Chocolate Zucchini Cake with Chocolate Frosting

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chocolate zucchini cake by twocarolines.com

I’m well known for my love of cakes, so people often ask me my favorite, well HERE IT IS! Caroline’s world famous Chocolate Zucchini Cake with Chocolate Frosting.  I just deeply love and adore this cake.  It’s the dessert I crave the most often, there’s something about it, that really sends me.  Usually when I make it, I bring it directly to an event of some sort and never get a decent picture, it’s just that once it’s done, everyone wants to eat it so fast photos seem unimportant! I’m not ashamed to admit that this is a ‘doctor the mix’ cake, with a mix foundation that tastes better than many from scratch cakes, there are no ego’s allowed in my kitchen! The cake itself is soooooo rich and chocolatey, the zucchini makes it ridiculous moist.  And the frosting is a legit, dreamy dark chocolate buttercream just poppin off chocolate flavor like nobody’s business.  I like to put nuts on half my cake so nut haters can still enjoy but man alive does a pecan or walnut just belong on this beauty! I also adore this cake with a white sticky frosting, but if you make it that way you need to eat it day of, because the white sticky tends to break down after a day or so.  I’m so excited to share this and I hope you love it as much as I do!

Chocolate Zucchini cake:
1 package devils food cake mix (I use the pillsbury one and it always tastes great)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup oil
3 eggs
2 cups zucchini
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Chocolate buttercream frosting:
1/2 cup butter melted
3/4 cups cocoa
1/3 cup milk (or cream)
3-4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
1/2 cup or so walnuts or pecans (optional)

  1. Heat oven to 350.  Grease and line 2 9 inch round cake pans (or it bakes up beautifully in a 9×13 – just pay attention to doneness rather than bake times).
  2. In a large bowl blend cake mix, cinnamon, buttermilk, vanilla, oil, and eggs and beat for a few minutes.  Add zucchini and mix until thoroughly combined and then add chocolate chips.
  3. Distribute evenly into your cake pans and bake for about 22-25 minutes depending on your oven.  It’s done when a toothpick in the center comes out clean.  Let cool before frosting.
  4. For the frosting, mix the butter and cocoa then add the milk, vanilla, salt and powdered sugar mixing on high until totally uniform and combined.  I use a cocoa mix with 1/3 special dark cocoa and the rest regular cocoa for an ultra decadent flavor.  Add more powdered sugar, or milk alternatively to get the desired texture.
  5. Cut off the top rounds on your cakes with a large bread knife then put the first one cut side down on a plate or cake stand.  Spread 1/3 of your frosting on that layer, then put your next cake on cut side down and spread the rest of your frosting, starting at the top and being careful to never touch your frosting spatula or knife to the cake itself but only on the frosting so you don’t pull crumbs.  Spread over the sides and around the edges.  Garnish with pecans or walnuts if you would like.
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chocolate zucchini cake by twocarolines.com

 

Momma May’s Carrot Cake

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Momma May’s Carrot Cake by twocarolines.com

My Mom Cheryll is an incredible woman- she has a PhD from Tufts School of Law and Diplomacy, she raised 3 children along with my Father, while working and fulfilling challenging church callings and she’s an absolute wonder in the kitchen! Her carrot cake is one of the most rare and spectacular privileges of my life on earth- you guys it’s BEYOND delicious! I get mad at carrot cakes that are jam packed full of raisins, nuts and pineapples, those are all good things that have no place in my cake.  I am a carrot cake purist, I want a full rich cake with strong carrot flavor and texture, and a hearty portion of slightly tart cream cheese frosting to set it all off.  What’s most magical about this cake is how the carrots start to caramelize in places and you get little crunchy, chewy sweet bits of carrot with a perfectly seasoned cake keeping it all together for a truly unforgettable cake experience.  I love it with fresh chopped walnuts on top of the frosting, for some reason they taste way better to me on top of the cake than they do in the cake.  My Mom usually makes this in a 9×13 pyrex, in which case you bake it for about 45-55 minutes (pay more attention to doneness than bake times).  I made it into an layer cake for dramatic effect, but suit yourself, it’s incredibly delicious either way!

