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The Kids Cook Monday – Chocolate Coconut King Cake

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I’ve always felt a strong pull towards the city of New Orleans, as if in some long-forgotten past life, it were my home. The most likely explanation for this feeling comes from reading way too many Anne Rice novels during an impressionable period of my youth. I dreamed of the vampire Lestat in the way which girls today dream of  the infamous Edward. I so clearly imagined myself in Rice’s stories, that I began to believe I had a history with New Orleans. Whatever the case may be, the city calls to me. I’ve yet to visit New Orleans, but it’s high on my list.

In another time and place, I would have surely planned my New Orleans trip to correspond with the uproarious celebrations of Mardi Gras. But at this point in my life, as I sit here expecting my third child, I’d almost certainly plan my trip for any time of year except Mardi Gras. I’m just not sure there’s enough wild youth left in me to handle Mardi Gras. These days, I’d be much more inclined to find a dimly lit bar and sit back with a few drinks, listening to live jazz until the wee hours of the morn.

Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is traditionally celebrated on the day before Ash Wednesday; a sort of last hurrah before buckling down for Lenten preparations. Tomorrow, as I’m comfortably nestled on my couch, watching American Idol and eating Easter candy, the city of New Orleans will be buzzing with the grand excitement of Mardi Gras; parades, beads, music and wild partying.  It’s a time to celebrate, indulge, and let the good times roll!

If you were composing a list of foods associated with Mardi Gras, King Cake would surely top the list. King cakes have a long history as part of the Mardi Gras tradition in New Orleans. They are typically made from a ring of lightly-sweetened bread, similar to a brioche, which is then drizzled with a sweet glaze and decorated in the customary Mardi Gras colors of purple, green, and gold. Part of the king cake tradition involves placing a small plastic baby, said to represent the baby Jesus, into the cake. Other items, such as dried beans or nuts are often used as a substitute for the baby. The party guest to find the ‘baby’ is deemed the king.

Holidays make fantastic opportunities for getting kids involved in the kitchen. As with all cooking activities, young children develop early-learning skills in multiple areas. But when the cooking activity relates to a special holiday, it also becomes an opportunity to create a memorable experience which helps kids to connect with their newly learned knowledge of customs and traditions. Experiences like these create memories and help to develop curious lifelong learners.

As part of our Kids Cook Mondays series, my little helpers joined me in making a traditional king cake with a twist. We started with a basic king cake recipe, courtesy of Emeril Lagasse, the culinary king of New Orleans. Then, as Emeril would say, we kicked it up a notch, with a double filling of coconut cream cheese and chocolate. The kids helped to measure, mix, stir, and knead. As we worked, we talked about Mardi Gras and its relevance to Lent and our upcoming Easter preparations. We chatted about the history of king cakes and the tradition of the plastic baby in the cake. Then, once the cake was complete, we eagerly plunged our forks into the sweet slices of cake, curious to discover who would become our king for the day.

Chocolate Coconut King Cake
Adapted from Emeril’s King Cake


For the Cake

  • 1/2 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 packets dry active yeast
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon lemon peel
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup warm milk (105-115 degrees)
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled

For the Fillings:

  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/8 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup shredded coconut

For the Icing:

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Water (a few spoonfuls)
  • Colored sugars (green, purple, and gold)


Combine warm water, sugar and yeast. Stir until dissolved. Set aside for about 10 minutes. It will begin to bubble up, indicating that the yeast has been activated.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, nutmeg, and lemon peel. Gradually stir in the egg yolks, milk, and melted butter. Stir in the yeast mixture until well-blended. If the dough becomes too thick to stir, knead the ingredients together with your hands. If the dough is too sticky to handle, add additional flour until it becomes more manageable.

Coat a large bowl with a bit of vegetable oil or melted butter. Place the dough into the prepared bowl and turn once or twice so that the top of the dough is lightly coated with oil. Cover with a towel and let the dough sit for about 1 1/2 hours.

Prepare the coconut filling by stirring together the softened cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and coconut. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Once the dough has rested and risen for 1 1/2 hours, split the dough in half. Roll each half into a log, about 30 inches long. Flatten each log into a long rectangle. Sprinkle the chocolate chips along the center of one of the rectangles. Spread the coconut mixture along the center of the other rectangle. Fold the rectangles in half along the long sides and pinch closed. Form into rounded logs. Twist the two logs together. Then, arrange the twisted logs into a circle and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Cover with a towel and allow to rest for 45 minutes. Then, bake for 30 minutes.

