Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Cupcakes

So, as I was making my list of food and desserts I was going to make, I had a hankering for cupcakes. I've been meaning to make some since Thanksgiving, but just never got around to it. I have made Chocolate Cupcakes with peanut butter on the inside before, but I kind of cheated a little (instead of making the peanut butter center I put a mini Reese's cup inside the batter) and they were really good.

So, I found this recipe from Taste of Home (I'm a tiny bit obsessed right now, seriously go get their cookbooks!) and thought it looked pretty good, a lot of liquids though, but that just made them nice and moist. Of course, I don't get to keep the cupcakes, my son gets one and the rest go off to my husband's work. Which is really a lot better, because then we'd just end up eating all the sweets, and too many sweets, though tasty, really isn't good for us.

These are really moist and quite tasty. I'm going to give you a double recipe for the frosting, if you are like me and do the swirly top then this is perfect. If you prefer to do a smooth top (using a knife or spatula instead of a decorator's bag and star tip) you won't need as much frosting.


(For Peanut Butter filling)
3 oz cream cheese
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp milk

(For Batter)
2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups flour
1/2 cup baking cocoa (I would have used Ghirardelli but they were out)
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
1 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla

(For Frosting)
2/3 cup butter, softened
4 cups powdered (confectioners') sugar
12 Tbsp baking cocoa
6 - 8 Tbsp milk

Ok, now you can use the cheat here and just insert a mini Reese's Cup where this mix goes, and just skip it all together or you can use this peanut butter mix.

So in a small bowl you'll put in your cream cheese (softened), peanut butter, milk and sugar and beat it until its smooth and well mixed, then just set it aside.

Now in your large mixing bowl you'll throw all your ingredients for your batter in your bowl and mix away. Really that's pretty much it, no real order, no real prep just put them all in. Mix it all together and it'll be nice and runny. (It's supposed to be runny so don't be worried, it'll turn out great.)

Now, you'll use Jumbo muffin cups here, preferably the foil ones lined with paper, they stand up on their own and you won't need a muffin pan.

Fill the muffin cup about half way with the chocolate mixture, and then put a small dollop of the peanut butter mixture in (or your Reese's cup). You can put more chocolate over the peanut butter, but it won't really matter, it just floats up. Fill up all your muffin cups (about 12-16) and pop them in the oven (on a jelly roll pan) at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until it tests done.

Before adding any of the frosting, they need to be completely cooled.

In a large bowl throw in all of your frosting ingredients beat them on low until nice and smooth. Mmm it looks really good!

Ok, now you can use a decorator bag here and a Wilton 1M tip if you'd like. Or just smooth on the icing with a spatula.

Before frosting, I recommend removing the cupcake liners. Using the tip start from the outside of the cup cake in a circular pattern and end in the middle. This always reminds me of an ice cream cone, but I was in a hurry and just slapped some icing on so, they are a little sloppy! There it is done, yummy, moist, store in an airtight container and enjoy!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Pork Chow Mein

In my house, I experiment on my poor husband all of the time. Most of the time it turns out really well, on occasion it can just go all wrong. I enjoy cooking and baking and experimenting, and most of the time my husband enjoys the meals I make.

Now due to all of that experimenting, I don't usually like to make the same thing twice, unless it's for company or we really, really like it. Now I do have 3 books that I keep all of the best recipe's that I changed, some completely, and we'll use it, but I only usually repeat once every 3-4 months, so we don't get tired of our favorites. Or I'll make it if requested.

This recipe, I've made 3 or 4 times in the past 2 months, because it's just that fantastic. It makes great leftovers, it's simple to make, and easy to double for company. So, try this, adapt it, love it!

(Please bear with me, today, I've been a bit sick this week, so all of that writing might not make complete sense. Also, I took these pictures so, they aren't the best.)


  • 1 lb boneless pork loin (ok you can use a pork loin, or chops, this last time I used pre-cut pork stew meat)
  • 2 garlic cloves, mined (if you like peeling and mincing your garlic, yeah, I usually buy the pre minced garlic in the 48 oz. size; I used about a Tablespoon)
  • 4 Tbsp soy sauce, divided (keep the bottle out though, also I recommend using the lower sodium version)
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp (ish) vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sliced carrots (I used baby carrots)
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped cabbage
  • 1 cup chopped spinach (fresh)
  • rice (you'll cook this separate and the instructions aren't here. I highly recommend using 2 bags of the Minute boil-in-bag rice, it's great)

