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.

Dense Dark Chocolate Brownies with Walnuts

IMG_6852How many chocolate brownie recipes can two dessert bloggers named Caroline offer to you……more than you might think! If you click the “brownies and bars” category on the lower right column of our site you will get literally DOZENS of incredible square shaped treats.  There’s the super basic but practically perfect Kristin’s Brownies, my personal obsession Spelt Brownies and some extra fun layered bars like Buckeye Brownies, S’mores Brownies or Butterscotch Brownies – all of which I very enthusiastically recommend.  Some might think adding to this category is superfluous – those people just don’t understand the chocolatey magic of a perfect brownie!  I was in the mood for some really SERIOUS chocolate, like the dense, rich, dark and melty kind that urgently pleads for a large draw of milk with every bite.  These came from “How To Be A Domestic Goddess” by Nigella Lawson.  I halved the recipe and baked them in an 8×8, which I recommend because this recipe is massive so double if you’re feeding a crowd or if your doctor told you to gain a lot of weight as fast as you can (I can’t imagine a more delicious way to do that) because I halved it some of my measurements look a little wompy, like if it’s 1 & 2/3 in the original recipe it’s 1/2 & 1/3 halved – but they worked out perfectly in an 8×8.  After a day, heat them in the microwave for 10 seconds to get maximum brownie gooeyness – that is, if they make it to day two (not likely~).  -CK 2.0

  1. 1/2 & 1/3 cups soft unsalted butter (1 stick and 5 1/2 tablespoons of another stick)
    6.5 ounces of dark bittersweet chocolate
    3 large eggs
    1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
    1/2 & 1/3 cups sugar
    3/4 cups all purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon (scant) coarse salt
    2/3 cups chopped walnuts (I used less than that because I only put walnuts in half – kids are so lame about nuts!)

    1.  Preheat oven to 350 and line your brownie pan with parchment.  I lined it both ways, but you can pull them out easy enough if you just line is one side, and you can even just spray it without parchment and cut them out of the pan too! Whatever works for you.

  2. Melt the butter and chocolate together – either in a double boiler over the stove or slowly in the microwave (20 second increments until they loose their shape and you can whisk it all smooth).  In a bowl beat the eggs with the vanilla and sugar.  Measure the flour and salt into another bowl.
  3. When the chocolate mixture has melted, let it cool a bit before beating in the eggs and sugar, and then the nuts and flour.  (I added the nuts on 1/2 of the brownies last on top and just pushed them in and smoothed the top).  Beat to combine smoothly and then scrape out of the bowl into the lined brownie pan.
  4. Bake for about 23-25 minutes until the top looks dried to a paler brown speckle but the middle will still be dark dense and gooey.

Recipe adapted from “How To Be A Domestic Goddess” Nigella Lawson.

Chocolate Granola Pie

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Chocolate Granola Pie by twocarolines.com

I shared this pie almost a year ago as a guest post on one of my friends blogs, but I’ve shared it MANY times with friends for various events and just whenever I want to eat one of the most delicious bakes in my arsenal.  I had to post it here today because so many friends have been asking for the recipe with Thanksgiving less than a week away! This pie not only checks all the boxes, crunchy, chewy, chocolatey, nutty, sweet, salty, mouth melty…it also makes the people you serve it to think you’re a total genius in the kitchen.  The cool trick is that it’s one of the easiest pies I make, and honestly, the only pie that competes with this for my favorites is chocolate cinnamon mousse, but that’s a much more involved pie so granola pie has become my go to.  It’s really good served warm, but I think it’s even better served cold, it’s amazing on it’s own, but heaped high with whipped cream or ice cream and you are winning all the pie awards this year.  I implore you to add it to your Thanksgiving line up and share this recipe with your pie loving friends!

Crust: unbaked 9″ Traditional pie crust – ours is easy and always delicious! I sometimes make this in a deep dish pie pan in which case I just go heavy on all the ingredients – you can’t really mess it up I promise!

½ cup butter
½ cup brown sugar
¾ cup light corn syrup
⅛ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
3 eggs (beaten)
4 nature valley oat’s n’ honey granola bars (2 pouches) crushed
½ cup walnuts
¼ cup oats (quick or old fashioned)
½ (rounded) chopped chocolate or chocolate chips

  1. Prepare pie crust by pressing into pan and crimping as desired. I usually put my unbaked crust in the freezer while I prepare the filling which makes it extra flakey. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. In large Microsoft waveable bowl melt butter, stir in brown sugar and corn syrup until blended.  Beat in salt, vanilla and eggs.  Stir in crushed granola bars, walnuts, oats and chocolate chips.  Pour into crust lined pan.
  3. Bake 40-50 minutes or until filling is set and crust is golden brown.  During last 15-20 minutes of baking cover crust edge with strips of aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning (if you don’t want to bother, it’s not a huge deal). I use a pie shield that’s handy for pies that have a long bake time.  Cool at least 30 minutes before serving.  Tastes great warm, room temp or chilled with whipped cream or ice cream.  Cover and refrigerate any remaining pie, but remaining pie is unlikely.

