Jan 27, 2013

Frozen Fudgy Caramel Extreme Trifle

The best way I can characterize the combination of the teeth-achingly intense flavors going on in this frozen trifle is to describe it as something similar to a pint of Ben & Jerry's Karamel Sutra ice cream...but minus all that pesky vanilla ice cream.  Who eats vanilla ice cream anyway?

Let's just quickly run down the components of this 'your dentist will love me for creating cavities' sugar-fest trifle:

1st layer: dangerously moist chocolate cake drenched in Frangelico (aka Drunk Cake)

2nd layer: heavy sprinkling of Hershey's HEATH English Milk Chocolate Toffee Bits

3rd layer: salted caramel (home made!)

4th layer: salted caramel pudding (home made, cha-ching!)

NEXT, repeat again with the 4 layers, then top with Frangelico-infused dark chocolate ganache, and finally garnish with MORE salted caramel & toffee.

Really, need I say anymore.

The inspiration

A couple weeks back I was pleasantly surprised to have received an email from Aveem Foods who invited me to take part in the Aveem Challenge,  a competition for food bloggers, writers, and cooks across Dubai.  The challenge itself was pretty straight forward.  Aveem delivered 3kg of sugar to my door (2kg brown sugar, 1 kg white) and said 'get to work, whip up a signature personal creation!' 

The possibilities are endless, am I right?  This was a open-ended contest, the only rule...use sugar. 

Aveem, my kind of people. 

So rather than doing another typical tart or cake, I took this challenge pretty serious.  I wanted to create something that truly called for sugar as the main ingredient. 

Then it came to me.  Caramel.  Caramel = sugar.  Bingo.

But do what with caramel?  Caramel sandwiched sugar cookies?  Lots of sugar, but not very exciting.  No, I needed to stay in my realm.  My happy place.  Trifles.

If you follow my blog you know I'm a lover of the trifle.  Trifle's have all the qualities of cake, great textures, beautiful presentation.  And huge portions.  Yay's all around.

Before I proceed with the recipe, let me just say this trifle needs to be frozen before serving.  Initially I didn't intend for this to be a frozen treat.  After I was finished with the photography I sat with my goofy grin and a spoon to dig in.  I gave myself an army-sized portion and I realized I had caramel soup in my bowl.  However this is some-what normal with trifles, the presentation is in the 'before' not after.  Serving trifle is not like slicing a beautiful piece of cake.  It's almost impossible to photograph and have it look...hmm...delicate.

Feeling a bit weak in the knees I placed the trifle dish in the freezer to sort out my next course of action.  About an hour later I took it back out and dug out another serving for inspection.  This time the trifle remained layered.  The caramel was thick but not frozen.  The pudding.  Oh it was better than ice cream. 

Happy dance, happy dance, happy dance. 

As for winning the Aveem Challenge, I will keep you posted.

However I already feel like a winner, nothing like drunken cake, caramel, and boozy ganache for a girl to feel like a super-sized star.

Frozen Fudgy Caramel Extreme Trifle
printable version


For the cake:
One 9x13 inch chocolate cake prepared and cooled (you will probably have extra left over depending on the size of your trifle dish.  I used Hershey's 'Perfectly Chocolate' Chocolate Cake, my go-to chocolate cake recipe).

3/4 cup Frangelico liqueur (or Bailey's/Amaretto, whatever you have on-hand)

For the salted caramel pudding:
3 cups whole milk, divided
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup water
5 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons dark rum
1 teaspoon fleur de sel

For the Dark Chocolate Ganache:
8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (I used half semi sweet, half dark chocolate)
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon Frangelico liqueur

One batch Salted Caramel sauce, room temperature.  Set aside 1/8 cup sauce for garnish.  Divide the remaining sauce into two equal batches.

One bag Hershey's HEATH English Milk Chocolate Toffee Bits.  Set aside 1/4 cup for garnish. Divide the remaining toffee bits into two equal portions.


