Friday, December 30, 2011

Chocolate Celebration Cake

We are just hours away from the new year and I'm rushing to get one last recipe onto this blog before the clock strikes 12. Why? Because I'll be doing my top 12 recipes of 2011 soon and this cake will be on the list! I bake several cakes a year and I've made and tasted several recipes for chocolate cake in my lifetime and this is one of the best I've ever eaten. The recipe was given to me by my cyber friend, China, (hi China!) and I'm so grateful for it. Her husband made this cake for her birthday this summer and she raved about it. I read the reviews online and so did everyone else.

Happy Birthday M!

I baked this chocolate cake for a very special lady, my mother-in-laws' ex sister-in-law. Let's call her M. M was married to Mr. H's uncle many years ago. Got that? He (the uncle not Mr. H) is kind of a loser (haha!) so we ditched him and kept her after their divorce. She really does feel like part of the family. Scratch that, she is part of the family and this year for her birthday she decided to spend it with us, which gave me the opportunity to bake a birthday cake. Together with my mother-in-law we prepared dinner and dessert. She requested "anything chocolate" so I turned to this recipe by Gale Gand.

This cake makes a lot of batter and produces a large cake. The one thing that makes this cake unique is that it is made with all brown sugar- 3 cups to be exact. Yes, that's a lot of sugar but it makes a lot of cake too. It was mighty tasty and moist thanks to the addition of sour cream. It also has hot coffee in the batter, but you could substitute hot water if you like. The coffee just brings out the intensity of the chocolate without actually tasting it. I happen to like coffee and chocolate together so I paired it with a mocha cream cheese frosting. The combination was killer good. And as I mentioned it's making my top 12 list of 2011 so you know it's a good recipe. If you're needing a new chocolate cake recipe, I sincerely hope you'll give this one a try. You don't even need to use my frosting recipe, any frosting will do or heck, just eat it plain. But please put it on your list of things to make this upcoming year, hopefully sooner than later.

Chocolate Layer Cake from Gale Gand via Food Network

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  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 3 cups light brown sugar, packed
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 1/3 cups sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups hot coffee

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 3 (9-inch) cake pans. Cut 3 circles of waxed paper or parchment paper to fit the bottoms of the pans, then press them in.

In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or using a hand mixer), cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar and eggs and mix until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla, cocoa, baking soda and salt and mix. Add 1/2 of the flour, then 1/2 of the sour cream and mix. Repeat with the remaining flour and sour cream. Drizzle in the hot coffee and mix until smooth. The batter will be thin.

Pour into the prepared pans and bake until the tops are firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (a few crumbs are okay), about 35 minutes. Halfway through the baking, quickly rotate the pans in the oven to ensure even baking, but otherwise try not to open the oven.

Let cool in the pan 10 minutes. Turn out onto wire racks and let cool completely before frosting.

Mocha Cream Cheese Frosting by Monica h

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1/2 cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3-4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2-3 Tablespoons heavy cream

In a large bowl, cream butter and cream cheese and mix until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl if necessary.

Add the cocoa and espresso powder and beat on low until just combined then add the vanilla and mix thoroughly.

Gradually add powdered sugar one cup at a time, scraping down the bowl if necessary. Start with 3 cups adding more if necessary. Once frosting is sweetened, thick and creamy add the heavy cream and mix on medium speed- the frosting will thicken slightly. Don't overwhip once you've added the cream.

Frost cooled cake layers. Refrigerate any leftover frosting. Refrigerate any frosted cake, but eat at room temperature for best flavor and texture.

Thank you for making 2011 such a memorable year for Lick The Bowl Good. I'm looking forward to another year of baking and licking bowls with you all. Happy New Year!

Oh, and the winner of the Shabby Apple apron is Julie of Fruitcake In The Kitchen. Congrats Julie!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you and yours peace on this Christmas day.

~ Mr. H, Hayden and Monica

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cranberry Raisinets and A Shabby Apple Giveaway (CLOSED)

December has flown by and Christmas is quickly sneaking up on me. Stop the time- I'm not ready! I need another 4 weeks to get ready, decorate the house, wraps gifts, send out cards and do my holiday baking. Surprisingly (or not) I haven't made a single cookie this month. Heck, my Christmas tree just got decorated yesterday! True story. Usually by this time of year, I have a stash of baked goods already in the freezer ready to be placed into cookie boxes. This year my freezer holds nothing but cartons of half eaten ice cream, frozen meals and a backstock of breastmilk. haha!