To prepare the icing, combine the powdered sugar and vanilla with just enough water to form a pourable glaze. Drizzle the glaze over the warm cake. Sprinkle with colored sugars.

Prior to serving, insert a nut or dried bean into the bottom of the cake. The guest to find the nut in their piece of cake is deemed king!

King of the Mardi Gras!


A Sweet for your Sweetie: Chocolate Raspberry Torte

Years and years ago, I received a free sample pack of Make It Italian recipe cards in the mail. I never ordered the complete recipe card collection and most of those sample cards have long since disappeared, but one of those recipe cards has been well-loved and well-worn over the years; a recipe for a rich, delicious Chocolate Raspberry Torte.

I’ve made this torte many times over the years for guests and for our own enjoyment, with a few little adaptations. It’s always a treat; dense chocolatey cake, with a sweet raspberry filling and and rich, dark chocolate ganache. And when the time came to decide on a sweet, chocolatey treat to make for my sweeties on this Valentine’s Day, this torte came first and foremost to my mind.

So, whip out your baking supplies and whip up this sweet treat for the sweeties in your life!

P.S. I won’t tell a soul if you make it just for yourself instead! You deserve it!

Chocolate Raspberry Torte

Adapted from a Make It Italian recipe card


For the Cake

  • 6 Eggs, divided
  • 3/4 cup (plus 1 teaspoon) Sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) Butter, softened
  • 4 (1-ounce) squares Semisweet Baker’s Chocolate, melted
  • 3/4 cup Flour
  • 1/8 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 1/8 cup Raspberry Liqueur (optional)

For the Filling

  • 1/2 cup Raspberry Jam

For the Ganache

  • 4 (1-ounce) squares Semisweet Baker’s Chocolate
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons Heavy Cream
  • Fresh Raspberries and Chopped Walnuts, for garnish


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour a 9 or 10″ round cake pan.

In a medium sized bowl, beat the egg whites with the teaspoon of sugar for several minutes until firm peaks form. Set aside.

Rinse the beaters. Then, in a separate bowl, beat together the sugar and softened butter until creamy. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, until well blended. Gradually beat in the melted chocolate, flour, cocoa powder, and liqueur until well blended.

Gently stir in 1/3 of the beaten egg whites, until well combined. Then, fold in the remaining beaten egg whites.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan and bake for about an hour, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool completely. Then, halve the cake and spread the raspberry jam between the two layers.

To prepare the ganache, heat the cream just until boiling. Pour the cream over the chocolate and stir until smooth. Spread the ganache along the top and sides of the cake. Garnish with fresh raspberries and chopped walnuts. Chill in the refrigerator to set the ganache.

Happy Valentine’s Day, my friends!!

Peppermint Patty Cheesecake Bars

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For my grandfather’s 80th birthday, my sisters and I combined our talents in the kitchen to gift him with a membership to our very own Sweet Treats of the Month club. Each month during his 80th year of life, we presented him with various platters and tins of homemade cookies, candies, bars, muffins, and cakes. As my grandmother anxiously watched his waistline and blood pressure, my grandfather eagerly waited by the mailbox for his monthly deliveries. It worked out to be the perfect gift for a man who has just about everything he desires in life.

Turns out that my grandfather wasn’t the only one who thought a membership in the Sweet Treats of the Month club was a grand gift. As the holidays approached, my father made a not-so-subtle Christmas wish to be enrolled in that homemade goodies club. You can imagine his delight when Christmas brought him his first installment of goodies along with the notification of his enrollment in this very exclusive club.

This weekend, we’ll be traveling to see my parents and other family who we’ve yet to celebrate the holidays with. We’ll also be hand delivering my dad’s January installment of treats. The beautiful thing about this exclusive club is that it’s 100% customizable to the member’s tastes. This means that my dad’s year of treats will be heavily focused on dark chocolates, gingery goodies, oatmeal creations, and maybe even a few chocolate-drizzled macaroons.

So, I set out in search of the perfect recipe for the January installment of goodies. Then, as if in answer to my mission, a fellow food blogger, at Liv Life, recently posted a list of her top ten recipes for the year. Included in the list was a recipe for Chocolate Peppermint Cheesecake Bars. They looked absolutely luscious and right up my dad’s alley. Her post led me to the original Food Network recipe for Chocolate Cheesecake Candy Cane Bars. After a few little modifications, aimed at running the minty flavor throughout the bars, and a substitution of peppermint patties for candy canes, I came up with these; Peppermint Patty Cheesecake Bars. Pretty sure my dad will be pleased!

