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Remember that double chocolate pumpkin cake you made a few years ago? The one with pumpkin buttercream frosting so good you ate the bottom first just to save the best for last?

double chocolate cake with pumpkin buttercream

This time, do yourself a favor and save the recipe in your online recipe box, email it to yourself, or better yet print it and tape it inside your cupboard door. Because you WILL be looking for it again. Double Chocolate Pumpkin Cake with Pumpkin Spice Buttercream from Picky Palate

In addition to the cinnamon, I added a few scrapes of fresh nutmeg and 1/4 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice to the buttercream frosting. As stated in the recipe, you can make two 9×5 cake loaves, 24 cupcakes, or two 9-inch round cakes. I made eight mini loaves and two medium cake loaves. There’s plenty of frosting so smear it on thick like a redhead with a bottle of sunscreen.

Sweet fall wishes,
Staci
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It’s the Fourth of July holiday here in the U.S. Pinterest is scrolling red, white, and blue treats faster than mosquitos bite in Minnesota. People are dyeing deviled eggs to look like flags. Facebook is smothered in photos of kids with bed head smelling of campfire and bug spray rolling out of their tents by the lake. Twitter is full of “how to take photos of fireworks” articles. T.V. stations are reporting live from parades and Independence Day events. It all alludes that everyone is with family and everyone is happy.

cream cheese sugar cookies

But that’s not necessarily the case. There are people alone this holiday. And maybe they are feeling a little blue. If you know someone who could use a little pick-me-up today, give them a call and let them know you’re thinking of them. Take them for an ice cream cone. Or invite them to watch fireworks with you tonight. Exercise your freedom to celebrate this day however you want.

Speaking of exercise. When you get back to your kitchen…

cream cheese cookies

Bake the softest, richest sugar cookie you’ve ever had. It’s the recipe that has ruined all other sugar cookies for me. The secret. Well, cream cheese of course! That AND I use pure almond extract in the cookie and the icing instead of the vanilla. The recipe is from Taste of Home. View the recipe for White Velvet Cutouts.

Happy Fourth of July!

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It’s time for us to try another family’s favorite recipe. It might mean stepping out of our chocolate cake comfort zone because if you’re like me, you have your own favorite way of making chocolate cake and cupcakes. And your favorite frosting.

moist chocolate cake with lots of fudge frosting

Since I’m not much of a cake eater anyway, the only one I make is heavenly chocolate cake with snow frosting. It has Miracle Whip in it which keeps the cake nice and moist. My favorite frosting is the white, sticky, marshmallow-like frosting that we call snow frosting (you may know it as 7-minute frosting). But last fall at the Minnesota Blogger Conference, my friend Michelle shared with me her recipe for margarita cupcakes and we got to talking about chocolate cake. She told me that her family’s favorite is a chocolate cake that she makes with sour cream. The dense, fudgy frosting is her favorite part.

In the picture below, I baked a dozen in my tiny tart pan and piled three into a cupcake tower topped with shaved white chocolate and mini chocolate chips.

chocolate cake made in tiny tart pans

I was skeptical. Everyone thinks their chocolate cake is the moistest — kind of like how every fisherman thinks he guts and debones a fish better than anyone and that there are “no bones in fish that he cooks” but there are always bones. (My dislike for bones is reflected in Buffalo chicken dip for people who don’t like bones or blue cheese.)

The cupcakes were a hit! I brought them along on our Easter weekend to Minneapolis and the kids (and moms) ate them up. I actually liked the frosting better the second day so it was a perfect treat to bake and frost the day before we left. Thank you, Michelle Hals, for sharing your family favorite with us.

Cupcakes in the city

Chocolate cake with fudge frosting

4 oz. unsweetened chocolate (4 one-ounce squares)
1/4 cup butter
1-2/3 cups boiling water
2-1/3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
2 eggs
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a small saucepan over low heat melt chocolate, butter, and boiling water. Stir until melted and smooth. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl stir together flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.

In a small mixing bowl, beat eggs with a whisk and then whisk in the sour cream and vanilla until smooth.

Slowly add the melted chocolate mixture to the dry ingredient mixture. Stir until combined.

