M&M Cookies A Memorial Day Favorite

If You’ve Had One, You’ve Had Them All?

Homemade cookies are one of my favorite things to make. I know, I say that about everything, but here’s the thing, homemade cookies are not only delicious, they are also easy and quick to make, how can you not love them? Pretty much every drop cookie out there has been derived from the basic Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. But, does that mean that if you’ve had one, you’ve had them all? No, it doesn’t. There are so many variations available, how do you know which one to pick? I’ll share my M&M Cookies recipe today and then we’ll discuss what makes them soft and chewy, light and cakey or crisp and crunchy. We’ll also look at some mishaps in the kitchen and explain how to prevent cookie disasters.

But First, Some History

In honor of the upcoming Memorial Day, I thought it would be fitting to discuss the role U.S. soldiers played in the popularity of chocolate chip cookies.

The chocolate chip cookie, the official state cookie of Massachusetts, was invented by Ruth Graves Wakefield in 1938. She was the owner and chef at the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts.

The original, Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookie, rose to popularity during WWII. American soldiers stationed overseas would receive care packages, which included these cookies, from family in Massachusetts. The soldiers would share the cookies with soldiers from other parts of the U.S. and soon, those soldiers were writing home asking for them. That led to many letters being sent to the Toll House Inn requesting the recipe causing the cookie craze to take off.

Ruth sold the rights to use the recipe to Andrew Nestle for $1.00 in return for a lifetime supply of  Nestle’s chocolate. I think Ruth got the short end of the stick in that deal. But, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

M&M Cookies

This recipe is based on the Toll House Cookie Recipe. A couple simple modifications of increasing the amount of brown sugar and swapping out the chocolate chips for M&Ms make these a fun substitution for the original cookie.

Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine American
Keyword Cookies
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 48
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup butter softened
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups mini baking M&Ms

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees

    M&M Cookies ingredients
  2. Combine flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

  3. In a separate bowl, combine butter, sugars and vanilla. Beat until creamy. 

    M&M Cookies dough
  4. Add eggs, one at a time. Beat until each one is well blended. 

  5. Gradually add the flour, a little at a time. Mix until well blended. 

    M&M Cookies dough 2
  6. Stir in the M&Ms.

    M&M Cookies M&Ms
  7. Drop rounded spoonfuls of dough on a parchment lined cookie sheet. (I just use a teaspoon. For more uniform shapes, you can use a melon baller or small ice cream scoop.)

    M&M Cookies spoonful
  8. Bake 8-10 minutes. (I usually check them at 7 minutes...if they are starting to brown at the edges, I removed them from the oven and allow them to remain on the hot cookie sheet for a few minutes. They'll continue to "bake" while cooling down.) Move to a wire rack or a sheet of parchment paper to continue cooling. 

    M&M Cookies cooling

Soft and Chewy, Light and Cakey or Crisp and Crunchy?

What’s your preference? I prefer soft and chewy with a slight crisp around the edges. That can be a hard combination to master. You can look at a 100 different recipes and they’ll all have different measurements, but finding the one that gives you the texture you want is easier than you think.

In the Toll House Cookies recipe, the main ingredients which dictate what texture your cookies develop into are butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar. A typical cookie dough recipe will have 2 sticks of butter and equal parts of granulated sugar and brown sugar. You can customize your cookies with a few simple alterations.

Here are a few hints:

For instance, if you’re going for crisper cookies, you’ll want a recipe to have more butter and a larger amount of granulated sugar than brown sugar.

If you prefer a light and cakey cookie, your recipe will use less butter and significantly less sugar (but still using more granulated sugar than brown sugar).

For the soft and chewy variety, you’ll just need to adjust the sugars. More brown sugar will yield a softer, chewier cookie.

Cookie Catastrophes

Cookies spread too thin

When you’re making your dough, keep an eye on the texture of your dough. If the butter is too soft, your dough may be too warm and your cookies could spread too thin while baking. When you soften your butter, you should be able to press into the butter with the side of a knife and feel a little resistance. If you press down and your knife plunges to the bottom, the butter is too soft. You can return the butter to the refrigerator for a few minutes. Or, if you’ve already made the dough, place the dough in the refrigerator for 15 minutes before spreading out the dough to bake.

Thin cookies can also be caused by not using enough flour. Try adding a little bit more flour a tablespoon at a time.

