plum upside-down cakes

One of the first houses I lived in was a little one-story brick dwelling with black shutters and a side yard made up of a cement pad that my grandma made with her own hard-workin’ hands. She would mix up each small batch of cement in her wheel barrow with a garden hoe that had the handle broken off and would call my sister and me over to help her scrape out the mixture into her two-by-four square frames she was working in. I felt like she was making that cement patio for the first 16 years of my life. That’s not real. It didn’t take her that long. She had muscles. But I remember in the summer we’d take a break and walk to the front yard where our plum tree lived and she’d flick a branch and we’d run around the bottom of it catching fruits as if the tree were a piñata. And we’d sit on our railing-less porch with our feet dangling and eat those plums like we didn’t know anything different. I used to be afraid of the skins. I remember peeling the skins off and throwing them in the grass. Don’t listen to my child self. The skins of plums are really good and the whole fruit kind of tastes like a giant grape.

Plums, along with other stone fruits like peaches and apricots, love this time of year and taste best right about now. The category of fruits called stone fruits is called that because of the pit in the middle. The seed is really hard, like a stone. And, in addition to them tasting good, plums have lots of fiber. Ah, yes, now you remember. Prunes=dried plums. Haha. Prunes. That word just makes me laugh. Feeling clogged up? Try eating a plum before reaching for that prune juice….pbbb, prune.

I decided to make a version of a Martha upside-down cake I found on her website. Hers are way prettier than mine, but I wanted to use some little pans I recently inherited from my family’s bakery, which, unfortunately, no longer exists. My great grandmother and her husband opened the first one in Myrtle Beach in the 1940s and they made some really neat, intricate cakes and, according to my dad, some awesome doughnuts. After seeing Martha’s recipe and remembering these cute, little, family-enriched pans, I decided to make a few individual plum upside-down cakes.

plum upside-down cakes
adapted from Martha Stewart’s nectarine, plum, and apricot upside-down cake
prep time: 30 minutes cook time: 30 minutes yield: 36 small cakes

fruit enhancer
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp dark rum
2 cups light-brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp coarse salt

2 pounds black plums, about 10
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cake flour, not self-rising
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups natural cane sugar
4 large eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make the fruit enhancer: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, maple syrup, dark rum, light-brown sugar, vanilla extract, and salt until well blended.

Grease pan of your choice. You can make one big cake or multiple small ones. I used small tart pans (about 5”). Divide fruit enhancer evenly among pans and spread to make smooth. Slice fruit into 1/4-inch wedges. Arrange fruit slices in a fanlike, circular pattern on top of fruit enhancer.

Make cake: Into a medium bowl, sift together flours, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in eggs, one at a time, and then beat in vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour. Beat until combined after each addition.

Divide the batter between the pans prepared with the fruit. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through, until the cakes are golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the centers comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool. When completely cool, loosen sides of cakes with paring knife and invert onto plate or cake stand.

I have another little brick house plum tree story. My sister and I had a good friend who lived across the street named Pedro. We did everything with Pedro. We had Power Ranger marathons, I saw my first Coolio music video at his house, and I’m pretty sure we purposely made mud pits in his back yard to play in. One day we decided we wanted to bury a box in the ground with our most precious valuables enclosed so the future explorers of the world would dig it up and learn of the vast history of the time and we’d become famous long after we’d already passed. I’m pretty sure I just placed a plastic Barbie shell bracelet in the shoebox and I know we all signed our names with the date on a piece of paper. We dug a hole under the plum tree and scooted the dirt over the box with our hands. It is still there. We never dug it up. I’m actually impressed. There have been several families that have lived there since we left and I’ll bet none of them were aware of the shell bracelet beneath the dirt, but I’m sure they enjoyed those oh-so-good plums every summer. To those families: you’re welcome.

peach cheesecake cookie bars

Oh, sweet, sweet, beautiful peaches. South Carolina’s gold, the southeastern United States’ pride, a symbol of Southern charm and grace (although, dare I say, that I believe California is the US’ number one peach producer, with Georgia actually being third behind SC). Regional competition and rivalry aside, peaches are probably the fruit that I anticipate the most when summer settles in (oo, strawberries. Hmm. Argh, and then there’s blueberries. Okay, okay, I can’t decide). The pretty fuzz, the sound of the pit being removed from the fruit, the gentle transition of red to orange to yellow in the center. Mm. Mm, mm, mm.

