November 20, 2011

Pumpkin-Cheesecake Cake

I had no idea what to name this cake. What do you call two separate cakes when they get rolled into one dessert-bomb like this?

It's cheesecake and cake that's piled high on top of each other. Yep! As if it could get any better, this dessert was kind of amazing because... Well, I am afraid to tell you why. You're going to laugh and think I'm lying.

...This cheesecake-cake was kind of amazing because it was so very easy to make (!)
Stop being skeptical! I'll tell you why it was so easy and when we're done you're going to believe me and then go run and make one yourself. Two words: semi-homemade.

This cake is inspired by Junior's Cheesecakes, which is a New York-based company that layers their incredibly dense, New York Style cheesecakes between layers of moist cake and rich
frosting. If you like staring at photos of ridiculously delicious food almost as much as I do, click on the link to the website and salivate away.

The best way to show you how I put this cake together is through photos. Here's what you need:

one quality store-bought frozen cheesecake
(I used Trader Joe's Frozen Pumpkin Cheesecake)

one box of store bought cake or bread mix
(I used Trader Joe's Pumpkin Bread mix)

Your favorite frosting recipe
(I made cream cheese frosting, recipe below)

First I baked the pumpkin bread according to the box directions, in a round cake pan the same size as the cheesecake. I cooled it completely, then froze it overnight. You don't have to freeze it, but it helped to cut it into two layers when it was very firm.

In the meantime, I made cream cheese frosting:
1 8oz. package of cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick of butter, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
2 t. pure vanilla extract

Then, I sliced the cake into two cake layers from one. I put one cake layer on top of the frozen cheesecake, as shown below. Keeping the cheesecake frozen keeps it firm and prevents it from getting squished while you're frosting and layering everything.

I topped that with about 1/3 of my frosting and spread it out. Then I added the second cake layer on top of that and frosted it with a thin layer all over to catch the crumbs (about another 1/3 of the frosting). I refrigerated that for one hour to set the crumb layer.

Then I used the rest of the frosting to frost the cake completely. I garnished it with toasted
walnut pieces.

Then I kept the whole thing in the fridge until an hour before it was time to eat it. The cheesecake had thawed itself out underneath the cake layers, just as it should. The cake layers were the perfect balance to creamy cheesecake and sweet frosting.

The whole thing was just plain fun to make, serve and enjoy with our friends. And if that's not what Thanksgiving is all about, I'm not sure what is!

November 5, 2011

Super Soft Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Peanut butter and chocolate is a match made in heaven.

These cookies are the perfect homage to that divine pairing. When it comes to peanut butter, I don't want a subtle flavor. When it comes to cookies, I don't want something crunchy or dry. Thank God for these goodies.

They threaten soft collapse when handled, but mysteriously remain intact. They boast a flavor that is lusciously creamy and bold, with fragrant and salty peanut butter that is delightfully balanced with bursts of sweet chocolate and crystalline sugar.

If you want to get totally out of this world, mix in half peanut butter chips and half semisweet chocolate chips. I can't imagine that addition would be anything short of amazing. Whatever you do with these cookies, run, don't walk to the kitchen to whip up a batch. The secret to the softness is a very short baking time... and since they'll be devoured just as quickly it took to bake them, that's a very, very good thing.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies: makes over 4 dozen small cookies, 2 dozen regular
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter (not natural)
1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus more for rolling
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1 egg
1/2 t. vanilla
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
About 2 cups quality semi-sweet chocolate chips

Beat the butter and peanut butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, and baking powder. Beat until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl. Beat in the egg and vanilla until incorporated. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer, then stir in the remaining flour. If the dough is too sticky, cover and chill until easy to handle.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Roll 1" balls of dough between your palms, then roll in a small bowl of granulated sugar to coat. Place the balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 4-5 minutes. Even though it will not appear that the cookies are baked, allow them to cool on the sheet for 5 minutes, then carefully transfer to a wire cooling rack with a spatula to cool completely. Store up to 1 week in an airtight container.


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