Over the past few years I have definitely become a lot better in the kitchen.  I am better at following/creating recipes and food presentation.  My food used to look tired, run down, and listless, and I made a lot of mistakes (“Oops I forgot the [insert important ingredient that makes the entire recipe here].”, “Oops, did that say 1 1/2 minutes, I thought it said 15”).

While I am much improved, cakes are still really hard for me to decorate and have look pretty.  So when it comes to my birthday, I have great dreams and visions of a multi-layered cake with homemade frosting and lots of filling.  And while my birthday cakes usually taste awesome, their looks can sometimes leave something to be desired.

This year I made myself a Sachertorte, with a few twists.  A Sachertorte is an chocolate cake made famous by the Austrian Franz Sacher, who served this cake to Prince Wenzel von Metternich.  The more you know!

A traditional sacher torte is a fudge chocolate cake with brandy, topped with apricot preserves and a ganache.  I made my own twist by replacing the brandy with framboise and the apricot preserves with raspberry.  It was definitely delicious and made for a very happy birthday- even the birth of Jesus can’t eclipse my birthday cake this year!

Happy birthday to all the other December babies out there.

Adapted from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book via My Baking Heart


For the Cake:
6 ounces semisweet chocolate
10 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup framboise
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
4 eggs, separate
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 & 1 tablespoon cup all purpose flour

For the Filling:
1 cup raspberry preserves
1/3 cup coarsely chopped chocolate

For the Ganache:
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate*
1/2 cup heavy cream
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon corn syrup


For the Cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line a 9 inch springform pan. Line pan with parchment paper and grease.

In a double broiler, melt chocolate and butter. Remove from stove and stir in framboise. Let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, separate eggs into two separate bowls (4 yolks in one bowl, 4 egg whites in another bowl). Divide sugar in half. Pour half of the sugar in with the egg yolks and whisk together. Whisk egg yolk mixture into chocolate mixture. Stir in salt, cinnamon and flour.

With a hand mixer, beat egg whites until foamy. Continue to beat, adding remaining sugar in a slow, steady stream. Beat until stiff but dry peaks do not form. Fold in 1/3 of the meringue mixture into the chocolate mixture. Fold in remaining meringue

*For my chocolate, I used a combination of semisweet and milk chocolate since sometimes semi-sweet chocolate is not sweet enough for me. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 60-75 minutes. Check with a toothpick for doneness. Cool on a wire wrack for 20 minutes. Remove sides of springform pan and let cool.

For the Filling:

Cut cake into 2 even layers. Spread raspberry preserves on the bottom layer. Sprinkle chopped chocolate on top. Top with top cake layer.

For the Ganache:

Chop the chocolate and place in a bowl. Place heavy cream in a saucepan and scald (heat on medium heat until the side begin to bubble). Pour cream over chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted. Stir in salt and corn syrup.

Pour ganache over cake, gently spreading the ganache over the edges to cover the cake. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before cutting.

Chocolate Covered Cherry Cookies


It is the time of the year that everyone goes cookie crazy.  While cookies are not my favorite desert, I too have been caught up in cookie fever recently.  I have made the classic peanut butter blossom cookies and then I made these chocolate covered cherry cookies.

These were a treat when my mom would make them around the holidays, and since they are a little more work intensive than your average cookie, they were definitely a special treat.  These cookies would definitely be a great addition to any cookie swaps you have coming up these next few weeks, and Santa may leave you some extra special gifts if you leave these babies out for him on Christmas Eve.  He definitely won’t share these with the reindeer- and who can blame him?

I had some issues with these cookies- the cherries are meant to be covered with chocolate completely.  So they didn’t come out looking super pretty (instead they look a little like nipples- yep, just said nipples on a food blog).  Either way, they taste amazing, and I suggest you start preheating your oven now.


From My Mom


1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 egg
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
32-36 maraschino cherries
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 cup chocolate chips
4 teaspoons maraschino cherry juice


Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a large bowl cream butter, egg, sugar, and vanilla extract together. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Slow add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, stirring until just mixed.

Roll dough into 1 inch balls and place on prepared baking sheet. Use your thumb to make an indentation in each cookie. Place a cherry in the indentation. In a small bowl, combine sweetened condensed milk and chocolate chips. Melt in a double broiler or microwave, stirring frequently, until melted. Stir in maraschino cherry juice. Spoon about 1 teaspoon amount of the chocolate mixture over top each cookie. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Cool completely.

