Archives for category: Dessert

Behold: a baking concoction I didn’t mess up from start to finish. I made these for the Super Bowl Sunday party Matthew and I attended oh, you know, a month ago. I’m a food blogger slacker, but at least I’m getting this recipe up now. And it’s not as though my memory of these cupcakes has diminished with time. Nope, these are too delicious for that.

The original recipe calls for using real cream cheese in the center of the cupcakes but since we’re a lactose intolerant(ish) household, I used Tofutti Cream Cheese for the middle section. It tasted great! I’m sure regular cream cheese would have tasted even better but my brain never once told me to stop shoving these cupcakes in my mouth.

And actually, my favorite part of this cupcake would have to be the cake part. It was so moist, with the exact amount of chocolate in it. It wasn’t heavy or dense, but fluffy and perfectly sweet without giving me a sugar headache. Yum! Loved it. In fact, I think this will be my go-to chocolate cupcake recipe from now on. Mmm, want some. Right now.

Anyway, I made only minor changes to the recipe I found online, which was to omit the chocolate chips in my cream cheese batter and use Tofutti Cream Cheese instead of regular. Regular works fine, of course.

Black Bottom Cupcakes
slightly adapted from Baking Bites
makes 24 cupcakes

Cream Cheese Filling:
16 oz. cream cheese (or Tofutti), room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
2 large egg whites, room temperature
2 Tbsp sour cream, room temperature

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup sour cream
1 1/3 cup water
1/2 cup butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place paper cupcake liners in two 12-cup muffin tins. In medium bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar and salt. Beat until smooth, then beat in egg whites and sour cream. Set aside.

In large bowl, mix together flour, cocoa powder, sugar, salt and baking soda. Make a well in the center and add sour cream, water, melted butter and vanilla extract. Stir until just combined, with no remaining bits of flour.

Pour cake batter evenly among the 24 lined muffin tins. Top each with one tablespoon of cream cheese mixture (some may be left over).

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the cake portion of each cupcake comes out clean. If using two racks, rotate pans halfway through baking to ensure even cooking. Remove and place on wire racks until completely cooled. Sink your teeth in and enjoy chocolaty, creamy bliss.

*Note: I find that these are very, very good straight out of the refrigerator once they have cooled all the way!




Isn’t it appropriate for traditions to begin as a newly-married couple? I didn’t set out for that to happen, but after sinking my teeth into this fragrant, yeasty pastry, I decided right then that stollen would become mine and Matthew’s Christmas tradition. Stollen is a popular Christmas bread in Europe, where rum-soaked dried cherries and raisins combine with lemon zest, cardamom seeds and almond paste to form a sweet-scented bread. My family’s dinner tradition (hopefully to be posted soon) is something I look forward to every year — Cornish game hens in a brandied shiitake mushroom sauce with pancetta wild rice. Yum? But now — NOW, my friends — I have an amazing dessert to look forward to as well (and some hilarious memories).

I made this one with my mom, who came up with my stepdad to visit us for our first Christmas. We had a blast as we muddled our way through the recipe for the first time, giggling and cracking jokes every now and then. Who knew cardamom seeds looked so funny once they pop out from their pods? And who knew how far those little pellets can fly? We had our own rendition of “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!” with the “precious” pellets.  I’m laughing just remembering it.

And, as with EVERY dessert I make, this one came with the inevitable mistakes. I really can’t say what happens to me when I make desserts, but it seems as if I’m handicapped against making them the way they were meant to be made. I must have handicapped my mom, too. Refrigerate dough overnight? Oops! Cool dough before putting browned butter on top? Cool again before sprinkling powdered sugar?? Heh…heh.. oops, oops and oh well! Improvise!

So we did, multiple times — and no one was the wiser when we all dived in and enjoyed the first slice of a new tradition.

*Note: The final, baked product freezes well. Also, try to go the extra mile and find cardamom pods for this recipe instead of ground cardamom. The pods can often be found in bulk bins, allowing you to pick out only as many as you need.

slightly adapted from Relish Magazine

8 cardamom pods
1 cup soy milk (or 2% reduced-fat milk), scalded
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 cup dried cherries
3 tbsp dark rum or orange juice
2 (.25-ounce) packages active dry yeast
¼ cup warm water
1/3 cup sugar, divided
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
½ cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into 8 pieces
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon rind
2 eggs
½ cup slivered almonds, toasted
5 ounces almond paste

½ cup butter
powdered sugar

Put cardamom pods in bowl and add hot milk. Let stand for 10 minutes. In separate bowl, combine dried cherries and raisins and add the rum. Let stand. Combine yeast, warm water and 1 tsp sugar in another bowl and set aside until mixture foams (roughly 10 minutes).

Remove cardamom pods from milk and squeeze each softened pod open until black seeds come out. Scrape seeds into milk. Discard the pods. In large bowl, stir yeast into milk mixture. Add 1 cup flour and beat well. Cover mixture (called “sponge”) with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes.

Place 2 cups flour and butter in food processor (or use pastry cutter) and pulse until combined. Add salt and remaining sugar and pulse a bit more. Drain fruits, reserving liquid. When sponge is ready, add to flour/butter mixture. Add lemon zest, eggs and soaking liquid from fruits. Stir until thoroughly mixed. Now, add fruit, toasted almonds and remaining 1/2 cup flour and mix. Scrape dough into large, oiled bowl and set aside. At this point you can refrigerate the dough overnight or, as I did, let rise for four or five hours.

