The Best Carrot Cake

Every time I bake a cake I gain more and more respect for people who can frost and decorate their cakes to be picture perfect. I always have this grand idea in my head that the frosting will come out smooth and seamless, but it never does. So what's a girl to do? Cover the cake with pecans and sprinkles of course!

I don't have too much to say about this cake, except YUM. I thought it had the perfect amount of spice. It was perfectly moist. And the cream cheese icing... to die for! It is the perfect carrot cake and I will look no further for a carrot cake recipe!

I got the recipe off of allrecipes because it had good reviews (and a lot of them!), but I changed a lot after reading some of the reviews. I subbed some oil for applesauce, added some crushed pineapple, and changed the spices around a bit. When I went to add the nutmeg (one of the last steps), I realized I was out. I did, however, have Pumpkin Pie Spice which contains nutmeg so I figured "what the hell?". No regrets!

The recipe called for a 9x13 inch cake but I used three 6" rounds and got a nice tall, small cake. Either way I'm sure it will taste amazing!

Recipe: Adapted from AllRecipes
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cups vegetable or canola oil
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 8 oz crushed pineapple (drained)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or nutmeg)
  • 3 cups grated carrots
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
  • 8 oz cream cheese (softened)
  • 1/2 cup butter softened
  • 3.5 cups confections sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9x13 inch pan.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, applesauce, oil, sugars and 3 teaspoons vanilla. Stir in drained pineapple. Mix in flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir in carrots. Fold in pecans. Pour into prepared pan.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.
  4. To Make Frosting: In a medium bowl, combine butter, cream cheese, confectioners' sugar and extracts. Beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Frost the cooled cake.

Chewy Chocolate Chip M&M Cookies

A few weeks ago I raved about how I found the perfect base recipe for chocolate chip cookies. This week I decided to experiment a little. The recipe is really similar to Alton Brown's "Chewy". One of the main differences is that Alton Brown uses bread flour. Since I had a bag of bread flour laying around (from the last time I made the chewy), I decided to try my cookie recipe again, but this time using bread flour.

These cookies were a huge hit. Everyone that had them said they tasted like they were from a fancy bakery. I added in some mini m&m's to make them a little more colorful and festive, but those are optional.

These cookies were great on day one, but they seemed to get better and better on the second day. One of main differences between bread flour and AP flour is that bread flour contains more gulten. This gives rise to a chewier cookie. And a chewier cookie is always a plus in my book. :)

Recipe - Makes 20 - 30 cookies
Adapted from AllRecipes
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1.5 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup mini m&m's (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended. Beat in the vanilla, egg, egg yolk, and milk until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended.
  4. Stir in the chocolate chips and m&m's by hand using a wooden spoon. Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup at a time onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about 3 inches apart.
  5. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Perfect Party Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream

No food blog is complete without a basic go-to cupcake recipe. This recipe comes from Dorie Greenspan's "Perfect Party Cake". As its name implies, it makes the perfect cake. I've tried other so called "perfect" cake recipes and they just don't compare. This cake has the perfect level of moisture and a perfect texture. (Have I used the word "perfect" enough yet?)It's very light and airy, but it can still hold up to a heavy dosing of buttercream on top.

The cake also uses lemon zest and lemon extract. I thought it would be really lemony but it wasn't at all. It just added a brightness to the taste.

I chose to throw my favorite buttercream on top. It's the Magnolia Buttercream recipe and in my opinion it's the only buttercream recipe you need. It is so simple to make. It comes out perfect every time and, unlike other buttercreams, there is no cooking or shortening involved.

Cupcake Recipe: Adapted from "Baking: From my Home to Yours" - By Dorie Greenspan
Makes about 20 cupcakes

  • 2 ¼ cups cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk (I prefer buttermilk with the lemon)
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon pure lemon extract
  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.
  2. Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.

  3. Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the butter, and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light. Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs, beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Finally, give the batter a good 2-minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and will aerated.

  4. Fill each cupcake 3/4 full. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes, or until the cupcakes are well risen and springy to the touch- a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool.

Buttercream Recipe: Adapted From Magnolia Bakery
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

  • 3 to 4 cups confectioners’ sugar

  • 1/4 cup milk

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add 2 cups of the sugar and then the milk and vanilla. On the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3-5 minutes. Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency. You may not need to add all of the sugar. If desired, add a few drops of food coloring and mix thoroughly. (Use and store the icing at room temperature because icing will set if chilled.) Icing can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Homemade Oreos

I almost never repeat recipes. I have soooo many recipes bookmarked and dog eared that it just doesn't make sense to bake the same thing twice. This recipe is the exception. These cookies are the most demanded item that I bake.

As a matter of fact you probably won't even believe me if I tell you who requested these cookies. The nutritionist at my husband's gym. Yes, you read that right. My husband is taking these cookies to the nutritionist and his personal trainer at his gym. How's that for an irresistible cookie?

I first saw these cookies on Smitten Kitchen (one of my absolute favorite blogs, ever!) a year ago and I knew instantly that I had to make them. Since I've made them they've received comments such as "omg. she's gonna put oreo out of business" and "they taste just like oreos, only better."

The filling is a dead ringer for the oreo filling. The cookie is an improvement. It's soft and chewy (but still sturdy enough to stand up to all the filling) and a tad bit sweeter than the cookie part of an oreo. The original recipe calls for Dutch process cocoa but I used Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa. It's a mix of natural and dutch process. I think it was perfect for the job because it contributed to the dark, almost black color of the cookie which really resembles an Oreo.

These will definitely impress anyone you make them for. The recipe is really easy to make, just make sure you flatten the cookies slightly before you bake them so they come out flat and round.

Recipe: Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
For the chocolate wafers:
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa*
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups sugar**
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) room-temperature, unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg
For the filling:
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) room-temperature, unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 2 cups sifted confectioners sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. Set two racks in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 375°F.
  2. In a food processor, or bowl of an electric mixer, thoroughly mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar. While pulsing, or on low speed, add the butter, and then the egg. Continue processing or mixing until dough comes together in a mass.
  3. Take rounded teaspoons of batter and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet approximately two inches apart. With moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking. Set baking sheets on a rack to cool.
  4. To make the cream, place butter and shortening in a mixing bowl, and at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla. Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy.
  5. To assemble the cookies, in a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch, round tip, pipe teaspoon-size blobs of cream into the center of one cookie. Place another cookie, equal in size to the first, on top of the cream. Lightly press, to work the filling evenly to the outsides of the cookie. Continue this process until all the cookies have been sandwiched with cream. Dunk generously in a large glass of milk.
*I used Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate. It's a mix of natural and dutch process cocoas. I really like how it came out because it made the cookies dark just like real oreos. I also read A LOT of the comments on Smitten Kitchen's original post and it seems that the general consensus is that regular unsweetened cocoa powder will work just fine.
** I went right in the middle and used 1 1/4 cups and this was the perfect sweetness for me.