It’s almost St. Patrick’s Day, you know what that means for me – chocolate paired with Guinness and frosting paired with Baileys Irish Cream! Before last year I was every kind of skeptical about throwing beer into my chocolate baked goods, and this is coming from someone who will choose a beer over a mixed drink any day of the week. My skepticism was squashed after making the utterly amazing Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes, then I took it a notch further with Guinness-Milk Chocolate Ice Cream. Both blew my socks off, so when I saw a chocolate stout cake on King Arthur Flour, I wasted absolutely no time in getting to the kitchen. Luckily, I had some bottles of Guinness leftover from my Gingerbread Cake, so I didn’t even have to hit the liquor store before starting. Bonus! While the original recipe called for a chocolate frosting, I thought it would be way more festive to get Baileys into the mix, and settled on a Baileys cream cheese frosting.

This cake? Top 3, all-time. No question.

My mom has belonged to the same card club for about 25 years now – the group got together when I was in elementary school and they were all stay-at-home moms who volunteered at the school. They began having monthly Friday night “card clubs” where they would get together, play cards, eat, and gossip. No husbands or kids allowed. Twenty-five years later, they still get together once a month and have started taking a yearly vacation together. They take turns hosting the monthly get-togethers; a few weeks ago, it was my mom’s turn and she asked if I would mind making her a dessert. I said I’d love to and, with this cake jumping to mind immediately, asked if the ladies would mind a spiked dessert. She assured me they would love it, so with the green light, I was off.

The cake came together really easily and while it was cooling, I got started on the frosting. I was in a baking zone and hadn’t really looked outside over the previous few hours. As a result, I didn’t notice that it was becoming eerily similar to the scene from The Wizard of Oz right before Dorothy’s house gets picked up and spun around by a tornado. Oblivious to the situation outside, I started in on my boozy frosting. I put the cream cheese, butter, and Baileys into the mixing bowl and mixed in approximately two spoonfuls of powdered sugar when, poof! Mixer stopped. Radio stopped. Lights went out. I waited a few minutes to see if the power was going to come back, but no such luck. As it turned out, the wind knocked a tree down over power lines down the street. I pulled the mixing bowl off the mixer, grabbed a wooden spoon, and went to town.

This frosting experience made me appreciate all of the things that our grandmothers made years before stand mixers graced most kitchen counters. It also made me appreciate my KitchenAid mixer more than ever before. I wanted to kiss it when the power came back! While I’m unsure if it was the recipe itself or the fact that it was mixed with a wooden spoon, the frosting was just a bit on the soft side. Still, it was stiff enough to frost the cake and do some piping. Plus, it was to-die-for delicious. I will make it a thousand times over.

The verdict from the card club ladies? My mom said they went absolutely crazy over it and couldn’t stop raving. Since they only polished off half of the cake, I got to dig into the leftovers. I have to say this is by far one of the two best chocolate cakes I have ever made. The chocolate flavor is deep and rich, the cake is moist, and the frosting is a perfect complement. I ate it for days, and I am already looking forward to making it again. And again. And again.

 

INGREDIENTS:

For the Cake:
1½ cups stout or dark beer, such as Guinness
1½ cups unsalted butter
1 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups granulated sugar
2¼ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

For the Frosting:
16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
½ cup butter, at room temperature
7 tablespoons Baileys Irish Cream
6 cups powdered sugar

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans, and line them with parchment paper circles.

2. Place the stout and butter in a large, heavy saucepan, and heat until the butter melts. Remove the pan from the heat, and add the cocoa powder. Whisk until the mixture is smooth. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

3. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl; set aside.

4. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the eggs and sour cream. Add the stout-cocoa mixture, mixing to combine. Add the flour mixture and mix together at slow speed. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, and mix again for 1 minute.

5. Divide the batter equally among the prepared pans. Bake the layers for 35 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the cakes from the oven and cool on a rack for 10 minutes before turning the cakes out of their pans and returning to the rack to finish cooling completely before frosting.

