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I’m Baaaaack!

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Wow! It has been an insanely long time since I have blogged. Life has been more than a little crazy. I accepted a new call in Missouri and we packed up and headed south. We are now (mostly) settled into our new lives in this beautiful place. I say “mostly,” anyone need a house in Council Bluffs, Iowa?????

While we are waiting for our house to sell we are renting a little townhouse so my kitchen is a bit of a downer after my previous three ovens. However, we are adjusting. But don’t expect too much from this blog until we upgrade!

So, what recipe is worth of my return post? I thought I’d share this little dandy with you today. Think the candy bar but a whole pan of them.

Peanut Butter Bars

1 cup butter, melted
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup + 4 tablespoons peanut butter
1 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips

In a medium bowl, mix together the melted butter, graham cracker crumbs, powdered sugar, and 1 cup peanut butter until well blended. Press evenly into the bottom of an ungreased 9×13 inch pan. In the microwave, melt the chocolate chips with the peanut butter, stirring every 30 seconds until melted until smooth. Spread over the peanut butter layer. Refrigerate for at least one hour before cutting into squares.


Chocolate Pudding

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My name is Meg and I’m a chocoholic. To be honest with you, I’m not sure a day goes by that I don’t have chocolate in some form or another. I don’t consider it a problem and I am not interested in changing. So don’t go planning a (very) unwelcome intervention.

This recipe is a chocolate stand-by, it is fast and it is chocolatey. Two characteristics not always found in the same recipe. In fact, this chocolate pudding was ALWAYS in my fridge while I was pregnant. Take a look at the recipe, it really isn’t all that unhealthy and if you are a better person than I, you could make it a whole lot healthier. And for Heaven’s sake, don’t go make the junk in the box! That isn’t real chocolate (frankly, I’m not sure what it is) and this doesn’t take any more time. Not to mention, I can pronounce things like “sugar.” No number of advanced degrees is going to equip you to pronounce what is lurking in that junk. I may not be a health nut but I am a purist.

Chocolate Pudding


  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons butter

In a microwave-safe bowl, whisk together sugar, cocoa, and cornstarch. Whisk in milk.

Microwave for 3 minutes on high. Stir, and then cook at 1 minute intervals for another 2-4 minutes, or until thick. Stir in vanilla and butter. Chill.

Orange We Gonna Stop MS? -Orange Marmalade Cake

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We had an absolutely beautiful day here in Iowa. Sun shining and 70-degree weather. I had Border Collies sunning on our deck all day. Who could blame them? I know the weather won’t last but I took advantage to break out the grill. Also, I made a fantastic cake. Orange week continues with this cake. This cake recipe comes from The Mitford Series by Jan Karon. Is it weird that an Episcopal priest enjoys this series of books? Well, I do. I won’t tell you that this is exactly how parish life plays out but trust me, there are some similarities. For instance, I have a big, black dog and I love this cake.

This cake takes a little time because it has a few steps but they are all well worth it. If you like orange at all or you need a cake that induces thoughts of springtime here you go.

 Orange Marmalade Cake


For the Cake:

  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) softened unsalted butter
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature, beaten lightly
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

For the Orange Syrup:

  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

For the Filling:

  • 1 cup orange marmalade

For the Frosting:

  • 3/4 cup well-chilled heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 cup well-chilled sour cream

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Prepare two 9-inch round cake pans (I just line my pans with parchment paper. It saves a lot of time and a lot of mess and your cakes come out perfectly).

In a bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, and salt. In a mixer, beat the butter until combined, add the sugar, a little at a time, and beat the mixture until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, orange zest, and vanilla. Beat in 1/3 of the dry ingredients alternately with 1/2 of the buttermilk until combined well. Add half the remaining dry ingredients and the remaining buttermilk and beat until combined well. Finally, beat in the remaining dry ingredients until mixture is smooth.

Evenly divide the batter between the pans. Bake for 45 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to racks and cool in the pans for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the orange syrup: In a bowl, stir together the orange juice and sugar until sugar is dissolved. With a toothpick or wooden skewer, poke holes at 1/2-inch intervals in the cake layers and spoon the syrup over each layer, allowing the syrup to be completely absorbed before adding the remaining. Let layers cool completely.

Microwave the marmalade until just melted. Let cool 5 minutes.

In a bowl, whisk the heavy cream with the sugar until it forms firm peaks. Add the sour cream, a little at a time, and whisk until of spreading consistency.

Arrange one of the layers on a cake plate, carefully peel off the waxed paper, and then spread 2/3 of the marmalade over the top, smoothing it into an even layer. Invert the remaining layer onto the top of the first layer. Frost the cake with whipped cream. If desired, use the remaining marmalade for a garnish. Chill 2 hours before serving.

Carrot Cupcakes

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I’ve had a pretty mean craving for carrot cupcakes lately. What’s not to love? Dessert that counts as a vegetable! While scrounging in my fridge I came across a bag of baby carrots that I didn’t know existed. Clearly, this was a sign from the divine creator that I was meant to have carrot cupcakes! And kids, when God speaks, I listen. Usually.