After the chocolate cake has cooled to room temperature, take a fork and gently poke holes all over the cake.  *If you are making the same Hershey's cake I recommended, you can skip this step.  Once baked the cake becomes so soft that trying to poke it with a fork will only damage/rip the surface.

Using a pastry brush, cover the entire cake evenly with the 3/4 cup Frangelico.  Cover cake with plastic wrap and leave to marinate over-night, or at least 6-8 hours prior to assembling.

To prepare the salted caramel pudding, whisk 1/2 cup milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl.  Set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat the remaining 2 1/2 cups of milk until simmering. Remove from heat and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk egg yolks on medium speed for about 3 minutes.

To make the caramel, stir the brown sugar and water in medium saucepan over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat, and cook without stirring until an instant read thermometer reads
210 – 220 degrees. Remove from heat.

With stand mixer at low speed, gradually whisk in the hot milk and cornstarch mixture into the eggs.

Slowly add the caramel and whisk to combine.

Return the mixture to the saucepan and whisk constantly over medium heat, until it thickens (coats back of a spoon) and a thermometer registers 175 degrees Fahrenheit, about 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat; whisk in the butter, rum, and salt.

Pour through a sieve if necessary. 

To avoid a film/skin from forming on top of the pudding, cover the top with a piece of plastic wrap, then again cover bowl with lid or another tight layer of plastic wrap.

Allow pudding to cool slightly, cover and chill for 4 to 5 hours.


Place a layer of cake in the bottom of your trifle dish.  You can use the bottom of a measuring cup to help ensure it's even and smooth. 

If you have any spills/spots on the glass while filling your dish be sure to wipe them clean with a damp paper towel.

Next sprinkle a layer of the HEATH English Milk Chocolate Toffee Bits.

Transfer the room temperature salted caramel sauce to a measuring cup with a spout.  Gently pour an even layer of caramel sauce over the toffee bits.  Be sure to pour close to the edge of your dish so the caramel sauce layer will be prominent.

Place trifle dish in the fridge for about an hour until the caramel sauce firms.  If you try to pour the salted caramel pudding over the salted caramel sauce it will sink and you won't get pretty little layers.

Once the caramel sauce has firmed, take HALF of the salted caramel pudding and spread over the caramel sauce layer.  Use the back of a large spoon to ensure it's smooth and even.

Repeat with another layer or cake, Toffee bits, and salted caramel sauce.  Place the dish back in the fridge to firm up the second layer of salted caramel sauce.  Once the sauce is firm, remove from the fridge and cover with the remaining salted caramel pudding. 

Place dish back in the fridge while you prepare the ganache.

For the ganache, place chocolate chips in a heat-safe bowl.  In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream and butter to a simmering boil.  Remove from heat and immediately pour over the chocolate.  Let the chocolate and cream mixture sit for about 5 minutes, without stirring.

Stir gently to combine.  It will take a few minutes to come together, just keep stirring.

Once smooth, add the Frangelico and stir to combine.

Allow to cool to room temperature.

Remove trifle dish from refrigerator.  Transfer room temperature ganche. to a measuring cup with a spout.  Pour evenly over the salted caramel pudding.  Place back in the fridge until firm, about 1 hour.

Depending on the size of your trifle dish you can pour the entire batch of ganache. I used about 3/4 of the portion. Refrigerate any left-overs.

*To make truffles, roll the left over, chilled ganche into balls and dust with cocoa or espresso powder.

Remove trifle dish from refrigerator.  Garnish with the remaining room temperature 1/8 cup caramel sauce.  I placed the sauce inside a piping bag to create the horizontal lines. 

Thank you President for the ginormous piping bags...I think I could pipe my husband head-to-toe with one of these, stick a candle in his head and sing Happy Birthday.

To easily fill your piping bags, place bag (with tip in place, I used a number 2) inside a tall plastic cup.  Fold the top of the bag over the edge of the cup and fill with the sauce. 

If you don't have piping bags on hand, alternatively transfer the sauce into a small zip lock sandwich baggie (zip it shut!), cut off a tiny piece of one corner and use to pipe whatever design you wish. 

