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Heavier than a newborn but lighter than a case of beer, two pans of bumpy black and yellow caramel brownies sank my rusty scale to 10.5 pounds.

black and yellow caramel brownies

It was hard not to sneak one before I delivered the hefty box of serve-with-a-glass-of-milk bars to one of my favorite customers. So I did what any self-respecting baker would do. I made another batch to share with my family.

black and yellow caramel brownies

This recipe is a mash-up between two of my easy, go-to bar recipes—Yes! Yes! Brownies and Yellow Bars. Too much of a good thing doesn’t pertain to brownies.

Black and yellow caramel brownies

Brownie & caramel layers:

1 package (approximately 15.25 ounce) dry chocolate cake mix, any flavor – milk chocolate, chocolate fudge, german chocolate, etc.

3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

5-ounce can evaporated milk, divided into two portions 1/3 cup each

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 bag individually wrapped caramels (about 50 caramels)

Yellow & milk chocolate layers:

1 package (approximately 15.25 ounce) dry yellow cake mix

1 large egg

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, very soft

12-ounce package milk chocolate chips

14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

1 tablespoon butter

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 13×9 pan or line with parchment paper.
  2. Stir together chocolate cake mix, 1/3 cup evaporated milk, 3/4 cup melted butter.
  3. Reserve approximately 1/4 cup of chocolate batter. Spread the rest in pan and bake for 6 minutes. Remove from oven.
  4. Scatter 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips onto cake batter.
  5. Unwrap caramels and melt over low heat (stove top or microwave) with 1/3 cup evaporated milk until creamy.
  6. Pour caramel over chocolate chips.
  7. Stir together yellow cake mix, 1 egg, and 1 stick very soft butter.
  8. Set half the yellow dough aside.
  9. Using half of the yellow dough, roll and flatten small portions in your hand. Lay flat pieces on the chocolate chips.
  10. Bake 6 minutes. Remove from oven.
  11. In a medium saucepan or in the microwave, melt milk chocolate chips, 1 tablespoon butter, and sweetened condensed milk together until smooth.
  12. Pour chocolate over yellow cake pieces.
  13. Flatten remaining yellow cake dough into pieces and lay onto milk chocolate. (It won’t cover the whole pan.)
  14. Flatten remaining chocolate cake dough into pieces and sprinkle in places not covered by yellow dough.
  15. Using a small spreader or knife, gently spread doughs but leaving bumps.
  16. Bake 30 minutes or just until yellow parts start to turn golden.
  17. Remove from oven. Cut when cooled completely. Store in airtight container.

Sweet mashed wishes,

Staci

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It’s not like anything needed to be improved upon with the original marshmallow creme crunch brownies. In addition to being a favorite treat around these parts, the recipe has been one of my most viewed on Random Sweetness — more than forty thousand people in the past few years. I hope at least half of them baked and shared the sticky squares.

But just like Golden Grahams cereal makes sweet no-bake s’mores bars, I had the feeling that using it instead of Rice Krispies would make marshmallow creme crunch brownies even harder to resist.

marshmallow creme crunchy graham brownies

Did it? Well, there are a few globs of marshmallow creme stuck on my camera and there are definitely a few brownies missing from this picture.

marshmallow creme crunchy graham brownies square

Marshmallow creme crunchy graham brownies

For Brownie Layer:

1 cup butter, softened

2 cups sugar

6 Tablespoons cocoa

2 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 eggs

1 cup flour

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7 ounce jar marshmallow creme (Sometimes I use most of a 13-ounce jar but they get pretty sticky.)

1 cup creamy peanut butter

12 ounce bag chocolate chips

4 cups Golden Grahams cereal

  1. Beat softened butter on medium for 2 minutes. Add sugar and beat 4 minutes. Beat in cocoa, vanilla, and salt. Add eggs and beat until well combined. Stir in flour just until combined.
  2. Pour brownie batter into a well-greased 13×9 pan (or lined with parchment paper). Bake at 350˚ for 25-30 minutes or until done. Cool completely.
  3. Spread marshmallow creme on cooled brownies.
  4. Melt the peanut butter and chocolate chips together over low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in cereal. Spread over marshmallow creme layer.
  5. Chill before serving.
  6. Store in refrigerator.

Sweet marshmallowy wishes,

Staci

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Another year leaves us with a trail of flour dust and kitchen memories. We’ve read enough “Top 10 recipes of 2014” articles to set our Pinterest boards on fire. Maybe you want to know my most popular recipes for the past 12 months but for now, let’s have fun with the 24 most curious and amusing search terms that brought people to Random Sweetness Baking in 2014.

The searches that made me laugh. 

