It’s Fall 2020. We need chocolate! We need pumpkin spice! And we need it drenched with caramel! These satisfying brownies check all of the boxes with multiple layers of comfort. A rich chocolate brownie is the base. The next layer is heavenly pumpkin cheesecake. The topping is a buttery crumble that rivals the best crumb cake. Finally, as if that isn’t enough, it’s drizzled with caramel sauce!
If it sounds complicated, don’t worry, it’s not. Each layer is super easy to make. You can use your favorite store bought caramel sauce to top it with. Vanilla ice cream and/or whipped cream are optional, but highly recommended toppings also. Just saying.
The layers go unexpectedly well together and make the perfect dessert for Halloween or Thanksgiving. I’m even going to add these beauties to my Christmas dessert table this year. Enjoy! You deserve it.
Pumpkin Cheesecake Crumble Brownies
Chocolate brownies with pumpkin cheesecake and crumb topping, topped with caramel sauce.
One of the best things about Halloween is all of the adorable costumes worn by the littlest trick-or-treaters. I’ll never forget the year my young daughter was dressed as a flower with chubby cheeks. She enjoyed wearing her costume and eating her Halloween treats, but spooky costumes and trick-or-treating weren’t for her. She was the type of toddler who cried at the sight of a mall Santa. She even screamed in terror once when Ronald McDonald paid a visit to our local McDonald’s.
So in honor of those tender hearted little ones, I created some not-so-scary, pretty-darned-cute Yetis and Green-Eyed Monster cookies. You can use your favorite cutout sugar cookie dough and you don’t need any special skills to decorate them. The icing is fondant instead of frosting or royal icing which makes these cute monsters the ideal mess-free (almost) cookie decorating project for kids!
For these cookies you’ll need:
One batch of cutout sugar cookie dough
Food coloring- I used Wilton Icing Color in Rose
X-acto knife or paring knife
White, purple, green and pink fondant or any colors of your choice. I made lavender by combining purple and white.
Sprinkles- I used a combination of two parts orange sprinkles and one part pink sprinkles
Small food safe brush
Edible marker- I used Americolor Gourmet Writer
Candy bananas, sugar pearls or any edible decorations of your choice
Divide your cookie dough in half. For the Yeti cookies, color one half of the cookie dough with pink food coloring. Wrap remaining cookie dough in plastic and set aside in refrigerator.
Roll out the pink dough and cut out the Yeti cookies. The Yeti cookies are 2 1/2 inch by 3 1/4 inch rectangles. I used a clean, recycled food can as a cookie cutter. I opened the can with a can opener at both ends, rather than using the little key that comes with the can. If you don’t want to use this method, you can make a pattern out of parchment paper and cut out the cookies with an X-acto knife or a paring knife.
For the Yeti faces, cut two small 1 1/2 inch x 1 inch rectangles with rounded corners out of parchment paper. The first one will be used to place on the Yeti cookies to keep the sprinkles off of the faces. Place small parchment rectangle on an unbaked cookie. Apply sprinkles, pressing them gently to make sure they adhere to the cookie. Remove the parchment rectangle and repeat with remaining cookies. Bake according to your cookie dough recipe. Let cool.
Roll out white fondant to 1/8 inch thickness. Use the remaining small parchment rectangle as a pattern to cut out a face for each Yeti cookie with an X-acto knife or a paring knife. Brush a bit of piping gel onto each cookie face area. Apply the white fondant face cutouts to the cookies. Let dry for at least 30 minutes, then draw eyes and a mouth with an edible marker. I made rosie cheeks with a small amount of petal dust applied with a cotton swab. Brush dabs of piping gel to apply the banana candy horns. I also added pink fondant flowers and sugar pearls to make my Yeti cookies extra cute.
Roll out the remaining cookie dough and cut out the Green-Eyed Monster cookies. I used an apple tree cookie cutter, trimming off the trunk part. If you can’t find an apple tree cutter, you can use a blossom or sun cookie cutter. Bake according to your cookie dough recipe. Let cool.
