spoon batter over melted butter. Sprinkle the sugar/cocoa powder mixture on top of batter and butter. Pour boiling water on top.
5.) Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until batter in the center is fully cooked.

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Mini Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

I felt like baking today and the two brown bananas sitting on my counter prompted me to create these little gems. These cupcakes were another ode to the good ole peanut butter, banana and honey sandwich of my childhood. I opted for mini cupcakes, mainly because I saw some cute little mini cupcake cups at Publix (and bought them, of course). To be honest, I’ve never made mini cupcakes, and thought it would be fun to do something different. Turns out, these cupcakes work perfectly in the mini variety. I know this because I had extra batter (after making 48 little guys) and made 6 standard sized cupcakes. I tried them both, and I think it’s because the little ones provide the perfect ratio of cake to frosting (and you can eat them in one or two bites), that they actually tasted better. The frosting is reminiscent of Reese’s peanut butter cup filling (can you say amazing!) and the light banana flavored cake provides a nice contrast to that richness.  Brogan scarfed down 6 of these things, which I’m certain contributed to his extra-crazy demeanor all day. You’d think I’d know better, but nope, I just keep on baking.

Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

Mini Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

Banana Cupcakes
2 really ripe bananas
1 stick of butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup buttermilk

Peanut Butter Frosting
1 stick of butter, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter (I used all natural, unsweetened)
1/3 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla
1 box powdered sugar
3 tbsp half and half (or more to reach desired consistency)

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cupcake tins. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
2.) In an electric mixer, combine bananas and butter. Add sugar, vanilla, eggs and sour cream and beat until well combined.
3.) Set mixer to lowest setting and slowly add flour mixture and buttermilk. Do not over beat.
4.) Using a large table spoon, spoon the batter into the cupcake cups until they are about 2/3 – 3/4 full.
5.) Bake for 13 to 14 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Yields 60 mini cupcakes.

For the frosting…
1.) In an electric mixer, beat butter, peanut butter, honey and vanilla until well combined.
2.) Slowly add powdered sugar. Frosting will be very thick. Add the half and half to thin it out, using more if needed.
3.) Add to a pastry bag (or ziploc gallon size bag with the corner cut out) to pipe frosting on cooled cupcakes. Start by piping the frosting around the outer perimeter of the cupcake, working your way toward the middle.

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Chocolate Espresso Cake

Baking sweets is starting to be an every weekend occurrence.  Whereas I used to be immune to the smell of something sweet and chocolaty baking in the oven, the sweet tooth I gained with my last pregnancy is still with me. Bummer. I asked Brogan what he wanted to bake today and he said birthday cake. Well, it’s no one’s birthday, so we just made cake.

I modified a German Chocolate cake recipe I found in one of Blake’s chefy cookbooks by adding some instant coffee. I once watched an episode of Barefoot Contessa and Ina Garten swore by adding a little instant coffee to chocolate desserts because it would enhance the chocolate flavor. She was right. I took it a step further and added some coffee to the chocolate frosting too. I attempted to make just a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, but perhaps I added a little more instant coffee that Ina… and what I ended up with was definitely a chocolate espresso cake. I’m not complaining.

This cake is very light and moist. The coffee is more prominent in the frosting, but the whole thing is just perfect together. We topped it with shaved Hershey bar… just because.  I’ve not made many cakes from scratch, and this one was very easy to do well. This cake also allowed me to hone my icing skills – I finally got it! See below for what I did to properly ice this cake. Hope you enjoy!

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Chocolate Espresso Cake

1 cup sifted flour (or a tad less for “lazy” flour – that’s what I do)
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp instant coffee
1 1/2 sticks of butter, softened
1 1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
Chocolate Espresso Buttercream Frosting (recipe below)
Hershey’s milk chocolate bar (for garnish on top of cake)

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter and flour two cake pans.
2.) In a bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt and instant coffee. Set aside.
3.) Using an electric mixer, cream butter, sugars, and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Slowly add eggs with mixer on slowest setting.
4.) Alternate adding flour/cocoa mixture and buttermilk. Beat just until all ingredients are fully incorporated, but do not over-beat.
5.) Divide batter equally between the two cake pans. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Chocolate Espresso Buttercream Frosting

2 sticks butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp instant coffee
1 box powdered sugar (16 oz)
1 tbsp half and half

1.) Cream butter and vanilla with an electric mixer. Add cocoa powder and instant coffee. Slowly add powdered sugar and then add half and half. Beat until smooth.