Peppermint Patty Cheesecake Bars

Adapted from Food Network’s Chocolate Cheesecake Candy Cane Bars


For the Crust

  • 15 Chocolate Sandwich Cookies (mint-flavored, if available), crushed
  • 4 Tablespoons Butter, melted

For the Filling

  • 1 bar (8 ounces) Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup Sour Cream
  • 2/3 cup Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 8 ounces Semi-Sweet Chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon Peppermint Extract

For the Glaze

  • 4 ounces Bittersweet Chocolate, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 teaspoon Light Corn Syrup
  • 2 Tablespoons Sour Cream
  • 4-5 Peppermint Patty candies, chopped


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8×8 baking dish with foil. Combine crushed cookies with melted butter. Press the cookie mixture into the bottom of the baking dish. Bake for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Using an electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese, sour cream and sugar until smooth. Add the eggs and beat for another minute or two. Melt the chocolate slowly in the microwave or in a bowl set over a pot of boiling water, stirring frequently. Add the melted chocolate and the peppermint extract to the cream cheese mixture and mix until combined. Pour the filling over the prepared crust. Bake for 25-30 minutes until slightly puffed around the edges. The center will appear slightly loose. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 30 minutes.

To make the glaze, place bittersweet chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat for about 30 seconds at a time, stirring periodically, until completely melted. Stir in the sour cream. Spread the glaze over the cheesecake. Sprinkle with pieces of the peppermint patty candies.  Refrigerate overnight to thoroughly chill. Use the foil to lift the cheesecake from the baking dish and cut into small squares or bars.

Dark Chocolate Orange Cake with Cannoli Filling

Early each morning, sometime before the sun rises, our three year old crawls out of his bed and taps his tiny bare feet along the hardwood floors as he finds his way into our bedroom. He climbs into bed between me and my husband, snuggles up under the heavy down comforter, and quietly falls back to sleep. This has been his routine for most of his perfect little life.

As such, on the day of my birthday, he made his way to his space in the bed and snuggled up with his head nuzzled into my back. With his tiny hand, he touched my cheek for just a moment. And then he whispered, Mommy? Is today the day of your birthday? I replied affirmatively. He continued, Mommy? What sweetie? Happy Birthday Mommy. Thank you baby. Go to sleep now. Mommy? What is it buddy? I’m going to make you delicious treats for your birthday. I can’t wait, sweetie. Now, go to sleep.

Then we went back to sleep, at least until my other little guy came charging into the room. He doesn’t tap across the floor; he charges. And he doesn’t snuggle up and go back to sleep; he pounces, giggles, and makes animal noises. But, by this time, the sun had risen and it was time for our day of delicious treats to begin.

If you ask my kids, no birthday of delicious treats is complete without cake. And I have absolutely no problem with baking myself a cake on my birthday. The best part is being able to custom design the cake of your birthday dreams! And on my special day, I decided to make a moist dark chocolate cake, accented with fresh orange zest, filled with chocolate-chip cannoli cream, and smothered with chocolate ganache. Doesn’t that sound dreamy?

I went back to my favorite chocolate cake recipe, which you’ve seen here before. It’s truly fantastic; moist, rich, and delicious. With a few little modifications, I incorporated a hint of orange flavor. The orange in the cake is intended to complement the sweet, delicious candied orange peel I’ll be mixing into the cannoli filling. You can skip the orange completely, in the cake and filling, but it really does add an interesting depth of flavor.

Candied Orange Peel is a cinch to make and stores well at room temperature, in the fridge or freezer. So, make a big batch and save the extras for throwing in brownies, cookies, and breads or simply dipping in dark chocolate for a decadent treat.

Dark Chocolate Orange Cake

(Adapted from Hershey’s Deep Dark Chocolate Cake recipe)


  • 2 cups Sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups All-purpose Flour
  • 3/4 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa or HERSHEY’S SPECIAL DARK Cocoa
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons Baking Soda
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 cup Milk
  • 1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • Zest of 1 Orange
  • Juice of 1 Orange (about 1/4 cup)*
  • Boiling Water (about 3/4)*

*The combined total of juice and water should be 1 cup.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour two round cake pans.

In a large bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Beat for a couple minutes until well combined. Stir in the orange zest. Add the boiling water, orange juice and stir. The batter will be thinner than you might expect. Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for about 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool completely before filling and frosting.

