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Rita’s Super Moist Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting

cake

-Rache’ll Brown

I love going home. Not because I get to see my two beautiful Boxers and my loving parents—although that is a plus—but because I have free reign over a fully stocked kitchen to make anything I can dream of. And of course the only thing I ever want to make is, well, cake (which I can attribute to the strange amount of cake-themed music I listen to). So while I was home for spring break, I grabbed my mom’s cookbook and found her friend Rita’s cake recipe, which is a family favorite, and got to work.

Rita’s Super Moist Chocolate Cake

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
½ tsp salt
1 stick of unsalted butter
½ cup of vegetable oil
1 cup Water
¼ cup cocoa powder
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup of buttermilk
1 tsp of baking soda

Peanut Butter Frosting

6 tbsp of unsalted butter at room temperature
¾ cup of peanut butter
1 cup of confectioners’ sugar

#1 First, mix together the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl and set it aside. Next, put the butter, vegetable oil, and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, and then add in the cocoa powder and mix until dissolved. Pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients, and stir until combined.

#2 Next, mix the buttermilk and baking soda in a separate container, then add it in with the rest of the ingredients and stir until the batter is smooth. This batter will be extremely wet and runny, so don’t worry about it—it seems like it’s all wrong, but the result is a super moist cake that is out of this world.

#3 Put the mixture into a greased and floured 9 x 13 pan, and bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes, or until the top springs back when touched, and the cake has started to pull away from the sides of the pan.

#4 Once the cake has finished baking, let it cool for at least 30 minutes before frosting. And when the cake is cooling, it is the perfect time to whip together the most mouth watering and simple peanut butter frosting. In a medium bowl, cream together room temperature butter and peanut butter (hint: while measuring peanut butter, spray the measuring cup with a little Pam first to prevent it from sticking).

#5 Once the wet ingredients are light and fluffy, slowly add in the confectioners’ sugar. It might seem clumpy and thick at first, but the longer it is beaten, the creamier it gets. Stick the frosting in the fridge until the cake is completely cooled, and then smooth it on in a thick layer.

This cake is so unbelievably moist, delicious, and easy to make that I will literally never make a boxed cake again. The peanut butter frosting is a perfect compliment to the chocolate cake (which isn’t too rich. The cake has a subtle flavor with an out-of-this-world texture), and I can guarantee there isn’t a human on this planet that would dislike this delicious recipe.

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Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes

-Whitney Gomes

I may not have a drop of Irish blood in me, but I can sure appreciate an old Irish whiskey. I particularly relish in a glass of Jameson neat or Bushmills on the rocks. An Irish friend (and fellow whiskey enthusiast) of mine created the perfect dessert recipe for our St. Patrick’s Day dinner party: Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes—an impeccable combination of delectable chocolate Ganache-filled cupcakes, Irish whiskey, and Irish cream frosting.

[An Irish Car Bomb is a popular “bomb” or “drop” shot cocktail. To make, fill a pint glass half-full with Guinness and pour 1 part Jameson Irish Whiskey in a shot glass before floating a thin layer of Bailey’s Irish Cream on top. The idea is to drop the shot into the pint glass and begin drinking once the shot glass hits the bottom.]

Shannon Flowers, the recipe master and baker, combined her personal chocolate cake recipe with two other “Irish Car Bomb Cupcake” recipes found online. The chocolate was rich, but not too rich. The cupcake was moist, but didn’t crumble in your hands. She tweaked a couple ingredients and added her own to create what our friend Mitch deemed “a life-changing cupcake” after just one bite. He’s not alone—these cupcakes blew my mind and my taste buds. Shannon’s original recipe, which is thorough yet easy to follow, exposes novice bakers to the tricks of working with a variety of ingredients. These cupcakes were a hit at the party and one of the highlights of my St. Patrick’s Day. But it doesn’t have to be St. Patrick’s Day for you to enjoy them as well!

The Cupcakes:
1 ¼ cups Guinness stout
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 cups cake flour (or all-purpose flour)
2 cups granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
¾ teaspoons salt (only if using unsalted butter)
2 eggs
2/3 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla

Whiskey Ganache Filling:
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
3-4 teaspoons Irish whiskey

Bailey’s Frosting:
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups unsalted butter at room temperature
5 cups powdered sugar
6-8 tablespoons Bailey’s Irish Cream

Directions:

#1. To make the cupcakes: preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line twenty-four cupcake cups with liners. Bring the Guinness, vanilla, and butter to a simmer in a heavy, medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the cocoa powder and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

#2. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl to combine. Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sour cream on medium speed until combined. Add the Guinness-chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and beat just to combine. Reduce the speed to low, add the flour mixture and beat briefly. Using a rubber spatula, fold the batter until completely combined. Divide the batter among the cupcake liners. Bake on a rack until a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean—about seventeen minutes.

