Chocolate Cheer Classic Favorites Easy Baking Holiday desserts No-Bake Recipes

Peanut, Peanut Butter… And Pumpkin! (And Complaining, Because Duh.)


And no, I did *not* make my birthday cake this year. Though I have made rainbow cookies in the past, I decided to take a break from baking for myself this year. Also, my boyfriend strictly forbade me from doing so, because he’s nice, and also because I think last year I got a little scary whilst making this delicious monstrosity

How was the birthday overall? Bittersweet might be the best word. Sweet because, well, see above, bitter because well, see me. But as I’ve heard time and again, thirty is weird. When I was ten, thirty seemed like *it.* It was the age when I’d have everything down pat, when I’d be acting opposite Mark-Paul Gosselaar in a hit feature film (nope, not elaborating), when I’d be poppin’ out perfect babies and livin’ phat in the hills. Which hills, I do not know. The Beverly ones seemed interesting, because OH HAYYYYY Dylan McKay. It should be noted that  when I was ten, I had trouble separating television from reality. That may or may not still be the case. 

Instead, thirty feels like the age where an invisible hand decided to hold a mirror up to my life, and DAMN. DAMN DAMN DAMN has it been hard to look. Of course, if it’s not obvious, I  do feel lucky. Lucky that I’m still able to write and bake, lucky that I’m working, lucky that I’ve got some love in my life, lucky that I still have a few folks I can count on to whine and wine and dine with. But I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not taking this particular birthday as well as past ones, for various reasons. Maybe that’s necessary. Reflection is hard, but I’m hoping to come out of this funk feeling wiser, stronger and healthier.

Speaking of healthy, this dessert is anything but. BUT! It’s got pumpkin, you fall freaks! (I, too, am one of these. No shame, friends). Also, it’s no-bake, for all of my I-CANNOT-BAKE-FOR-SHIZ homies. Let’s do this!

Pumpkin Peanut Butter Cups (makes 12 big cups or 24 mini cups)

1 15-ounce can of pureed pumpkin*

1/2 cup of brown sugar

2 teaspoons of cinnamon

1/2 cup of mascarpone

1 cup of natural unsweeted salted peanut butter

3/4 cup of confectioner’s sugar, more if you’d like the peanut butter portion sweeter

3 cups of semisweet chocolate chips/chunks/chocolate chopped into small pieces, melted and kept warm

Set aside either a 12-cup muffin tin or 24-cup mini muffin tin, and line the tin with cupcake wrappers.

Also, before we start, and before people start yelling at me over that article we all saw claiming canned pumpkin wasn’t real pumpkin… IT ABSOLUTELY IS. Snopes for the win!

In a medium-sized bowl, using a stand mixer on high speed, whisk together pumpkin, brown sugar and cinnamon. Beat in the mascarpone until fully incorporated, and set aside. 

In a separate medium-sized bowl, combine peanut butter and confectioner’s sugar, adding more sugar to taste if you like it a bit sweeter.

Now, you can either just totally go crazy and combine your pumpkin and peanut butter mixtures full-on, OR, if you favor one flavor over another, add a bit of one mixture to the other until you’re happy with the taste. Really, you cannot go wrong, and if you have extra of one or both mixtures, they’re INCREDIBLE with french toast, waffles, or just totally naked. Originally, my plan was to have this be heavily-PB with a hint of pumpkin, but every time I brought a spoonful to Jimmy, he’d ask for more pumpkin. I finally settled on the measurements above, which will give you a perfectly balanced peanut buttery and pumpkin-y cup. Set aside this mixture for now.

To assemble your cups, coat each cupcake wrapper with a thin layer of chocolate. If you’re using full-sized cups, I’ve found it’s easiest to use a small rubber spatula to coat the bottom and sides. If you’re using mini cups, the back of a teaspoon is better. You want the bottoms and sides of your liners to be completely opaque with chocolate, but not terribly thick.

Like so.
Like so.

Once you’ve coated all liners, refrigerate for at least 15 minutes. Once the chocolate has hardened, place even scoops of pumpkin-peanut butter mixture into each cup.I made regular-sized cups and added a heaping tablespoon and a half to each cup. Cover each cup with more chocolate, and chill in the refrigerator again for at least fifteen more minutes, until the cups have hardened. Let them sit in room temperature for a few minutes before serving. 

In all its nude glory...
In all its nude glory…

So I figured I might as well continue the tradition of absolute junk at all possible hours of the day, so these were enjoyed at breakfast. Pumpkin’s a fruit, peanut butter has protein, I am woefully under-educated about nutrition and will do anything I can to justify my sugar intake, you get how it is.

