Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcakes

saltedcaramel

Okay, so we all know that I am not a big coffee person.

Unless you consider a measly 1/4 cup of actual coffee combined with 3/4 cup of fat free milk and 1 gallon of coffee creamer a “coffee person.”

It was only until recently that I realized people only use like, maybe a Tablespoon of coffee creamer at a time. And that the nutritional facts on the back specify for “one teaspoon” which, if I may go off on a brief tangent, is completely ridiculous. Who eats or drinks one teaspoon of anything? No one, that’s who. Can we like, protest to increase nutritional stats to something more logical? Like 1 cup of coffee creamer per cup? Because hello, that seems more logical than using a teaspoon. If you’re only going to use a teaspoon of coffee creamer, why spend $4 on a bottle if you can barely taste it? UGH I DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE WORLD SOMETIMES.

Okay. Mooooving on.

Anyways, since I have basically been drinking coffee creamer straight, I’ve been stocking up. And one of my fave flavors is Salted Caramel. It tastes like Starbucks but better because I know I did not need to sell my right lung to enjoy it. And things always taste better when all of your body parts are in tact, amiriteee?

cakesandcupcakescoverAnd then I got my Cakes & Cupcakes Special Edition Martha Stewart mag in the mail and spotted this gem on the cover: a Salted Chocolate-Caramel Cake, and in that second of spotting its lusciousness on the cover, I knew I was going to have it. Except for one minor problemo: I am awful at making cakes. Like, if my life depended on making a gorgeous layered cake, I would go down in the history books as “The Dead Girl Who Made The Ugliest Cake In The World.” It’d look so bad, Cakewrecks would shut down their site and be like, ‘nothing looks as bad compared to this hideous thing’ and feature my cake on the front page.

DSC_0508So because I didn’t want to eat some horribly lopsided, ugly duckling cake while staring at the picture of the most beautiful cake I’ve ever seen, I decided to go with a route I’m more familiar with: cupcakes. Hello, the cover of the mag does say “Cakes AND Cupcakes.” So I turned these babies into cupcakes.

DSC_0478AIf I may say, it was rather genius. Almost as genius as my protesting teaspoon-measurements.

DSC_0479AChocolate Salted Caramel Cupcakes *inspired by Martha Stewart’s Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake in her Cakes & Cupcakes Special Edition magazine, in stores now 

Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcakes
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 24
 
Ingredients
  • 1 box chocolate cake mix (Betty Crocker is what I used)
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 & ½ cups buttermilk (or add a Tablespoon of vinegar to 1 & ½ cups regular milk, stir, and let sit for 5 minutes)
  • 1 small box chocolate instant pudding mix
  • 1 jar caramel sundae sauce
  • Chocolate Caramel Frosting (recipe & ingredients follow)
  • Coarse sea salt
  • Hershey's Dark Chocolate & Caramel Bliss Candies, optional
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 muffin tins with about 18 paper liners; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, softened butter, eggs and buttermilk with a handheld electric mixer, beating until combined, about 2 mins. Stir in the pudding mix to blend.
  3. Portion the batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling about ⅔ full. Bake for approx. 14-16 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Remove the cupcakes from the oven and cool for about 15 minutes.
  4. Using a toothpick, poke numerous holes over the tops of the par-cooled cupcakes. Immediately pour about a Tablespoon or so of caramel sundae sauce over the tops of the cupcakes. The sauce may sit on the top for awhile, but eventually it'll sink down into the cupcake. Alternatively, you could cut out the centers of each of the cupcakes and fill the cores with caramel sauce, but again, the cake will absorb the sauce. You can always cover the cored cupcake hole with frosting. Allow the cupcakes to finish cooling either way, and let the caramel set.
  5. To prepare the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened; ¼ cup cocoa; ¼ cup caramel coffee syrup (like Torani or Monin); and a teaspoon of vanilla extract until combined, about a minute. Gradually add in 4 cups powdered sugar, about a cup at a time, until a light and fluffy frosting consistency is achieved.
  6. Place the frosting into a piping bag attached with an open star tip and pipe onto the cooled cupcakes. Immediately sprinkle with coarse sea salt and adorn tops with a dark chocolate & caramel candy. Serve immediately, or store airtight in the fridge for up to 2 days.

 

DSC_0490AAI think the ratio of chocolate, caramel and salt was just perfect for these cupcakes. The salt isn’t too overwhelming– in fact, it totally balances out the overt sweetness in the chocolate & caramel frosting and makes for such a decadent bite. The cake itself is super moist (sorry for using that word, but it’s true!) and light, thanks to the use of buttermilk instead of water. And I love the hint of that sweet and salty caramel swirled through the batter. I found that a lot of the caramel sank to the bottom of the cupcake, creating that really nice bite at the end. You’ll super love these, I promise!!

Thanks again to Martha Stewart for giving me a copy of her Cakes & Cupcakes magazine to review! You must pick up an issue today — it’s seriously an awesome magazine to keep on hand for all-occasion cakes and cupcakes. Also, be sure to check out my Rainbow Chip Cookie Cake which was based off a fun, giant cookie cake in the magazine!!

Have a great day!

xo, Hayley

I was provided a free copy of the magazine to review. All opinions expressed are my own. 

 

 

Rainbow Chip Cookie Cake

cookiecake

I’ve never been a big party person, but I actually love throwing parties.

Maybe because I like to have control over the food served, the decorations hung, and the people coming. Hello, creepy teenager houseparties are like my worst nightmare. There’s never any cool decorations (or any at all, save for the strewn dirty socks on the floor), or really any food, except chips and dip which is SO not okay to serve at a party. Community dip with people I don’t know? That’s like a maaajor no-no.

Anyways, when I throw parties, though, I love getting really into it. Making sure the balloons are placed in appropriate areas away from vents where potential popping could occur. Ensuring there are several types of appetizers to choose from and spaced accordingly on the buffet table. Perfecting the ideal soundtrack that’s neither offensively loud or too elevator music-y. You know, the little deets.