First you'll want to get your pork ready. If you bought a pork loin or pork chops they need to be cut into 1 inch strips, or bite size strips. If you bought the stew meat that's pre-cut just go through and make sure there aren't any giant pieces. In a Ziploc bag put the pork, 2 Tbsp of soy sauce and garlic together and let it marinate for 2 hours in the fridge, and that pork will soak up all of that soy sauce. When sealing the bag be sure to make sure to get as much air out as possible or use the 'vacuum bags' (these are much cheaper at the store by the way).
While all of that is marinating you can kick back or go ahead and start chopping up you ingredients. I used baby carrots, because to me, they taste a little sweeter and I always have a bag in the house, I don't have to peel them either! Also you can add celery to this (1 cup) but we avoid celery, since my husband curls his nose at the site of it. You don't have to chop the spinach or cabbage up perfectly, coarsely chopped works really well.
As the 2 hour mark grows near, now would be the time to get out a small bowl and mix the cornstarch, ginger, broth and remaining soy sauce (that's what is in the bowl in first picture) and set aside.

So, after your pork is good an marinated, pour contents of the Ziploc bag into your skillet (or wok) that we've already started warming with oil and a little soy sauce. Stir-fry your pork until it's not pink any longer, then remove it from the pan and keep warm, you'll then return your pan back to your stove and add some soy sauce and maybe a dab of oil.

Then you'll add in your carrots (and celery if you so choose) and you'll fry them for 3 or so minutes. You'll want to make sure they are nice and tender before moving on.

Then you toss in your onion, cabbage, and spinach and fry for another 3 minutes, again throw in some soy sauce. I would keep adding soy sauce or oil into the pan, if not your veggies will begin to stick. Don't add too much just enough.

Here's where you add all the pork and broth mixture into the pan. Be sure to scoop out all of the ginger and cornstarch that settled in your bowl, we need all that flavor. Let it boil and continue to stir until it thickens up a bit.

Serve over rice, ( I keep the rice and the chow mien in separate dishes so people can get what they prefer).

This is super yummy, and easy to make. So enjoy!

Original recipe found at Taste of

Friday, February 19, 2010

Birthday Cake Part 4 - Putting it All Together

Yeah, so here it is, the end! A few months ago my son told me that he wanted a GI Joe birthday party. I was planning on just ordering a cake, but no, my son (who turned 5) wanted me to make the cake. Arg, I'm not experienced at cake decorating, I can cook and bake really well, but making it pretty, and using fondant, is a new concept. So, that's what this blog is for! Learning as I go, and maybe my mistakes and success will help you on your cooking journey!
So, I'm just going to give you the rundown on how I put it together.
It starts with making all the flavors cake from the previous 3 entries, grab a 12-14 inch cake board, some Fanci-Foil  to cover the cake board, camo ribbon, some food coloring  (I used, green, brown and black), a smooth rolling pin, a large mat (I love the Wilton Roll And Cut Mat that I got as a Christmas gift), candles, marshmallow fondant and some GI JOE action figures.

First, you want to cover the base of your cake board with the fanci foil. You'll cut a piece out big enough for the round board, then segment the extra to tape to the bottom of the cake. Or you can buy the pre-covered board.

Second, You'll want to place your bottom layer (for mine the 10" Chocolate Cake) on the cake board and ice the center. Now you can either use icing on the top and sides of the cake, or melted and strained apricot preserves brushed over the cake to help the fondant stick. (The preserves really don't add or take away from the flavor of the cake a whole lot)

Now, take your room temperature fondant and place it on your roll and cut mat, make sure it's dusted with powdered sugar, you can roll out your fondant. If you'd like to color your fondant, now is the time to do it. I looked online for an 'army green' coloring, but the directions I found, didn't work at all, I wound up using a mix of green and a little black, but it was not exactly what I was going for, but it works. You will knead the color into the fondant, like you would knead bread. It works into the fondant pretty well, add the amount of food coloring to get the desired color. Roll your fondant about a quarter inch thick large enough to cover the cake evenly.

I rolled it to the 14 on the roll and cut mat (sorry, I wish I had taken pictures of the process) then laid the fondant over the cake. I then smoothed the fondant and cut the excess off leaving just a little to tuck under the cake.

You can use a cake separator plate between each layer, to make them easier to take apart, but I didn't. Repeat the process with the middle cake. After you've placed the top tier onto the cake, you can choose whether or not you'd like to use a dowel rod or two. I used 3 dowel rods, because I was moving the cake. If I wasn't transporting it, I would have just left it as is. I put the dowel rods through the cake prior to putting the top layer of fondant on the top tier.

Then, you can add the ribbon along the bottom of each layer of cake if you use water along where you would like to put the ribbon, it acts like glue. I did this to each layer. However, I decided I was board and decided to "paint" a camo pattern on the middle layer of the cake. I did this with a decorator's paintbrush (never used and clean) black, brown and green food coloring in random patterns.