6. Make the Frosting: In a mixing bowl, blend together the cream cheese, butter, and Baileys Irish Cream on medium speed until completely smooth and combined. Gradually add the powdered sugar on medium-low speed until it has all been added. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is smooth and thoroughly mixed. Use immediately. You can refrigerate the frosting, but it will need to be brought to room temperature before using. This yields enough frosting to fill the cake and frost the outside, and do some basic decorations.

*Note: If the finished frosting is a little soft for your liking, you can add more powdered sugar, a tablespoon at a time, until you reach the desired consistency.

A girlfriend of mine hosted a gathering with a posh, true-to-era ambiance to celebrate the new TV series ‘Pan Am’.  She and two other ex Pan Am flight attendants were in the wings to fill in on all the inside scoop.  The show captures the era of elegance in travel when people dressed up to fly, customer service was a priority, no one cared how many ounces of Prell shampoo was on your person, nor were peek-a-boo x-rays required to see if you might be packin’.  I recall Pan Am and TWA to have the cache as the luxe airlines that went anywhere in the world.
As a contribution to the gathering I was asked to bring a dessert.  For whatever reason I immediately thought of Grasshopper Pie.   To me it was one of those era-specific dishes that went away as the age shifted to a new tide.  I think it must have been looked at as fairly gourmet, sophisticated, and very clever at the time.
Should you not know of Grasshopper Pie, it has a chocolate wafer crumb crust with a silky filling, green, flavored with Crème de Menthe.  I knew somewhere in our family recipe collection we must have had a recipe for Grasshopper Pie.  I have my maternal Grandmother’s recipe box and came up empty but my Mom produced a recipe card sure it was from the 1950’s (I think probably 1960’s).  When I initially read the ingredients, I confess I told her ‘this sounds really gross’.  She agreed it did on paper but recalled they found it all the rage.
I was dubious while making it, imagining some goopy, sticky mess from the marshmallows feeling this could not be taking me anywhere I wanted to go.  Not so.  Much to my surprise by the end of the preparation, the inside of the pie was smooth and flavorfully minty from the Crème de Menthe; not too overpowering nor sticky in the least.  Made me want to put on a shift dress, pour a martini and listen to jazz music….OR board a flight on Pam Am to travel somewhere exotic with the rest of the beautiful people of the day.

Ingredients

Ingredients for a 6-cup volume Deep Dish pie pan (9 or 10″ diameter, 2″ deep):
    • 2 1/4 cups chocolate wafer crumbs*
    • 6 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted (a bit more, unmelted, will be used to grease the pie pan)
    • 38 large marshmallows
    • 1 cup Half and Half
    • 1/2 cup green Crème de Menthe liqueur (purchased or homemade)
    • 1 1/3 cups heavy whipping cream
Ingredients for 4 cup volume Traditional/Standard pie pan (8 or 9 inch diameter, 1 to 1 1/2 inch depth; NOT deep dish):
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 25 large marshmallows
  • 2/3 cup half and half (the original recipe used cream or milk)
  • 5 tablespoons green Creme de Menthe
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream

 

Instructions

  1. To make the crust: butter the pie pan. In a large bowl combine the chocolate wafer crumbs (note: reserve 2 tablespoons of the crumbs for later use) and melted butter. Hand stir until combined (the crumbs will look ‘wet’ but it won’t necessarily be sticking together). Pour crumb mixture into the pie pan. Using the back of a large spoon, press crumbs into the pie pan evenly on the bottom and sides to form a crust. Place in the freezer.
  2. Combine the marshmallows and Half and Half in the top of a double broiler OR in a metal, heat proof bowl placed over a sauce pan of boiling water. Cook, stirring constantly once marshmallows begin to melt, until the marshmallows have melted completely (using a whisk at the end is helpful to ensure the marshmallows are completely liquified). Remove from heat.
  3. Add the Crème de Menthe into the marshmallow mixture and stir or whisk to fully combine. The Creme de Menthe may settle in the bowl but will be further incorporated in the last filling step. Allow the mixture to cool slightly, about 10 minutes.
  4. Using a standing or hand held mixer, whip heavy whipping cream until firm peaks appear. Stir into the green marshmallow mixture. Whisk lightly at the end to ensure the mixture is combined well.
  5. Pour into prepared pie crust. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of the crumbs on the top and place in the freezer. Freeze until firm.