Roll out the lavender fondant. Cut the fondant using the same cutter you used for the cookie dough. Brush piping gel onto cookies and apply the fondant shapes. Let dry at least 30 minutes.
For eyes, roll out white and green fondant. I used the large end of a piping tip to cut out two white circles and two green circles for each cookie. Attach the green circles to the white circles with a dab of piping gel, offsetting them slightly. I used a tiny blossom punch cutter for the pupils and applied with piping gel. Use an edible marker to draw eyelashes and a mouth.
I recently enjoyed a girls’ day out at Universal Studios Hollywood. Both of my daughters are Harry Potter fans, so of course we geeked out and beelined straight to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter upon arrival at the theme park. We were spellbound by the ominous looking Hogwart’s Castle and the sparkling snow-topped shops of Hogsmeade. My daughter was in Harry Potter fan heaven, flitting around Hogsmeade, testing out her interactive wand and sipping some refreshing Butter Beer. It’s definitely a must-try
Our favorite shop was Honeydukes sweet shop, where anyone with a sweet tooth can get his or her candy wishes fulfilled. The candy selection was nothing short of magical. We picked up some Chocolate Flies, a Chocolate Frog and some Pink Coconut Ice candy.
I was most excited to try the Pink Coconut Ice. I’ve been intrigued by the thought of this candy ever since it was mentioned in the book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling. (Fan alert: There’s an illustrated edition of this book coming out soon. To pre-order it, click here.) The Pink Coconut Ice candy is similar to a stiff fudge. It’s very sweet, so you can cut it into small squares and have plenty to share with friends.
I imagined the “shimmery pink squares” a little differently so, I decided to build on my imagined version of the coconut candy by making a shimmery pink coconut cake. I used my favorite coconut cake recipe and pink coconut buttercream. I tinted my buttercream with Americolor gel food color soft pink. I covered my cake in large flakes of unsweetened coconut. To find unsweetened coconut flakes, click here. I think the large flakes look more whimsical and add texture, but feel free to use whatever kind of coconut you prefer. I colored my coconut a shimmery, soft pink. Click here to see how I colored my coconut flakes.
You don’t have to be a Harry Potter fan to appreciate this pink, fluffy, coconut-covered cake. I can imagine this pretty cake at any party or event with a pink theme. I hope you enjoy this perfectly Pink Coconut Ice Cake as much as we did!
Pink Coconut Ice Cake
Moist, fluffy coconut cake with pink buttercream and coconut flakes
Summer is nearly over, and after the recent heatwave here in Southern California, I’m more than ready to welcome fall weather. But before I put on my fluffy sweater and dive into pumpkin spice everything, I want to enjoy the tail end of peach season, don’t you? Farmer’s markets and stores near my home are still brimming over with fresh peaches, so I picked up some peaches and decided to give them a proper goodbye and send them off in style.
I created some luscious peaches and cream filled, bite-size puffs of choux pastry, called profiteroles. They’re like cream puffs, only smaller. The filling is creamy, but so light and airy that I’m convinced that these profiteroles have no calories! The recipe I’m sharing with you uses fresh peaches, but feel free to substitute frozen peaches if fresh peaches aren’t available. There are a lot of steps to this recipe, but the steps are done in stages and are very easy to do.
I decorated my profiteroles with fresh, pesticide-free miniature rosebuds, also known as spray roses. If you can’t find miniature rosebuds, pesticide-free rose petals would be a good substitute. You may not get a chance to embellish these little beauties. They have a way of popping into people’s mouths even before you can decorate them!
Peaches & Cream Profiteroles
Bite-sized puffs of choux pastry filled with a creamy, fresh peach filling and topped with fresh peach icing.
Purple is passionate. It’s mystical. It’s regal. Don’t we all know someone whose favorite color is purple? It’s painfully obvious. They can’t hide it. They don’t want to hide it. They can’t just be friends with purple. They’re in a relationship with purple. The first time I made this Purple Berry Cake, a purple lover I know said that when she saw it, it spoke to her soul. This cake is, what I like to call, a double-take cake. People stare. They can’t resist it’s charismatic charm. Once they stop staring and taste it, they fall hopelessly in love.
