Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Cherpumple...errr...Chersweetby?

Brownie here!  It's been a very busy few months for me so most of my baking went unphotographed, but next week is the boyfriend's 26th birthday and after I had told him of the existence of the
His favorite color is green
, he told me he would request one every year until I made him one.  Now, I live by myself, and consuming the remainder of 3 pies and 3 cakes sounded like an insane feat, so I sought to make a mini version of the cherpumple, something a few people could manageably eat.

For those of you who don't know, the cherpumple is a monstrous creation, 3 layers of pie (cherry, pumpkin, and apple, respectively)-stuffed-in-cake.  These things are ginormous.  I decided to use a birthday gift from the boyfriend's sister, this cute tiered cake pan, and make a smaller version.  Normally I do from-scratch baking, but a paper deadline and the enormity of this task required a few compromises...

To make my version, you'll need:

1 4-inch cherry pie (I bought mine from the freezer section because I only had so many tiny pie tins)

Clockwise from left--sweet potato, Kentucky Derby, and cherry
Ingredients for Joe Pastry's Pumpkin Pie, subbing sweet potato for the pumpkin puree, subbing evaporate milk for both the milk and the cream, and scaling it up by 25% if you want to make a spare pumpkin pie, or making only 1/4 of the recipe if you just want the mini ones.

Ingredients for Joe Pastry's Kentucky Derby Pie (I ended up using 1.5 pie crusts for this because using smaller containers contains less volume per crust amount)

1 box yellow/vanilla cake mix, plus the eggs/oil/water it calls for
Spices of your choice (I used 1 Tbl cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg, and 1/2 tsp cloves)
Chocolate pudding mix/cocoa-sugar blend (to turn vanilla cake into chocolate; pure cocoa just gets too bitter).

1.5 cups butter, softened
~3 cups powdered sugar
1.5 tsp salt
2/3 cup dark spiced rum

Two days ahead, make the pumpkin pies.  I used something like these mini ramekins that I bought at an estate sale ages ago.  They're a bit deep-dish but that works out well for the cake pan.  Obviously in the small pans they bake a lot faster--mine were done in 10-15 minutes.  Put cooled pies in the freezer.  Eat the big one if you made it--it's a great recipe.

One day ahead, make the Kentucky Derby pies.  I baked these in tartlet pans (I bought mine on Amazon from Fox Run; you want to use ones without a false bottom unless you're really confident in your pie crust since syrup pies can leak) and again shortened the baking time.  Freeze the cooled pies.

Leave some space for them to rise!
The day of, make the cake mix according to the package directions, and divide it into 3 bowls, but not evenly--one bowl should have about 1/5 of the batter (this will be chocolate), and the remaining two will split what's left, with a little extra going to the plain flavor (the medium amount is for the spice cake).

Add the spices of your choice to the spice one, and the chocolate putting mix or cocoa-sugar blend to the chocolate (to taste), and prep your pan by cutting out solid circles for the bottom tier and rings for the upper 2 tiers. You could also spray and flour the pan thoroughly.

Cut the frozen cherry pie into 4 wedges (no more than 1 inch in diameter). Drop a wedge inside each cavity, and top with the chocolate batter. Repeat with the pumpkin and the spice batter, and then finally top with the Kentucky Derby pie and yellow batter (careful not to overfill).  Conveniently, the chocolate batter will be the thickest, so you shouldn't have much trouble with things blending together--my layers were quite distinct.

The glory shot
Bake according to the package directions, and test by springiness rather than a toothpick so you don't misinterpret pie goo as raw batter.  Let cool thoroughly and then invert for 1 hour or so, hoping that the cakes fall out. They might break into the 3 layers but that just gives you more opportunity for frosting.  Refrigerate (or if you want to do a crumb coat, freeze) until ready to frost.