Now add the egg mixture to the cake batter and stir until silky smooth.

Pour into a 9×13-inch cake pan and bake at 350° for 35-40 minutes. You can also make two round cakes (bake for 35-40 minutes) or approximately 2-1/2 dozen regular cupcakes (bake 25 minutes).

The frosting is extremely generous so go crazy especially on the cupcakes!

FROSTING
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar
1 (12-oz.) package semi sweet chocolate chips, melted
2-3 tablespoons milk

Over low heat, melt the chocolate chips. Set aside to cool slightly.

Beat shortening and butter with an electric mixer until smooth. Add vanilla. One cup at a time, add the powdered sugar. Once the chocolate is cooled a little (just make sure it’s not hot), pour into the frosting mixture. Add milk as needed to get to your desired spreading consistency. Frost the completely cooled cakes or cupcakes.

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A teaspoon of zest and the juice of an orange turn a bowl-full of powdered sugar into a creamy kiss from the sun on top of these chewy, chocolate brownies.

Orange-Kissed Brownies | Random Sweetness Baking

I recently purchased the Better Homes and Gardens Brownies & Bars magazine and the first treats I made were Orange-Kissed Chocolate Brownies.

They are worthy of making again so I’m keeping track of this recipe, with a note to serve with ice-cold milk or steamy coffee. The only thing I might add next time is a dash or two of Grand Marnier® to the brownie batter.

Next on my list from this magazine are:

  1. Toffee-pumpkin pie bars
  2. Apple-cinnamon streusel bars
  3. Goat cheese brownies with honey swirl
  4. Pistachio and cream cheese sugar cookies

Speaking of orange and chocolate desserts, here’s a good recipe for orange-chocolate cheesecake from KFAFT. It’s the one I photographed for the title header at the top of my home page. Of course, I add Grand Marnier® to that recipe too. I’m one of those parents who’ll notice their liqueur missing from the baking pantry, not the liquor cabinet.

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You may recognize these treats from childhood potlucks in your church basement or from family reunions with people you didn’t really know. And unless your mom shared the recipe with you, the secret layers in these marshmallow chocolate cream cheese bars have long been revealed only to those who bake them.

Each bite holds four layers of cake-like brownies, sweet cream cheese, chewy chocolate, salty pecans, sticky marshmallows, and soft, almost flaky, chocolate vanilla frosting. You will wear a path in the floor to the refrigerator.

Marshmallow chocolate cream cheese bars | Random Sweetness Baking

Prepare yourself — you’ll use three mixing bowls, a small bowl, and a saucepan to make these bars. But trust me. I would never steer you down a dishwashing path if it weren’t absolutely, without a chocolate doubt, worth every squirt of dish soap.

Marshmallow chocolate cream cheese bars

Brownie base:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened (do not substitute margarine)

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 (1-ounce) square unsweetened chocolate, melted and set aside to cool slightly

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup pecan pieces or chopped pecans

Cream cheese layer:

6 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature

1/4 cup butter, softened (do not substitute margarine)

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup pecan pieces or chopped pecans

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

3 cups miniature marshmallows

Frosting:

1/4 cup butter

2 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature

1 (1-ounce) square unsweetened chocolate

2 tablespoons milk

3 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, melted chocolate, and vanilla; mix well on medium speed. In a separate bowl, combine flour and baking powder. Gently stir into chocolate mixture. Fold in the pecans. Pour into a greased 13 x 9 pan and spread evenly.

In a small mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the butter and beat until well combined. Beat in the sugar, egg, flour, and vanilla until creamy. Fold in the pecans. Spread evenly over the chocolate layer. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the cream cheese layer and bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes. Edges will begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Do not overbake or the brownie layer will be dry.

Remove the baking pan from the oven. Sprinkle the marshmallows over the chocolate chips. Bake another 2 minutes or until the marshmallows become puffed. Remove from oven. Gently spread the marshmallows over the layer of chocolate chips. Cool on a wire rack.

Frosting:

In a small saucepan over low heat, cook and stir the butter, cream cheese, unsweetened chocolate and milk. Slowly melt and stir until smooth. Pour into a large mixing bowl. Add one cup of powdered sugar at a time, beating after each cup. Beat in vanilla. Spread over the cooled bars. Store in the refrigerator.

