Quick, easy chocolate fudge cookies


Sometimes you want a cookie without all the fuss.

Searching for something quick and easy to bake last weekend, I stumbled upon this recipe for chocolate fudge cookies. They’re made using a box cake mix, of all things (gasp!), but they turned out absolutely delicious — and can be customized in all sorts of ways.

Had I had a bag of those addictive mint chocolate chips on hand, I would have happily tossed them in — but this recipe is pretty great as-is! I just added a little vanilla extract to the batter because vanilla makes everything better; it’s science.

If you want a quick treat using items likely already in your pantry, I present you with . . .


Chocolate Fudge Cookies

Adapted from AllRecipes.com

Ingredients:
• 1 (18.25 ounce) package devil’s food cake mix
• 2 eggs
• 1/2 cup vegetable oil
• 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (or mint, or any other kind)
• 1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease or line cookie sheets.
2. In a medium bowl, stir together the cake mix, eggs and oil until well blended. Fold in the chocolate chips. Roll the dough into walnut sized balls. Place the cookies 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet.
3. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Yields approximately 24-30 cookies.



I’m linking up with Beth Fish Reads’ Weekend Cooking feature, a great way to check out new blogs and fabulous recipes. Be sure to stop by for more mouth-watering posts beginning Saturday.


Cherry almond cobbler — without the side of guilt


I love dessert.

Like really, really love dessert.

Ice cream, Pop-Ice, cupcakes, pie — present it on a plate and I’ll probably eat it. I’d rather cut calories a hundred other ways than sacrifice my sweets, which sometimes means my lunches and dinners can get drab . . . but it’s worth it to indulge in those little extras.

Eventually I realized maybe I could have my cake and eat it, too, as they say. If I tried making lighter desserts, I could enjoy my sweets without the extra helping of guilt that sometimes accompanies them. Look, I’ll be honest: I’m a curvy woman who likes to eat. And bake. Counting calories sucks. I’ve never been skinny and doubt I ever will be, so I do the best I can to exercise, eat healthy — and bake wisely. Having calorie-laden goods hanging around the kitchen counter is a recipe for derailment.

Enter this lower-fat cherry almond cobbler. Adapted from this AllRecipes creation, the dessert calls for vanilla yogurt, egg whites and a limited amount of added sugar. The result is more cake-like than cobbler-ish, but it’s delicious and light — almost like angel food cake with fruit! Even my cherry-hating dad and sister gave it a solid B and B-, respectively. (And my cherry-loving heart gives it an A.)


Lighter cherry almond cobbler

Adapted from AllRecipes.com

Ingredients:
1 cup fat free vanilla yogurt
1 1/2 cups sugar
6 egg whites
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup slivered almonds
1 (20 ounce) can reduced-sugar cherry pie filling
Fat-free whipped topping, if desired

Directions:
In a mixing bowl, beat yogurt and sugar. Add egg whites; mix well. Combine flour and baking powder; stir into yogurt mixture. Pour into a 13 x 9-in. baking pan coated with nonstick cooking spray. Spoon cherry filling on top, then cover with slivered almonds. Bake at 350 degrees F for 40-50 minutes or until filling is bubbly and toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Top with whipped topping, if desired.


Blue velvet cupcakes — a twist on a crowd-pleasing favorite

She’s having a boy!

When we learned my dear friend Erin was expecting (congrats, Erin and Matt!), I was happy to don my apron to create baby shower treats. A request came in for blue velvet cupcakes, a variety of that red-colored favorite, but I got a little nervous peering at the directions . . . mostly because the recipe calls for buttermilk, white vinegar and a variety of other things I’ve never baked with before.

My fears were unfounded, however; though a bit time-consuming, these weren’t tricky. And while I liked the cake and dug the dark-blue hue (a bottle of food coloring will do that), the highlight was the homemade cream cheese frosting. I’m typically the type to shuck the top of my cupcake off and pass the frosting to someone else . . . but none of that was going on last weekend. I wanted the cake and the frosting, and you’d have had to pry them out of my greedy little paws.