To make the frosting, reduce 1/2 cup of rum in a pan by half, while blending the softened butter with 1/2 cup of the sugar. Alternate the reduced rum and remaining sugar, and then whip in the un-reduced rum (replacing the milk in a normal buttercream). Try to get the buttercream as airy as possible (using whisk attachment) since the cake is so rich.

Frost the cakes (I did a crumb coat and then froze again), then slice carefully and wow all your friends!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What's Baking?: Creamsicle Bundt Cake

I'm alive!  I haven't forgotten about the blog, I swear!  I had a REALLY busy spell at work, so I had to take a break, but I am (hopefully) back in action now!  And, I happen to be just in time for another What's Baking? challenge!

This month, Ange from The Tiny Tyrant's Kitchen challenged us to bake our favorite cocktail.  Um, yum!  This was right up my alley.  And, I knew right away what I wanted to make.  The Fiancé and I have been big fans of the flavored vodkas ever since they came our, but hands-down, our favorite one is whipped cream vodka.  We can go through a liter of that stuff embarrassingly quickly!  He loves to mix it with coke (tastes like vanilla coke) or strawberry soda, while my favorite mixers are root beer (mmmmm, root beer float) or orange soda (hello, creamsicle).  And when I saw this cherry lime cream cheese bread, I knew I could adapt the recipe to highlight the whipped cream vodka and orange flavors.  I ended up using orange juice in this recipe, so it's a much more natural orange flavor, but you could certainly use orange soda to get more of the creamsicle flavor.  This cake was a big hit, and The Fiancé enjoyed taking slices of it to work for breakfast!  I hope you like it as much as we did!

Creamsicle Bundt Cake (heavily adapted from My Baking Heart)

Cheesecake layer
  • 16 oz cream cheese (reduced fat is fine), softened
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbl. flour
  • 1/4 c. whipped cream vodka

Cream together the cream cheese and sugar until smooth.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time.  Next, beat in the flour.  Finally, mix in the whipped cream vodka.  Set aside.

Cake layer
  • 1 c. butter, softened
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • Zest of 2 oranges
  • 3 c. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2/3 c. orange juice (or orange soda)

Cream together the butter and sugar until smooth.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time.  Beat in the vanilla extract and the orange zest.  In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.  Stir about half of this into the butter mixture, until just combined.  Mix in the orange juice.  Finally, beat in the remaining flour mixture until just combined.

Pour about half of the cake batter into a greased bundt pan.  Top with the cheesecake batter.  Cover with remaining cake batter, and carefully smooth the cake batter over the top so that none of the cheesecake batter is showing.  Bake at 350*F for ~70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Cool completely, and remove cake from bundt pan.

  • 3 c. powdered sugar 
  • 2 Tbl. melted butter
  • 3-4 Tbl. whipped cream vodka

Stir melted butter and about 2 Tbl. of whipped cream vodka into the powdered sugar.  Continue to add the whipped cream vodka, a little bit at a time, until glaze reaches a thick but pourable consistency.  Pour over top of the cooled cake.

Monday, April 22, 2013

War Cake

For our All In challenge this month, in honor of tax day, we were supposed to make something budget-friendly.  Budget-friendly isn't usually my strong suit, so I was brainstorming ideas with the Fiancé, and he suggested war cake.  I hadn't heard of it before, but Wikipedia tells me "Depression cake is a type of cake that was commonly made during the Great Depression. The ingredients include little or no milk, sugar, butter or eggs, because they were then either expensive or hard to get. Similar cakes are known as "War Cake," as they avoided ingredients that were scarce or were being conserved for the use of soldiers."  Sounds like it should fit the budget-friendly bill!

We used the Fiancé's mother's recipe, and sure enough, there was no milk or eggs in the recipe, but it did include shortening and sugar.  Thankfully, sugar is cheap these days and isn't being rationed, so that's not an issue.  As for the shortening, well, I apparently wasn't entirely "with it" while baking and completely forgot to add the shortening.  The cake turned out alright--a bit chewier than I'm used to and probably a bit drier than it would have been with the shortening, but still tasty.  So, feel free to leave it out, if you want, but I'd bet money that it's better with shortening.

