Double-Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake

A lot of you may be enjoying the pumpkin spice everything craze so much that you would drown yourself in it. My husband is one of those people. Mike would go for this madness year-round if he could. Our house smells like pumpkin spice; his car does, too. I’m surprised his skin hasn’t turned a pumpkin orange by now! Maybe not that extreme, but he does consume pumpkin spice whatever on the regular until it’s officially over.
As for myself, I never really had a 100% love for pumpkin spice, but I do like it, especially the smell. I’m more of an apple cinnamon kinda gal. It makes me believe that my sometimes dissatisfaction with pumpkin flavor has contributed to my not-being-100%-crazy-for pumpkin spice everything. BUT if pumpkin pie is brought up a notch, like being a cheesecake instead, yeah, I’ll drown myself in it!

I honestly cannot remember where this recipe had come from. Maybe from my mom, or she got it from someone else, but this is one of those pumpkin recipes that I enjoy way more than traditional pumpkin pie. This is a great dessert for all your fall gatherings, especially Thanksgiving, and year-round, too. I think the next time I make this I’m going to double the recipe to make it thicker, or use a smaller baking dish. Doing so may require time adjustments to the baking, so if you do use a smaller dish, keep an eye on it so you don’t dry it out or burn it!
And don’t forget the Cool Whip or whipped cream!
DOUBLE-LAYER PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE
2 packages (8 oz. each) softened cream cheese
½ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
½ cup canned pumpkin
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Dash each of ground cloves and nutmeg
1 ½ to 2 cups graham cracker crumbs (About 15-20 crackers crushed)
5 tablespoons melted margarine
½ cup Cool Whip
Preheat oven to 325 degrees and spray the bottom and side of 8-inch spring form pan or pie plate.
Crush graham crackers and pour into a small or medium bowl; melt margarine and mix in with graham cracker crumbs until crumbs are completely moistened. Pour crumb mixture into prepared pan and press gently to completely cover the bottom of the pan to its sides.
In a large mixing bowl, combine softened cream cheese, sugar and vanilla.
Add in the eggs; do not over mix!
Remove half of the batter to another large bowl, and add the canned pumpkin and spices.
Pour the cream cheese batter into the prepared pan first; spread to sides. Then pour the pumpkin batter over top; spread to sides.
Bake for 35-40 minutes until the center is set. Place a toothpick in the center of the cheesecake. If toothpick comes out clean, it is set. If not, place the cheesecake back in the oven for another 5 minutes.
Cool cheesecake and refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight until ready to serve. Use Cool Whip or whipped cream for topping.
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Red Velvet Cake with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

My last post was for those who don’t like cake.  This one is for those who do!
I made this red velvet cake with white chocolate cream cheese frosting, because why not!  I’ve been jonesing for a red velvet cake anyway.
My absence on here was unexpectedly long since I’ve been enjoying the outdoors and entertaining Alex with summer activities while Mike has been busy with work and his bands.  Yes, he’s in another band playing bass, so more practices and shows are on the schedule.  Plus I’ve been glued to the TV every evening watching Le Tour de France last month, a sport I got hooked on 11 years ago.  Life stops (and so does the housework….well, maybe not quite!) when July comes around just so I can sack out on the couch, eat popcorn or cereal and watch dudes climb the French Alps and sprint their butts off.
Alright, back to this cake…

Years ago when I made my first red velvet cake for a wedding anniversary dinner it turned out…okay-ish.  It was back when I was still dealing with my mother’s cake curse where it would collapse while decorating it, or it would crack right down the middle after it cooled.  It’s also my first 3-layered cake, and I was afraid that it was too tall for me to handle.  Nowadays I’ve learned a good bit on how to make a successful cake, from tiered cakes to frosting methods.  One of the secrets to a successful cake is refrigeration!!  Once you frost and pile on the layers, you do what’s called a crumb-coat.  You spread a little bit of frosting around the sides of your cake, then freeze for about a half hour before you finish with the final coat.  It’s like a naked cake.  If you want to stop right here, go for it.  If not, after a half hour bring your cake back out and spread and smooth on the rest of the frosting.  A rotating cake stand is a must and a blessing!  I’m not sure how I lived without one for years!   I got this and this one too last Christmas.  One or both of them are wonderful to have in the kitchen!  The one thing I do need to work on is to not use so much frosting in between the layers because I’ll end up not having enough for the outside.  Well, I came reeeeeal close and thankfully I had just enough to cover the cake, but not enough to smooth it out.

