Monday, December 22, 2014

Irish Car Bomb Celebration Cake

An Irish Car Bomb is fairly simple: 

1) Fill a shot glass half way with Jameson Irish Whiskey.
2) Top the shot with Bailey's Irish Cream.
3) Fill a pint glass with Guinness.

4) Drop the full shot into the pint, shot glass and all.
5) Drink with vigorous fervor until you see the bottom of the glass.
6) Bombs away.

This past weekend was full of surprises and excitement for my family.  What better way to celebrate? With Irish Car Bombs was the obvious answer (a newly growing tradition in my family) but I needed to up the ante.  Irish Car Bombs in cake form?  Why yes, of course.  Because if you can combine booze + sugar + pastry in the same package for a party, you're going to have success.  

I spent the afternoon in the kitchen recreating every part of an Irish Car Bomb into a sultry, sweet treat.  Guinness was going into both chocolate cake and chocolate sauce.  Whiskey found a new friend in salted caramel.  Bailey's saluted to it's best performance yet in the perfected whipped cream topping.  The Dream Team was forming. If you are ever looking for a fun challenge - start thinking of ways you can turn booze into desserts.  You'll be entertained for the whole afternoon.

Treat your family this holiday season with this amazing creation.  If you serve it with a real Irish Car Bomb on the side, the Irish Gods will smile upon you and you will be my hero.  Cheers to that!

Irish Car Bomb Celebration Cake

Guinness Stout Chocolate Cake:


1 cup Guinness stout
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons baking soda
¾ teaspoons salt
2 eggs
2/3 cup sour cream


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13 pan with nonstick spray.
Bring the Guinness and butter to a simmer in a heavy, medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the cocoa powder and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a large bowl to combine.
Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sour cream on medium speed until combined. Add the Guinness-chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and beat just to combine.
Reduce the speed to low, add the flour mixture and beat briefly. Using a rubber spatula, fold the batter until completely combined. Pour batter in cake pan.
Bake until a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.
Cool the cake in the pan.

Guinness Chocolate Sauce:

1 cup Guinness 
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt

Bring everything to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer to thicken, about 5 minutes.
Let cool and enjoy!

Salted Whiskey Caramel Sauce:


1 1/2 cup Brown Sugar
3/4 stick Butter (6 Tablespoons)
3/4 cup heavy cream
2-4 Tablespoons Irish whiskey (to taste)
Generous pinch of salt


Mix all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium-low to medium heat. Cook while whisking gently for 5 to 7 minutes, until thicker. Turn off heat. Serve warm or refrigerate until cold.
If sauce is thin, just continue cooking for a few more minutes.

Bailey’s Whipped Cream:


1 cup cold heavy whipping cream
¼ cup powdered sugar
1-3 Tablespoons Bailey’s Irish cream


In a medium bowl, whisk heavy cream until cream just starts to thicken.  Add sugar and Bailey’s (to taste) and whisk until soft peaks form.

Serve chilled.

To Serve:

Cut squares of cake and place on a plate.  Generously drizzle both sauces over the cake and top with a dollop of whipped cream.  

Serve, swoon, celebrate.  

Monday, August 4, 2014

Possibly the Best Blueberry Crumb Cake. Ever.

It's August.  Do you know what that means?  Blueberry Season.  Blueberries.  Everywhere.

It's time to get prepared for our bountiful harvest.  Crumb Cake is the perfect snack to munch on in anticipation.  

Is this the best Crumb Cake ever?  I may put my money on it.  It's moist, packed with blueberries, topped with the perfect cinnamon-y crust and has a killer crumb.  

Thanks to Smitten Kitchen we get to enjoy this recipe before, through and after blueberry season.  Heck, even when we're not in season, put any fruit in it.  This cake is meant to give all year long.  

Blueberry Crumb Cake 

5 tablespoons (40 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons (1/4 cup, 2 ounces or 55 grams) unsalted butter, cold is fine
Pinch of salt

2 cups minus 1 tablespoon (i.e. 1 3/4 cups + 3 tablespoons or 240 grams) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
4 tablespoons (1/4 cup, 2 ounces or 55 grams) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pint (2 to 2 2/3 cups, 12 to 16 ounces, or 340 to 455 grams; see Note) fresh blueberries, clean and dry
1/2 cup milk, whole is ideal, any kind should work
1/2 cup (55 grams) walnuts, chopped medium fine (optional)
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting (optional)

Heat oven to 375°F. Butter a 9-inch round baking pan (with at least 2″ sides) and dust it lightly with flour; line it with a round of parchment paper.

Prepare the topping by mixing the flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt, then cutting the butter in with a pastry blender, fork or your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt until combined. In a large bowl, beat butter, sugar and zest together until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Beat in 1/3 of the dry ingredient mixture until just combined, followed by 1/2 the milk; repeat with remaining dry ingredients and milk, finishing with the dry mixture. The batter will be very stiff, but don’t fret. Fold blueberries into cake batter until evenly distributed.

