07/7/2010



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11/5/2010



Best Chocolate Chip Cookies of Your Life

Hi there! I know it’s been a while. I’m finishing up school (FOREVER) right now, and things have been a little crazy with that on top of job hunting and work. I haven’t been cooking or baking as much lately—I’ve mostly been subsisting on things I can make in 10 minutes or less. I’ve also traveled quite a bit in the past month, which makes cooking difficult to say the least. :)

Anyway, this week I have two posts planned for you before I once again jet off to my sister’s graduation in Iowa this weekend. This is the first, and this is the most epic information I have ever shared with you. These are the best chocolate chip cookies I have ever made. Nay, tasted. Ever. In my life. And they just may be yours too. They require a little more work than the Tollhouse standard, but it’s so worth it.

Disclaimer: We’re taking a break from the healthy recipes today, so if you’re on a diet, don’t make a whole batch of these for yourself. I had one cookie and gave the rest away before I devoured them all. That’s the way to do it! There will be a delicious corn chowder recipe later this week for your healthy, yummy food fix. /disclaimer

I made these cookies for the first time a few weeks ago, when I brought a batch in for a co-worker. The next day, apparently the cookies had made their way around the office and another co-worker told me that they were the best cookies he’d ever had in his life and he’d pay me to make him a batch. So I did, and I made a sweet $20. The start of my future career? Doubtful, but I do like getting paid for baking. Anyway, I’m sharing the secrets with you. The recipe is originally from America’s Test Kitchen, and let me tell you, they know what they’re doing.

PAY ATTENTION!

The secrets to chocolate chip cookie nirvana are as follows: 1) browned butter, 2) the whisk-and-wait method, 3) more yolk than egg white, 4) larger cookies, 5) NO creaming of butter and sugar, and 6) more brown sugar than white. This ensures a deep, full, almost caramely flavor, a greater contrast between crunchy edges and soft, moist middles, and a chewy, cookie texture instead of a fluffy, cake texture. Also important: the way you bake them. Position the rack in the middle slot and ONLY bake one tray of cookies at a time. Seriously, ovens are tricky and if you want evenly baked, perfect cookies, trust me on this.

Ingredients
Makes 16 large cookies

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (8 3/4 oz)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar (5 1/4 oz)
1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (18- by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

2. Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.

3. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.

4. Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (or use #24 cookie scoop). Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet. (Smaller baking sheets can be used, but will require 3 batches.)

5. Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.

The first, and arguably most important step is to brown your butter. This is a huge component of the amazing flavor of these cookies. If you’ve ever had browned-butter-ANYTHING, you know how awesome it is.

This is where you whisk your butter, sugars, and eggs together repeatedly, letting the mixture rest in between each whisking. This is important. You’ll see why—the above picture is before the whole whisk-and-wait process…

…and this is after. Notice the difference in color? You can even see the texture in the photo. We’ve transformed it from a loose, liquidy mess into a creamy, thick, mixture of deliciousness.

Now add your dry ingredients. Weighing your flour is the best and most accurate way to do it—every little thing will affect the outcome of your cookies, so be as accurate as you can! (At this point, you will definitely want to eat this with a spoon. Try to resist.)

Now add your chocolate chips. Again, back away from the spoon and get out your baking sheet. Time to pop ‘em in the oven! I just got an extra-large baking sheet so I was able to fit about 12 of these large cookies on a sheet, but if you’re using a regular sheet stick to 8 and leave plenty of space between the dough balls.

This picture does not do any kind of justice to these cookies. They have delightfully crispy edges with soft, perfectly chewy centers with a light, butterscotchy flavor and ever-gooey chocolate chips. Seriously, these cookies stay moist with a fresh-baked texture even after they’re completely cooled. They’re awesome. Make them. You will not be sorry. Unless you’re on a diet, in which case, don’t make them unless you plan to give most of them away. Otherwise, you’re in trouble. :)

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04/4/2010



Coffee Cake

My sister is finishing up her pharmacy rotations right now. She’s currently doing her last one, and it’s in West Union, Iowa. From what she tells me, it’s pretty bleak. No offense to those of you in West Union, of course. Anyway, I decided to send her a care package with the first two seasons of 30 Rock to help with the boredom and some kind of healthy-ish baked good, because what would a care package be without something homemade and delicious? I found this recipe from Cooking Light (apparently my only source for anything) and it fit the bill once I made some modifications.

