Friday, March 26, 2010


As you know, my goal to become a runner is to start with Pat's Run in April. The run is less than a month away and I have made much progress - I'm at 3.2 miles! Doesn't seem like much, but I'm proud of myself. Up until a week ago I had only been running on the treadmill. But a friend of mine, Jill, was in town for spring break, and she asked if I wanted to go for a run outside with her around Tempe Town Lake. I was TERRIFIED. I knew running inside on a treadmill was totally different than running outside. Jill guaranteed me that I could do it, so I figured why not?! I'd have to start running outside eventually right? Right. So I did it...and I actually ENJOYED running outside! Since then I've been making sure to run outside as much as possible because the weather is going to get ridiculously hot out here in a couple of months and running outside would be INSANE.

This past Wednesday I went for a run with two of my close friends Ibti and Lauren, and I got REALLY DISCOURAGED. They both kicked my butt! For some reason the loop around Tempe Town Lake was really hard for me, and I found my self falling far behind. I don't know if it was just an off day I was having, or if it was because I was sick, or if I just suck at life and am not meant to run (after the run I felt like this one was most accurate). Does any one have any tips or advice for me? It would be greatly appreciated!

My friend Kate is in town for the week and there will be lots and lots of baking (and lots of champagne, even a tea party), which means lots and lots of posts! Maybe even a guest post...anyways. Keep your eyes on the look out! :)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Avocado Pound Cake: FAIL.

I’m sad and upset to report that the avocado pound cake was an epic fail…okay maybe I’m being a little dramatic. Was it a fail? Yes.  An epic fail? No.  The cake itself tasted DELICIOUS.  There was a subtle hint of avocado that I wasn’t expecting.  I thought the avocado flavor was going to be more of a in your face flavor, but it wasn’t, and it was beautiful.  The batter was delicious too! Once I poured the batter into the loaf pans I couldn’t stop eating the left over batter that was in the bowl.  SO GOOD.  Now you see, the fail part comes into play when I put them in the oven.  I baked them for the recommended baking time of 45 minutes.  But when the time went off, and I took them out of the oven they were still jiggley in the middle.  I put them back in for another 15 minutes and the middle caved it.  It was a horrible mess.  They didn’t look pretty, the center was still slightly gooey, and the top was too brown for my liking.  FAIL.

I figure since this blog is about my baking adventures that I should post the mess ups.  Not that mess ups happen often.  This has only happened to me one other time – with a lemon cake.  There was lots and lots of champagne involved (Note to reader: Do not drink while baking).  It was a REAL mess.  But I don’t really want to talk about it.

BUT don’t worry.  The pound cake may have won this time, however, I feel a round two coming soon.  And I am pretty sure that I am going to own the pound cake.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Stout Cupcakes

Happy (Belated) Saint Patrick’s Day everyone! I hope you beautiful people all had a fun, and safe, St. Patty’s Day! I sure did. I spent the morning driving back from California with my boyfriend; then we went to Rula Bula on Mill Avenue for some beer and food. If you are EVER in Tempe, Arizona you MUST go to this Irish pub. Their food is AMAZING, and the atmosphere is awesome. It is one of mine, and many of my friends, favorite places to go to for a drink, good food, sweet music, and a fun time. I got the corn beef and cabbage.

Alex got the shepherd’s pie.

Both were absolutely delicious. After dinner we met up with some friends and headed to Tempe Town Lake for the Flogging Molly concert. THEY WERE AMAZING. Anyways, I meant for this post to go up before I left for California, but I was so busy with errands and packing that I didn’t have time for it. So, I am posting it now – better late than never, right?

These stout cupcakes are to die for. The batter is not like your typical cake batter. The recipe calls for oil instead of butter, and there is no milk/buttermilk in it. However, there is Guinness and molasses – which combine to make one freaking awesome cupcake! Instead of the cupcakes being light and airy, they turn out very moist and dense (and delicious). Plus, they make your kitchen smell divine when they are baking in the oven (it’s reason enough to bake these bad boys as soon as possible). I feel like these cupcakes would be perfect to make during fall and winter because they have cinnamon and nutmeg in them; there is something about those spices that just warm me up!