Cookies browning but are not overbaked

When you purchase your ingredients to make the cookies, keep in mind that using dark brown sugar instead of light brown sugar can change the color of your cookie, so they may appear to be browning too quickly. If you choose to use corn syrup or molasses as your sweetener, you may notice that the cookies start browning before the cookie is baked through.

Also, it is possible that the oven is just running too hot. Reduce the temperature by 10 degrees. If you don’t notice a significant change, reduce the heat again.

Cookies are too cakey and very pale

The likely culprit of this blunder is too much flour. This can be tricky to fix, but adding a couple more tablespoons of butter just might save the dough.

OH NOOOOs

Have you ever gone shopping for all your ingredients then realize after you have returned home that you forgot something anyway?

Well, I do it all the time, so I have a list of adequate substitutions for just such an occasion. I wouldn’t recommend substituting every ingredient, but in a pinch, one will do. I mean, if you forgot everything, how bad could you want to make them anyway?

BUTTER substitutes cup for cup with margarine or shortening.

TABLE SALT can be replaced with 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (you may also want to pulse it in the food processor a bit before adding it to your dough).

SUGAR can be swapped out for honey. 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar for 1 cup of honey plus 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda. (Also, reduce your oven temperature by 25 degrees to avoid burning.)

BROWN SUGAR Light or dark can be used in place of the other. If you don’t have either, you can make some by pulsing 1 cup granulated sugar and 4 tablespoons of molasses in a food processor.

EGGS can be replaced by using 2 eggs whites in place of 1 large egg. Or 1/4 cup of egg product per egg.

SEMI-SWEET CHOCOLATE can be substituted with any other type of chocolate, fruit, nuts, or chopped up candy bars of any variety. I’ve even used leftover cake pulsed in the food processor and mixed it with the cookie dough. I call them Cake Crumble Cookies. They are pretty good, too.

What’s your favorite cookie? Do you approve of using candy bar bits instead of chocolate chips? Let me know in the comments below. And don’t forget to like us on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mini Pavlova

This dessert is what I save for the most special occasions. I made these Mini Pavlova for Mother’s Day this year and I have to say, if you want to make an extraordinary dessert, This. Is. It. The delicious meringue literally melts in your mouth. It’s like little clouds of heaven topped with lemon curd, fresh fruit and whipped cream.

The first time I made this, I was very intimidated by the thought of the meringue. But it’s actually fairly easy to make and I’m going to share all the tips so you can look like a pro on your first try, too.

No Need To Share, There’s Enough For Everyone

I don’t recall where I got this recipe, but I remember that recipe serving suggestion was for one large meringue that would be cut into individual servings. I like the idea of the miniature Pavlova that can be customized for each guest’s taste at the dessert table.

Leftovers of a large Pavlova with all the toppings would need to be refrigerated. The cold temperature and the moisture from the lemon curd would affect the texture of the meringue.

Making individual meringues that can be stored in an air-tight container at room temperature preserves the structure of the meringue and can be kept up to a couple of weeks.

Berries, Citrus, Creams and Curds Galore

There are so many combination of fruits that can be used as a topping. I like the idea of setting out a whole buffet style dessert bar. There would be a wide variety of berries and citrus fruit along with stone fruits and tropical selections, too.

You can use the basics for making lemon curd and switch out the zest and juice of lemons with oranges or limes. Providing a variety of curds to mix and match with the various fruits. Not to mention the different variations of whipped cream that can concocted.

What Can’t You Do With Meringue?

A friend and I were recently discussing the endless possibilities of uses for the meringue shells. We came up with many options, but edible bowls for ice cream is something I am going to have to try soon. That would be fun. I once ran out of curd but had one lonely meringue left, so I used chocolate pudding and whipped cream. It was nowhere near as elegant as the Pavlova, but it was actually pretty tasty.

I’m thinking there must be some savory options that haven’t been explored yet as well.  Hmmm? Well, I’m starting to get sidetracked here. Back to the Pavlova.

Making The Meringue

Using room temperature eggs will give your meringue more volume. For the meringue, you will only use the egg whites. So, about 30 to 60 minutes before you are ready to start, separate your eggs. Reserve the yolk for the curd.

Beat the egg whites and add the ingredients as described in the instructions of the recipe. If you’re a multitasker in the kitchen, be sure that you are starting with a clean, dry bowl, beaters or whisk that are free of any fatty residue. Your eggs won’t stiffen if there is any residue remaining on your bowl or utensils.

This process can take about 20 minutes. The egg whites will eventually form stiff peaks. You’re almost done. Just take a pinch of the meringue and rub it between your fingers. It should feel silky and sticky. If it feels gritty from the sugar, beat for another minute or two.