Makes 30-36 cookies.

Pecan Pie Brownies


As you read this, I am probably currently around 10,000 feet- cruising my way back home for the holidays.  I am also probably tightly gripping my armrest because I am a somewhat nervous flyer.

I am so ready for some big holiday fun.  It has definitely been a stressful semester, and I am ready to take a break. I love all the holiday prep and planning that will be taking place the next few weeks- especially all the holiday food we get to make and eat.

I made these pecan pie brownies for our Thanksgiving dessert since some people in our family aren’t a huge fan of traditional pecan pie.  Guys, there were absolutely amazing.  I loved them so much that I would have almost been happy just eating a big batch of these brownies for my Thanksgiving dinner.  You got a fudgey brownie sprinkled with chocolate chips and then a gooey pecan pie filling on top.  Yum.  These are so good- I think everyone should make them for their family, for a holiday party, or just for themselves.

The only way I could be happier about coming home is if a huge plate of these pecan pie brownies were brought to me immediately as I de-boarded the airplane.


Barely Adapted from Half Baked Harvest


For the Brownies:
1/3 cup canola oil
4 tablespoons butter, melted
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup chocolate chips

For the Pecan Pie Topping:
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup brown Karo syrup
4 eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons rum
4 cups pecan halves
1/2 cup chocolate chips


For the Brownies:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9 x 13 baking pan with foil. Grease the foil.

In a large bowl, whisk together canola oil and butter. Whisk in cocoa powder, eggs, sugar, vanilla extract, and salt. Stir in flour until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Spread batter into prepared baking pan. This will be a very thin layer. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Cool.

For the Pecan Pie Filling:

In a large bowl, whisk together brown sugar, Karo syrup, eggs, vanilla extract, and butter. Stir in rum, pecans, and chocolate chips. Pour mixture on top of brownies. Bake for 30-35 minutes until filling is set. The filling should still jiggle a little bit.

Cool brownies completely and chill. Cut and serve (do not attempt to cut before brownies are cold- they will not cut easily).

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies: Secret Recipe Club


Well everyone, I have done it now.

I have baked with pumpkin.

And it was not bad at all.  I am no longer a pumpkin virgin, and being true to myself, I took that pumpkin and made dessert.  Making dessert is always the best choice.  My friends and I had a fall cooking night a few weeks ago- we roasted lots of veggies for puff pastry, made a fall salad, and make a pumpkin dessert.  We chose to make some pumpkin donut holes rolled in sugar, were were amaze-balls (ha).  So my first pumpkin experience was a great one.

So after stuffing myself full of pumpkin donut holes, I found myself with some leftover pumpkin in my fridge.  And then Secret Recipe Club came along, providing the perfect opportunity to find another delicious dessert to use pumpkin in.  This month I was assigned Lynne’s blog 365 Days of Baking & More.

Searching frantically for a dessert recipe where I could use pumpkin, I came across a recipe for pumpkin cookies with candy corn M&Ms, and I was ready to go.  I made a few adaptions to the cookie recipe, subbing in chocolate chips for the M&Ms (although I love those candy corn M&MS- I am currently hoarding a few bags in my closet right now), and made sure those cookies were soft and chewy.  So delicious.  I may now be a pumpkin convert.

Adapted from 365 Days of Baking & More


3/4 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a baking sheet.

In a large bowl, cream butter, light brown sugar, and sugar together until light and fluffy. Stir in vanilla extract and pumpkin. Stir in flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.

Place rounded tablespoon fulls dough on prepared baking sheet, pressing down to flatten. Bake for 10-13 minutes, until the edges are slightly golden brown. Repeat with remaining dough

Makes approximately 2 dozen cookies.

Make sure to check out what everyone else made this month!


No Bake Nutella Fruit & Nut Bars


Are you ready for a snack, or are you ready for a snack?

Today we are going to get real serious about our snacking choices.  And by getting serious, I mean we are going to be using some Nutella. Nutella is amazing, and it is partially responsible for why I went all the way up to French IV in high school.  French culture day always meant eating lots of Nutella.  For educational purposes, of course.

