Obsessive Chocoholic Foodie Seeking Amazing Microwave Chocolate Cake Recipe

It’s no secret I have a sweet tooth and a serious weakness for just about anything chocolate. Okay, not anything. I wouldn’t enjoy chocolate licorice (I HATE all licorice – I think it’s a texture thing) or chocolate-covered olives (I don’t dig olives either), but almost anything else is fair game.

But when it comes right down to it, nothing satisfies my sweet tooth like rich chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. And I’m not even snobby about it. I really love the chocolate cake from Portillo’s and wouldn’t shy away from a box mix. I’m a bit more particular about the frosting, but let’s face it, today is really all about the cake.

I don’t make cake often. I’m not a baker and don’t really like to have it sitting around because, obviously, I’d eat the whole thing. Throughout the past year I’ve taken to making microwaved versions of individual chocolate cakes in a mug and have tried more recipes than my hips care to recount.

The problem is they’re never quite right: always a little dry or too sweet or not chocolatey enough.

I’m thinking the biggest taste/texture issue is lack of frosting. After all, the purpose of this cake is to quickly make a single serving and that doesn’t include whipping up a buttercream. Plus, I’m trying to keep the calories somewhat in check.

Today I took a different route that I thought would be more successful. Instead of making a batter that contains baking powder and/or baking soda, I scaled back a very simple molten chocolate lava cake recipe. I thought the flowing, ooey, gooey, lava would make up for the lack of frosting. Makes sense, right?

Well, not if there wasn’t any lava. Microwaving the batter resulted in a mostly cooked through cake that was just so-so in taste. Not that it stopped me from eating it, but again, that’s another issue.

The way I see it, I have four options:

  1. Try the lava cake idea again with some tweaks. I wonder if I can microwave the cake in a water bath?
  2. Come up with a fresh idea.
  3. Give up on this ridiculous obsession all together because these sad little microwaved cakes just aren’t cutting it.
  4. Get my expectations in line and accept that the microwave version will never be as good as the real thing.



Marshmallow Treats

Marshmallow Treats

Marshmallow Treats

For years I’ve thought about buying a candy thermometer but never quite got around to it. Sort of like joining a gym… a good idea in theory that just never seemed convenient. And now, somehow, I’m talking about gyms and candy at the same time, which probably is an analysis best left for another time.

Regardless, a few weeks ago I finally bought a candy thermometer so I could make English toffee and ever since it’s like a new world has opened up to me. I generally don’t like to make pastries because they’re too fussy, but candy is a different story.

The most difficult part is patience because the goal (usually) is to slowly heat the sugar mixture to a specific temperature. And the second hardest part is remembering not to touch it! It’s so tempting, but I always think back to my baking and pastry class where another student burnt her fingers really badly by touching hot sugar. {shiver}

Now that you’ve been adequately warned, it’s time to make these incredibly delectable, light and fluffy, ooey and gooey marshmallow treats.

I made the marshmallow treats for a New Years Eve party and had so much fun experimenting that I wound up with two different toppings: semisweet chocolate with crushed candy canes and peanut butter milk chocolate! The candy cane topping was the easiest because it only required one round of dipping, whereas the peanut butter milk chocolate was more time-consuming by first dipping the marshmallows in melted peanut butter, freezing, then dipping in melted milk chocolate.

Either way, both types of marshmallow treats were a huge hit, although I slightly favored the peanut butter version because it reminded me of a gooey Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. But you don’t have to dip them at all. These marshmallows would be fantastic toasted on their own or as s’mores, or even with hot chocolate.

Please make these, I beg you. It’s for your own good! You’ll be loved and worshipped by everyone who tastes them. And let me know how you top your marshmallow treats!

Here’s the recipe:

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English Toffee for a Homemade Holiday Gift

English Toffee

English Toffee

Last year was the first time I passed out homemade gifts. I was a bit hesitant at first: Did it make me look cheap? Would giving gifts to people I don’t usually exchange with be uncomfortable? And what if whatever I made wasn’t impressive enough?

English Toffee

Luckily, my doubts were unfounded and completely ridiculous. I discovered that most people appreciate a homemade gift, especially if you package it with a pretty bow. Sounds a little silly, I know, but it’s what I believe.

English Toffee04 English Toffee05 English Toffee06

The loaded fortune cookies I made last year were a huge hit. Not only did the giant cookies make for a striking presentation, but they also tasted great. Unfortunately, they also took forever to make.

English Toffee07 English Toffee08 English Toffee09

So this year I decided to try something new, something I’ve been wanting to make for years but was always just a little afraid: English toffee. It’s a favorite table snack at events like weddings and holiday get-togethers, but I wanted to try a homemade version.