We chose to frost the cake with cream cheese frosting because I love cream cheese frosting and any excuse to make/eat it, but you could just dust it with powdered sugar to keep things a little more budget-friendly.  The spices are also adaptable to what you have on hand, so you don't have to go out and buy spices--you could easily leave out the cloves, or substitute both the cloves and the cinnamon with 2 tsp. of pumpkin pie spice or apple pie spice, or substitute some allspice, nutmeg, and/or ground ginger for one or both of the spices.  The rest of the ingredients are all relatively cheap, too, and this is a very simple cake to make, so it's a good one to keep in your back pocket for the next time you need an easy dessert.  As a bonus, it's vegan if you use vegetable shortening and skip the cream cheese frosting!  I hope you enjoy this cake as much as we did!

War Cake (recipe from Shirley)

  • 2 c. sugar
  • 2 c. water (if you're not trying to be so budget-friendly, sub 1/2 c. of the water with some spiced rum--yum!)
  • 1 lb raisins
  • 1/2 c. shortening
  • 3 c. flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. cloves
  • 1 tsp. salt

Combine the sugar, water, raisins, and shortening in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil, and boil for 3-5 minutes.  Remove from heat, and let the mixture cool a bit.

Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt in a big bowl.  Add the cooled raisin mixture to the flour mixture, and stir until just combined.  Pour into a greased 9x13" cake pan.  Bake at 350*F for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Due to all the sugar in this cake, the cake will get VERY dark--don't let the color throw you!  It's not burning, I promise!  It's supposed to look like that.  Dust the cake with powdered sugar, OR frost with cream cheese frosting (recipe below).

Cream Cheese Frosting (adapted from my mom's recipe)

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened (full-fat, please!)
  • 1/2 c. butter, softened
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 c. powdered sugar

Cream together the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy.  Beat in the vanilla.  Whip in the powdered sugar until no lumps remain and frosting is fluffy.  Spread on cake, and fight over who gets to lick the bowl.  ;)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Irish Car Bomb Cheesecake Brownies

My company has been going through some layoffs and instituting some new cost-cutting measures recently.  Part of it is that our monthly meeting is no longer catered.  Bummer!  But, I'm looking at the silver lining--I've been making goodies to bring to the meeting each month!  My thought is that it's my insurance against getting laid off--if my name comes up, there will be outcry at the thought of no longer having sweet treats at our meetings!  :)

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, I wanted to make some boozy Irish Car Bomb cheesecake-swirled brownies!  I took a Guinness brownie recipe and added my own Bailey's cheesecake swirl--yum!  The Fiancé declared them the best brownies that he has ever had, and that's saying something!  They're REALLY fudge-y (bordering more on flourless chocolate cake than brownie), not super sweet (the Guinness adds a nice bitterness, and the salt balances out the sugar), and overall quite delicious!  So, if you're still celebrating St. Patrick's Day (I'm Irish, so I reserve the right to celebrate all week!), go ahead and make a pan of these brownies to cap off your dinner!

Irish Car Bomb Cheesecake Brownies (brownie base adapted from Bon Appetit, cheesecake swirl is a Blondie original)

  • 1 bottle Guinness (or another stout)
  • 12 oz semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 c. butter
  • 1 3/4 c. sugar, divided
  • 5 eggs, divided
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. flour
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 2 Tbl. Bailey's (or other Irish Cream)

Boil the Guinness uncovered over medium heat until it is reduced to about 1/3-1/2 c., stirring occasionally.  This might take a while!  Remove from heat and let cool partially.

Melt the chocolate chips and butter in the microwave (try 30-second increments, stirring after each one).  Once smooth, beat in 1 1/2 c. sugar.  One at a time, beat in 4 of the eggs.  Mix in the vanilla extract and the salt--yes, it seems like a lot of salt, but it's the perfect amount, trust me!  Finally, mix in the flour until just combined.  Pour the mixture into a greased 9x13" pan.

