My Delicious Chocolate Orange Cake!

Chocolate Orange Cake
Zesty Chocolate Orange Cake

Almost everybody loves a good chocolate cake, but last week, I made a simple addition to my usual recipe to make an amazing chocolate orange cake. For some reason, I can’t follow a recipe without making a small change, adding a twist, or substituting an ingredient. It’s more fun that way, and I get to experiment in the otherwise strict domain of baking!

The following recipe is based on my go-to chocolate cake recipe, the ‘Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Cake’. I love that name. I’ve made it for guests and they love it, too. It’s very chocolate-y and it uses cocoa powder in both the cake and icing.

Chocolate Orange Cake
Zesty Chocolate Orange Cake

For some reason, I’ve been putting citrus zest in everything I make these days, so why not into a chocolate orange cake? I zested one orange into the batter and half an orange into the icing. That’s it. The taste of orange was incredible, making the cake seem like it was a specialty cake made by a pastry chef, served in a restaurant as the feature dessert! It tastes like Grand Marnier liqueur or Terry’s Chocolate Orange chocolates. I’m not one to boast about my baking abilities because I just follow (and change) recipes I find. Instead, I let my husband and kids tell me what they think, via unsolicited compliments! And, they loved this chocolate orange cake.

Chocolate Orange Cake
Zesty Chocolate Orange Cake
Chocolate Orange Cake
Zesty Chocolate Orange Cake

Chocolate Orange Cake
Ingredients
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
1 1/2 tsps baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil (or 6 T oil, 2 T yogurt)
2 tsps vanilla
Zest of one orange
1 cup boiling water

Method
Mix dry ingredients together. Add wet ingredients, except for water. Mix for 2 minutes. Add water and stir into batter. Batter will be very thin, so be careful if you incorporate the water with the mixer – it will splatter.

Bake in 2 greased and floured 9 inch pans, at 350, for 35-40 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove and cool completely on wire rack.

Chocolate Orange Frosting
Ingredients
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup cocoa
3 cups icing sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of half an orange

Method
Melt butter in saucepan and stir in cocoa. Remove from heat and add in icing sugar and milk, alternately. Add vanilla. Adjust milk and sugar to get the right consistency. Stir in orange zest.

Assemble and ice cooled cake. Sprinkle with more orange zest. And, there you have a chocolate orange cake, made with zest and not orange flavoring.

Chocolate Orange Cake
Zesty Chocolate Orange Cake
Chocolate Orange Cake
Zesty Chocolate Orange Cake

(Recipe adapted from Hershey’s)

What additions, twists, or changes do you make when you’re baking? I’d love to hear what works for you!

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The Best Shortbread Sugar Cookies For Canada Day!

Canada Day Cookies
Canada Day Cookies

Today marks the 150th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation! As an immigrant to Canada, I cannot be more grateful that I live here. I’m more proud every year and I love celebrating everything about Canada. When I first moved here, I kept asking people how Canada was different from the United States, where I had lived prior to moving. It was a lot of fun to hear what each person thought was the major difference. After living here for more than 25 years, I can tell you what is different, but that would be the subject of another post! Let’s just say that our cities consistently rank as the top livable cities in the world and that, along with Canada’s diversity, is one of the reasons I love living here.

This year we’ve seen lots of fun activities going on around the country in celebration of Canada’s 150th, also called Canada 150 by the Government of Canada.

For my small part, I made these Shortbread Sugar Cookies and decorated them with red and white icing and the word ‘eh’, which is very Canadian! You can read more about the word ‘eh’ here. The word is basically used as an engaging word when you’re speaking with someone. I love these cookies because they’re more butter-y than plain sugar cookies and they’re not as rich as pure shortbread.

Canada Day Cookies
Canada Day Cookies

If you’re Canadian, I wish you a very Happy Canada Day, and remember that there are celebrations going on all year in our great country. If you’re not Canadian, perhaps you’ll be inspired to try making a version of these cookies to celebrate your country’s independence day!

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(Vegan) Chocolate Banana Muffins

Chocolate Banana Muffins
Chocolate Banana Muffins

You know that feeling when you want to try a recipe but don’t have all the ingredients? Well, that happened to me yesterday, which is why there are parentheses around the word ‘Vegan’ in the title of this post.

My neighbor dropped off two chocolate banana muffins on Sunday, made by her vegan daughter. They were delicious: moist, dense, and super chocolate-y. And, because they’re vegan, you can safely lick the batter! I had to make these asap, because the two muffins didn’t last more than an hour, and, well, a craving is a craving.

