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‘Pumpkin Spice Latte’ Cake…*
… to celebrate my 100th post & my favorite fall treat

As many of you know, I’ve been endlessly searching for the perfect recipe to make for my 100th post—an accomplishment that may seem miniscule to most, but nonetheless, it is one worth recognizing. Although many of my fans and followers suggested a variety of tasty treats (all of which have made my ‘to-bake list,’) the recipe I chose was inspired simply by my favorite fall treat: a Pumpkin Spice Latte. 
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There is something about that famous pumpkin-flavored syrup that is blended with steamed milk and topped with cool, creamy whipped cream that screams fall. When I found Annie’s recipe for Pumpkin Latte Cupcakes, I immediately fell in love. It was the recipe I had been preparing over and over again in my head for days and I couldn’t wait another second. I turned this masterpiece into a Pumpkin Spice Bundt cake, topped with a thick layer of sweetened whipped cream, drizzled in hot caramel sauce, and sprinkled with a touch of cinnamon—the same way I take my (Grande) Starbuck’s latte, thank you very much. Together, these pumpkin spice treats make for a blissful moment.
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The Ingredients…*
(recipe adapted from Annie’s Eats)
For the Pumpkin Spice Cake

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. espresso powder
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. salt
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
4 large eggs
½ cup coffee or espresso, for brushing

For the whipped cream:
2¼ cups heavy cream, chilled
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
 
For garnish:
Ground cinnamon
Caramel sauce (I used Smucker’s Caramel Ice Cream Topping)
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The Instructions…*
For the Pumpkin Spice Cake
(1) Preheat the oven to 350°F; grease pan and sprinkle with flour
(2)  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt; stir together and set aside
(3) In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend together the pumpkin, granulated sugar, brown sugar and oil
(4) Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition
(5) With the mixture on low speed, add the flour mixture in two additions, mixing just until incorporated
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(6) Pour batter into prepared cake pan and bake until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40-45 minutes
(7) Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes, then remove the cake carefully from the pan. 
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(8) While the cake is still warm, brush it two or three times with the coffee or espresso, allowing the first coat to soak in before repeating; Let cool completely. Meanwhile, make the whipped cream...
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For the whipped cream:
(1) Place the heavy cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment; whip on medium-low speed at first, gradually increasing to high speed
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(2) Blend in the confectioners’ sugar gradually; whip until stiff peaks form, being careful not to over-beat
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(3) Use a spatula or flat knife to frost the cooled cake
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(4) Sprinkle with ground cinnamon and drizzle with caramel sauce… :)
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(*)  Serve yourself a slice alongside your favorite Pumpkin Spice Latte and prepare to be in heaven
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.Just in case you’re wondering, this really is an ‘aha!’ moment.
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(*) Store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days
 
 
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Apple Spice Cupcakes w/ Cream Cheese Buttercream…*
… a kickoff recipe for the Fall season

This Friday will mark the first official day of fall and I have mixed emotions. It is my favorite season of all because I can retire my stringy teeny bikini and short shorts for skinny jeans, boots, chunky scarves and colorful cardigans. And trust me, that is the best gift of all. It is also a season for apple picking, pumpkin carving, tailgating, and of course, pie making (something I have yet to try!)

To me, the flavors of fall primarily include tart apples, tangy berries, sweet caramels and pumpkins, all blended with a variety of spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, sage and paprika. It’s the season for hearty loaves, intricate pies, fruit tarts, coffee cakes, hot apple cider and pumpkin spice donuts.

To kick the season off right, I created a cupcake resembling my favorite flavors of all--spice cake muffins stuffed with warm cinnamon apples and topped with cream cheese buttercream. Yesss pleeeasssseeee.