So here is my biggest mistake on the cake, I thought I'd write in my son's name on the top layer of fondant. I didn't like how it looked, so I "erased" it with water which makes the top layer wavy and not pretty and you could kind of see the imprint of his name.

On the day of the party I placed the candles and the Joe's. I used my son's GI Joes, that I washed, and placed sitting (trying to hide the wavy top layer) on and around the cake.

So, that's the cake! Good luck if you try this, I hope it works well for you. Hopefully, I'll have learned something and can improve the next one!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Birthday Cake Part 3 - Plain

Yeah, this is the top and last layer of the cake! It is just a plain yellow cake, because not everyone likes, chocolate or mint chocolate. (Though only one person at the 'plain' part) I paired this yellow cake with a cream cheese frosting, that is oh so yummy!

Yellow cakes are very common and easy to make, they go well with just about any frosting that you choose to put on it and you probably always have the ingredients around the house to make it.

The recipe I use is from the "The Taste of Home Cookbook: Cooks Who Care Edition", this is a fabulous cookbook, I recommend that you get it immediately! Like all recipes, you can always change and adapt to your needs, I don't think I changed this at all though.


2/3 Cup butter, softened
1-3/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1-1/2 tsp vanilla
2-1/2 cups flour
2-1/2 tsp baking powder
1-1/4 cups milk

- You should always pre-heat your oven first, all ovens heat differently. So, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

- In a large mixing bowl cream your softened butter and sugar, until fluffy or well mixed.

- You'll add your eggs next adding them one at a time. Before you add the second one be sure that the first one is mixed in really well.

- Add vanilla (I always use just a touch more than the recipe calls for)

- Combine your flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl, then add them to the mixing bowl alternating with milk. (Remember to always start with the dry and end with the dry)

- Now I used a 6 inch cake pan sprayed with Bakers Joy. Fill it about 3/4 of the way full and cook it for 25 minutes. You may need to cook it longer, depending on how hot your oven is. I made two 6 inch cakes and there was more than enough batter.

- Now just take it out let it cool and make the frosting.


Ok you can use any frosting you'd like on your yellow cake. I used cream cheese frosting, I love cream cheese frosting because it's not too sweet.


6 oz cream cheese (softened)
1/2 cup butter (softened)
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
4 - 6 cups powdered sugar

In a medium to large mixing bowl you'll beat together everything except for the sugar. Mix it together until it's nice and smooth.

Add sugar in slowly (I only used 4 cups), if you add it too fast you'll get a face full of a sugar cloud. Continue to add sugar until the frosting is the consistency you are looking for.

Store in fridge.

I used all frosting's for these 3 cakes only in between the layers, since Fondant went on the outside.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Birthday Cake Part 2 - Mint Chocolate

So, I don't enjoy making layered cakes all the same flavor, it's boring and not everyone likes the same thing. So, I asked my son (since it was his birthday) and my husband what they would like. My son wanted chocolate and my husband suggested mint chocolate.

I must say I've never had a mint chocolate cake before. So, I looked online for some recipes, and there weren't a whole lot. I wound up at and used that recipe. Honestly, it was a bit dry and didn't make a whole lot of batter, so I made two batches, and it was overall pretty good. It went really well with the frosting. Here is a (oh so slightly) modified version that makes the cake a little more moist.


1 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp
baking soda
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup shortening
1 egg
1 tsp peppermint extract
1 cup milk
First you'll want to go ahead and pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.

In your mixer beat together sugar and shortening until it's fluffy. Beat in the egg and peppermint extract.
In a separate bowl stir together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and the baking soda.
You'll want to alternate pouring the milk and the dry ingredients into the mixer, start with dry and end with dry. Mix really well between each item. You'll keep mixing until it's nice and smooth
I used an 8 inch pan  with Baker's Joy Sprayed very generously. Pour in to your pan and cook for 25 minutes or until cake tests done. (Stick a toothpick in the center of the cake, if it comes out clean it's done.)
Now for the Frosting!
This is really easy and it comes out perfectly and it's quite tasty.
2 cups powdered sugar
2 Tbsp butter (softened)
1/4 tsp peppermint extract
2 - 3 Tbsp milk
1-2 drops green food coloring'
So, the easiest way to soften the butter, with out it melting, is to leave it out. Let the butter sit on the counter while you're making the cake. If you forget you can always pop it in the microwave for about 15 seconds, though sometimes it melts, and melting it makes it a little runnier.
In a medium mixing bowl, mix together sugar, butter, extract and enough milk to have the consistency you're looking for. I only used 2 Tablespoons, though depending on what you're using it for you may want to use more.
After it's all nice and smooth, add in a few drops of food coloring, enough to make it pastel green. I only used it for the center of the two layers. Set aside and use it when the cake is cooled.
(Final picture on last of this series)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Birthday Cake Part 1 - Chocolate

This weekend is my son's 5th birthday and I was just going to buy his cake instead of making one, since I'm still a beginner at cake decorating. So, a few weeks ago he asked me to make his cake. We decided what he wanted and now I'm in the process of making it. It is going to be 3 tiered with different flavors on each layer. It will be green with camo and G.I. Joes all around it. The bottom will be a 10" chocolate cake, that's what today's blog is all about.