Scoop cake batter into prepared pan and smooth so that it is flat. If using walnuts, scatter them on top. Sprinkle with prepared streusel. Bake in heated oven for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out batter-free. You can let the cake cool complete in the pan on a rack, or just cool it in the pan for 20 minutes before flipping it out onto a cooling rack, removing the parchment paper lining, and flipping it back onto a plate. Dust with confectioners’ sugar, if using.

Do ahead: Cake keeps covered with plastic or foil at room temperature for three days. If longer, it might be best to keep it in the fridge. It gets more moist each day.


Saturday, March 8, 2014

No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Bars

They're chocolate.  They're peanut butter.  They're pretzels.

They're salty.  They're sweet.  They're crunchy.

They're No-Bake.  They're easy.  They're....perfect.

My Gramma turns 88 today and I made these as the dessert for my birthday lunch for her.  To sit there, sharing stories and enjoying seconds and thirds with her, you realize that you're never too old to have chocolate, peanut butter and pretzels in your dessert.

Cheers to you Gramma, and to the joys of sharing every simple & sweet morsel in life with those you love.

No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Bars

Nonstick cooking spray
2 cups creamy or crunchy peanut butter, divided
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar, divided
4 cups (roughly ½-inch pieces), broken small pretzel twists or sticks, divided
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided

LINE 13 x 9-inch baking pan with foil leaving an overhang on two sides. Lightly spray foil with nonstick cooking spray.

BEAT 1 1/4 cups peanut butter and butter in large mixer bowl until creamy. Gradually beat in 1 cuppowdered sugar. Stir in remaining 1 cup powdered sugar, 3 cups pretzel pieces and 1/2 cup morsels. Press evenly into prepared baking pan. Smooth top with spatula.

MICROWAVE remaining 1 1/2 cups morsels and 3/4 cup peanut butter in medium, uncovered, microwave-safe bowl on MEDIUM-HIGH (70%) power for 45 seconds; STIR. If necessary, microwave at additional 10- to 15-second intervals, stirring just until morsels are melted. Spread chocolate layer evenly over powdered sugar mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining pretzel pieces, pressing down lightly. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or until firm. Lift from pan; peel off foil. Cut into 60 pieces. Store in covered container in refrigerator.
Or...put them in the freezer when you're done.  You wont be sorry.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Kentucky Bourbon Cake with Blueberry Bourbon Basil Glaze

What's better than drinking delicious Bourbon?  Baking with it.  And drinking it.  At the same time.

Let's get Frisky with Whiskey.

This recipe was inspired by a conversation my friend and I were having about the glories of the great state of Oregon. Vineyards, forest, ocean, crater lakes, beer, all the hipster material you could ask for.  What's not to love?
We started an in-depth discussion about doughnuts (that's normal) and in particular the creative flavors of Blue Star Donuts in downtown Portland.  He mentioned their iconic doughnut that is enrobed in a Blueberry Bourbon Basil glaze and I'm pretty sure I stopped listening all together. The mere imagining of tasting all of these flavors together took over my mind.  I decided right there that I must create a version of this earth-shattering flavor vortex.

How could I up the ante?  Well why not put the glaze on top of a whole cake instead of a doughnut.  And why not bake it in a tube pan so it looks like an enormous doughnut anyway (zing!).  And if there's Bourbon in the glaze, there's no reason why it shouldn't be in the cake too.  It's fairness like this that should be more prevalent in this world.

It's not that I doubted Blue Star, but you really don't know the magic of how these flavors meld together until you taste it yourself.  Sweet and tart blueberry, herbal-lemon-slight anise basil, the spicy vanilla Bourbon.  And then there's the cake!  Oh, the cake.  The buttery vanilla and Bourbon pillow upon which the glaze happily rests.
There's one Blue Star reviewer online who states: "Blueberry Basil Bourbon - sounds weird, TASTE LIKE RAINBOWS"

I concur, my friend. I concur.

So celebrate Rainbows and America and crack open a bottle of Kentucky Bourbon.  It makes measuring flour and butter that much more fun.
And, in the end, you can have your cake and drink it too.

Kentucky Bourbon Cake with Blueberry Bourbon Basil Glaze


3 cups (12 ounces) sifted cake flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. fine sea salt
1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar
1/2 cup (3 3/4 ounces) firmly packed brown sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup bourbon
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

1 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed and dried
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
2-3 tablespoons bourbon
3 cups sifted powdered sugar

Grease a 10-cup metal tube or bundt pan. Center an oven rack and preheat the oven to 350°F.

