White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting

I remember when I worked in an office and cake or cupcakes were brought in for a birthday… in the crowd there were always a few frosting people.

Frosting people only go for the frosting, sometimes only eating the cake part that actually touches the frosting or no cake at all. In either case they’re easily identified by leaving a pile of untouched cake left on their plate. I’ve never understood these people and certainly have never been one.


The frosting has almost always been my least favorite part of any cake.. homemade, store-bought, wherever. I’ve made buttercreams, whipped and meringue frostings myself, but none of them were really outstanding. Many times I make cake without frosting at all, just adding some powdered sugar or Cool Whip. Remember my Kitchen Tips post on Broken Buttercreams? Yeah.. I was no stranger to broken buttercreams either.

Then a few weeks ago my Sur La Table The Art and Soul of Baking cookbook hit another home run (seriously, guys.. please buy this book?). The winner this week is White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting. Yes.

I first made it to go with Devil’s Food Cupcakes for a friends birthday. I found myself going for the bowl of leftover frosting in the fridge in the middle of the night (please tell me I’m not alone here?). For weeks after that I tried to find a cake to make that would really compliment the frosting (the Devil’s Food Cupcakes were a little too dense). My plan was to make a Guinness Cake with White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting mimicking the head on a Guinness beer. My cake failed.

Last week though I paired it with Cookie Madness’ Really Good Chocolate Bundt Cake. Like the title says, the cake is really good! I’ve made it twice before and it’s always perfectly moist with a light crumb. I love adding coffee to chocolate cake because it really helps the cake actually taste like chocolate instead of flour (I’m not typically a big fan of chocolate cake.. they’re just not chocolatey!). This bundt and a drizzle of white chocolate frosting are a beautiful match. Please try it, and save some frosting for me.

White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from The Art and Soul of Baking
makes enough to drizzle over one 10 inch bundt

6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature (I used low-fat with fine results)
3/4 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3/4 teaspoon real vanilla extract
4 ounces white chocolate (I use white chocolate chips, I can’t stand the taste of melting chocolate)

Consider rereading my Kitchen Tips post on Broken Buttercreams – using room temperature cream cheese and butter is pivotal to avoid broken frosting.

Blend cream cheese, butter and lemon extract on medium/low speed in the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a hand mixer, but increase the blend time a little) for 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl and beat again for a few seconds. Sift in confectioners’ sugar and blend on low for a few seconds. Scrape down the bowl again and add vanilla. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute.

Melt white chocolate (see our tips for melting chocolate), and cool for a few minutes. Stir white chocolate then add to the cream cheese mixture. Beat thoroughly.

Use immediately, or, frosting can be made up to 3 days in advance if kept refrigerated in an airtight container. To soften, allow it to sit out to room temperature for 30 minutes.

Food Photography – The Baked Brownie

(The Baked Brownie, recipe from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking.)

This chocolate monster was almost too rich for me, even. Almost. Somehow I managed.

Will Kill for PB Cups

How about this for a Valentine’s Day treat?

Martha Stewart’s Valentine’s Day Peanut Butter Cups.

Please send some my way??

It’s time to take a slight detour on our adventure in the wonderful world of smoothies. We’ve given you several recipes that we hope not only enjoy but use as inspiration come up with your own. Smoothies are great to experiment with because even when you “fail” you end up with something that doesn’t taste bad, it just doesn’t taste great. So in the spirit of inspiring, let’s move the focus away from the fruit and shift it to protein.

Peanut Buter and Chocolate Protein Smoothie

I don’t need to tell you the value of protein in one’s diet. I’m sure you’ve heard about the amino acids, how it gives you energy, helps you heal; oh and did I mention your body doesn’t store protein like other dietary sources (carbs come to mind)? Of course, it’s easy to add protein to something with those whey suppliments they have, but that’s not how we do things at DinnerCakes. No, we like to go au naturale (you could, if you wanted, add some supplement without much effect on taste). With its nutritional benefits, you can tell yourself you’re doing something good even when you’re having a tasty delight.

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Protein Smoothie
If you want a stronger chocolate kick, trying adding a squirt or two of chocolate syrup; maybe a bit more cocoa powder. Just try the recipe as is first then adjust accordingly.

1 cup yogurt
1 cup milk
1/2 frozen banana
1/2 cup peanut butter (any kind)
1/4 cup oats (no need to cook)
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon sweetener (sugar, splenda, etc)
3-4 ice cubes

Throw all your ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Makes one 16oz cup (with a bit to spare). Enjoy.

I was asked to bring something to a superbowl party once and decided to post my dish on popular vote (I selected the nominees). This little baby won by a landslide and I attribute that to the mesmerizing power of peanut butter and chocolate.

This sucker is incredibly to make with no actual cooking required. You can find the recipe where I did at, over at Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy (what a name). Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Cornflake Balls

It occured to be a few days after posting my last Kitchen Tips that chocolate would have been a great topic to go with the easter theme. Alas, hindsight. Today we’ll talk a little about chocolate and the ways to classify it. Below are some of the most common types of chocolate.