Now, I personally like my coffee cake with nuts. I love nuts of all kinds, especially in baked goods, but I know that my sister doesn’t care for them so I sought out a recipe sans nuts. However, you could easily add them in if you so choose. In fact, please do!

Also, the original recipe also called for frosting, but I really don’t understand the point of frosting coffee cake, especially with this recipe. It’s super sweet on its own, and it’s meant to go with breakfast, yes? So much unnecessary sugar. If you want to make frosting, mix 1 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar with 2 tablespoons brewed coffee and spread it over the cooled cake.

Anyway, on to the recipe! This is updated with my modifications, but here’s the original if you don’t trust me. ;)

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24/3/2010



Crock Pot Chili

I’ve said before that I was a weird kid when it comes to food. I was a very picky eater. I’ve been trying a lot of things lately that I’ve refused to eat my whole life, and turns out, almost all of them have been extremely pleasant surprises. Chili is one of those things.

Last week, my boyfriend made chili with ground beef, a seasoning packet, and a can of beans. It smelled really good so I tried it and I absolutely loved it. Chili is something that I’ve been adamant about hating all of my 21 years. Whenever my mom made it, I would refuse to eat it and make myself Spaghetti-Os. What a waste! I’m sure her chili is super delicious, too. Sadly, I can’t take back the past. BUT, I can make amends by making lots of this chili in the future!

After tasting how good chili from a store-bought seasoning packet was, I knew I had to make some from scratch. And I wanted to healthify it by using ground turkey instead of beef. Yesterday while perusing Target’s shelves, I saw Crock Pots on sale for $12.99—an absolute steal! I assume they go on sale when the weather gets warm because a lot of people only think about and use them in the winter. Long story short, I immediately bought one and vowed to make chili in it the next day.

This recipe is originally from Cooking Light (where else?), but I modified it by using turkey instead of beef and added a few things. It’s incredibly tasty, and I’ll definitely be making it again—after I finish the leftovers, of course. This is also a really healthy recipe—very low-calorie and low-fat, and packed with veggies, protein and fiber. Perfect!

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21/3/2010



Baked Chicken Parmesan Pasta

You may see a bit of a pasta influx on my blog…the reason being that since I started dieting in October, I was pretty much completely “off” pasta. I had the odd serving of whole wheat pasta now and then, but I tried to stay away from it as much as possible because it’s one of my danger foods. Meaning, if I get my hands on it, I have a VERY hard time eating less than about a million pounds of it.

However, as I mentioned in this post, I discovered low-carb pasta about a month ago. A whole new world has opened up to me! Of course, that doesn’t mean that I eat pasta every day, but I can have it a lot more often without feeling guilty about it (as long as I maintain the correct portion size). As I close in on the 40-pounds-lost mark and my goal weight (four pounds to go!), I can safely say that staying away from pasta and my other danger foods—or at least modifying/eating less of them—has been worth it. Now, I know what works for me and what doesn’t, and I can be a bit less strict with myself.

That said, I’ve developed a passion for creating my own recipes—healthier versions of foods I love—that I don’t think will go away once I stop dieting and start maintaining weight. This recipe is one of my own creation, and came from three simple thoughts on a weeknight after work:

  1. I want pasta.
  2. I have a brand new jar of light marinara sauce.
  3. I want some protein, not just pasta and sauce.

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14/3/2010



Turkey Burgers

Tonight’s post is about turkey burgers. I’ve never made them before (mostly because I never had a grill or grill pan before and I like grill marks), but I’ll certainly be making them a lot more often now. These burgers were delicious. They’re slightly spicy (though not overly so—just a curious “kick” to the tastebuds), well-seasoned, thick, and a great substitute for regular beef burgers. They’re actually good for you and they’re SUPER easy!

This recipe was inspired by several different ones I found online, but I sort of took inspiration from them all and tailored it for me. This is the kind of dish that’s really versatile so you can play with the spices and make it just for your tastes. I’m definitely going to do this again and maybe give them an Italian twist with some rosemary and topping them with marinara and mozzarella, or you could go Mediterranean or Mexican…whatever you like.

Find out how to do it after the jump!

