Saturday, October 23, 2010

What's Baking: Caramel Apple Cupcakes

So, I joined a baking challenge! It's called What's Baking?, and it's made up of bakers from the What's Cooking board on the Nest. October's theme was fall-themed cupcakes, which I thought was an excellent idea! I needed to bake cupcakes anyways for birthday celebrations at my dance studio, so I just needed to make sure they were fall-themed.

Now, what I'm about to say might not go over so well. I'm just warning you. As much as I like pumpkin, I kind of wanted a change from all the pumpkin treats I've been making. There, I said it. Growing up in Western NY, one of my favorite things about fall was going apple-picking, and I LOVE apples! I hadn't done any baking with apples this fall, so I thought apple cupcakes would fit the What's Baking theme well. And then I saw these. Caramel apple cupcakes. Yummmmm!

I must admit, I was skeptical about the cake portion, since they were a Rachel Ray recipe, and she is constantly joking about her inability to bake on 30 Minute Meals, but one of her testers must have developed these, because they were great! Light and fluffy, with great flavor! The cupcakes were a huge hit with kids and adults alike. I got 18 out of this recipe.

Caramel Apple Cupcakes (from Chi-Town Cooking Creations)


  • 2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 c. packed brown sugar
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 c. canola oil
  • 4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 apples, peeled and shredded (a tart variety, like Granny Apple, would be best)

Sift together the first 4 ingredients. In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, sugars, and vanilla extract, then whisk in the oil. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and stir until just combined. Stir in the shredded apples.

Using an ice cream scoop, fill greased muffin pans with the cupcake batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool.

Caramel Sauce

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 c. packed brown sugar
  • 14 Tbl. heavy cream
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the sugar, and cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar melts and begins to boil. Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients until smooth. Cool completely.

Caramel Buttercream

  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 1/3 c. caramel sauce (see recipe above)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbl. heavy cream
  • 2-4 c. powdered sugar
Cream the butter until smooth. Mix in the caramel sauce (hint: spray the measuring cup with cooking spray before measuring out the caramel so that it will come out easier). Mix in 1 c. powdered sugar. Mix in the vanilla extract and heavy cream. Add an additional 1 c. powdered sugar, or until the consistency is correct. I actually had to add some additional cream because my caramel was cold and the frosting was very stiff.

To assemble:

Using a paring knife, cut a plug about 1" in diameter out from the top of each cupcake. You want it to be about 1" deep, too, so that it doesn't go all the way through to the bottom of the cupcake. Use the remaining caramel sauce to fill each cavity. Frost with the caramel buttercream.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Pumpkin Cheesecake

So, last Sunday was supposed to be my wedding day. Yup, I was supposed to be one of those 10/10/10 brides. Then my (ex-) fiance decided he didn't want to marry me. Silly him. My wedding cake was supposed to be a pumpkin swirl cheesecake. I decided that not getting married was not a good enough reason to not eat cheesecake (did you follow that, with all the nots?). So, I made my own!

Two of my best friends came in from out-of-town to visit and to cheer me up that weekend, and one of them has Celiac's. I wanted to make sure she would be able to enjoy the dessert (and other foods!) I cooked up for our celebratory bbq, so I made the crust for this cheesecake with gluten-free gingersnaps. You could certainly leave off the crust altogether or substitute a different gluten-free crust if you can't find gluten-free gingersnaps. Or, if it isn't something you have to worry about, use real gingersnaps!

Also, may I just say, this recipe is extremely forgiving. I did not read the original recipe thoroughly before starting, so I missed the part when the crust is supposed to chill for an hour. And the part where you add the sour cream topping right after baking and before cooling, rather than after the cheesecake has set in the fridge overnight. No matter. It tasted fine, anyways. And I'm sure your texture will be much better than mine was, given that I mixed this up by hand since my stand mixer broke last weekend. *Sigh* As I said, it's very forgiving, since it still tasted fantastic!

I did try to get a picture of the whole, uncut cheesecake, but given the line of bottlecaps in the picture and the lack of focus, the drinking had proceeded too long to get a decent picture. The other picture was taken a few days later, while sober, and, as you saw, it's MUCH better!

Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake (Adapted from Apple A Day)


  • 3/4 c. crushed gingersnaps (gluten-free or normal)
  • 1/4 c. finely chopped pecans
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 4 Tbl. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 Tbl. bourbon (I subbed Jameson, since I was out of bourbon)

Pulse together crushed gingersnaps, pecans, butter, and bourbon (or Jameson) in a food processor until moistened and starting to come together. Press into the bottom of a 10" springform pan. Chill 1 hour (or don't, since I forgot this step). Bake the unfilled crust for 10 minutes at 350 degrees F.