I am currently working on my thesis (masters degree, I see you!), looking at issues with depression & alcohol, but what I would really like to write it on is the power of Nutella.  I am pretty sure just eating Nutella will be associated with lower levels of sadness.  New therapy treatment: instead of actually having to show up to work, I will just leave an open jar of Nutella and a spoon on my chair. Chocolate hazelnut therapy.

But if you really need some happiness, I suggest taking some Nutella and using it to make some no-bake bars.  I love lots and lots of stuff in my bars, so I packed these bars to the brim.  Filled with lots of chewy, sweet fruit and crunchy nuts, these bars make a great snack.  I used dried cherries and cashews, but the sky is the limit here.  I upped the Nutella & honey in this too, so they get nice a gooey. Mmmm.


Adapted from White on Rice Couple


3 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup honey
2/3 cup Nutella
Large pinch of salt
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 cups dried fruit
1 1/2 cups nuts
1 cup chocolate chips, optional


Line an 8 inch by 8 inch pan with foil and grease.

In a saucepan combine butter, honey, Nutella, salt, and brown sugar.  Whisk together over medium heat until combined.  Remove from heat.  Stir in dried fruit, nuts, and chocolate chips.  Spread mixture into pan.  Chill until firm, about 1 hour.

Oreo Brownies: Improv Challenge


I hope Texas is holding up without me.  I having a great time on this vacation- I may never come back.  But today it is time to take a break from my glorious vacation to talk about some good dessert.  Brace yourself- this one is a doozie.

Who doesn’t love a good Oreo?  I have never met a person who has any negative feelings toward the chocolate cookies with the creamy vanilla filling.  Sure, we may play favorites and like the creme better than the cookie (I refuse to believe no one loves that sweet creamy filling), but there is a general appreciation all around for the glorious Oreo.  And although Oreo will keep trying to come out with wacky new flavors, I always turn to the classic cookie.

What’s better than an Oreo?  Putting an Oreo in a dessert.  I have never heard a complaint about that. Oreos seem to become even more magical when they are warm and baked.

Side Note: If you have never had a deep fried Oreo, you haven’t lived.

This month’s Secret Recipe Club challenge was to make something with chocolate and vanilla.  Two classic dessert flavors. Taking inspiration from the wonderful Oreo, I made these fabulous brownies.   These brownies have double Oreo goodness: first, there is an Oreo baked into a chocolate brownie.  And then you have the chocolate brownie and the vanilla creme on top imitating that wonderful Oreo combo.

These brownies are definitely magical.  Oh so chocolate-y and creamy.  And those Oreos. Mmmm.  And I won’t lie, I did not wait for these brownies to cool completely.  Because I believe that is physically impossible.  Who can wait for a dessert as good as this?  And should we?  No.  No we should not.

Fight for the right to eat desserts.

Also, the use of Double Stuff Oreos is mandatory in this recipe.  The use of Mega Stuff is encouraged.


Adapted from Handle the Heat


For the Brownies:
10 tablespoons butter
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup all purpose flour
16-20 Oreos

For the Vanilla Creme:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 vanilla bean
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk


For the Brownies:

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line a 9 inch by 9 inch pan with aluminum foil.

Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat.  Stir in sugar and cocoa.  Remove from heat.  Let cool slightly.  Mix in eggs one at a time, vanilla extract, and salt.  Stir in flour until just combined.

Place Oreos at the bottom of the prepared pan.  Spread brownie batter on top.  Bake for 16-18 minutes, until a toothpick comes out mostly clean.  Cool completely (if this is humanly possible.  If not, cool mostly).

For the Vanilla Creme:

Combine butter, powdered sugar, vanilla bean seeds, vanilla extract, and milk in a large bowl.  Beat on medium speed until mixed together.  Spread onto cooled brownies.  Slice into bars.

Make sure to check out what everyone else make for this month’s Improv Challenge.  Thanks Frugal Antics of a Harried Housewife for hosting!

M&M Cookie Dough Tart


Let’s talk about self deception.  We all do it.

Currently, here are my list of self deceptions: The kitchen floor looks pretty good, so you don’t need to clean it. The ethics paper will probably write itself if you don’t do anything.  Additionally, the huge pile of laundry will probably also take care of itself, some Disney-esque magic will probably go to work and the clothes will start washing themselves.  Also, I am completely ready to start teaching, seeing clients, and running research, my finances are completely sound, and I get enough sleep.