I did, however, make these cookie bars last week to take to my in-laws house for dinner. I discovered that Raisinets now makes a cranberry version and I couldn't wait to bake them into something. Instead of raisins covered in milk chocolate, they're dried cranberries in milk chocolate and they were really good. Very similar to the original, but a little more tart.

I bought a couple bags (found in the candy aisle) and incorporated them into some chewy buttery oatmeal bars. I added a handful of vibrant dried cranberries to the batter for color and added flavor. To say I liked them was an understatement. This entire pan was gone in 2 days. Just looking at the pictures makes me want to make them again. I bet they'd be good warmed slightly with a scoop of vanilla on top too. Good thing, I have some in the freezer. I'll just have to make another batch of these bars!

And the winner of Sugar, Sugar: Every Recipe Has A Story is #45 Jeanette of The Whimsical Cupcake. Congratulations Jeanette! I enjoyed your story about your meatball mishap and hope you enjoy this book. Please email me with your address and this book will be shipped out to you. For another giveaway, head down below.

Chocolate Cranberry Oat Bars adapted from Quaker and Monica h

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  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups Quaker Oats (old fashioned, uncooked)
  • 1 cup Cranberry Raisinets
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries

Heat oven to 350°F.

In large bowl, beat butter and sugars on medium speed of electric mixer until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.

Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well. Add oats, Cranberry Raisinets and dried cranberries; mix well.

Press dough onto bottom of an ungreased 9x13-inch baking pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool completely in pan on wire rack.

Cut into bars. Store tightly covered at room temperature.

The generous folks at Shabby Apple would like to offer one of the readers here at Lick The Bowl Good one of their beautiful aprons! How cool is that?! Shabby Apple is an online boutique of women's dresses, aprons and accessories. They have such beautiful things and I could truly spend all day adding things to my cart on their site. But today we're talking aprons so let's get on with the giveaway. Their vintage-inspired cheery aprons are a part of the Boysenberry Pie Collection and each apron comes complete with a recipe for its namesake dessert. Click HERE to see their beautiful aprons. I am partial to the Wildberry Pie apron- so pretty!

In order to enter this giveaway, there are a few things you must do.

  1. You must "Like" Shabby Apple on Facebook-
  2. Go to and pick your favorite apron, then come back here and leave me a comment on this post telling me you "liked" them on Facebook and which apron you would like to have.

Winner must have a USA shipping address to be eligible for entry. Winner will be chosen in a few days. Best of luck!

Monday, December 19, 2011

"Sugar, Sugar" Book Review and Giveaway (CLOSED)

I was contacted a couple months ago and asked if I'd like to receive a complimentary copy of a new dessert cookbook called Sugar, Sugar: Every Recipe Has A Story by Kimberly Reiner and Jenna Sanz-Agero. Well I love sugar so I said yes!

I was excited to get my hands on this book because it reminded me of a modern version of my favorite community cookbook. The book is broken up into 7 chapters- the first telling you about the book and the "sugar momma" authors and how the book came about, and then came the recipes categorized by type of dessert- Cakes, Tarts and Pies, Cookies, Bars, Confections and Recipe Legacies. You see, each recipe is contributed by someone else, much like a community cookbook. Because the recipes are submitted by other people, they are not all from scratch, some of them contain shortcut ingredients, such as boxed cake mix and canned pie filling. But this book is more than just a collection of recipes because each entry also has a short story accompanying it. The stories were funny, sweet and sentimental. Some were about the celebrations in which they were served, some were about the people and hands that made them. The one constant is that this books bring life to the recipes.

Another thing I liked about this book was that the authors leave you "Sugar Momma Tips" about the recipes, like how to turn these bars back into a pie, or how to how to make the recipe your own by swapping out ingredients. They also give you tips on how to speed up the recipe if you're pressed for time. On top of all that, there is a section for note taking, so you can jot down comments or changes you made to the recipe, much like grandma would have done in her own handwriting on a recipe card.

