Here is the lemon brownie enlightenment no one asked for, brought to you by the self proclaimed lemon brownie expert, yours truly! We all know what a lemon bar is. The one we all know and love has a lemon curd filling on a shortbread crust, possibly drizzled with lemon icing. The lemon brownie is a whole different animal. Don’t mistake lemon brownies for lemon cake either. Lemon brownies contain white chocolate which gives them a rich, fudgy texture like their chocolate cousins. Now that we got that straightened out, we can sleep peacefully tonight.
May I just say that my lemon brownie credentials go all the way back to childhood? I grew up with a big lemon tree in my backyard and I constantly experimented with lemons in cooking and baking. I also experimented my way to the perfect lemonade ratio. My younger brother and I made a lemonade pact. He would pick the lemons and I would make lemonade. Our mom never bought soft drinks, so if we wanted refreshments, we had to team up! Decades ago my mom was delighted to see me making a batch of raspberry lemonade for the first time. The raspberry lemonade brownie recipe I’m sharing here has that same sweet-tart flavor we enjoyed back then.
One of my favorite things about this recipe is that there is no electric mixer needed. You can literally execute this recipe with only a wooden spoon to stir it! My other favorite thing is the burst of flavor and color from the fresh raspberries. The icing contains no food coloring. Just three raspberries will give you that luscious shade of pink!
Have you noticed the strawberry shortcake crumble topping trend? I recently noticed many people have been sharing various versions of the crumble recipe all over Tiktok. I’ve seen the topping on cake, cupcakes and countless other desserts. Most people seem to make it using strawberry gelatin mix and vanilla pudding mix. The version I’m sharing here uses freeze dried strawberries instead. I’m not opposed to using gelatin mix, I just seriously love the tart, natural flavor of freeze dried strawberries. This topping is irresistible on these tender strawberry muffins.
Since strawberry season is in full swing, I used fresh strawberries for the puree in the muffins. Feel free to use frozen, defrosted strawberries if you cant get fresh ones.
Strawberry Shortcake Crumble Muffins
Strawberry muffins topped with strawberry shortcake crumble
Have you ever had mudslide cake? It’s a deliciously messy chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and marshmallows, also known as Mississippi mud cake. I saw one covered in a layer of marshmallow fluff and it made its way into my dreams. I woke up with the inspiration to make a cookie version of the gooey mudslide cake.
I saw a few mudslide cookie recipes out there that used standard size marshmallows and chocolate chips mixed into the cookie dough. If you’ve ever baked with marshmallows, you know that they nearly disappear during the baking process. Chocolate chips melt beautifully into little pools of chocolate, but then harden once cooled to room temperature. I happily volunteered to address these challenges! After some trial and error, I created a satisfying cookie with plenty of gooey marshmallow goodness and a rich fudge filling that stays soft at room temperature. Dreams do come true!
Marshmallow Mudslide Cookies
Chocolate fudge-filled cookies topped with toasted marshmallows
Melt chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk together in a double boiler or in the **microwave in a medium microwave safe bowl.
Stir in chopped nuts. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
Heat oven to 350º.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream butter with an electric mixer.
Add granulated sugar and brown sugar and mix on medium speed until light and fluffy.
Add eggs one at a time and mix until well combined.
Add vanilla and mix until combined.
Add dry ingredients in two increments, mixing just until combined.
Roll fudge filling into tablespoon sized balls
Roll cookie dough into 1/8 cup balls then flatten into a disc with your fingers and place a ball of fudge filling in the middle of each disc. Wrap the cookie dough around the ball of filling, sealing it completely.
Place cookies about 2 inches apart on large baking sheets.
Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven.
Turn on broiler.
Place a marshmallow on top of each cookie.
Broil cookies until marshmallows are toasted. This takes about 1 minute. CAUTION Watch cookies carefully when broiling! They can go from done to burnt in the blink of an eye!
*I used Kraft Jet-Puffed S'moreMallows, but if you're unable to find them, use jumbo marshmallows. Cut them in half lengthwise with kitchen shears. Place on cookies cut side down.
**To melt fudge filling in microwave, heat for 30 seconds. Stir, then microwave for 10 second intervals, stirring until melted.
Every winter, when blood oranges come back in season, I start keeping an eye out for them at grocery stores and farmers markets. This year was different. I’ve been at home, having my groceries delivered instead perusing the local produce aisles. If you’ve been entrusting strangers to do your shopping like I have, then you know delivery produce selections are hit and miss. So I was elated when a bag of perfectly beautiful, ripe blood oranges landed on my doorstep. This simple joy made my day. There was no choice. I had to make something worthy of the gorgeous red beauties!
I didn’t get enough of gingerbread this holiday season, so I decided to make a gingerbread cupcake recipe that I created a few years ago when I was experimenting with blood oranges. I used blood orange zest in the cupcake batter and brushed the warm cupcakes with the blood orange syrup left over from making the candied oranges. If you don’t make the candied oranges, you can easily make a batch of the syrup* or skip this step altogether. They will still be delicious. I topped the cupcakes with cream cheese icing made with more orange zest and some blood orange juice mixed in. The juice makes the icing turns a soft shade of pink.
Candied blood orange slices are so stunning, that I can’t bring myself to just lay them on top of a dessert. They remind me of stained glass windows. I like to place them on toothpicks so they can stand up in regal style! Many recipes out there will instruct you to boil the orange slices, then let them air dry. This is perfectly fine if you don’t mind floppy candied oranges. For this recipe, boiling the slices, then letting them dry in the oven on low heat will give them enough stiffness to stand up.
If you can’t find blood oranges where you live, here’s a link to get blood oranges shipped to you. This recipe will also work with other types of oranges. You won’t get the deep scarlet color and the flavor will have a bit more tartness, but it will still be beautiful and delicious!
Gingerbread Cupcakes with Blood Orange Cream Cheese Icing
Preheat oven to 350º. Spray the wells of a muffin tin with non-stick spray.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer at medium speed, until smooth.
Add brown sugar and orange zest and beat until light and fluffy.
Add molasses and beat until combined.
Add eggs one at a time and beat until combined.
Mix in dry ingredients in two additions, alternating with buttermilk. Beat just until combined.
Scoop the batter into prepared muffin tin, filling wells 2/3 full. (If you have any remaining batter, prepare an additional muffin tin.)
Bake for 15-18 minutes until toothpick inserted in center of cupcake comes out clean.
Allow to cool in pan 10 minutes, then remove cupcakes from pan.
Place cupcakes upside down on cooling rack and brush generously with orange simple syrup. Allow cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.
Blood Orange Cream Cheese Icing
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese at medium speed, until smooth.
Add butter, orange zest and salt and beat until combined.
Add powdered sugar. Beat at low speed until powdered sugar is incorporated. Increase speed to medium and beat until smooth.
Add blood orange juice and beat, one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached.
Candied Blood Orange Slices
Slice oranges into thin 1/4 inch slices.
Combine sugar and water in a shallow saucepan and bring to a simmer.
Add orange slices to saucepan. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Drain oranges, reserving syrup.
Heat oven to 175ºF. Place on a large baking sheet lined with a baking mat in a single layer and bake until orange slices begin to stiffen, about 2 hours.
Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet. If desired, insert toothpicks when slices are cool enough to handle. The slices will continue to stiffen as they cool.
*To make orange simple syrup, combine the juice of one orange with enough water to make 1/2 cup. Combine mixture with the zest of one orange and 1/2 cup sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Let cool and transfer to a glass container. Refrigerate until ready to use.
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.
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.