Once the meringue is done, use care not to disturb the meringue too much as you could deflate the air you just beat into it. You should carefully spoon the meringue onto your parchment lined baking sheet and gently spread the mixture to create a bowl-like shell. I like to delicately transfer the meringue into a cake decorating bag and pipe the meringue into neat bowls. Whichever way you decide to get it to the oven, there are some more tips to consider while baking.

Baking Meringue DOs and DON’Ts

You DO want to bake at a low temperature…ideally 250 degrees. You’re basically drying out the stickiness of the meringue. But, meringue is delicate, so it needs to be done slowly. DON’T bake at a higher temperature to try to get it done quicker. It’s going to take as long as it’s going to take.

You DO want to keep the oven door closed while the meringue is baking. Your meringue will crack if there is a change in temperature. DON’T open the door every 5 minutes to check on them. They will need to bake for 60 minutes. If you peak through the window and see that they are starting to get brown, reduce the oven temperature by 15 or 20 degrees.

When they are done baking, DO turn off the oven. DO leave the meringues in the oven for at least an hour so they can continue to dry on the outside. DON’T remove them from the oven sooner, due to the above-mentioned change in temperature.

Pavlova

A delicate meringue dessert that will literally melt in your mouth. This is the best dessert for showcasing fresh fruit, curd and cream.

Course Dessert
Keyword Meringue
Prep Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Inactive time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 3 hours
Servings 12
Author Lisa

Ingredients

For The Meringue

  • 6 extra large eggs (separated) room temperature whites for the meringue (reserve yolks for the curd)
  • 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice (from the curd ingredients)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • various berries or other fruit as desired

For The Curd

  • 6 egg yolk (from the meringue)
  • 2 extra large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon zest from approx. 5 lemons
  • 1/2 cup fresh freshly squeezed lemon juice from approx. 5 lemons
  • pinch salt
  • 8 tbsp butter diced into small cubes

For The Whipped Cream

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tbsp confectioner's sugar

Instructions

For The Meringue

  1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Using a stand mixer, beat the room temperature egg whites, salt and cream of tartar on high speed (check your manufacturer's setting for aerating egg whites) until soft peaks form. The soft peaks can be made by pulling the beater out of the eggs whites.

  3. Continue beating on high speed. Gradually add the sugar 1 tbsp at a time. Stiff peaks will form and when the meringue no longer feels gritty, beat in the lemon juice and the vanilla.
    Pavlova meringue
  4. Gently fold the cornstarch into the meringue. Be careful not to mix the meringue as it could deflate the air that you just beat into it. 

  5. Spoon 6 mounds of meringue onto two large parchment lined baking sheets. Leaving a couple of inches space between each mound. Carefully spread the meringue and shape it into the form of a bowl. (Or gently transfer the meringue to a cake decorating bag and lightly pipe the meringue into a bowl shape.)

    Pavlova meringue shells
  6. Bake for 60 minutes. Turn off the oven and allow to cool down for another hour. Do not open the door during the baking or cooling process. Changes in temperature will crack your meringue. (During the baking and cool down process, proceed to the instructions for making the curd and whipped cream.)

    Pavlova baked shells
  7. Once the meringue has fully cooled, spread a spoonful of curd on top of the meringue.

    Pavlova assembly
  8. Spread fresh whipped cream over the lemon curd.

    Pavlova assembly2
  9. Top with fruit of your choice. I used raspberries, blackberries, mango, strawberries, and kiwi.

    Pavlova2

For The Curd

  1. In the bottom portion of a double boiler over medium heat, bring 1 or 2 inches of water to a low simmer. Reduce heat to medium/low.

    Curd ingredients
  2. In the top portion of the double boiler, add the egg yolks and the whole eggs. Gradually add the sugar a little at a time, whisking constantly to keep the mixture smooth. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice and salt.
  3. Continue whisking over medium/low heat for approximately 8 minutes. If the heat is too high or there is a long lapse in the whisking, you will end up with lemon flavored scrambled eggs. So, keep whisking until the mixture is thoroughly cooked and the sugar is dissolved.

  4. Remove from the heat. Add small amounts of the cubed butter pieces at a time. Continue whisking until the butter melts and is incorporated into the mixture.

  5. Strain the mixture into a medium bowl to remove any remaining solid zest pieces.

For The Whipped Cream

  1. Add the confectioner's sugar to a large bowl of a mixer. Add the heavy whipping cream and whip the cream for about 5 minutes or just until the cream forms stiff peaks.