These cupcakes are sure to distract your mind and warm your soul as you make the chilly transition from summer to fall. Enjoy! :)
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The Ingredients…*
For the Apple Spice Cake
1 pkg. Duncan Hines® Moist Deluxe® Spice Cake Mix
3 large eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/3 Cups Water
3 large cooking apples, peeled, cored, and chopped (I used Granny Smith)
¼ stick unsalted butter
Cinnamon 

For the Cream Cheese Buttercream
 (Recipe by Martha Stewart 
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 (1-pound) box confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
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The Instructions…*
For the Apple Spice Cake
(1) Before you preheat the oven, you must cook the apples. To do so, melt the butter in a large skillet on medium heat. Next, place the chopped, skinless apples in the skillet and allow them to cook for 8-10 minutes, or until they are soft. *It is important to stir them constantly to ensure even cooking throughout. When they are almost done, sprinkle them with cinnamon for a little extra spice ;)
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(2) Next, preheat oven to 350° F and line cupcake pans with baking cups
(3) Blend dry mix, water, oil and eggs in large bowl at low speed until moistened (about 30 seconds); then beat at medium speed for 2 minutes
(4) Lightly mix in the apple chunks
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(5) Pour or scoop batter in cupcake liners
(6) Bake for 14-19 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool pans on wire rack for 15 minutes and then invert onto cooling rack and allow time to cool completely before frosting.
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For the Cream Cheese Buttercream
(1) Place cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until creamy, about 30 seconds
(2) With the mixer on low, slowly add sugar, scraping down the sides of the bowls as necessary
(3) Add vanilla and increase mixer speed to medium; Blend until frosting is fluffy, about 1 minute
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(4) Frost cupcakes as desired, using any tool you’d like (I used a pastry bag with a fitted tip)
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(5) Sprinkle with a little cinnamon and there you have it, a delicious bite of fall :)
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Triple Threat Chocolate Fudge Peanut Butter Cookies…*
…because I couldn’t resist  

Yes, another recipe with the dangerous duo. Even though it may not seem like it, I am well aware that there is more to life than chocolate and peanut butter. But at a moment like this, none of that ‘other stuff’ matters. It’s all about the crunchiness of the chocolate chips, the creaminess of the peanut butter, and the way the two fit so perfectly together inside of a warm, double chocolate cookie. I don’t think my life would be complete without these cookies…or without chocolate in general.

So remember, the lesson to take away from today’s recipe: There are four basic food groups in the world: Dark chocolate. Milk Chocolate. Semi-sweet chocolate. And peanut butter. These cookies use all four. So clearly that makes them the healthiest little nuggets on Earth. Do you follow? Okay, phew, glad we’re on the same page.  Time to start baking—enjoy :)
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The Ingredients…*
 (Recipe by How Sweet it is)
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1/2 cup dark cocoa powder
1 heaping teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, melted
1 cup milk chocolate chips
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The Instructions…*
(1) Cream butter, peanut butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla until fluffy
(2) Add flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt and mix until combined
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(3) Add in melted semi-sweet chocolate and mix until just combined
(4) Fold in chocolate chips
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(5) Refrigerate dough for 4-6 hours
(6) When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350° F; Scoop large mounds of dough (about 2 tablespoons worth) and place on a cookie sheet
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(7) Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes
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Peanut Butter Laker Cake w/Chocolate Cheesecake Frosting…*
…a birthday surprise for my love <3

Before I reveal this recipe, it will make sense to understand how this relationship came to be. When I first moved to Chicago (back in May), my roommate and I decided to have a celebration party to show off our cute new apartment and invite as many people as we knew that lived in the city. And by that what I really mean, is that Sarah did all the inviting because let’s be honest, I didn’t know a damn soul in Chicago at the time. To welcome all of our guests, or shall I say, strangers, I decided to bake a smörgåsbord of desserts--are you surprised?

One by one, they started to arrive. The first hour was consumed with a mix of friendly faces and typical introductions. Desserts were passed and drinks were poured.As the hostess and new tenant, I was too busy cleaning up and making sure everything was under control to notice the handsome young man sitting on our living room couch. Sarah called my name and I came running. She said that this particular gentleman was looking for the “girl who made the delicious peanut butter chocolate things.”[Here’s the recipe for those ‘things.’]And all I could think was, Oh. My. God. I really hope he likes them. 