Cannoli Filling


  • 1 15 ounce container Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese, strained*
  • 3/4 cup Confectioners Sugar
  • Dash of Cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup Mini Chocolate Chips
  • 2-3 Tbsp Candied Orange Peel, finely diced

* If the ricotta cheese seems even a bit runny, strain it by placing it over a piece of cheesecloth, in a colander set over a bowl, for a few hours in the fridge to remove the excess liquid. This will ensure a thick cannoli filling.


Beat together the ricotta and sugar until smooth. Stir in the cinnamon, chocolate chips and candied orange peel.

Chocolate Ganache


  • 6 ounces Semisweet Chocolate
  • 1/2 cup Heavy Cream


Give the chocolate a coarse chop. Place the chocolate pieces in a bowl. Heat the cream, just to a boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir until smooth.


Candied Orange Peel


  • 4 Navel Oranges
  • 3 cups Sugar
  • 1 cup Water
  • 1/2 cup Sugar for rolling (optional)


Clean the oranges. Cut off the tops and bottoms of the oranges. Use a knife to remove the orange peel and pith in large chunks. Set the oranges aside for another use. Slice the orange peel into thin strips.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the orange peel and boil for about 2 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.

Bring a fresh pot of water to a boil. Add the orange peel again. Cook for another 2 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.

Combine the 3 cups Sugar with 1 cup Water in a saucepan. Stir to combine. Bring to a simmer. Add the orange peel. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the peels are tender and slightly translucent. Strain. *If desired, you can keep the orange accented syrup for another use.

When the orange peel is cool enough to handle, take a few pieces at a time and roll in sugar to coat. Then, arrange the orange peel onto a drying rack to dry for one to two hours. *If desired, you can skip the sugar-rolling step and simply arrange the peel on the drying rack.

The same procedure can be applied to lemon and lime peel. Dried candied orange peel can be store in an air-tight container at room temperature, refrigerated or frozen.

A Better Caramel Apple Cake

You may remember a couple weeks ago, when I shared a recipe for a Caramel Apple Cake, which I’d found in the Food Network magazine. I baked the cake for the dessert table at my little guy’s birthday party. In theory, the cake was inspired genius; the gooey, fruity top of an upside-down cake; oozing with homemade caramel. In execution, it was less than perfect. While the cake up near the apples and caramel was sweet and tender, the bulk of the cake struck me as a bit too dry and bland.

But the idea was too good to let go. So, I reworked the recipe a bit. The result was a definite winner; a better Caramel Apple Cake. I don’t want to insist that you ignore the Food Network on this one and listen to little ol’ me. But, well… Listen to me!

My adjustments are as follows. I reduced the amount of flour and increased the cinnamon. I halved the entire caramel recipe since, as written, it produces WAY more caramel than necessary. I eliminated the center apple, which seemed unnecessary and did little for the finished appearance. Finally, borrowing the idea from my favorite, super-moist chocolate cake recipe, I added 2/3 cup of boiling water to thin out the batter. The result was a significantly moister, more flavorful cake with less fat and calories than the original! An all-around win!

Caramel Apple Cake

Adapted from Food Network Magazine’s Caramel Apple Cake


For the Caramel:

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp light corn syrup
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

For the Cake:

  • 2 Apples (Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, or Crispin)
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup Boiling Water


Butter a 3 inch deep, 8 or 9 inch diameter cake pan.

Prepare the Caramel. In a deep saucepan over medium-medium/high heat, combine the sugar and corn syrup until the sugar melts and the mixture turns a deep amber color. Be careful, because the mixture will be extremely hot. Turn down the heat to medium and carefully add the butter and cream. Be prepared that the mixture will bubble up vigorously. Stir with a long-handled spoon for about 3 minutes, until combined.

Allow the caramel to cool for  a minute. Reserve 1/2 cup of the caramel in a container. Pour the remaining caramel into the cake pan. Allow the caramel to set for 20-30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice both apples into thin pieces. When the caramel has cooled, arrange the apple slices in an overlapping ring around the edge of the cake pan. Chop up the remaining apple slices and set aside.

Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a separate small bowl, mix together the sour cream, orange juice, and vanilla. Set aside.

Use a hand mixer to beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. One at a time, beat in the eggs. Then, add half of the flour mixture, followed by half of the sour cream mixture. Continue beating to combine. Add the remaining half of the flour mixture and remaining sour cream. Beat until combined.

Stir in the 2/3 cup of boiling water, until the batter is smooth.

Pour the batter into the pan. Sprinkle the top of the batter with the chopped apples.