Recipe Notes

Allow the egg whites to come to room temperature for at least 30 minutes to an hour prior to beating. This will help give the meringue more volume.

So, what do you think? Give it a try and let me know how you did in the comments below. Also, please like us on Facebook and Twitter. I’d love to hear more from you and see what you’re cooking.

 

Coffee Brownie Bites with Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Frosting

I bake a lot. Mostly cakes for friends’ and family birthdays or other special occasions, miscellaneous events and holidays. I’m a sucker for coffee, chocolate chip cookies and brownies. So, when I bake for myself, how am I supposed to decide between the three. Well, I found a way to incorporate all my favorite things with these Coffee Brownie Bites with Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Frosting.

Don’t Fear The Dough Though

No one openly admits to eating cookie dough with raw eggs and there seems to be a debate about raw flour nowadays, too. Although, I have sampled my cookie dough many times prior to baking (I have to make sure it tastes right, right?), I have never once died nor gotten sick from it. But, not to worry, this frosting doesn’t have any eggs or flour in it, so it is totally safe to eat.

Don’t make the same mistake I made once though. I added the chocolate chips to the frosting then decided I wanted to use a cake decorating tool. Those chips don’t fit through the opening of the decorating tips. So, instead, I added spoonfuls of the frosting sandwiched between two brownies, topped with coffee frosting, nuts and a drizzle of chocolate ganache.

brownie cakes with cookie dough frosting
brownie cakes with cookie dough frosting

Brownies – Cakey or Fudgy? What’s Your Pleasure?

As I said before, I love brownies. I’m not a fan of brownies that are too cakey, but I’m also not a fan of brownies that are too fudgy either. If I want something chocolate cakey, I will make a chocolate cake. Likewise, if I want something chocolate fudgy, I will make chocolate fudge. (Yes. Don’t worry. I have great recipes for those, too. I’ll share them another time.) So, how do we compromise on the perfect balance of textures for a brownie? I like them chewy, if you do, too, this is the recipe for you. These are chewy with just the right amount of cakey and fudgy textures.

A Decadent Dessert, A Decade In The Making

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve made brownies. But, my quest started about 10 years ago. Each time I made them I was told they are perfect and don’t need any changes. I wasn’t convinced though. There was always room for improvement. They were either too cakey or too fudgy.

There are so many factors that can make or break your brownie. For instance, did you know that the order in which you add the ingredients can make a difference in how they turn out? I’ve never strayed from my original ingredients, but I have experimented with the order in which they are added so many times, I think I finally got it just right.

Also, the baking time plays a huge role in the texture. Experiment with what texture you like, but be sure to check the doneness often. You can always bake it for a few more minutes, but you can’t undo it if you bake them too long.

A Few Tips For A Perfect Brownie

Use a double boiler to melt your butter and chocolate. If you don’t have an actual “double boiler”, just use a medium pot with a smaller pot or heat resistant bowl nestled inside the larger bowl. (As you can see in the picture below…the smaller pot has a handle on either side, so it just hangs in the larger pot perfectly.) Be mindful to use just an inch or two of water in the pot and do not allow your inner pot or bowl to touch the water. Even though the name “double boiler” suggests boiling the water, in this case you just want to simmer the water.

Coffee Brownie Cookie Dough melted chocolate
Coffee Brownie Cookie Dough melted chocolate

Be careful not to let the steam escaping from the bottom pot to form any droplets of water that can drip into your chocolate. Even the smallest amount of water added to chocolate can actually seize the chocolate and will turn it into a big lumpy glob. (It is possible to rescue the chocolate by gradually adding warm milk or cream, but it’s best to avoid a potential kitchen fiasco altogether.)

Since we’re using butter in this recipe, I would suggest melting the butter first then adding a little chocolate at time while constantly whisking until the chocolate has melted and is well incorporated. This should help avoid the possibility of seizing. Also, be sure to keep the temperature low. Too high of heat will brown the butter and scorch the chocolate. Neither will taste good in your brownies.

Once you’ve melted the butter and chocolate then added the sugar, it is important to allow the mixture to cool for a few minutes before adding the eggs. You don’t want the eggs to start cooking before you put the batter in the oven. We’re making brownies, not chocolate scrambled eggs after all.

Once your batter is baking, it can be tricky to tell when it is done. Oven temperatures vary, so it’s best to not go strictly by the timing. You’ll need to text the doneness with a toothpick.