I recently came across the most amazing bundt cakes over at Cooking With Sugar.    The only way I can describe them is that they look like a party on a plate – they are packed full of color, color and more color.  And sprinkles.   Check out her Valentine’s Day Melting Heart Bundt Cake – it’s g-o-r-g-e-o-u-s.   There is just something about these colorful bundt cakes that makes me feel like a kid full of cake excitement.  My head is screaming “Oh, lookie, pretty colors!”.

 

I simply had to make one of these fabulous cakes and St. Patrick’s Day seemed like as good of reason as any.   One of the best things about these cakes is that they are surprisingly easy to make.  Sugar uses Betty Crocker cake mixes and frosting and the magic comes from fun use of food coloring.   She has a video on her site to walk you through the process.    I took some photos as I made my cake, but Sugar is really the expert on this.

St. Patrick's Day Bundt Cake. Such a fun and easy green cake to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.

 

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There’s no better way to honor Saint Patrick than with an array of bright-green desserts (to finish off your meal of corned beef and pint of Guinness, of course). When it comes to this boozy holiday, green reigns supreme as an ode to Ireland. And while we might not be used to eating our cakes and pies in a bright green hue, we’re loving it this time of year — especially when it means mint.

We have enough shamrock-shaped cookies, grasshopper pies and mint-chocolate combinations to guarantee that Saint Patrick’s Day dessert recipes are under control this year. The only thing you have to worry about now is deciding which recipe (or two) you want to make.

 

I’ll be posting several options of the next few days, let me know your favorite!

Shamrock Shake Cupcakes
If you flock to McDonald’s at the first sign of those minty green shakes, you’re going to go bonkers over these cupcakes. I didn’t have a non-spiked St. Patrick’s Day cupcake in my repertoire yet, and thought that this riff on the popular milkshakes could be a really delicious treat. I made a homemade shamrock shake a few years ago, and used that as a jumping off point, starting with green-hued vanilla-mint cupcakes and topped them with fluffy whipped cream frosting.

yield: 12 cupcakes

prep time: 30 minutes

cook time: 15 to 20 minutes

total time: 1 hour

Green-tinted vanilla-mint cupcakes with whipped cream frosting, perfect for St. Patrick’s Day.

INGREDIENTS:

For the Cupcakes:
¾ cup + 2 tablespoons cake flour
½ cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¾ cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1¼ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into ½-inch cubes
2 eggs
½ cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ teaspoons mint extract (NOT peppermint extract)
6 drops green food coloring

For the Frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream

To Garnish:
Green sanding sugar
Green maraschino cherries

DIRECTIONS:

1. Make the Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners; set aside.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt, and mix together on low speed for 1 minute. With the mixer on low, add the butter, a few cubes at a time, continuing until all the butter has been added and the mixture resembles coarse sand.

3. Keeping the mixer on low speed, add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions. Slowly pour in the milk, vanilla and mint extract, and mix until combined. Add the green food coloring and mix until color is evenly dispersed throughout the batter. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes, until batter is smooth, scraping the sides of bowl as needed.

4. Fill the liners two-thirds full (about ¼ cup of batter) and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the centers are set and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

5. Make the Frosting: On medium speed, beat the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixer with the whisk attachment until smooth and completely combined, about 3 minutes. Slowly add the heavy cream, scrape the sides of the bowl, then increase speed to medium-high and whip until stiff peaks form.

6. Assemble the Cupcakes: Pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes, then sprinkle with green sanding sugar and top with green maraschino cherries, if desired. Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Note: I had a little bit of frosting leftover, and as you can see, I piled it high on each cupcake. I always believe that more is better when it comes to frosting, but if you prefer less, you can scale it down.

