I’m well again! No coughing, no sniffling, no congestion–and best of all–no wandering around the apartment like a mindless zombie.   After 2 months of wondering what it feels like to be normal again, I am indeed myself again. With renewed energy, I’ve been excited to head back into the kitchen and start up the baking again.  This post? Involves absolutely no baking–just a wonderfully fast and easy way to whip up some deliciousness.

Before I get into the Cheesecake stuffed strawberries–I just want to give you guys a look at THE BEST BIRTHDAY GIFT (EVER)!  Every so often, I tinker with the idea about getting a DSLR…but I always end up chickening out of making such a huge purchase.  But it was time…and I decided I was going to do it.  Leave it to  Mike (aka best fiance in the world) to rush out and get me one before my designated April 1st purchase.  So, I am now the proud owner of the Canon Rebel T1i (and a Canon Rebel T1i for Dummies book I’ve yet to read).  It’s beautiful!

Okay, onward with the recipe!  Mike’s cousin sent me a link to this recipe a few months back and now that we’re back in strawberry season, I was excited about giving it a try.  Strawberries stuffed with cheesecake? Ingenious!  I had a baby shower to attend this weekend, and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to give these guys a shot.  And–they were DELICIOUS!  To top it off, they’re super easy!  And to answer your question–yes, they taste just as you’d expect them to.

Make them…make them now!

Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries

Original Recipe from Indigo’s Sugar Spectrum

Good for about 20 servings ( 2 green baskets of strawberries)

INGREDIENTS

2 green baskets of Strawberries, washed and dried.
1 8oz package of Cream Cheese, softened
1 tsp of Vanilla Extract
¾ cup Powdered Sugar
6-8 Graham Crackers, crushed
Semisweet chocolate, melted (optional)

  1. Once the strawberries are dry, slice off a bit of one side.
  2. Take a melon baller and spoon out the center of the strawberry, being careful to keep the walls of the strawberry intact.
  3. To make the cheesecake filling: With a mixer, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla extract until smooth and fluffy.
  4. Now, take the strawberry and fill the center with the cheesecake filling.
  5. Spoon the graham cracker crumbs over the stuffed strawberries.  Take a spoon and gently pat the graham crackers into the filling until crumbs “stick.”
  6. Drizzle strawberries with melted chocolate*.
  7. Place strawberries in refrigerator until ready to be enjoyed.

*Whenever I plan to drizzle desserts with melted chocolate/candy melts–I use Wilton squeeze bottles.  Fill the bottles with your choice of chocolate and carefully place bottle in a small pot with hot water to melt.  Super easy and a super neat way to enhance any dessert.  You can easily find them at your local Michael’s Craft Store.

 

 

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We’ve all ordered it–that hot, soft centered individual sized chocolate cake.  Its decadent and amazing. Served with confectioner’s sugar, whipped cream, and a few scoops of vanilla ice cream–and is there really anything better?

Okay–so i’ll stop short of calling these Godiva cakes or Molten Lava Cakes as you’ve all become accustomed to ordering at your everyday American Restaurant.  This version isn’t quite as liquid-y with the chocolate center.  The filling in these Individual Soft Centered Cakes may not be quite as runny–but rest assured, the center is delicious.  Cut into the cake, and you’ll find a warm, chocolate syrup filling.  This cake is no consolation prize!

So it pains me a little bit to share this recipe–not because it’s not AMAZING–but I like basking in the “ooohing” and “ahhing” I get every time I serve this dessert.  People naturally assumed I meticulously crafted the dessert or exerted myself doing so.  Ummm…not so much.

This is soooooooooooooooooooo easy!  It barely takes anytime and in my opinion?  It’s almost fool proof.  Try it.  Your guests will be left stunned at how amazing these are…and you’ll be left with energy to actually enjoy their company.

As a side note, I did make some Chocolate Lava/Godiva Cakes this Christmas for my boss (it was his Secret Santa Gift!) that were out of this world.  Recipe will come soon!

Individual Soft Centered Chocolate Cake (Molten Chocolate Cake)

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bar
  • 8 tablespoon(s) unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks only
  • 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon cake flour

Directions

  1. Melt butter and chocolate in double boiler. Preheat oven to 450°F.  Whip eggs, yolks, sugar, and vanilla with a mixer for 10 minutes on high speed.
  2. Fold melted chocolate and butter into the egg mixture. Fold in flour just until combined.
  3. Butter and sugar four 6-ounce ramekins, then spoon mixture into ramekins.
  4. Bake for about 9–10 min or just until the top and sides are set.   The center will be quite soft.
  5. Let cake sit out of the oven for about 2 minutes, then unmold onto a plate.
  6. Serve with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, fruit–or whatever you please.
  7. Enjoy!
Original Recipe from The Ghirardelli Chocolate Cookbook

Red Velvet–the celebrated cupcake flavor that will likely define you as a baker.  And I say that with reservation, because before I found this recipe, I was never 100% happy with any red velvet cupcake I had baked in the past.  Simply put, there always seemed to be something missing.  That is, until i found this recipe.  This recipe is pure gold.  It’s perfect.  So perfect, my sister had three without frosting.  It’s so wonderfully moist and the flavor was just so distinctively red velvet.

oh-so-perfect crumb

I love this recipe.  I’ve found the one.