On the fourth of July, my husband and I spent the day at his parents’ house, swimming and doing a lot of eating. Somehow we ended up with these peach cheesecake cookie bars, peach cobbler, peach drinks, and peach ice cream. I think somewhere in there we had some meat and perhaps a vegetable, but those were scarfed down rather quickly while we kept our eyes on that dessert table. These bars are kind of a combination of several desserts: the bottom crust is like a shortbread, the middle cheesecake layer being the star of the show, and the top gives it almost a pie taste with an oatmeal cinnamon crumble.

peach cheesecake cookie bars
prep time: 25 minutes cook time: 35 minutes yield: 12 servings
cookie crust
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup unrefined sugar
pinch of salt
1 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tbsp cold water

peach cheesecake filling
10 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup unrefined sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 peaches, peeled and pitted and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

oatmeal crumble topping
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
dash of ground cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350º. For the cookie crust, cream the butter, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Gradually add the flour a little at a time, mixing after each addition, and rubbing the last bit of flour in with your hands to make it crumbly. Add the cold water and bring together. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom and slightly up the sides in a greased square baking pan and chill in the freezer for 5 minutes. Bake for 15 minutes and remove to let cool.
While the crust in cooking, prepare the oatmeal topping. In a large bowl, combine the brown sugar, flour, oats, and cinnamon and then toss with the melted butter. Rub together with your fingers until the mixture becomes crumbly.
For the cheesecake filling, combine the cream cheese and sugar in a bowl and beat with a mixer until smooth. Mix in the egg and vanilla until just incorporated. By hand, fold in the peach cubes, being careful not to overmix.
Lower the heat in the oven to 325º. Pour the cheesecake mixture into the prepared cookie crust and spread evenly. Crumble the oatmeal topping over the cheesecake filling and bake for about 35 minutes until the pan looks set when given a shake and the top looks dry.
Let cool completely and then chill in the refrigerator before cutting into squares.

My sister has a very successful peach tree in her side yard and it explodes these cute, little peaches out of its branches relatively quickly every summer. I mean, the tree can’t even hold these babies. Its limbs drag the ground and hang out into the road and cars swerve around it trying to protect its heavy-set beauty. Okay, cars don’t really swerve and crash or anything. My sister isn’t evading the law. She maintains the tree pretty well. The point is, peach trees love this climate, the soil here, and are so good at pumping out food. It’s so cool. Agriculture is a beautiful thing.

strawberry chocolate cookies

I warned you all. Since strawberries are in season and since they are one of my favorite foods and since I have a huge bucket of them in my fridge, you guys get the grunt of my situation: strawberry recipes. I did a strawberry lemonade and strawberry buttercream recipe a few weeks back and it seems that the list may just keep right on growin’. Everybody okay with this?


…okay, then onto more strawberry recipes it is.

This cookie is an adaptation of a Martha recipe I found a while back with a really great chocolatey, moist, chewy, non-cakey consistency. Pause. Does anyone really like cakey cookies? I’ve not met one person who is like, “YES, this cookie is dry and puffy. Now get me some milk.” If I want cake, I’m gonna eat some cake, but when I want a cookie, I want a little crunch on the outside with a really soft inside. This chocolate cookie is one of those cookies.

Strawberries! Chocolate! Chewiness! With these powers combined, this cookie is awesome.

strawberry chocolate cookies
adapted from Martha’s Outrageous Chocolate Cookies
yield: 2 dozen cookies prep time: 20 minutes cook time: 15 minutes
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup diced strawberries, stems removed

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat chocolate chips and butter in a microwave-safe bowl in 20-second increments, stirring between each, until almost melted; do not overheat. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
In a mixing bowl, beat eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla on high-speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low; beat in melted chocolate. Mix in flour mixture until just combined. With a rubber spatula, gently fold in diced strawberries.
Drop heaping tablespoons of dough 2 to 3 inches apart onto baking sheets. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies are shiny and crackly yet soft in centers, about 15 minutes. Cool on baking sheets 10 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Note: If the batter appears thin, it’s okay. It should look more like brownie batter rather than cookie dough.

