Thursday, December 19, 2013

Chocolate Cola Cupcakes

I don't even know how I stumbled on an idea like this, but in a nutshell, it's chocolate cake and chocolate frosting made with Coca Cola.

Now, if you know anything about me, you know that those are two of my favorite things.  I had never heard of it before so I started researching, and Google tells me that this kind of cola cake is pretty much a southern thing.  Of course, it doesn't tell me and I have no idea.  Maybe it has something to do with southerners needing to figure out a way to make their cakes still taste delicious in spite of the humidity?

I'm not sure, and frankly, it doesn't even matter.  Wherever you're living, you need to make these right now because you're going to LOVE them.  These cupcakes are moist and fluffy!  The hint of cinnamon adds a little depth to the chocolate, and the frosting?  HAVE MERCY.  There's a container of it in the refrigerator and it's taking all of my self control not to go at it with a spoon.

I wasn't really sure how much soda I needed for this, so I ended up buying a 6 pack of cans because I'll drink it anyway (soda is one of my very few vices, lol).  Turns out, I only needed one regular sized can (not those little miniature ones).  I would've found that information helpful from the start, so I'm passing it along to you so you can plan accordingly :)  My Coke was room temperature when I used it, but I don't think it really makes too much of a difference.  You can certainly use the bottle if that's you have/prefer, but I would suggest making sure it's a brand new one and not one that's been around for a few days, since the carbonation seems like it's an important part of this recipe.

You can tell this is one of my favorite recipes because I don't have a lot to say about it (too busy eating cupcakes).  If you make these, please let me know what you think!  My brother may have eaten 6 in a row :P

I was pretty generous with my frosting, but you'll most likely end up with some left over.  If you're like me, that means you quickly stash it in the fridge and try to forget about it before you attack it with a spoon.  When your willpower inevitably cracks and weakens, as mine did, you'll want to let the frosting warm up a little bit before you attack it with a spoon.  The soda makes it a little sweet to eat straight, so I ended up scooping mine with pretzels.  Sweet, salty AND crunchy?  Chocolatey heaven!

Chocolate Cola Cupcakes

For the cupcakes:
2 c. granulated sugar
2 c. flour
1 c. (2 sticks) butter
3 Tbsp  coca powder
1 c. Coca Cola
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 eggs
1/2 c. buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla

For the frosting:
2 sticks butter, room temperature
3 c. powdered sugar
6 Tbsp cocoa powder
6 Tbsp Coca Cola
1 tsp. vanilla

Line cupcake tins with cupcake papers and preheat oven to 350°F.

In a medium sized saucepan, combine butter and Coca Cola and bring to a boil.

In a large bowl, combine flour and sugar.  Slowly and carefully add in the Coke mixture and stir to combine.  Mix in buttermilk, baking soda and cinnamon.  Add cocoa powder and mix well.  Stir in vanilla and add eggs, one at a time.  Whip ingredients until well blended.  Batter will be loose.

Fill cupcake papers about 2/3 full.  Bake for 20 minutes, until tops spring back when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Yields about 24 cupcakes.

While cupcakes are cooling, combine butter and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until smooth.

Slowly add in the sugar and cocoa, adding the soda as needed when the frosting gets too thick.  Continue adding soda until desired consistency is reached.

Beat 3-5 minutes until frosting is fluffy.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Graham Cracker Crust

When mom told me that I could make all of the desserts for Thanksgiving/Chanukah this year, I was beyond excited.  About 2 seconds later, I got overwhelmed - how many people would there be?  What should I make?  How many desserts should I make?  Should I make more, smaller things, or fewer, larger things?  I asked mom for advice and she told me that there would be 6 of us and beyond that, I could do whatever I wanted.  In other words: ahhhh!

See, I felt like I had some giant shoes to fill.  My gramma doesn't do much baking or cooking anymore, and she never did for holiday things (keep reading and you'll see why), but she DID (does) always go bananas with the amount of food.