So after another awkward introduction and a nervous laugh, he asked me if I had a full time job. I reluctantly responded yes, not sure what he was hinting at. He then said, “Oh that’s too bad, because if not, I would pay you to bake for me all the time.” The best part about it was that my new friend Adam was sitting across the room and chimed in, “Hah, like she hasn’t heard that before!”
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Anyway to make a long story short, this ‘handsome guy’ turned out to be really sweet, genuine, caring, and extremely successful gentleman…and I’m very proud to call him my boyfriend. He recently turned 24 (old man!) and to celebrate, I showered him with presents and baked him a special surprise—a layered Peanut Butter Cake with Peanut Butter Mousse Filling and Chocolate Cheesecake Frosting. Each layer had enough personality and flavor to stand alone, but together, the cake was beyond amazing—kind of like the birthday boy himself ;) Bake this cake for someone you love, or save the recipe for a rainy day, but whatever you do, don’t pass it up! 
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The Ingredients…*
For the Peanut Butter Cake:
(Recipe by The Cake Mix Doctor)
Solid vegetable shortening, for greasing the pans
Flour, for dusting the pans
18.25 ounces plain yellow cake mix (1 package)
1 1/3 cups water
1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
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For the Peanut Butter Filling:
(Recipe by Guilty Kitchen)
1 block cream cheese (8 ounces), at room temperature
2 cups creamy peanut butter
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp. vanilla1/2 tsp. salt
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For the Chocolate Cheesecake Frosting:
(Recipe by How Sweet it is 
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 block cream cheese (8 ounces), softened
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup dark cocoa powder
1-2 tablespoons milk, if needed
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The Instructions…*
For the Peanut Butter Cake:
(1) Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°
(2) Lightly grease two 9-inch round cake pans with solid vegetable shortening, then dust with flour. Shake out the excess flour; Set the pans aside
(3) Place the cake mix, water, peanut butter, oil, eggs, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds; then increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more (the batter should look well combined)
(4) Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans, smoothing it out with the rubber spatula
(5) Place the pans in the oven, side by side and bake for 23 to 28 minutes, or until they spring back when lightly pressed with your finger
(6) Remove the pans from the oven and place them on a wire racks to cool for 10 minutes. Run a dinner knife around the edge of each layer and invert each onto a rack, then invert again onto another rack so that the cakes are right side up. Allow to cool completely, 30 minutes more...

Meanwhile, prepare the filling and the frosting….
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For the Peanut Butter Filling:
(1) In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a bowl with a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese and peanut butter until fluffy
(2) Add the sugar, vanilla and salt and beat again
(3) Put the peanut butter concoction into another bowl, clean out the first bowl and whip the cream to stiff peaks
(4) Fold the whipped cream into the peanut butter and continue until completely combined
(5) Refrigerate until needed
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For the Chocolate Cheesecake Frosting:
(1) In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and cream cheese together until smooth; Add in vanilla
(2) With the mixer on low speed, slowly add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time and add cocoa powder, increasing the speed to mix
(3) If the frosting it a bit too thick, add milk 1 teaspoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached.  If it is too thin, add additional sugar gradually
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To Assemble Cake…*
(1) Slice Peanut Butter Cake(s) evenly in half lengthwise
(2) Spread Peanut Butter Mousse filling on the bottom of each layer and top with other half (Stack cakes if you made 2 small, instead of 1 large)
(3) Frost with Chocolate Cheesecake Buttercream and garnish with Peanut Butter Mousse and Reese’s Cups, if desired J
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Enjoy! You might need a tall glass of milk with this one... :)
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Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins…*
…a Sunday Morning favorite