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06/3/2010



Fennel, Sweet Onion, and Sausage Pizza

One of the major reasons I’ve been able to be successful with weight loss is that I’ve done it on my terms. I wasn’t about to cut a lot of my favorite foods out of my diet. I still have pizza, mac and cheese (like this), ice cream, etc. The biggest difference is that now, I just go about it differently. I eat a LOT less overall (I can’t eat as much as I used to, even if I try), and I’m more adventurous when it comes to foods that should be bad for me.

For example, when I first saw this recipe in Cooking Light, I thought it sounded horrifying. I like my pizza with pepperoni, sausage, or Canadian bacon. I’ve always been disgusted by the idea of putting vegetables on pizza. Don’t ask me why. I was a weird kid, food-wise, and I’ve maintained some of those weird kid ideas about what’s gross into adulthood.

However, through this whole weight loss experiment, I’ve realized that “unhealthy” foods can be healthy (or at least less unhealthy)—it’s all a matter of how you make it. So, I put aside my ideas about what pizza should be and made this. And it was a very good decision indeed.

I had never tried fennel until I made this pizza. I didn’t even know what it would taste like. I knew what it looked like from my constant watching of Food Network, but I had no idea what it was supposed to taste like. My grocery store only had fennel in the organic section, and it was only sold as a WHOLE plant—bulb to fronds. Many stores sell fennel just by the bulb (or so I’ve heard), which is much more efficient and cost-effective. Anyway, I spent way too much on a whole organic fennel plant, and when the attendant rang it up, it appeared on the screen as “anise.”

I thought, “Anise…where have I heard that before?” Then I remembered making Pan de los Muertos for Day of the Dead in Spanish class, and we used anise in it. And it tasted like licorice…which is good in bread, but on pizza?! I was at once intrigued and disgusted. But, I tread on.

Don’t be afraid. This pizza is delicious. And fennel is surprisingly delicious. The pizza doesn’t taste like licorice. It is very sweet and savory at the same time. The sweet, soft onions and fennel with the sweet and spicy sausage over warm, smoky cheese and topped off with the kick from the chives? Unexpected and extremely tasty. Be adventurous! Try it!

A few notes—I’m posting the original recipe, but:

1) My grocery store did not have chicken apple sausage. It was nowhere to be found. I used lean sweet Italian turkey sausage instead, and it was amazing, as well as being lower in calories and fat.

2) They also did not have fresh chives. I used freeze-dried chives (in the spice section) and they were just fine, although I’d use fresh if I could.

3) I decided to use smoked gouda cheese instead of regular. It was a wise choice. Do whatever your heart desires. It’s cheese—you can use pretty much whatever you want.

4) The recipe suggested Mama Mary’s 12-oz. (7-inch) pizza crust. My grocery store (it sounds really awesome, doesn’t it?) only had one brand of pre-baked pizza crust, and it was 12 inches and 14 ounces. But hey, it was lower in calories and fat per serving than the suggested option, and it was very good. Also feel free to make your own pizza crust; I’m sure it’d be lovely.

Now, at long last, onto the recipe!

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 2 wedges)

Ingredients

  • 3  ounces  chicken apple sausage, chopped (such as Gerhard’s)
  • 2  teaspoons  olive oil
  • 1 1/2  cups  vertically sliced Oso Sweet or other sweet onion
  • 1  cup  thinly sliced fennel bulb (about 1 small bulb)
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1  (12-ounce) prebaked pizza crust (such as Mama Mary’s)
  • 3/4  cup  (3 ounces) shredded Gouda cheese
  • 1  tablespoon  chopped fresh chives

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 450°.

2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage to pan; sauté 4 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Remove from pan.

3. Add oil to pan. Add onion, fennel, and salt; cover and cook 10 minutes or until tender and lightly browned, stirring occasionally.

4. Place pizza crust on a baking sheet. Top evenly with onion mixture; sprinkle with cheese, and top evenly with sausage. Bake at 450° for 12 minutes or until cheese melts. Sprinkle evenly with chives. Cut pizza into 8 wedges.

Your cast of characters. Only five main ingredients for the pizza (I don’t count olive oil and salt because I always have those on hand). Amazing.

Chop your fennel. If you’ve never used fennel before, this might be confusing. If you had to buy a whole plant (like me), cut off the bulb right where the stalks connect to it. Make sure you wash it thoroughly (especially if you buy it organic). Then, if the outer layer is kind of tough, stringy, or rubbery, you can peel it with a vegetable peeler. Then, just slice it as if you were slicing an onion. As you can see from the cast of characters photo, my fennel bulb was HUGE. I only used half of it to get a cup.