For the Cake:
1 1/4 vegetable oil or coconut oil
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 eggs
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 generous cups finely grated carrots

For the Frosting:
1 pound cream cheese (two 8 oz bars) room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup butter (2 sticks) room temperature
2 pounds powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons milk
1 cup walnuts (more or less as you desire)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease (I also parchment line) two 9 inch round cake pans.  If you haven’t yet get out your butter and cream cheese to get them to room temperature for the frosting.
  2. Blend oil and sugars until really well combined.  Beat in eggs two at a time until totally incorporated.  Whisk together your dry ingredients in a separate bowl.  Sift in dry ingredients and mix until just combined.  Add carrots and give is a good mix so they are evenly distributed but don’t over-mix.
  3. Pour into your pans trying to keep them as even as possible.  Bake for 28-35 minutes rotating once.  Pay attention to doneness more than bake times.  Cakes should be raised, pulling slightly from the sides and a toothpick in the middle should come out clean.  Let cool in the pans for 10 or so minutes before turning out on to a rack to cool completely.
  4. For the frosting, beat your room temp cream cheese and butter until nicely combined.  Add vanilla, then start to add your powdered sugar scraping down completely a few times to make sure your frosting doesn’t have any dry spots.  I found I like the consistency better with a tablespoon or so of milk, but that’s optional.  Use as much sugar or milk as is needed to reach a nice sturdy frosting that can hold up in a layer cake – thick, but still spreadable.
  5. Put first cake layer down on your cake board or plate then spread a generous layer of frosting on the top.  Try to only touch your frosting tool to the frosting and never to the cake to avoid pulling up crumbs.  Another tip is to use more frosting than you think you need – really pile it on, you can always take it off as you frost your cake, but if you’re needing to add more it isn’t as easy to work with.  Once you have a solid 1/2 inch plus layer on your bottom cake put your next cake on top and pile frosting high then work it over the top and sides with a knife or frosting tool.  I love this offset frosting spatula from Ateco.  Turn your cake as you frost to evenly distribute your frosting, you will probably have some left over for your next batch of cupcakes or to decorate cookies with.
  6. Chop walnuts and carefully press them into the top of your cake.  Keep at room temperature and enjoy!
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Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Walnuts by twocarolines.com

Salted Dark Chocolate Pecan Fudge

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Salted Dark Chocolate Pecan Fudge by twocarolines

Fudge is such a staple of my family’s Christmas tradition, for weeks around this time of year my Mom kept a 9×13 on the back porch (where it would stay cool, but not dry out like it would in the fridge) and the intention was to make pretty plates of it for friends and neighbors, but my brothers and I were always sneaking pieces so, to everyones delight, she would end up having to make it a number of times.  Momma May makes the most incredible, rich dark chocolate nutty fudge EVER!  This is not the stuff on the back of your marshmallow cream label, it’s a unique and spectacular fudge experience for sure.  I think the secret is the unsweetened chocolate, that’s what gives is such insane chocolate flavor.  I traded out walnuts for pecans because I’ve been on a pecan binge lately and I added flake salt to the top.  I’m not going to lie, I am deep deep in love with the way it turned out.

Ingredients:

4 1/2 cups sugar

1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk

1/3 pound of butter (ends up being about 1 stick and 2-3 tablespoons)

2 cups chocolate chips

6 ounces unsweetened chocolate – chopped (I used 7 but who’s counting)

1 container (7 ounce)  marshmallow cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups pecans coarsely chopped

flake salt

  1. Have all your ingredients ready – this is a must for candy making as things happened fast and are often timed so finding and measuring is not something you’ll have time for as you go.  Grease a 9×13 baking dish (I use pyrex) with cooking spray or butter.
  2. In a large saucepan (with a heavy bottom – or at least a good thick one) mix sugar, milk, and butter.  Bring to a boil stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula.  As soon as it boils start a timer for 5 minutes and stir while it’s boiling for the full 5 minutes.
  3. Take off the heat and add unsweetened chocolate and chocolate chips, then marshmallow cream and once there are no more white streaks vanilla and nuts stirring the entire time.
  4. Pour into your greased 9×13 and sprinkle with flake salt then let cool.  Don’t slice until cooled down, but if you wait too long slicing is a little trickier to do cleanly.  I slice after about an hour of cooling for clean small squares.  I recommend keeping your servings small because it’s crazy mad rich.  Do not keep in the fridge or it will dry out your fudge.

Bon Appetit’s Amazing Apple Cider Doughnuts

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These Apple Cider Doughnuts go with tea, hot chocolate, hunger, anything because they are tops

Every Halloween season, I look forward to carrying on the family tradition of making donuts and wassail and sharing with my friends. I’ve always made my dad’s grandma’s recipe but this year, I saw a post from Bon Appetit about their Apple Cider Doughnut recipe and saw that it had APPLE BUTTER in the ingredients list and I was totally sold. You can keep the dough chilled in the fridge for a day, so it’s easy to make ahead, or do what I did and make two batches—cooking them one day apart.

