The Best Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

I pretty much always wish I had a reason to make a cake.  The more I think about it, it’s one of the reasons I love weddings, because I think wedding cakes are amazing.  Tonight I had a conversation with some ladies about wedding media.  Wedding sites, blogs, shows magazines are all geared at woman.  The wedding is portrayed as entirely about the woman, which to me seems a little unfair, given that the woman is only one half of the equation.

But in the conversation, one of the things I pointed out is that part of my fascination with wedding media is the aesthetic.  I think weddings are beautiful.  I think cakes are beautiful.  That’s probably why I love food blogs too, because I think the photography is pretty.

Most of the time when I see a beautiful cake my first thought is I want to make that, then second, I want to eat that.  For me, making cakes is fun.  I love making them look beautiful, but I also love making them taste good.

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Because really, isn’t a layer cake just one of the prettiest things out there?

While I always want to make cakes, there isn’t always an occasion to make a cake.  I originally made this cake for a birthday/going away party for friends.  But it was so popular and pretty that I wanted to make it again and photograph it.  

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.  I think it just means I appreciate aesthetics. So if you want to make a cake for a special ocassion or no reason at all other than to please yourself… please do! ChocolatePBCake3

And as a bonus, it’s amazingly delicious and the perfect 6-inch cake.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

For Cake (adapted from Hershey’s Chocolate Cake):

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup + 2 tbsp flour
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1/2 cup milk (I used almond milk)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup boiling water

For Filling:

2 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter
7 oz sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup whipping cream

For Frosting:

2 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 big pinch of cream of tartar*
1 pinch of salt

For Chocolate Ganache:

3 oz bitter sweet chocolate chips
1/4 heavy cream
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Make Cake.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease and line with parchment paper 2 (6-inch) cake pans, set aside.  In a stand mixer bowl, combine all dry ingredients.  Add eggs, oil, milk and vanilla.  Beat together.   Add boiling water and beat until combined.  Pour batter evenly between both 6-inch cake pans.  Bake 25-30 minutes (this might vary based on your oven so start checking for readiness after 20 minutes, especially if using a convection oven) or until cooked through (i.e. do the toothpick test: insert toothpick, once it comes out clean, it’s ready).

Allow to cool completely.

In the meantime, make the filling.  Beat together cream cheese, condensed milk and peanut butter.  In a separate bowl, whip heavy cream into firm peaks.  Fold whipped cream into peanut butter mixture, refrigerate until ready to use.

Next make your frosting.

Place a glass bowl over a sauce pan that has about 1 inch of water in it, make sure the water is not touching the bottom of the bowl (aka build a double boiler).  Add egg whites, sugar, vanilla extract, cream of tartar and salt.  Mix together.  Heat, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves and the egg whites are warm when you touch them.

Transfer egg white mixture to a stand mixer and attach whisk attachment.  Stir on low and turn up the speed every 15 seconds or so until it’s on high speed.  Beat 5-7 minutes or until glossy, stiff peaks form.

Now assemble the cake.  Level your layers and slice in half, so you have 4 layers (you’ll notice in my photo I only had 3 layers, you can accidentally drop one on the floor and have 3 layers as well… that’s allowed, but not advised).  Place your first layer on your cake circle or cake dish of choice. Lay some filling on top of the first layer and spread evenly, press on second layer, it’s ok if it overflows a bit.  Repeat until all layers are complete.

Next, frost with a generous layer of frosting.

Place in the fridge while you make your ganache.  Place chocolate chips in a bowl and set aside.  In a small sauce pan, heat heavy cream and vanilla stirring constantly until it comes to a light boil.  Pour cream over chocolate chips.  Let sit for a minute, then stir until smooth.  Pour over cake and smooth the top with an offset spatula.  Allow to cool completely, then slice and serve.

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I had hopes and dreams of making a beautiful vide to go along with this blog post, but I’m still working on perfect my video making skills… but in case you’re curious… here’s my first attempt:

 

Not the prettiest video, but I’ll take it for a first try!  We can’t expect to make gorgeous creations the first time around, and I’m cool with that.

 

So tell me, are you a fan of layer cakes, weddings and pretty things?  Are you overloaded with wedding stuff? Don’t even see it?  Is a cake just a cake for you?  

 

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Banana Cupcakes with Chocolate Hazelnut Buttercream Frosting

I’ve been a little bit out of control with my sugar intake this week.  But that’s totally ok.  Monday will start a new week and we’ll be good to go with some more clean eating.  But before that, let’s talk cupcakes.

