New Year’s Day Chocolate Espresso Cake


2017 is finally here! It’s going to be an eventful year for me; I’ll be graduating from high school and starting college. It’s been a little crazy lately, what with college applications and holiday events, but today I had lots of time to experiment with my first cake of 2017.

Lately in Iowa it’s been between twenty and thirty degrees , but my outdoors-y family bundled up and headed out to Lake McBride for a hike today. I love hiking whatever the weather, but I knew from experience that everybody would come home craving a cup of coffee and something chocolaty.

This recipe is quick and so easy that I didn’t even get out a mixer, opting to mix by spatula instead. The cake comes out rich and moist, with lovely hints of espresso. I foresee that I will be making this recipe quite often in the year to come! Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 3/4  cups flour
  • 3/4 cups cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk (you can substitute regular milk,  but buttermilk gives a richer flavor)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (or any flavorless oil–I used avocado oil)
  • 1 cup brewed coffee
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, sift together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Pour in the oil and vanilla, then add the buttermilk and eggs.  When these have been mixed in, add the coffee and mix well (make sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl).  Pour the batter into  a tall 8 inch diameter round pan or a 13 by 9 rectangular pan and bake for around 30 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out dry.  If you wish to dust with powdered sugar, allow the cake to cool first or the sugar will melt (I know from experience) and your cake will be a little bit ugly (but still delicious).

 

Easter Cupcakes

Easter usually falls on a warm(ish), sunny, spring day, but this year it was cold, gray and gloomy.  The atmosphere needed brightening, and my family was responsible for the desserts at our Easter gathering, so what better to make than pastel cupcakes?

Me with my brother Luca, dressed up for the party

  The cupcakes were accompanied by a beautiful mango cake, courtesy of my mom

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 2 sticks butter
  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

For the frosting

  • 4 cups confectioners sugar
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • food coloring if desired

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a twelve-cup muffin tin with cupcake papers and grease with cooking spray.  In a small bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and baking soda.

In a glass measuring cup, mix milk and vanilla.  In a large bowl, beat the butter then add sugar gradually.  Add the eggs one at a time, then pour in the flour mixture alternately with the milk and vanilla.

Fill each muffin cup about three quarters full, then place in the oven and bake about 20 minutes.

To make the frosting, place all the ingredients in a bowl and beat until smooth.  Add food coloring if desired.  Make sure the cupcakes have cooled completely before you frost them.  Enjoy!

 

Star Sprinkle Cookies

They’re easy, they’re pretty and they taste fantastic–these star cookies are pretty much perfection.  Everybody in our household loves them, especially my mom, since this recipe is similar to cookies she used to get at a local bakery as a child.   The star shape and sprinkles make the cookies festive and beautiful without requiring any decorating skills (which is good, since I don’t have any).  Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • multicolored sprinkles

Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.  In another bowl, cream the sugar and butter.  Add the egg and two of the egg yolks one at a time, then the vanilla.  Add the flour mixture then cover and chill the dough for one hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/8 inch and use a star-shaped cookie cutter to cut it into stars.  Place the cookies on baking sheets.

Make a glaze by whisking the remaining egg yolk with the cream.  Brush the glaze over the tops of the cookies and then cover with sprinkles.  Bake 12 to 14 minutes.

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Peanut Butter Blossoms

As Christmas fast approaches, I’ve been making at least a batch of cookies per day.  My family is hosting Christmas this year, and we plan to have an enormous plate of assorted cookies for the kids’ dessert.  Thus,  I have an excuse to bake to my heart’s content!

To be honest, I’m not much of a Hershey’s fan. It’s just not good quality chocolate, and has a weird, un-chocolatey flavor.  However, even I have to admit that a kiss looks cute on top of a peanut butter blossom.

These cookies are quick and effortlessly cute, the perfect addition to a platter of Christmas cookies.  Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Hershey’s kisses

In a small bowl, sift flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.  Cream the butter, peanut butter and sugars, then add egg, milk and vanilla.  Gradually add flour mix.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Roll the dough into 1 inch balls.  Bake 6 to 8 minutes.   Unwrap the Hershey’s kisses so that they will be ready.  Remove the cookies from the oven, quickly press in the kisses, then return them to the oven for two minutes.

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Reindeer Cookies

December has always been and always will be my favorite month, and not just because the fifteenth is my birthday–I love the whole feel of the holiday season, the cheerfulness, the decorations (well, some of them) even the music,  and of course the food! After all, what could be better than Christmas cookies?  They’re yummy and cute and the perfect size for a snack.  I have a soft spot for these reindeer cookies since they’re peanut butter (my favorite) and take no skill to decorate!  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • red m&ms for the noses
  • chocolate chips for the eyes
  • pretzels, broken in half for the antlers

Mix the butter, peanut butter and sugar until fluffy.  Whisk the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl, then add to the butter mixture and stir thoroughly.  Roll the dough into 1 1/2 inch balls and press down slightly.  Bake them 8-10 minutes at 375 degrees.  Now for the tricky bit–you have to press in the eyes, nose and antlers as quickly as possible, before the cookies can cool.  Have them prepared before hand and enlist the help of anybody in the vicinity, then voila! Reindeer cookies!

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Chocolate Bats

Halloween is less than a week away, so it’s the perfect time to make these delectable chocolate bats.  They’re super easy to make and, unlike many cut-out cookies, hold together remarkably well.  Their dark chocolate color adds a little spookiness, but simply shape them differently and they are right for any occaison. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 4 ounces chocolate
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg

Whisk the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Set aside.  In a double boiler, melt the chocolate, butter and brown sugar.  Allow to cool, then add egg and mix by hand.  Pour chocolate mixture over dry ingredients and mix by hand, then chill for at least 20 minutes.  Remove from fridge and roll out over floured surface.  The dough will be a little oily.  Use cookie cutters to make shape of choice, then bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.  Yields about 24 cookies.

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