Belated Birthday Post (I’m 40!!!)

With the hassles and disasters of moving and pup’s emergency surgery, which all happened either ON or immediately following my 40th birthday, the pics from that day and subsequently this post got pushed to the back burner. But HELLO, I’m FORTY!!!!! How the hell did that happen?  Seriously, how has 40 years gone by already? Especially the last 20….it’s like a freakin’ blurrrr.  And add kids to the mix, and somehow time speeds up that much more.  *sigh*

Too all you young’uns out there, just remember, time is precious. And fleeting. Tomorrow is guaranteed to no one, so I am thankful for my 40 years, however quickly they have passed.

On that note…you better go make this cake today, b/c it is something you do not want to miss out on. Provided you like chocolate. If you don’t like chocolate, uhmmm, you may be at the wrong blog.

For my 40th, my dear mommy had a cook out for me, and my dear little sis made me this fabulous cake. I don’t know how she knew I would love such a thing (other than she knows I am a chocolate freak, and I pinned it with the caption ‘I want this for my birthday’. Because I’m subtle like that.)

Me, being a big fatty, with my awesome cake (and awesome daughter, Number One)
The cake is made with cake mix, brownie mix (family size), TWO cans of frosting, and chocolate chips. wowza!
For the complete recipe and great step-by-step assembly pics, go HERE!
Not only did my sister make me a super, duper, chocolate brownie cake, she also gave me something every food blogger covets….

A light box! Or more accurately…a Deluxe Table Top Photo Studio Light Box!  I am so excited! I can’t wait to start using it, especially since it is already getting darker much earlier and has been impossible to get natural light at dinner the last couple of nights.  I will be setting this up ASAP! I’ve just been trying to clear out enough boxes…and I am finally getting there!  Yes, everyone needs an awesome sister like mine.  She also gives me shoes…you will have to read her blog to understand why that is such a wonderful thing.

To work off all that cake, my parents gave me a kayak (since we now live on the sound)…

But they didn’t want me to lose too much weight, so they also gave me….
an ice cream maker!!! Yay!
(Sorry for the blurry pic, one of my kids was in charge of the camera)
My brother gave me a super cute casserole dish and candle from the Polka-Dot Palm. And when I say my brother, I mean my brother’s girlfriend, thanks M.! My brother always gives me liquor when left to his on devices…which I am SO not complaining. I mean really….hauling kids to the liquor store? I don’t think so.  (However, you never know, desperate times call for desperate measures. lol)
So – that’s the OH MY LORDY, I’M FORTY wrap up.  It was a great bday, and quite the milestone. I don’t feel like I should be 40, I mean, I still listen to Metallica & AC/DC for goodness sake.  Aren’t old people supposed to listen to….uhmmm….well, I have no idea.  My own mom has a more awesome (& current) CD collection than I do.
Of course, I’m feeling the eye strain from staring at the computer. 
Damn, I am getting old.

Chocolate Bourbon-Spiked Banana Bread

Ohhhh YES! Chocolate + Bourbon + Bread = one divine combination.  Joy the Baker is a smart woman!  The other day I had a few bananas that needed to get used up, (or frozen to make banana ice cream.)  I, however, remembered I had pinned this fabulous banana bread recipe and I had some bourbon.  (Thanks to my brother, who always gives me liquor for my bday since I refuse to go to the liquor store. Mainly b/c I am always dragging 1 to 3+ children around. BTW bro…bday coming up soon! *hint hint*) Which reminds me…OH MY LORDY, I’LL BE FORTY!!! Holy cow. But that is a different post altogether.

Back to the bread…it was amazing.

Chocolate Bourbon Spiked Banana Bread 

adapted from Completely Delicious (from Joy the Baker cookbook)
**my changes are in italics**
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temp *I used 1/4 cup Smart Balance Butter & 1/4 cup coconut oil
1 cup sugar *I used 1/2 cup sugar & 1/2 cup Stevia
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups bananas, mashed (about 3 medium bananas) *I didn’t have quite enough banana, so I added enough applesauce to equal 1 1/2 cups
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons bourbon
1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1 cup semi-sweet dark chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli – roughly chopped since they are large chips)
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour a 9×5 inch loaf pan. *I made 4 mini loaves.
  • In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium high speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the mashed banana, lemon juice, and bourbon and mix until just combined.
  • Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. 
  • Stir in the walnuts and chocolate chips. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan and spread to distribute it evenly. 
  • Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan 20 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. *I think the mini loaves took about 30 minutes. We polished off 2 loaves pretty quickly, then I put 2 in the freezer…portion control!
Verdict – Delicious!  It had a nice crusty outside, and was very moist on the inside – loaded with chocolate, mild banana, and a hint of bourbon!  So.good.

Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Curd

I made these cupcakes for my sister’s birthday and they were the BOMB.  The lemon curd absolutely made them.  That is some good stuff.  I had never tried it before but recently ordered it, along with some other goodies, from Stonewall Kitchen.  I’m in love.
These were super easy to make because I went for the quick and dirty version.  Boxed lemon cake mix, lemon icing, and prepared lemon curd.  Obviously, making everything from scratch would make it that much better.
I made the cake mix according to directions on the box, except I added the zest of one lemon.  Once the cupcakes were done, I used a melon ball scoop, and scooped out some of the cupcake (which I ate), and added a dollop of  lemon curd.  We topped the cupcakes with canned lemon icing (I say we b/c my 11 y/o helped with the icing, in case you were checking out the first pic and wondering.  Not that my frosting skills are all that.)  The icing is the thing I would change for next time.  I wasn’t a huge fan of the artificial lemon flavor of the canned icing, but I was worried the homemade icing would melt so quickly in the heat, and I was traveling with them. Other than that, they were awesome!  My mother declared them divine…and that is saying something as my mom is more of a chocoholic than I am!  I know, it’s not even possible, right?!
I am thinking about making these again soon, and instead of frosting, just add some cool whipped topping and fresh blueberries.  Lemon and blueberry is always a winning combo.  I could even make these “skinny” cupcakes by just adding a can of diet lemon/lime soda to the box of mix.  If you haven’t tried this…it works! I posted it here if interested.  So…..maybe I’m just gonna go now and make these before I attack the lemon curd with a spoon! 
And if you are craving a salty snack….go enter my giveaway HERE.

German Chocolate Cake Bars

One of my Dad’s favorite desserts is German Chocolate Cake. So for Father’s Day, I thought I would make him one. Then, I saw German Chocolate Cake Bars over at Six Sisters’ Stuff.  They looked so yummy, and so easy! I like easy.  I decided I would make them instead.  It was a good decision.

German Chocolate Cake Bars 

1 box devil’s food cake mix (not the kind with pudding added)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted *I used Smart Balance
1 large egg

1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk  *I used fat free
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 cup chopped pecans *I used walnuts since that’s what I had 
1 cup shredded coconut 
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (milk chocolate is fine too)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13 inch baking pan with non stick cooking spray or butter.

In a medium bowl, mix together the cake mix, butter and egg, and press into the bottom of the prepared pan. The crust should not come up the sides.

Bake for 7 minutes and remove from the oven. The crust will not look done.

While the crust is baking, mix together the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, egg, pecans walnuts and coconut. Pour evenly over the warm crust and sprinkle evenly with the chocolate chips.

Bake for 24-30 minutes, until the top is a light golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool completely before cutting into squares.

 Recipe Source: Six Sisters’ Stuff & Paula Deen
Everybody loved these! Even if you are not a big coconut fan, these are delicious.  Very much like a brownie, and who doesn’t like brownies? {I saw in the comments from the source site that someone had added a caramel sauce to theirs when they took it out of the oven. I think that would be an awesome addition, but I didn’t want to make another run to the store (and didn’t have what I needed to make it from scratch.).}  My dad really enjoyed these, so that was the main thing.  Definitely a recipe that belongs in the ‘keeper file’!  It’s really hard to go wrong with chocolate and sweetened condensed milk!

I’m linking up this recipe with The Dedicated HouseEverything Under the Moon, Homemaker on a Dime, A Southern Fairytale, Delightfully Dowling, Making the World Cuter, Mandy’s Recipe Box, It’s a Blog Party, All the Small Stuff, 33 Shades of Green, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, From Mess Hall to Bistro , Lady Behind the Curtain, Ginger Snap Crafts, Eat at Home

Boston Cream Poke Cake & a Celebration!

I am thrilled to say that yesterday marked the 2 year anniversary of my Dad’s life-saving stem cell transplant!  You can read more about it HERE.  We celebrated by getting the family together and having a cook-out, and one of my Dad’s favorite desserts….

He loves anything Boston Cream…so I decided to make a version of this Boston Cream Poke Cake from Lil’ Luna.  I changed it up just a little by adding a homemade chocolate icing to the top.

Boston Cream Poke Cake (with homemade Hershey’s icing)

*yellow cake mix (I used the Duncan Hines Butter recipe yellow cake mix)
*ingredients called for on cake box (eggs/butter/water)
*large box of instant vanilla pudding (I used sugar free, fat free)
*amount of milk called for on pudding box (mine was 3 cups; I used skim milk)
for icing– (from my MIL)
*1 cup sugar
*1/3 cup cocoa (I used Hershey’s Dark)
*1/4 cup milk
*1/4 cup butter
*1 teaspoon vanilla
To make cake – mix up cake batter according to directions on box.  Bake as directed in a 13×9 pan.  While cake is cooling, mix up vanilla pudding according to package directions.  Poke holes in your cake with the end of a wooden spoon (see notes). Pour and smooth vanilla pudding over surface of cake.
To make icing – Mix sugar, cocoa and milk in a pot, bring to a boil over medium heat – stirring the entire time WITH A WOODEN SPOON.  Boil for one minute (still stirring!)  Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla.  Mix until it just starts to thicken – don’t let it thicken too much or it is very difficult to spread over cake.  Pour over pudding layer of cake. Icing will ‘set’ on cake.
Love the pretty layers
Now…notes!  Don’t poke your holes too deep into your cake.  I had never made a poke cake before, so I just stabbed my spoon into my cake with no regards to depth.  Also, I let my cake sit overnight which also made a difference – but most of my pudding and half of my icing soaked into my cake!  I think no more than half way into the cake would be plenty deep.  I also think the cake would be better eaten the day it is made, if you want to keep the nice layers.  Otherwise, you have a very moist cake with some chocolate on top…which is fine, but not what I was going for.  That being said, my mom said the cake tasted just like a Boston Cream doughnut.  Believe it or not, I don’t like Boston Cream doughnuts, or Chocolate Eclairs (I know, I’m weird like that), but I do like the cake versions!
If you do not want to mess with the homemade icing – the original version called for chocolate pudding over the vanilla pudding layer.  You could also heat up canned icing and pour over the top.  Of course, you could also make this cake using a homemade cake recipe, homemade pudding, with a chocolate ganache on top.  Holla.  Please send me some if you do that.
Also, check out for information regarding becoming a stem cell/bone marrow donor.