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A few weeks ago, Nocciolata sent me some samples of their tasty chocolate hazelnut spread to try. It’s seriously amazing and is certified organic, which cool! I really like that this has actual recognizable ingredients in it. Now, you might remember that I loooooove chocolate hazelnut spread (aka I went crazy with Nutella when I lived in Rome and gained 15lbs, no joke) and my favorite combo by far is chocolate/hazelnut + banana.

So with these samples sitting in my house, I tested out a few recipes for chocolate hazelnut frosting.  I failed 3 times and finally went back to the basics: buttercream.  Buttercream is delicious and always pleasing.  And I knew that the frosting I created would go perfectly with banana cupcakes.  So that brings us to these guys:

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Lately, the world has gotten ridiculous on the cupcake frosting front (myself included), but sometimes you just want to have a cupcake that looks homemade.  You know, like spread with a knife.  No fancy piping bags necessary.

Something familiar, comforting and tasty (like chocolate hazelnut spread).  Let’s concentrate on flavor, not on looks, because that’s really what this spread is all about: Great Taste.

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Banana Cupcakes with Chocolate Hazelnut Buttercream Frosting

For Cupcakes:
1 cup + 1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp corn starch
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1/2 cup sugar, heaping
1 egg
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp whole milk
1/2 tsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla

Frosting:
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup chocolate hazelnut spread
3-4 cups powdered sugar

Make cupcakes.  Pre-heat oven to 350F.  In a bowl combine flour, corn starch, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.  Using a mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes).  Add egg and beat for another minute. Add mashed bananas and beat for another minute.  Add remaining wet ingredients then start to add dry ingredients.  Beat until combined.

Fill lined cupcake pan with 1/4 cup of batter each (or until each cupcake slot is about 3/4 the way full).  Bake 15-18 minutes or until golden and cooked through.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool completely. This recipe will yield about 13-14 cupcakes.

Next make the frosting.  Beat together butter and chocolate hazelnut spread.  Gradually add powered sugar until it gets a thick spreadable consistency.  If it’s too thick, thin out with a bit of milk.  Spread frosting on cupcakes.  Top with sprinkles if you like, then serve!  (P.S. You can totally add more Chocolate Hazelnut spread to this frosting have it be even more flavorful, you just might have to adjust the powdered sugar amount.  I would have added more but I ran out of samples with my many fails).

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I’m definitely a fan of the chocolate-hazelnut + banana combo!  What’s your favorite thing to combine with chocolate-hazelnut spread? 

Thanks to Nocciolata for the samples!  Be sure to check them out.

Fancy Pants Rice Crispy Squares

I got into a Facebook fight today, and I’m only mildly ashamed.

With whom? Another blogger.  She posted something about how the Ban Bossy campaign was ridiculous.

If you haven’t heard of Ban Bossy, it’s a campaign by Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In organization and the Girl Scouts.  The whole idea is to stop using the word ‘Bossy’ to describe an assertive girl.   An assertive little boy is a ‘leader,’ but an assertive little girl is ‘bossy,’ and this affects the way girls develop in leadership roles.  The campaign really aims at developing leadership among girls and young women.

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I don’t think this campaign is ridiculous.  I actually think it’s a great idea.

That said, sure, the choice of marketing for this campaign is a bit silly (I love Beyonce, but she sort of sucks in the video).  The word bossy is just dumb, but I recognize its power.  Because of that, I was bothered by this bloggers comment and the subsequent comments to her post.  Mostly, they were people saying that being called bossy is a good thing, or examples of when their little boys are bossier than their daughters and how the word doesn’t mean anything.  Sure, I get all that.  To an adult, being called bossy is fine, but when you’re little things are different.  By the time we’re grown ass women, we know we’re more awesome than what some jerk says.  But let’s not forget that words have power.

So, Facebook “fight” ensued.  I argued that words are important and empowering girls is essential.  She argued that the campaigns message was clouded by bad marketing.

The feminist in me took over (p.s. I hate that to so many the word feminist is negative).  But then I just let it go, because if there’s one thing I hate more than people putting down people’s efforts to empower women, it’s women hating on other women.  Can we get a little female solidarity?

Overall, I get it.  Criticizing is easier than making a positive change, and as I emphasized  in my comments: everyone is entitled to their own opinion.  If you hate the Ban Bossy campaign, that’s fine.  But can you give me another way that we can start empowering girls to be leaders?

Regardless of how you feel about the Ban Bossy campaign, I genuinely hope we can all agree that empowering girls to be leaders is a cause worth talking about.  If only our Facebook interactions could be dialogues instead of arguments, we’d all be a tiny bit better off.

But in the meantime, before society progresses to that point, when someone tells you what you support is ridiculous, it’s my belief that you should kill them with kindness… the marshmallowy kind.  So ladies keep your bossy pants on and make yourself some fancy pants rice crispy squares.

