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dessert

Food & Recipes

Ultimate Chocolate Layer Cake // Joe’s 29th Birthday Cake

September 13, 2016

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Every year I make my husband a birthday cake, and every year Joe asks me to bake a chocolate cake. One of Joe’s favorite recipes of all time is a recipe I developed a couple years ago when I was working for Betty Crocker. Let’s be clear when I say that yes, this cake starts with boxed cake mix, but it’s anything but ordinary.

Actually, I should clarify that I have nothing against boxed cake mix in certain situations, including this one, where using boxed cake yields some of the best cake around.

This was my first attempt at baking this cake in layer format rather than in a bundt pan, and with a few adjustments and adaptations, it turned out really well! I would make this cake again and again, and you should, too, if you’re looking for a chocolate cake recipe that will blow your guests minds.

Plus, the leftovers taste pretty great, too. Not that I would know anything about eating leftovers after taking photographs in the middle of the day or anything. 😉

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Ultimate Chocolate Layer Cake // Joe's 29th Birthday Cake
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 8 slices
 
Ingredients
  • Cake
  • 1 box Betty Crocker Devil's Food Cake Mix
  • 1 box (4-serving) chocolate instant pudding and pie filling mix
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup water
  • 3 eggs
  • ¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Frosting
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 oz semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
Instructions
  1. Make the cake layers:
  2. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease two 9-inch cake pans. Line bottom of pans with parchment paper and set aside.
  3. In a bowl, combine the cake mix, pudding mix, oil, water and eggs and beat until smooth and well combined. Batter will be thick. Beat in the chocolate chips just until combined.
  4. Divide batter between the two pans and spread evenly in pans. Bake on the middle oven rack 22 to 28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  5. Cool 10 minutes on wire racks. Run a knife around the edge of the cakes and remove from pans. Cool completely on wire cooling racks, about 1 hour.
  6. To Make Frosting:
  7. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the chocolate and beat until well combined, about 1 minute more. Beat in the milk vanilla and salt, followed by the powdered sugar, beating about 2 minutes or until the frosting is smooth and spreadable.
  8. To Assemble Cake:
  9. Place on cake layer on a cake plate or serving tray. Spread some of the frosting on the top of the cake evenly. Top with remaining layer. Use remaining frosting to frost top and sides of the cake. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

Cake recipe adapted from One-Bowl Strawberry Bundt Cake 
Frosting recipe adapted from Magnolia Bakery Cookbook 

Food & Recipes

Pie Week #2 // Apple

September 2, 2016

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Whew. Coming in right under the gun and posting a second pie recipe before the week is over. I made this pie twice in the last week, and I’ve found that pie making is quickly becoming one of my favorite things to do. First, because it’s relaxing and second, because there is nothing like the look of delight on someone’s face when you say that yes, you brought them pie, and yes, it’s from scratch.

Oh, and it’s a great way to use up all the apples that have been coming my way from my aunt and mother-in-law.

I’ve realized that making pie allows me to cater the pie to my exact preferences, too. Take, for example, this apple pie. Joe and I both agree that we like the apples to be soft and free of any crunch, with a hefty dose of cinnamon and a crust that’s deeply golden brown and covered in coarse sugar.

Is that your kind of applie pie? Then this recipe is for you. And me.

This pie series has already been so much fun I can hardly handle it. And now that I’ve been making crust for a while (video to come, I promise!) I don’t need a recipe, just a couple measuring cups and a little extra time.

Pie Week #2 // Apple
Author: 
Serves: 8 servings
 
Ingredients
  • Pie crust for a double-crust pie
  • 10 cups peeled and sliced apples
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg yolk, whisked
  • 1 tablespoon half and half or heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sugar (turbinado)
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 375°F. Lightly grease/butter the bottom of a 9-inch deep dish pie plate. Set aside.
  2. Roll out half the pie crust to form the bottom crust. Drape pie crust into the bottom of the pie plate and press gently into the bottom and sides of the plate, leaving the crust hanging over the edge of the plate.
  3. In a large bow, combine the slices apples, sugar, corn starch and cinnamon. Stir until evenly combined and spoon apples into pie crust, mounding apples slightly in the center.
  4. Roll out the second half of the pie crust and drape over the apples. Press the crusts together and roll/crimp as desired. Use a sharp knife to cut a few slits on the top of the pie to let steam escape.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and half and half or heavy cream. Brush on pie with a pastry brush. Sprinkle top of pie with the coarse sugar.
  6. Bake pie 45 minutes at 375°F. Reduce heat to 350°F and bake 45 minutes to 1 hour more, until filling is bubbly and crust is deep golden brown. If necessary, cover the edge of the pie crust with a pie shield or aluminum foil to prevent over-browning during the last portion of baking. (For the record, I didn't need to)
  7. Cool at least 1 hour before cutting into slices to serve.

 

Food & Recipes

Strawberry Pie // Week 1

August 24, 2016

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Last weekend I promised to make three pies for a friend of my sister-in-law. Sure, I thought, no big deal! But my pie-making skills (specifically my crust-making skills have gotten a little rusty and I realized quickly that I needed to use it or lose it. I had certainly lost “it.”

Being the stubborn one that I am, I made over 12 batches of crust (?!) and researched countless methods before landing on a recipe that that was easy, flaky, and perfectly delicious. I’ll share that method with you in a separate post (because if you’ve made pie crust before, the method might below your mind) but today I’m sharing with you a recipe for strawberry pie.