Margarita Cake

I’ve mentioned that I made a Margarita Cake for Easter, and wanted to share the recipe.  It was really good, and it starts with a cake mix!

Margarita Cake

slightly adapted from the Cake Mix Doctor

  • Cake: 
  • Cooking spray, for misting the pan
  • Flour, for dusting the pan
  • 1 package (18.25 ounces) plain yellow or lemon cake mix (I used lemon)
  • 4 tablespoons vanilla instant pudding mix (I used fat free, sugar free instant pudding)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • ½ cup vegetable olive oil
  • 1/3 cup fresh lime or Key lime juice
  • ¼ cup tequila
  • 2 tablespoons triple sec orange liqueur 
  • 1 teaspoon  tablespoon grated lime zest
  • 4 large eggs
  • Glaze:
  • 1 ¼ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon tequila
  • 1 tablespoon triple sec orange liqueur 
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice or Key lime juice
  • 3-4 drops Orange NuStevia (optional)
  • 2-3 drops of Lemon NuStevia (optional)
  • 1 lime, cut into thin slices (I omitted)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons coarse sugar (I omitted)
  • Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly mist a 12-cup Bundt pan with cooking spray, then dust with flour. Shake out the excess flour and set the pan aside.
  1. In a large mixing bowl, mix the cake mix, pudding mix, sugar, water, oil, 1/3 cup lime juice, ¼ cup tequila, 2 tablespoons orange liqueur, lime zest and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until the ingredients are combined, abt 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and mix on medium speed for 1½ minutes longer, scraping down the side of the bowl again if needed. The batter should look smooth and thick. Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan, smoothing the top with the rubber spatula, and place the pan in the oven.
  2. Bake the cake until the top springs back when lightly pressed with a finger, 42 to 47 minutes. Transfer the Bundt pan to a wire rack and let the cake cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Run a long, sharp knife around the edges of the cake, shake the pan gently, and invert the cake onto a wire rack. Let the cake cool completely, about 25 minutes longer.  (My cake pulled away from the sides as it cooled and I didn’t need to run a knife along the sides of the pan.  It came out easily, unlike this one! My cake also fell some.  ALL my cakes fall…I don’t know what I’m doing wrong!)
  3. Meanwhile, make the glaze: Place the confectioners’ sugar, 1 tablespoon tequila, 1 tablespoon orange liqueur, 1 tablespoon lime juice, and the lemon and orange Stevia drops in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Slide the cake onto a serving plate. Using a long wooden skewer poke 12 to 16 holes in the top of the cake. Spoon the glaze over the top of the cake, letting it drip down the sides. Garnish the cake with the lime slices and a sprinkling of coarse sugar. Let the glaze set for 10 minutes, then slice and serve the cake.
Verdict – This cake was all I hoped it would be….dense and moist like a pound cake, with a nice citrus flavor.  The glaze was delicious and really complimented and added to the flavor of the cake.  The new flavored stevia extracts from NuNaturals are amazing!  Very intense flavor.  I can’t wait to try them in different recipes. (Review & Giveaway coming!)  I only tasted a hint of Tequila in the glaze, and I think that is just because I knew it was there.  It could be left out if you prefer, or increased if you want to intensify the flavor.  (If you add more liquid, you may need to add more confectioner’s sugar,depending on the consistency of the glaze.)  Overall, this is a perfect dessert for spring/summer and is going in the ‘keeper file’!

I’m linking this recipe up with Homemaker on a Dime, Delightfully Dowling, A Southern Fairytale, Skip to my Lou, The Girl Creative,  All the Small Stuff, Tasty Tuesdays, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, Made from Scratch Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday @ For The Love Of Blogs,Blue Cricket Design,Ginger Snap CraftsLady Behind the Curtain, Miz Helen’s Country Cottage, A Little Nosh, Simply Delish, It’s a Keeper, Bacon Time with the Hungry Hungry Hypo, Simple Living with Diane Balch, Around My Family Table,  Just us FourSix Sisters’ Stuff, The Sweet Details for Savory Sunday; Finding Joy in my Kitchen (Ingredient Spotlight: Citrus)