Makes 2 to 3 dozen, depending on how large you cut them.

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Pull up a bar stool. Or an office chair. Maybe even a reclining Adirondack chair by the pool. Because no matter where you indulge in these margarita cupcakes, you’ll be transported to a dreamy beach lined with sandy towels and sun-baked flip-flops.

Just hope no one steps on a pop-top and has to head on back home.

If you like margaritas, you’ll enjoy these light little cakes spiked with tequila and a twist of lime. Top them with a generous helping of the tart, salty frosting and it’s like licking the rim of your icy margarita.

The recipe is new to me. A fellow blogger from the Minneapolis area, Michelle Hals, shared it with me at Minnesota Blogger’s Conference. The recipe comes from her parents who got it from her dad’s cousin when he made the treats for a high school reunion. Michelle just started a new blog at http://www.michellehals.com so stop by and say hi. She also blogs at http://shelbellescraps.blogspot.com.

Thank you for sharing this family recipe with us, Michelle.

I lovingly call Minneapolis the big city because I live on an acreage in southwest Minnesota. I used to live in the Twin Cities and I love it there.

Margarita Cupcakes

Makes 18 regular-size cupcakes with generous frosting for each.

1 box white cake mix

7-1/2 ounces original margarita mix

2 ounces tequila (or triple sec if you prefer)

1/2 ounce orange juice

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 egg whites

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a medium bowl, add all ingredients and beat on medium-high until fluffy. If you prefer, use triple sec in place of the tequila. The important thing is to use a total of 10 ounces of liquid. Line a regular cupcake pan with papers or grease with non-stick spray. Bake 20-25 minutes or until toothpick or cake tester comes out clean. Transfer to cooling rack.

Simple Lime Syrup (optional)

If you’ve read my blog for a while, you know that I am not a huge fan of cupcakes because they aren’t usually as moist as I like. I found these cupcakes to be a little drier than I like, but an easy solution is to add the following simple syrup:

1 cup fresh lime juice

1 cup sugar

Combine the lime juice and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar completely dissolves. Bring it to a boil and continue to boil for 3-5 minutes until it becomes a golden color. Cool. Poke holes in the cupcakes with a toothpick. Using a pastry brush, generously brush the syrup over the tops of the cupcakes. Let soak in for 10 minutes and then frost the cupcakes.

Salty Lime Frosting

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

5 cups powdered sugar

3-4 tablespoons lime juice (use 3 and add more if needed for spreading consistency)

1/2 teaspoon salt

couple dashes of green food coloring if desired

In a medium bowl, cream the butter. Add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the lime juice and salt, beating until desired spreading consistency. Add small amount of green food coloring if desired.

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Do you like your margarita rim salty or sweet?

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There’s been a lot of chocolate around the house lately so it was good timing for something different. Lucky for me, I had bananas that were the perfect ripeness for baking moist, cake-like bars.

Even if you don’t have ripe bananas at the moment, you most likely know that you can freeze extra ripe bananas and thaw them when you are ready to bake. My preferred method is to peel them, smash them, and put the banana mush into freezer bags labeled with the number of bananas I used.  Most recipes call for approximately one to one and a half cups of banana, which you can usually get out of 3-4 medium-sized bananas. It works best to freeze them in that portion size.

{Cinnamon Banana Bars with Vanilla Cream Frosting}

Bars:

2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2-1/2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp salt

1-1/2 cups brown sugar

3/4 cup butter softened (1  1/2 sticks)

1-1/2 tsp vanilla

2 large eggs

1-1/2 cups mashed, ripe bananas

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting:

 6 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 Tablespoons butter, softened

2 cups powdered sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract (I like using Vanilla Bean Crush which adds the tiny flecks of vanilla.)

Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 15×10-inch jelly roll/bar pan. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. In large bowl beat brown sugar, butter and vanilla extract. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in bananas. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Spread into prepared pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes of until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan. 

For Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting: beat cream cheese, butter and powdered sugar in a small mixer until smooth. Stir in vanilla. Spread on completely cooled bars. Store in the refrigerator and serve at room temperature.

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