Meanwhile, cream the cream cheese with remaining 1/4 c. sugar.  Beat in the remaining egg.  Mix in the Bailey's until thoroughly combined.  Dollop spoonfuls of the cheesecake batter over the top of the brownie batter--there's no science to this, and it does not have to be precise!  Run a butter knife through the mixture to swirl the two batters together--careful not to overdo it, or you will lose the marbled effect!  Bake for about 40-50 minutes at 350* F, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean (or mostly clean, if you like your brownies slightly underbaked).

Friday, March 1, 2013

What's Baking February Round-Up

As I mentioned in my last post, I was lucky enough to host What's Baking this month!  Everyone did a great job making their own convenience products from scratch!  I was really impressed with the variety of entries!  Take a moment to click through and check out everyone's hard work!

Jen from Beantown Baker made her own cran-raspberry preserves to fill a delicious-looking layer cake with white chocolate frosting.  I'll take a slice of that, please!

Coleen of the Redhead Baker tackled homemade mascarpone cheese!  What a great item to make from scratch, since it's so expensive in the store!  She suggests using it in tiramisu, cheesecake, or to fill profiteroles or cannoli!

Amanda from Our Italian Kitchen showed us how to get the best of both worlds by making your own cake mix from scratch!  Imagine that, the convenience of boxed cake mix, but without all the unpronounceable ingredients!  She used the mix to replicate her wedding cake for her anniversary.

Catherine from Pursuing Domestic Goddess-ness decided to take a more savory route and decided to try to replicate a certain famous store's Swedish Meatballs!  She put her own twist on them by tossing them in a chipotle apple sauce instead of the more common cream sauce.  Yummy!

Carrie of Carrie's Sweet Life tackled one of my personal favorite convenience products--pie crust!  She used it to make ham and cheddar quiches (sounds like a great breakfast to me!), but the recipe is versatile and would work in any pie recipe, too!

Jaida of Sweet Beginnings isn't usually a breakfast person but says her homemade English muffins just might change that!  Who knew that cooking them on a griddle pan is the secret to making this convenience product at home?

Eva from Eva Bakes had 2 pounds of local Virginia peanuts (hi, neighbor!) that she needed to use up, so she decided to make her own homemade peanut butter!  While she's not a peanut butter fan, her husband loved it and really enjoyed getting to adjust it to be as sweet or as salty as he wanted!

Lastly, I made some fresh ricotta that I then used in a ricotta cheesecake--delicious!

Next month's host is Jen from Beantown Baker, and her theme is Sprinkles!  Be sure to check out her blog at the end of March to see what these creative ladies come up with!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

What's Baking: Fresh Ricotta Cheesecake

I was the host of What's Baking? this month, and in the past, a few people have mentioned that they wished the themes were a little more challenging, so I wanted to step it up a bit!  I challenged everyone to either bake a convenience product or to make a convenience product and then bake something with it!

I tossed around a lot of different ideas--homemade graham crackers, homemade pie crust (yes, I usually buy it!), homemade lemon curd, and many others!  But I finally decided on homemade fresh ricotta cheese.  I was pleased with the result--it was a bit lemony, and the curds were bigger than I'm used to for ricotta, but it was quite tasty!  The yield was not great, unfortunately, but I got enough for my purposes!  It's not something I'll do every day, for sure, but it wasn't difficult at all.

I used my ricotta to make a fresh ricotta cheesecake.  It turned out really yummy!  It reminded me a lot of an Italian pastry that my dad used to make every year for Easter, called pastia (I have no idea on the spelling!).  The pastia is made with farmer's cheese or basket cheese, rather than ricotta, and has rice in it, but the texture and the cinnamon/orange flavors were very similar to this cheesecake!  It's one of my favorite Italian desserts, so that was a good thing!