English Toffee10 English Toffee11 English Toffee12

Now that I’d finally worked up the courage to make English toffee (and purchased a much needed candy thermometer), I needed a recipe. After scouring the Internet and taking recommendations on Twitter, I wound up combining the two that looked most promising: Busy Cooks and Paula Deen (afterall, the woman knows butter). My favorite thing about the Busy Cooks recipe was that it called for chocolate and nuts on both sides, something every good English toffee should have. Also, I noticed that many recipes used walnuts or almonds and usually instructed to mix them into the toffee itself, but I’ve always known it with pecans so that’s what I stuck with and used them only on the outside of the toffee.

English Toffee

Here’s the recipe for rich, buttery, sweet and super crunchy homemade English toffee. Oh, and did I mention that it’s really easy?

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Happy Halloween! Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars for a Grown-Up Treat

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

Some kids, like my sister, never get into the spirit of Halloween. I, on the other hand embraced it. Well, at least part of it. I wasn’t into the scary, creepy aspects of Halloween, but always loved the fun childlike excitement of costumes, carving pumpkins and decorating the house. But I think mostly I embraced it for the candy.

Oh, how I loved all those fun-sized candy bars. There was even a house in the neighborhood that once gave away full-size candy bars and I made sure to visit that house well into high school, just in case they did it again. As for that house that gave out pennies? Let’s just say I wouldn’t have gone there if it wasn’t my friend’s house. There’s always one that just doesn’t get it.

Choc PB Bars: Mix shortbread cookie ingredients Choc PB Bars: Peanut butter filling Choc PB Bars: add sugar to peanut butter mixture

My favorite candies were Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup (NOT the pieces), M&Ms, Nestle Crunch, Starbursts and Skittles. Now I find most of these way too cloying in that fakely sweet way, so I decided to make my own adult version of my ultimate favorite: the peanut butter cup, but in a bar form.

This recipe for chocolate peanut butter bars starts with chocolate shortbread that is topped with peanut butter frosting and covered in melted semi-sweet chocolate. The crumbly cookie bottom, creamy and slightly salty peanut butter layer, and rich chocolate coating makes for a delicious treat.

Choc PB Bars: chocolate shortbread Choc PB Bars: spread peanut butter mixture over shortbread Choc PB Bars: pour melted chocolate over bars

Here’s the recipe:

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Recipe: Devil’s Food Cake with Malt Chocolate Frosting

Devil's Food Cake with Malt Chocolate Frosting

Let’s be clear on this right off the bat: I’m a cook, not a baker. A regular chef, not a pastry chef. With that said, I have to brag a little about this cake I made last weekend to celebrate my dad’s birthday: Devil’s Food Cake with Malt Chocolate Frosting.

Trim the cake Coat cake with simple syrup

It’s certainly not the most beautiful cake in the world. I described it to my friend Cathy, who indeed is a brilliant pastry chef at a Chicago restaurant, as a tasty homemade cake that looked like it was trying to be professional but didn’t quite make it. My sister vehemently disagreed, saying: “it looks so professional, like I could’ve bought it at Jewel.”

And I rest my case.

Frost first layer of cake Add second layer

Ready for third layer Frost top and sides

Despite the haphazard decorating, this cake really was delicious. I don’t often make cakes – usually I stick with cupcakes or pies or things like that. But for some reason I was inspired to make a three-layer cake, and no, two layers would simply not suffice.

Use pastry comb to add texture/design

Back to the cake. It’s a chocolate devil’s food cake similar to the one I used for the homemade Hostess cupcakes. However, this recipe was adapted from The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion (only major change was using 1/2 cup strong coffee in place of 1/2 cup milk – you don’t taste the coffee, it is there to enhance the chocolate) and yields the perfect amount of batter for three eight-inch round cakes.

Fill pastry bag with frosting Pipe decorative design

The most exciting part of the cake was the frosting: a malt chocolate frosting adapted from Chocolate Cake: 150 Recipes from Simple to Sublime. I went with malt because it’s a flavor my dad loves – I don’t think he’s ever gone to a Cubs game without ordering a Frosty Malt cup. But it was also rich and chocolately, thus appealing to another family member who tried to talk me out of the malt.

Half the Devil's Food Cake with Malt Chocolate Frosting

I won’t go so far as to say this was a difficult project, just a bit time-consuming. But I made it easier by baking the cakes the night before and then decorating them in the morning. Allow the cakes to cool to room temperature, then wrap well in plastic and refrigerate. It also helps to pop them in the freezer for 15 to 30 minutes before using.

Stay tuned for the recipe on cake balls, a great way to use leftover trimmed cake and frosting!

Piece of Devil's Food Cake with Malt Chocolate Frosting

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