Bake for about 1 hour and 20 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the cake springs back when gently pressed. Cool completely in the pan.

To serve, bring about an inch of water to a boil in a large saucepan or skillet (with a wider diameter than the cake pan). Turn off the heat and place the bottom of the cake pan in the hot water. Allow the pan to sit in the hot water for 5-7 minutes to soften the caramel. Then, run a knife along he edges of the cake to loosen and invert the cake over your serving plate. Microwave the caramel for a few seconds at a time until it is softened. Drizzle the remaining caramel over the top of the cake. Serve immediately.

Bloody Molten Lava Cakes

Is anyone else as excited about the Season 5 premiere of Dexter as I am?? I should be spending the day preparing for my little guy’s upcoming birthday party. Yet instead, I’m thinking of that lovable serial killer and dreaming up culinary ways to celebrate his return to TV. I found myself thinking…WWDE? What would Dexter eat?

Well, we know he’s a blood splatter analyst by profession. And I guess you could say that he’s got a thing for blood during his recreation time as well. But despite his penchant for blood, he’s got a sweet side. He’s a father, a brother, and a reliable coworker; an all-around swell guy, by outward appearances, at least. In truth, he’s hiding a horrifying secret.

Bloody, sweet, and secretive. I could only think of one thing which fits that bill. Bloody Molten Lava Cakes. Sweet white chocolate cakes, accented with rich cocoa and orange liquer and colored with a good dose of bloody red. Serve the individual cakes hot out of the oven with fresh orange supremes. As you cut into the tender cake, you’ll discover the secret which lies within; a bloody red, hot molten center.

These little cakes would be a great treat for a Dexter viewing party or even for a Halloween gathering. And aside from being a cute, kitchy TV-themed treat, they’re actually a really delicious dessert. I started with a traditional recipe for Molten Lava Cakes and adjusted from there to achieve a rich, red color and a white chocolate-orange flavor. The batter comes together in a pinch and they only take 14 minutes to bake!

White Chocolate Molten Lava Cakes


  • 3/4 cup White Chocolate Chips
  • 7 Tbsp Butter
  • 1/3 cup Flour
  • 3/4 cup Confectioner’s Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Unsweetened Cocoa Powder*
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 Egg Yolks
  • 1 Tbsp Orange Liquer
  • 1 Orange, supremed**
  • Red Gel Food Coloring***
  • Confectioner’s Sugar, for garnish
  • Butter or Vegetable Shortening, for greasing ramekins

* For an even redder result, you can skip the cocoa powder

** To see my photo guide on How to Supreme an Orange, click here.

***If your supermarket doesn’t carry gel food coloring, check the baking section of your local craft store.


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease four ramekins with butter or vegetable shortening. Melt the white chocolate chips and butter over a double boiler or in the microwave, stirring until smooth. Add the flour, sugar, and cocoa. Stir to combine. Add the eggs, egg yolks, and liquer. Stir until smooth. Add several drops of red gel food coloring and stir. Equally divide the batter amongst the four ramekins. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and bake on the middle oven rack for 14 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a minute or two. Run a knife around the edges of the cake to loosen. Then, invert the cakes over a serving plate. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and garnish with orange supremes. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Season 5 of Dexter premieres this Sunday, September 26, 2010 at 9:00 on Showtime. Don’t miss it!

We'll start cooking for his birthday party tomorrow.

Funny Bone Cupcakes

I love the feature on my blog stats page which shows me all of the search terms which have led people to my blog. As you might expect, most of the search terms have something to do with food; marinara using fresh tomatoes, best oatmeal cookie, Nick Tahou’s at the New York State Fair. But I also get a fair share of hits from search terms which leave me puzzled, for example, How to Make a Christmas Money Wreath. What’s a Christmas money wreath? I want one of those.

And then today, I awoke to find that someone had been led to my blog by the search term, Irresistible Hot Moms. HAHA! That’s absolutely awesome. I’m pretty sure it led the searcher to my post on Irresistible Spinach Dip with Wonton Pasta Chips, wherein the recipe included details about getting the cooking oil hot. Just a wild guess, but I suspect the searcher wasn’t looking for a spinach dip recipe. Funny stuff.