And if I know anyone who’s totally a perf party planner, it’s my homie Martha Stewart. Lady is a one-woman party machine! From her elaborately hand-crafted decorations to her always-gorgeous display of edibles, Martha knows how to throw a mean party that’s both elegantly easy and totally memorable.

So when I got the chance to review her new Special Collector’s Edition Cakes & Cupcakes magazine, I jumped at the chance! Cakes and cupcakes? Yeaaaaah, I think I could manage to review a magazine specifically tailored to my favorite dessert :)

cakesandcupcakescoverFirst of all, I should put out a disclaimer that I’m not a fancy cake baker or decorator. I have never even touched fondant. So if you’re like me and run away screaming from anything more than one tier, don’t be intimidated by the beyond-gorgeous front cover with the floral cupcakes. You can do this! 

 

Instantly, I was drawn to the Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake which was one of the first recipes in the book. It sounded heavenly–I literally adore the sweet and salty combination and those huge flakes of sea salt sprinkled on top of that fluffy chocolate frosting.. I almost died. Thankfully I didn’t so I could continue to read on and discover Martha’s recipe for a Giant Cookie Cake.

DSC_0502AA Cookie. Cake. Yes, it’s real life people.

When I saw it: a towering 5-layer cake of cookies with fluffy cream cheese frosting in between each chocolate chip cookie layer, I fell in love. I knew I wanted to make my own version of her cookie cake, reminiscent of my favorite cookie cakes from Mrs. Fields I’d have at birthday parties growing up. (Um, those were the coolest cakes. You weren’t cool unless you had a Mrs. Fields cookie cake, amiright??)

DSC_0507So I put a spin on Martha’s recipe by making personal-sized cookie cakes stuffed with bright mini M&M’s and layered among light and creamy cream cheese frosting. Toooootally perfect for birthday parties, work events, little just-because gifts for neighbors, or Tuesday afternoons, if you ask me.

I think Martha would approve!

DSC_0501ARainbow Chip Cookie Cakes *adapted from my Rainbow Chip Cookies and Martha’s Cookie Cake in her Cakes and Cupcakes Cookbook (on newsstands now through 5/6/13)

Rainbow Chip Cookie Cake
Author: 
Recipe type: Cookies, Cakes/Cupcakes
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
Cookie cakes are a fun alternative to cupcakes for birthday parties. #fact.
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup butter, softened
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¾ cup miniature M&M's candies
  • ¾ cup miniature chocolate chips
  • Cream cheese frosting (either homemade or canned)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two cookie sheets with silicone liners, use Heirloom sheets, or mist sheets lightly with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together butter and sugars until creamy. Add in vanilla and egg and beat to combine. Lastly, beat in the flour, soda, cornstarch and salt until a soft dough forms. By hand, stir in the rainbow M&M's and miniature chips to incorporate.
  3. Drop rounded Tablespoonfuls of dough onto the baking sheets 1-2" apart. Bake for approx. 8-10 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking time. Remove from the oven and gently press down on the cookie with a small icing spatula or a flat-bottomed glass. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets about 5 minutes before gently transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
  4. To assemble the cakes: spoon the icing into a piping bag attached with an open star tip (I used Wilton tip #1M) and pipe the icing along the outer edge on the top of a cookie. Gently press a second cookie on top, frost the edges of the second cookie, and top with a third cookie. Repeat until you have all your cookie cakes completely (from this recipe, I got about 8 cookie cakes). Serve immediately. They can be eaten the next day, just store them airtight.

 

PicMonkey CollageThese cookie cakes are a super fun twist on a birthday cake or party treat. I love Martha’s idea of a giant cookie cake to appease the entire group, but miniature, individualized cookie cakes also make it easy for larger groups and look cute, too.

You really should pick up Martha’s Cakes & Cupcakes — it has some awesome ideas inside for any and every occasion, as well as some classic recipes for frostings and cakes and some valuable baking tips. It’ll quickly become a favorite, I promise!

Oh, and Martha? I’ll party with you anytime 😉
Also: stay tuned, because I recreated the Salted Caramel-Chocolate Cake, too!! I’ll post later this week!

Happy Tuesday!!

xo, Hayley

I was compensated with a free issue of Martha’s Special Edition Cookbook to review. All opinions expressed are completely my own. 

Rainbow Mini Cheesecakes

rainbowcheesecake

Not too long ago, I was petrified of scary movies.

Now, I suppose part of growing up is enjoying coffee after years of questioning why adults liked a hot, dark drink that tasted like death, and ultimately, enjoying scary movies. Respectively, of course, because I’m not grown up enough to enjoy coffee while watching a scary movie — too much responsibility, methinks.

Anyway, as a kid I was obviously spooked, yet I remember going over to my friend’s house for a sleepover one night and Leprechaun was on TV. We were trying so hard not to watch it, but being curious children we couldn’t not watch a movie on TV about a sadistic mythical creature.

And let me tell you.. it was the scariest thing EVER.

I remember the intense need to avoid Lucky Charms at all costs. And really disliking Saint Patrick’s Day even more than I already did. How come you are forced to wear green? What if I don’t want to wear green? Then I’m subjected to juvenile assault by pinching? Um, no thank you. I already have enough OCD problems as it is deciding what to wear each day. Throwing required colors for certain days just throws a wrench in my entire psyche.

And on top of forcibly needing to wear green, there was a frightening man after me lucky charms.

But now that I’m older, I see that Saint Patrick’s Day isn’t about a creepy troll man or Lucky Charms or wearing green. It’s about drinking beer. And eating cheesecake. I love being a grown up!

DSC_0448AOkay, so I don’t really think drinking beer or eating cheesecake are exclusive St. Patty’s Day traditions, but hello, they totally should be. Especially rainbow cheesecake because it’s magical. Don’t you just SEE the magic oozing from all that cheesecake?

Mmm… magic ooze.