Now slice your onion thinly. I only had to use about half of my onion too. I used a yellow onion, which are a sweet variety. Use any sweet variety of onion you choose.

Brown your sausage. I’d suggest using some nonstick cooking spray here.

My sausage got VERY brown VERY fast. I think my non-stick pan is shot; everything I try to cook in it gets burned lately, no matter how long I cook it! I should buy a new one. Or maybe my stove gets too hot. Anyway, the little bit of burning did not make the dish suffer.

Now, heat up your oil and toss in your fennel and onion. Then sprinkle with your salt. Don’t forget the salt; it’s actually very important. It causes the onions and fennel to “sweat” and get soft. Cover and let them sweat for a few minutes. The recipe says 10 minutes; mine took about half that to get soft and translucent. Some of them even got too brown in the five minutes (ok, it has to be my stove, right??), so just watch them instead of going by the recipe.

While that’s going, shred your cheese. This smoked gouda was sooo delicious.

Now, put your crust on a baking sheet and top with your onion and fennel mixture, cheese, and sausage. Put it in the oven!

Then, obviously, take it out. Top it with chives and slice into 8 pieces.

I absolutely LOVED this pizza. And this is coming from a cheese-and-pepperoni gal, so you know I wouldn’t lie to you.

Here are Cooking Light’s nutrition facts for the original recipe:

Nutritional Information

Calories: 420 
Fat: 18.9g (sat 6.1g,mono 5.4g,poly 5.6g)
Protein: 16g
Carbohydrate: 48.4g
Fiber: 3.4g
Cholesterol: 40mg

And here are mine, accounting for my ingredient substitutions:

Calories: 294
Fat: 7.7g
Saturated Fat: 4.6g
Cholesterol: 27.8mg
Protein: 13.5g
Carbohydrate: 32.2g
Fiber: 2.7g
Sugar: 3.6g

Remember, portion control is the most important thing. These nutrition facts are for two slices. Don’t go overboard! Serve this with a nice big helping of salad with low-fat or fat-free dressing and you won’t need seconds.

I would recommend this pizza to anyone except people who don’t like onions. You really do have to like onions to appreciate it, so use your discretion. And those of you who like or love onions—you will LOVE this pizza! Happy eating!
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01/3/2010



Bacon, Chicken & Ranch Mac N’ Cheese

Hi there. It’s been a while. Let me explain. In early October, I began a quest to lose weight. Since then, I’ve made several key changes. First of all, I exercise more. That’s a given. Second, I don’t bake nearly as much (which is very sad indeed), but when I do, I make a concerted effort to use recipes that are healthier versions of foods I already love. If I really want to make a recipe that isn’t the healthiest thing ever, I do my best to swap ingredients and lighten it up. Sometimes it’s a taste failure; other times, you can barely tell the difference.

Another change is that I cook more, but I use more discretion in the recipes and ingredients I use. I count calories now, so I calculate the nutritional data of every recipe I make before I make it. If it’s not up to snuff, I either change it or choose a different one.

Basically, I stopped blogging because first of all, I didn’t think anyone would be interested in hearing about this and second of all, because I thought “light” recipes would just get boring and no one would care. However, after some feedback from readers on Twitter, I changed my tune. Turns out, people actually do want healthier versions of tasty foods—not tofu-and-granola health food, but not artery-clogging slop either. And once I realized that the food I’m making now is just as delicious as it was before, I wondered why I had ever stopped blogging.

I’ve hardly become a health nut…I’ve never been a vegetable lover and there’s no way I could live without cookies every now and then, but my attitude about food has changed. You may not notice a difference in the type of food I post from now on, but you might notice different ingredients, more attention to portion sizes, alternative food and brand recommendations, and you’ll definitely notice the nutrition facts I’ll post with each recipe.

For those of you who are like me—trying to get healthier, lose weight, and still enjoy food, I hope you’ll enjoy what’s to come. And for those of you blessed with a high metabolism and an enviably casual relationship with food, I think you’ll enjoy these recipes too. I’m proud to say that since I started this adventure, I’ve lost over 30 pounds. I obviously don’t guarantee the same results for you just by reading my blog and making my food, but I hope I can make your journey a little tastier. Onto the food!