Fresh Ricotta (from Serious Eats)

6 c. milk (I used skim, but whole would be tastier!)
6 Tbl. lemon juice or white vinegar (vinegar will give a more neutral flavor)
3/4 tsp. salt

Stir all the ingredients together in a large, clear, microwave-safe container.  Microwave on high for 6-10 minutes, stirring gently a couple times throughout, until the mixture starts to bubble around the edges and/or reaches 165* F.  Stir for 5 seconds, until the curds separate out from the whey.  Spoon the curds into a colander that has been lines with cheesecloth or paper towels.  Let drain while you make the crust for the cheesecake (or until it reaches a consistency that you like).

Ricotta Cheesecake with Shortbread Crust (crust from Joy of Baking, cheesecake adapted from

1/3 c. plus 1 1/2 Tbl. all-purpose flour, divided
4 Tbl. powdered sugar, divided
3 Tbl. cold butter
1 c. (about 10 oz.) fresh or store-bought ricotta
2 eggs
2 Tbl. honey (use something good like orange flower or wildflower honey)
Zest of half an orange
Dash cinnamon
Dash salt
1/4-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the crust, cut the butter into 1/3 c. flour and 2 Tbl. of the powdered sugar until pea-sized (you can also do this in a food processor).  Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 5" spring-form pan or other pan with high sides.  Bake at 400*F for 10 minutes, or until edges start to lightly brown.

Meanwhile, stir together the ricotta and eggs.  If you prefer a smoother texture, use a blender or food processor to mix them.  Stir in remaining 1 1/2 Tbl. flour, remaining 2 Tbl. powdered sugar, honey, zest, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla extract until combined.  Pour the mixture into the pan with the crust, and bake at 325* F for 30-40 minutes, or until the center is just firm.  Enjoy!

Monday, January 28, 2013

What's Baking: Healthier Raspberry Crisp

Catherine from Pursuing Domestic Godess-ness, our hostess for What's Baking? this month, chose the theme of baking healthier.  How timely!  By this time of the month, the novelty of New Year's resolutions is starting to wear off, so this is a great way to indulge yourself but still stay on track!  Plus, you can get some great ideas for a lighter Valentine's Day dessert, as that's coming up soon--romantic dinners need not leave you in a food coma!  Better to have something a little lighter to leave you feeling better for after-dinner cuddling and smooching!  ;)

Fruit crisps are one of my favorite desserts, especially when I'm trying to make something a little healthier.  First off, they are insanely simple to whip up, especially if you use frozen berries, like I do here.  Also, fruit is healthy!  And if you use a nice sweet fruit, you don't need to use much in the way of sugar, although I add some honey here, since raspberries are pretty tart.  I always add oats to the crisp topping, so you get some protein and fiber from the whole grain.  In this recipe, since I cut down the amount of butter in the crisp topping, it won't end up being quite as crunchy, but you add some nuts instead to make up for it--these add more protein, too!  All in all, this is a pretty healthy you don't have to feel guilty about putting a scoop of ice cream on top.  Or eating it for breakfast.  Or both.  ;)

Raspberry Crisp (a Blondie original)

  • 4 c. raspberries (or any other fruit)
  • 1 Tbl. lemon juice
  • 1 Tbl. flour (only if your fruit is frozen or SUPER juicy!)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 Tbl. honey (use less if you're using a sweeter fruit, like blueberries)
  • 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. oats
  • 1/3 c. raw sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 c. cold butter, diced
  • 1/2 c. chopped pecans (almonds or walnuts would also work)

Toss the first 5 ingredients (fruit through honey) together until everything is well-distributed.  Pour the mixture into a greased 9x9" baking dish.