Milk Chocolate is the only chocolate with milk solids and also contains a large amount of sugar (usually 50%). These two together often outweigh the actual amount of cocoa, so it tends to be softer than most. This is the mildest of the chocolates and can be eaten out of hand or used in cooking. To be classified as milk chocolate in the United States, it must contain at least 10% cocoa.

Dark Chocolate is chocolate with no milk solids added. Because it’s not competing with milk solids, it has a more intense chocolate flavor. This also means it’s dryer and has a more noticable bitter aftertaste. Sweet, semisweet and bittersweet should be considered types of dark chocolate (none of these contain milk solids additives). It’s worth noting, though, that the United States has no official requirements for the label “dark chocolate.”

  • Sweet chocolate is the sweetest of the dark chocolates. The United States requires all sweet chocolate to have at least 15% cocoa but says nothing on the amount of sugar. Traditionally, the amount of sugar is around 60%. 
  • The difference between bittersweet and semisweet is a bit blurry. Semisweet chocolate should be between bittersweet and semisweet on the sweetness scale, but there is no requirements on distinguising them. Both require 35% cocoa and the sugar usually ranges between 30-50%. Often, semisweet is considered to have half the amount of sugar as sweet, putting it at 30%. 

Unsweeted Chocolate is your “purest” chocolate, also known as bitter or baking chocolate. It contains no addition of sugar, cocoa butter or milk solids. Keep in mind that there is cocoa butter in it naturally; usually 50-55%. Due to it’s strong, bitter taste, this chocolate is never eaten just out of hand.

White Chocolate is not chocolate at all, as it contains no cocoa. It was invented in Switzerland in the 1930s and is made from purified, usually deodorized cocoa butter, milk and sugar. It tastes very little like chocolate

My grandmother was the glue on my father’s side of the family. Every so often for one reason or another the Bachetti’s would gather at her home in Front Royal; catching up with people we probably hadn’t seen since the last get-together. My grandmother would send letters, make phone calls… do what it took to keep the family together. As a boy I never recognized all the work she did behind the scenes. When she passed away we didn’t just lose her. We lost our family.

Lotta Peanu Butter

When you grow up you make your own family, your own tribe. You meet people, you build something, you foster a community, a support system, an ecosystem of love. These are made in part by your blood but also by others you meet in your life. When my grandmother passed away the “looser” family members in each person’s tribe started to slip away, and I’m sad to say no one took up the reigns. I don’t remember the last time I talked with my uncle.

Mixing Peanut Butter, Butter and Powdered Sugar

Eventually I learned that most relationships can’t survive without upkeep; not the ones that really matter at least. Without attention they wither and eventually die. Most don’t take much. A letter, a phone call, a photo over e-mail. We all have our ways one one of mine is of course food.

Grandma's Peanut Butter Eggs

Every Easter we would visit my grandmother and every Easter she’d have for us these delicious peanut butter and coconut eggs. Oh, how I loved them. A few years ago I took up her tradition, making them for my friends and family. The recipe is amazingly simple. If this Easter has you thinking about rekindling some past relationships, consider these as a possible method.

Grandma's Peanut Butter Eggs covered in chocolate

Grandma’s Peanut Butter Eggs – Makes approximately 8 eggs
2 lbs peanut butter
2 sticks butter; room temperature
5 tablespoons evaporated milk
2 tablespoons vanilla
4-5 cups powdered sugar

Mix the peanut butter, butter, milk and vanilla together in a stand mixer on low speed. Slowly add the powdered sugar (to avoid a sugar cloud), scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Don’t worry about over mixing, there’s no flour to over mix. The peanut butter should start pulling away from the bowl, but still stay together. Try balling it in your hands. If it sticks, you need more powdered sugar.

Grab approximately two handfuls and shape into an egg. Place on a wax covered baking pan. Let chill in the refrigerator while you make your ganache (grandma didn’t have a chocolate ganache recipe and honestly neither do I). Pour over your eggs after ganache has cooled but is still liquidy. Let harden in fridge and enjoy.

Salty & Sweet – Chocolate Cookies with Pistachios

If you put a variety pack of cookies in front of me, 95% of the time I would not choose an all chocolate cookie. This may be surprising, but I gave up on chocolate cookies after several attempts where I couldn’t even taste the chocolate.

chocolate pistachio cookies

I thought up this recipe one night while lying in bed, after one of my battles with black bean brownies. I was thinking about other ways to use black beans instead of flour and agave syrup instead of sugar. I was also thinking about a batch of Tastespotting photos I’d oogled recently that boasted salty and sweet desserts.

chocolate and pistachio

The recipe below is a little different from what I’d originally planned (no black beans and no agave… it’s probably for the best!), but it turned out exactly the way I was hoping it would. What’s the difference? For starters, I greatly prefer the taste of baked goods made with unsweetened cocoa instead of melted chocolate. It captures the taste of the chocolate more and it makes the final product less dense.

two cookies

These cookies are slightly crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. The chocolate chips makes them unmistakably dark and chocolatey, and the pistachios add just a hint of saltiness. The instant coffee deepens the chocolate flavor without being particularly noticeable.