I’m guessing the following searches brought people to my second most popular recipe in 2014, I was a better than sex cake virgin:

  1. “How long does better than sex cake last in fridge?” In my house, a day if we’re all home. At the office, within minutes of an instant message announcing its arrival. But I suppose it could last a couple of days in the fridge before it would get soggy.
  2. “Better than whatever cake” Clearly, this person already knew there are multiple names for better than sex cake.
  3. “Is there a recipe for virgin cake or is there a virgin cake recipe like the better than sex cake?” I’m so confused.
  4. “Virgin first time sex” I hope this guy’s wife doesn’t look at his Internet search history. Maybe he should spend more time in the kitchen baking cake.

Better than sex cake

The next one made me laugh AND tell my sisters:

5. “Why do old people like bran muffins?”

6. “Bran muffins for elderly”

Bran muffins aren’t just for old people and raisins ruin everything probably didn’t answer their questions because I didn’t talk about the benefits of fiber.

bran muffins | Random Sweetness Baking

My third most popular recipe in 2014 drew in a lot of people from searches for buffalo chicken dip with ranch, chilled buffalo chicken ranch dip, chicken wing dip with ranch, buffalo chicken dip for 16 people, buffalo chicken dip without blue cheese, and many others like:

7. “Can you make buffalo chicken dip with dark meat?” Yes, of course you can!

8. “Blue cheese dressing without blue cheese in it” Since I don’t eat blue cheese dressing, my suggestion is to just make the dressing but don’t add the crumbled cheese. Or seriously, don’t eat it at all.

9. “I want to make buffalo chicken dip but I don’t have any ranch dressing” Oh bummer! Then you can’t make my version but here’s a recipe from Food Network for buffalo chicken dip with blue cheese and no ranch.

Buffalo ranch chicken dip | Random Sweetness Baking

10. “Make celery sweeter” I’m not a dietician but celery is a vegetable. Maybe add peanut butter and chocolate chips if you want it sweeter? But here’s how I use celery in my simple tuna salad sandwich, my kids’ favorite homemade chicken noodle soup with healing powers, and crunchy ex-in-law broccoli ranch salad.

Broccoli Cauliflower Salad

11. “Random shit you can bake” Ha ha! I’m picturing a sprightly redhead sitting at the nail salon waiting for the paint to dry on her toes, passing time on her phone and suddenly deciding to bake something when she gets home.

12. “I want to bake something sweet” Me too, me too! I’m glad you found me and I’m hoping you found some random sweets you can bake! How about making the #1 recipe on Random Sweetness Baking, Marshmallow Creme Crunch Brownies?

Marshmallow Creme Crunch Brownies

13. “Can kids have tequila lime chicken?” I won’t laugh because I’m sure there’s a concerned parent out there who didn’t know that alcohol burns off in the cooking process.

14.  “How do Mexicans make chicken street tacos?” I don’t know but this is how Minnesotans make chicken street tacos with cilantro and red onion.

cilantro lime chicken tacos

The searches that hopefully led to answers.

15. “Hershey’s Kisses won’t melt turned hard” It sounds like you passed that crucial melting point where the Kiss got hard and then there’s no turning back. Read about it in my recipe for mint pretzel Kisses.

mint pretzel Kisses

16. “If you bake a Hershey’s Kiss in a cupcake does it turn hard after cooling?” I’ve never baked a Kiss in a cupcake but I’m certain it would turn hard when it cools.

17. “Can you make cream cheese deli meat wrap a day in advance?” You certainly can. And in my recipe for crunchy deli wraps, I suggest that you can store the wraps in the refrigerator or a cooler for up to 12 hours. That’s why they are terrific for camping or picnics.

veggie and deli meat wraps

18. “Can I put baking dish from fridge into oven?” It depends on the pan. Never put a glass dish from the refrigerator directly to the oven or you risk the potential for the glass to shatter. But I think metal or stone would be ok. For example, if you prepare smoky ham and cheddar hash brown casserole ahead of time, you could put it in the oven from the refrigerator if it’s in a metal or stone pan.

19. “Only like the Chex cereal in the mix how to just use the cereal” Then by all means, substitute Chex cereal for all the mixed nuts and pretzels in Chex mix.

Staci's version of Chex mix

20. “Cookies chocolate island” If you found a chocolate island that serves cookies, I want to GO! All I can do is give you chocolate island mint bars.

Chocolate Island Mint Bars

21. “Hershey’s skillet cookie for 1” How about something even better – bake this giant chocolate chip skillet cookie, slice into triangles, eat a few, and freeze the rest.

skillet chocolate chip cookie

22. “Chocolate stringy brownie cookie” What exactly is a stringy brownie cookie?

23. “Casserole for boys” The most requested casserole from the boys in my family is hot dog casserole.

24. “Cook slice hot dogs with chips on the side” See #23.