DSC_0438ARainbow Mini Cheesecakes  *adapted from THIS recipe at Kraft Foods

Rainbow Mini Cheesecakes
Author: 
Recipe type: Cheesecake
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
 
Have you ever wanted to ride a unicorn? Me too.
Ingredients
  • 12 Chips Ahoy Rainbow Chip Cookies
  • 3 pkg cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • Wilton gel food coloring in No-Taste Red, Lemon Yellow, Kelly Green, Royal Blue, Violet
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line 1 muffin pan with 12 baking cups. Place a rainbow-chip cookie in the bottom of each muffin liner and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, vanilla and white sugar together until blended. Gradually beat in the eggs, one at a time, until combined. Evenly divide the cheesecake batter among five small bowls. Tint each bowl a different color--one red, one yellow, one kelly green, one blue and one purple (just tint each with a small amount of gel food coloring from a butter knife or a toothpick, adding more to graduate intensity if desired).
  3. Using 5 different spoons, spoon a different color in a layered-effect into each muffin tin. I did a "standard" rainbow and a "reversed" rainbow, e.g, purple > blue >green >yellow>red AND red>yellow >green >blue>purple. Just make sure you LAYER the colors and don't swirl them -- swirling muddies the colors up.
  4. Bake the cheesecakes for approx. 25-30 minutes or until the centers are just slightly set. Cool completely before refrigerating for two hours. Store them airtight in the fridge.

 

DSC_0445ARainbow desserts are SO easy, if not a little labor-intensive. In a few simple steps you took a normal mini cheesecake and turned it into something extraordinary with some food coloring and a rainbow-chip chocolate chip cookie as the delicious crust. These cheesecakes not only impress in their brightness and wow-factor, but in their delicious, creamy taste and that awesome cookie base. Engage the kids and have them help layer the colors in the muffin tins or tint the batter. And consider other holiday color options, too, like pastels for Easter, ombre pinks for Mother’s Day, red, white and blue for the 4th or green, orange, black and purple for Halloween. SO simple!!

Still feeling the rainbow? Check out my other rainbow treats!

Rainbow Truffles
Funfetti Rainbow Bars
Rainbow Cupcakes

Have a wonderful day!!

xo, Hayley

 

Update.

Hi friends!

Ever since I got down to the nitty gritty about my personal life in this post, I have been SO touched by your continuing outpouring of support and love! I have received so many lovely comments, text messages, emails and Facebook messages from people all over the world baring their personal stories and offering anecdotes to get me back onto my feet again. I am SO amazed and SO very thankful for all of you–you’re AMAZING and one of the main reasons why I love blogging so much. Sugar just isn’t as much fun when you don’t have awesome friends to share with, am I right?

I also figured since I bared it all, you may be wondering how I’ve been holding up for the past couple of months. I’m happy to report I’m doing much better. January was a particularly hard month for me (despite the fact that it was my birthday month which I’m sure the universe will reward me with a substitute awesome month later on) just because I was battling with these crazy demons and trying to take one day at a time. Then I got sick, and then Jessie and I broke up, which kind of backtracked my progress a little and derailed me.

But I’m really trying to just take this one day at a time. I’m not going to win this battle in a day, and I certainly can’t act like putting a bandaid over it will do anything for me, so I don’t think those things. Some days are wonderful: I’m happy and things are going smoothly. And other times, I’m sad and anxious and in a really dark emotional place for no particular reason. I’m like an emotional game of ping pong. Play me and see which mood I’ll be in right now!!

As far as the nightmares go, they aren’t as frequent but they do still happen. About 3 times a week I have nightmares that we lose our current house and have to move back into our old house (which was a complete dump of a money pit that produced unnecessary stress). And in the nightmares I cry and cry and cry sitting in my old bedroom just begging my parents to move us back into our current house because it’s now what I call home. So I don’t know what that means but I hate it because I hate our dumpy old house and hate feeling like we’re stuck there again.

And when it comes to OCD, nothing has changed. Literally nothing. I am still in the throes of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Every day presents a new challenge to test my OCDness. What to wear, what to eat, what to bake… and all of the problems associated with making the decisions that follow. I know things like ‘what should I wear today?‘ sounds like a trivial issue, but to me, it’s life-or-death. If I choose the “wrong” thing to wear, bad things will happen. My day will take a vicious turn for the worst. Every decision I make is thoughtful and detailed to the point where I still spend an inordinate amount of time picking out the perfect accessories or wandering aimlessly down the aisles of the grocery store to desperately find the perfect thing to bake.

Believe me, the OCD is annoying, but in the end, I’m kind of thankful for its looming, anal-retentive presence. In a way, it keeps me on top of my game because anything less than perfect leaves me in shambles. It keeps me focused (albeit focused on the wrong things at times), and alert, but also gives me the right dose of pressure to push me to do things (bake things by deadlines, get out of the house at a certain hour, forced to deal with whatever “bad” decision will come from choosing the wrong thing which, surprise, is usually nothing).

My breakup with Jessie took a huge toll on me emotionally. Jessie is my best friend and we’ve been together for two years. Losing him was incredibly difficult because it wasn’t just losing my boyfriend, but my best friend as well. I don’t have many girlfriends, and I don’t even have a “best” friend except for Jessie. So when we broke up, I panicked. I had no one but myself. My best friend was gone. My boyfriend was gone. I just felt kind of vacuous, like an empty shell drifting around.

But things have improved in general and between us. We still text each other occasionally, and still joke around. We’ve hung out a couple of times which is comforting because I enjoy having him in my life. While it’s still super nerve-wracking being single (uh, hello, constantly worrying he’s out with another girl or he is getting annoyed with our texts), I’m still glad he’s here. Like my daily motto, I kind of just take it one day at a time. Monday I could be able to accept the situation and be content, but Tuesday I could be a complete sobbing mess. I’m looking forward to the days when my emotions won’t be so unpredictable.