  • 2 c. pumpkin puree
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2/3 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2/3 tsp. ginger
  • 2/3 tsp. salt
  • 2/3 c. brown sugar
  • 2/3 c. granulated sugar
  • 4 (8-oz) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 3 Tbl. heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 Tbl. cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 Tbl. bourbon (or Jameson)

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until creamy. Cream the granulated sugar with the cream cheese. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until thoroughly combined. In a separate bowl, mix the pumpkin puree with the spices and salt. Add this to the cream cheese mixture, and beat until thoroughly incorporated. Beat in the brown sugar, vanilla, and bourbon. Dissolve the cornstarch in the heavy cream, and beat this into the cream cheese mixture until the batter is smooth.

Pour the filling into the pre-baked crust. Wrap the springform pan in a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil and place in a water bath (or don't, since you're going to put a topping on it anyway that will hide any cracks). Bake for 65 minutes at 350 degrees F, or until center is just set. Without removing from the pan, let cool for 5 minutes.


  • 2 c. sour cream
  • 2 Tbl. granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbl. bourbon (or Jameson)

Mix all topping ingredients until thoroughly combined. Spread over the top of the (still hot) cheesecake. Return the cheesecake to the oven and bake for 5 more minutes at 350 degrees F. Or, if you neglect to read the directions and cool the cheesecake completely, top the cooled cheesecake with sour cream and bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes. Let the cheesecake cool in the oven for 2 hours. Once it is somewhat cooled, refrigerate until it's time to serve (at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight). Feel free to decorate it with whole pecans, if you have any on hand (I didn't).

Friday, October 15, 2010

Pumpkin Blondies

We're continuing the pumpkin obsession here. I have pumpkin blondies for you today, and I have one other post ready to go on a different pumpkin dessert. Plus, there's still one more 29-oz can of pumpkin sitting in my pantry. Think I'll have any trouble using it before the season is over? Nah, me neither.

The blondies my mom always made were very much like a bar cookie--dense and chewy, not cake-like at all. I'm coming to learn that perhaps other people may understand other things as blondies...the first indication of this was when my white chocolate blondies turned out cakey. Then, someone asked on What's Cooking the other day for pumpkin blondies that weren't cakey...and didn't get many helpful replies. Hmmmm. So I looked at the picture in my source recipe, and I was suspicious. The looked like they could go either way. After looking at my mom's blondie recipe, I decided to make a couple edits to the pumpkin blondies recipe to try to make them denser and less cakey. I was partially successful. This is what comes from playing around with baking chemistry without fully understanding it. These were definitely dense enough, but still had more of a cakey texture, rather than a chewy texture. I guess I'll just have to keep baking test batches until I get it right. Darn.

Pumpkin Blondies (Adapted from Annie's Eats)

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbl. pumpkin pie spice (or eyeball a mixture of cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg)
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 16 Tbl. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • Heaping 1/2 c. white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 c. pumpkin puree
  • 1 c. white chocolate chips
  • 1 c. butterscotch chips
  • 1/2 c. toasted chopped pecans

Sift together flour, spices, baking soda, and salt. In a medium bowl, mix together melted butter and sugars. Stir in egg and vanilla extract. Next, stir in the pumpkin puree until well-combined. Add the sifted dry ingredients, and stir just until combined. Finally, stir in the white chocolate, butterscotch chips, and pecans.

Pour the batter into a greased 9x13-in baking dish, and bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Outrageous Mile-High Reese's Cake

This should be on the website This Is Why You're Fat. It should also be on your plate. See, when my friend requested a Reese's cake for her birthday, I thought about the ones I'd seen other bloggers make--chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting. Good, sure, but not really very Reese's-like. I mean, the peanut butter-to-chocolate ratio is way off. I started thinking about how to remedy this. And then it hit me. Have you seen the Cheesecake Factory's Ultimate Red Velvet Cheesecake? It's layers of cheesecake alternating with layers of red velvet cake. Do you see where this is going, now?

A peanut butter cheesecake, sandwiched between layers of chocolate cake, all iced in peanut butter frosting, and topped with chocolate ganache. Oh yes. I went there. It has the right chocolate-to-peanut butter ratio, and it's chocolate outside, just like a Reese's. This, my friends, is the Outrageous Mile-High Reese's Cake, and it is not for the faint of heart. I apologize for the messy pictures, but it's hard to get food staged nicely at a party with lots of hungry people clamoring for cake! :)

Outrageous Mile-High Reese's Cake

Chocolate Cake (my grandmother's recipe)

  • 3/4 c. unsalted butter
  • 3 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
  • Heaping 2 c. sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 c. flour
  • 2/3 c. cocoa powder
  • Heaping 2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 c. milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 3/4 c. boiling water
  • Heaping 2 tsp. baking soda

Melt chocolate and butter together in a large bowl. Stir in sugar, then stir in eggs, one at a time, until well-combined. Meanwhile, sift together flour, cocoa powder, cream of tartar, and salt. Add sifted ingredients to chocolate mixture in two batches, alternating with the milk and vanilla. Stir until just combined. Add the baking soda to the boiling water OVER THE BOWL, pour the mixture into the batter, and stir it in.