Stout Cupcakes
(Recipe from Martha Stewart)

3 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 ¾ teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 ¼ teaspoon nutmeg*
1 ¼ cups vegetable oil
1 ¼ cups unsulfured molasses
½ cups plus 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
2 large whole eggs
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 ¼ cups Guinness


Preheat the oven to 350F and line muffin tins with paper liners. In a medium sized bowl sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

In a separate bowl, beat together oil, molasses, brown sugar, whole eggs, egg yolk, zest, and Guinness on medium-low, until combined. Gradually add the flour mixture.

Divide batter evenly among lined cups. Bake for 20-22 minutes, rotating once. Let cupcakes cool on wire racks and then glaze them.

Stout Glaze:
(Recipe from Martha Stewart)

2 cups confectioners’ sugar
¼ cups Guinness

Whisk together Guinness and powdered sugar until well combined. Use Immediately.

 * I only had a 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg, so I substituted the rest for all spice.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Black and Tan Brownies

You all should be proud of me because:
A). I started strength training today…and it wasn’t pretty. I now remember why I’ve always avoided it in the past, because I HATE IT. Boo strength training.  But I know the only way I’m going to put on some lean muscle and help my endurance is by doing this. So I must. My poor little biceps hated me at the gym.  Heck I would hate me to if I had to go through what they did. 
B).  I hiked Camelback on Saturday with my boyfriend.  The best part about this hike: I DIDN’T GET STUCK!  There was a split second where I started to doubt myself, but my boyfriend (Alex) told me I could do it. So I did.  Now you see, the last time I hiked this horrible mountain was last year with a couple of work friends.  And I got stuck.  I had some 52 year old woman help push me up part of the mountain that was EXTREMELY STEEP. Laugh. It’s okay.  It happened.  I did the one thing you are never supposed to do…I looked down.   And then the panic attack hit me.  I was a mess.  I ended up hiking to the top, but it took forever because of my little incident.  However, this time there was no panic attack, and no help from some woman who’s thirty years older than me. (Thank god).
C).  I finally got around to baking the Black and Tan Brownies from the Cooking Light Magazine! YAY!  I’m going to be honest.  Are these the best brownies I’ve ever had? No. But, they are pretty freaking good! They are made with Guinness – one of my favorite beers.  I think the real reason why I wanted to make these was that I’d have a reason to keep a six pack of Guinness in my fridge, which meant that I’d eventually have to drink one, or two (maybe even three).  I can’t let them go to waste ya know!? 
But back to the brownies.  I guess I was just expecting there to be more of a Guinness flavor to them.  I did notice the Guinness made the chocolate seem choclatier – kind of how coffee brings out the flavor of chocolate, Guinness did too.  I thought they would be fun and festive for St. Patrick’s day.  The bottom layer of the brownies is basically a blondie with pecans.  They are gooey and fudgy like a brownie should be.  The top layer, however, was more cakey than I would have liked.
I believe a brownie should be gooey, fudgy, and crumbly (I don’t know if that last adjective makes much sense. But it works in my head).  The cakey chocolate layer, might have been another reason why they aren’t my favorite brownie ever – but like I said they are still freaking delicious.  If anybody ends up making I would LOVE to know how yours turned out!

Black and Tan Brownies
(Recipe for Cooking Light Magazine March 2010)


Tan Brownies:
6 tbs. butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4.5 ounces all purpose flour - about 1 cup*
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans
cooking spray

Black Brownies:
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
4 tbs. butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup Guinness stout!!!!!
4.5 ounces all purpose flour - about 1 cup*
1/4 tsp. salt

 Preheat oven to 350F. Arrange the racks in the oven so that one is in the lower third of the oven, and the other is in the center of the oven.

 For the tan brownies: coat a 13x9 inch baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.  Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl.  Beat the butter and the brown sugar at medium speed until fluffy.  Then beat in the eggs and vanilla until smooth. Slowly add the flour mixture and the pecans into the wet mixture, beating until well combined.  Spoon brownie batter into baking pan and spread evenly.  Baked at 350 for 15 minutes, in the lower part of the oven.

For the black brownies:  In a small bowl, combine flour and salt, set aside.  Melt chocolate and butter in a large microwave safe bowl on high for 1 minute, stirring after every 20 seconds, until smooth.  To this add the granulated sugar until smooth.  Then add the two eggs, vanilla, and Guinness with a whisk until everything is incorporated.  Add flour mixture to the wet mixture and combine.  Pour black brownie mixture over the tan brownies.