After the breakup and during the plummet of my emotional rollercoaster, my sweet bloggy friend Kayle offered her apartment in New York City for me for a couple of days. I jumped at the chance because A) that’s an amazing experience; B) I super love Kayle and think she’s awesome; and C) so many wonderful opportunities could blossom from this. What if I find a job in New York and take it? What if, by some crazy chance, I run into Betsey Johnson herself and she makes me her muse? (Hey, it could happen). What if I realize everything I’ve ever known in California could be uprooted and magically planted in New York? If nothing else, at least I’ll have an awesome trip with Kayle :) I’ve never been to New York and I’m excited to try Katz’ deli and wander the beautiful city.

Today, at the moment, is a good day. So while I’m still enjoying it and while the sun is still shining, I am going to spend time with the number one dude in my life (my doggy, Mannie) and find a reason to be happy since there are SO many reasons out there (namely, right now, the fact that the sun is shining; I’m in my favorite flannel; and I just bought a bag of pretzel M&M’s).

Thank you again for your love and support!!

xo, Hayley

 

 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownie Cake

chocpbbrowniecake

Raise your hand if you absolutely LOATHE taking tests of any kind.

*raises hand* Oh, me me me me me!

And how come whenever I have to take a test, my anxiety swells to infinity and beyond?

Like, for instance, when you’re taking a test and you want to look up because your neck is cramped from looking down for an hour straight but you fear that by looking up, the proctor may interpret that as you looking at other people’s answer keys. Because when I look up, I swear it’s only because my neck doesn’t have the ability to be in the downward position for a long time and unless they start giving us tests on computers, which would be WAY more modern and efficient than a stupid scantron, I can’t not look up. Yet I’m always super afraid everyone thinks I’m being suspicious by looking up and around. Can’t a girl look around a room full of test-takers without being persecuted?! It’s NECK PAIN, yo.

Or when you are both angry and relieved to see multiple choice as it both helps you and doubts you. So I recently had to take a competency test for a county job and they ask you definitions of certain words. And being an English major and a self-proclaimed grammar freak, I am always like “oh, this is totally easy. I totally know what ‘mandate’ means!” and then I’ll see the options and be like, “OH MY GOD IT COULD BE ALL OF THESE” even though the options are like, A) an authoritative command; B) a pineapple; C) your face; D) a fancy, legalish word that you could SWEAR you’ve heard on Law and Order before but can’t for the life of you picture Goren OR Eames using it in the courtroom. WHY CAN’T YOU USE MORE LEGAL TERMS, LAW AND ORDER? Aren’t you supposed to teaching me about not getting murdered in New York and acing the legal terms portion of my county test?

Or like when you’re doing the math part of the test and suddenly forget how to subtract. Life gave us calculators. Let’s use them. Also, it was embarrassing that I forgot how to subtract. Like, brutal. I promise I’m competent. 

So then I came home and buried my test anxieties deep inside of a decadent cake that wouldn’t judge me if I looked around the room or forgot to subtract. Actually, I didn’t subtract much from this cake: it’s fully-loaded with delicious add-ins and sugar. No shortages here, people.

DSC_0375And if you’re wondering, yes, it IS the right answer.

DSC_0380Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownie Cake *inspired by Shelly’s Cake Batter Brownie Snack Cake recipe 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownie Cake
Author: 
Recipe type: Cakes/Cupcakes
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12-15
 
Combining chocolate and peanut butter was probably one of the best inventions ever. The second best invention was making this cake.
Ingredients
  • 1 box chocolate fudge brownie mix, plus ingredients on back of box
  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup oil
  • ½ cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 24 Reese's peanut butter cups, unwrapped
  • Peanut butter frosting (recipe and ingredients follow)
  • Reese's Pieces (about 1 cup)
  • PEANUT BUTTER FROSTING:
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter
  • Splash vanilla extract
  • About 3 cups powdered sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Liberally grease a 13x9 inch baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the yellow cake mix, eggs, oil, and peanut butter until combined. Spread the peanut butter mixture evenly into the prepared pan. Place the peanut butter cups gently into the peanut butter dough base, 4 rows of 6 each. Top with the prepared brownie batter.
  3. Bake for approx. 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out mostly clean, and center is set. Cool completely.
  4. Frost with the peanut butter frosting and top immediately with Reese's Pieces. Cut into bars and serve. Store leftovers airtight, for a couple days in the fridge.
  5. FOR FROSTING:
  6. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together butter, peanut butter and vanilla until creamy. Gradually add powdered sugar until frosting is fluffy but still soft (it won't be stiff like regular frosting but rather more soft like dough). Spread onto cooled bars.

 

DSC_0371These bars are INSANELY chocolatey, sweet and salty, and totally YUMMY. When Shelly posted her version, I couldn’t get over the combination of a fudgy brownie mixed with a sweet and sprinkly cake and immediately thought of different versions for this. Of course, chocolate and peanut butter came to mind. Hello, best pairing ever! The peanut butter cups in between the layers add yet another layer of gooieness to these irresistible bars. Or are they cake? Dense, chewy, fudgy and tasty, they’re kind of a hybrid between the two. And the frosting almost takes on qualities of peanut butter cookie dough, amping up that salty peanut butter bite even more. You’ll love these!

Have a wonderful weekend!!

xo, Hayley

Top Chef: Seattle Highlights

bravo, top chef

Content and/or other value provided by our partner, Bravo.

Hey guys!

Just stopping by with a final post about Top Chef: Seattle! I hope you’ve been watching because it has been an intense season!