Normally I like to alter a recipe that I find from another source if I post it to the blog—even just a little bit—but this was so perfect that I followed it exactly. So get to your local grocery store and get some cider and some apple butter and taste this glory!

Ingredients

  • 2 3-inch cinnamon sticks
  • 3 cups apple cider
  • ½ cup apple butter
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¼ cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • Vegetable oil (for frying; about 4 cups)

Special Equipment

  • A 3¼-inch-diameter cutter, 1¼-inch-diameter cutter, deep-fry thermometer (my batteries ran out for my thermometer, so I sort of guessed and put the heat on med-high and tested a doughnut hole to make sure they were frying correctly)
  • I used my ceramic coated cast-iron pot and I had more even results with the temperature than other methods I’ve tried.

Directions

  1. Bring cinnamon sticks and apple cider to a boil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and cook until liquid is thick, syrupy, and reduced to about ⅓ cup, 20–30 minutes. Scrape into a medium bowl and whisk in apple butter, buttermilk, and vanilla until incorporated; set aside.

  2. Whisk baking powder, salt, baking soda, nutmeg, 3½ cups flour, and 1 tsp. ground cinnamon in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, brown sugar, and ¼ cup granulated sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating until well blended after each addition. Reduce mixer speed to low and add dry ingredients in 2 additions, alternating with cider mixture in 2 additions, starting with dry ingredients and ending with cider mixture (dough will be very soft and sticky).

  3. Scrape dough onto a parchment lined-rimmed baking sheet thoroughly dusted with flour (about ⅓ cup). Dust hands and top of dough with more flour, then gently pat dough to ¾” thick. (Dough will be really sticky!) Dust with more flour and tightly cover with plastic wrap; chill dough at least 3 hours.

  4. Whisk remaining 1 cup granulated sugar and 1 Tbsp. cinnamon in a small bowl until no lumps remain. (We ended up using more than this)

  5. Working on baking sheet, punch out as many rounds as you can with 3¼” cutter, then use 1¼” cutter to punch out center of each round. Gather doughnut scraps, reserving holes, and gently re-roll without overworking dough; repeat until all dough has been used (you should have 18 doughnuts).

  6. Set a wire rack inside a paper towel-lined rimmed baking sheet. Fit a large pot with deep-fry thermometer and pour in oil to a depth of 3″. Heat over medium-high until thermometer registers 350°. Working in batches (I did about 4 donuts at a time), fry doughnuts until deep golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to prepared rack and let cool slightly. Fry doughnut holes until deep golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to prepared rack and let cool slightly. Toss warm doughnuts and doughnut holes in cinnamon sugar.

    Do Ahead: Dough can be made 1 day ahead; cover and chill.

 

-CK 1.0

Berries on a Cloud

Two Carolines Berries on a Cloud 1.JPG

There was a brief and lovely Two Carolines reunion over the weekend (with most of the rest of the family) and of course—there had to be a dessert party. I wanted something that would feed the whole crew and that could be prepared ahead of time. I dug back into the family archives and found this dessert that came from family on my mom’s side. It’s almost like a Pavlova, but with some extra ingredients that add to the texture and flavor. It is one of those desserts that all the kids and adults were devouring and wanting seconds and thirds. It takes some time to make it, but each step is pretty easy and it’s totally worth it.

Ingredients:

  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened to room temp.
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups small marshmallows
  • 1 pint cream, whipped
  • 1 (16 oz.) bag of frozen berries, thawed

Instructions:

  1. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until frothy. Add the salt and sugar; whip 10-15 minutes in stand mixer.
  2. Spread in an 11×15 inch greased pan. Bake one hour at 250-275 degrees. Turn off oven and leave in overnight.
  3. Mix the cream cheese, sugar and the vanilla until smooth and creamy. Add the marshmallows and mix until incorporated. Gently fold in whipped cream until mixture is uniform. Spread evenly on meringue layer. Cover with plastic wrap.
  4. Chill 8-10 hours.
  5. To serve, cut into squares and top with spoonful of thawed mixed berries.

 

-CK 1.0

 

Quintessential Chocolate Cupcakes

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Quintessential Cupcakes by twocarolines.com


I’m introducing you to the most perfect party companion ever.  These cupcakes are always so moist, rich and chocolatey with a bit of sour for balance and the most perfect springy texture, they are consistently amazing and so easy it’s embarrassing.  Of course this recipe works great as a layer cake, in a bundt, or just poured into a 9X13, just be sure to check doneness instead of bake times.  I made this batch for a sweet baby boy’s 1st birthday and thought it would be more fun to have two kinds of frosting for the kids to choose from, I will post both but I only made half of each for 24 cupcakes.  If you don’t feel like making frosting I’m sure you’ll enjoy them with a little ganache glaze or even just sprinkled with powdered sugar.