Consider Espresso and Cream your go-to destination for pie through the end of the year, because I’ve committed to making and sharing one recipe per week throughout the remainder of 2016. I want to get back into the kitchen, get back to this blog’s roots, and dust off my pie-making skills. A little culinary challenge is good now and again, right?

Naturally, I decided to kick off this pie challenge with one of my husband’s all-time favorites, strawberry pie. He’s been begging me to make a strawberry pie all summer. My requirement: strawberry pie must always be easy and packed with strawberries. We’re talking a very high strawberry-to-glaze ratio since I really dislike Jell-o-type consistency.

Joe really dislikes whipped cream, but I can’t make a strawberry pie without it, so I made a stabilized version that allowed me to top the pie with real whipped cream in advance without it weeping/falling.

PS: I took the “cheater way” out with a packet of Danish Dessert in the filling. I’ve never made a strawberry pie this way before, but it turned out great and was the perfect glaze for the strawberries.

Strawberry Pie
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 8 slices
 
Ingredients
  • 1 (9-inch) pie shell
  • 1 (4.75-ounce) package Danish Dessert Strawberry (see above for more details)
  • 1¾ cups water
  • 6 cups sliced strawberries (halved or quartered, depending on size)
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the water and Danish Dessert mix together. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, and boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in the strawberries to coat evenly.
  2. Pour strawberry mixture into pie shell and refrigerate for at least six to eight hours.
  3. To make the whipped cream: Place heavy cream in the bowl of a stand mixer or a bowl with a hand mixer. Beat whipped cream until soft peaks form.
  4. Dissolve the gelatin in the ¼ cup of warm water and stir to combine. Pour mixture into heavy cream and continue to whip on high speed until stiff peaks form. Spoon whipped cream on top of pie and store for up to 24 hours.

 

Family, Food & Recipes

Easy Baby Eats // Banana Date “Milkshake”

March 8, 2016

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As promised, I have another recipe to share with you in my “Easy Baby Eats” series. I’m hoping to make this a more regular part of Espresso and Cream, because feeding a baby is, well, a challenge sometimes. I’m trying my very best to feed Ainsley healthy foods and encourage good eating habits as she gets older, and at the same time it can be so frustrating when you spend a lot of time making a healthy meal only to have your kid want nothing but carbs.

Smoothies have been our friend for a while now. I eat a smoothie almost every day for lunch, and Ainsley has always had fun drinking my smoothie with me. I think it makes her feel so grown up! And I love smoothies because it’s an easy way to pack nutrition, fruits and even veggies into a single sippy cup!

This recipe certainly pushes the boundaries between meal and dessert, but since it’s sweetened naturally with bananas and dates, I feel like it’s a pretty acceptable treat from time to time. Added bonus? Adults will love this recipe, too!

Easy Baby Eats // Banana Date "Milkshake"
Serves: 2 servings
 
Ingredients
  • Makes 2 kid-sized smoothies
  • 1 cup milk, almond milk or nut milk of choice
  • ½ of a medium banana, frozen
  • 1 medium pitted date
  • 2 to 3 ice cubes
  • Pinch of cinnamon
Instructions
  1. Combine all the above ingredients together in the blender and blend for 1 to 2 minutes on HIGH until dates are completely broken up and mixture is smooth. Transfer to glasses or a sippy cup to serve.

 

Food & Recipes

A Wine + Chocolate Girls NIght

January 28, 2016

*This post was sponsored by Ghirardelli. All opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands that make E&C possible. 

WineNight_4

January is a long month in the Midwest. I mean, after New Year’s there is a long stretch filled with cold days without much to celebrate. So what’s a girl to do? My answer was to get the girls together for a wine and chocolate party. It was the perfect way to break up the weekday routine and host friends in our newly renovated house for the first time. Although the house isn’t finished quite yet, we have a few finished rooms and that calls for a party!

The good thing about not having much on our walls right now was that I had a nice open wall to set up the spread of wine, chocolate, fruit, cupcakes and chocolate-dipped marshmallows. I was aiming to keep things on the simpler side so it wasn’t too hard to pull together on a busy weeknight but I tried to get a lot of “wow” for my minimal effort.

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WineNight_3

Because it was a weeknight and our kitchen isn’t yet finished, I used boxed dark chocolate cupcake mix in these pretty pink foil liners I got from Walmart. The frosting was also purchased, but piping it on with either a piping bag or a zip top bag with the end snipped off makes it look a little more homemade. I topped each cupcake with a Ghirardelli Valentine’s Day chocolate and I think they turned out pretty cute!

The marshmallows were dipped in melted milk chocolate and once the chocolate hardened I used paper pop sticks and ribbon to finish off the look. And I added some fresh fruit to the mix for a lighter option and the fact that fresh fruit feels like such a luxury in the middle of a Midwest winter, doesn’t it?

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When we moved back to Iowa from Minneapolis I was a little worried we would have a tough time finding good wine locally. Growing up I remember the options being seriously limited, but I was happy to discover that has changed. Small-town Iowa has upped their game in recent years. The night’s wines were a selection of red wines (pinot nior, merlot and cab) from Josh Cellars, which has always been a favorite.

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Sometimes life feels so busy and hectic that I feel as if I don’t have the time during the week to do fun things like girls night. It can be hard to coordinate child care, the busy schedules of others, food and drink, etc. But I was reminded last night that it’s absolutely worth it, and maybe even necessary, to take time to build and maintain relationships with the women in our lives. As everyone left, we all agreed that we should make it a regular thing. Thanks, ladies, for taking the time out of your schedules to make this happen!

Madison

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