Obviously, if you check the batter and it’s still a jiggly in the middle, they’re not done. If it appears set in the middle and when you insert a toothpick it is gooey, they’re still not done. They’re done when you insert a toothpick and there are a few moist crumbs sticking to the toothpick. The brownies will continue baking as it cools, so you don’t need to worry about it being undercooked.

On the other end of the spectrum, if you insert the toothpick and it comes out completely clean, they are overdone. They’ll still be good as long as they’re not burnt, but they’ll just have a different texture.

Coffee Brownie Bites with Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Frosting

A dessert with various flavors. If you're just in the mood for a brownie without the other flavors, you can easily omit the coffee and the frosting and still have an excellent brownie.

Course Dessert
Keyword Brownie
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 16
Author Lisa

Ingredients

For The Brownies

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 4 oz chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp instant coffee
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 2 extra large eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder

For The Frosting

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • chocolate chips or sprinkles

Instructions

For The Brownies

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare an 8X8 inch baking pan by thoroughly greasing the pan, addling a sheet of parchment paper, then greasing the parchment paper. (This allows for the easy removal of the brownies from the pan.)

  2. Prepare the coffee by adding the instant coffee to a small bowl. Add the warm water and mix until the coffee has dissolved.

  3. In the bottom portion of a double boiler, bring about 1 to 2 inches of water to a low simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium/low. In the top portion of the double boiler, add the butter and allow to melt.

  4. Gradually add the chocolate chips to the melted butter, a little at a time. Whisking constantly until the chocolate has completely melted and is fully incorporated with the butter.

    Coffee Brownie Cookie Dough melted chocolate
  5. Add the vanilla, salt and prepared coffee. Continue whisking until well blended.

  6. Add the sugar, a little at a time, until well blended. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

  7. Mix the flour and cocoa powder. (The cocoa powder is basically just to retain the rich, chocolate appearance of the batter, otherwise the flour lightens the batter. I prefer a rich, dark, brownies, so I use dark chocolate cocoa powder.)

  8. Gradually add the flour mixture to the batter, a little at a time. Mixing just until the flour is incorporated. The batter should have a thick texture.

  9. Pour the batter into your prepared baking pan and spread evenly.

  10. Bake for 30-40 minutes. Starting at 30 minutes, test the center of the brownies with a toothpick. The toothpick should not be gooey, but if it is, let it bake for a few more minutes. If the toothpick test results in a moist toothpick with a few crumbs, they are ready.

    The brownies will finish baking as they are cooling down. This will yield a chewy brownie. Baking them too long, will result in a cakier brownie that may be a little hard. They'll still taste good, but the texture won't be quite right.

    Allow the brownies to cool completely before removing from the pan.

For The Frosting

  1. Cream together the butter and the brown sugar in large bowl of a mixer.

  2. Blend in the vanilla.

  3. Gradually add the confectioner's sugar, a little at a time.

  4. Occasionally check the texture of the frosting. If the frosting gets a little too thick add a teaspoon or two of milk.

  5. Once the brownies have cooled, cut into squares and add frosting as desired.

    Coffee Brownie Bites with Cookie Dough Frosting
  6. Top with chocolate chips or sprinkles.

 

Speaking of kitchen mishaps, I highly recommend the book “How To Break An Egg“. It’s from the editors, contributors and readers of “Fine Cooking Magazine”. It has 1,453 kitchen tips, food fixes, emergency substitutions and handy techniques. It is full of everything from how to carve a leg of lamb to measurement equivalents to caring for your pots. I use the emergency substitutions section the most, but the whole book is fantastic. It should be noted that I’m NOT being paid for this recommendation. But, I just truly have found this book to be the most used book in my kitchen.

What’s your biggest kitchen mishap? How did you remedy the situation? Tell me about it in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Italian Cream Cake And Tips For A Better Batter

I love baking. Always have. I have to admit, though, that I haven’t always kept my recipes well organized. Some recipes get stuffed inside any one of 100s of cookbooks or notebooks, a shoebox or desk drawer. I decided to try to get more organized, as I was starting this blog, when I misplaced a few of my recipes including my all-time favorite non-chocolate cake recipe. An Italian Cream Cake. I’ve made it so many times, I should have it memorized by now. But, I try something different with it every time, so it’s never really the same. I’ve made a chocolate version, an orange version, a blackberry version and a raspberry filled version.

