Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Ultimate Banana Muffins

So, here I was the other day- on my day off!, feeling nearly on my death bed with yet another sinus/throat/ear infection within two weeks when despite my inability to stand on my feet, I somehow managed the strength to get up and bake muffins... Yeah, I know, I am crazy, but there was so much lying around I could do in one day and I had simply reached my limit. Plus, I just couldn't sit still, knowing that there was a whole bunch of perfectly ripe bananas waiting- just pleading- to be baked into delicious muffins.I  just had to save those babies! And what a save that was! Glorious transformation, if you will. Another save from my favorite blogging mom of five, Mel over at Mel's kitchen cafe. I adapted a recipe for sour cream banana bread I found on her blog that produced the moistest, most delicious banana muffins I have ever baked in my life. Ever. I was smitten. I baked one batch- adding flax seed, walnuts and cinnamon to her recipe. The muffins were pretty much gone within an hour. And no, I wasn't the only one eating them (although I have to admit I did have 3-4 of the minis myself,  averting eyes bashfully... :)) So, as I had more babies, uhm, bananas to save, I decided to quickly whip up another batch- they are so easy! At this point any memory of ear/nose/throat infections is completely gone, all I can think of is my glorious banana muffins and reveling in the success of my latest baking adventure. The healing power of baking! Second batch was part plain, part with mini chocolate chips (I used bittersweet Ghirardeli chocolate). I had no more sour cream, so I substituted with plain yogurt- major hit! I couldn't tell the difference between the two batches- both in taste and texture. My family and co-workers were all in raptures over these muffins. I am super-mom in my kids' eyes now. :) Boy, am I looking forward to more ripe bananas!

Ultimate Banana Muffins
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 ripe bananas)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, or plain yogurt, or Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 1 tbsp flaxseed meal (optional)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional but highly recommended :)
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (optional)
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pans with 16 paper liners or simply spray with Pam. Ultimately, if making banana bread, grease and flour bottom only of a loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together sugar and oil. Add eggs, bananas, sour cream and vanilla; blend well. Add flour, flaxseed meal, baking soda, salt and cinnamon; stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in nuts and/or chocolate chips. Pour into prepared pan(s).

  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 22 minutes (or 50-60 minutes for a loaf pan) or until toothpick inserted in center comes clean. Cool 5 minutes; remove from pan. Cool completely.

    Makes about 16 regular size muffins; or 42 mini muffins; or 12 regular muffins and 12 minis; or 1 loaf. For mini muffins, adjust baking time to 14 minutes.

    Recipe adapted from:

Monday, April 22, 2013

Sugar Gems

I am thrilled to present to you this great gem of a recipe from one of my new favorite food blogs: Mel's kitchen cafe. I love this lady (although my thighs should probably hate her... LOL)! There are so many terrific recipes on her website that I have been drooling over, I am literally dreaming of them at night- no kidding!

So, after much deliberation on what to bake last week (oh, the choices!), I narrowed it down to this sugar cookie recipe- it sounded so intriguing! Sure enough, these cookies were incredibly easy to make, yet unbelievably yummy! I love sugar cookies but am not always in the mood for rolling dough and cutting out shapes. These sugar cookies are exactly what they are called- gems! Delicious with minimal effort- just roll into little balls and flatten with a glass! They are terrific to eat just like that, with no icing on them (and I did just that, as soon as the first batch was out of the oven- mmm, melt in your mouth good!!).

They did come with their own recipe for icing though and I have to admit I was a little skeptical about it, as it was with oil, not butter and I had never heard of such an icing before in my life. However, it was actually a very pleasant surprise. The only thing I would change next time I make the icing is to add some food coloring to it, as the natural color is not pure white (I think the oil and the vanilla extract contributed to the off-white tint and made it look more like maple icing). The sprinkles more than made up for it though. :) Everybody who tried the cookies, loved them (except for my husband but that’s not saying much as he just doesn’t care for sugar cookies at all- I don’t know what’s wrong with him but I have decided to keep him anyway!:). My son, on the other hand, ate 8 of them at one sitting- not with my permission either! :) My little Lizzie, the sharing an caring soul that she is, saw me decorating them and pleaded with me to take some to her preschool class on the following day. So, her classmates and teachers got to sample these sugar gems too. And from what I heard, they were all quite happy.:) I was asked for the recipe too.


Sugar Gems

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 5 cups flour
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda

Cream together powdered sugar, granulated sugar, oil, and butter. Add eggs and vanilla extract, beating until well incorporated. Add the flour, cream of tartar, salt and baking soda. Mix well. Roll into golf size balls and place on cookie sheets. Flatten with bottom of glass dipped in sugar. Bake at 350F for 12-14 minutes. Cool, frost with sugar gem frosting and decorate with sprinkles of your choice.