Recipe adapted from Pillsbury Bake Off winner 2004 Oats and Honey Pie (which I literally watched the winner announced on Oprah back in 2004 and I’ve been making this pie ever since!)

Pear Plum Pecan & Apple Crisp

pear plum and apple crisp

Pear Plum Pecan and Apple Crisp by twocarolines.com

Fall fruits have never been in a more delicious setting than bubbling with cinnamony juices and topped with a crumbly crunch top in this delicious pear, plum and apple crisp!  I am missing the bounty of summer, but honestly there is no summer dessert that can make your house smell like this, and not only does this crisp taste outstanding warm, but it’s life altering cold and completely over the top with a scoop of legit vanilla ice cream.  This recipe is very versatile.  It’s my own creation loosely based on the Joy of Cooking apple crisp.  I’ve made it with apples and blackberries, rhubarb and blueberries, any number of stone fruits or just with apples, and the topping is begging to be messed with too!  This time I added oats as I almost always do and chopped some pecans into it which was heaven, but you could add any number of yummy things like coconut, dried fruit, or nuts of  just about any kind.  This is the ultimate in easy desserts which is also handy for this busy time of year, but despite the small effort, anyone who eats it will be convinced you’re a genius in the kitchen!

2-2/12 lbs fruit – either apples, or apples and a combination of other fruit – it comes out to about 7-8 medium sized apples.  Peel and chop apples, pears and plums.
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup oats (old fashioned work best)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup cold butter cut into small pieces

  1.  Prepare a 2 quart sized baking dish by spraying the very bottom.  You don’t have too, but I think it helps with clean up.  Preheat oven to 360 (original recipe is 375, but I find that burns my nuts so I keep it a bit cooler).
  2. Spread fruit into dish and in a separate bowl combine everything but the butter then cut the butter in with a pastry cutter or forks until it resembles coarse bread crumbs.  Scatter the topping evenly over the fruit.  Bake until the topping is golden brown, the juices are bubbling and the apples are tender, about 45-50 minutes.  I usually tent mine at the end just to make sure things don’t get too brown, but you don’t have too.
  3. Serve hot or cold with whipped cream, sour cream or ice cream…or just by itself because it’s seriously incredible on it’s own.  Refrigerate leftovers, which will be good for at least 4-5 days but they will be long gone before then!

Recipe adapted from Joy of Cooking Apple or Fruit Crisp 2006

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, but it’s fun to be sharing a favorite almost a year after we launched.  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

 

Homemade Bagels

homemade bagels

homemade bagels

Of all the white carbs I adore, legit, chewy, fresh bagels have my whole heart.  Maybe you’re thinking “why would I make them, when I can easily just buy them?” but you’ve been decieved!  It’s actually really difficult to buy a legitimate bagel these days – the distinction being a bagel that is actually boiled before it’s baked.  Even some large bagel chains have switched from poaching to steaming, which is so weak sauce!  In order to achieve that super chewy texture that makes a bagel so much more special than circle shaped bread, they need to take a little bath in boiling water, trust me, it’s a difference you can taste.  The cool bonus is that they are quite easy to make and don’t require any super secret ingredients.  And think of how impressed the people at your table will be when you bust out these beauties!  I cut, wrap in plastic, and freeze anything we don’t eat the first day then we eat them for weeks by throwing them in the microwave on defrost for a minute or so.  I’m way to much of a bagel purist to ever toast a bagel (BLASPHEME!) But I won’t judge you if you choose to warm yours up that way, this is assuming of course that you have any left after the first day….