When I first realized I couldn’t find my recipe, I tried a random recipe I found online or a cookbook, but it wasn’t the same. Since I have no idea where I originally got the recipe, I’ve tried several times to recreate it and I think I have the right recipe now. Wish me luck. I’m making this for a dear friend’s 85th birthday, so I hope it turns out well.

There are several keys to making good cakes. You can’t just dump all the ingredients together all at once. Well, you can, if you want a dense cake. But, if your goal is moist and tender, you need to keep some things in mind that will, scientifically, make the best cake.

First, creaming together your butter and sugar is very important. The butter needs to be softened to room temperature. Leave it sit out for a half hour before baking. You should be able to lightly press into the butter and still have a little resistance without smooshing all the way through it. If it is still too cold, give it another 30 minutes. It’s tempting, but it’s not a good idea to try to soften it up in the microwave because melting changes the structure of the butter. Butter that is too cold or too hot will not give you the same result in your cake.

It should also be noted that using part butter and part shortening will produce a more tender cake as well. Shortening “shortens” gluten strands because it is 100% fat; whereas butter is only 80-85% fat and the remainder is water, which can toughen your cake. I’ve used all butter in this recipe and it is still delicious, but I prefer butter and shortening. You may have different preferences, so experiment with it until you get it to your liking.

Mixers vary in strength, so you’ll need to rely on texture and appearance to determine when the creaming is complete. Use the setting for “Cream” based on the manufacturer’s recommendation for your mixer. During the creaming process, the sugar crystals aerate the butter causing minute air bubbles in the butter…which will be activated by your leavening agent (baking soda or powder) during baking which will give you a light, fluffy cake. Test the texture of your mixture periodically. It will be ready when the sugar is almost dissolved, it will feel silky rather than grainy. The mixture will be visibly fluffy and still retain some of the yellowish tint from the butter.

Now that you’ve mastered the creaming process, making the rest of the batter will be a piece of cake. Sorry, bad pun intended. The important takeaway for the rest of the batter is to not overmix anything. Overmixing will ruin the aeration from the creaming. After the creaming process, adding the ingredients and mixing only until you can no longer see that ingredient is sufficient timing for mixing. Add the eggs (one at a time) after the creaming process. Then, add the extract. Then alternating dry and liquid ingredient additions to the mixture minimalizes gluten formation, resulting in a lighter, fluffier, moister cake. Finally, fold in the last ingredients and you’ve got an excellent cake batter.

Italian Cream Cake
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Italian Cream Cake

This delicious Italian Cream Cake is a favorite of mine that is frequently requested by family and friends. 

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 12
Author Lisa

Ingredients

Cake

  • 1/2 cup salted butter
  • 1/2 cup butter flavored shortening
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 extra large eggs separated
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Frosting

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 6 cups powdered sugar

Decorations

  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut toasted

Instructions

Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    Italian Cream Cake ingredients
  2. In a small bowl, sift the flour with the baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

  3. Separate the egg yolks and the egg whites. Set aside the yolks.
  4. Whip the egg whites until they form a stiff peak. Set aside.

  5. In a separate, large bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter, shortening and sugar until light and fluffy (approximately 5 minutes) checking texture periodically. Mixture, when rubbed between your fingers, should be silky rather than grainy.

  6. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, mixing just until blended.

  7. Add vanilla.

  8. Add the flour mixture (in fourths), alternately with the buttermilk (in thirds), beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Be careful not to overmix any of the ingredients or the cake could turn out too dense. Mix just until you can no longer see the ingredient you just added. 

  9. Gently fold the chopped pecans and the coconut into the batter.

  10. Gently fold the whipped egg whites into the batter.

  11. Divide the batter between 3 greased and floured 9-inch cake pans or 36 cupcake cups (filled 1/2 way).

  12. Bake the cakes for 20-25 minutes. Insert a toothpick into the center, the cake is done when there are just a couple moist crumbs stuck to the toothpick and the cake is toasty brown. (If making cupcakes, start checking them between 15-20 minutes.)

    Italian Cream Cake layer
  13. Let the cakes cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes before removing the cake. Then allow them to finish cooling on the wire racks for about an hour before decorating with the frosting.

Decorations

  1. Spread one cup of the sweetened flaked coconut into a small baking pan. Bake for about 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Tossing the coconut frequently. The coconut will burn easily, so make sure you check it often. 

    Toasted coconut

Frosting

  1. In a large bowl, cream the butter and cream cheese.

    Italian Cream Cake frosting ingredients
  2. Add vanilla.