After dough has risen, punch down and divide in half. On heavily floured surface, gently pull dough into large, oval shape (each of mine were a bit bigger than a sheet of paper). Divide almond paste in half and dot half of oval, the long way, with pieces of almond paste. Fold other half of dough over almond paste and gently close seams. Repeat with second piece of dough.

Transfer to silpat or parchment paper and let rise until dough is puffy or nearly doubled in size (roughly one hour). Preheat oven to 350 and bake for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer to wire rack to cool. Before end of baking time, begin browning butter. Put 1/2 cup butter in saucepan over medium heat; when butter melts, lower heat and cook until browned (roughly 8 minutes). Once dough has cooled a bit on racks, pour browned butter over top of loaves. After butter has soaked in a bit, generously sift powdered sugar over top.

Let cool (roughly 10-20 minutes, depending on self-control) and cut into thin slices and serve warm, making sure to lick your fruity, buttery and sugary fingertips afterward.

Growing up, Christmas never seemed complete without Finnish Christmas stars (and Grandma’s sweet trail mix, but that’s for another post). These pastries are best when they come straight out of the oven, barely cool enough to consume. The warm, gooey center is a perfect match for the flaky, crackling puff pastry. A shower of powdered sugar tops everything off, creating a delicate and picturesque star for nibbling daintily.

Uhhh, right. I believe in eating these with abandon, devouring them so fast that plumes of powdered sugar and puffy pastry go every whichaway.

“Is that how a princess eats her Christmas cookies?” Matthew asked me after I had let the first batch cool for all of two seconds.

I nodded enthusiastically in response, my mouth too full of the buttery, sweet pastry to actually say anything.

“Well, you’ve got some in your hair there…”

That made me laugh, which made more of a mess, but that’s how good these things are! And can you guess what is actually in the center? PRUNES. Prune-lovers (me!) rejoice and prune-haters fear not because these pastries taste delicious. Try it. And they’re a snap to make. Want to see?

Cut your thawed pastry sheet into nine squares, then make one-inch cuts from the corner to the center.

Begin by folding the edge towards the center. Start with filling already in the center or place it on top after folding.

Keep folding….

Once more…


Mmmm… ready for the oven.

Years ago, my mom took a Finnish cooking class when my siblings and I were growing up and these pastries were the one recipe my mom wrote down and remembered. The woman instructing the class was a Finnish opera star (how cool!) who somehow ended up in suburban Georgia. My grandmother remembers her mother making Finnish Christmas stars, but with pie dough instead of puff pastry. Feel free to go with either, but we enjoy the puff pastry variety the most. If you manage to have leftovers (surprisingly, we also did — how Matthew managed to get me away from the rest of the batch is beyond my recollection), let the pastries cool down before placing them in a ziploc baggie. They’ll keep for a few days, and just pop one in the microwave for 10-15 seconds to warm up the center. Recipe is easily doubled or tripled.

Finnish Christmas Stars
makes 18 stars

1 box puff pastry, thawed
25 pitted prunes
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
dash nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. To make filling, combine prunes with water, sugar and spices and in medium-sized pot, then simmer over medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and mash prunes with fork or small masher. Click here to see consistency.

While mixture is heating, open up thawed pastry sheets and cut each sheet into nine squares (18 squares total). Make cuts from each corner of square, halfway to the middle. Create pinwheels by taking each corner of pastry and pressing it in the middle, repeating with each corner until a pinwheel forms. Place dollop of prune mixture on top of pinwheel (this makes for a prettier star). Alternatively, place dollop of mixture in middle of square and create pinwheel over filling.

Put stars on cookie sheets (will probably take two sheets) and put in oven for 15 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown. Cool on cookie rack and top with powdered sugar. Place in the hands of Christmas cookie-eating monsters and watch stars disappear instantly!

I didn’t originally set out to make (what I have now dubbed) bread pudding when I had the desire for something pumpkin-y and sweet. This dessert bread was definitely a surprise when Matthew and I sliced into it, and my expression fell when I pulled out the first piece. What was intended to be apple pumpkin bread turned into a soft, warm, gooey bread pudding. My expression changed after my first bite as I realized the surprise was a yummy one.

It’s unanticipated endings like these that generally keep me away from making desserts and breads (though I do make a mean olive artisan bread that I will share with you eventually). My track record just isn’t the best, but all in all this recipe ended well and was delicious each time we reheated it. The only thing that would make this dish even better would be to serve it à la mode with a dollop of whipped cream on top. As it stands, this bread pudding is comforting, delicious and healthy to boot.

As for modifications to this recipe, feel free to substitute all-purpose flour for white whole wheat flour. Changing anything else is up to you. I tweaked this recipe so much from the original that I can’t be positive it will come out this way every time, though I did take notes to everything I changed/added.

Pumpkin Apple Bread Pudding
Inspired by Bumbles and Light

2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
1/3 cup applesauce
3 tbsp honey
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs, beaten
2-3 tbsp milk or soymilk
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 apple, grated (roughly 1 cup)
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup chopped apple
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts
cinnamon and raw sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350F and grease a 9-inch loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.

In another bowl, combine applesauce, honey, melted butter, vanilla extract, eggs, milk and pumpkin puree. Mix the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients, then add grated apple, raisins, chopped apple and half of the chopped nuts. Fold together until mixed well.

Pour batter into pan and top with cinnamon/raw sugar mixture and the rest of the chopped nuts. Bake for roughly an hour or until a toothpick comes out (relatively) clean. It is bread pudding, after all. Cool on wire rack for 15 minutes and enjoy!