Irish Cream Icebox Cake

cake-3I don’t recall exactly how the topic came up, but recently my mother and I got to talking about something called “Icebox Cake.” I was completely unfamiliar, but she knew exactly what this was. To me, it sounded like an interesting concept… layers of chocolate chip cookies and creamy filling, refrigerated overnight until the whole thing took on a cake-like texture. I filed the idea away for a future rainy day.

Mom did better than that, and actually created an icebox cake for us to try. It was fantastic! This cool, creamy indulgence has definitely earned a spot in the dessert rotation here at Crowded Earth Kitchen. I hope you enjoy Irish Cream Icebox Cake as much as we did!

cake-2Ingredients (Serves 12 – 16)

24 ounces of “Chips Ahoy” cookies (packages vary in size; check the weight)

3/4 cup (about 12 ounces) Marscarpone cheese

1 3/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup Irish cream liqueur

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

1 teaspoon almond extract

Garnishes such as powdered sugar, whipped cream, and/or miniature chocolates

cake-1Directions

Step 1) Combine Marscarpone cheese, heavy cream, Irish cream liqueur, sugar, cocoa powder, and almond extract. Blend with an electric mixer for one minute, then beat on high speed until stiff peaks form.

Step 2) Cover the bottom of a large Springform pan (or other round pan, approximately 12″ in diameter) with Chips Ahoy cookies. Do not overlap the cookies. Instead, break a few cookies to fill in the spaces.

Step 3) Top the cookies with a thin layer of cream (about 1/4 of your total filling mixture).

Step 4) Repeat layers of cookies and cream filling until the cream filling is used up. The top layer should be cream.

Step 5) Cover your Irish Cream Icebox Cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Don’t rush this – the cake really does need to rest in the fridge for about 12 hours!

Step 6) If using a Springform pan, run a butter knife around the edge before removing the side of the pan. Immediately before slicing and serving, garnish as desired.

YUM!

 

Autumn Plum Cake

easy-plum-cakeEvery autumn, the New York Times publishes the same plum torte recipe. It has something of a cult following. My friend Denise, a scratch cook who is rather particular about the recipes she endorses, raves about this torte. So, I gave it a try.

It’s good. Really good! The recipe is included here. I had larger plums on hand, so I used slices rather than halves. Whether this recipe is a “torte” or a “cake” is in the eye of the beholder. I’m going with “cake,” as for me the word “torte” conjures up images of complicated, many-layered German desserts. This recipe is blessedly simple. It is quite similar to Rustic Apple Cake, with different fruit. Enjoy this cake (torte?) with a cup of coffee as you watch the leaves fall.

French Chocolate Éclairs

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If you know of a gooey, chocolaty baked confection more fabulous than a French Chocolate Éclair, do let me know because I can’t think of one! They’re so decadent, they must be difficult to make, right? Au contraire! If you can stir a few ingredients together and squeeze a plastic bag (more on that later), you can make this heavenly dessert.

Fun variation: Instead of the French vanilla cream filling used below, consider filling these decadent treats with English Lemon Curd. Either option is delicious! Let’s get started!

Ingredients (Makes 30 mini Éclairs)

For the éclair shells:

1/2 cup real butter

1 cup water

1 cup flour Continue reading

Tsubuan Anko (Japanese Sweet Red Bean Paste)

WIN_20160628_153501Anko, or sweet red bean paste, is a very common ingredient in Japanese desserts – it’s a much more common ingredient than chocolate. Anko is made from little red adzuki beans, and as we’ll see in the recipe below, it’s pretty simple to prepare. Anko may be smooth (Koshian) or more textured (Tsubuan). While both are delicious, the textured version is easier to prepare, so that’s what we’re making Continue reading

Lemon Peeps Pie

WIN_20160325_113521I began today’s kitchen adventures with every intention of making a lemon meringue pie. I had a few beautiful little Meyer lemons to use up, and a ready-to-bake pie crust (no apologies) in my fridge. When I got to the part where I should have beat egg whites into meringue, I got to thinking…

It’s almost Easter…

Marshmallow is sort of like meringue…

and those little Peeps chicks are cute!

So, here we are. Lemon Peeps Pie is lemony, marshmallowy, cute, and delicious. Have a sense of humor, and have a Happy Easter!