When it came down to deciding what to make for this review, I decided on a caramel cake. As you can see, that is not what I have here. I found the cake to be cloyingly sweet and just couldn't eat it. I tried to pass it off onto others and they all said the same thing. It had great buttery caramel flavor, just way too much sugar. But then again, it comes from a book where the word "sugar" appears twice in the title. I turned to these Kentucky Pie Bars, because we love Derby Pie and I liked that these could be made in bar form with a graham cracker crust. These were just like the pie I make and not too sweet. They were like a cross between a magic cookie bar and Derby Pie. I would definitely make these bars again, but I would add more Bourbon to the filling (I added the lesser amount) and add a bit more butter to the crust to help bind it together since I found them to be a little crumbly. I also have my mind set on making the cover recipe as well as a pie and another bar cookie recipe, so stay tuned.

Kentucky Derby Pie Bars slightly adapted from Sugar, Sugar

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Graham Cracker Crust:

  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted


  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3-4 Tablespoons Bourbon, optional
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 9x13-inch baking dish (or use non-stick cooking spray).

To make the crust: Place the graham crackers and the melted butter in a medium bowl and mix together until the crumbs are thoroughly moistened. Press mixture firmly and evenly on the bottom of the baking dish and set aside.

To make the filling: Place the sugar and butter in a large bowl. With an electric mixer, beat mixture on medium speed until well combined. Reduce the mixer speed to low and the eggs ones at a time, add the vanilla and Bourbon, if using. Gradually add the flour until just combined. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to fold in the pecans and chocolate chips. Pour the filling on top of the crust and spread it evenly.

Bake for 33-38 minutes, until the bars begin to turn a light golden brown. Remove from the oven and let them cool before cutting. Or eat them while still warm and gooey.

Now for the giveaway. The publishers and I want you to have your very own copy of Sugar, Sugar: Every Recipe Has A Story. To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post. For a second entry and in the spirit of this book, leave a seperate comment telling me a brief story about one of your favorite recipes. That's it!

I'll pick a winner in a couple days and the folks at Andrews McNeel Publishing will send a book straight out to that individual. Good luck and happy story telling!

Sunday, December 11, 2011


For the past 3 years, I have made the birthday cake for the boys I was a nanny for. I made a sea themed cake, a Wonder Pets cake, a Dinosaur cake and this year the theme was Pirate Mickey! In the past, I've spent countless hours thinking of the cake, drawing it out, then finally baking and decorating. Time was never as issue for me until this year. My mom came over to help out with Hayden, but a child needs his momma and I had to take frequent breaks to coo with him. Speaking of Hayden, my friend got mad at me for not sharing a picture of him a couple posts back, so here he is. This is one of my favorites.

The boys wanted a pirate ship cake complete with a flag, treasure chest, dolphin and sea turtle cupcakes. They wanted Donald Duck, Minnie and Pluto there too. Well I just couldn't commit to doing that this year so I did a dessert table instead. Yes, that's still a lot of work but it was broken up over the course of two days and I wasn't spending the bulk of my day decorating with mouse ears. I made a 9-inch Mickey Mouse cake as well as Oreo cupcakes, sugar cookie bars, a Giant m&m cookie and rice krispy treats. Today I will share the recipes for the cake and the cupcakes.

The main birthday cake was vanilla buttermilk cake with strawberry jam between the layers and iced in cream cheese frosting. The Micky decoration is made up of fondant. This is the same recipe I've made every year and the kids' mother just loves it and requests it every time. I've shared this recipe before but there's now a printable link below. The cupcakes start off with Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" cake recipe. I intended to put chopped up Oreos in the batter but forgot about it until I had already stuck them in the oven. Perhaps you can give that a try. The frosting was a basic buttercream with finely chopped Oreos in it. I used a mixture of shortening and butter for the frosting for flavor and stability. It was light and creamy, wasn't too sweet and really did taste like an Oreo. I'll be making these again!

Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cupcakes

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  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup Hershey's Cocoa
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water

Heat oven to 350°F. Line muffin cups (2-1/2 inches in diameter) with paper bake cups and set aside.

Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin).

Fill cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.

Makes about 24-30 cupcakes.

Oreo Buttercream from Monica H

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup shortening or butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • 3-4 cups powdered sugar
  • 14 Oreos, finely crushed in food processor

In a large bowl, cream butter, shortening, vanilla, and milk.

Add powdered sugar until desired sweetness is achieved, anywhere between 3 and 4 cups. Mix in crushed Oreos until well combined.