6-7 cups white bread flour (I’ve used all purpose flour with great results, bread flour just makes a little smoother texture, it’s’ not essential)
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon yeast – (I like this saf instant one that performs well mixed in with flour instead of needing to hang around in water)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 1/4 cups warm water
2 tablespoons sugar for poaching in water (the recipe uses malt, but I’ve never found that and sugar works beautifully)

  1. Combine the flour, salt and yeast together in a large bowl.  Start with 6 cups flour but be ready to add 7 depending on how much your dough will take.  Add the sugar and oil to the water in a different bowl.  Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the liquid, mixing to a dough with a spatula or wooden spoon.
  2. Knead the dough either by hand or with a dough hook, trying to add more flour as it kneads- you actually want a quite dry dough vs. normal bread and yes, your dough will be stiff, but knead for a good 10 minutes until you have a really smooth, elastic dough.  I use my kitchen-aid mixer with the dough hook and it takes about 11-12 minutes.
  3. Form the dough into a ball, and put it into an oiled bowl (I just use my kitchen-aid one) turning once to coat.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave it to rise for about 1 hour.  It should be well risen, and when you poke it with your finger the impression should remain.
  4. Punch down the dough and give it a few kneads then divide it into 3 pieces.  Using your hands roll each piece into a rope then cut each rope into 5 fairly even pieces.  I line up my 3 ropes and cut with my pastry scraper that also helps me measure.
  5. Roll each piece into another rope and curl it around to form a ring.  Seal the ends by over-lapping them a little and pinching them together – I usually dip one side in a little water.
  6. At this point put a large pot of water to boil and once it’s boiling add your sugar.  Preheat your oven to 500 – I know it’s hot, but that’s what your bagels want!
  7. Set the bagel on baking sheets, cover with tea towels and leave for about 25 minutes by which time they should be puffy.
  8. To poach your bagels drop a couple at a time (I do 3-4 because I use a large pot) into the water and boil for only about 1 minute turning once.  I use a slotted spoon for this which works great.
  9. As you poach them put them back on your baking sheet that is either oiled or has a silpat on it.
  10. Bake for about 10 minutes or until they’re shiny and golden brown.  Let cool for a good 10 minutes, but they are incredible served warm.
  11. Note:  You are welcome to get creative with toppings etc.  I like to sprinkle a coarse salt/flour mixture on some and it’s also yummy to do a cinnamon sugar/butter combo on top as well.  If I have time I will even mix my last 5 with various things like chocolate chips, blueberries or cranberries before I boil them.  They always turn out tasty but some of my combinations make them look a little busted.  Do what sounds good to you!

Recipe adapted from Nigella Lawson How To Be a Domestic Goddess

homemade bagel sandwich

homemade bagel sandwich

Quintessential Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Quintessential chocolate chip cookies by twocarolines.com

What is more all American than classic chocolate chip cookies?  These are my Momma’s famous CCC’s – it’s an honor to share this family classic.  It’s possible they taste a lot like your Mom’s chocolate chip cookies, but to me, they taste like home, and a Mother’s love, and that time our dog Beamer jumped up on the kitchen counter and ate the cookies while they cooled (don’t worry, he was fine), and seriously so many great memories.  Just thinking about them brings joy to my heart.  They are always on point, so melty, amazing texture of chewyness with a tiny crunch on the end, to me, they are a simple cookie in it’s most perfect form.

1 cup butter (softened)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 heaping teaspoon vanilla
1/8 cup room temperature water
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
12 ounce package of chocolate chips
1 cup choppped walnuts (1 1/2 if you you’re doing nuts in all the cookies, but Mom always makes half “non-nutty” for the littles)

  1.  Prepare 2 cookie sheets with baking spray, parchment or a silpat (Mom uses the wrapper from the butter) and preheat the oven 350.
  2. Chop up walnuts so there are some good sized bits, but not huge chunks, otherwise known as coarsely chopped.
  3. Cream butter with sugars, then add eggs and vanilla until totally combined.  Add water and mix well.  Next Add your flour salt and baking soda (you can sift them if you want, but they are fantastic either way).  Mix until just combined then fold in your chocolate chips, and if you’re making cookies sans nuts for people who are “not enlightened” as my Mom puts it, now is the time to drop your cookies in about 2 tablespoon plops with room to spread on to your prepared sheet and while the first batch is baking, add your nuts for the next.
  4. Bake about 10-13 minutes – bake time is not important, doneness is.  You want these cookies out of the oven when they are still shiny and doughy looking in the middle, but the edges are brown at the bottom and starting to set.  If you overbake them, just give them to a neighbor you don’t like because you’ve done a terrible thing to an otherwise perfect chocolate chip cookie!  They will bake a little longer as they cool on the cookie sheet and after 10 minutes or so, move them to a cooling rack.  I would tell you to let cool before serving but that’s just adorable non-sense.  Eat them as soon as they don’t burn your mouth!  They keep for a day or two in a well sealed container, but I often end up freezing what we don’t eat the first day or two and then you can defrost them for 20 seconds and re-live that fresh out of the oven feeling.