#3. To make the whiskey ganache filling, finely chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then, using a rubber spatula, stir it from the center outward until smooth. Add the butter and whiskey and stir until combined. Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped.

#4 Fill the cupcakes: using a one-inch round cookie cutter, cut the centers of the cooled cupcakes, going about two-thirds of the way down. Transfer the ganache to a piping bag with a wide tip and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top.

#5 To make the Bailey’s frosting: using the whisk attachment of a stand mixer, whip the butter on medium-high speed for five minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Reduce the speed to medium-low and gradually add the powdered sugar until all of it is incorporated. Add the Bailey’s and vanilla and increase the speed to medium-high and whisk for another two-three minutes, or until it is light and fluffy.

#6 Using your favorite decorating tip, or an offset spatula, frost the cupcakes and decorate with sprinkles, if desired, and enjoy! Store the leftover cupcakes in an airtight container.

It's All Greek To Me: How to Make Baklava

-Eleni Pappelis

Having been brought up with a Greek heritage, one thing I have come to appreciate is the great food Greeks make. Baklava is a type of honey pastry and is also a Greek delicacy that I have enjoyed my whole life. To truly call myself Greek, I baked this easy dessert!

Ingredients:

One 16 ounce  package phyllo dough
1 pound chopped nuts of your choice
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup water
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of a 9×13 inch pan.

2. Chop nuts and toss them in with the cinnamon. Set that aside.

3. Unroll the phyllo dough. Cut the whole stack in half to fit pan. Cover the phyllo with a dampened cloth to keep it from drying out as you work. Place two sheets of dough in the pan, and butter them thoroughly. Repeat until you have 8 sheets layered. Sprinkle 2 to 3 tablespoons of nut mixture on top. Top it with two sheets of dough, butter, and nuts, layering as you go. The top layer should be about 6 to 8 sheets deep.

4. Using a sharp knife, cut the layers into diamond or square shapes all the way to the bottom of the pan. You may cut it into 4 long rows the make diagonal cuts.

5. Bake it for about 50 minutes, or until the baklava is golden and crisp.

6. Make the sauce while baklava is baking. Boil sugar and water until the sugar is melted. Add vanilla and honey. Simmer for about 20 minutes.

7. Remove the baklava from the oven and immediately spoon sauce over it. Let it cool. Serve in cupcake papers. This freezes well. Leave it uncovered as it gets soggy if it is wrapped up.

How To: Cauliflower au Gratin

-Rache’ll Brown

I may have a slight obsession with random, healthy food. I mean, an oil and sugar-free Cake in a Cup? Spaghetti made with spaghetti squash instead of noodles? Who does this kind of stuff? Obviously me. And obviously the next logical step in my obsession is to create a healthier version of one of my favorite dishes: potatoes au gratin. So I did just that, but knowing potatoes are carb-heavy, I thought it might be best to find a substitute. And then it hit me: cauliflower au gratin. So, I scavenged Pinterest for the perfect recipe. Unfortunately, I didn’t find one. However, I did find this Martha Stewart recipe that I was able to modify quite a bit to fit my needs. You are more than welcome to stick with Martha’s original dish. I’m sure it is just as delicious . . . maybe.

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons of butter
1/3 cup of flour
2 cups of unsweetened original almond milk
I medium cauliflower
Salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste

First, over medium heat, melt the butter and stir in the flour to make a thick paste—this is called roux. It is important to continually whisk your flour until it is cooked through, which takes about one minute according to Martha. Without continual whisking, the roux can be clumpy or burn, so be prepared for an arm workout.

Next, add the two cups of almond milk, seasonings of choice, and coarsely chopped cauliflower (it doesn’t need to be tiny, but you don’t want huge chunks).

Finally, place the cauliflower mixture into a baking dish and put it into a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for twenty minutes. I served it with a side of romaine lettuce and thought it was delicious. Initially, I wasn’t sure if the almond milk would thicken in the same way dairy milk would, but everything turned out perfectly: creamy and delicious! I’ll definitely be making this again, possibly with broccoli as well. Who says healthy can’t be yummy?

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How To: Healthy Spaghetti

-Rache’ll Brown

I love food. More importantly, I love carbs. However, my body doesn’t. When planning a meal, I try to find things that are good for me, but still taste like they aren’t. This is where spaghetti, made with spaghetti squash instead of noodles, comes into play – it’s a healthy substitute for a classic favorite.