I had to take these to work the day after I made them because it quickly became clear that I couldn’t handle having them in the apartment. Whoops?

broken open

Salty & Sweet – Chocolate Cookies with Pistachios

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1/8 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cups brown sugar
1 cup all purpose unbleached flour
2 ounces unsweetened cocoa (I used Ghirardelli)
1/8 (granulated) instant coffee
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon milk
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (again, I used Ghirardelli)
1/2 cup pistachio kernels

Preheat oven to 375F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine flour, cocoa, instant coffee, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer using a paddle attachment (or using electric beaters if you don’t have a stand mixer), combine butter and sugars. When combined, add eggs one at a time. Slowly beat in the flour mixture, adding the milk at the halfway point. Stir in pistachios and chocolate chips. The mixture will resemble thick brownie batter.

Scoop batter using a tablespoon measuring spoon and, with the assistance of another spoon, drop rounded balls onto a parchment lined baking sheet approximately two inches apart. Bake for 15 minutes.

Makes approximately 2 dozen cookies.

Food Photography – Fudge Brownie Cupcakes

Fudge Brownie Cupcakes

Today’s photo is from a birthday Heather and I attended a few weeks back. As you may recall, Heather wrote about her Guinness Beer Brownies (and babes). Our friend had made the request for “fudge muffins,” and I had no clue what these are. However, I did receive a Cupcakes Galore from some friend for my birthday last year. I took its recipe for brownie muffins, made a few modifications, and voila! Deliciousness.

I know I said that I wouldn’t be baking anything on Saturday for Valentine’s Day, but… I lied? I saw one too many Tastespotting photos of heart-shaped desserts and I just couldn’t take it anymore!

blackberry swirl cake

Usually when I make cakes, I don’t worry too much about decoration. Spending a long time on decorating a cake seems onerous to me. I’d rather focus on the ingredients and the taste; I’m satisfied with simple decoration, like a few fresh flower blooms on a smooth frosted cake.

But on Friday night/Saturday morning I decided to bake a heart-shaped cake, focusing on decoration. I planned to make two 8×8 square cakes and cut them to the shape of a heart – I didn’t want my husband’s head to explode by buying a heart-shaped cake pan (I have, um, a few specialty pans).

blackberry swirl cake2blackberry swirl cake cooked

To make the cake batter, I adapted a recipe for Cherry Cheesecake Cupcakes from Cupcakes! From the Cake Mix Doctor by Anne Byrn (a good book if you’re looking to move past box cake mixes but still not quite ready to bake completely from scratch). I combined one package of plain yellow cake mix, vanilla instant pudding mix, whole milk, vegetable oil, eggs and almond extract. I lined the pans with parchment paper and poured the batter into the cake pans, swirling 3/4 of a jar of blackberry preserves into the batter.

I cooled the cakes for 15 minutes in their pans, lifted them out by holding on to the parchment paper and then chilled them in the refrigerator overnight (to make sure they were firm enough to work with easily).

first heart cut

The next morning I gently stacked the cakes on top of each other and cut a small square off of one corner to make the dip of the heart and trimmed the points off. Then I cut the corners off of either side, to make the sides of the heart less pointy. I then carefully removed the top cake and set it aside.

final heart cut

I made a simple chocolate buttercream frosting, also from the Cake Mix Doctor book. With a thin layer of chocolate buttercream, I frosted the top of the bottom cake, leaving a little extra frosting around the edges (the outline of the heart) to make a sort of pool. I mashed 1 cup of fresh blackberries with a few spoonfuls of confectioners’ sugar (or you could use more blackberry preserves) and spread it on top of the chocolate buttercream frosting.

buttercreamfirst icing

I lightly frosted the bottom of the top cake with buttercream frosting so that the top cake wouldn’t get soggy from sitting on top of the blackberry preserves. I then set the top layer on top of the bottom cake.

blackberry preserves

I finally frosted the entire cake with the chocolate buttercream frosting, setting the cake in the freezer when I finished. After 15 minutes, I removed the cake from the freezer and refrosted any areas that needed to be smoothed or where crumbs had gotten into the frosting (this wasn’t much of a problem since I had refrigerated the cakes overnight before frosting).

top layerheart shaped cake

I bought some Wilton fondant, tore off a few pieces of it and separated it into separate bowls. I let one drop of food coloring on each and massaged it in to create the colored fondant. I worked it into a thin layer and then gently rolled it to make the fondant flowers.

heartshapedcakewithfondantflowersheart shaped cake with flowers

My husband and I really enjoyed this cake, and of course, I was really proud that I had the patience to work on my cake decorating skills! So keep this post in the back of your mind if you have an anniversary coming up or even a kid’s birthday. It’s actually not terribly time consuming, and it’s a lot of fun!

blackberry yellow cake with chocolate frosting and fondant flowers