Chocolate Walnut Shortbread Sandwich Cookies with a Salted Caramel Filling

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Yes. You read that right. These cookies are outrageous. I’m gonna warn you up front – they just won “Most Addictive” in my office cookie competition…oh, I mean swap.

And there’s only a tiny amount of butter ;)

Hey, why not?! It’s Christmas! Let’s just go for it, shall we? You can skip out on something else later, but these cookies should not be passed up. They should also be the star of your Christmas cookie production line this coming week. I am a little biased though, because I happen to (correctly) believe that salted caramel is the stuff of gods – you could put it atop practically anything and it would sing with that heavenly sweet and salty river of flavor that rushes over your taste buds making your heart skip two beats and your knees weak.

…did I go too far? What can I say? It’s cookies like these that make me really really love running.

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Cherry Cocoa Truffles

Cocoa Date Truffles

Let’s impress your friends and family this Christmas season! I think it’s really nice this time of year to bring homemade treats to a friend and have them sittin’ pretty in a bowl in your office or at home. I magically just happen to have a fantastic recipe for just such an occasion ;)

Vegan truffles

This time of year is tricky to please everyone you know – especially now that it seems every other person you know is gluten-free or vegan, and of course there’s the “watching-my-holiday-waistline” ones who shy away from my decadent desserts…come on! Why not?! It’s CHRISTMAS! (Don’ worry, those recipes are still to come, like these perfect Christmas cookies :) But… …Don’t stop now! Keep reading.

Mexican Chocolate Cream Pie

Chocolate Pie

You wouldn’t think I needed another rejuvenating California fix after my recent trip to LA, but I did. I went to San Francisco for ten days last week and just about died I was so incredibly happy and relaxed.

I got to explore more of the city and a lot of the East Bay. I got to go north to Muir Woods to breathe in that amazing redwood scent and to Stinson beach to dig my feet in the sand while enjoying a picnic with one of my favorite people in the world. I got to spend the whole time with some of my closest friends from high school and college. I got to relax, bake, and go running and hiking; I got to try some pretty freakin’ outstanding restaurants and some trendy SF bars.

Chocolate Cream Pie

I feel so lucky. Oh, and I also made a Mexican Chocolate Cream Pie. Yeahhhh :)  But first, here’s a look into my California time…

Enthusiastic

The theme of the week :)

Graffiti

Dolores Park

Dolores Park

Jack Kerouac

Muir Woods

Muir Woods

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Chocolate Almond Cake with Almond Buttercream

Chocolate Almond Cake

It’s official. I’ve hit my mid-twenties. And ya know what?… 25 looks good on me. I feel responsible and sexy; more adult but with a wild/silly side. I LOVE IT :D

LOVE Earrings

…those LOVE earrings seem familiar? I gave my mom the very same pair for her birthday (Suzanne’s Lemon Thyme), and since I was SO freakin excited when I purchased them, Elizabeth got me the very same pair for my birthday!

I was able to celebrate a little early with one of the BEST weekends ever! I roadtripped with Caitlyn and Larissa to Nashville and New Orleans. UN-BUH-LEEEVABLE! With the live country music, cowboy boots, Southern gentlemen ASKING me (and thanking me) for a dance, and the Jack poured as the go-to whiskey, Nashville was my Mecca! I felt home :)  And New Orleans was just…just great. I loved every minute. Beignets, a bachelor party in flannel onesies, shrimp and grits, live music, beads, a mechanical bull, and the best country dancing I’ve ever seen! Oh, I do love the south. <3

Nashville

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Tart

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Every Christmas I love to make a show-stopping dessert for our Christmas Day feast. (Last year was a champagne layer cake!) My problem is that it’s always a new recipe…clearly leaving some room for error – some more forgivable than others. For example, this year I planned on making Joy the Baker’s Honey Almond Butter Chocolate Tart …only problem was that I should have checked that jar of almond butter perched on our pantry self, because it was solid – definitely past its prime. Sooooo, peanut butter it is! And the problem when I up and move to DC like the crazy daughter I am is that my mom’s and my kitchens are better together. No tart pan in California now :( sooooo, spring form pan it is!

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Coffee Chiffon Birthday Cake with a Fudgey Ganache

Alternate titles for this post: “Can we just have cake for dinner?”/ “I is a burrito.”/ “If this is what a quarter-life crisis looks like, I like it!”

You see, this past Saturday, our beautiful Caitlyn turned 25. Now, minus the misplacing items frequently and difficulty hearing, she really doesn’t seem any older :)  She carried the weekend in true style and grace. We celebrated in DC with many friends and then headed out to West Virginia where we rented a cabin for a little fun in the countryside! We saw a truly breathtaking sky full of stars, hiked, made a big family dinner, and just had a wonderful time celebrating. It was the perfect way to celebrate one of the best ladies I know.