Spaghetti squash is the perfect substitute for noodles because the stringy texture mimics the pasta just right. In the winter, like most, I enjoy comfort food – things that are filling and warm me up. Typically I eat a lot of squash (I’m obsessed with any type), and when I was younger my mom used to make spaghetti squash all the time. So I decided to give “healthy” spaghetti a try!

Ingredients:

1 medium spaghetti squash
Spaghetti sauce (I used Roasted Garlic Spaghetti Sauce from Trader Joe’s)
Meatballs or some type of ground meat (I used Meatless Meatballs, also from Trader Joe’s)

First, you need to bake your squash. This website told me to pierce holes in it and microwave for ten to twelve minutes. I stabbed that squash nearly twenty times with a knife, then with a large fork (purely because I read that it can explode and the thought of that terrified me), then microwaved it for eleven minutes. It turned out perfect, although the sizzling noises made me a little paranoid while it was cooking.

Next, take your squash out of the microwave and cut it in half. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon, then take a fork and shred the soft flesh. This might sound hard, but it really isn’t. Just make sure to hold it with an oven mitt or kitchen towel because it’s really hot and you don’t want to burn yourself. Next, microwave your meatballs and sauce according to the directions, and pour them on top of your “noodles.” Voila! It’s ready to be devoured.

Overall, I thought this meal was delicious. The taste of the spaghetti squash is pretty neutral, so it paired great with the traditional spaghetti toppings (although I wouldn’t use the same marinara again – I like garlic, but it was a bit much). A medium-sized squash made about 3 cups of “noodles,” so it could serve multiple people, or offer leftovers. I am definitely going to make this again!

Oven-Roasted Brussel Sprouts

-Emily Fraysse

If you’re looking for a good snack that is healthier than the looming box of Cheez-Its in your pantry, look no more. I hadn’t tried brussel sprouts until a year ago when my friend made this super easy recipe for me as a snack (although it could also make an excellent side dish). These sprouts contain good amounts of vitamins A and C, folic acid, and fiber. It’s easy, delicious, and nutritious.

Oven-roasted brussel sprouts with lemon juice, garlic, and olive oil:

Estimated Time: less than 20 minutes

Ingredients:

½ to 1 pound of brussel sprouts
Extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, peeled, halved, and slivered, or you can buy pre-chopped garlic at Trader Joe’s
Juice from 1 lemon
Sea salt
Black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Cut the bottom part and half each of the brussel sprouts. Trim away any outside layers of each brussel sprout.
Place the cut, washed brussel sprouts in a pan.
Drizzle olive oil and lemon juice over all the brussel sprouts. Then mix in garlic so that it covers each of the sprouts. Toss on some salt and pepper.
Put it in the oven for about 7 minutes or watch it carefully until they start to brown a bit on the sides.

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Chai Buttercream

-Marissa Tomko

Eating pumpkin during autumn and winter is just a thing that everyone does. I have fought my love for pumpkin-flavored treats for almost twenty years until I finally realized it was a losing battle. Nothing else tastes quite as festive! Plus, with all of the rain we get here in the Northwest, it’s nice to be able to hold a little bit of warmth right there in your own hand! Admittedly, I am not much of a baker. However, I have been inspired to try my hand at this whole baking thing. I stumbled upon KG Cookin’ Cupcakes, a blog run by a UO student who is all about baking cupcakes. Enter my new favorite fall-time indulgence: Pumpkin Cupcakes with Chai Buttercream, a recipe by KG.

PUMPKIN CAKE:

1 1/2 cup flour
1 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
A few shakes of cinnamon
2 eggs
1 stick butter
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
A splash of vanilla
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup milk

Sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt and set aside. In a separate bowl, cream the butter, sugar, and brown sugar. Add the eggs one at a time and blend until incorporated. Mix in the vanilla and pumpkin. Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture, alternating with additions of milk. Blend until fully incorporated. Divide among lined muffin tins and bake at 350° for 20 minutes. Let cool completely before icing.

CHAI BUTTERCREAM:

1 1/2 sticks butter (room temperature)
3 cups powdered sugar
Splash of vanilla
A couple shakes of cinnamon
About 1/4 cup chai concentrate (KG used Oregon Chai. This depends on taste and consistency: the more chai, the more runny the buttercream will be)

Beat the butter until light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar until incorporated. Add the vanilla, cinnamon, and the chai and blend until light and fluffy. If the frosting gets too runny, add some powdered sugar. Spoon or pipe the mixture onto completely cooled cupcakes.

Happy baking!