To make the cake, sift together the flour, baking powder, soda, and salt in a bowl, then whisk the mixture by hand to ensure that the ingredients are well mixed.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars together on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. As you make the batter, stop the mixer frequently and scrape the paddle and the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Blend in the eggs one at a time and add the vanilla. Combine the bourbon and buttermilk in a small bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk-bourbon mixture in two parts, beginning and ending with the flour. After each addition, mix until just barely blended and stop and scrape the bowl. Stop the mixer before the last of the flour has been incorporated and complete the blending by hand with a rubber spatula.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread it out evenly. Place the pan in the oven and bake until the cake is golden and springs back when touched, 40 to 45 minutes.  Let the cake cool completely and remove from the pan.

To make the glaze start by pulsing the blueberries, basil and 2 tablespoons bourbon in a food processor or blender until smooth.  

In a large bowl, measure out the powdered sugar and gradually stir in the blueberry mixture a few spoonfuls at a time until your desired consistency is reached (I used it all).  Taste and add the last tablespoon of bourbon if desired.  Drizzle over cooled cake.

Cheers to baking with libations.  ...Libaking?

I wont quit my day job.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Brown Butter Blueberry Cornmeal Banana Bread

Say the recipe name five times fast. I dare you.

Sure, it could just say ‘Banana Bread’…but, can you imagine leaving any one of the other ingredients out of the recipe name? It’s like Banana Bread, but on crack. But somehow Crack Banana Bread just didn’t have the right ring to it. Somehow.

Instead of regular old butter, we brown the butter in a saucepan first to become nutty and delicious and just downright seductive.
Dear Brown Butter: Is it acceptable to dab you on my wrists and neck like perfume?

Instead of just flour, we kick up the flavor and the texture by adding an earthy crunch of cornmeal.
Dear Cornmeal: I have a crush on you. You make me want to eat fresh tortillas every day.

Instead of only sweet ripe banana, we add juicy summer Maine blueberries to the fruit roster. Because they’re in the freezer and are practically crying out to be used and brighten the spirits of a heavy winter chill.
Dear Maine Blueberries: You win. Forever.

But I digress to from my love letters to food ingredients. Let’s get down to it.

By now you are armed with not one, not two, but three rockin blueberry bread recipes that are fit to please any guest and at any time of year. That’s badass. And this recipe is unabashedly the badass-est (woah). 
All of the elements come together in a sweet-enough, banana, blueberry, crunchy, moist-but-not-too-moist, perfect crumb bite. Having a whole 9x13 pan of it is nothing short of dangerous. And by dangerous I mean awesome.

Think Batman – dangerously awesome.

Batman Brown Butter Blueberry Cornmeal Banana Bread…?

We win. Forever.

Also, Note to Self:  This is the risk of taking a food photo shoot on a very snowy balcony railing.

Note to Self #2:  The consequence of said risk = out-of-the-oven banana bread dusted with freshly fallen Maine powder.  An amazing unexpected reward.

Brown Butter Blueberry Cornmeal Banana Bread

Adapted from Joy the Baker


7 ounces unsalted butter, melted and browned to just over 1/2 cup of butter
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup corn meal
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup plain yogurt (any fat content) or buttermilk
1 1/2 cup mashed ripe banana (about 3-4 medium bananas)
Heaping 1 1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9×13 inch pan and set aside. (You could also consider doing two bread loaf pans)

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Butter will begin to foam and crackle as it melts. When the crackling subsides, the butter will begin to brown. Swirl the pan as the butter cooks. When the butter browns and begins to smell nutty, remove the pan from the flame and transfer the butter to a small bowl. Taking the butter out of the hot saucepan will stop the butter from overcooking and burning. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, vanilla extract, and yogurt or buttermilk. Whisk in the mashed bananas. When butter has cooled, whisk in the browned butter.

Add the wet ingredients, all at once to the dry ingredients. Fold together, making sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl to reveal any hidden pockets of flour. Fold in the blueberries. Fold together ingredients, but try not to over stir.

Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to rest in the pan for 15 minutes.

Bread will last 4 days, well wrapped at room temperature. It also freezes well.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Blueberry Gingerbread Cake

It's 2014.


Wait a minute, I feel like we're having deja vu.  I feel like we were just having the same conversation about how crazy it was that it was Labor Day.  And talking about a recipe that has blueberries baked into a delicious bread batter.  And swooning over how delicious Maine blueberries are. 

Yup.  That's exactly what's happening.  Again.  And I'm into it. 

Only now I look outside and all I see is a magical winter wonderland instead of a late summer sun-glistening lake.  And those blueberries, they're the same.  Except they've taken a long winters nap in our freezer, patiently waiting to awaken on a cold day like today and make everyone feel warm and summery and nostalgic.  