But how were they? They. Were. Perfection. My lazy ass also loved how quickly these cups went from being a mere rumble in my belly/twinkle in my brain to being actual, delectable desserts. These were fast, easy, and SO AUTUMN, you guys. MUST MAKE!




Cakes Chocolate Cheer Fancy Pantsy

Twenty Eight And Still Miraculously Kicking. And Screaming. And Baking.

Lots of older people shake their heads wistfully, smile and gently say, “Well, it’s all downhill from here!” once I tell them that I’ve just turned twenty eight. I know it’s a joke, but I’ve heard it enough times in the past two weeks to be suspicious. Really, ya’ll? It can’t be that bad. Look at George Clooney! Hell, look at Flavor Flav! Flavor Flav has the best life ever.

Truthfully, there have been some sad times recently– too many sad times, to be honest– but, fortunately, also some very, very happy times. I’ve spent the past month or so struggling to weigh the great stuff against the horrible, and I realized that I have always had a serious negative bias. Are you shocked? That’s shocking, right? I’m trying as hard as I can to get rid of it, or, at least, shrink it to the point where you’re all giving me the shady side-eye and wondering what I’m on.

One of those great things…

So that’s what I plan to do with this new year: be a little bit more positive. If you know me, you are laughing hysterically, given that I seem to have the unfortunate ability to turn even the greatest news (only when it comes to me, of course) into a complete nightmare. I assure you, I am changing. Slowly, very slowly, but I am trying. Even the negative events of late have put things into perspective, which is very necessary, given my tendency to sweat/cry/shake/cry/cry the small stuff. Here’s what I’ve realized: there isn’t time. There isn’t time to worry about my frizzy hair, or the almond milk I forgot to pick up, or the completely fixable minor work mistake I made. There isn’t time. And yes, I’ll still beat myself up over ridiculous situations from time to time, but now I’m also going to try to take as much time as possible to just be thankful.

First thing I’m thankful for? The invention of cake. Specifically, Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake. Yeeee-up.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake (makes one 3 layer 8-inch cake)

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

For the cake

2 cups of all-purpose flour

2 cups of sugar

3/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder

2 teaspoons of baking soda

1 teaspoon of salt

1 cup of vegetable or canola oil

1 cup of sour cream

1 1/2 cups of water

2 tablespoons of white vinegar

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract or coffee liquer (I used the latter…awesome)

2 large eggs

For the peanut butter frosting

10 ounces of cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese, softened

2 tablespoons of butter

3 cups of powdered sugar

2/3 cup of smooth peanut butter

For the peanut butter chocolate glaze

8 ounces of semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons of smooth peanut butter

2 tablespoons of light corn syrup

1/2 cup of heavy cream

So, as you can see from the above, this cake is a little bit of work. But, as you can also see… it’s a chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting AND freaking peanut butter chocolate ganache. So, you know, worth the couple of hours of fun.

To start, preheat your oven to 350ºF and butter and flour (confession: I use cocoa powder instead of flour because I’m wild like that) three eight-inch round cake pans. You can also line the bottoms with parchment paper, but since I didn’t have any I was able to get away with a generous buttering/powder dusting. Set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt until totally combined. Stir in sour cream and vegetable oil and whisk until fully mixed. Stir in water, then blend in vinegar and vanilla. Lastly, beat in your two eggs until completely mixed in and batter is formed. Yes folks, one bowl. Be still my lazy heart. Divide batter among your pans and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a cake tester comes out with just a few stray crumbs on it. Let cool in pans for 15-20 minutes, then invert onto cake racks. I’m going to second Deb from Smitten Kitchen in saying that these cakes are very, very soft. If you plan on frosting them (and don’t think twice about it, you plan on frosting them), it’s a good idea to wrap these cakes tightly in plastic wrap and freeze them for at least half an hour. It will firm them up and make them much easier to work with.

To make your frosting, beat cream cheese and butter together in a large bowl, with a hand mixer or stand mixer on high speed, until fluffy. Add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula from time to time. Beat until completely combined, 2 to 3 minutes, then add in peanut butter and mix until smooth.


To frost, unwrap a cake layer and place on a cake stand/paper plate (I’m poor, guys). Top with a generous amount of frosting, then place another layer on top and repeat. Top with third layer, then frost top and sides. It’s easiest to frost the sides by doing a light “crumb coating,” where a thin layer of frosting is spread along the sides and top of the cake as a base. Then you can continue with more frosting layered on top of this base.


Lastly, we’re going to work on our chocolate peanut butter ganache. In a double boiler or in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water, combine your chocolate, peanut butter and corn syrup. Heat while stirring often, until the mixture is smooth.