 

Chocolate Cake:

1 box pillsbury devils food cake mix
1 3.4 oz box jello instant chocolate pudding (not the fat/sugar free)
1/2 cup melted butter or coconut oil
1 cup sour cream
4 eggs lightly beaten (room temp works best)
1/2 cup warm water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 heaping cup chocolate chips

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting: 

1/2 cup butter at room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese (1/2 a box) room temperature
5 cups confectioners sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting: 

1/3 cup butter
2-3 ounces cream cheese
2/3 cup cocoa powder
3-4 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk (might need a bit more if frosting is too thick)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt

  1. For the cake.  Preheat oven to 350 and line 2 cupcake pans then spray the very bottom so your cakes come out clean.
  2. Lightly mix together the cake mix and pudding mix then in a separate bowl mix your eggs water, oil (or butter) and vanilla well until all the eggs are incorporated.  Add the wet mixture into the cake mix making sure to mix it thoroughly for a few minutes, and then add the sour cream blending until no white streaks remain.  Last add the chocolate chips and just fold them in with a spatula so they are evenly distributed.  The batter is quite thick, but it bakes up really nice so don’t get scared.
  3. Fill muffin tins about 2/3-3/4 tall depending on how tall your want your cupcakes.  You might have a bit extra.
  4. Bake at 350 for about 19-20 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean (bake times vary for 9″ pans, bundts etc. so check doneness with a toothpick before taking out).
  5. For the vanilla buttercream – mix butter and cream cheese in a stand mixer until well combined and a little fluffed up.  Add sugar and milk alternating, then vanilla.  I usually end up adding a little more sugar or milk until I reach desired texture.
  6. For the chocolate buttercream – melt butter and mix with cream cheese until well combined.  Add about half the milk to this mixture then start to add your cocoa and sugar in alternating batches ending with sugar.  Add vanilla and salt anytime.  Put in the rest of the milk and make sure you scrape down the sides of the pan often and just like the vanilla buttercream have extra milk and sugar on hand to get to your desired texture.
  7. I think it’s easiest and pretty to pipe on your frosting for cupcakes.  I use these handy Wilton disposable piping bags and I just cut them and put in my large frosting tip then put the bag into a tall vase with the edges pulled over the top to fill it up and pipe it on to my cupcakes.  So easy, and looks pretty good for someone who’s not the worlds best decorator.

-CK 2.0

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Cake recipe adapted from “A Gathering of Friends” cookbook.  Vanilla Buttercream from Martha Stewart Cakes cookbook.  Chocolate Buttercream I made up.

Wheat Germ Chocolate Chip Cookies

Two Carolines Wheat Germ Chocolate Chip Cookies 2

I realize that this is going to be a bold statement, so you might want to sit down. This is my ALL-TIME favorite cookie. I even posted this recipe twice on my old blog, because it went through quite a few iterations to reach Peak Cookie. It’s inspired by a favorite cookie from Specialty’s in SF that my friend and I used to get all the time during work breaks/after work/whenever we could. This recipe seems fairly close but is even better, if I do say so myself. I added a lot of healthy bits and bobs, so you could probably eat them for breakfast—not that I’ve ever done that*.

*Disclaimer: I may or may not have eaten these for breakfast.

  • 3/4 cup old fashioned whole rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup almond meal
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seeds
  • 1/2 cup raw wheat germ
  • 1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • (Makes approximately 30 cookies)

Preheat oven to 400°. Grease cookie sheets or line with baking paper.

Mix oats, flour and almond meal, in a medium bowl. Add baking soda, salt, cinnamon and whisk until mixed in. Whisk in wheat germ and flax. Chop coconut and pecans very finely in small food processor (or old school with a good knife) and mix into the flour mixture.

Beat butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add granulated sugar, brown sugar, honey, egg and vanilla; beat until smooth and creamy. Add the dry ingredients, beating on low speed until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Chill the dough in a refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. The dough should be semi-firm before proceeding with next step.

Use a cookie scoop to scoop out dough and arrange, at least 1 inch apart, onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake cookies, until firm around the edges and barely golden on top, about 9 minutes. Cool the cookies for 2 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool.

NOTE: I think the cookies actually taste the best the next day. Also, the dough can be prepared in advance and kept in the refrigerator, tightly covered for up to a week.

-CK 1.0