  3. Gradually add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time until it well blended. You may not need all 6 cups of the powdered sugar, but this should be a firm frosting if you're going to pipe the frosting onto the cake. The more pwdered sugar you use, the firmer the frosting will be and will hold it's shape better for piping.

    Italian Cream Cake crumb coating
  4. Once the cake is sufficiently cooled, layer the cakes with frosting between each layer. Spread a thin layer of frosting around the entire cake and refrigerate for one hour before continuing. (This is called a crumb coat. It will allow for easier spreading of the frosting while decorating and will keep the crumbs of the cake from mixing in while you spread your frosting. It will also cover the cake, so if you're piping on the frosting, any gaps in your piping will be concealed by the crumb coat.)

    Italian Cream Cake
  5. Continue decorating as desired with your favorite decorating tips.

    Italian Cream Cake cupcakes
  6. Optional: For this cake, I used raspberry preserves as a filling just as an added flavor. You can experiment with many different flavors for this cake or enjoy it as it was originally intended.

I haven’t been able to determine the origin of this cake. I’m not sure why it’s called an Italian Cream Cake, but there doesn’t seem to be any connection to Italy. It’s primarily a dessert served around the holidays in the Southern United States. I’m only guessing, but I think the frosting was probably made with mascarpone cheese once upon a time. Mascarpone being fairly expensive, perhaps someone started using cream cheese instead. It produces the same texture frosting and with the powdered sugar, the taste would be comparable.

If you know, let me know in the comments below.

Mini Blueberry Buttermilk Cake

When I hear someone say that they don’t like cake, I can only imagine that they’ve only ever had boxed cake. Don’t get me wrong, some of them are very good, but if I’m going through the process of making a cake, I’m going all in and making it from scratch.  My parents have been good sports and sampled my countless experiments with baking from scratch since I was a kid. So, for my mom’s birthday the other day, I didn’t want to bake a cake she’s had a million times before. I thought about some things that she likes that I would be able to incorporate into a cake and the idea of the Mini Blueberry Buttermilk Cake was born.

She likes blueberries, however, it’s not really a good time of year for fresh blueberries, so I decided on a blueberry filling and a syrup made from blueberry jam for a topping to drizzle over the frosting. She likes buttermilk on occasion, so I thought the sourness of buttermilk with a the sweetness of blueberry filling would make a nice contrast that would still go well together.

Why mini cakes instead of a whole cake or cupcakes, you ask? Well, I just wanted to do something different and I found these cute 4-inch mini baking pan paper cups at the store recently and have been waiting for an opportunity to use them. By the way, you can certainly use this recipe for a layered cake or cupcakes, you’ll just need to adjust the baking time accordingly.

Mini Blueberry Buttermilk Cake

This moist white cake is so versatile. You can eat it without frosting, add different fruit toppings or chocolate. Use a simple butter cream frosting for an everyday cake or dress it up with sprinkles or syrup for special occasions.

NOTE: I indicated that this recipe makes 24 servings because it makes 12 mini cakes and each mini cake is actually 2 servings.

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 18 minutes
Inactive time 1 hour
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 24
Author Lisa

Ingredients

Cake

  • 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter softened
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Filling/Syrup

  • 2 cups blueberry jam divided
  • 1-2 tbsp water

Frosting

  • 8 oz cream cheese softened
  • 1/2 cup butter softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 cups powdered sugar

Instructions

Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the baking cups a couple of inches apart on the baking sheets. 

    Buttermilk cake ingredients
  2. In a small bowl, sift the flour with the baking soda, salt, and baking powder.

  3. In a separate, large bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar and vanilla, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally, until light and fluffy - about 5 minutes. 

  4. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing until well blended. 

  5. Mix the flour mixture (in fourths), alternately with the buttermilk (in thirds) beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Be careful not to overmix the ingredients or the cake could turn out too dense. Mix just until you can no longer see the ingredient you just added.

    Buttermilk cake batter
  6. Pour mixture into baking cups (about 1/2 full). Bake 18-22 minutes. Just until they barely start to turn golden. Insert a toothpick into the center, and if there are a couple of moist crumbs, it's time to take them out. 

  7. Let cool on a wire rack for about 1 hour.

Filling/Syrup

  1. Syrup - In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup of jam over medium/low heat until the jam starts to melt. Gradually add water a little at a time and stir until it reaches the desired consistency. You may or may not need 2 tbsps of water depending on how thick or thin you want the syrup. (Set aside until after you're done frosting the cakes. The syrup will thicken a little upon standing. If it's too thick, return to the stove and add a little more water.)