If you’re a fan of red velvet but want something a little different, allow me to recommend this fab recipe from genius baker Heather at Sprinkle Bakes. And with the Fourth of July just days away, you could give these a patriotic makeover with red and blue sprinkles.

My notes: Though I prepared these mostly as instructed, I made two separate batches to get the 36 I needed for the baby shower and found that the batter into which I’d spilled extra vanilla extract were tastier than the other set — so I upped the vanilla and cocoa powder (could have used a little extra varoom!) in the version below. Also, I lowered the recommended baking time; at the 25-minute mark, mine were very browned and, um, “well done.” Just keep an eye on ’em.


Blue Velvet Cupcakes

Recipe adapted from Sprinkle Bakes

Ingredients for cake:
2 cups sugar
2 sticks butter, room temperature
2 whole eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons liquid blue food coloring
1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 drop violet gel food coloring (optional)
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon white vinegar

Ingredients for frosting:
1 pound (four 8 oz. packages) cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners sugar

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place cupcake liners in pans.
2. In a mixing bowl, cream the sugar and butter, mix until light and fluffy. Add the eggs 1 at a time and mix well after each addition.
3. Mix cocoa and food coloring together to form a paste, and then add to sugar mixture; mix well.
4. Sift together flour and salt. Add flour mixture to the creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk. Blend in vanilla.
5. In a small bowl, combine baking soda and vinegar and add to mixture.
6. Pour batter into cupcake papers. (Batter will be thick!) Bake for 23-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

For frosting:
In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beating until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy. Frost cupcakes and embellish as desired.


Snickerdoodle Cupcakes: Butter, cinnamon and everything nice

Snickerdoodle cookies first pranced deliciously into my life when I started my college job at Borders. Being a 20-something who walked five miles around campus daily, I could do all kinds of crazy stuff — like eat cookies for dinner. Washed down with a full-fat latte to keep my caffeine intake steady, I wasn’t exactly rocking healthy eating habits. But those cookies were so good.

Years later, I still salivate at the idea of a buttery, cinnamon-rich cookie warm from the oven. Snickerdoodles are my weakness. When I stumbled across a recipe mixing my favorite flavors into acupcake, I was digging up the ingredients lickety-split.

And these didn’t disappoint. With melted butter right in the batter, all the snickerdoodle flavors I crave were wrapped into one moist cupcake. I’ll give you one caution, though: the cinnamon buttercream is intense. Maybe a little too intense, depending on how sweet and copious you like your frosting . . . so go lighter with it if you’re worried about getting overpowered.

But I don’t think you will be. They’re pretty awesome.


Snickerdoodle Cupcakes

Ingredients for cupcakes:
1 package vanilla cake mix
1 cup milk (2 percent or whole)
1 stick butter, melted
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Ingredients for frosting:
1 stick butter
3 cups confectioner’s sugar
3-4 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place cupcake liners in pans.

2. Place cake mix, milk, melted butter, eggs, vanilla and cinnamon in large mixing bowl. Blend for three minutes, scraping occasionally.

3. Pour batter into pans and bake for 22-25 minutes, until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool cupcakes.

4. For frosting, beat butter until fluffy (at least three minutes). Add confectioner’s sugar, vanilla extract and ground cinnamon, mixing in milk one tablespoon at a time until frosting reaches desired consistency. For thinner frosting, add more milk; for thicker frosting, less. After cupcakes have cooled, frost as desired. Yield: approximately 20 cupcakes. Enjoy!


{Recipe adapted from DuncanHines.com}


Cupcake liner organization — a Pinterest challenge

Oh, Pinterest. That epic timesuck furthering a misconception I’m craftier and artsier than I really am. I can’t log in without wanting to bake, create or wear everything in sight, and I’ve found some fabulous decorating ideas and saved tons of cupcake recipes for future use. As if I’ll ever run out of those.