Pour the batter into a greased 10-in. springform pan, and bake for 35-40 minutes at 350 degrees F, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool.

Peanut Butter Cheesecake (adapted from

  • 4 (8-oz) packages of cream cheese
  • 1 1/2 c. peanut butter
  • 1 1/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 3 Tbl. all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 5 Tbl. half-and-half

Beat cream cheese and peanut butter together until smooth and creamy. Beat in sugar, flour, and vanilla. Add eggs, and mix until thoroughly incorporated. Stir in half-and-half.

Pour the batter into a 10-in. springform pan, and bake at 375 degrees F for 40-50 minutes, or until edges are set but the very middle still jiggles slightly. Cool completely, then refrigerate until you're ready to assemble the cake.

Peanut Butter Frosting (from Ina Garten)

  • 2 c. powdered sugar
  • 2 c. peanut butter
  • 10 Tbl. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2/3 c. heavy cream

Cream together butter and peanut butter. Stir in vanilla extract and salt. Add powdered sugar and heavy cream, alternating between the two, and stir until smooth and creamy.

Chocolate Ganache (adapted from

  • 9 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • 1 Tbl. Kahlua
Heat the cream just until it bubbles. Pour over chocolate, and let it stand for 5 minutes. Stir until smooth. Add Kahlua, and stir until incorporated. Let cool until thickened but still pourable.

To assemble:

Level out the chocolate cake, and slice it horizontally into two equal layers. Place one layer on a 10-in. cake round. Spread the top of the layer with a thin layer of the peanut butter frosting. Top with the cheesecake. Frost the top of the cheesecake with a thin layer of the peanut butter frosting. Top with the second layer of chocolate cake. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the peanut butter frosting. The nice part is that the frosting doesn't have to be perfect, since it will get covered in chocolate ganache! Transfer the cake to a cooling rack placed over a jellyroll pan lined with waxed paper. Pour chocolate ganache over the top of the cake, until it spills over onto the sides. Spread it evenly over the sides of the cake so that the whole thing is covered in ganache. You can save any ganache that drips onto the waxed paper and reuse it. If desired, decorate the cake with Reese's cups. Refrigerate until serving.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

It's October! And that means I can legitimately start making pumpkin desserts--yay!!! See, I love anything pumpkin. Actually, I love most things associated with October and the fall. It might have something to do with the fact that my birthday is on Halloween, and my parents used to always call me their little pumpkin. But that's just a guess. In any case, I plan on making probably one pumpkin dessert a week during October, so we'll all get our fill of pumpkin goodies. And it all starts with these pumpkin whoopie pies. They were an excellent way to kick off the month! I brought them to Movie Night at my dance studio, and they were a huge hit! People couldn't stop raving about them! So, do yourself a favor, and make these next time you'd like a pumpkin treat!

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies (adapted from Martha Stewart)

  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 Tbl. ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tbl. ground ginger
  • Scant 1 Tbl. ground cloves
  • 2 c. packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. vegetable oil
  • 3 1/2 c. pumpkin puree
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract, divided
  • 3 c. powdered sugar
  • 1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened

Sift together the first seven ingredients, flour through cloves. Don't be scared of the large quantities of spices. These have the perfect amount of spice to them--seriously. In a large bowl, mix together the oil and brown sugar. Stir in pumpkin puree. Stir in eggs and 1 tsp. vanilla until thoroughly combined. Add sifted dry ingredients, and stir just until combined.

Using a medium cookie scoop (1 1/2 Tbl. capacity), scoop dough out onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Leave an inch or so between cookies. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool.

In a medium bowl, beat butter until creamy. Add cream cheese and 1 tsp. vanilla, and beat until combined and smooth. Add powdered sugar, and beat until combined and creamy. Pipe the frosting onto the flat side of half of the cookies, then top each with an unfrosted cookie, forming a sandwich. Devour.

Note: Martha's recipe says it makes 12. I wasn't sure 12 would be enough, so I debated doubling it. I'm really glad I didn't, because I got 22 good-sized whoopie pies out of the recipe!