If your frosting is too thick, add a tad more milk to thin. If it's too thin to pipe with, add more sugar until it's the texture you want.

This is enough buttercream to frost a layer cake or about 30 cupcakes.

Vanilla Buttermilk Cake from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes

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Makes an 8-inch triple-layer cake

  • 4 whole eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cake pans or spray to coat with nonstick cooking spray. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and grease the paper.

Put the eggs and yolks in a medium mixing bowl, add the vanilla and ¼ cup of the buttermilk. Whisk to blend well.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large mixer bowl; whisk to blend. Add the butter and the remaining 1 cup buttermilk to these dry ingredients, and with the mixer on low, blend together. Raise the mixer speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Add the egg mixture in 3 additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl and mixing only until thoroughly incorporated. Divide the batter among the three prepared pan.

Bake the cake layers for 28 to 32 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Let the layers cool in the pans for 10 minutes; then carefully turn out onto wire racks, peel off the paper liners and let cool completely.

NOTE: This can be made in 3 9-inch pans, but the baking times will vary slightly, so keep an eye on them.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Festive Bundt and Hayden Turns 3 Months Old

I realize it's already December and no one is talking about Thanksgiving anymore. But this year we were lucky enough to celebrate Turkey Day twice! My aunt and uncle hosted a post Thanksgiving dinner at their house the day after Black Friday, which was nice because they had a smoked turkey, and a few different side dishes than we usually have- including squash casserole and shrimp stuffing. It was a casual affair as everyone brought leftovers to gobble up- my contribution was mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and this cake. It was kind of a last minute idea, but I hope it's a tradition we can keep up.

I made this about an hour before I had to leave to go to my aunts' house. I wasn't sure what I was going to make but I browsed through my trusty Bundt cookbook and this cake called out to me. It uses a boxed cake mix as the base, which was fine by me since I was already running behind and didn't have time to soften and cream butter. I was also holding Hayden while making this cake, so at least you know it's easy! It also incorporates egg nog and rum, which is a no brainer because not only festive but I love baking with booze. I don't drink it, but it's more than welcome in my cakes :-).

This recipe has you butter a Bundt pan and press sliced almonds up the sides of the pan. I was going to omit the nuts, but I'm so glad I left them in. The almonds create a buttery, slightly crunchy crust to the moist and tender cake. There's a full cup of egg nog in this cake, but if you chose to omit the rum, then you can just add equal parts egg nog and add a little rum extract. But don't forget to add the nutmeg, that's what makes this cake special. This cake is pretty enough for holiday gatherings but simple enough to cut a big hunk off and eat with your hands. In fact that's how a few of my family members ate this cake last week, and that's quite okay by me. If you try this cake, I hope you like it. Even my eggnog hater husband liked this cake.

Egg Nog Bundt Cake from Bundt Classics

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  • 2 Tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 (18.25 oz.) package yellow cake mix
  • 1 cup egg nog
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup rum*
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

Heat oven to 325 degrees F.

Grease a 12 cup Bundt Pan with 2 tablespoons of butter (do not use cooking spray). Press almonds on the bottom and up the sides of the pan.

In a large mixing bowl, mix all remaining ingredients. Mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. Carefully spoon batter into prepared pan.

Bakefor 55-64 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes in pan, then remove and cool completely on a wire rack.

*NOTE: I used a combination of light and dark rum. If you don't want to use alcohol in this cake, substitute the 1/2 cup rum with equal parts egg nog and add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon rum extract to the batter.

My sweet boy turned three months old this past Thursday. It's hard to believe how much he's grown sometimes. He's a full two feet long and 14 pounds. I put him on my kitchen scale to weigh him and my scale got confused and gave me a blank reading. Come to find out, my scale isn't able to carry that much weight, so I had to stand on the regular scale, then put him on it to figure out how much he weighed. haha! He's my little chunky monkey and I'm so proud of him and proud to be his momma. Feeding him breastmilk is so rewarding for me because I feel like I'm solely responsible for his survival. Does that make sense? I put those fat rolls there. I am contributing to those chubby hands and feet and I just love it- it makes all the hard work so worth it. Speaking of hands...the boy LOVES his hands. He wants to eat them and play with them and he rub them all the time. He reminds me of a little old man sitting in a recliner rubbing his hands together. He is such a little lover.

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