    Buttermilk cake with filling
  2. Using a decorating bag filled with 1 cup of jam and a filling tip, insert the tip halfway into the cake and squirt just enough jam into the cake until you can see it. Repeat randomly throughout the cake.

    Tip: If you don't have a filling tip, you can use a small paring knife. Insert the knife halfway into the cake and gently twist a small hole. Cut a small tip off the decorating bag filled with jam and fill the holes.  

    Buttermilk cake decorative ideas

Frosting

  1. Cream butter and cream cheese until smooth.
  2. Mix in vanilla extract.

  3. Add powdered sugar. Mixing one cup at a time until it is well blended. You may not need all 5 cups of the powdered sugar. Add at least the first 3 cups, then test for firmness of the frosting.

    (If you're spreading the frosting over the cake, a thinner frosting like this would be sufficient. If you're using decorating tips and piping the frosting, you'll need to add more of the powdered sugar until it is firm enough to hold it's shape.)

    Decorate cakes as desired and drizzle syrup over the top

    Buttermilk cakes closeup

I actually want to try this with fresh blueberries when they are in season at a reasonable price, so don’t forget to like this page on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram for updates. Also, comment below to tell me what other fruit you would try with this cake.

Homemade Kahlua

Homemade rum and coffee liqueur, better known as Kahlua, is so much better than the original. The main reason, it’s way less expensive than buying it from the store. One liter bottle of rum, some very strong coffee, sugar and vanilla will yield a little more than three liters of this rich, delightful, coffee spirit.

I usually use Bacardi rum, but if you like a little more kick, 100 proof vodka or even Everclear grain alcohol (if you can get it) works just as well. Your wallet and your taste buds will thank you. In total, homemade Kahlua costs between $23.00  and $30.00 for three liters of the liqueur ($7.67 – $10.00 per bottle). Whereas, one liter of the original will cost you about $30.00.

A breakdown of your costs are simple. $15.00 (liter of Bacardi) – $22.00 (liter of 100 proof Smirnoff or Everclear). $2.00 for a 2 pound bag of light brown sugar (I know that sounds like a lot of sugar, but we’re using a lot of liquid that needs to be sweetened. Plus, if you measure out and firmly pack the brown sugar, it’s only about 5 cups). Approximately $1.00 for a strong brewed pot of coffee.  This recipe would be an even better bargain if vanilla weren’t so expensive. If you can get an 8 oz bottle of vanilla for $20, using 2 oz (1/4 cup) will add $5.00 to your total.

Don’t use a bunch of your individual coffee pods for this recipe, as it will make your cost even more expensive than the original. Well, maybe not. I haven’t actually done a cost analysis on it, but I drink way too much coffee for those to be cost effective for me on a daily basis, so I don’t imagine it would be economical in this recipe either.

Vanilla has always been on the expensive side, but the last few years, it has really skyrocketed. A higher demand for pure vanilla as opposed to imitation has caused a shortage and driven up the price. It might be fun to experiment with hazelnut extract or almond extract instead of vanilla to see if we can make this recipe even more economical. Plus it would be some fun flavors to add to your favorite cocktail.

After you’ve made the recipe, you should pour the liqueur into glass bottles that have been sterilized then store in a cool, dark place for about 2 or 3 weeks. This product tastes much better after a few weeks, but if you absolutely can’t wait to try it, it is perfectly good to sample it today. I like to make a double batch and make gift bottles for friends and still have an ample supply for me.

Homemade Kahlua

An excellent substitute for  your favorite rum and coffee liqueur. This recipe yields about 3 liters and is easy enough to make, you can double or triple the recipe. 
Course Alcohol, Beverage
Prep Time 10 minutes
Resting time 1 hour
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 3 Liters
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 1 liter rum
  • 1 pot strong coffee use 1 cup ground coffee
  • 2 lbs light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Using a 12 cup coffee maker, brew one cup of coffee grounds with one full pot of water.

    Homemade Kahlua ingredients
  2. Pour brown sugar into a large heat resistant bowl or pot. Pour hot coffee over the sugar and stir until well dissolved. Set aside to cool to room temperature. (About 1 hour)
  3. Add vodka and vanilla. Stir until well blended. 

  4. Store in a cool, dark location for 2-3 weeks. 

Have you tried this recipe or experimented with other extract flavors? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.