For every Thanksgiving except for this one, there's always a 20-ish pound turkey, a couple of pounds of boneless chicken breast, two kinds of rice, mashed potatoes AND sweet potatoes... you can see where I'm going with this.  And that's just the real food.  Dessert always involves the same amount of stuff: multiple kinds of cupcakes (chocolate AND vanilla/mini AND regular size, etc); at least two kinds of cookies; apple, blueberry and pumpkin pies; chocolate cake, jello and sometimes there's ice cream in the freezer that she forgets about.

So, even though I knew nobody would be "judging" me and everyone loves my stuff, I felt like my gramma had set the bar wicked high and that I wouldn't even come close.  In determining what to make, I had to figure out what was the most important.  As I thought about it, I realized that for gramma, it's not Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie - even though I don't think I've ever seen her eat more than a little sliver of a slice, I think it's just one of those things that she needs to have on the table in order for her heart and head to be like "ahhh, now this Thanksgiving is complete".  She has a really hard time letting go of the reins (so THAT'S where I get it from!), so I knew I wanted to make her pumpkin pie.

Of course, I couldn't make any pumpkin pie.  No.  Instead, I make pumpkin pie cheesecake with a graham cracker crust.  Talk about stacking the deck against myself.  I had made this recipe before, but only once.  Probably two years ago.  And I used a box mix cake for the base and made it bars, not a pie.  That said, I remembered the bars being delicious and easy to make, and a graham cracker crust seemed like a really good idea.  Plus, since it's cheesecake, I figured it would be easy to make a day or two ahead of time since it's gotta sit in the fridge anyway.

You guys.  I am SO GLAD I made this.  The graham cracker crust was the PERFECT compliment to the pumpkin mixture.  I topped my slice with some homemade whipped cream and it was absolutely to die for.  Since the filling recipe is for bars and I made a pie, you'll actually end up with leftover filling.  I made cupcake sized cheesecakes, but realistically, you could probably get two 8" pies out of this.  I don't really know how to do it, but I'd recommend making one to freeze and one to eat, because you'll definitely want some more before next Thanksgiving.


Oh, and if you're wondering.. my gramma loved it!

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Graham Cracker Crust

For the crust:
2 c. graham cracker crumbs (about 18 crackers)
6 Tbsp butter, melted
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

For the filling:
8 oz. brick cream cheese, room temperature
14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
2 eggs
15 oz. can pumpkin puree
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease a 9 1/2" pie plate. (Note: I used a disposable one to make life easier, I think it was 8" or so - use whatever size you have available!)

Combine graham cracker crumbs, butter, sugars and cinnamon in a large bowl.  Press into the bottom and up the sides of your pie plate.  Bake until firm, about 8 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat paddle attachment, beat cream cheese until fluffy.  Gradually beat in sweetened condensed milk.  Add eggs, pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice.  Mix well.  Batter will be loose.

Place cooled pie plate on a small baking sheet.  Pour pumpkin mix into crust.  Bake until center is set but still wobbly, about 45 minutes.  To double check, insert a sharp knife into the center of your cheesecake, until it touches the crust - it should come out clean.  Let cool on baking sheet for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

*To make cupcakes: press about 1 EATING sized teaspoon of graham cracker crumbs into the bottom of your cupcake wrappers.  Bake until firm, about 5 minutes.  Add 2-3 EATING sized teaspoons on pumpkin mix and bake about 20 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, then refrigerate in an airtight container overnight.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

No Bake Cookie Dough Bites

I LOVE cookies.  Frankly, when it comes to cookies, I'm probably the least picky person on the planet - Oreos, store brand sandwich cookies, fig newtons, peanut butter, oatmeal, those yummy italian cookies that I only get at Christmas... if it's a cookie, I want it.  By far, though, my favorite cookie is just regular ol' chocolate chip.