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I have a good friend that is a newborn and baby photographer in Southern Maine. I thought it would be fun to let her write a blog post introducing herself.

 

My name is Carly. I am a self taught newborn photographer located in North Yarmouth, ME. I live with my husband and our two crazy kids. My love for photography started with the birth of my daughter in 2008 and grew into a true passion from that point on. You usually find me looking through a lens, trying to capture my babies as they grow.

I use natural light during outdoor sessions and my very favorite time to shoot outside is about an hour before sunset. The light is gorgeous and a beautiful golden color. I also have a small home studio perfect for newborns and small babies/children where I use a soft, natural looking studio light. I specialize in Birth, Maternity, Newborn, Baby and Family Photography in Southern Maine. Feel free to contact me anytime; I would love to speak with you. 

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Visit www.carlymurrayphotography.com to learn more!

Hello Everyone,

I know this post is out of character for me, but I have to share the sweetest Newborn Photography Session from my good friend Carly at Carly Murray Photography.

She did a great at home newborn photo shoot for baby Miles in Southern Maine.

“It was so nice to meet this family last week for their lifestyle newborn session. Miles is just so sweet and adorable! He has really great hair too :)  The day I went out to their home it was kind of dark and rainy.  I was a little worried what the light inside would be like as it can be tough on dark days to shoot natural light but I absolutely love how these came out.  It was darker but I love the moody contrast it adds to the photos, especially in the black and whites.  Here is a quick peek!”

Carly Murray Photography

Carly Murray Photography

Carly Murray Photography

I know, I know that Healthy Dessert Pizza sounds like an oxymoron, but trust me it can happen and it’s delicious.

This is that perfect healthy dessert for those final Playoff or SuperBowl parties. It involves Chobani Greek Yogurt, Oatmeal cookie mix and fresh fruit, what is better than that!

 

INGREDIENTS:

IMG_6995

  • 1 package of oatmeal cookie mix (and whatever you’ll need to prepare it—this will vary between brands)
  • 1-1 1/2 cups Vanilla Chobani Greek Yogurt
  • 1 banana
  • 7 strawberries
  • 1/4 cup blueberries
  • 1/8 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chunks
  • Makes 8-12 servings

 

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat your oven to the degree listed on the cookie packaging. Prepare the cookie dough according to package instructions.
  2. Gather the dough together into a ball and place it on a sheet of wax paper. Using your fingers, shape the dough into a giant circle about 12″ wide and 1/2″ thick. Flip the dough circle onto a pizza stone and remove the wax paper. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned and the top of the cookie has the same texture throughout (there may be cracks in the surface).
  3. While you wait for the cookie to cool, turn your oven down to 350° and toast your almonds for about 5 minutes.
  4. NOTE: You’ll want to wait to add the yogurt and toppings until serving time, since the yogurt can soften the cookie. You can prepare the cookie and almonds as far as two days ahead. To store, wrap the cooled cookie in plastic wrap and chill. Store the almonds in an airtight container at room temperature.
  5. Slice your strawberries and bananas.
  6. When ready to serve, spread an even layer of yogurt onto your cookie, leaving about ½” around the edge of the cookie exposed.
  7. Sprinkle on your fruit, chocolate, and almonds or arrange them in a cool pattern.
  8. Serve at your Super Bowl party!

Hey All!

Are you like me and have a habit of buying banana’s that you don’t end up eating? I am so guilty of this at home.

If I only have one or two bananas I’ll chop them into chunks and freeze them for smoothies (yummmm). But if I have 3 or more I love to make Banana Bread.

I have tried so many recipes in the past and this one is not only health, but delicious.

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This is the perfect recipe, it’s so simple, incredibly delicious and amazingly healthy. I’ve been enjoying it this week on it’s own for breakfast or spread thick with almond butter for my afternoon snack (seriously the ultimate winter comfort food) Either way it tastes amazing. It’s so perfectly sweet thanks to the banana with amazing caramel-like overtones from the maple syrup and a slight spice form the cinnamon. The texture is divine too, nicely soft and squishy yet still so satisfying and slightly hearty. It’s a wonderful thing to keep stored in your kitchen too for when you’re after something sweet as it’s just so easy to make and has only seven, really easy-to-find ingredients and no complicated cooking instructions!   I think you’re going to love it!

