Tag Archive: dessert


Well, fall finally showed up in Kansas City and with it, all the excitement about pumpkin. And while I’m not a pumpkin fan, I adore the warm spices that are associated with pumpkin – cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves!

One of the pumpkin-obsessed people in my life is a co-worker with an October birthday. Shortly after I discovered he loves pumpkin, I told him I’d make him a pumpkin cheesecake. I don’t care for it, but I hear it’s killer and he believed me. 😉  So October rolled around and as promised, this appeared at the office. Fortunately, it lived up to my bragging and he was happy. He kindly shared it with the team, then took the rest home for himself.

Pumpkin CheesecakeMy biggest tip: Be sure to wrap your pan in foil. I did, but because I don’t follow my own directions (big surprise, huh?) I used too much butter and my pan leaked. A lot. Up and over the foil, onto the bottom of the oven. Burned butter isn’t the best smell, but even worse is the sound of all the smoke detectors on our main floor going off. My son had to take the dogs outside because the noise was piercing!

If you love pumpkin pie – or pumpkin anything, really – and cheesecake, you have to give this a try. I’m told you’ll love it!

If you need a good cheesecake book, I highly recommend The Joy of Cheesecake by Dana Bovbjerg & Jeremy Iggers. It was my go-to cheesecake book when I was baking at the restaurants and it’s still my go-to cheesecake book.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Slightly adapted from The Joy of Cheesecake (Bovbjerg & Iggers)

Stuff you need:

Crust

1 ½ cups graham crackers or gingersnap crumbs

4-5 Tablespoons butter, melted [4 Tbs if you’re using gingersnaps, 5 if using graham crackers]

¼ cup granulated sugar

Cheesecake

2 ½ pounds cream cheese

1 cup granulated sugar

4 whole large eggs, lightly beaten

3 egg yolks, lightly beaten [in addition to the 4 whole eggs]

3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon cardamom [optional]

1 cup heavy cream

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

1 can (16 oz) mashed pumpkin [not pumpkin pie mix]

Topping

2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup

½ cup toasted chopped pecans

 

Now what?

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Prepare a 10” springform pan by setting it on a large piece of foil and wrapping the foil up the sides. [If your cheesecake leaks like mine did, it’ll help keep your oven clean. Or not as messy.]

For the crust:

Mix all ingredients and press into bottom of 10” springform pan. Press crumb mixture to even thickness. Set aside.

For the cheesecake:

In large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth.

Add the eggs and mix, then add the egg yolks and mix just until combined.

Add the flour and spices.

Using a low setting, beat in the cream and vanilla then add the mashed pumpkin. Beat at medium speed until just mixed thoroughly. Your bowl will be full and the batter will be fairly thin.

Pour the mixture into the prepared crust and bake for 15 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 275 degrees and bake for an additional hour. The cheesecake should be mostly set but a little jiggly in the center.

Turn off the heat. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and run a wet knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake. Return the cheesecake to the oven for a couple hours to cool.

Before serving, warm the maple syrup and brush on the cheesecake. Drop the nuts into the syrup.

Serve the cheesecake warm or chilled, with whipped cream – just like you would pumpkin pie!

 

When I was younger, Mom used to take us into downtown Chicago to shop. We’d take the commuter train down and walk over to State Street, where all the big department stores had their flagship stores. We’d spend the day in the beautiful, multi-storied buildings window shopping and enjoying the experience. At Christmastime we’d go downtown and look at all the store windows, which were fixed up with elaborate Christmas season displays. The sidewalks were filled with people crowding in to see the windows. It was a wonderful tradition that I’ll never forget!

Deerfield Bakery's Pecan Pie

Happy Birthday, Jackie!

Mom and I still go downtown when we get a chance. Most of the big stores are no longer on State Street, which is a shame, but we still enjoy it.  Lunch was always a part of our trips downtown, and that’s still the case. I remember eating many, many times in the Walnut Room at Marshall Field & Co. Even though it’s now called Macy’s, The Walnut Room is still there, and the current menu includes some of the traditional favorites we enjoyed years ago!