I gotta say, overall I’m pretty proud about how this cake turned out.  I think Mom would be proud, too.  Alex is asking for more cakes, so check back often to see some more in the near future!  I was even asked to make a cheesecake, so yes, I will definitely make that happen!  And maybe, just maybe, with this little perk of confidence, I may think about making cakes for other people again.  We shall see!
Happy baking!

RED VELVET CAKE WITH WHITE CHOCOLATE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
(Yields 1 8-inch cake)
Cake:
1 cup softened margarine
3 cups granulated sugar
6 eggs
1 oz. red food coloring
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups sifted flour
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda
Frosting:
2 8-oz. packages of softened cream cheese
1 cup softened margarine
12 oz. of white chocolate, melted
Dark chocolate pieces for garnish, optional
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray 3 8-inch round cake pans with non-stick cooking spray.

 

  • In a large mixing bowl, cream together 1 cup of margarine and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Mix in food coloring and cocoa powder.
  • Add flour alternately with buttermilk. Add vanilla and salt.
  • In a small bowl, mix baking soda with vinegar and gently stir into mixture. Don’t overmix.
  • Divide batter into the prepared cake pans and bake for 25 minutes until toothpick inserted in each cake comes out clean. Allow the cool in pans for about 10-15 minutes before inverting onto wire racks to cool completely.
  • To make the frosting: Melt the white chocolate in a microwaveable dish, heating in 30-40 second intervals, being careful not to brown the chocolate. Allow to cool to lukewarm.
  • In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in melted white chocolate and softened margarine.  Beat until it’s the consistency of whipped cream.
  • To assemble cake: Using a rotating cake stand, frost top of 1st layer, then stack on 2nd Frost top of 2nd layer, then stack on 3rd layer.  Frost 3rd layer, then smooth out top and sides of cake to create the crumb coat.  Carefully place cake in the freezer for 30 minutes.  Remove the cake and return to your rotating cake stand.  Use rest of the frosting to coat sides of cake until smooth.  Decorate cake by shaving pieces of dark chocolate on top of the cake and place several pieces of dark chocolate in the center.  Enjoy!

 

Cake Mix Cookie Cake

My husband is not a cake eater, but I have seen him eat cake, maybe 4 times in the last 24 years we’ve known each other. In the past whenever his birthday came around I always made a cake for him, but he wouldn‘t eat it, so I either ate it myself or I took it to work. I stopped making him cake a long time ago and started making him his favorite meals, like the lasagna he loves so much.
He also loves my cookies, but I kinda miss making cake, so that’s when I remembered that I have a cake mix cookie recipe I could use to make a big cookie cake out of it and add sprinkles and frosting! Only 4 ingredients are needed: cake mix of your choice, 2 eggs, unsweetened applesauce, and chocolate chips. I chose yellow cake mix for the cookie cake, and if you prefer, vegetable oil works in place of the applesauce. I just like using applesauce to eliminate the fat. A low-fat cake…sure, why not? And if you want to add the sprinkles, go ahead and include them as you mix the ingredients. Then for decoration I used the traditional buttercream frosting and piped the edges in purple (purple is used a lot for his band) and black for the letters. Yep, he turned 39!
Since I had some frosting left over and a box of devil’s food cake mix, I made some large cookies, took 3 of them and stacked and frosted them like a small cake. I ended up making a couple of them. They were so cute that Alex wanted one for her birthday. Heck I’ll make individual cake mix cookie cakes for her guests when the time comes!
For someone who doesn’t eat birthday cake, I think you’d enjoy this kind of cake!

CAKE MIX COOKIE CAKE
1 box of cake mix of your choice (white, yellow, or devil’s food)
2 large eggs
½ cup of unsweetened applesauce (or vegetable oil)
1 package of semi-sweet chocolate chips
Rainbow sprinkles, optional
• Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a round 14-inch pizza pan with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.
• In mixer bowl, combine all ingredients until blended.
• Scoop mix onto prepared pizza pan and with floured hands or a rubber spatula flattened out the dough until it reaches to the edge of the pan.
• Bake for 21-25 minutes until golden brown, and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
• Remove from oven and cool completely on a wire rack before decorating.
BUTTERCREAM FROSTING:
12 tablespoons softened margarine
1 bag (2 lbs.) of powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4-5 tablespoons milk*
Mix all four ingredients together in a mixing bowl, starting out at low speed for about 20-30 seconds, then to medium speed for a couple minutes until it is a smooth consistency.
*If frosting is too dry and lumpy, carefully add more milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until smooth.
HELPFUL HINT:
• Use disposable frosting bags with tips or a decorating tool to decorate your cookie cake.
• If creating a border, don’t frost all the way to the edge of the cookie cake. That way your fingers won’t get frosting on them while lifting up the pan. Start your border about 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch from the edge.
TO MAKE COOKIES:
• Use above ingredients for cookies, but use a large scoop to drop each cookie onto a greased or silicone mat-lined baking sheet. Bake cookies in a 350-degree oven for 13 minutes until golden. Cool completely on wire racks.
• To assemble the mini cakes: Place one cookie on a plate and spread a heaping tablespoon of frosting on top. Then stack a second cookie on top, lightly pressing down so frosting can be exposed at the edges. Frost the top of the second cookie, then repeat with a third cookie, pressing lightly. Frost the top of the third cookie, and finish your mini cake off with sprinkles if desired.