Oh! I also want to share this tidbit.  For the most part, I get my vanilla extract from Costco.  You get a huge bottle for about six dollars.  And to be honest, I’ve been happy with the results.  The vanilla is affordable and everything has always been tasty.  One day, I came across of bottle of vanilla from Williams Sonoma–at $20 for about 2/3 of the size.  The kicker? The vanilla extract was loaded with the actual vanilla beans.  I lost all will power.  I bought it…and regretted it the whole way home. $20?!?!  But I have to be honest.  The vanilla has truly made all the difference.  Without a doubt, the Williams Sonoma vanilla was far superior to the Kirkland brand.  It’s so wonderfully fragrant and the vanilla really comes through–even in a cupcake with so many complicated flavors.  While I may not use the WS vanilla in all my baked goods, it will definitely be my go to vanilla for all special baking occasions.

Favorite Red Velvet Cupcakes

makes 24 cupcakes

For the cake:
2½ cups cake flour
1½ cups sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tbsp. cocoa powder (Not dutch-processed)
1 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1½ cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp. (1 oz.) liquid red food coloring
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. distilled white vinegar

For the frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, combine the cake flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt; whisk to blend.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the eggs, vegetable oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla and vinegar.  Beat on medium speed until well blended.  Add in the dry ingredients on low speed and beat until smooth.  This will take about 2 minutes–make sure to not over beat mixture.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners.  Bake, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 15 minutes.  Let cool in the pans for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes.  Mix in the vanilla extract.  Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until totally incorporated, increase the speed and then beat until smooth.  Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.

Adapted from The Way the Cookie Crumbles

Sprinkles make me happy

Look, sometimes you just need a simple vanilla cupcake.  No, it’s not terribly exciting and no, I don’t think its ever going to be anyone’s first choice–but it’s still a necessity.  Keep in mind, that just because it’s simple, doesn’t mean it’s easy.  No friends, vanilla cupcakes are serious business.  You’re probably wondering how can an everyday flavor be this difficult or complex.  Well, the simpler the cupcake, the more apparent the flaws.  Do your cupcakes have enough flavor?  Are they moist?  What kind of crumb does your cupcake give?

Sprinkles just make me happy

Unique cupcakes always have one thing going for them–people don’t really know what to expect.  But if you’re going to produce a cupcake everyone is familiar with, you’re going to have to meet their expectations.  So..I am on a quest for the perfect vanilla cupcake.  I have a few different recipes I want to try, and I’ll keep you guys updated.  Trust me, a HUGE part of me is tempted to make a vanilla cupcake every week until I find “The One,” but it’s simply too cruel of a thing to do to my arteries.  Oh, butter, you crazy fattening thing, you!

Okay.  So review for Cupcakes #1 (recipe can be found here).  Boy did these cupcakes hit the flavor dead-on.  These cupcakes really transformed the room!  So aromatic…they made me salivate.  But I would expect nothing less from a recipe that demands 1 tbsp of vanilla extract and a whole vanilla bean.  To be honest, if this cupcake didn’t taste the way they did, I would have been a tad upset about wasting all of that vanilla goodness!  The best part about this recipe?  The cupcakes are covered in vanilla flakes–they’re stunning!  These were definitely very tasty!

But is this the perfect vanilla cupcake? I’m afraid I’m going to have to say no–but they are indeed very impressive!  Where did this cupcake fall short?  I found them to be a bit dry, which left me feeling a bit suckerpunched. Haha.  Well, actually…let me take 2 steps back.  They were a tad dry, but to no fault of this recipe, I think.  If my memory serves me right, my butter wasn’t exactly room temperature (though it was very close) since I was in a mega rush to finish these before guests arrived.  That being the case, I’m sure ultimately that lead to the overbeating of the batter.  And if you know cupcakes, you know that once the flour is added, that’s a bit time no-no.  In this case, I’m going to say that the extra 30 seconds may have made all the difference.   You should know that I’m giving this recipe the benefit of the doubt, but aside from the moisture, I wasn’t super super happy with the crumb either.  These cupcakes weren’t tough, they just didn’t have a satisfying bite to them.

I think I would definitely give this recipe another go–with some minor adjustments.  I’ll be making some vanilla cupcakes for the 4th of July using a hybrid of different recipes I’ve come across while doing my research, so I’ll make sure to update you!

I just topped off these pretty things with traditional buttercream.

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

( I can’t really tell you how many cupcakes this makes since I did a combo of regular and mini-sized cupcakes!)

3 cups cake flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
16 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1¼ cups buttermilk, at room temperature
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the cake flour, baking powder and salt.  Whisk together and set aside.  Add the butter to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the bowl of the mixer with the butter and reserve the pod to make vanilla sugar.  Beat on medium-high speed for a few minutes, until light and creamy.  Make sure to scrape down the side of the bowl and mix for an additional minute to make sure batter has been thoroughly mixed.

Add the sugar to the butter mixture, ¼ cup at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition.  Mix in the eggs one at a time until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition.  Combine the buttermilk and the vanilla extract in a liquid measuring cup.  With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing just until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer.

Divide the batter between the prepared paper liners, filling each about 2/3 of the way full.  Bake 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pans 5 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Once cool, frost with desired frosting.