In a food processor, pulse the remaining ingredients (flours through butter) until the butter is in pea-sized pieces and is well distributed.  Mix the nuts into the topping mixture.  Sprinkle the topping over the fruit, distributing it evenly.  Bake at 375* F for 35-50 minutes (the longer time is if your fruit is frozen), or until the top is lightly brown, and the filling is hot and bubbling.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Compost Cookies

The ladies at my workplace always do a cookie and craft exchange every year around the holidays.  I always do my best for the craft part, but I'll be honest--it's not really my strong suit.  Last year, I attempted to crochet a rug out of t-shirt scraps...and it turned out shaped more like a table runner--too narrow to be a rug!  But, being the procrastinator that I am, I had waited until the last possible second to make it, so I had no time to re-do it.  This year, I got the brilliant idea to crochet a set of placemats from raffia, since many of the ladies wanted something that was more practical.  Again, I waited until the last minute, only to find out that raffia is a real pain to work with, and at about 8:45 pm on the night before the exchange, I realized that I had no hope of finishing the placemats in time (in fact, I only had about 2 rows of the first one done after working on it for 2 hours!).  After frantically checking my local craft store's hours, I gunned it to get there before they closed at 9 pm, picked up some chunky yarn, went home, got my biggest crochet hook, and cranked out a simple scarf in no time flat.  Thankfully, the recipient loved it.  Phew!

The cookie part of the exchange comes much more naturally to me!  I have a reputation for being a good cook and baker around the office, though, so I always do my best to bring my A game and to make sure I bake something slightly out of the norm.  This year, I included the molasses ginger cookies that I blogged previously (the darker cookie in the picture) along with these not-so-little gems.  These cookies are an addictive combination of salty and sweet, which is always a good thing!  And they're HUGE!  They're also very flexible--they're called compost cookies because you can use whatever mix-ins you have lying around the house!  You can use this recipe to finish up all those half-empty bags of baking ingredients and snack foods that clutter up your pantry (unless that's just me?).  I've included some ideas for mix-ins below, but the only limit is your imagination!  You'll want the mix-ins to be small enough that you can get a few per cookie, but big enough to get a contrast in texture between the different ones!  Do yourself a favor, though, and make these cookies!

Salty: potato chips, pretzels, salted roasted nuts, crackers, popcorn, cooked and crumbled bacon
Sweet: semi-sweet, milk, dark, or white chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, peanut butter chips, graham crackers, cereal, toffee bits, cookies, candy, coconut
Neutral: oatmeal, unsalted nuts

Compost Cookies (adapted from Christina Tosi, as seen on The Amateur Gourmet)

  • 1 c. butter
  • 1 c. white sugar
  • 3/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1 egg plus 1 yolk
  • 1 Tbl. corn syrup
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 c. all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. salt (yes, this seems like a lot, but it's right!)
  • 2 c. salty mix-ins (I used potato chips and pretzels)
  • 2 c. sweet mix-ins (I used mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, milk chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, and crushed graham crackers)

Thoroughly cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg and yolk, corn syrup, and vanilla until thoroughly combined.  Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and then stir the sifted ingredients into the wet ingredients until mostly mixed.  Very gently, fold in the mix-ins.

Using a 4-oz (1/4 c.) ice cream scoop, scoop the dough out onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper.  Refrigerate at least 4 hours, preferably overnight, or freeze.  To bake, make sure the dough balls are spaced at least 4 in. away from each other on parchment paper-lined baking sheets--these cookies spread!   Bake at 350* F for 15-18 minutes, or until edges are set.  Let cool on the baking sheet, and then taste test your new favorite cookie!