As a kid, I would stand in or near the kitchen, anxiously awaiting mom to say that the cookies were cooled enough for me to take one.  Let's be honest - sometimes I didn't even wait.  I love it when the cookies are hot and fresh, right out of the oven and the chocolate is so gooey it drips down your chin when you take a bite.  Sure, sometimes they were REALLY freakin' hot and I burned myself, but it was all worth it.

Once I started making cookies myself, my favorite part was being able to lick the bowl/spoon without having to share with anybody (the perils of having younger siblings).  The only problem is that I have been known to give myself a tummy ache a time or two from eating too much cookie dough.  Or brownie batter.  Or cake batter.  And watermelon. Mmmmmm.

Where was I?

Oh yeah.  Chocolate chip cookies.  So, my friend Natascha has a son and he just turned two.  I told her I was going to make something, but then I had no idea what to make.  Last year, I made cupcakes, but so did everyone else.  I knew there were going to be a good amount of kids at the party, so I wanted to make something that kids and parents enjoyed but that was super easy for the kids to eat -  you know, so they could sneak a couple when mommy and daddy weren't looking.

Cookie dough bites seemed like a great idea.  Except for the whole "raw eggs make you sick" thing.  I knew I could make a bunch of cookies and then crush them up with some cream cheese to make truffles, but I wanted these to REALLY be cookie dough, just without the eggs.  Alas, I knew I needed something to add some moisture to the dough, but I didn't really know what I could use.  I knew that applesauce was a good egg substitute, but I didn't have any in the house and wasn't about to go buy some for the small amount that I needed.

I did a ton of googling and it seemed like whatever I was going to do, water was not the right answer.  I found some recipes online that used almond/soy/non-dairy milk for similar recipes, and they all had pretty good reviews, so I decided that I could probably use regular, whole dairy milk in my recipe and get similar results.

I tried it and, what do you know - it worked!  People, these are freakin' delicious.  It's like the best part of the cookie without ever having to turn the oven on!  As soon as the kids (and adults) realized that these little balls of chocolate had cookie dough inside, it was all over. 

After figuring out the dough, making these was super easy.  I did end up shelling out $8 at Target for a cookie scoop, but that's because whenever I make things like this, I have some that are huge and some that are little and some that are in between.  When I make regular, baked cookies I don't have a problem getting everything to be the same size, but I thought this project would be a lot easier if I could get the sizing to be consistent.  I still can't believe I paid that much for it, but it definitely helped! It felt pretty efficient, too, since I was able to scoop all of them out at once and then roll them all, instead of having to scoop and roll at the same time.  My cookie scoop said it makes 2" diameter cookies.  That seems like it might be fairly accurate to what I was able to make, and I got about 3 dozen - obviously, you'll get more or less depending on what size you make yours.

These don't take very long, either.  Most of the time is waiting for the dough to chill and then waiting for the chocolate set.  These were definitely a huge hit at the birthday party, but I think they'd go over well at your holiday party or at a football party.  Actually, I think I'm gonna put these on my list for the Superbowl!

What are you waiting for?  Go make some!

PS: as it turns out, today is national cookie day.  What's your favorite kind of cookie?

No Bake Cookie Dough Bites
1 c. (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
3/4 c. granulated sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp milk
2 1/4 c. flour
1 c. mini chocolate chips

14 oz. chocolate for dipping

Beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Add milk and vanilla.  Mix in flour and stir by hand until incorporated.  Fold in chocolate chips.

Cover and chill dough in refrigerator for about 1 hour.

Form dough into balls about 1-2" diameter and arrange on a baking sheet.  Chill for about an hour.

Melt chocolate according to package directions.  Working with a few balls at a time, dip the cookie dough balls into the chocolate, letting excess drip off.  Place on wax or parchment paper lined cookie sheets.  Let chill until chocolate is set.  Trim off excess chocolate with a sharp paring knife.

Store in an airtight container for up to one week (although good luck getting them to last that long).