WIN_20160325_110948Ingredients (Serves 8)

1 baked pie crust (follow directions on a refrigerated crust, or buy a pie crust from the baking aisle at the market)

1 1/3 cups sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons corn starch Continue reading

French Macarons

French Macarons

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French Macarons might be the best dessert to ever emerge from Crowded Earth Kitchen. How’s that for an endorsement to try this recipe?

A Google search for “French Macarons” will turn up… wait for it… 630,000 hits. Does the world really need 630,001? Yes. Here’s why! You see, here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we sorted through a good long many of those 630,000 links, picking up tips and ideas along the way. The end result is Continue reading

Chocolate Kiss Date Cake

WIN_20160109_090746This recipe is a variation on the chocolate date chip cake that my Great Grandmother Helen used to make. It’s a chocolate cake so delicious, it doesn’t need frosting… seriously. The dates simply “disappear” in the cake, adding sweetness and preventing the cake from drying out, but otherwise are a secret ingredient. The Hershey’s Kisses sink down into the center of the cake, providing surprise bites of chocolate in each slice. I recommend Chocolate Kiss Date Cake as a fun variation on classic chocolate cake for dessert, and also as a decadent coffee cake for Sunday brunch. Enjoy!

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Ingredients (Makes a 10 inch round cake)

1 cup chopped dates

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup boiling water

1 cup butter, softened

1 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/3 cup flour

3 tablespoons cocoa

1/4 teaspoon salt

16 Hershey’s Kisses

WIN_20160108_205429Directions

Step 1) In a small bowl, combine dates and baking soda. Pour boiling water over the top and allow to sit until cool. The dates will mostly dissolve – this is normal.

Step 2) In a separate bowl, cream together butter and 1 cup of sugar.  Add eggs and vanilla; mix well.

Step 3) Combine flour, cocoa, and salt. Add dry ingredients and date mixture, alternating a little at a time, to the butter mixture. Stir until well combined.

Step 4) Grease a 10 inch round Springform pan (a cheesecake pan), or a 9 inch square baking pan. Dust the greased pan lightly with flour. Transfer batter to the greased and floured pan.

10 inch Springform Pan

WIN_20160108_210238Step 5) Arrange the Hershey’s Kisses evenly on the top of the cake. Don’t press down; just set them lightly on top. [As the cake bakes, the Hershey’s Kisses will sink into the middle of the cake.] Sprinkle the top of the cake with 1 tablespoon of sugar.

Step 6) Bake your Chocolate Kiss Date Cake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 55 – 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Step 7) Sprinkle the baked cake with the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar. Allow to cool completely before slicing and serving.

Homemade Hot Fudge

WIN_20160114_191200Homemade Hot Fudge takes only about 10 minutes to prepare and is extravagantly delicious. To enjoy this treat, don’t be afraid to think beyond classic hot fudge sundaes. Homemade Hot Fudge is also a fun dipping sauce for fresh strawberries, frozen banana chunks, biscotti, and vanilla wafers. Be creative and enjoy!

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WIN_20160114_184934Ingredients (Makes about 3 cups)

2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 cup real butter (not margarine)

2/3 cup chocolate chips

12 ounce can of evaporated milk

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After one minute

Directions

Step 1) Melt butter in a medium skillet. Add remaining ingredients and whisk well to combine.

Step 2) Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat and stir constantly for 8 minutes.

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After eight minutes

Step 3) Allow to cool before serving. Hot fudge is delicious when slightly warm, but should not be literally “hot.”

Store leftover hot fudge in a glass jar (such as a pint size mason jar) in the refrigerator. Warm in a microwave for a few seconds and stir carefully before serving.

Frozen Chocolate Banana Tart

WIN_20160105_180446This dessert falls into my favorite category… the “looks complicated, but is really easy to make” category. In just a few minutes time, you can prepare a decadent tart that looks elegant enough to serve at the end of a fancy dinner. Frozen Chocolate Banana Tart is quite rich, and will serve a few more people than a similarly sized fruit pie. A modest wedge of this tart, perhaps garnished with fresh whipped cream and served with coffee, will make a perfect finish for an evening with company. If you prefer to enjoy this Frozen Chocolate Banana Tart in your PJs on a Tuesday night, I won’t judge!

Ingredients (Serves 12)

1 roll-out pie crust (or made from scratch if you prefer)

1/2 pound dark chocolate

1/3 cup half-and-half

2 tablespoons rum cream

2 ripe bananas (the yellow peels should have dark spots!)