State climate update: The 18 skeeter bites on my ankles can attest to the fact that summer has plopped itself down and is hastily soaking up any welcome it’s been given here in SC. Those almost blue blueberries out in my front yard can attest to that, too. It’s cool, though. I think I can accept SC’s quirks and personality traits and letting strawberry season and, basically, every other season come a wee early this year. That broiling heat, confidently I say, will be around for a while, so South Carolinians, brace yourselves. Let’s get through it by eating fresh and tasty food and by never being more than two feet away from a glass of glorious sweet, sweet tea.

strawberry buttercream

Do I realize I just did a buttercream recipe several weeks ago? Mmhmm. Big whoop, right? It’s icing. Plus, my brother’s birthday was yesterday. Sniff, sniff, he’s no longer a teenager. The big two oh. It’s weird, you know? I totally remember the Power Ranger phase, the skateboarding phase, the long hair phase, the Barney phase. And now he’s an adult. Phew. Movin’ on up.

Remember those big ol’ South Carolina strawberries I was telling you about a little bit ago? They are coming back into play for this recipe. I used some berries from Lowrys, SC and they are it. This buttercream is sweet, happy, and I’m gonna say addicting, just because I love strawberries and I couldn’t stop eating it from the tip of the piping bag. Oh, please don’t tell my family. I don’t have germs, hehh.

My sister told me this cake looked too girly. Sorry, brother. We’re cool, though, right?

strawberry buttercream
yield: enough for a 3 layer cake or 24 cupcakes time: 10 minutes
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup strawberries, puréed
4 cups unrefined powdered sugar

In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, cream the butter until smooth. Add the strawberry purée and mix until thoroughly combined. While the mixer is running on low, gradually add the powdered sugar until it’s incorporated. Turn the mixer to medium-high speed and beat for 2 minutes, until fluffy. Adjust the powdered sugar to create the right consistency, if needed. The buttercream should be pliable, but firm enough to hold a peak.

Happy Birthday, Joey! Here’s to lots more years of siblinghood!

peanut butter cupcakes with banana buttercream

My husband despises bananas. Well, it’s not really that he doesn’t like the flavor. They just make him feel funny. Sometimes I chase him around the house with a banana peel shouting, “Ooo! Banana!” and fling it at his face just to see him squirm at the thought of his dreaded banana tinglies. Man, I’m mean. And just so you can picture the situation: our house is about two square feet. No, really, it’s like 550, so a chase in our house is more or less running around in circles.

Why, then, did I make miniature cakes with banana frosting? I happen to love bananas. Doesn’t that leave 12 cupcakes floating around our house with possibly only one consumer? Yes. Yes, it does. No, I didn’t plan it this way. I didn’t.

peanut butter cupcakes with banana buttercream
yield: about 12 regular cupcakes prep time: 30 minutes cook time: 20 minutes
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups all natural cane sugar
1/3 cup  all natural peanut butter
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 ripe banana, mashed
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups unrefined powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350º. In the bowl of a mixer fixed with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the peanut butter and eggs and mix until fully incorporated. Pour in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix until just combined. Finally, add the buttermilk and vanilla extract and mix on low until combined. Turn the mixer speed to medium and beat about two minutes.
Butter and flour a standard 12 count cupcake pan. Fill each space about halfway with batter. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake returns clean. Let cool for a few minutes in the pan and then run a knife along the edges to loosen the cakes. Transfer to a rack or plate to cool completely.
To make the buttercream, use a hand mixer to fully combine the mashed banana and butter in a large mixing bowl. Add the powdered sugar in stages, mixing well after each addition, until the desired consistency is met. It should be pliable, but firm enough to hold a peak.
Once the cupcakes are cooled completely, pipe the buttercream onto the cakes using a piping bag.

For the love of all things good, please please find a peanut butter that doesn’t contain a hydrogenated oil. Hydrogenated oils (oils pumped with hydrogen) are basically the ingredients slack, greedy companies use in place of butter. Calm down, self. Holy moly, I can get fired up. Calmly, these oils are not the natural fats our bodies need. They are molecularly changed. Our bodies don’t know what to do with them. They are, undramatically, poison. What’s wrong with a good ol’ plain peanut? Nothing, I tell you! Nothing!

Ay caramba. Someone get me a glass of water. I’m gonna wave these cupcakes around in front of my husband while he plays the original Grand Theft Auto pretending to ignore me. The two of us, owh, boy.

lemon yogurt muffins

I’m relatively unfamiliar with cooking with yogurt. In fact, I can’t remember doing it…ever? I know people cook with it for healthy alternatives to sour cream and heavy cream and put it in soups and sauces to make it creamier, but I’m pretty boring and stick to vanilla with chopped strawberries and bananas. I eat that basically everyday. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Who invented that combo, anyway? Strawberries and bananas? Thank you, my friend, because after 25 years, I’m still not tired of it. So, today is something new for me, friends! Cooking with yogurt!