Deviled Eggs with Bacon

April was crazy!
Yes, we’re still unpacking, and then there was the neverending sinus crud, that nasty yellow jacket sting that made my left arm look like the size of my thighs, cleaning up after a sick cat, and keeping up with Alex’s school activities and commitments, I haven’t baked, cooked, or done anything in the new kitchen for a month-and-a-half, except Easter.  My family has been eating pizza and sandwiches more so than usual. I was beat.
But the good news out of all the chaos is that I finally accomplished something I’ve had in the back of my mind for a while, because I promised you guys I’d do it: those deviled eggs!
Since this is the first time making them, they’re easier than I thought! You boil the eggs, remove the shells (that part was quite tedious, like it was never going to end..LOL!), slice them in half, mix the yolks with flavorings and add-ins and you’re done! I used this basic recipe to help me get started. Instead of plain yellow mustard, I had some stone ground mustard that worked just as great.  Then I added the bacon bits along with the paprika. I also used my icing decorator to make them look fancier instead of using a spoon.
These deviled eggs are so good, I think I found my new favorite picnic food item to make besides  dirt.  Hopefully May will be a little nicer to me than April!
DEVILED EGGS
Adapted from Mary Nolan’s recipe on foodnetwork.com
1 dozen eggs
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons stone ground mustard
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground pepper
Paprika
Bacon Bits
• Fill the bottom of a large saucepan with about an inch of water. Place eggs in the water (eggs should be covered completely in water). Bring eggs to a boil, cover, and turn heat to low; cook for about 1 minute.
• Remove saucepan from heat and leave eggs in covered saucepan for 15 minutes. Then transfer eggs to a colander and rinse in cold running water for about a minute.
• Carefully crack egg shells; pat eggs dry with paper towels if needed.
• Slice each egg in half lengthwise and remove the yolks to a large bowl. Place egg whites on a platter.
• Mash yolks and then add remaining ingredients except for paprika and bacon bits. Scoop with a spoon or pipe yolk mixture with decorating tool into the egg whites. Sprinkle with paprika and bacon bits. Your deviled eggs are ready to serve, or cover and place in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Homemade Shamrock Shakes

Shamrocks shakes are all the rage in our house…our new house!
After a day of moving we ate at McDonald’s and Mike bought a large shamrock shake. Then the next day he did it again. Then the day after that….
Moving is hard work, so why not cool off with a minty shake that only comes around once a year!

Of course, you don’t have to wait a full year for the next round from McD’s. Just get the stuff and make one yourself!
I remember the very first time I made homemade shamrock shakes. I added mint extract and it was so strong that I cleared out our guests’ sinuses pretty good! I kept the mint extract out since I’m already using mint-flavored ice cream, but if you do want to clear your sinuses out or have a little more minty kick to your shake, use a drop or two; don’t go overboard with it!!  For a large shake, you can use about 3 drops.

What’s also great about making homemade shamrock shakes is you can take charge of portion sizes and you’ll know exactly what’s in your shake! You can go whole milk or skim milk or use low fat or regular mint ice cream. With these I went the low fat/skim route, along with a little bit of whipped cream and green sanding sugar in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.

Shamrock shakes for days!! Now that’s something we can agree on!
Homemade Shamrock Shakes
1 carton of mint chocolate chip ice cream
1/2 gallon of milk
Whipped cream
Sanding sugar or sprinkles
• Scoop about 6 scoops of ice cream into a blender. Add 1 cup of milk.
• Cap the blender tightly, and mix until blended together.
• Divide between 2 small glasses and top with whipped cream and sanding sugar.
• Don’t forget the straws!
* 6 scoops makes enough for two small 12 oz. glasses. 8 scoops makes enough for one large 16 to 18 oz. glass.