Fresh berry purée is added to the batter, creating a soft, moist cake. The layers are brushed with berry syrup, which helps keeps the cake moist and gives it a nice punch of berry flavor. I used blackberries and blueberries, but you can use any combination of purple berries that you like. After baking, the color of the cake layers will be a brownish gray with a hint of purple, depending on your berries. I think I need to come up with name for this color. How about Silverberry? You can see tiny flecks of the berries in the cake and I think the color is lovely, especially with the lavender frosting. If you want a more purple cake, feel free to add some gel food color to the batter. I used Wilton Violet gel food color to achieve the pretty lavender cream cheese frosting. The extra butter and the addition of heavy cream makes this frosting silky and spreadable.
I’m obsessed with edible flowers lately, so I garnish my baked goods with them whenever I can get my hands on some. I found these pansies in the produce department of my local food market. If you can’t find pansies, pesticide free violets or rose petals would also be pretty. Make sure to apply them to your cake right before serving, since they are delicate and will wilt over time. Brush some of your berries with a little dab of edible gold luster dust for an extra regal touch.
Purple Berry Cake with Silky Cream Cheese Frosting
Preheat oven to 350º F. Spray two 6-inch cake pans with non-stick cooking spray and line with parchment paper circles.
Purée the berries in a blender or small food processor.
Strain puréed berries through a sieve. Reserve 2/3 cup berry puree. Set aside remaining puree for syrup.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat 1 1/4 cups (8.75 ounces) sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla extract with an electric mixer on medium speed, until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.
Add flour in two additions, alternating with buttermilk, beating at medium speed just until combined.
Stir in the reserved 2/3 cup berry purée.
Pour batter evenly into the prepared cake pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes.
Cool cakes in pans for 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans and continue cooling on wire racks.
Meanwhile, make berry syrup. In a small saucepan, heat the remaining berry purée, remaining 1/4 cup sugar (1.75 ounces) and 1/4 cup water over medium-low heat. Stir together and bring to a boil. Cook until sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool.
Split each cake layer into two and brush with berry syrup. Fill and frost cake with Silky Cream Cheese Frosting.
Silky Cream Cheese Frosting
In a large bowl, beat butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer at medium speed, until smooth.
Add vanilla extract and salt and beat until combined.
Gradually add powdered sugar and beat medium speed until combined.
Add heavy cream and beat at low speed until smooth and creamy.
Add gel food color with a toothpick, a little at a time, until desired shade is reached. Beat at low speed until well blended.
Garnish top of cake with fresh berries. Brush a few of the berries with edible gold luster dust. Garnish with fresh flowers immediately before serving.
I’ve seen some fully-loaded cookies out there, but these extreme cookies just earned the title! They’ve got enough chunky, chocolatey, sweet and salty glory to satisfy the most ravenous cookie craving!!! (Yes, all of those exclamation points are necessary.) But, before we even go one step further, I must mention a few disclaimers. I strongly urge you to make sure your fridge is stocked with milk. Please change into your comfiest pants before attempting this recipe. Canceling all plans for the rest of the day is recommended, as a nap may ensue immediately following consumption of these cookies. OK, now that we got that out of the way, let’s jump in with both feet!
Did you notice how serious the mood got? We need a moody photo that looks like it was taken in a rustic cabin to emphasize the seriousness of these chocolate cookies. It’s no coincidence that I’m sharing this recipe with you right before Father’s Day. Every Dad I know is an accomplished snacker. Dad will love these cookies for his personal snack stash! Package them up and deliver them to your Pop with a jug of milk or a thermos of coffee. You can probably skip the straw. We all know that Dad is going to chug his milk, but every respectable blog photo of milk must contain a pretty straw.