And speaking of my cupcake obsession, I’ve amassed quite a few decorative cupcake liners over the years. So many that they’re literally spilling out of my kitchen cabinet, their colorful wrappers winding up on the floor. I’ve been thinking about ways to get organized and keep them clean and accessible, and that’s when I saw this:



Perfect.

The lovely Trish issued a challenge for all the Pinterest addicts out there: actually do some of the things you pin in the month of May. Never one to shy away from adventure, I joined up — and completing my cupcake organization was my first task.

After a few weeks of searching for a comparable glass container, I eventually found one I liked from HomeGoods. Though not as lovely or large as this baby at Such Pretty Things, I’m really happy with how it turned out! And by “turned out,” I mean how it looked when I stacked all my cupcake liners inside. It took less than five minutes.

Here’s mine:



Pretty enough to leave out year-round!

For $4, I have a way to store my cupcake liners and, best of all, actually keep track of everything I own. Do you know how many packages of Christmas cupcake cases I have? (Answer: at least four. That I can find.) Though I might eventually invest in either a second or larger jar (this is already full, as you can see!), I’m hoping my organized storage system will encourage me to use up what I already have. And that will save me money. Win-win!


——


Many thanks to Trish for much-needed nudge to get crafty! Join the fun this May by completing a few Pinterest-inspired projects, recipes, etc. For more information, visit Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity.


Simple, delectable almond bars


Spencer and I had only been dating a few months when he broke out this recipe: a dessert passed down by his grandmother and mom, and one that has quickly become a favorite of mine. Wickedly obsessed with all things almond, I can’t get enough of these — and it doesn’t hurt that they’re very simple to make. And delicious.

Turning to Spencer now, I asked, “Is Grandma Pat well known for this recipe?”

“Amongst . . . me,” he replied.

And now me. And maybe you, too.


Almond Bars

2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 stick melted butter
1 scant cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
Confectioners’ (powdered) sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9×9 pan and set aside. In a medium bowl, beat eggs, then add sugar and melted butter; mix well. Add flour; stir until smooth and combined. Mix in almond extract. Bake for 20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean and edges are lightly browned. Cool. Sift confectioners’ sugar over top, cut and enjoy.


Dark Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes: get ‘drunk’ on delicious dessert


Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day (or a little early, but hey — I’m proactive), I present to you the most praised cupcakes I’ve ever made. You might think I’m exaggerating, but I can promise these are winners — and I’m feeling quite smug after getting endless compliments on these babies at work this week.

They’re Dark Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes with a Bailey’s buttercream frosting, friends, and they’re just as rich, decadent and lush as you would imagine. Fascinated by Ireland since our visit there last spring, my interest was piqued when I first caught a glimpse of this recipe — though I’m really more of a Smithwick’s girl. Regardless, these treats are outstanding — and yes, you can taste both the Guinness and Bailey’s . . . but you won’t get sloppy afterward. At least, no one in the office did.

This recipe originally came from Sasha, the culinary mastermind over at Global Table Adventure. Her recipe is for one awesome cake, but I’m a cupcake fiend. So I present to you this rendition in all its stouty glory. Don’t skimp on the icing, either; it’ll have you licking the bowl.


Dark Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes
with a Bailey’s buttercream

Ingredients:
1 1/2 sticks butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 cup Guinness Extra Stout
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 eggs

For the Bailey’s buttercream:
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2-4 tbsp Bailey’s, as needed


Preheat oven to 350F. In a small saucepan, melt butter and whisk together with Guinness, vanilla extract and cocoa. Remove from heat.

While Guinness mixture is cooling, add cupcake liners to pan. Whisk together dry ingredients (sugar, flour, baking soda). Pour Guinness mixture onto the dry ingredients, then whisk in the 2 eggs. When the batter is shiny and smooth, pour evenly into cupcake liners.

Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

As cupcakes cool, make the buttercream by whipping together the softened butter and sugar, then adding in just enough Bailey’s to get it loose and fluffy. (About 3 tablespoons.)

When cupcakes are done, cool completely. Frost as desired. Yields approximately 18 cupcakes.

New: printable recipe is here!