Note: The recipe yielded about 80 cookies, so if you do not need that many, you may want to consider halving it. In my family, the huge yield was not a problem- they were literally gone in two days, even with no help from Daddy! :)))

Sugar Gem Frosting:
  • 2-2 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • ½ cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 2 tsp flavoring (almond, vanilla, coconut, etc.)
  • 3-4 Tbsp milk
  • Food coloring (if desired- I personally recommend it)

    Mix all ingredients well and add a little more milk or powdered sugar to get the desired consistency.
Recipe courtesy:

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Double Dark Chocolate Mocha Cake

Last week, I was asked to make a cake for a farewell sort-of party. The retiring person was a big fan of any and all kinds of cake, so I was given the freedom to choose whatever I wanted to make. I was thrilled! :) I decided to bake a dark chocolate mocha cake (which is one of my personal favorite cakes) but for the filling and the frosting I wanted to try something new and different. So, I chose a chocolate cream cheese frosting for the filling and the base layer of frosting and a mocha frosting for the basket weave and the decorations on top. It worked out pretty successfully with the two shades of brown in the two frostings and the flavor combination was to die for! The lady who took it to the party said that there wasn't a single crumb left and that the cake was "amazing". That's what I like to hear! :) So, I am sharing the recipe with you, as it received such rave reviews.

Dark Chocolate Mocha Cake

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tsps baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup hot coffee

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare two 8-inch round cake pans – Line with parchment, then butter and flour the pans (or use “PAM for Baking”).

    1. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined.
    2. In another bowl or large measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Gently whisk.
    3. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer on the lowest setting, add the coffee and stir just to combine – scrape up from the bottom to make sure all the flour is incorporated. Batter will be very thin and runny- don't worry!
    4. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack to complete cooling.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting/Filling
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbsp chocolate syrup
  • 1-2 Tbsp milk

    Beat butter and cream cheese for 3-5 minutes, until fluffy. Bean in powdered sugar, cocoa powder, chocolate syrup and 1 Tbsp milk. Beat for an additional 3-5 minutes, adding more milk to get desired consistency.
    I used this frosting to fill the cake with and to do the crumb coating on the sides and cover the top.

Mocha Frosting
  • 1 tbsp instant coffee powder
  • 2 tbsp boiling water
  • 3-oz unsweetened or dark chocolate (I used Ghirardelli's bittersweet), chopped
  • 3/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar

In a medium sized, microwave-safe bowl, combine instant coffee and boiling water. Stir to completely dissolve coffee. Add chocolate to the bowl and allow the hot water to begin to melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally. If the chocolate does not melt, microwave mixture in 20-30 second intervals until chocolate is melted. Set aside to cool completely.
In a large bowl, beat butter until fluffy and creamy. Beat in vanilla extract and cooled chocolate mixture. Gradually blend in the confectioners’ sugar and beat until frosting is thick and fluffy.
I used this frosting to pipe the basket weave on the sides and to make the roses for the top of the cake.

Recipes adapted from:
Dark Chocolate Mocha Cake: click here.
Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting: click here.
Mocha Frosting: click here.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Key Lime Cupcakes

These cupcakes were inspired by Trisha Yearwood's recipe for Key Lime Cake. I first saw it on Pinterest and was intrigued by it right away since I love all citrus-flavored desserts. After reading the numerous contradicting reviews (many people raving about it and just as many complaining that it's awful), I decided I must give it a try. I did take into account some of the major complaints about this cake though and so, ended up changing it a bit, to avoid any disappointments on my part. I was very happy I did! The original recipe called for 1 1/2 cups of oil in the cake which most people stated was way too much. I cut the amount of oil to only 1 cup and the cake turned out moist but not greasy. Some other complaints were that it didn't have a strong lime flavor. I added more lime juice and more lime zest to both the batter and the frosting and my cupcakes were wonderfully flavorful with a nice punch of lime to them. Everybody who tried them commented that they were "unique" and "lovely". I was extremely pleased with the final outcome. Please, let me know what you think if you decide to give them a try yourself!

■1 3-oz package lime-flavored gelatin
■1⅓ cups granulated sugar
■2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
■½ tsp salt
■1 tsp baking powder
■1 tsp baking soda
■5 large eggs, slightly beaten
■1 cup vegetable oil (the original recipe wanted 1 1/2 cups but I cut this to just 1 cup)
■¾ cup orange juice (I used 1/2 cup orange juice)
■3-4 tbsp Key lime juice and the zest of about 2-3 limes
■½ tsp vanilla extract (or lemon extract to give extra citrus flavor)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line muffin pans with cupcake liners- I ended up making 24 regular size cupcakes and 20 mini cupcakes out of this recipe.

In a large mixing bowl, mix the gelatin, sugar, flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir to mix well. Add the eggs, oil, orange juice, lime juice, and vanilla (or lemon extract). Using an ice-cream scoop, scoop batter into muffin pans and bake in preheated oven for 18-20 minutes for regular size cupcakes and about 14 minutes for minis. Test for doneness by lightly touching the tops of the cupcakes or inserting a toothpick. Cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then take them out onto racks.

■½ cup Key lime juice (from about 25 small Key limes or 4 large regular limes)
■½ cup confectioners’ sugar

While the cupcakes are still hot, mix the lime juice and confectioners’ sugar and brush it over the tops (I went over each cupcake about 3-4 times). You can pierce the cupcakes with a fork first to allow the glaze to soak in better. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely as you prepare the cream cheese icing.

Cream Cheese Icing:

■½ cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
■1 (8-oz) package cream cheese, room temperature
■1 (1-lb) box confectioners’ sugar
lime zest and lime juice (optional)

Cream the butter and cream cheese. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar until the mixture is smooth and easy to spread. Add lime zest and lime juice (if using). Pipe icing on cupcakes (I added jelly beans on mine as well, since I made them for Easter :)). 

To see the original recipe (which I modified), click here.

Print recipe

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...