This recipe puts a summery bright burst on a winter holiday favorite: gingerbread.  The deep sweet of molasses with a ginger spice is perked up just enough by the bright freshness of the blueberry.  And oh, the amazing summer flavor is still there.  It's there and it's awesome.  You close your eyes and get lost in the time warp.... and in the end you don't care what time of year it is.  All you taste is delicious. 

Because what do you do when it's -11 degrees outside?  You bake, and you bake with what you have.  And if that means pulling out part of your summer harvest from the freezer, all the better.

Also, consider this Winter Blueberry recipe as Recipe 1 of 2 - with another coming your way tomorrow.  It's even more get excited.

And in the meantime, get bakin'.

Blueberry Gingerbread Cake

Adapted from Martha Stewart and Smitten Kitchen

8 tablespoons (1 stick, 4 ounces or 115 grams) unsalted butter, cut into chunks, plus more for pan
1 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2/3 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
1/2 cup honey or maple syrup
2 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting finished cake
Lightly sweetened whipped cream, essential for serving

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Butter and flour parchment and sides of cake pan, or spray both with a nonstick baking spray.

Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan (or large one, if you’d like to make the cake entirely in there) and add baking soda — it will foam up! this is fun! Let stand for 5 minutes, then stir in butter until melted. Whisk in dark brown sugar, molasses and fresh ginger, if using. Mixture is usually just lukewarm by now, but if it still feels quite hot to the touch, set it aside to 10 to 15 minutes to cool further before using.

Place flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, salt and baking powder in a fine-mesh strainer or sifter so that you can sift them over the wet ones in a minute.

Transfer molasses mixture to a large mixing bowl if your saucepan isn’t large enough to make the batter in. Whisk in eggs until just combined. Sift dry ingredients over wet, then stir the wet and dry ingredients together until just combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan; bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer cake to a wire rack and let cool completely. Once fully cool, cut around cake to make sure no parts are sticking to the side and invert cake out onto a rack, then onto a serving plate. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and cut into squares. Please, promise you’ll serve this with lightly sweetened, softly whipped cream. They’re made for each other.

Do ahead: Whipped cream needs to be stored in the fridge, of course. Cake keeps at room temperature for up to a week in an airtight container. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Coconut Blueberry Bliss Cake

It’s Labor Day. 

How is it that the Memorial Day to Labor Day stretch goes by quicker every year? It’s a fascinating phenomenon we all seem to experience and have trouble accepting. It’s May, then September, and we don’t really know if those J months ever exist. This year I decided to use this feeling as a welcomed opportunity to find a way to embody it, to savor it; to somehow tangibly represent this time of year we all cherish so much. And doing so through a baked good seemed very appropriate.

In terms of summer, you cannot get more summery than hand-picked Maine blueberries. This is fact. And they must be picked from Blueberry Hill Farm in Acton, Maine. On a hot summer afternoon. After a morning woods run. And a swim in Great East Lake. But pre afternoon boat ride…and pre happy hour. With cold Sam Summers. Or Kahlua iced coffees. These are more facts. Are you writing this down? Stick with me here.

For fall, spices like cinnamon and nutmeg enter their prime time to shine come September. Apples start their harvests and have a direct destiny for pie pans and applesauce jars. Cinnamon and nutmeg will be at the ready on every kitchen counter post-harvest, ready to spice and make everything nice. Trust me on that one.

The beauty here is that we can find a middle ground for this seasonal divide; a culinary creation to bridge the gap of summer and fall. And it just so happens that this particular bridge combines all of the seasons’ best traits into one moist, sweet, brown sugar, cinnamony (new word), bursting-with-blueberry-goodness coffee cake. And the coconut? Well, why the heck not? I say. When one is able to give life an exotic, tropical twist – such as adding a crunchy coconut topping to your coffee cake - you say yes. This is another life fact. Jot that down.

Bottom line: make this cake for a special occasion or as a simple way to make your or someone else’s morning cup of coffee even better. It will please everyone’s palate and, most importantly, give us a helpful hand in saying so-long to a wonderful summer and welcome to a fall full of promise and even more flavor. Sounds like bliss to me.

Coconut Blueberry Bliss Cake

Streusel Topping:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted, plus more for coating
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for coating.
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Yogurt Cake:

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup whole milk plain yogurt (or sour cream) at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 healthy cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)

For the Streusel:

Heat the oven to 350F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat a 9x13 inch pan with butter and flour or spray with Pam and set aside.

Combine the streusel ingredients in a small bowl and mix until well incorporated and clumped. Refrigerated until read to use.

For the Cake:

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl until aerated and lumps are broken up; set aside.

Put the brown sugar and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat over medium speed until light in color and airy. Add the yogurt (or sour cream) and mix well. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until evenly combined. Remove the bowl from the mixture and stir in the flour mixture until just moistened through.  Gently fold in the blueberries.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle the streusel over the top and press in to adhere. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and just a few crumbs remain, about 
55 minutes.

Adapted from Shutterbean