Makes one loaf

– 5 large over-ripe bananas

– 1 cup of almonds

– 2 cups of pecans

– 1 cup of buckwheat or brown rice flour

– 1/2 a cup of maple syrup

– 3 tablespoons of chia seeds

– 2 tablespoons of cinnamon

Start by pre-heating the oven to 145C. Then blend the almonds and pecans in a food processor so that they form a flour, this should take about thirty seconds. Once it’s smooth remove the flour and add it to a mixing bowl with the buckwheat flour, maple syrup, chia seeds and cinnamon, mixing them all together.

Next mash the bananas together until smooth before stirring them into the bread mix, at this point the mixture should be really nice and sticky.

Grease a loaf tin with coconut oil and then pour in the mix and allow it to bake for about an hour.

I’m sure a lot of you received kitchen appliances for the Holidays.

Maybe you even received that coveted KitchenAid Stand Mixer?  If you did, here is a great French Bread recipe for you to use when testing out your new machine.

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This recipe came with my Kitchen Aid mixer, and makes two absolutely beautiful loaves of French Bread. Make sure you use a very, very sharp knife to make the diagonal slashes. This bread is delicious on its own, for sopping up stew or soup broth, and with your favorite cheeses or toppings. Prep time specified includes rising time.

 

Ingredients:

 

DIRECTIONS

  1. Dissolve yeast in warm water in warmed mixer bowl.
  2. Add salt, butter, and flour.
  3. Attach bowl& dough hook to mixer, turn to Speed 2 and mix about 1 minute or until well blended.
  4. Knead on Speed 2 about 2 minutes longer.
  5. Dough will be sticky.
  6. Put dough in large greased bowl, turning to coat.
  7. Cover and let rise in warm place, free from draft, about 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk.
  8. Punch dough down and divide in half.
  9. Roll each half into 12″ x 15″ rectangle.
  10. Roll dough tightly, from longest side, tapering ends, if needed/wanted.
  11. Put loaves on greased baking sheets that have been dusted with cornmeal.
  12. Cover and let rise in warm place, free from draft, about 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk.
  13. With sharp knife, make 4 diagonal cuts on top of each loaf.
  14. Bake at 450F for 25 minutes, then remove from oven.
  15. Beat egg white and water together and brush each loaf with this mix.
  16. Return to the oven and bake 5 minutes longer.
  17. Immediately remove from baking sheets and cool on wire racks.
  18. Serve with your favorite spread such as herbed butter, garlic bread topping, etc.

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Christmas mornings are busy. Prepare breakfast the day before by baking this simple stollen, a quick version of the traditional sweet bread. Set it out for everyone to enjoy with their choice of tea or coffee. It also makes a great gift. Prepare some ahead to freeze. Wrap in foil and seal in freezer-weight plastic bags — they’ll stay good up to a month.

holiday-bread-xl

INGREDIENTS

  • 2⅓ c. all-purpose flour
  • ½ c. sugar
  • 1½ tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ½ c. cold butter or margarine
  • 1 c. part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 c. dried tart cherries or other dried fruit
  • ⅓ c. pecans
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp. grated fresh lemon peel
  • 2 large eggs
  • Confectioners’ sugar (optional)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease large cookie sheet. In large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. With pastry blender or using two knives scissors-fashion, cut in butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in ricotta, dried cherries, pecans, vanilla, lemon peel, and eggs until well combined.
  2. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. With floured hands, gently knead dough two or three times to blend. With floured rolling pin, roll dough into 10″ by 8″ oval. Fold oval lengthwise, bringing top half over so that bottom of dough extends by about 1 inch.
  3. Place stollen on prepared cookie sheet. Bake 55 to 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Transfer stollen to wire rack; cool completely. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar to coat just before serving if you like.