I have two vivid memories of food downtown. One was the Field’s Special from The Walnut Room — iceberg lettuce, sliced turkey, Swiss cheese, smoked bacon, tomato and egg served open-faced on rye with thousand island dressing. Nothing special, but it was my favorite and I still order it!

The other is the Pecan Pie from Flo’s. I don’t remember much of the place except that it was more of a diner, noisy and crowded at lunchtime. I don’t even remember what we’d order for lunch, except that knowing me, it was probably a grilled cheese. That was my go-to meal when I was young.

But what I remember the most about Flo’s was the pecan pie. Oh, was it good!! It was served heated up, and the filling was warm and gooey and just to die for! I’ve never been much of a pie person because I don’t like regular pie crust, but Flo’s pecan pie was a wedge of heaven!!!

Pecan Pie from Deerfield's BakeryYears later, my favorite pie is still pecan pie – partly from nostalgia, and partly because it’s just that good. I recently had the opportunity to make a pie for a birthday celebration at work. I’ll admit I cheated and used a refrigerated pie crust. I’d like to perfect a scratch-made pie crust, but that will have to happen when a) I have more time; and b) I don’t need it for a special event.

When the pie was baked, I thought it looked a bit darker than the pecan pies I’ve made in the past. It took me a minute to realize the recipe I used was a little different from any I’ve used before because it includes brown sugar and honey instead of white sugar. It was wonderful! I may try it again and use maple syrup instead of honey. Maple and pecans are great complements, so that should be good in the pie.

I did use more pecans than the original recipe. The recipe calls for 1/2 cup of pecan halves but I didn’t think that was enough! I used somewhere between 1 and 1 1/2 cups. If you don’t want a ton of pecans, start with the 1/2 cup and see if that looks like enough for you. If you’re like me and LOVE pecans, load ’em up!

If the crust starts to brown too much while you’re baking, use foil and loosely cover the pie. Either foil or those crust protectors you can purchase will do the trick.

All the comments I received on the pie were positive, so I know I’ll make this one again!

Pecan Pie

Adapted from the Deerfield’s Bakery recipe published in Killer Pies

Stuff you need:

3 Tablespoons honey

1/3 cup corn syrup

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

10 tablespoons packed brown sugar [I used light brown sugar.]

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 unbaked 9 inch pie shell

1 to 1 1/2 cups pecan halves

Now what?

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a saucepan, mix honey, corn syrup, butter and brown sugar and heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring constantly.

Once the butter and sugar dissolve, remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool to lukewarm. [If you add the eggs to the hot mixture, the eggs will scramble and ruin the pie.]

While the mixture is cooling, line the uncooked pie shell with the pecan halves. They’ll rise to the top while the pie is baking.

Beat the eggs and vanilla together and stir into the cooled sugar mixture.

Gently pour the mixture over the pecans. [They won’t all stay in place, so don’t worry if some float and move around.]

Bake for 1 hour, then allow the pie to cool before serving.

Honey Bun Cake

Honey Bun Cake“What did you bring me?” That’s my son-in-law’s usual greeting for me. The last couple of times I saw him I didn’t have anything for him. My daughter’s no slouch in the kitchen but I like baking for him, so this time I sacrificed my beauty sleep and dragged myself out of bed early Saturday morning to bake for him. Seriously – this is a sacrifice. I love my sleep.

If you like glazed donuts or those commercially baked honey buns, you’ll like this. I made these for my friend’s birthday one year. Actually, I made 2 pans to take to work for her birthday – one with nuts and one without. She immediately took a pan to her car so she didn’t have to share!

Chunky Monkey

Chunky Monkey. Cute, isn’t he?

You’ll be pleased with how simple this cake is to put together. The hardest part is putting on the topping – and doing it right. 😀  As many times as I’ve made this, for some reason this time I mixed all the topping ingredients together. It made a cinnamon mud and that just didn’t look right, so I went back and read the instructions. Good idea, huh? I had forgotten it was just a matter of drizzling and sprinkling the topping ingredients and then swirling them with a knife.