And that’s a wrap on 2014! It’s been a fun and fast year of sharing what’s going on in my kitchen. Thank you for reading and sharing with me. There’s nothing better than getting an email from you asking about a recipe or seeing you in the grocery store and you telling me you have ingredients on your list to make something from my blog. Or when you stop me at a hockey game and tell me that what I wrote made you laugh. It’s just you and me kid.

Hoping to see you around Random Sweetness Baking on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. Cheers to a new year!

Sweet & bubbly wishes,

Staci

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If you are dragging yourself out of bed early this morning, I hope it’s to make a pot of coffee, turn on your oven, and park yourself at the kitchen table. The last Black Friday I ventured to a store was the year a lady stole my cart full of ghetto blasters from the electronics aisle. So let’s just order the crap we need online and get back in the kitchen where all the fun happens.

If you have overnight guests, these first two recipes will make your house smell like your favorite aunt’s B&B. Don’t make them unless you want your guests to return.

To-Live-For Pumpkin Butterscotch Coffee Cake

pumpkin butterscotch cake

Ham and Cheese Stuff’n Puff

ham cheese stuff and puff_3991

If you have leftover turkey, use it in place of the chicken to make Lime Street Chicken Tacos.

cilantro lime chicken tacos

Or use the turkey to make Crunchy Deli Wraps. It’s a convenient way to use up the random vegetables in the refrigerator drawer that you will otherwise throw out at Christmas time.

veggie and deli meat wraps

You don’t even need a bowl to make Cherry Crunchobblerumble. Just leave a stack of spoons next to it when you take it out of the oven.

Cherry Crunchobblerumble | Random Sweetness Baking

If you want something salty, sweet, and addictive to munch on all day, Tiger Butter made with Boston Baked Beans candy is what you need.

Boston baked bean tiger butter

When you’re ready to drink beer and watch T.V., grab an overflowing bowl of Chex Mix made like you mean it.

Staci's version of Chex mix

Going somewhere for another Thanksgiving celebration? Bring your host a batch of Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Brownies.

cream cheese peanut butter brownies

Back home with another beer in hand? You should be eating Buffalo Ranch Chicken Dip.

Buffalo ranch chicken dip | Random Sweetness Baking

You have to plan ahead for Taco Cheesecake, but it’s worth it. You will crave this savory appetizer.

Taco cheesecake | Random Sweetness Baking

If you haven’t had your Thanksgiving meal yet, or maybe you are hosting Christmas, my Sausage Stuffing is the dish I’m not allowed to burn.

Sausage Stuffing | Random Sweetness Baking

And, if you are brave enough to pull into a store parking lot this weekend, push your way to the Christmas candy aisle and pick up a couple of bags of mint M&M’s to make Mint Pretzel Kisses.

Mint M&M's Pretzel Kisses | Random Sweetness Baking

Here’s the best for last. Marshmallow Chocolate Cream Cheese Bars

Marshmallow chocolate cream cheese bars | Random Sweetness Baking

May your holiday weekend be filled with loving family and friends, lots of laughter, and plenty of good food.

Sweet wishes,
Staci

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Trading homemade cheesecake for 20 pounds of beef from a local cattle ranch may seem like an ancient bartering activity but in fact, it’s happening right here in the Midwest. One cheesecake of choice is an extra-rich black cherry cheesecake that’s baked smack-dab on the top of sweet brownies.

Brownie bottom black cherry cheesecake

My sister Kalli and her husband, Jason, own and operate (with the help of their kids, Nick and Katera) Voss Ranch in southeast South Dakota.

Vossarosa sign

I, with not much help from anyone, can bake a cheesecake that lures you out from under a pile of cozy blankets to the fridge in the middle of the night. So, it only makes sense that Kalli stocks my freezer with the highest quality, juiciest ground beef a taco lover could ever eat, and I in turn, see to it that her family has cheesecake in the fridge and freezer.

No those aren’t the night lights from Voss Ranch. Kalli and Jason are in Florida. She’s so pretty!

Kalli and Jason in Florida

Katera isn’t afraid of the John Deere. And she definitely isn’t afraid of a little hard work. She loves the farm and she LOVES all the animals.

Katera in John Deere

Did I mention they have donkeys?

donkeys at Voss Ranch

Katera’s favorite dog is Otis. She doesn’t want anyone outside the family to touch him, or look at him really, so she won’t show him at 4-H. But her photograph of Otis won a blue ribbon at the South Dakota State Fair.

Katera and Otis

Nick shot his first buck last year. Clearly, if you don’t believe in hunting I don’t want to hear about it because we live in the heart of deer, duck, and pheasant hunting country. And I strongly support our Second Amendment right to bear arms.