These cookies make amazing ice cream sandwiches, too. Press a scoop of softened vanilla ice cream between two cookies and pop it in the freezer. If you want to make these cookies picture perfect, use a scoop to portion out your dough. This will make them uniform in size and they’ll bake more evenly. Click here to find the scoop I used. For even more visual appeal, don’t crush the pretzels before adding to the cookie dough. Some of them will break when you are mixing them into the dough and this is fine, because the large pieces help make these cookies chunky. This recipe makes eighteen large cookies. That’s one dozen for Dad plus six for you to snack on, because when these babies come out of the oven with their melted chocolate chunks and little pools of caramel, resisting will be impossible! Now it’s cookie time…you’ve got this!
Fully Loaded Chocolate Snack Attack Cookies
Large chunky, sweet and salty chocolate cookies loaded with chocolate chunks, pretzels, caramel, rice cereal and nuts.
Preheat oven to 350º F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside
In a large bowl, cream butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar together with an electric mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating at medium speed until smooth. Add vanilla and beat just until combined.
Add flour mixture and beat at low speed, just until combined.
Stir in chocolate chunks, pretzels, caramel bits, chocolate rice cereal and peanuts.
Scoop 1/4 cup portions of cookie dough and place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake for 13-15 minutes, until set. Cool on cookie sheets for 1 minute before transferring to wire rack to cool.
Have you noticed a unicorn or two around lately? The unicorn craze is still going strong and it’s no wonder that unicorns have become so beloved. Unicorns are beautiful, majestic creatures with just the right amount of mystery and elusiveness, and they symbolize the spirit of individuality. So it’s no surprise that so many people, adults and children alike, are clamoring for unicorn-theme parties. If you’re planning a graduation party or a summer birthday party for your unicorn fan, you’ve probably searched the internet for some ideas. Every unicorn party will likely have a unicorn head cake. By the way, does anyone know who the original designer of that cake is? Just wondering. A unicorn party also needs some unicorn treats. Look no further! These Unicorn Horn Cookies make perfect party favors. They’re fun to make and don’t require any special skills. You can also make them ahead which means they’re stress-free!
Bake unicorn cookies and cool completely. Place candy melts in a microwaveable container and heat in a microwave at 50% power for 1 minute. Stir and heat for 20 second intervals until melted. If the melted candy is too thick, add melted vegetable shortening a half teaspoon at a time until desired consistency is reached. Dip cookies into melted candy and tap off excess. Place cookies on a tray lined with wax paper. Decorate with sprinkles before the candy sets. Place cookies in refrigerator for a few minutes, until set.
Print unicorn gift tags on card stock. Click here for free unicorn gift tag printable. Cut out desired number of unicorn gift tags. Cut out one extra to use as a pattern. Cut mane, muzzle and ear out of scrapbook paper. Affix with craft glue. (Alternately, you can omit the scrapbook paper step and simply print out the unicorn gift tags and color them with colored pencils or markers.) Punch two holes, about 1/2-inch apart near the top of each gift tag.
Place cookies in treat bags, if using. Tie ribbon onto the lollipop sticks at the base of the cookies. Thread ribbon through the holes of the gift tags and tie into bows.
I was seriously happy when I started seeing donuts appearing at weddings, bridal showers and occasions other than work meetings. I’ve always felt those sweet, fluffy rings of dough had a higher calling. They had such potential! And honestly who doesn’t love donuts? They’re delicious, but they can also be beautiful. These Lemon Buttermilk Donuts could certainly win a beauty contest. They would make a gorgeous edition to any breakfast, brunch or dessert table. The fresh lemon zest and the earthy flavor of honey will bring springtime right into your kitchen.
If you’re on the lookout for a Mother’s Day recipe, any mom will love these pretty, fragrant treats. This is a very easy recipe and the donuts bake up quickly, so you’ll have time to fix mom a cup of her favorite tea. If you don’t have a donut pan, and you’ve been reluctant to buy one, I can honestly say I love mine. It was very affordable and I’m pleased with the performance and ease of clean up with the pan I purchased. To find the donut pan click here.