 Bake on the middle rack for 25 minutes at 350F.  Cool in pan on a wire wrack.  Then devour with an ice cold glass of milk. :)

*I did some research on how many ounces of flour one cup was.  I found the range to be anywhere from 4.25 ounces to 4.4.  So I measured a heaping cup of flour.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Peanut Cupcakes

Before I start rambling first let me apologize for two things.

One: My pictures are horrible. I was very stressed, very excited, and very unorganized during this baking experiment. I was so focused on what I was doing that I didn’t really take many pictures, and the few I did are terrible.

Second: I don’t have a specific recipe for the frosting to give you. I just kind of winged it. There was lots and lots of tasting involved (which led to the most ridiculous sugar rush I have ever had in my entire twenty two years of living). And because the frosting was winged – and I was so focused on the taste – I don’t have a picture of it either. I know. I’m sorry.

But seriously, let's get down to business.  Meet Kate, and meet Kate’s mom, Ann (Mrs. Helms).

Aren’t they both lovely? They both have a very dear spot in my heart. I’ve known Kate since we were freshmen in high school. She is one of my best friends. And Mrs. Helms has been like a second mother to me. Now what inspired this post tonight is something that Mrs. Helms makes for her family. Let me tell you it is absolutely DELICIOUS.

Enter peanut cake:

Now just listen here. This cake is a white cake that has every inch of it (top, bottom, and all four sides) covered in coffee frosting, and then every inch of the frosting is covered in chopped peanuts. The combination may sound random; It was to me the first time I was introduced to this cake back in high school. But I must tell you – this combination might be one of the best combinations known to man kind (it falls second to lemon and blueberry, of course. No combination can ever top that one in my heart).

I absolutely HATE peanuts. However, this cake, this combination, this heavenly duo of sweet coffee frosting and crunchy dry peanuts has won me over for life. I really wanted to make this cake in cupcake form…because what’s better than cake? CUPCAKES duh!?!? here is my attempt.

I made a simple buttermilk cupcake into something fantastic by creating a peanut crust at the bottom of it, topped it with a hefty serving of coffee frosting, and then covered that with chopped peanuts. Sadly, my dear friend Kate is currently residing in the Midwest, so she could not be here to tell me if my cupcakes live up to her mom’s cake. BUT. My friends and family who have tried these fell in love with them. I hope you do too.

Peanut Cupcakes
(Inspired by Mrs. Helm’s Peanut Cake, Winged by me using Martha Stewart’s Buttermilk Cupcake Recipe)

3 cups cake flour (not self rising)*
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 ¼ cups sugar
5 large whole eggs plus 3 egg yolks, room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, room temperature**
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
6 cups chopped dry, unsalted peanuts (3 cups for peanut crust, 3 cups to top the frosting)***


Preheat the oven to 350F and line muffin pans with paper liners. Then combine the cake flour, all-purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a bowl (use a sifter if possible). Set aside.

Cream together the butter and sugar with a miser on medium high speed, until pale and fluffy. Reduce mixer to medium speed and eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Then add the yolks, one at a time, until combined. Reduce speed to low. Alternate adding the flour mixture and the buttermilk. Make sure to start and end with the flour mixture (dry, wet, dry, wet, dry). Finally, beat in the vanilla.

Place 1 spoonful of chopped peanuts in the bottom of the muffin tins. Layer on top about 1 teaspoon of the batter. With a toothpick swirl the batter and the peanuts together (kind of like you would do with a marble cake) that way there is a little bit of batter to bind the peanuts together. You don’t want to completely mix the batter with the peanuts because then there will be no peanut crust. Then fill the remainder of the muffin tin with cake batter.

Bake cupcakes at 350F for 20-22 minutes. Make sure to rotate tins halfway through baking period. When they are done let cupcakes cool in muffin tins for 10 minutes, then remove them and place on a wire rack to completely cool. Once cooled, frost with a heavy amount of coffee frosting, and then cover the frosting with chopped peanuts. Eat.

Like I said earlier, I do not have a specific recipe to give you for the coffee frosting. I just started with a basic vanilla frosting and gradually added instant espresso by the teaspoon until I thought it tasted good.

*If you don’t have cake four, using all-purpose flour for the entire recipe will be fine.
**If you don’t have buttermilk, pour a cup of milk into a bowl and squeeze the juice of one lemon into it. Let it stand for 5 minutes so the acid from the lemon juice allows the milk to curdle and sour. Then measure out the amount you need.
***You may need more, or less, peanuts depending on how much you put on the crust and on top.