I have to admit, my heartstrings were tugged several times during this season, and my loyalty kind of drifted more than it normally does. Usually with most reality shows, I find someone I like and stick with them. Or I’m adamantly against a particular person winning. But this season, I honestly liked everybody and would have been happy with anyone winning. Howeeeever, I did find myself rooting more for Brooke than everybody else.

top chef, season 10, seattle, brooke williamson, bravo

While I hardly consider myself gourmet (unless you think adding heavy cream into dishes qualifies as ‘fancy’), I can see a major similarity between Brooke and I. I love that she is very creative in her dishes and cooks and bakes fearlessly. She gets an idea in her head and kind of adapts upon the idea. Like when she and Stefan put a Croque Monsieur sandwich on a stick during the Pike Place challenge (convenient AND inventive!) or when she stuffed lamb inside of squid for the Chris and Anna Welcome Home Challenge. Kiiiind of reminds me of how I once conveniently made Churros into a Bugle Mix, or that one time I stuffed a donut inside of a cinnamon roll (one of my fave inventions evahhh). Just trying to be gourmet and fancy over here.

I also love that Brooke is so down-to-earth and sweet. I feel like if you met her in person, she’d be so bubbly and genuinely nice. And her skills and knowledge in the kitchen are unbelievable! Each dish is executed (what appears to be) seamlessly, and looks detailed and thoughtful. She’s a great, talented chef, and I’m so inspired by the fact that she’s so young!

With the Last Chance Kitchen Winner crowned (welcome back, Kristen!), it’s going to be Kristen and Brooke duking it out for the title. While I think both chefs are equally qualified and talented, I still prefer Brooke. While she sometimes claims she overthinks things and lets her anxiety get the best of her (uh, finale part 1 challenge and not knowing what to make until like, 5 seconds beforehand? Yeeeaahhh..), I still think she has the ingenuity and the capacity to take the crown home.

…if only for that brown butter cake with blackberries. OH MYLANTA.

So okay, round up some yummy food and plant your booty in front of the television on Wednesday, February 27 @ 10/9c on Bravo. You can also live tweet during the show using the hashtag #TopChef. And you can also hope that Brooke wins like I do :)

Thanks to #TopChef and Bravo for letting me blog about one of my favorite reality-TV competitions this season! May the best Cheftestant win!!

xo, Hayley

All opinions expressed are my own. 

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownie Bombs

These Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownie Bombs are fudgy, rich chocolate brownies wrapped around egg-free chocolate chip cookie dough, then coated in milk chocolate. You don't want to miss this ultimate treat!

Oh mylanta. What have I done?

If I’m not mistaken, that’s a ball of cookie dough surrounded by a fudgy brownie and then coated in chocolate and sprinkled with mini chips.

Whoooa.

Sometimes, I don’t even know WHERE half my ideas come from. I literally operate like a mad scientist part of the time, throwing things together with my fingers crossed, hoping it’ll work. Sometimes it does, like in this instance. Other times, like when I tried to put Jello mix into prepackaged sugar cookie dough and it tastes like a chalky version of Play-Doh and I stared at Pinterest like all disappointed because it let me down with those tempting Jello-cookie recipes that taste like poop, it doesn’t.

Most days, you can find me scatterbrained and roaming the grocery store like a complete looney tune. I’d love to see the surveillance footage of me wandering aimlessly between the candy aisle and baking aisle, discussing to myself in a low whisper of what I could do with this bag of Reese’s cups as I run around like not only a chicken with its head cut off, but if it was also on fire and having ninja stars thrown at it from every direction. Is it just me, or does the prospect of ninja stars being thrown at you totally increase the intensity of something?

Lucky for me, I usually shop at a store that may or may not rhyme with Schmalmart, and the fact that I’m aimlessly walking back and forth while talking to myself isn’t really that out of the ordinary. The bad news is I’m proooobably going to bet my psycho face staring longingly/confusingly into a box of red velvet cake mix is more than likely on People of Walmart or something. Ya win some, ya lose some.

Anywhooooo, the idea for these truffles came from left field. I had a bunch of St. Patty’s Day recipes I wanted to make this weekend, and out of nowhere, a huge zeppelin of awesome floated into my brain and interrupted whatever I was doing at the present moment, which probably wasn’t important since I’m either reading trashy magazines or judging customers at work for ordering mayo and lettuce on hot sandwiches (it’s a NO, people–hot mayo? wilted lettuce? You need an intervention).

These Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownie Bombs are fudgy, rich chocolate brownies wrapped around egg-free chocolate chip cookie dough, then coated in milk chocolate. You don't want to miss this ultimate treat!

And this zeppelin dropped a gigantic bomb of brilliance on me: wrap a brownie around a ball of cookie dough. Then coat said ball in chocolate. And voila, this cataclysmic invention was created. You’ll never enjoy brownies or cookie dough respectively, again. This is the ultimate.

Now pardon me, but I have some reading/judging to do and it’s VERY important.

These Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownie Bombs are fudgy, rich chocolate brownies wrapped around egg-free chocolate chip cookie dough, then coated in milk chocolate. You don't want to miss this ultimate treat!

4.8 from 28 reviews
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownie Bombs
Author: 
Recipe type: Bombs
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 15-18
 
My SIGNATURE recipe. Bomb your diet. Do it.
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup butter, softened
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 cups miniature chocolate chips, divided
  • 1 pkg fudge brownie mix, baked and cooled
  • 1 pkg Candiquik or chocolate almond bark
Instructions
  1. Let's make some dough! In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugars until creamy. Add the milk and vanilla; beat to combine. Lastly, beat in the flour and pinch of salt until a soft dough forms. Stir in ONE (1) cup of the mini chips.
  2. On a foil-lined baking sheet, drop rounded, (scant) Tablespoon-sized balls of dough. I used a cookie dough scoop for this and just scantily filled it so the cookie dough balls wouldn't be so big. Freeze the cookie dough balls for about an hour to firm up.
  3. Cut the brownies into small squares, about 1" in size. Pick up a square and gently flatten it with your palm. Fudgy brownies will flatten easily and retain their moisture which is why it's important to make sure you use a fudgy brownie mix rather than a cake-y one.
  4. Place a cookie dough ball in the middle of the flattened brownie and very gently, wrap the brownie around the cookie dough ball. If the brownie cracks, that's okay; just kind of roll it in your fingers until the brownie completely surrounds the cookie dough. Repeat until all cookie dough balls are covered, then return to the freezer for 30 minutes or so.
  5. Prepare chocolate bark according to package directions. Using a fork, dip each brownie truffle into the chocolate, coat completely, and allow excess to drip off. Return to the foil-line sheet and sprinkle the tops with the remaining cup of mini chips, for garnish. Store these bad boys in the fridge or freezer, in an airtight container.
  6. **Note: You may have extra balls of cookie dough leftover. May I suggest making cinnamon rolls or stuffed Oreos? Or, uh, eat them? Why am I telling you what to do with cookie dough?**

 

These Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownie Bombs are fudgy, rich chocolate brownies wrapped around egg-free chocolate chip cookie dough, then coated in milk chocolate. You don't want to miss this ultimate treat!