In keeping with the springtime feel, I decorated my donuts with pesticide-free edible flowers. I used pansies, but if you’re unable to find them, you can substitute pesticide-free rose petals. I found these edible pansies at my local food market in the produce department, near the fresh herbs. You can also find edible flowers at farmers’ markets and online. For a list of edible flowers, click here.Note: The above pictured orange ranunculus flowers on the table are not edible.
Lemon Buttermilk Donuts with Honey Cream Cheese Icing
Like most people, many things in my life are far from perfect. Spring though, is perfect. There are blue skies, flowers blooming in abundance, bunnies scampering around near my home, and Easter is a few days away. What better time to make a dessert to celebrate the new life and hope all around us? My daughter took out her sketch pad and designed the most adorable mini bunny cakes for me. She’s a very talented artist, with an eye for the cuteness factor. To make the bunny cakes look like her sketch, I figured I would need a hemisphere baking pan to give them their cute, rounded shape.
When I was shopping around for hemisphere pans, also know as ball pans, I considered metal pans and silicone pans. In general, I prefer metal pans for baking cakes, but I decided on silicone, hoping to get more use out them. I plan on using them for frozen and refrigerated desserts as well. You can find hemisphere pans at kitchen stores, craft stores, baking supply stores and online. To find the pan I chose, click here.
My next dilemma was whether or not to coat the pans before baking. From what I’ve read, many people seem to have trouble getting their baked goods out of silicone pans, even though the majority of these pans claim to be non-stick. I decided to experiment, trying three different ways. I coated some of the wells with grease and flour, some with only grease, and some were left uncoated. I found that when I inverted the pan, the cakes released effortlessly from the coated wells. The cakes in the uncoated wells took a slight amount of prodding and a bit of residue was left behind, but the cakes were in tact. All three ways seem to work fine, but I decided that, for my own peace of mind, I will grease all of the wells in the future.
Decorating these bunny cakes is fun and easy, so this would make a great project to get the little ones helping out in the kitchen. You can use the candies of your choice to make eyes and noses. I used white candy pearls for the noses and colored them pink with edible petal dust. I made sleepy eyes out of black fondant. Black fondant is difficult to make, so I always buy it. It’s available for purchase in small quantities. To find black fondant, click here. I used edible wafer paper to make the bunny ears, but fondant would also work. A little puff of cotton candy makes a sweet tail. So many possibilities! Whether you make Baby Bunny Coconut Cakes for Easter, a child’s birthday party, a baby shower or simply to celebrate Spring, I hope you enjoy them!
Baby Bunny Coconut Cakes
Fluffy, moist mini hemisphere coconut cakes with coconut buttercream frosting, topped with shredded coconut.
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease 2 silicone mini hemisphere pans. Place pans on large baking sheet.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat butter, sugar and oil together with an electric mixer at medium speed, until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Beat in coconut extract. Gradually beat in egg whites, until mixture is well combined, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl.
Beat in flour mixture in three additions, alternating with coconut milk, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl.
Fill hemisphere pan wells, 3/4 full with batter. Bake for 20-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of cakes comes out clean.
Place silicone pans on wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Invert pans to remove mini cakes and place on wire racks to cool completely.
In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium speed, until light and fluffy.
Add coconut extract and salt. Beat until combined.
Turn off mixer. Add powdered sugar. Mix on low speed until sugar is moistened, then turn up to medium speed and beat until combined.
Add coconut milk a little at a time until desired consistency is reached. Beat at medium speed until buttercream is smooth.
Frost domed tops of mini cakes with a small offset spatula. Cover with shredded coconut, pressing lightly to adhere. Decorate as desired.
To make bunny ears, cut twenty-four 1 1/2-inch by 1-inch rectangles out of edible wafer paper. Cut each rectangle into a long football shape, flat at one end. Cut a 1/2-inch slit at the flat end. With a small paint brush, dab a bit of piping gel on one side of the slit. Overlap cut ends of the slit and press together with your fingers. Let dry. Brush pink petal dust into the center of the ears. Skip this step if you are using floral wafer paper. Cut small slits into the bunny cakes and insert the ears.