Speaking of funny stuff… Does it get any better than Funny Bones? You know, those delicious chocolatey-peanut buttery Drake’s cakes. As a child, I’d easily bypass the racks of Twinkies, Devil Dogs, Yodels, or Ding Dongs in search of my all-time favorite snack cake, Funny Bones! I could’ve eaten a whole box in one sitting and wouldn’t have even regretted the resulting bellyache. For some reason, as I grew up, Funny Bones seemed to be in shorter supply. Perhaps they have a limited distribution area and I was moving to all of the wrong places. But one day I woke up and realized I hadn’t seen a Funny Bone in ages. That realization was not so funny at all.

I don’t eat snack cakes very often these days. The deep-fried twinkie, which I recently devoured at the fair, was probably the first snack cake I’ve eaten all year. But, I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic lately, so I’ve decided to build a cupcake inspired by childhood favorite. The only difference is that my cupcake will feature grown-up deep chocolate flavor. Moist, dark chocolate cupcakes, filled with sweet peanut butter filling, and decked with a smooth chocolate ganache. Funny Bones improved.

For the cake, I’m using a recipe I stumbled upon a few months ago while searching for a base for my Baked Alaska endeavor. The recipe for Deep Dark Chocolate Cake, found on the Hershey’s website, is perhaps the best chocolate cake I’ve ever tasted. I’ll never make another chocolate cake recipe. It’s rich, oh so moist, and a cinch to make. For the filling, I’m simply combining creamy peanut butter with confectioners sugar and a bit of cream for a sweet and creamy texture. My favorite simple chocolate ganache will deck the cupcake tops with a sprinkle of chopped peanuts as a finishing touch.

Tomorrow night, my girls are coming over to help me figure out a hairstyle for the big Bertolli Fashion Week event next week. I’m sure they’ll also be willing to help me take care of a few of these cupcakes!

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

(Barely adapted from Hershey’s Deep Dark Chocolate Cake recipe)


  • 2 cups Sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups All-purpose Flour
  • 3/4 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa or HERSHEY’S SPECIAL DARK Cocoa
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons Baking Soda
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 cup Milk
  • 1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 1 cup Boiling Water


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare cupcakes pans with cupcake liners or grease and lightly flour.

In a large bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Beat for a couple minutes until well combined. Add the boiling water and stir. The batter will be thinner than you might expect. Pour the batter into the prepared cupcake pans. *Fill each cupcake about 2/3 full, to avoid overflowing. Bake for  25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool completely before filling and frosting.

Peanut Butter Filling


  • 1/2 cup Creamy Peanut Butter
  • 1/2 cup Confectioners Sugar
  • 3 Tbsp Heavy Cream


Warm the peanut butter for a few seconds in the microwave to soften. Add the sugar and stir together until smooth. Add the cream, as necessary, to reach a consistency which is thick, but loose enough to easily squeeze through a pastry tip.

Chocolate Ganache


  • 6 ounces Semisweet Chocolate
  • 1/2 cup Heavy Cream


Give the chocolate a coarse chop. Place the chocolate pieces in a bowl. Heat the cream, just to a boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir until smooth.

To compose the cupcakes…

Spoon the peanut butter filling into a pastry bag fitted with a small/medium round tip. (You can also use a ziploc bag with the corner cut off and a pastry tip inserted.) Insert the pastry tip into the top of each cupcake and squeeze to fill the cakes with a small amount of peanut butter filling. Refrigerate for about 10 minutes to set the filling.

Prepare the ganache. One at a time, hold each cupcake by the base and dip the top into the ganache to evenly coat. Return to the cooling rack. Garnish the cupcakes with a few chopped peanuts. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Children will especially enjoy helping out with the dipping and tasting the results!

America’s Birthday Cake

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Happy Birthday, America!

Over the past few days, we’ve made patriotic mixed berry mousse with creamy vanilla panna cotta. We’ve shown our pride with festive pretzel sparklers, coated in rich chocolate and rolled in sprinkles of red, white, and blue. But, today is your birthday America! So, we made you a birthday cake, of course. Close your eyes and make a wish!

As if cake batter weren’t irresistible enough to a three year old, try adding a few drops of highly concentrated gel color power. My son’s tongue was like a magnet to the batter and I became a bird of sorts uttering ah, ah, ah until my throat was dry. Somehow, we managed to get the cakes in the oven with only a slight consumption of raw batter and mostly unstained fingers.

This is no ordinary birthday cake. On the outside, it appears plain white and completely unassuming. But, the inside is extraordinary. At least, I hope it will be extraordinary! At this point, I can only imagine what the inside will look like. We’ll be cutting the cake later today, as we celebrate the 4th with friends. For now, here’s a little look at the construction of America’s birthday cake.

Mix up a white cake batter. One box of cake mix will do the job!