My only excuse for making it harder than it had to be was that the oven was fired up long before my brain was!

I’m not a donut fan but I really like this cake. It’s good warm, and it’s good after it cools. It holds well due to the sour cream and oil that are added. This also travels well, and would be great for a picnic or BBQ. Enjoy!

Honey Bun Cake

from The Cake Mix Doctor by Anne Byrn

Stuff you need:

Cake:
1 (18 ounce) package plain yellow cake mix
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup canola oil
4 large eggs

Filling:
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 – 2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon [I use 2 Tablespoons. We like cinnamon!!]
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans (optional)

Glaze:
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted [Or be lazy like me and just stir well.]
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Now what?

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly spray a 9×13″ baking pan with vegetable oil spray.
Place cake mix, sour cream, oil and eggs in large mixing bowl.
Blend with electric mixture on low speed for 1 minute. Stop machine and scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula.
Increase mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping sides as needed. The batter should look thick and well blended.
Pour batter into prepared pan, smoothing it out with the rubber spatula.

Time for the filling!
Drizzle the honey on top of the batter.
Next sprinkle on the brown sugar, cinnamon and pecans.
Using a butter knife, swril through the batter to slightly blend the topping with the batter.
Bake for 38-40 minutes, or until cake is golden brown and springs back when lightly pressed with your finger.
Remove from oven and place on wire rack while you prepare the glaze.

For the glaze, place the confectioners’ sugar, milk and vanilla in small mixing bowl and whisk or stir until smooth.
Pour the glaze over the top of the hot cake in the pan, spreading it to the sides with a spoon.
Allow the cake to cool for 20 minutes more, and then serve warm.

Carrots are good for your eyesight. Walnuts are good for your heart. Pineapple has anti-inflammatory properties.

Banzai Carrot Cake

Banzai!

Translation: If you eat this carrot cake, you’re doing good things for your body! It’s health food!

If that doesn’t convince you and you need another reason to try this cake, I’ve got a very convincing one. Cream Cheese Frosting.

Sensei Phil didn’t have anything particular in mind for his Banzai Birthday treats. Knowing he’s not a chocolate person, I suggested one of my favorite cakes – Carrot Cake! I thought our karate group would enjoy it. The consensus was the cake is good and the frosting is Banzai-worthy!

Carrot CakeThis is a delicious AND nutritious cake, and you should try it. There are a couple things you should know:

  • I bought already-shredded carrots in the produce section. I’m too lazy to shred them myself.
  • You can use pecans instead of walnuts, or eliminate the nuts if there is a nut allergy. Personally, I’d add the nuts if you don’t have to leave them out.
  • This is a great way to sneak fruit and vegetables into your family’s bodies. The ingredient list can be your secret!  😉
  • The frosting amount shown is 1 1/2 times the original recipe. What can I say? I like cream cheese frosting. If I hadn’t used it all on the cake, I would have eaten it right off the spoon. You can make 2/3 of the frosting if you want – it’ll give enough for the cakes. But why would you do that? The frosting is why we eat carrot cake, right?

Make this. Eat it. Feel healthier because you ate stuff that’s good for you. Then have another piece. Carrot cake is health food, and the cream cheese frosting is just plain awesome!

Carrot Cake

Slightly adapted from Food.com

Stuff you need:

CAKE
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 3/4 cups white sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups shredded carrots
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained

FROSTING (See TIP 2 for a lighter frosting.)
12 ounces cream cheese, softened — the blocks, not the whipped stuff
6 Tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 cups icing [powdered] sugar

Optional for decoration: 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 2 Tablespoons chopped walnuts

Now what?