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05/12/2009



Pumpkin Cheesecake

I hope everyone’s Thanksgiving was fantastic and filling. I know mine was! The dishes I contributed were maple glazed turkey, three-cheese mashed potatoes, and pumpkin cheesecake. I’ll only be posting the latter, however—and it is the most worthy of posting anyway.

For the dessert this year, I didn’t want to make a straight-up boring old pumpkin pie. I don’t really like plain pumpkin pie, and I’m not an amazing pie-maker. I did want to involve pumpkin though, so pumpkin cheesecake was the logical choice.

This recipe comes from Paula Deen. I generally don’t use her recipes because they’re…well, kind of disgustingly fattening. However, I figured if there’s anyone to whom I should turn for a ridiculously decadent dessert, it’s Paula Deen. So I caved. And it was worth it…only this once, though. This cheesecake is so airy and creamy, and super easy to put together. No water baths, separate-crust-baking, extra-long bake times, etc.

You could easily lighten this recipe up with some simple swaps, but I decided to go full throttle with this one simply because it was Thanksgiving. Also, most of the time, when I’m cooking for other people, I don’t like subjecting them to my experimental healthy-ingredient-swaps.

Ingredients

Crust:

  • 1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 stick melted salted butter

Filling:

  • 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pureed pumpkin
  • 3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

For crust:

In medium bowl, combine crumbs, sugar and cinnamon. Add melted butter. Press down flat into a 9-inch springform pan. Set aside.

For filling:

Beat cream cheese until smooth. Add pumpkin puree, eggs, egg yolk, sour cream, sugar and the spices. Add flour and vanilla. Beat together until well combined.

Pour into crust. Spread out evenly and place oven for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and let sit for 15 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours.

Here’s your cast of characters. Not shown: vanilla and cinnamon. Not sure why.

First thing you have to do is crumbify your graham crackers. I got to use my spiffy new food processor! However, you can use a ziploc bag and a rolling pin or heavy pan if you have some frustrations to work out.

Combine your crumbs, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Then add your melted butter and kind of work it all together with your fingers a little bit.

Now get out your springform pan and press your crust into the bottom and about halfway up the sides. You could do it just on the bottom for a really thick bottom crust. I used a glass to make sure everything was pressed really flat and evenly with lots of pressure. You can use your fingers though.

When you’re done, it should look something like this. It doesn’t have to be perfect—after all, the filling will cover everything up.

Allll the cream cheese. Cream it for a few minutes before the rest of the ingredients are added. Make sure it’s really soft or you have a really heavy-duty mixer. Mine was probably not as soft as it should’ve been, and my mixer is not the most formidable piece of kitchen equipment ever, so I ended up with some tiny cream cheese lumps. It really didn’t matter as far as the deliciousness goes, but if you want to ensure the silkiness of your cheesecake, make sure your cream cheese is soft and smooth.

Now add your pumpkin, eggs, egg yolk, sour cream, the sugar and your spices and mix it all up. Make sure it’s really well combined and as smooth as you can get it!

Mmm. Now pour all the filling into your prepared crust, smooth it out, and pop it in the oven.

It’ll come out looking something like this. There are cracks on top (presumably because this recipe doesn’t use a water bath), but I promise you that absolutely no one will care once they taste this cheesecake. Serve it up with some whipped cream and enjoy!

So fluffy and rich. And the crunchy crust is delicious too, with the touch of brown sugar and cinnamon. This is a perfect holiday dessert, whether it be Thanksgiving or any other winter holiday. Definitely a must for holiday dinners! Enjoy your holiday season!

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24/11/2009



Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

It was Pranas’ birthday on Saturday. He is 24. Yay! Happy birthday!

So of course, I made a cake. I gave him several options, and this is the one he chose. Goooood choice.

This cake is so decadent it’s almost ridiculous. No, it definitely IS ridiculous. It took me three sittings over the course of 24 hours to finish my first (thin!) slice.

But ohhh man, is it good. This is definitely the best cake I’ve ever made—if not the best cake I’ve ever tasted. It takes like a cakey-delicious peanut butter cup. If you love chocolate and peanut butter (and if you don’t, let’s be honest—what’s wrong with you?!), you may soon need gastric bypass surgery because you will LOVE this cake.

All I can say is, keep your slices thin and your glasses full of milk. This recipe is from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes via Smitten Kitchen, one of my favorite food blogs.

Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze

Makes an 8-inch triple-layer cake; serves 12 to 16 (my cake will have served a lot more by the time it’s all eaten)

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean or vegetable blend
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cakepans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans.

3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely. (Smitten Kitchen suggested freezing the cakes for 30ish minutes before frosting and I second that emotion. They’ll be much easier to frost once they firm up a little)

4. To frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large serving plate. Spread 2/3 cup cup of the Peanut Butter Frosting evenly over the top. Repeat with the next layer. Place the last layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. (Another SK suggestion was to refrigerate after frosting, then refrigerate again after glazing. Also very wise.)

5. To decorate with the Chocolate–Peanut Butter Glaze, put the cake plate on a large baking sheet to catch any drips. Simply pour the glaze over the top of the cake, and using an offset spatula, spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set completely. Remove about 1 hour before serving (totally optional—I happen to think it’s really delicious when it’s cold and it somehow cuts the richness a little).

Peanut Butter Frosting
Makes about 5 cups

10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted (Note: I only used 4 cups and it was PLENTY sugary and a perfect consistency. Test for taste and consistency as you go so you don’t overdo the sugar)
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter, preferably a commercial brand (because oil doesn’t separate out)

1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

8 ounces seimsweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup half-and-half

1. In the top of d double boiler or in a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup. Cook, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

2. Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Use while still warm.

———————————————

Your cast of characters. Ignore the baking powder. It’s not in the recipe and therefore won’t be appearing in the show. Somehow he snuck into this photo though.

So, the first thing is to combine all of your dry ingredients. That’s your flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. I kind of hate sifting things, and I don’t own an adequate sifter, so I whisk everything. Have you noticed? It doesn’t get ALL the lumps out, but it works. The rest of the little lumps will work themselves out.

Now, dump in your oil and sour cream. I definitely didn’t do anything to try to healthify this recipe. I thought, first of all, it’s not MY birthday, and second of all, if you’re gonna go for it—go for it. Right? Right?! Whisk these together…

…until your whisk becomes clumpy and unusable and you resort to your electric mixer.

Slowly pour in the water as the mixer goes. And I do mean slow—it’s quite a bit of water and you may make a mess of yourself if you dump it in all at once.

Now add your vinegar and vanilla.

And your eggs. And then mix until everything is blended. Then pour your batter evenly into three prepared cake pans (I put parchment rounds in the bottom of each pan and sprayed with baking spray and the cakes turned out beautifully). I don’t have any pictures of this part because all of them happened to be extremely unflattering photos of me. So too bad, you won’t be seeing them. Ha! Now bake according to the recipe. Mine took about 37 minutes rather than 35.

I did not let my cakes cool in the pans for 20 minutes. I turned them out immediately. I don’t know why, I just did. I was in the moment. Look at how pretty they are! But anyway, I put them on wire cooling racks and let them cool for about 30 minutes before I started the frosting.

Now for the frosting. This is super easy and arguably the best part of this cake. First, cream your butter and cream cheese together.

Start adding your confectioners’ sugar about a cup at a time…

…until you get a good taste and consistency. As I mentioned above, I only used four cups of powdered sugar. I probably could have used even less. Five cups is a LOT and trust me, the cake is PLENTY sweet…it could stand a little less sugar. So just play it by ear.

Plop in your peanut butter and mix away until just blended.

Um…let me collect myself for a moment. This frosting will make you re-assess your life. Oh lord.

Now frost! Pretty self-explanatory.

I don’t know what happened to the big “Ta-da!” picture of the frosted cake here, but it’s ok. I guess I don’t have one. It’s pretty though. But we still have glaze to add!

At this point, I stopped taking pictures. I had to take a shower and Pranas’ friends were arriving and yadda yadda yadda, I had to throw the glaze together in approximately 4 seconds. And it was really easy! You can do it in a double boiler or you can be super ghetto like me and do it in the microwave. I just melted the chocolate (stirring every 30 seconds) and stirred everything else in. Super easy.

Then, I poured the glaze on top of the cake and let it drip down the sides. I stuck it back in the fridge until it was time to serve. And..

Voila!

Let’s have some more, shall we?

Haha, look at all the crumbs everywhere. Classy!

Anyway. This cake. I can’t even…it’s amazing. It was a big hit. Go make it for your next special occasion. Or maybe just in honor of Tuesday. Enjoy!

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