Talk about the ultimate indulgence. Sometimes, the decision between fudgy, gooey brownies or chewy, buttery chocolate chip cookies is one I’m not willing to make. It’s not fair to either rejected party when I both want them so equally, and love them both so much. So I fixed the problem with a decadent chocolate/cookie dough bomb that melts in your mouth and tastes AWESOME. The cookie dough remains soft and gooey, while the chewy brownie provides the perfect blanket of rich chocolate. In other words, they’ll change yo life.

These Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownie Bombs are fudgy, rich chocolate brownies wrapped around egg-free chocolate chip cookie dough, then coated in milk chocolate. You don't want to miss this ultimate treat!

Have a great day!!

xo, Hayley

Thing 1 & Thing 2 Push Up Pops

thing1

Sometimes, I wish I could live in a book.

The cool thing would be that, even though I was the main character in the book, it was still a fictionalized life I’d be living. So if the author made me like, some major drug addict or a body builder or a waifish supermodel, I would know it’d all be fiction.

Unless they kill me off from the get-go. But hello, that’d be super rude. I doubt that’d happen. I make a good fictional main character, if I do say so myself.

I also think I’d make a superb cartoon character. I mean, I already dress like one.

When I’m in public wearing a dress with pterodactyls flying all over the blue silk, bright red tights and boots with ruffles on the back and a man says “you look like you’re ready to go to some kind of prom!”, I know my look has been achieved. Or if, say, I look like I should be drawn into The Simpsons or something. Helllooooo, I would be a perfect Simpsons character. I already know half of the lines from the shows. And I wouldn’t mind dyeing my hair blue to match my character :)

Or if I lived in a Dr. Seuss book, you know there’d be no shortage of interesting, goofy fun. I wonder how he thought of all of the wacky content, but then again, my parents probably look at me and wonder how I think of all the wacky things I say and do, like how I apply two different kinds of deodorant because I’m convinced the first one won’t work properly without the second, or how I can smell certain words or taste colors. But they’re probably just jealous. #denial

One of my favorite days as a kid was Dr. Seuss Day at school on March 2. Everyone dressed up and we had an extra-long recess/break because all the teachers would take the students out onto the blacktop to read Dr. Seuss books. And a bunch of kids would dress up in Cat in the Hat-style striped hats or bright blue wigs or stars emblazoned on their chests. I always got so excited to pack my backpack full of books (my favorite, Ten Apples Up on Top and Fox in Socks) and wear my funky hat.

I really think the workplace needs to bring in Dr. Seuss day. Everyone gets an extra-long lunch so they can read One Fish, Two Fish. I’m *pretty sure* that’s what Dr. Seuss would have wanted.

Oh, and can you believe as a kid I didn’t like Thing 1 and Thing 2? They were SUCH troublemakers and it drove me CRAZZZZZAAYYY. Maybe because I’m too freakin’ OCD for my own good, even as a child who had to have a certain, specific bedtime routine or I’d force my parents to restart from the beginning if certain lullabies weren’t sung in the proper order. I found my child self sympathizing with that poor fish because dangit, those Things were so pesky! It drove me batty.

But now that I’m older (and much more OCD) I get less-upset when I see the Things, but I still have resentment towards them. Couldn’t they have fun without making such a mess? I mean, isn’t that rude to be in someone’s home and like, throw crap everywhere? And why was the fish the mature one in this case? Fish are supposed to have memories that last 3 seconds, but I’m pretty convinced that fish was a genius or something. He probably grew up to be a professor of philosophy. Or a doctor specializing in obsessive-compulsive disorders.

ANYWHOOO, Dr. Seuss Day is coming up on March 2, and I know the perfect treat to celebrate that brilliant man and his kooky characters. These Thing 1 & Thing 2 Push Up Pops are easy to make and look SO cute. Plus, they play homage to those troublemaking creatures in a tasty way: with red vanilla cake and cotton candy icing.

Even the fish would approve.

DSC_0433A

Thing 1 & Thing 2 Push Up Pops
Author: 
Recipe type: Cakes/Cupcakes
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6-8
 
These fun push-up pops honor the late and great Dr. Seuss!!
Ingredients
  • 1 box white cake mix, prepared according to package directions
  • 1 small bottle red food coloring
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • ½ cup marshmallow creme
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • About 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 pkt Duncan Hines Cotton Candy Frosting Creations
  • White non-pareils
  • Blue raspberry cotton candy
  • Push-up pops (I found mine at Michael's! Google search 'Michael's coupons' and get a 50% off one!)
Instructions
  1. First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Liberally grease a jelly-roll cake pan with cooking spray. Add the red food coloring to the cake batter and stir to combine. Pour the red vanilla batter into the pan, spread evenly, and bake until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean, approx. 15 minutes. Do not overbake. Remove from oven and cool completely.
  2. Using the actual push-up pop, cut circles out of the cake; set aside. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer, prepare your frosting: cream together the butter, mallow creme, and vanilla. Gradually add the powdered sugar, until light and fluffy. Add the Cotton Candy packet to combine. Gently pour the frosting into a piping bag--you don't even need to attach it with a tip; just snip the end off.
  3. Place a red cake circle into the bottom of the pop; pipe with a generous Tablespoon or so of frosting, then sprinkle with white non-pareils. Add another cake circle, frost, and repeat once more. Frost the tops and add a tuft of cotton candy to create the crazy hair.
  4. Serve immediately, or cover with the included lids. Note that the cotton candy won't last very long on the cake pops and will begin to melt, so adorn them with the cotton candy before serving. This makes about 6-8 push-up pops.