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WIN_20160105_142824Directions

Step 1) Roll out your pie crust and use it to line a tart pan. Trim crust even with the rim of the tart pan, and poke a few holes in the pie crust with a fork (this helps to prevent air bubbles). Bake the pie crust according to the package directions, until the pie crust is light golden brown. I baked my pie crust in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Allow your baked pie crust to cool completely.

Step 2) Combine chocolate, half-and-half, and rum cream in a saucepan. Melt together over LOW heat, stirring constantly. This will only take a few minutes… be patient, and keep the heat LOW! Burned chocolate is gross.

Step 3) When chocolate is completely melted, remove saucepan from heat. Allow to cool until close to room temperature. Mixture will thicken a little, but shouldn’t solidify.

WIN_20160105_145524Step 4) Spread a very thin layer of cooled chocolate on the bottom of the baked tart shell. Use just enough chocolate to coat the crust.

Step 5) Slice bananas into 1/4 inch slices. Cover the chocolate on the bottom of the baked tart shell evenly with 1-2 layers of banana slices.

Step 6) Carefully pour the chocolate mixture over the banana slices. Spread chocolate so that the banana slices are completely covered; the back of a large spoon works well for this.

Step 7) Freeze the chocolate banana tart for at least two hours or overnight. Slice and serve!

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Delicious!

Vanilla Pear Bread

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Vanilla Pear Bread is a light colored quick bread with a subtle, vanilla laced flavor. For me, this recipe offers a refreshing change from the more common zucchini breads and pumpkin breads. Like it’s more common cousins, Vanilla Pear Bread makes a lovely gift to wrap in foil and deliver to a neighbor or old friend. Give it a try – bake a loaf for someone you haven’t seen in a while, drop by, and say “Hello.” Happy Baking!

WIN_20160104_114918Ingredients (makes 1 loaf)

2 cups flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1 cup canned pears, pureed

2 eggs

1/4 cup milk

1/3 cup canola oil

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

WIN_20160104_120759Directions

Step 1) Puree one cup of canned pears (such as Vanilla Spice Pears) until it looks like chunky applesauce.

Step 2) In a large bowl, whisk together pureed pears, sugar, eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla extract.

Step 3) Combine all remaining dry ingredients and add, a little at a time, to the wet ingredients. Mix well.

Step 4) Transfer batter to a greased bread pan. Bake your Vanilla Pear Bread in a preheated 350 degree oven for 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Easy Chocolate Fondue

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This chocolate fondue requires only three ingredients – what could be easier? While a fondue pot works wonderfully, it isn’t essential. A double boiler or even a small saucepan can work just as well (use a low heat, to avoid scorching). Try chocolate fondue for your next party, movie night, or stay-at-home date!


WIN_20160101_200024Ingredients (Serves 6)

1 pound milk chocolate

1 cup half-and-half

2 tablespoons Irish cream liqueur

Treats for dipping (marshmallows, pretzel sticks, and strawberries work well)

WIN_20160101_201022Directions

Step 1) Combine chocolate and half-and-half in a fondue pot (or top of a double boiler). Melt over low heat, stirring constantly.

Step 2) Just before serving, stir in Irish cream liqueur. Enjoy!

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Delicious!

Kids in the Kitchen: Cake Mix Cookies

WIN_20151228_164903These are not fancy heirloom cookies – if you are looking for something to enter in the State Fair, may I gently suggest something else? No, these are “the kiddos are home from school and it’s too cold to send them outside” cookies! With only four ingredients, even the most pint-size of kitchen helpers can make their own batch. Sure, they might spill a few chocolate chips on the floor… but that’s easier to deal with than crayon drawings on the bathroom wall or trapeze fun with the living room drapes. So, go gather up your kitchen help and lets get started!

WIN_20151228_160640Ingredients (Makes about 36 cookies)

1 box of cake mix, any flavor (we used Devils Food)

2 eggs

1/2 cup of vegetable oil

1 cup of baking chips, any flavor (we used peanut butter chips)

WIN_20151228_161711Directions

Step 1) Mix together all ingredients. The smaller the kitchen helper, the larger the bowl – big bowls help to prevent spills. Just make sure a grown-up holds onto the bowl, so the whole thing doesn’t go sailing across your kitchen. I’ve, ah, seen that happen before, and it isn’t pretty!

Step 2) Drop cookie dough in rounded teaspoons onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.

Step 3) Allow cookies to cool right on the pan. So easy!