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Fancy Pants Rice Crispy Squares

1/4 cup butter
4 cups mini marshmallows
3 cups puffed rice cereal
2 cups puffed millet
2 cups puffed quinoa
3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1-2 tsp canola oil

Grease a 9×13 baking dish and set aside. In a large pot, met together butter and mini marshmallows.  Stir until well combined.  Add rice cereal, millet, quinoa and coconut.  Stir to combine.  Press mixture into 9×13 dish and allow to cool for an hour or two (you can put it in the fridge to speed up the process).  Once cooled, cut into squares using a large chef knife.

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Place chocolate chips in a bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds.  Stir and microwave another 30 seconds.  Repeat until chocolate is melted.  Stir in 1-2 tsp of oil or enough for the chocolate to be runny.  Drizzle chocolate over squares and allow to harden.  Once chocolate is firm, serve and enjoy!

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Why are they fancy pants?  Millet is fancy.  Quinoa is like the black diamond of grains.  Coconut makes everything a little more exotic.  Also because I said so.

What are your thoughts on #BanBossy?  Feel free to give your actual opinion (even if you disagree with me, that’s cool!).

Delicious Snickerdoodles

A few weeks ago, I realized I eat salads pretty much every day for lunch and for a minute that depressed me.  When you work in an office full of people who buy delicious smelling take-out everyday, eating a salad with some sort of protein, olive oil and lemon daily gets a bit depressing.  Really it’s all a question of comparison.

But then I remember all the reasons I eat salads: health, tastiness, cost-effectiveness and of course, vanity– salads keep me in shape.

But that got me thinking: if I were a “naturally thin” person would I eat out all the time? Would I still go to crossfit?

I posed this question to my friend and her response was “But you love salads! You ate them every single day in school.”

Umm yeah, no.  I’ve deluded myself (and led others) to believe that I love salad.  I like salads just fine, but I don’t love salad.  I love cookies. And pie.

But I make myself eat salad.  Because being an adult means doing things you don’t love in the name of health.  I don’t think that’s a bad thing.  So I eat a ton of vegetables and I go to crossfit.  I genuinely enjoy crossfit but I also genuinely enjoy my bed at 5:20am when my alarm goes off.

Vegetables and exercise are important.  But let’s also remember that women cannot live on vegetables alone (although I know many try).  Sometimes we just need a dang cookie.  So I have one for you today.

This isn’t my recipe, but it’s a recipe that is awesome so I have to share it with you. If you’re looking for an awesome snickerdoodle recipe, look no further.  I’ve got you covered.

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Delicious Snickerdoodles

adapted from All Recipes

1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup vegetable shortening, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

Pre-heat oven to 400F. Cream together butter, shortening and 3/4 cup sugar.  Beat until fluffy.   Add egg and vanilla and beat another minute.  Add flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt and beat until just combined.  

On a plate, combine 2 tbsp sugar with cinnamon.  Roll dough into walnut sized balls and roll into cinnamon/sugar mixture. Repeat until you get 24 dough balls delicioussnickerdoodles2

Lay dough balls on a parchment paper lined baking sheet a few inches apart.  Bake 8-10 minutes.  Remove from baking sheets and allow to cool.  Serve and enjoy!  This will make about 2 dozen cookies.

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Remember that vegetables are healthy eats are super important in life, but there’s also room for cookies.  So don’t forget to have one of those occasionally too.

What’s your favorite kind of cookie?  I recently discovered this Molasses cookie with Apricot Chunks from Blackmarket Bakery that I’m in looooove with. I must try to recreate it soon.

Lemon-Rosemary Cut Out Cookies

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I find holidays exhausting, and I can’t deal with the over-the-top decorations.  Pinterest is currently reeking of Valentine’s Day.  Everything is red and pink, dipped in chocolate and covered in bright sprinkles.  That’s fun, but sometimes it’s overwhelming.

For me, Valentine’s Day should be unique to you and your special someone.  This Valentine’s Day, skip the red velvet dark chocolate dipped strawberries covered in pink, red and white (<— not an actual thing), and give these a try.

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They’re different, interesting and tasty.  I don’t know about you but I love rosemary and lemon together. Perfect for Valentine’s Day, in my opinion.

And let me just go ahead and say… If you have a tea party, because every once in a while we need to relive our childhood and have full blown tea parties, I’m going to request that you make these cookies. lemonrosemarycookies1

Lemon-Rosemary Cut Out Cookies

adapted from AllRecipes

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable shortening, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or all purpose)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
white chocolate chip, sprinkles, royal icing, etc. for decorating

Beat together butter and shortening until fluffy, about a minute.  Add sugar and beat for another 2 minutes.  Add egg and beat another minute.  Add lemon zest and rosemary and beat for 1 minute.  Add flour, baking powder and salt.  Beat until combined.  Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (about 1-2 hours).