Now before I get started, did you see the eggs in that picture? My
husband is helping me with a few of the pics, and he decided to stack the eggs. Pretty nifty, and scary I thought they'd collapse, but they made it through. As for the rest of the pics on here through this particular entry, I decided to try out a few shots, and I'm no photographer!

Ok, cake! I'm using the (slightly) modified version of the
Chocolate-Chocolate Cake found on


1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
¾ cup butter

1 ½ cups sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 ½ cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ t salt
1 ½ cups water

- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
- Spray pan with Baker's Joy or a similar product. (Wilton says use vegetable spray, but I think that's a little
gross for cake also this spray is so much easier than greasing and flouring)

- Melt chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli) and butter in the microwave stirring in 30 second intervals. You can also do this on the stove in a double broiler or a pot. If you use a pot you need to constantly stir because chocolate burns very easily.
- After it's nice and melted you want to keep stirring until it's smooth. Pour that into your mixer along with your sugar and beat it on low/medium low until it's nice and blended.

(see not the best of pictures)

- After you get it nice and smooth you'll add your eggs, one at a time, vanilla (now the
picture above has clear vanilla, but you can use any kind), baking soda, 1/2 cup of flour and salt. Mix well

- Add remaining flour and water then mix it up nice and smooth.

- Pour into you preferred pan. For this cake I am using a 10" round pan
. Just to note, I'm using a Wilton pan and those tend to stick right in the middle. I've found putting some extra spray onto the center of the pan helps with the sticking.

- Cook for 40 minutes or until you can stick a toothpick in the center of the cake and it comes out clean. Let cool.

Since I'm using fondant, I'll just make a filler (recipe below). Not spreading it all over, just in between the layers and I'll cut the dome off of the cake so it is nice and flat. (I'll post the finished picture on the last post of this series).

This simple chocolate icing is simple and quick to make

1 (14 oz) can condensed milk
1 Tbsp water
1/8 tsp salt
2 oz worth of squares semi sweet chocolate
1/2 tsp vanilla
In pot mix milk, water, salt and chocolate (again I use Ghirardelli there is a notable difference, though it's more expensive than Baker's Chocolate. These squares are also 1/2 oz instead of 1 oz)
Heat and stir constantly (remember chocolate burns very easily) until thick. Remove from heat. Cool then stir in vanilla.
Now it's ready to be used as filling in the bottom layer of the cake!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Marshmallow Fondant

One day a few months ago I decided to try my hand at cake decorating. I haven't made but a handful, but the first few cakes I tried I used pre-made rolled fondant by Wilton and the cake looked pretty good, for my first cake. I made the flowers by experimenting and it was pretty simple. Then my family and I took a bite. The fondant didn't taste very good at all and we wound up just peeling that off and eating the insides.

So during Thanksgiving, I thought I'd do a little experiment, and make a cake and the fondant. I did some research found some recipes and made 6 batches over 6 days using different methods, I had a birthday cake to make too. And I found the perfect version that taste and looks pretty good. Though I still need some practice.

I use a version of the Wilton recipe with a few modifications:


1 package (16 0z) white mini Marshmallows

2 - 5 Tablespoons of water (though I only use 2)

2 lbs powdered sugar

1 tsp clear flavoring (optional)

(now the Wilton recipe calls for shortening but this is only to dip your hands in, I never had a real need for this)


In a large microwave safe bowl put whole bag of mini marshmallows and 2 Tablespoons of water, microwave for 30 seconds. Take out and stir, and continue to microwave at 30 second intervals until melted. After marshmallows are melted pour in 1 cup of powdered sugar. Continue to stir in sugar until it is easily handled outside of bowl. You'll add the flavor (if desired) at this point.

Upon taking out of bowl I use a Silpat non stick mat for the remainder of fondant making. Take the fondant out of the bowl and put on mat, use the powdered sugar to keep from sticking. Knead the sugar in the marshmallow mixture like you would bread. Continue until the dough is not sticky and firm. If your fondant gets too dry and tears easily knead water in a teaspoon at a time. Store in fridge in a vacuum bag or air tight container overnight. Remove from fridge approx. 8 hours prior to using it. Fondant stores for about 2 weeks in fridge.

Fondant colors really easily, I usually do it the day I'm covering a cake. It's pretty simple to make and takes a little bit of time, but it's well worth it.

Photos by