Garnish the edge of the trifle dish with the remaining 1/4 cup HEATH Toffee Bits.  Place in the freezer for 1 hour to firm up and serve.

I kept the remaining trifle in the freezer as well.  The layers hold together much better while frozen.  To re-serve, remove from the freezer about 30 minutes prior to serving (so it's easier to spoon out).

Enjoy!  Time to go run some laps after this one, phew.  Weight Watcher Points...ooh about 1000.

salted caramel pudding recipe courtesy of Portuguese Girl Cooks

ganache recipe courtesy of Joy of Baking

Jan 20, 2013

Michelle Obama's 'Family Circle's Presidential Cookie Contest' recipe, 'Mama Kays's White & Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies'

In honor of Obama's public inauguration this coming Monday I thought I would give Michelle Obama's Family Circle Presidential cookie contest recipe a try.  The recipe is originally from a family friend of the Obama's, Eleanor Kaye Wilson (aka Mama Kaye) who is also Sasha & Malia's Godmother.

Seriously Michelle looks like Sasha & Malia's older sister here...just love her.

Since 1992, the publication Family Circle holds a cookie recipe contest every election year between the First Lady and the opposing candidates wife.

Surprisingly in the last four elections, the recipe winner has always been the same as the general election victor.  Who needs political analysis when we've got cookies.

The recipe itself is a fairly straight forward chocolate chip cookie recipe.  Most standard chocolate chip cookie recipes call for 1 cup of butter (as does this one) however Mama Kayes's recipe also includes an additional 1 cup of 'butter flavored' Crisco.  Oye.  If you are a follower of the blog you know how I feel about that lump-of-wanna-be-lard.  It always makes me cringe to buy something that is labeled 'butter flavored,' ohh ick.

But I'm also an all-American girl.  Crisco is part of the heart and soul of America...and I'm also a Democrat.  So I'll take one for the team this time around.  The cookies had a soft center with a crispy, chewy outside.  Each bite is filled with chocolate and mint, and lots of it.  Can't go wrong with that, fake-butter-tan-Crisco and all.

Mama Kaye's White & Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies
makes approximately 5 dozen
printable version


2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
8 ounces unsalted butter, softened
1 cup Crisco butter-flavored solid vegetable shortening
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup each white chocolate chips, milk chocolate chips and mint chocolate chips (or Andes mint pieces)*
2 cups chopped walnuts

*I have yet been able to find mint chocolate chips OR Andes mint pieces here in Dubai.  Alternatively I bought a pack of After Eight mint chocolate thins.  I gave them a coarse chop and it worked great.
Heat oven to 375 degrees  Fahrenheit. In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt. 

Whisk to combine.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream butter, vegetable shortening, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract.


Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. With your mixer on the lowest speed, beat in the flour mixture in 3 increments, until just combined.

By hand, stir in white and milk chocolate chips, mint chips and walnuts.

Drop rounded tablespoons of dough (I used a cookie scoop) onto an ungreased baking sheet.  I used silicone non-stick mats, always highly recommended for any cookie recipe.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

recipe courtesy of Family Circle

Jan 16, 2013

Peanut Butter Cup Whoopie Pies with Chocolate & Peanut Butter Glaze

I have a confession.  I am in no way, shape, or form a fan of cupcakes.  Even a little.

Phew, I am feeling loads better.  Good confession.

The ratio of cake to frosting is too skewed in my opinion.  I would rather have a bite of cake, with a side of frosting.  A super-sized-side.  God, Mayor Bloomberg would hate me...although I do drink diet soda.

See, whoopie pies are different.  You are guaranteed frosting in each and every bite.

Sound familiar?  Remember Seinfeld's explanation of the Black & White cookie...same premise for whoopie pie nonetheless...