To make sleepy eyes, roll out a bit of black fondant to 1/16-inch thickness. Cut circles using the small end of a #12 piping tip. Cut thin crescent shapes from the circles using the small end of the piping tip. For easier handling, let eyes dry for a few minutes. If the coconut on your bunny cakes is still moist and tacky, the eyes will stick. If not, brush them with a small bit of water.
To make noses, use the candy of your choice, such as candy pearls or candy hearts. I used white candy pearls, brushed with edible pink petal dust.
To make tails, you can use cotton candy or mini marshmallows attached with a bit of buttercream. If using cotton candy, keep in mind that it melts when exposed to air, so it's best applied right before serving.
*Do not substitute all-purpose flour. For best results, weigh your dry ingredients.
**For best results, use natural coconut extract. Imitation coconut flavorings may give your baked goods an unpleasant flavor.
***If your coconut milk is separated when you open the can, simply place it in a blender to emulsify it before using.
I’ve been dying to try one of those over-the-top milkshakes that have been catching my eye on social media for some time now. Also known as freakshakes, some magnificently indulgent ones can be found in Australia, the UK and New York City. It’s certainly on my bucket list to go meet up with one of those glorious creations in person and dig in! In the meantime, I decided to concoct my humble version here at home, in honor of National Unicorn Day. Yup, unicorns have their own day! Whoever invented celebrating national days, I thank you. It gives me a great excuse to indulge in a delicious treat…not that I need an excuse.
There are so many versions of unicorn milkshakes out there and I love every one of them! In fact, anything that’s unicorn related sets my heart aflutter. The current unicorn craze won’t seem to go away and, as you can imagine, that is just fine by me! One of the cutest unicorn things I’ve seen is my adorable cousin Nicole, scooting around in her fluffy unicorn slippers. Unicorn slippers are a must while drinking a Unicorn Rainbow Milkshake!
To make the Unicorn Rainbow Milkshake, you’ll need:
Place candy melts in a microwave safe container. Heat in the microwave for 1 minute at 50% power. Stir. Heat in the microwave for 10 second intervals until melted and smooth. If your melted candy melts are too thick, stir in melted shortening a teaspoon at a time until desired consistency is reached. Transfer the melted candy melts to a disposable piping bag or a squeeze bottle. (Alternately, you can use a plastic zip bag.) Place your glass on a rimmed plate or baking sheet. Snip off the tip of the piping bag and drizzle the melted candy along the rim of the glass. Immediately sprinkle on the rainbow sprinkles, before the melted candy sets.
Combine vanilla ice cream and milk in a blender and blend until smooth. Place 3 scoops of rainbow sherbet into your glass. Pour vanilla milkshake over the sherbet scoops in your glass. Top with cotton candy, whipped cream, a Unicorn Horn Cookie, a Fondant Rainbow Topper and a sprinkle of edible gold star glitter. Put on your unicorn slippers and enjoy your unicorn milkshake!
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
Add the egg yolk and extracts. Beat at medium speed until combined.
Gradually add the flour mixture, beating at low speed just until combined. Do not over mix.
Cover dough with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Line 2 large cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Form dough into tablespoon size balls. (I used a tablespoon cookie scoop to make them uniform in size.) Form each ball of dough into a log, tapering at one end.
Twist two logs together to form a horn shape. Repeat with remaining logs. Insert skewers or lollipop sticks, if using. Place about 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheets.
Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Bake until golden brown, about 13-15 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool.
When cookies have cooled completely, place them on a parchment paper lined work surface. (You can use the same pieces of parchment paper that you baked them on.) If you are using lollipop sticks, you may want to cover the sticks with plastic wrap to keep them clean. Spray with edible gold spray. Let dry. Apply an additional coat of edible gold spray, if desired.
*This recipe makes about 14 unicorn horn cookies, but if you only need a few, you can roll out the remaining dough and use your favorite cookie cutter to make cookies. The baking time will be a bit less. You can also make as many unicorn horns as you need and freeze the remaining dough for later use.
**To make toppers as shown, use wooden skewers. To make cookie pops, use lollipop sticks.