When I looked up the recipe for these chocolate banana muffins on the Two Peas & Their Pod blog, I knew that I didn’t have white whole wheat flour nor did I have almond milk on hand. I stopped off at the drugstore to pick up milk and took a quick look in the baking section. As I sort of expected, they didn’t carry these items so I was going to make do with ingredients I had at home. It was too early for the natural food store to be open. Continue reading

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Rice Krispies Treats With Froot Loops

Rice Krispies Treats
Rice Krispies Treats With Froot Loops

There are a few treats that remind me of my childhood, and Rice Krispies Treats is one of them. When I was a kid, I went to school on a trimester system. That means we went to school for 12 weeks at a time, then had a 5 week ‘intersession’ period.

During one intersession, I took a baking class. I was 9 or 10 years old. That class is what started me on my lifelong baking adventure. My mom’s an amazing baker (and cook and entertainer…) and I used to watch her bake all the time. But, at the intersession class, I was the one baking and creating – on my own!

The first item we made was Rice Krispies Treats. They’re simple and fun. With all the sweet and bran-type cereals that followed Rice Krispies, I must admit that I don’t often choose Rice Krispies as my breakfast cereal. This means I usually buy a box of Rice Krispies, just to make the Treats. They’re so easy and quick to make, and everyone loves them. They’re the perfect snack for school or travel, too. Continue reading

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Peach Crumble Because It’s Still Peach Season!

IMG_1104It’s the first day of September and, in Ontario, it’s still  peach season!  You can find peaches in the grocery stores and at farmers’ markets.  And, they are delicious.

For the last three weeks, I’ve made a Peach Crumble every week because I can only eat peaches cooked.  My family has been enjoying this recipe, too.  We seem to eat it for breakfast or snack or dessert.

Last summer, I shared a recipe for Peach and Strawberry Crumble.  You can read that post to understand the difference between crumbles, crisps, and cobblers.  Personally, I love oatmeal, so I go for the crumbles.IMG_0787

This summer, I went for a straight peach crumble, and I made it in a 9 by 13 inch pan.   If you want to make this in a smaller pan, go ahead.  Just make sure the crumble doesn’t go past the top of the pan.IMG_0783

You can serve this with ice cream, cream, or milk.  I use the latter if I want to have the crumble for breakfast.  Go ahead, live a little! Continue reading

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Matzoh Crunch!

IMG_6585This week is Passover and you may have seen Matzoh Crunch in your grocery store or bakery.

I first saw this recipe when David Lebovitz (chef, baker, and cookbook author) appeared on the Martha Stewart show about 10 years ago.  It looked very easy to make, and it is!

Up front, I should say that I make this dessert all year round and get special requests from my kids and friends.  Matzoh Crunch is the popular name and David Lebovitz’s version is called Caramelized Matzoh Crunch With Chocolate.  Basically, it’s a cracker base with a caramel/toffee topping and chocolate.  What’s not to like?!

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Marshmallow Popcorn Treats

Marshmallow Popcorn Squares
Marshmallow Popcorn Squares

Do you have a favorite treat from when you were a kid?  I have lots because I have a very sweet tooth!  One that I remember making a lot is Marshmallow Treats. ‘Rice Krispies Squares’ or ‘Marshmallow Squares’ are other names for these delicious snacks.  Whatever the name, these treats remind me of my childhood and simpler times.

Invented by Mildred Day, an employee at Kellogg’s, and her co-worker Malitta Jensen in 1939, Marshmallow Treats’ popularity grew when they were suggested in response to a fundraising request to Kellogg’s.  By 1940, the recipe was advertised by Kellogg’s and has been a big hit ever since.  And, by the 1990’s, these bars were a packaged good widely available on grocery store shelves.

Marshmallow Popcorn Squares
Marshmallow Popcorn Squares

When I was in grade school, I took a cooking activity where we made these easy and yummy Marshmallow Treats.  I remember asking my parents to buy marshmallow creme and marshmallows all the time so I could make these whenever I wanted.

Recently, I went to an adult luncheon, and someone had made Marshmallow Treats, but with popcorn.  They were delicious and it was the first time that I had seen them.  I don’t usually have dessert at lunch (it’s more of an after dinner thing for me), but I couldn’t stop eating them.  I came home and googled the recipe and made them that evening.  When my daughter took them to school, she said her friends kept asking her what they were.

The recipes I found basically followed Kellogg’s Rice Krispies’ “The Original Treats” recipe, with the variation of adding the popcorn and chocolate drizzle.

Here’s what I ended up doing.