When I was told that I was a finalist in the Stonyfield and Organic Valley blogging contest, I received a yogurt cookbook as part of my finalist prize package. I’ve flipped through it a couple of times, never deciding on anything particular to make, until last weekend when my husband was out-of-town, leaving me here to laze on the couch for hours listening to baseball on the radio and read through my cookbooks, hoping some inspiration would jump into my head from the pages of yogurt-studded recipes. “Gasp! Yes…perhaps this,” I said, placing my finger in the spot to continue flipping. I read the entire thing, knowing my husband would have loved the roasted lamb with mint-yogurt sauce or the beef curry or the rabbit with yogurt, buttt…it was just me at the house, right? Mmmhmm. So, I went back to my held place and drooled at the sound of lemon yogurt muffins.

The book is called Stonyfield Organic Yogurt Cookbook, with recipes compiled by Meg Hirshberg. This muffin recipe is specifically cited to Prue Holtman of Wooster, Ohio. Thank ya, thank ya!


lemon yogurt muffins
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup natural cane sugar
2 tbsp honey
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups plain yogurt (I actually used Greek vanilla and it was delicious)
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tbsp grated lemon zest

lemon glaze
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar
3 tbsp water

Preheat the oven to 375º. Butter and flour a 12 muffin tin. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix the sugar, honey, eggs, yogurt, butter, and lemon zest. Add the flour mixture and stir until well combined (the batter will be thick). Spoon the batter into the muffin tin and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the muffins are lightly browned.
While the muffins are baking, prepare the lemon syrup by mixing the lemon juice, sugar, and water until the sugar dissolves. When the muffins are fully baked, remove them from the oven and pierce the top of each with a fork. Drizzle lemon syrup over the muffins. Let them cool in the tin for 3 minutes, then remove them to wire rack to finish cooling.

When the muffins come from the oven, they look like cornbread. Resist the urge to whip up some fried chicken and squash because these muffins are light and sweet, with a really bright and fresh lemon flavor. My sister has a Meyer lemon tree in her house with dozens of little buds all over it. Yes! She doesn’t know, but I’ll probably come steal some lemons in the night. Money, jewels, valuables? Forget it. Just hand over the lemons and no one gets hurt.

caramel and peanut popcorn

Last week my husband and I got to celebrate two things (and not in any particular order…just kidding, Andy, heh…): his birthday and the season opener to the 2012 season of Carolina baseball. Maybe you’ve heard that we won the national title two years in…okay, I’ll stop. But, yes, Andy’s birthday was last week and we always spend part of his celebration by going to the first game of the season and cooking a big, fun tailgate meal and hanging out at the park for hours before the first pitch. Trust me, it’s always wayyyy too much food for two people to eat, but, somehow, we manage to take it to the house every time, leaving enough for a shared leftover lunch the next day. So, we enter the game a little sleepy, a few pounds heavier, super pumped to heckle the left fielder (no, no, we’d never do that), and watch some championship-quality baseball.

I try to include at least one baseball classic in the tailgate menu every year. Last year we had roasted and salted peanuts and Carolina BBQ. This year I made some caramel and peanut popcorn, homemade Cracker Jacks, if you will. No offense to Cracker Jacks (and I guess they have one up on me, that darn little prize in the bottom), but I think this popcorn was so much more delicious.

Do do do do, strum dum dum, try some today!

That was my 1950s caramel and peanut popcorn jingle.

caramel and peanut popcorn
about 6 cups popped corn
1 cup all natural cane sugar
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup roasted peanuts, shelled

In a heavy-bottomed pan, combine the sugar and water over medium-low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat slightly and bring to a boil without stirring. You may need to use a wet pastry brush to brush any crystals down that form on the sides of the pan. Boil until the sugar is a deep amber color, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and gently whisk in the heavy cream (don’t worry, it’s normal to bubble). Stir in the butter and vanilla extract. Transfer to a bowl and let cool.
Preheat the oven to 250º. Add the popped corn to a large mixing bowl. Pour the cooled caramel over the popped corn and sprinkle the peanuts over. Very carefully, use a rubber spatula to evenly coat the popcorn with the caramel and peanuts. Turn the mixture into a greased casserole dish and bake for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove the pan and stir the popcorn. Return to the oven and bake for 10 minutes longer.