*Note: if you're not using mix-ins that will absorb a fair amount of moisture (oatmeal, graham cracker crumbs, pretzel crumbs), you may need to add an additional 1/4 c. of flour to the dough.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Molasses Ginger Cookies

So, I mentioned a few posts ago that the Boyfriend had graduated to Fiancé status!  Just in time for our two year anniversary, I'm finally getting around to telling the whole story...and what a story it is!  Several months ago, Fiancé mentioned that a coworker of his had reservations at the Palladio, one of the nicest restaurants in town at one of our favorite wineries--I was pretty jealous!  It has always been on my bucket list to go there.  Fast forward a few months...we had been planning on having a weekend to ourselves, and Fiancé had promised to take me out to a nice dinner as a belated birthday celebration that weekend.  Well, a few days before our weekend, I came down with a terrible case of tonsillitis!  And that's when Fiancé told me that his coworker couldn't use his reservations at the Palladio and had offered them to us, so we had a reservation for the next day for my birthday dinner!  I promptly cleaned out every sore throat remedy at the drug store and spent the whole rest of the day hemming and hawing over whether I felt up to going out.  I finally decided that I thought I could swallow a few bites, so we headed out.

When we got there, they couldn't find our reservation (part of the plan, apparently) and had us sit and wait for a few minutes before they said they had figured out a place to put us.  We were informed that they had found a table, and we started to head back when the hostess asked Fiancé if he had a jacket, since jackets are required for the men, but he wasn't wearing one (again, part of the plan)!  He said "um....yeah, but it's at my house and would take me an hour to go get!"  He then asked if they had anything he could use, and the hostess said she would check.  She brought out a jacket for him, and I made a joke about it fitting him better than his (30 year old, second-hand) jacket.  They seated us at a table with place settings for 3 and assured us that they would get the extra place setting cleared right away.  Fiancé and I chatted a bit, and then he said, "There's something in the pocket of this jacket!"  I figured someone had forgotten a cigar case or something in there, but he pulled out a small box and got down on one knee!

But it gets better! After I had said yes, he said that we needed to call my best friend (who lives in New York) to tell her.  So, we did.  Except, I was hearing an echo or hearing her voice twice.  Then, she stepped out from around the corner!!!  She had driven down to surprise me and be part of it!  Apparently Fiancé had bought the jacket in secret and had my best friend deliver it (containing the ring box) to the restaurant when she arrived, shortly before we arrived.  She had also been taking pictures during the proposal--I was peripherally aware that someone was taking pictures but was so excited and so focued on the Fiancé that I didn't even see that it was her!

It was an amazing evening that got off to an amazing start!  And the food was just as spectacular!  We sampled rabbit, lobster croquettes, goat cheese croquettes, beef tongue, white bolognese, butternut squash ravioli, gorgonzola gnocchi, savory pumpkin bread pudding, flank steak, pork cheeks, and more during the amuse-bouche, appetizer, pasta, and entree courses.  For dessert, we enjoyed our orders of cranberry cake with cinnamon ice cream, tiramisu, and peppermint mocha lava cake.  And to make the evening even more special, the waitstaff brought over a plate of chocolate-dipped fruit with mini chocolate chip cookies and molasses cookies with "Congratulations" written in chocolate on the plate.  It's the little touches that really make it special.  And given that molasses cookies are favorites of both of ours, we really appreciated it!

And, so you guys can share in this excitement with me, I would like to share an awesome molasses cookie recipe!  I made these ones full-sized, rather than mini bite-sized ones, but feel free to make them whatever size your heart desires.  Just adjust the baking time!  ;)  My roommate's boyfriend declared these cookies to be the pinnacle of perfection, so don't be skeptical of the black pepper!  The molasses cookie is in front, and the cookies behind it are Compost Cookies (to be published next week!).

Molasses Ginger Cookies (adapted from Bon Appetit)

  • 1 c. unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 c. packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. blackstrap molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 c. all purpose flour.
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 c. minced crystallized ginger
  • Raw sugar
Cream together the butter and sugar.  Beat in molasses, egg, and vanilla extract until smooth.  Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.  Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ones until mostly combined.  Add in the crystallized ginger and stir until combined.

Scoop dough out by tablespoonful, and form into a ball.  Roll the ball in raw sugar, and place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.  Bake at 350* F for 10-12 minutes or until edges are set and cookie appears crackled.  Share with those you love.