If she wished for a delicious birthday cake, she was in luck ;)

After discussing this CRUCIAL decision with the birthday girl, I settled on a coffee chiffon cake with a fudgey chocolate ganache. The cake was a very light sponge with strong coffee and a hint of cinnamon. Each layer was  soaked in a coffee-rum glaze and then iced with a thick layer of rich ganache icing. I know that that’s not really a thing (don’t tell Caitlyn cause she doesn’t like icing), but I’d probably realistically call it a dark chocolate fudge frosting. Hair-splitting aside, the cake was delightfully moist and light while the ganache was a wonderful, rich dark chocolate contrast. And I took some step-by-step photos for you, cause I was super together on this one!

Start with your dry ingredients in a large bowl: cake flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, some instant coffee, and cinnamon.

In a separate bowl, mix up the wet ingredients: egg yolks, vegetable oil, coffee, vanilla.

Then whip up your egg whites with some sugar until they form soft peaks.

Pour the coffee egg mixture into the dry ingredients, and fold them together until just mixed. Then fold in a quarter of the egg whites.

Then add the rest of the egg whites being careful not to deflate that delicate bowl of beauty. You want to slowly cut the spatula down the middle, pull some over the top, turn the bowl a little and repeat.  When you’re almost done, it will look like this:

Then divide the batter into two 8 inch rounds (while trying to take a perfect picture)

Soooo I didn’t do step-by-step of the ganache because it was made in a mad dash while prepping the apartment for our party and prettying myself. But lemme tell ya, it was mostly a ton of melted dark chocolate with some cream, a little suga and butta, and some mo’ instant coffee. It was ridiculous. Oh. Boy. I mean, oh, wow. Silly.

Once the cakes are cooled, you cut each one in half with a large bread knife, and douse each layer in a “simple syrup” of coffee, rum, and sugar. Ice it and decorate it! Boom! You’ve got yourself a birthday cake fit for a princess! :)

*Here’s the recipe:

Coffee Chiffon Birthday Cake with a Fudgey Ganache

Preheat the oven to 350.

Whisk together in  a large bowl:

-1 1/3c. cake flour
-1 c. sugar
-1 t. baking powder
-1/2 t. cinnamon
-1/2 t. salt
-1 T. instant coffee

In another bowl, whisk together:

-1/4c. vegetable oil
-6 egg yolks (save the whites)
-6 T. strong, freshly brewed coffee (cooled to room temp)
-2 t. vanilla extract

Whisk the remaining 6 egg whites on medium, until foamy. Then slowly add in:

-1/2c. sugar

Whisk the sugar and eggs on medium-high until the whites form soft peaks. (They’ll droop off the edge of the mixer when you pull it out, but still keep their shape.)

Fold the coffee/egg mixture into the dry ingredients until just blended. Then stir in a quarter of the egg whites. Fold in the rest of the whites being careful not to deflate them – be gentle here. (Like I mentioned, you want to slowly cut the spatula down the middle, pull some over the top, turn the bowl a little and repeat.)

Pour the batter into two 8 inch round cake pans lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 12-15 minutes, or until the edges are golden and a toothpick comes out clean.

While the cakes are cooling, make the glaze. In a small saucepan, combine:

-1/3c. strong coffee
-1/3c. rum
-1/3c. sugar

Simmer until all the sugar is dissolved.

**For the Fudgey Ganache

Melt all together in a saucepan over low-medium heat:

-1 pound dark chocolate, chopped
-1 c. heavy cream
-2 T. light corn syrup
-1/2 stick (1/4c.) salted butter

Once everything is just melted, transfer the melted chocolate mixture to the bowl of a large stand mixer, and whip the ganache, slowly adding:

-1 c. powdered sugar
-2 T. instant coffee

**To assemble:

 

Using a long bread knife, carefully cut the cakes in half, so you’ll have 4 layers. Then, using a spoon, lightly drizzle the glaze over the bottom cake layer. Ice the layer, and stack the next cake layer on top and repeat. Then ice the whole darned thing, and decorate it if you you have a special occasion – like a birthday! :)

Cut into it and this is what you’ll get…

 

**French phrase for fun

J’aime un souhait d’anniversaire qui devient réalité :)

I love a birthday wish that comes true.

Aubrey’s Birthday Cupcakes!

“Cupcakes involving chocolate and cream cheese frosting,” the birthday girl demanded! Jokes, of course, but seriously I had to just straight-up ask her what she’d die to have on her birthday…how does one sneakily ask what someone’s favorite kind of cake is when it’s only a couple of days before their birthday?! This is something I frequently struggle with. I’m a HUGE surprises person. Maybe this is girly, but I really do love to give thoughtful surprise presents, or in this case, surprise birthday dessert!

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