Marshmallow Popcorn Treats

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 40 regular sized marshmallows
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 12 cups Skinny Pop popcorn
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips, melted

Method:

  • Melt butter and marshmallows in a large saucepan over low heat.  When completely melted, remove from heat and add the vanilla.
  • Add the popcorn and stir until well coated
  • Spread the mixture into a 13 by 9 by 2 inch pan, sprayed, lined with parchment paper, and sprayed again
  • Wait 5 minutes and then flatten the mixture with a clean spoon or spatula.  If you wait, it is not as sticky to spread!
  • Refrigerate half an hour
  • Melt the chocolate chips and drizzle them over the mixture
  • Refrigerate again
  • Cut up and store in a covered container in the fridge
Marshmallow Popcorn Squares
Marshmallow Popcorn Squares

Enjoy!  I’d love to know if you have ever made or had these Marshmallow Popcorn Treats.

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Frozen Fruit Smoothies – Even in Winter!

Frozen Fruit Smoothie
Frozen Fruit Smoothie

In my post on New Year’s resolutions, I said that I’d publish a post on frozen fruit smoothies.  Here it is!  Because eating more fruit is one of my resolutions, fruit smoothies are an easy way to meet this goal.

This time of year in Canada it can be hard to get fresh fruit that tastes good and is reasonably priced.  Of course, to keep your diet varied, you treat yourself to your favorite fruits from time to time.  Mine are pineapples and mangoes.

But, if you don’t buy as many fruits in the winter, or you find yourself not finishing what you’ve bought, then consider the option of freezing leftover fruits and making smoothies.  You can buy frozen fruits at the store but, by freezing unused fruits, I’m trying to accomplish another resolution, which is to waste less food.

Here’s what I do.

Any fresh fruit that hasn’t been eaten within a few days of being ripe gets cut up and put in a glass dish in the freezer overnight.  I seem to have ripe bananas, pineapples, and strawberries left over the most. When I take the fruit out, I let it sit for a few minutes, then use a knife to loosen the fruit and store it in a freezer bag.  Voila: unwasted fruit and fresh smoothie material!

To make smoothies, I use the Magic Bullet.  You can use a blender, but the Magic Bullet is compact, convenient, and makes an individual serving quickly and with little clean-up.

For my smoothies, I fill the Magic Bullet cup with frozen fruit to the top and then add half orange juice and half water to the top.  I find orange juice to be too caloric to make up all of the liquid in the smoothie.  Then, I blend it, add more water if need be, and that’s it.

Some tips:

  • Use pineapples and bananas to add a smooth texture; they’re the ‘softest’ frozen fruits
  • Add yogurt, milk, or other juices if you don’t want to use orange juice as a base
  • Use a mixture of fresh and frozen fruits if you don’t want your drink completely frozen
  • Be aware that this is a ‘cold’ drink, and not your classic winter one, so dress appropriately!

What do you put in your smoothies?  I’d love to hear about it.

Frozen Fruit Smoothie
Frozen Fruit Smoothie

Enjoy!

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Pumpkin Bars… If You Can Find The Pumpkins!!

IMG_2160Further to my last post on Canadian Thanksgiving, I thought I would write a quick one on pumpkin bars and the fact that making them (and anything else requiring pumpkin puree) this year might pose a challenge!!

You see, canned pumpkins, the main ingredient in the bars, are made from ‘pie’ or ‘sugar’ pumpkins.  Pie pumpkins are the smaller, denser, darker version of the larger, thin-walled pumpkins we use for carving jack-o-lanterns at Halloween. These pie pumpkins are made into puree and canned in the fall and are available all year – technically.

This fall, pie pumpkins are in short supply due to the heavy rains this summer in the Midwestern United States where most of the pies are grown. The problem is serious enough to cause some concern for Americans as they plan their upcoming Thanksgiving dinner menu which undoubtedly will include some variation of pumpkin in several dishes.

According to Bloomberg News, Libby’s, the largest producer of pumpkins, says they have enough product to make 45 million 8 inch pies, which is half of what they normally produce. They think this is enough to get through Thanksgiving but, after that, there could be a shortage that will have to wait until next year’s harvest to be satisfied. Continue reading

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Rainbow Bit Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting

IMG_0145

The kids came home from camp last week and my husband asked if I was going to bake a cake.  I think he secretly wanted one because I had never baked a welcome home cake for them before!  He chose a rainbow bit cake with cream cheese frosting which was a great idea because it is so colorful and happy.

This cake comes from a Betty Crocker cake mix which was easy enough. Finding the Rainbow Bit flavor was a bit harder.  As I made several calls to find a retailer that carried this flavor, I got to wondering about the origin of a rainbow bit cake.

What I found out is that this is basically a funfetti cake in a box.  I had never heard of a funfetti cake before!  It’s a white cake with sprinkles or rainbow chips (made with colored white chocolate bits) baked in. There are many recipes online and one even includes a recipe for making homemade sprinkles, here. Continue reading

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