Another reason I cannot comply with the cupcake craze...STORAGE!  Those cupcake storage/stacking trays are bulky.  I don't like buying storage items that only facilitate one type of food, who has room for that?  Also, cupcakes cannot be stacked on top of each other or wrapped individually without worrying about denting-the-doo' (frosting). But whoopie pies...you can wrap these pie's-o-heaven in plastic wrap and they keep like a dream. 
I'm a a bit of a storage freak but that's because my kitchen is bursting at the seams.  You wouldn't believe the way I've managed to stack my Tupperware, bakeware, kid-ware, endless varieties of flours, sugars, you name it, I've got one of each.  All in a kitchen smaller than a 10 x 10 office.  If there was a storage-stacking-competition you better believe I'd win.  1st AND 2nd place.
The creation of these peanut butter whoopie pies came out of a necessity to use up some left over peanut butter cups from Christmas.  As always I can not leave well enough alone.  I whipped up a chocolate peanut butter glaze (which you cannot see in the photo above because it's 'sandwiched' in,  but trust me it's there.  And it's lethal.
I'm the reason belts have lots of holes.  Enjoy.
Peanut Butter Cup Whoopie Pies with Chocolate & Peanut Butter Glaze
makes 15-17 whoopie pies
For the cookies:
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder (NOT instant coffee)
1/2 cup hot coffee
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup canola oil
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk, shaken
For the filling:
3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the chocolate & peanut butter glaze:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup  powdered sugar
20 miniature REESE'S peanut butter cups, coarsely chopped
To prepare the cookies, preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Alternatively, you can use specially designed whoopie pie pans.  Just be sure to spray them well with non-stick cooking spray.
In a large bowl, sift the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. 
Whisk to combine.  Set aside.
In another large bowl, sift together the cocoa powder and espresso powder.  Whisk to combine.

Add the hot coffee and 1/2 cup hot water and whisk until both powders are completely dissolved.

In a medium bowl, stir together the brown sugar and oil. 
Add this to the cocoa mixture and whisk until combined. 
Add the egg, vanilla, and buttermilk and whisk until smooth.

Use a rubber spatula to gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.  Make sure to scrap down the bowl as you fold.

Use a small ice cream scoop with a release mechanism to drop heaping tablespoons of the dough onto the prepared pan, about 1 inch apart (if using baking sheets). 

Bake for about 10-15 minutes until the cookies are just starting to crack on top.  Let the cookies cool completely on the pan while you prepare the filling.  If you are using a whoopie pie pan, let the cookies cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling (otherwise they will get stuck inside the pan).

For the filling, combine the butter and peanut butter in the bowl of a stand up mixer.  Mix on low until creamy.
Sift the sugar into the bowl and add the salt.  Mix on low to incorporate. 
Increase speed to medium and beat for about 4 minutes until the frosting is light and fluffy.
To prepare the glaze, combine butter, peanut butter, corn syrup, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons water in a microwave-safe bowl.
Heat in a microwave oven on High 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, until butter is melted and mixture is smooth when stirred.
Add chocolate chips and stir until completely melted and smooth.
  Sift in powdered sugar and stir until blended.
Refrigerate 10 minutes, or until glaze is of spreading consistency.
To assemble, transfer the peanut filling and glaze into separate piping bags.  I used a number 12 tip for the filling and a number 3 tip for the glaze.
Here is a tip to easily fill your bags.  With the tips in place, fold top cuff of the bag over the side of the glass.  Fill your bag half way full, twist securely and hold the end of the bag in place with a rubber band.  

*Instead of using piping bags you can alternatively use an offset spatula to ice the cookies with the filling.  Transfer the glaze to a small zip lock bag, cut off a tiny portion of the corner and pipe the glaze over the filling. 
Place one cookie flat side up.  Place a generous dollop of filling on the cookie (not a mountain or it will squish out the sides when you bite into it).  Add a drizzle of the chocolate peanut butter glaze.
 Top with another cookie and roll edges in the chopped peanut butter cups.
Wrap whoopie pies in plastic wrap and store in an air-tight container.  These also freeze beautifully.
Cookie recipe courtesy of Baked Explorations
Filling recipe courtesy of Whoopie Pies by Amy Treadwell
Glaze recipe courtesy of Recipe Source