Ensure that the cake batter is delicious. Quality control is essential.

Split the cake batter approximately into thirds, with a little extra in one of the bowls. Use gel food coloring to mix up some patriotic colors, making the biggest portion of cake batter red.

Pour the batter into cake pans (1 double-thick blue, 2 thin whites, and 3 thin reds) and bake according to package directions. Check the cakes often, since they are thin and will cook faster than any of the recommended cooking times. The thicker blue cake will take the longest.

Use a long serrated knife to level the cakes.

Frost a red and white layer together. Place the blue layer on top. Using a bowl as a guide, cut a circle through all three layers. Discard (eat) the inside of the blue layer and the outside of the red and white layer.

The pieces will fit together like a puzzle.

Build the base of the cake by spreading a thin layer of frosting between the layers. Place the cake layers cut-side down to spread the frosting more easily.

Place the red, white, and blue layer on the top.

To keep your serving platter clean, tuck wax paper along the edges of the cake while you frost. Spread a thin layer of frosting all around the cake. Think of this coat of frosting as the corset holding all of the layers and crumbs in place. Refrigerate until the frosting is firm.

Spread a second layer of frosting over the cake and decorate as desired. When the frosting is complete, gently pull the wax paper away.

Can you imagine what the inside will look like?


Maybe just a little taste…

Wow! 234 years old! You wear your age well, America.

Cake idea inspired by 17 and Baking blog.

Amy vs. Baked Alaska – The Showdown

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A tumbleweed rolls across my kitchen floor. A strange man sits at the table, whistling ominously on a stout brown jug. I step into the room, spurs glimmering. A pair of wooden saloon doors swing closed behind me with a screech. (Funny…I don’t remember installing those doors.) I tip my hat and glare at my adversary.

**Flashback twenty or so years.** A gawky teenager, dressed in leggings with slouch socks and gleaming white faux-Keds, moves easily about the kitchen. Her side-pony sways with every movement. A well worn Better Homes and Gardens Dessert cookbook, circa 1973, sits open on the counter. Bolstered with confidence after the roaring success of the previous week’s Lemon Meringue Pie, she is busy preparing Baked Alaska, never pausing for a moment to consider what lie ahead.

My adversary stands before me, dressed in gleaming white. It snickers, taunting me. I stick my tongue out and make a sour face. My weapon is drawn.

Cyndi Lauder blares in the background as the eager teen approaches the open oven, her fluffy, white creation in hand. She pops it in the oven and dances awkwardly about the kitchen for a few minutes.  The timer beeps. She bounces over to the oven, opens the door, and shrieks. Her siblings come running into the kitchen.

I belt out my battle cry and approach the snickering adversary. I take it in my hands and approach the piping hot oven. Not this time!  Not this time! I place it in the oven and close the door.

The teen and her siblings stare in horror at the tray of melted ice cream. It looks nothing like the picture in the cookbook. A single tear falls from the teen’s hazel eyes.

After five eternal minutes, I open the oven and…

My Baked Alaska

Dark Chocolate Raspberry Baked Alaska

Here’s how it’s done…

The Cake

You can use just about any flavor or type of cake for the base of the Baked Alaska. A giant cookie or brownie base would probably work nicely too!  I went searching for a dark chocolate cake recipe for my Baked Alaska. I landed upon a truly fantastic recipe from Hershey’s for Deep Dark Chocolate Cake.  This is probably the best chocolate cake I’ve ever tasted. I will definitely be using this cake recipe for future birthday cakes! I made one 9 inch round cake for my base and several cupcakes for the kids to make their own mini Baked Alaskas.

Mise en place - Everything in its place

Hershey's Deep Dark Chocolate Cake

Chocolatey Cake and Cupcakes

The Ice Cream

You can use any flavor(s) of ice cream in your Baked Alaska.  To prepare the ice cream, spray the inside of a bowl with Pam or lightly coat with vegetable oil. Then, line the bowl with plastic wrap.  This step will make it easier to remove the ice cream dome. Allow the ice cream to soften slightly.  Then, spread the ice cream in an even layer on the bottom of the bowl, being certain to fill all gaps.  Place the bowl in the freezer until the ice cream has refrozen. If using more than one flavor, freeze each layer before adding the next flavor. I layered dark chocolate ice cream with fresh raspberries, raspberry sorbet, and milk chocolate ice cream.