My biggest self deception: Salmonella, like R.O.U.Ses, doesn’t really exist.   Eating raw cookie dough is perfectly acceptable.  Let’s get real: cookie dough is often better than the actual cookies- so why not eat it all?  Everyone needs a hit of cookie dough every now and then.

But, no worries about death from raw cookie dough with this tart.  The cookie dough layer is completely egg free and completely delicious.  And the chocolate chip cookie layer is so tender and full of toffee flavor that even someone who has lukewarm feelings about chocolate chip cookies in general loved it.

When I first made this M&M Cookie Dough Tart, I had planned to take it to a work party, and of course, the cookie dough layer instantly crumbled upon cutting rendering it mostly unservable for a cocktail-like party. But it tasted absolutely delicious.  SO, with some quick thinking and semi-panicked phone calls, I figured out an acceptable serving option.  But since it tasted so delicious, I went back and made it again to figure out how to make it perfect.  And then I got stuck with a whole pie to eat. #foodbloggingproblems

Don’t deceive yourself here: you need this cookie dough tart in your life.  All your work/chores/problems will take care of themselves- just go make this tart right now.

Slightly Adapted from Cake, Batter, and Bowl


Chocolate Chip Cookie Layer:
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extact
1 cup & 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup oats
1 cup milk chocolate chips

Cookie Dough Layer:
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2-6 tablespoons milk*
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup & 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups M&M candies


For the Chocolate Chip Cookie Layer:

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease a 9-inch springform pan.

In a large  bowl, cream together butter, granulated sugar, and light brown sugar.  Beat in egg and vanilla until mixed in.  Mix in flour, baking soda, and salt.  Fold in chocolate chips.  Press into prepared springform pan.  Bake for 20-24 minutes, until golden brown.  Cool completely.

For the Cookie Dough Layer:

In a large bowl, cream together butter, granulated sugar, and light brown sugar.  Beat in milk* and vanilla (start with 2 tablespoons, add more later to help the dough come together). Stir in flour and salt.  Fold in M&M candies.  Add additional milk as needed to help the dough come together.

Press cookie dough layer on top of cooled chocolate chip cookie layer.  Press additional M&Ms on top for decoration.  Store in refrigerator.

Flourless Chocolate Chip Almond Butter Cookies


When I was a teenager, my doctors suggested that I go gluten-free to help my sinuses.  I was extremely reluctant to do so, but as a rule and parent abiding child (AKA a boring goody two shoes), my mom said I should try it and I did. And for about a year, I desperately craved a McDonalds cheeseburger.  It is a very sad moment in the drive-thru when your sister gets a happy meal with a burger and fries and you get a Caesar salad.  Without croutons.  Cue sad trumpet. I went gluten free long before it became mainstream, which means I ate some weird stuff.  Grey pasta, bread that got gooey if not eaten soon enough, and crumbly cookies.  My poor mom went through a lot to make me some good gluten free food, but it was tough back then and required lots of long trips to many different speciality stores. So for this month’s Secret Recipe Club, I was exited to get Chelsy’s blog Mangia.  I was ready to try some of my more up-to-date gluten free, paleo, and vegan recipes.  It had to be better than gray pasta, right? After browsing through her recipes, I knew I had to try a dessert.  And I decided to make cookies since I was at home with my family for vacation, and they are cookie-crazy here. I am a nut butter lover, so when I saw Chelsy’s Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies, I knew I had a winner.  I made some modifications by subbing almond butter for peanut butter since my sister is allergic and adding in some chocolate chips because everyone loves chocolate chips in cookies. These cookies were great- chewy on the inside and crunchy on the edges.  I think some other great add ins would be almonds, toffee pieces, or raisins. These cookies are just as good as that first bite of a McDonald’s cheeseburger after going gluten-free for a year.  Mmm.




1 cup almond butter 1/2 cup granulated sugar 1/2 cup light brown sugar 1 egg 1 teaspoon vanilla extract Pinch of salt 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a bowl combine almond butter, granulated sugar, and light brown sugar.  Mix together until creamy.  Whisk in egg, vanilla extract, and salt.  Fold in chocolate chips. Place rounded tablespoon size balls of dough on prepared baking sheets.  Flatten with spoon.  Bake for 9-11 minutes, until golden brown around edges.  Let cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes.  Finish cooling on wire racks.  Store in air tight container. Makes 1 1/2 dozen cookies.