Nicks first buck

The brownie black cherry cheesecake is a new flavor that I made for Christmas. We all liked it, Jason especially was searching for the leftovers so it’s one that I gave to them as part of our beef-for-cheesecake-trade.

The recipe is from Ghirardelli, called black bottom cherry cheesecake bars. The only thing I changed is that I used black cherry preserves instead of cherry. For Christmas, I baked them in a 9×9-inch pan like the recipe instructs but for Kalli and Jason I baked the black cherry cheesecake in a 9-inch round springform pan like a traditional cheesecake. There’s no stopping you from using whatever flavor of preserves is your favorite. I’d like to make it with boysenberry and chokecherry preserves.

Turtle was the most recent cheesecake I baked for them. I’ll share that one with you as soon as I remember how I made it.

Now, I just need to find people who will participate in a gas-for-cheesecake-trade, coffee-beans-for-cheesecake-trade, L’ANZA-professional-products-for-cheesecake-trade, car-maintenance-for-cheesecake-trade, and hockey-expenses-for-cheesecake-trade.

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There’s something about making box brownies that makes people think they aren’t really baking. Even I have gotten caught up in the notion. Here’s what I’ve figured out — we bake to please others. We pride ourselves on making treats that people have maybe never enjoyed before, and that entice people to sneak a second helping. And when they ask for the recipe, none of us want to say, “read the back of a box.”

box brownies

I don’t serve pans of box brownies to my guests or to my friends, I guess I figure they can bake their own. (My all-time favorite is the double chocolate version of Ghirardelli box brownies.) Besides, they can add an ingredient or two that makes their box brownies extra special for their own families like extracts, candies, flavored morsels, alcohol, and nuts.

Ghirardelli box brownies

But you can bet that a few times a month my family is enjoying warm, melty double chocolate brownies from a box. Of course, I add pure almond extract to take the taste to an unexpected level, and I add a soft dusting of powdered sugar for lip-smacking goodness.

What is your favorite box brownie mix?

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You may be as surprised as I was to learn that there are people who don’t have a gooey caramel brownie recipe. Shocking, I know. But if you are one of them, let me share my Yes! Yes! brownie recipe with you. In under 45 minutes, you’ll have a hot pan of gooey, caramel-stringy, could there be more chocolate, brownies on your kitchen counter.

gooey caramel double chocolate brownies

The summer of 1990, I was just out of high school and I worked at 3M as a plant manager. Literally. Besides sorting smocks for laundry, I cleaned bathrooms, refilled vending machines in the cafeteria, and watered the plants around the offices and lobby areas. So they jokingly called me the plant manager. It was during this stint that a co-worker, Judy B., shared these brownies and I’m pretty sure I begged for the recipe.

Years, and years, oh my gosh, 23 years and 50 extra pounds later, my recipe card is bent and crinkled and the plastic protector is melted on the entire left side. When I bring these bars to work now, they disappear. But I never really thought there are people who don’t have their own recipe for caramel brownies. So I never blogged it. I assumed people would be like, “What?! As if I don’t already have a recipe like that.” Boring.

Then one morning I almost fell off my couch when I was watching my favorite T.V. show and Ree from Food Network’s Pioneer Woman showed the world how to make Knock You Naked Brownies. And I was like, “What?! I’ve been making those for years!” Not boring. And then I felt like there was no place for me in the blogging world anymore because anything I had to offer had already been done.

A few months later at work, my friend Mary said she was still waiting for me to blog my caramel brownie recipe. I told her I hadn’t blogged it because I figured everyone had a similar recipe and didn’t need mine. Mary didn’t. She needed my recipe. And for you chocolate lovers out there, you know I really mean needed.

So now, I share it with you. And when you bake them for your friends and they beg you for the recipe, you will say, Yes! Yes!.

{Yes! Yes! Caramel Brownies}

50 caramels (I buy a bag of Kraft caramels and use them all, minus the few my kids run away with.)

1 package chocolate cake mix (Any flavor will do – milk chocolate, chocolate fudge, german chocolate, etc.)

3/4 cup butter, melted

1 small can evaporated milk, divided into two portions, 1/3 cup each

1 cup chopped nuts, optional

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I cover the pan of brownies so who really knows how much that is.)

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, mix melted butter, cake mix, 1/3 cup evaporated milk and nuts. This can be done by hand. Spread three-fourths of this mixture into a lightly greased 9×9-inch or 13×9-inch cake pan. Bake for 6 minutes. Take out of the oven.

Melt caramels with 1/3 cup evaporated milk. Stir until creamy.

Cover the hot crust with the chocolate chips, then pour the caramel mixture over the chips. Top with the remaining batter and bake the 9×9 pan for 20-25 minutes and for the 13×9 pan, bake 15-18 minutes.

Cool completely before cutting. Store in an airtight container. Share with everyone you know.

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