To frost the cake…

1.) Place first layer of cake on a cake plate. Place a scoop of frosting on the cake and spread evenly. This one doesn’t have to be pretty.
2.) Place the second layer on top of the first. Make sure the side that was in the bottom of the cake plate is face up (it frosts easier). Start with icing the sides of the cake. Put a decent amount of icing on an offset spatula and rotate cake spreading frosting in a straight line around the cake. Apply more frosting about every 4 to 5 inches.
3.) Using the remaining frosting, place large spoonfuls around the top of the cake. Starting in the center of the cake, spread the in a circular motion toward the outside edges. Make sure the frosting stays thick, or else it will pull up the top of the cake.
4.) Using a large knife, shave Hershey’s bar by chopping it very thin. Then chop perpendicular to the first cut to achieve fine shavings. Sprinkle chocolate shaving on top of cake.

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Good ‘ole Chocolate Chip Cookies!

I get so excited when Brogan wants to cook with me, so the other evening when Brogan asked if we could make chocolate chip cookies, I said sure! So I changed dinner plans and made beanie weenies so that we’d have time to bake… it’s just fun to mix it up every once in a while!

I got brave with this recipe and decided to make it up on the fly. You see, I started really baking about a year ago, and I had always been curious about the science of baking and unconfident in my abilities to wing it like I can when I’m cooking. But a year’s worth of baking made me feel like I had a better understanding of what all the elements do, and so here you have my original chocolate chip cookies. They ended up being a nice mix of crunchy and chewy and we all enjoyed them. I took the leftovers to work and my co-workers approved too. I even had one co-worker tell me I should go sell my recipe to Publix LOL – now, I don’t think I’ll be doing that, but these are some darn good cookies. Hope you enjoy!

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 stick butter, softened
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups flour
1 cup mini chocolate chips

1.) Beat butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until fully incorporated.
2.) While mixer is set to low, add salt, baking powder and baking soda. Slowly add flour, 1/2 cup at a time. Mix until flour is completely blended in*. Add chocolate chips and mix just until they are equally distributed.
3.) Using a tablespoon, spoon rounded balls onto a baking stone, about 2-inches apart. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 14 to 17 minutes.**

Yields 3 dozen cookies.

*I know a lot of recipes have you mix the dry ingredients together first, but I didn’t and they turned out just fine! Save yourself a bowl!

**Using a Pampered Chef stone, it took mine the full 17 minutes to brown on top. If you’re using a metal cookie sheet, it will probably be closer to 14 minutes, so watch them closely.

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A little boy’s way to get cookies off the stone..

Super Easy Pie Crust (and Pumpkin Pie)

When I found this recipe for pie crust on Pinterest, it seemed too good to be true. You mean to tell me that I can make a pie crust with four ingredients, without rolling it out, in the pie plate?? Why yes. Yes you can. When I first read that this crust was made with oil instead of butter, I was slightly put off. I put butter in everything! But I figured I’d give it a shot. To my pleasant surprise, this crust was good and flakey.

To say I’m thrilled about this pie crust would be the understatement of the year. I stopped buying store-bought pie crusts a while back (except Immaculate Baking Company brand, when I can find it) because they are full of hydrogenated oils and preservatives. But most times I’m too lazy to go through the trouble of rolling out a crust. So what happens? I don’t make as much pie as I’d like. Well my friends, not any more! I’m going to be a pie making machine! This weekend I made two pumpkin pies and a buttermilk pie (just because I could).

Super Easy Pie Crust

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt

1.) Add all ingredients into a 9″ deep pie plate.
2.) Using your hands, mix ingredients together and form a dough ball. Place dough in center of the pie plate and use your fingers to press it out, starting from the center and moving out toward the edges.
3.) Use with any pie that calls for unbaked dough (pumpkin, apple, pecan, buttermilk, etc.)

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I switched pie plates on you (I made a couple pies and forgot to get this shot in my stone pie plate)

Recipe from Redhead Can Decorate

I use Libby’s famous pumpkin pie recipe (plus nutmeg) – simple but delish!

Pumpkin Pie

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 eggs
1 15-oz can pumpkin
1 12-oz can evaporated milk
Unbaked pie crust

1.) Mix sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves in a small bowl. Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in sugar/spice mix and pumpkin. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.
2.) Pour into pie shell.
3.) Bake for 15 minutes in a preheated 425 degree oven. Reduce heat to 350 and bake for 40 to 50 minutes longer, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool for 2 hours.

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