 

DSC_0426AI LOVE these! To make them more authentic, I purchased those round white stickers from the stationary store and wrote “Thing 1” and “Thing 2” in a fine-point Sharpie and gently attached it to the push-up pop container. The sticker will easily remove if you don’t press it hard onto the surface. And I love the mix of the bright red vanilla cake and the super sweet cotton candy frosting. Your kids will love assembling and eating these!!

Still feeling Seussical? Check out the Cat in the Hat Cupcakes I made last year:

doctor

 

Or these superbical treats from other Seussy fans:

One Fish, Two Fish Cupcakes from My Retro Kitchen
Dr. Seuss Snacks from Crazy For Crust
Lorax Cake Pops from Bakerella

Happy Tuesday!

xo, Hayley

Lavender Lemon Cookies

lavenderlemon

Sometimes I wonder what my life would be like if Bravo showed up on my doorstep and asked me if they could film a REAL Real Housewives and I’d be in it. Granted, I’m neither a housewife, wife, or house, but if we could get past the semantics, I’m sure it’d be a hit.

Introducing Real Housewife of Rocklin:

“I like to have fun, but only before 9pm — I have to be on my game for work tomorrow.”

“I worked too hard on this clean house for dog hair and soda cans to ruin it now.”

“Money doesn’t give you class…it just gives you a panic attack when you realize you have none in your bank account.”

“Patience is a virtue, and I’m neither patient nor virtuous when it comes to dinner.”

Enter HAYLEY, real “housewife.” HAYLEY wakes up at 530 am every Friday morning for, you guessed it, grocery shopping. “If I go grocery shopping during the day, I become homicidal. Unfortunately, it isn’t within my imaginary-husband’s budget to afford someone to buy our groceries or cook our food. So I have to do it in between taking care of my son, Mannie, and making sure all of my family’s favorite shows are constantly being DVR’d at the right times.”

HAYLEY arrives at Walmart, her store of choice, at 6am on the dot.  She wanders through the aisles purchasing stuff for dinners throughout the week. Among the items in her cart are gourmet ingredients for things like Lasagna (all conveniently contained within a box labeled ‘Hamburger Helper’)chicken nuggets (also known as what her family would subsist on if she wasn’t cooking gourmet dinners like Hamburger Helper), and frozen fruit, because dammit if Walmart thinks she’d actually spend $5 on a carton of fresh raspberries. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

HAYLEY runs into one of her employee friends, RINA, at the store. HAYLEY and RINA begin chatting about their plans for the day.

“Well, I have to go to work later, then come home and cook dinner,” HAYLEY says. “I mean, what 22 year old doesn’t cook dinner for her family? But afterwards, I hear Juicy Couture is having a sale so I am going to the Galleria to check it out.”

“That sounds like fun,” RINA replies as she scans a two-dollar bottle of Rose.

RINA finishes scanning HAYLEY’S family’s groceries and gives her the total. HAYLEY searches feverishly in her oversized purse for her COUPON BOOK. Within COUPON BOOK holds precious money-saving gems HAYLEY clips every Sunday. And HAYLEY is well aware she bought four cans of green chiles for some reason and HAYLEY knows she has a coupon in here somewhere. HAYLEY extracts a small stack of coupons and places them on RINA’S checkstand. 

“You didn’t buy two packages of hot dogs, did you?” RINA asks.

“Yes! I swear I did because I knew I had the coupon so I purposefully bought the name brand!!” HAYLEY exclaims. 

“And this coupon is expired,” RINA says with a note of sadness in her voice. HAYLEY curses under her breath for not checking the coupon dates, but also because she knew she had a coupon for that shampoo and bought it strictly because of the coupon which is now expired and that shampoo was like, $8 which is a total freaking rip off because it’s just HAIR and isn’t paying $30 every 8 weeks for a haircut ENOUGH?!

Later, HAYLEY is at the mall where she goes into JUICY COUTURE to check out their sale. HAYLEY is known for having what she calls NON-RICH-PERSON-DENIAL which means HAYLEY thinks she is rich and can afford even the deepest clearances at JUICY COUTURE but actually is friggin’ poor. Unbeknownst to HAYLEY, there is a dress in JUICY COUTURE she is able to afford by some act of magical generosity from the FASHION GODS. JUICY COUTURE senses HAYLEY’S denial disease and, to make her feel better, puts the dress in an unusually large bag so everyone in the mall will think HAYLEY is loaded. 

HAYLEY exits the store only to cross paths with a woman carrying an even larger bag from LOUIS VUITTON. The woman looks at HAYLEY and gives a small smile as if to say, “that’s cute that you still shop at JUICY COUTURE. Good for you for staying within your budget.” HAYLEY goes home, watches Real Housewives of Beverly Hills while simultaneously shoveling chips in her mouth and drinking cheap wine from a TUPPERWARE cup. NEXT WEEK, HAYLEY tries bribing the people in the meat department at Walmart with cookies so they’ll lower the cost per pound of chicken. Do they really think money grows on trees? Why is chicken so frickin’ expensive? WHAT THE HELL.

And you should know, that somehow in my real housewifeness I managed to make some pretty damn elegant cookies, y’all. They have lavender in them which obviously is eaten by rich and fancy people, thus making you rich and fancy by associating yourself with lavender-desserts. You’re welcome.

DSC_0333Now remember, life isn’t all Lavender Lemon Cookies and cheap wine, but it should be.