When life gives you ripened bananas, what shall you do? Make banana bread muffins, of course! Plus, who doesn’t love banana bread? There's something about it that reminds me of the comfort of home. Maybe it’s the way it tastes when it’s warm out of the oven and smeared with butter, or the way it makes my apartment smell for days. Either way, it’s my go to Sunday morning breakfast, and one of my favorite comfort foods.
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Last time I made this versatile bread, I added copious amounts of chocolate and loaded it with creamy peanut butter. This time, however, I limited myself to one cup of chocolate chips, and even portioned out the batter into muffin tins for fear that I might just eat the whole loaf…again. ;) The result was beyond satisfying. Moist, sweetened banana bread with pockets of milk chocolate melted throughout. Serve them warm with a cup of coffee or better yet, hot cocoa, and you have yourself a healthier breakfast treat! Enjoy!
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The Ingredients…*
(Recipe by Chez Us)
½ cups butter, softened
3 ounces, weight cream cheese
1 cup brown sugar
2 pieces ripe bananas
1 whole egg
¼ cups sour cream
1-½ cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoons salt
1 cup chocolate chips  
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The Instructions…*
(1) Preheat oven to 350° F; fill 2 muffin pans with paper liners
(2) Cream butter, cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy
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(3) Add the bananas, egg and sour cream and mix until smooth
(4) Add dry ingredients; then stir in chocolate chips
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(5) Divide batter evenly among muffin tins and bake for 20-24 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and the centers are not doughy in the middle
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Why yes, I would be smearing creamy peanut butter on my slice of banana bread. Before you judge, give it a try—I promise you’ll never turn back :)
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Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes [for 2]…*
…an eruption of chocolate!

Another new job. Another long week of work. Another Friday night in. However, this time was different. In addition to the sweet and salty snack plate, bottle of chocolate wine, comfy sweatpants, and on-demand movie rental, I found it necessary to bake. Although, I knew if I made a batch of cookies, or a dozen cupcakes, they wouldn’t survive the first half of the movie. Yes, it was one of those kinds of nights.
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Instead, I practiced ‘self-control’ (for the first time in my life) and made a sweet treat for two. I was inspired by the famous ‘Baked to Order’ Chocolate Lava Cake at the Grand Lux Café that my boyfriend and I devoured in 0.2 seconds the other weekend…
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[Picture above taken at Grand Lux Café in Chicago, IL]

Warm chocolate cake
filled with thick, hot fudge sauce, sprinkled with powdered sugar and served with vanilla bean gelato. Yes please!
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I was so impressed with the concept that I knew I had to attempt to recreate it. With the help of a recipe I found by Martha Stewart, I’d say I came pretty darn close to the original! These mini molten cakes are the perfect way to get your sweet fix without the mess and stress of following a recipe that yields two dozen too many. Plus, you won’t even need to pull out your KitchenAid—they’re that easy!
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The Ingredients…*
(Recipe by Martha Stewart)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for ramekins
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar, plus more for ramekins and serving
2 ounces semisweet chocolate, broken into pieces
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon espresso powder
Pinch salt
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
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The Instructions…*
(1) Preheat oven to 400 ° F
(2) Butter two 6-ounce ramekins, then dust with sugar
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(3) Place butter and chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl; Microwave on high in 20-second increments, stirring after each, until melted; Let cool slightly
(4) Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together egg, egg yolk, sugar, espresso powder, and salt; Add chocolate mixture and whisk to combine
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(5) Add flour, and whisk just until combined (do not overmix)
(6) Pour batter into prepared ramekins. (Recipe can be made ahead up to this point.)
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(7) Bake until a toothpick inserted 1/2 inch from edge of ramekins comes out clean, and a toothpick inserted in center comes out wet, 10 to 12 minutes (do not overbake)
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(8) Cool 10 minutes on a wire rack; Run a knife around inside of ramekins to loosen. Invert cakes onto serving plates
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(9) Dust with powdered sugar and top with fresh berries if desired
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(10) Pour yourself a decadent glass of wine and serve immediately :)
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little shortcake...*