I found that I ate more of this popcorn before it was even baked. It was SO good that way. And SO good baked, too. So, really, you can eat it at any stage of this process. Another perk: no corn syrup. I mean, cavemen made caramel without it, so we certainly can, too. That’s right, you know those cavemen were makin’ some caramel. Hm.

Oh, did I mention that South Carolina baseball has won two…oh? I did. Okay. Well, did I mention that Andy just turned another year older? Ah, yes, he did. So, happy birthday, husband, and go Gamecocks.

blueberry apple pie

Well, you little love chickadees, tomorrow is y’all’s day! I hope you have tons of fun, wear incredible heels, eat the bomb food, and, if you’re like me and will just be hangin’ around, I hope you have an awesome evening of normal activities.

Maybe you two can bake a lil’ pie together. How sweet is that?

The recipe for the crust is from Smitten Kitchen (swoon) and you really can make any combination of filling that you like. I did blueberry and apple and layered them separately (really just because I was curious and wanted to see what would happen), but you can cut the fruits into chunks, mix ’em all up, layer them, whatever your heart is fancyin’ because, honey, this is yo’ pie. Okay…go!

blueberry apple pie
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1 tbsp natural cane sugar
1 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, very cold

3 apples, peeled, cored, and cut into slices
2 cups blueberries
1 tbsp lemon juice
3/4 cup natural cane sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
2 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1 egg, lightly beaten

For the crust, fill a small bowl with water and drop a few ice cubes in. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and salt. Sprinkle the very cold pieces of butter into the flour mixture and quickly rub the butter into the flour until it resembles little peas. Add ice water (no ice cubes!) one tablespoon at a time until the mixture just comes together (I think I used almost a cup of cold water). Gather it up and turn it onto a floured surface. Knead gently and very quickly until it all comes together (Don’t let that butter melt. Those pieces of butter are gonna make a beautiful, flaky crust). Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a disk. Wrap separately in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 500º and position the rack to the lowest part of the oven. Place a rimmed baking sheet on the rack so it can preheat. Remove one of the doughs from the refrigerator and let stand until malleable. Roll the dough on a floured surface to a 12 inch circle. Transfer the flat dough to a pie plate (I usually roll it around the rolling-pin and then unroll it over the pie plate. This way, it doesn’t tear and stretch). Gently ease the dough into the plate corners and place in the refrigerator.

For the filling, toss the fruit with the lemon juice. In a bowl, combine the sugar, flour, salt, and spices. Toss the sugar mixture with the fruit and turn the whole mixture into the chilled pie crust. It will mound up a little in the center.
Roll out the second disk of dough to a 12 inch circle. Transfer it to the top of the fruit mixture and trim the top and bottom crusts to 1/2 inch beyond the edge of the plate. Crimp edges together however you’d like so that the two crusts seal. Cut four slits in the top (or use cookie cutters to create something way more cute) to vent and brush the entire crust with the beaten egg. Sprinkle with the tablespoon of sugar.
Place the pie on the baking sheet and reduce the temperature to 425º. Bake until the top is golden, about 25 minutes. Rotate the pie and reduce the temperature to 375º. Continue baking until the crust is deep golden brown and yummy fruit juices start bubbling, about 30 minutes more. Let cool to room temperature before slicing.

Whenever I eat pie, I always remember that cartoon Little Bear. Anyone? Anyone? I feel like they were eatin’ blueberry pie every episode. And they were always pickin’ blueberries. They lived a delicious life. Speaking of, the blueberries from my pie were picked back in the summer here in South Carolina. Blueberry picking is so fun, but so hot. I mean, like 100 degrees before nine o’clock AM hot. Despite the drenched shirt and sweaty hair and bumble bee, yellow jacket, and honey bee (what other kind of bee is there?…that, too) battle, it’s totally worth it. Those berries are the best, goodness gracious. South Carolina has a talent in blueberry growing.

Next mission: find a pretty pie plate. I’m pretty sure I bought that glass plate in college from a gas station.

chocolate amaretto sandwich cookies

I’ve never really understood Valentine’s Day. I’m not saying I’m against it. I’ve never been against it. It’s just never really interested me. It’s funny, when people ask what my husband and I are doing when the 14th rolls around, I’m like, “…uhh. Possibly going to the grocery store. Working. Going for a run? Oh? Were you expecting a different answer? (looks at the calendar) Ohh. It’s Valentine’s Day. Heh..” And I don’t really like to be that person that’s like, “Psh, Valentine’s? Do you think I’m going to participate in such things? Me? Please…talk to the hand.” and be all holier-than-thou. Some people like VDay, and I can appreciate it. So, for y’all who love to love on the official love day, these cookies are for you.