DSC_0331

Lavender Lemon Cookies
Author: 
Recipe type: Cookies
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 24
 
Did you know lavender is edible? And did you know it gives cookies magical powers? It's science, people.
Ingredients
  • 1 box lemon cake mix
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup oil
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1-2 Tbsp dried lavender flowers (yes, they're edible), plus more for sprinkling, if desired
  • (Scant) ¼ cup lavender syrup (I found mine at a local coffee shop by the brand Monin)
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with silicone liners or lightly grease with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, eggs, and oil until well blended. Stir in the white chocolate chips, lavender flowers and lavender syrup to combine.
  3. Drop Tablespoonfuls of dough 2" apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for approx. 10 minutes, rotating pans halfway through bake time, until centers are just set and cookies are lightly golden. Cool on the sheets for approx. 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely. If desired, sprinkle tops of cookies with remaining flowers. Store leftover cookies airtight, at room temperature, up to a week.

 

DSC_0336I have a HUGE infatuation with lavender. I love it in my perfumes, in my bedroom, and even in my laundry detergent. When I spotted the Monin Lavender syrup, I couldn’t resist it and knew immediately I wanted to pair this delicate, floral flavor with bright and citrusy lemon. I have to say, it was a good idea! The lemon flavor is the forefront flavor in these buttery, tender cookies. However, there’s a subtle hint of lavender, thanks to the concentrated syrup and the flowers peeking through the dough. Don’t worry–it doesn’t taste like you bit into a lavender plant, but if you’re looking for a stronger flavor here, try adding a Tablespoon of more syrup at a time, or add more leaves. I just wanted something light and subtle.

DSC_0339And I just have to say, after baking these cookies on my Heirloom Cookie Sheets, I fell in love all over again with the bakeware! I didn’t even need to use a silicone liner OR grease the cookie sheet–I just dropped the delicate balls of dough onto the sheet as-is and baked with confidence. The results were perfection: no burnt bottoms, no messed up cookies–everything looked and tasted flawless, and cleanup was easy (yay!)! If you haven’t picked up an Heirloom yet, you should!

Have a wonderful day!!

xo, Hayley

 

Twinkie Strawberry Shortcake

twinkiecake

 

I have a bone to pick with Doctor’s offices.

WHY is the scale necessary? I mean, I get it: weight is a huge factor when it comes to health and yada yada. But I’m SO not cool with doctor’s office scales.

First of all, it’s the first thing they do when you walk in there. That’s not very welcome-y of them to weight you right off the bat. They’re not even going to offer you a drink first? Perhaps have you take off a couple of layers which OBVIOUSLY weigh you down a good fifteen pounds, amirite?

It’d be like going to a party and having the host welcome you in, ask how your day is, and force you onto a gigantic machine that makes you cry.

Second of all, the scales digitize the numbers in red which is a rude color. And it’s in a plain font, so it looks really sterile and cold. Why they had to choose the bitchiest font and rudest color to deliver information to a fragile soul, I do not know. Perhaps the engineers behind scales are secret sadists.

Every time I see the number, I can totally feel it judging me with its electronic-looking red numbers. As if it is laughing in my face as it weighs every single ounce of everything on my person. And then it adds that STUPID extra decimal, because seeing your whole number weight isn’t enough of a slap in the face, it has to make sure you know you’re not just ___ pounds, but ___.8 pounds. I hate you.

I’d like to address the people in charge of making scales: have you seen that Special K commercial? The one where women step on scales and it says nice things like “Sassy!” or “Confident!” ? You should make scales like that. Except have it say other cool things, like “Your Hair Looks Great Today”, “Nice Booty!”, “Have you Been Working Out?” or “Did You Even Step on the Scale? You’re Light as a Feather!”

Don’t mind me, just trying to revolutionize doctor’s office visits forever. And banish those evil scales to a demise of being blown up.

Anyway, while plotting against machines, I came up with the idea to make a lightened-up, no-bake dessert that tastes refreshing and makes me feel all happy and light. Like my new idea for a scale, when you eat it, happy things come to mind, like “OMG this is good”, “wow”, “Hayley is a genius”, and so on. You should eat it and see for yourself.

DSC_0411

Twinkie Strawberry Shortcake
Author: 
Recipe type: Cakes/Cupcakes
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 15
 
This no-bake cake is a sweet spin on strawberry shortcake. You'll want Twinkies in every cake from now on.
Ingredients
  • 18 Twinkies, unwrapped
  • 4 Tbsp orange juice
  • 2 boxes Jello Strawberry Creme pudding mix
  • 1 & ½ cups low-fat milk
  • 1 tub (8 oz) Cool Whip Free, thawed
  • Strawberries, optional
Instructions
  1. Spray a 13x9 inch pan with cooking spray. Line the pan with Twinkies lengthwise, with 8 Twinkies on the first row, and 8 in the second. Use the remaining two Twinkies to fill the center gap between the rows (you'll want to slice those Twinkies in half length-wise and tuck it into the gap). Drizzle the OJ evenly over the Twinkies.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the packages of pudding and cold milk until combined. Add 1 cup of Cool Whip; gently fold into the pudding to blend. Spread the pudding mixture evenly over the Twinkies to cover. Refrigerate 1 hour.
  3. Top with the remaining Cool Whip, cut, and serve. Store airtight, in the fridge, for several days. Serve with sliced strawberries, if desired.
  4. **Note: You could also add fresh or thawed frozen berries to the shortcake--just toss them in an even layer just before pouring on the pudding layer and proceed as normal.**

 

DSC_0410This shortcake is SO yummy. I love how light and buttery the Twinkies are as a substitute pound cake — that classic cream filling is an added, sugary perk and melds well with the strawberries and cream flavor of the cake overall. I think next time I’ll add chopped berries to the cake for some fresh pops of color and texture. You could also experiment with different pudding flavors; chocolate fudge with raspberries or lemon would be super yummy!

Have a wonderful day!!

xo, Hayley

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