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour two 9″ round cake pans or one 9×13 inch pan.
Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon; make a well in the center and add sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla. Mix with wooden spoon until smooth.
Stir in carrots, coconut, walnuts and pineapple.
Pour into pan and bake for about 25-30 minutes for the rounds or 45 minutes for a 9×13. The cake will bake up fairly dark, and the centers will sink a little.
While the cakes are cooling, make the frosting.
Cream the butter and cream cheese until smooth; add the vanilla then the icing sugar and beat until creamy.

To frost: If using the round cakes, no need to frost the sides. Plop half the frosting on one cake and spread. You’ll have a nice, thick layer of icing. It’s OK if a little goes over the edges. Place the second layer on top and frost with the remaining frosting.
Sprinkle with a little cinnamon and add a few chopped walnuts for decoration, if desired.

TIP: If you’re transporting the layered cake, put a dab of frosting on the plate before you put the first cake layer on it. It’ll act like a glue to hold the cake layer in place.
TIP 2: If you are one of the few people who don’t care for the thick cream cheese frosting, there’s a lighter version that’s also delish. Beat 8 ounces softened cream cheese. Beat in 1 jar (7 oz.) of marshmallow fluff. Frost your cake then lick the spoon and bowl clean!

Blondies!

My favorite baked desserts, aside from kick-ass cheesecakes, are the bar cookies. I think it’s because they’re easier to make than cookies, and versatile enough that you can customize them to your own tastes.Blondies

I was craving cookies but didn’t want to watch several pans of cookies closely enough that I didn’t burn them. I thought about brownies but didn’t have the right chocolate to make them from scratch. I saw this recipe and thought it would do the trick – quench my cookie craving while catering to my laziness today.

You don’t need a mixer for these; they’re mixed in a saucepan and poured into the baking pan. My Craggy-Topped Fudge Brownies use the same method, and it’s an easy one.

The base to these have a slight butterscotch flavor due to the butter and brown sugar base. I topped them with semi-sweet chocolate chips and chopped pecans. If you want a less-sweet bar, consider using bittersweet chocolate chips (but don’t go overboard!) and/or walnuts instead of pecans.

These are really easy to make and the recipe can be halved if you don’t want to eat them all yourself.  😉  They’ll travel well and would be great in lunches or to take to a pot luck.

Blondies

Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

(Recipe can be halved; bake in 8×8 pan.)

Stuff you need:
2/3 cup butter
2 cups packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Now what?
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13x9x2-inch baking pan; set aside.
In a medium saucepan heat and stir butter and brown sugar over medium heat until smooth. Cool slightly. [I cooled mine about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The eggs will “cook” when they’re added if you don’t cool the mixture a little.]
Stir in eggs, one at a time.
Stir in vanilla.
Stir in flour, baking powder, and baking soda.

Spread batter evenly in the prepared pan.
Sprinkle with chocolate chips and nuts. Press down slightly.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool slightly in pan on a wire rack. Cut into bars while warm.

No-Bake Peanut Butter Rice Krispies CookiesI love Saucepan Peanut Butter Cookies! They’re one of my all-time favorite cookies, and I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of them. I’d often wondered how they would be if rice krispies were substituted for the corn flakes, so of course I had to try this recipe.

These bars contain brown sugar and vanilla extract, which the corn flake cookies don’t, but the flavor is very similar. They’re a little harder to smoosh into the pan than they would be to drop as a cookie. Be sure to work quickly once you stir in the vanilla and rice krispies so they don’t set up before you get them in the pan.

I liked these and probably would have eaten the entire pan before the day was out — but I didn’t. Instead, I sent a good chunk of them to school with The Pretty One. See? Occasionally I can be a responsible adult!

No-Bake Peanut Butter Rice Krispies Cookies

from Mad Hungry, by Lucinda Scala Quinn

Stuff you need:

1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups salted peanut butter [Regular peanut butter, creamy or chunky – your preference]
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 cups Rice Krispies

Now what?

Line a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with wax paper or baking parchment.
Place the corn syrup and sugars in a large saucepan over medium heat and stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Remove from the heat.