chocolate amaretto sandwich cookies
1 1/8 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup all natural cane sugar
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

4 1/2 squares bittersweet chocolate, chopped into pieces
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp amaretto liqueur

Preheat the oven to 325º. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Place the butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat together until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Sift the flour, unsweetened cocoa, and ground cinnamon into the bowl and mix until a smooth dough forms. It will be thick, almost fudge-like.
Place the dough between 2 sheets of parchment and roll out to 1/8″ thick. Stamp out desired size heart shapes and place on the prepared cookie sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until firm to the touch. Let cool for 2 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely.
To make the filling, place the chocolate, cream, and amaretto (really, is there any other than Disaronno?) in a pan and heat gently on low until the chocolate has melted. Stir until smooth. Let cool, then let chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours, or until firm. Sandwich the cookies together in pairs with a spoonful of chocolate cream and serve.

Happy Valentine’s to those who are looking for a sweet treat to create and who are currently super excited about planning a fun day. And you know? You don’t have to settle for random stuff in the drugstore with icky ingredients your body doesn’t like. You really can make delicious things your body can more easily process. And…just for the record…I never said it was calorie-free.

P.S. A bunch of future friends (AKA blogging people who I know I will love) and I are going to Disney World next month to talk about awesome blogging things and hang out with Mickey! I’m jumpin’ outta my boots right now. I can’t wait to meet all of you! Thank you Food Blog Forum and Walt Disney World!

fluffy marshmallow frosting

Today was Gowie’s birthday! You all remember Gowie. Gowie (grandmother), the one who gave me my KitchenAid and still supplies me with pantryfuls of candy. She turned 22 again. I remember when I turned 22 and we were the same age. That was weird. Then I remember when I turned 23 and surpassed my 22-year-old Gowie. That was weird, too, but I think it was that year that I realized why she turns 22 years old every birthday. But, despite that realization, my age kept on churning to my current ripe 25 and she is still standing firm at 22. I like it. She is totally awesome and loves Jesus and likes to have more fun than lots of people I know who are younger than 22. She knows how to rap, knows sweet lingo, loves Neil Diamond (whoops, that slipped in), and my cousins and I were even going to name our rock band after her. It was going to be called, simply, Gowie.

You may be wondering why her name is Gowie. It’s not too complicated. My twin sister and I are weird and had our own language when we were babies. We’d babble back and forth and absolutely knew what the other was saying, but in real life, it sounded something like, “abbeldabblick gorkadips.” Well, our two older cousins could speak English and called Gowie “Granny” and we wanted to be cool like them and also call Gowie “Granny”. “Granny” came out as Gowie. And, so, now the whole world calls her Gowie. I’ll bet her birth certificate just says “Gowie.” I’ll bet she introduces herself to strangers as “Gowie.”

So, yes. Today was Gowie’s birthday and we most certainly had a birthday party. There would be no other way. We sang, took pictures, passed around sentimental cards, and ate the cake I made her for her party. I wanted it to be special. After all, Gowie was turning 22 again and it needed to be her cake. She loves chocolate. Check. Chocolate cake. I didn’t want to it be, like, double double double chocolate, so I made this really fun, yummy, stick-your-fingers-in-the-cake frosting. I used this when I made my sister’s wedding cakes and it’s really easy to decorate with. You just plop it on and spread. And since it’s so fluffy and pretty and cloud-like, it doesn’t have to be perfect.

I got this recipe from King Arthur Flour’s website (they make the bomb flour, by the way). I changed the title because the frosting is really like fluffy marshmallow topping.

fluffy marshmallow frosting
2 large egg whites
1 cup natural cane sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/3 cup water
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

Place the 2 egg whites in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer. Beat until the egg whites are foamy and thick. They should mound in the bowl, without holding a peak. Set them aside while you prepare the sugar syrup.
Combine the sugar, cream of tartar, water, and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. The sugar should be dissolved. If the sugar hasn’t dissolved, cook and stir a bit more until it has.
Begin to beat the egg whites and immediately pour the boiling sugar syrup into the egg whites in a slow stream, beating all the while. As you beat, the mixture will thicken.
Once all the syrup is added, stir in the vanilla and continue to beat until the frosting is thick and will hold a peak, about 3 minutes. While the frosting is still a little warm, decorate your cake.

Happy Birthday, Gowie. I hope we all stay 22 like you.