This is a very versatile carrot cake recipe and you could do this as a 9×13, a layer cake, a bundt cake or just about anything else. I happen to like cupcakes so here we are. Having said that you’ll need to vary your baking time a bit if you want one of the other cakes. I love this cream cheese frosting recipe but if you go with a layer cake you’ll have to use a different recipe. This frosting is pretty loose, making it perfect for cupcakes or a 9×13 but not great for a layer cake. Another thing, don’t get lazy and use bagged carrot shreds, shred them yourself with a box grater or a food processor (second only to the Kitchen Aid Mixer, greatest invention EVER).

This recipe comes from my America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook which is the first place I go hunting for recipes. They are always spot-on and they have lots of little tips and tricks.

Carrot Cupcakes


  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound carrots, shredded (if you use baby carrots you won’t have to peel them)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare cupcake pans (recipe makes about 24). Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt in large bowl; set aside. Mix granulated and brown sugars and eggs until frothy and thoroughly combined, about 20 seconds. While mixing, add oil in steady stream. Mix until light in color and emulsified, about 20 seconds. Stir in carrots and dry ingredients until incorporated and no streaks of flour remain. Pour into prepared pans and bake until toothpick comes out clean, about 30 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking time. Cool cakes on wire racks before frosting (at least an hour).

Cream Cheese Frosting


  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar

In food processor, process cream cheese, butter, sour cream, and vanilla until combined, about 5 seconds, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Add confectioners’ sugar and process until smooth, about 10 seconds.

Dutch Letter Bars

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When you grow up in Iowa you learn the beauty of a day trip. My childhood memories are littered with day trips all over Iowa and Missouri. For me, trips anywhere revolve around eating. One of the greatest places for food in Iowa is desserts in Pella. If you’ve never heard of Dutch Letters you are missing out! Jaarsma Bakery in downtown Pella will change your life.

I may love Dutch Letters but I never really want to spend the time making them. We’ve established that I’m a lazy baker. A couple of years ago this recipe appeared in the Des Moines Register close to Thanksgiving. God Bless them, it lets me get a taste of Pella without the road trip! If you like this recipe write it down because I have no idea where else to find it. In essence, it is the filling of a Dutch Letter made into a bar cookie. What’s not to love?

A couple of things: I didn’t have any sliced almonds in my pantry so my bars aren’t as pretty as they could be (sigh), also a can of almond paste is about 8 ounces so if you don’t buy it by the can keep that in mind.

Dutch Letter Bars


  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 1 can almond paste
  • 2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk, reserve the egg white
  • 1 ½ cup sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • sliced almonds
  • coarse sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In mixer, combine ingredients and blend well. Spread in 9×13 inch pan. Brush with egg white. Sprinkle with sliced almonds and coarse sugar.

Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown. Do not overbake.

Norwegian Gold Cupcakes

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I don’t think it would come as a great shock to anyone that I adore cupcakes. Cake of any sort gets my attention and little personal-sized ones are just so convenient! With a family as small as ours we rarely go through a whole cake anyway; making cupcakes allows me to send what’s left to work with my husband. I stress-BAKE, not stress-EAT.

I’m always trying new cupcake recipes (thank you Pinterest) and this one caught my attention because it breaks the cardinal rule of baking: NEVER over-beat anything once the flour is added. It releases the gluten and makes your cakes tough and rubbery, incase you were wondering. But this recipe does just that. And I’m always curious when rules get broken. So, I made a date with my mixer and this recipe. Plus, I needed a bribe for my amazing worker bees who were cleaning the church on Saturday. God Bless the Worker Bee!

Note: the frosting recipe makes a whole lot more than you will need. I threw a tablespoon of Chambord into the mix, chilled, and rolled some truffles. Two for one deal!

Norwegian Gold Cake

Makes one cake or about 20 cupcakes-

Preheat the oven to 325° F for cake or 375° F for cupcakes. Grease the bottom of a 10-inch tube or bundt pan, or line two cupcake pans with paper liners. Have all ingredients at room temperature.

Beat together for five minutes:

  • 1 2/3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup butter

Then add:

  • 5 eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition

Then add:

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. vanilla extract
1/4 t. almond extract

Beat for two minutes.

For a cake, bake for about one hour, checking after fifty minutes. For cupcakes, bake for 20-25 minutes.

Sour Cream Ganache Frosting


  • 10 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

Then stir in:

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • A pinch of salt

Spread onto completely cooled cake. I just dipped the cupcakes into the frosting.

Key Lime Pie

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The weather has been pretty drab up here in the Great White North (i.e. Iowa). I really don’t mind the cold but I hate the grey. My sister called me to tell me about this recipe because she knows I adore key lime pie. And with all the grey weather what could possibly make me feel better than a summer dessert like this one?

One look at the recipe should tell you how simple and quick it is. You can whip this together on a weeknight or at the last minute. I know the name says “Key lime” but I’m cheap and I just keep whatever off-brand lime juice I can find in my fridge so that’s what I used. But if you are feeling fancy buy some key limes (you’ll probably need around 20 or so limes because key limes are so small) and juice them yourself.

Key Lime Pie


  •             1 (9 inch) prepared graham cracker crust
  •             3 cups (2 cans) sweetened condensed milk
  •             1/2 cup sour cream
  •             3/4 cup key lime juice
  •             1 tablespoon grated lime zest (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, combine condensed milk, sour cream, lime juice, and lime rind. Mix well and pour into graham cracker crust. Bake in preheated oven for 5 to 8 minutes, until tiny pinhole bubbles burst on the surface of pie. Don’t wait for the pie to brown. Chill pie thoroughly before serving.