Raspberry Sorbet Layer

Waiting for the ice cream

The Meringue

Meringue is a mixture of egg whites and sugar, beaten until thick and glossy. Cream of tartar is frequently added as a stabilizer, but is not absolutely necessary. Egg whites should be beaten to soft peaks before incorporating the sugar.

A few tips for a successful meringue:

  • Bowl and whisk should be pristinely clean as even the slightest bit of residual fat can prevent the whites from developing.
  • Stainless steel, glass, or ceramic bowls will all work well.
  • Make sure that no trace of yolk enters the mix. Crack each egg into a ramekin or small bowl first, so if a yolk breaks, you won’t waste the whole batch.
  • Allow the egg whites to come to room temperature before beating.
  • Before beating, add 1/8 tsp of Cream of Tartar per egg white to help stabilize the whipped whites.
  • Beat the egg whites until soft peaks begin to form.
  • Use about (but no less than) 2 Tbsp of sugar per egg white.
  • If possible, use superfine sugar as it will dissolve more easily into the egg whites.
  • Gradually add sugar a spoonful at a time, until stiff peaks form. Stiff peaks will hold their shape. The meringue should be smooth and glossy.

Soft Peaks

Stiff Peaks

** I used 8 whites, 1 tsp cream of tartar, and 16 Tbsp sugar, which made enough meringue to thoroughly cover my large Baked Alaska and two of the kids’ Baked Alaska cupcakes.

The Assembly

Once the cake is baked and the ice cream is thoroughly frozen, carefully turn the bowl over and lower the ice cream dome on top of the cake. I scooped out a shallow bed for the ice cream dome to sit in, in the hopes that it would provide a better insulating seal for the meringue. This step may not be necessary, but it worked! Once the ice cream cake is assembled, allow it to freeze until very firm. I left mine in the freezer overnight. Once frozen, preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Prepare the meringue.  Working quickly, coat the ice cream and the cake thoroughly in meringue, being careful to spread the meringue to every edge. You can use a knife or the back of a spoon to create decorative designs in your meringue.

Cake with a shallow bed for the ice cream

Cake with Ice Cream

The Final Baking

Bake on the lower rack of a 450 degree oven for 5-6 minutes until the exterior begins to brown.

Serve immediately or freeze until ready to serve. It holds well in the freezer.

Dark Chocolate Raspberry Baked Alaska with Raspberry Coulis

A few other notes and tips…

  • Make sure your meringue thoroughly coats the ice cream and cake.  This is the most important part (and probably the aspect which caused my failure so many years ago). The meringue is what insulates the ice cream from the heat.
  • Make your ice cream dome with a smaller diameter than your cake.  Most recipes don’t mention this, but I think it helps to prevent melting.
  • Inspired by this link, shared by a friend, my kids made their own mini Baked Alaskas.  I used extra batter from the cake to make a few cupcakes.  Then, we scooped out the center and filled it with softened Raspberry Sorbet.  They coated their Alaskas with the extra meringue.  Then, I put them in the oven for 5 minutes at 450 degrees.  Worked out great, just make sure you help your kids thoroughly cover the entire cupcake.
  • I served my Baked Alaska with a Raspberry Coulis.  A coulis, (pronounced koo-LEE) is simply a sauce made by pureeing fruit or vegetables and straining.  For my sauce, I pureed a handful of raspberries with a Tbps of sugar. Then, I strained the puree and discarded the seeds.

Don't mess with this cowboy!

So, did anyone else try your own Baked Alaska??  I know at least one of you did and with grand success! Anyone else?  Tell us how it went!

Gearing Up

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Not too much to say today. Just gearing up for the week. I’ve got some yummy things in store!  For starters, I’m talking about the world’s greatest Penne ala Vodka recipe! I’m also thinking about a chicken salad sandwich, linguini and clam sauce, and a cool glass of fresh-squeezed ginger lemonade. Should be a great week!

Not to mention that I’ll be facing off with the Baked Alaska this week. To be honest, I’m not even sure that I like Baked Alaska. For me, this is all about conquering the beast that ravaged my 13 year old soul. Ok, so maybe I’m over exaggerating a bit. But, I WILL defeat my old foe. That’s right! We’ll see who’s wearing the daddy pants come Wednesday!

Actually, I began my Baked Alaska mission today. I’ll be finishing it tomorrow. But, I don’t want to give too much away until Wednesday’s post.  We’ve got some other people working on their own Baked Alaska creations and I want to give everyone a chance to finish before I post! There’s still time to get in on the fun!  Check out or for some Baked Alaska recipe ideas!

I’ll just leave you with this…

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