Remove from heat, then whisk in heavy cream. Beat until smooth, then pour evenly over cake, like so:


Make sure to cover the entire top of the cake, then basically just wait for the goodness to drip down the sides. You can smooth the top with a rubber spatula, if you’d like, but I chose to keep things pretty rustic, because, um, I’m rustic and this was my birthday cake?

Refrigerate the cake, uncovered, until the ganache is firm.


Ohhhhh. Yeah.



So this cake was terrible. I mean it obviously was, right? After all of that work, and those weird ingredients no one ever puts together, how could this have been anything but a disaster?

Guys, I’ve eaten my weight in this cake. I should be embarrassed. “Should be” are the key words there, folks. Everyone who has had a piece of this cake has expressed nothing but wonder. It certainly rivals last year’s S’mores Cake and WILL be making repeat appearances in my life.

(One more for good measure)
(One more for good measure)


Puddings Stuff Your Parents Would Like

I Took A Mistake I Made And Turned It Into A Mistake My Parents Would Enjoy (And You Can Too!)


So I’m on a Trader Joe’s kick. I’m a little bit obsessed with the poorly-organized but crazy affordable supermarket chain. I’ve been guilty of grabbing handfuls of seaweed snacks (They’re a dollar! A buck! One buck!) whilst staring down Hawaiian shirt-donning (why?!) stock-people who are pissed they have to replenish the stash. That’s right. Shibow don’t care.

Now, being on a Trader Joe’s kick (as opposed to a “Target kick” or an “H&M kick,” which I’ve been trying to wean myself off of because people keep making fun of me for only knowing about three stores) has its perks and its disadvantages. One of the downsides of this habit is the idea that if it’s sold by this store, it must be good. So when I found a loaf of sodium-free whole-wheat bread on a shelf, I pounced. It’s low sodium and whole wheat? It must be good for me! It’s sold by TJ’s? It must also taste good then! Never mind that every other type of bread on the shelves was either gone or close to gone, and there were plenty of loaves of this variety. I must just be smarter and more daring than your average bear!

Guess what? I’m not. I’m really, really dumb. Ok, actually, I’m a genius, but this time I was not a genius. This was the most awful bread I’d ever brought to my lips. I brought it to work for my daily PB&J (I’m poor), took one bite, and immediately– not kidding at all– thought one thing: STAMOS! It was that bad. I had to fight back tears while I downed the rest of that sandwich. Life’s tough.

By the way, did you hear that Stamos was in another stupid yogurt commercial that aired during the Super Bowl? I managed to miss it and refuse to watch it now because well, yuck, but I hear someone head-butts him in it! Somebody’s looking out for me. Oh, and speaking of the Super Bowl,





That’s in case you hadn’t heard.

Anyway, even though I’d basically purchased a block of [supposedly] edible cardboard, I couldn’t bring myself to throw the rest of the bread in the trash. Like I’d mentioned, I’m not rich, so it just wouldn’t be right. It would, however, be acceptable to douse this thing with sugar, chocolate and peanut butter to make this stuff over into some fabulous bread pudding. As I often do when I am frustrated and in need of sugar, I made up a recipe.

Peanut Butter Coconut Bread Pudding That’s The Best Thing Since [The] Sliced Bread [You Bought And Now Regret]

10 slices of cubed whole wheat sandwich bread

1 14-oz can of condensed milk

1 cup of cow’s, rice, soy or coconut milk

1/4 cup of smooth natural peanut butter

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1/2 cup of peanut butter and chocolate chips

1/3 cup of shredded coconut (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350º F.

Evenly spread bread cubes in a 9×13″ pan and set aside.

Cubed bread. It even LOOKS like cardboard.

In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine condensed milk, milk of your choosing, peanut butter, and vanilla extract. Stir just until peanut butter’s melted and mixed with milk, then pour the mixture over the bread cubes. Stir with a rubber spatula to make sure all of the bread is covered, then fold in peanut butter and chocolate chips.

Getting better...

Sprinkle the shredded coconut over the top, and send into the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the coconut is slightly browned.

Let’s be honest: you can tell from the title of this post that this was not my favorite bread pudding. This, on the other hand, is. It was pretty good, just not sweet enough for me, especially since I could still taste the wheat in the bread, which is not awesome (Unless you’re my parents. Then it’s fantastic.)  Still, if you let it sit for a couple of days (which I have yet to do), it will allow all of the flavors to absorb,  so that when it’s reheated it will have a deeper flavor. Hopefully. I’ll keep you posted.