Stir in the peanut butter and mix well to combine.
Quickly stir in the vanilla and Rice Krispies.
Working quickly, spread into the lined baking pan.
Cool and slice into squares.

Fresh Apple Cake

Fresh Apple CakeHow about a quick and easy apple cake? The most time-consuming part about this is chopping up the apples. If you’re lazy like me, don’t bother to peel them. Just wash them well, and start chopping!

I used Granny Smith apples because that’s what I had in the house. Use your favorite kind, or a mixture of sweet with tart. I didn’t chop the apples too much because I like to have pieces in my cake. However, if you don’t like biting into apple chunks, dice them finer.Fresh Apple Cake!

The batter will be very thick. That’s fine – just make sure you’ve got the dry ingredients mixed evenly with the wet ingredients before smooshing the batter into the pan.

Make a 9 x 13 pan or split the batter into two 9×9 cake pans and keep one for yourself, and share the other with friends.

Fresh Apple Cake

Adapted from Midwest Living

Stuff you need:
3 cups flour [I used 1/2 whole wheat and 1/2 all-purpose flour.]
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sale
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/4 cups canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 medium Granny Smith apples, washed and chopped [Peel if that’s your preference – or you’re not as lazy as I am.]
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
Powdered sugar for dusting

Now what?

Grease a 13x9x2-inch baking pan or 2 9×9-inch baking pans; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon; make a well in center of dry mixture and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine eggs, oil and vanilla; stir in apples and nuts.

Add egg mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moistened (batter will be stiff). Smoosh batter into prepared pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool in pan on a wire rack for at least 1 hour. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. If you like, dust with powdered sugar or top each serving with sweetened whipped cream and an apple slice.

Banzai to Alex! We celebrated Alex’s birthday with these cinnamony Snickerdoodle Bars.

Banzai Birthday: Snickerdoodle Bars

Alex showing respect for Sensei (me!) who made his Banzai Birthday Treats! 😉

They have the flavors of a snickerdoodle cookie without all the effort and patience required to roll the dough into balls and then dip them in cinnamon sugar. (Have I ever mentioned I’m not the most patient person?) Once the bars are baked a simple sugar glaze tops them off.

This is one of the few recipes where I could just eat the batter off a spoon! I don’t say that often because I don’t like batter or raw dough, but there’s just something about these that I find irresistible! If you’re a cinnamon and vanilla fan, you need to try these! Click for recipe.

I found this recipe at Grin and Bake It awhile back and made a pan for The Pretty One to take back to school. He had to take them – – if I had kept them for myself, I would have eaten them all within a day! The Pretty One is a veteran snickerdoodle taster and raved about these, so I knew they were good. I even forgot to put on the glaze and neither of us missed it!

When I asked Alex what he wanted for treats, he told me he prefers vanilla over chocolate “if it comes to a cake-like creation” but didn’t specify anything other than that. Since these were so good the first time, I thought they’d be something the Karate Club would enjoy.

Snickerdoodle BarsThere’s not much to this recipe, and maybe that’s the key to it. The vanilla batter layered with the cinnamon sugar filling really work together for an enjoyable treat.

The most wonderful aroma will fill your kitchen when you bake these!

 

 

Snickerdoodle Bars

From Grin and Bake It

 

Stuff you need:

2 1/3 cups flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

Cinnamon-sugar filling:

1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Now what?
Heat oven to 350. Spray or grease the bottom only of a 9×13-inch pan with cooking spray.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

Combine sugar and cinnamon for cinnamon-sugar filling in a small bowl and set aside.

With an electric mixer, beat butter on high speed until creamy. Beat in sugars.

Gradually beat in eggs and vanilla until combined. Add dry ingredients and beat on low speed until combined. [Batter will be very thick and sticky.]

Spoon half the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar filling evenly over batter. Dollop teaspoons of remaining batter evenly over cinnamon-sugar filling. [You won’t be able to spread it!] Gaps are okay. The filling can peek through.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

In a small bowl, stir glaze ingredients until smooth and thin enough to drizzle. Drizzle over bars.