Pre-heat oven to 350F.  Roll out dough on a clean floured surface.  Cut to desired shapes. I used small hearts and medium sized hearts, to keep with the Valentine’s day theme, but you can use whatever shape you like.  Lay on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake 8-10 minutes or until lightly golden on edges.  The baking time will vary depending on the size of the cookie.  Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

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Once the cookies have cooled, you can serve them as is, or decorate them.  I chose to dip mine in white chocolate and cover them in white sparkling sprinkles.  If you do, just microwave some white chocolate chips, add a bit of oil to get it runnier, then dip and place on parchment paper to harden for a few hours.  Alternatively, you can get your royal icing skillz on and decorate that way.  I gave that a whirl too, but still not pleased with my decorating skills so no pictures of that. lemonrosemarycookies4

You might be thinking: Rosemary in a cookie? Are you nuts?  But it works.  I promise.  Go ahead, take a chance and make these for Valentine’s Day or a tea party.

How do you feel about putting herbs in your sweets?  I’m a big fan of raspberry and sage together!

 

P.S. Don’t forget to enter the Dark Chocolate Dreams Giveaway.  Head over to Facebook and enter by clicking the “Giveaway” tab on my page.

First Birthday Cake

Today is my nephew’s first birthday! I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since he was born.  The kid just keeps getting cuter.

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This past week I’ve been agonizing over the fact that I was going to make him a birthday cake.  I started feeling extremely guilty that I was going to make a 1 year old a mini birthday cake full of sugar and fat, because at this point he’s too little to actually know he wants it. Earlier this week, my guilt got the best of me and I decided I was going to make a (refined) sugar-free cake.

I tried out a recipe, and it was a flop.  The next day I discussed it with the baby-daddy (aka my brother-in-law) and he made a good point: It’s his birthday.  He’s NEVER eaten cake. He probably won’t again until his next birthday.  It’s ok for him to have cake on his birthday.

That’s when I decided to make a regular cake.  Despite the fact that I felt like I was killing his little insides and firing up a sugar addiction, the reality is, that’s probably not true.

Graham is getting this cake.

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It’s the Little Banana Cake with some whipped cream as filling and icing.  I made this a few months ago, but this time even littler.  I think it’s kinda cute and I can’t wait to see him dig into it.

What do you think? Should we give One-Year-Olds a regular cake or a lower sugar version?

P.S. Obviously I don’t have kids and am not an expert. I’m just a loving aunt who doesn’t want her nephew to develop a sugar addiction.  So feel free to comment regardless of whether or not you have kids.

P.P.S. HAPPY BIRTHDAY GRAHAM!

Molasses Cranberry Cookies

Christmas season is in full swing!  Normally, I’m not that into holidays. But I’m not sure what’s wrong with me this year, all I want is a living room with a Christmas tree.   If you remember back when I told you about where Foodologie happens, you’ll remember that I live in a studio that is teeny-tiny.  That means I have zero room for a Christmas tree.   So because I can’t be festive in my living space, I have to find other ways to make the most of the holiday season.

First, I bought a Christmas dress. A new dress for Christmas is a tradition in my family for as long as I can remember.     Anyone else do that?

I’m thoroughly excited about it.  I also bought myself another dress, because… well…

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Christmas present to myself?  (P.S. When will I get over sending my friends pics of outfits I’m thinking of buying?)

In addition to my Christmas dress, I’ve also been thoroughly excited about cookies.  So cookie making has been happening, starting with these:

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I don’t know about you, but I love chewy molasses cookies with lots of ginger.  They’re pretty much the best, as are these cookies.

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Molasses Cranberry Cookies

adapted from Blue Ribbon Cookies

1 stick of butter + 2 tbsp (10 tbsp total)1 cup sugar (plus extra for rolling)
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 1/4 cup flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp mace
1 cup dried cranberries

Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy.  Beat in molasses and egg until fluffy.  In a bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt and spices.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients.  Just before ingredients are combine, fold in cranberries.

Chill dough for a few hours.

Once you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350F.

Form dough into 1 inch balls and roll in granulated sugar.  Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Bake 8-10 minutes.  Allow to cool  and serve!  Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

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I took these to work, shared with friends and a boyfriend. They were gone pretty quickly.  I’ll definitely be including these in my Christmas Cookie Gift Tins.   I have a few other awesome cookie recipes coming up, because seriously… I’m obsessed with cookies right now.

What about you?  How are you preparing for Christmas?  Do you have a Christmas dress yet?