Image from http://kgcookincupcakes.blogspot.com/

A Solitary Snack: Cake For One


-Rache’ll Brown

I have a massive sweet tooth. Honestly, it’s a problem. I am constantly craving sugar, and sometimes exercising self-control can be hard, but I’ve discovered the perfect solution: Cake in a Cup! While browsing Pinterest, I discovered Chocolate-Covered Katie and her Single Lady Cupcakes, which inspired me to create a healthier, single-serving dessert for myself.

Cake in a Cup
3 tablespoons whole-wheat flour
1 packet of sugar-free hot chocolate (or normal hot chocolate!)
¼ teaspoon of baking powder
Splash of vanilla (I never measure!)
1 tablespoon of sugar-free applesauce (or vegetable oil, if you aren’t trying to be fat-free)
Water (Just add enough to make the batter wet – the constancy shouldn’t be super thick and pasty, but it shouldn’t be really runny and thin!)

Mix all of the ingredients together directly in your mug, and then microwave for one minute. Sometimes I add colorful sprinkles on top, but usually the plain old cake is good enough for me! Of course you can substitute different ingredients to tailor the dessert to match your taste – you could omit the hot chocolate mix for a more plain cake, or add chocolate chips, sugar or nuts for more flavor. You could also use pumpkin or banana instead of applesauce for a more autumnal feel.

The best thing about this recipe is how easy it is to alter it to create a dessert that fits whatever you are craving, and since it is only one serving, you don’t have to worry about the leftovers haunting you from the kitchen! So, the next time you are craving a little something sweet, reach for a mug and create a cake in a cup. It’s simple and delicious, and you probably have all of the ingredients on hand anyway.

The Perfect Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Thanksgiving Treat

-Whitney Menefee

There’s nothing better than going home for a long Thanksgiving weekend and enjoying a delicious home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends. At my house, Thanksgiving dinner is different than most. Both my mom and sister have severe food allergies and cannot eat gluten or dairy. Gluten and dairy are two very common ingredients and are particularly difficult to avoid during the Thanksgiving holiday. Knowing that Thanksgiving is right around the corner, my mom worked hard to put together her own gluten-free, dairy-free Thanksgiving dessert recipe: chocolate chip pumpkin muffins. And let me tell you, they are delicious! So, whether you have food allergies or not, this is a perfect Thanksgiving dessert!

Ingredients:

1 cup almond flour
1 cup brown rice flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon xanthan gum
½ teaspoon apple pie spice (or a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice)
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup light olive oil
2 T raw agave syrup
1 1/3 cup brown sugar
1 or ½ cup mini semi sweet chocolate chips
1 can pumpkin
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla

First, preheat oven to 350°. Then, use a medium size mixing bowl and combine almond flour, brown rice flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, apple pie spice mix, ground cinnamon, and xanthan gum.

In a separate medium size mixing bowl, beat the eggs. Then, add the oil, syrup, brown sugar, chocolate chips, pumpkin, and vanilla. Combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients, and stir for 2 minutes.

Then, spoon ¼ of a cup of batter into each cupcake cup, place them into a cupcake pan, and bake for 15-20 minutes. Let the muffins cool on a wire rack.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and I can’t imagine what it would be like without dessert, so I hope this recipe serves as a yummy dessert option for anyone who suffers from food allergies. Enjoy my mom’s gluten-free, dairy-free pumpkin chocolate chip muffins and have a happy Thanksgiving!

Frosted Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

-Whitney Menefee

What better way to celebrate the passing of Halloween than with a warm and delicious batch of my mom’s homemade pumpkin chocolate chip cookies with brown sugar frosting? At my house, there’s never an October that goes by without my mom’s frosted pumpkin cookies. End your Halloween season right, and try these yummy treats!

The recipe calls for:

1-cup butter
½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1-cup pumpkin
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups of flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
¼ teaspoon of salt
1-cup of chocolate chips

First, set the oven to 350°F. Then, use a medium size bowl to beat the butter, then add sugar and brown sugar and mix them together. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Then, slowly add flour mixture to the butter. Once all of the flour is mixed into the butter mixture, add the vanilla, egg, and pumpkin mixture until all of the ingredients are blended together. Next, stir in the chocolate chips. Then, form dough balls and space them 1 inch apart on a greased baking sheet and bake them in the oven for 10-12 minutes.

While the cookies are in the oven, start making the frosting.

Frosting:

In a small saucepan on low heat, melt 3 tablespoons of butter.

Then, add ½ a cup of brown sugar to the saucepan

Then, add 1 1/2 – 2 cups of powered sugar and ¼ cup of milk. Stir, then take off the heat. Stir until it thickens.

My favorite thing about these cookies is topping them off with the brown sugar frosting; it truly completes them.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!