Mama’s Mexican Chocolate Cake

I grew up eating this cake for every birthday. It was my Grandmother’s specialty and nothing beats it. She called it Mexican chocolate cake because it has a touch of cinnamon in it, however you can omit it if you choose. She would also use vanilla from Mexico, which makes it even more delicious. This cake is easy to make, and you may already have most of the ingredients in your pantry. This no fuss cake will have your guests raving, with little effort on your part. No messing with frosting spatulas or piping bags with this recipe, the warm icing just pours over and soaks into the moist cake a little bit, making for a scrumptious a comforting dessert for any occasion.

Ingredients

FOR THE CAKE

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  •  2 cups granulated sugar
  •  1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  •  1/2 teaspoon salt
  •  1 cup water
  •  1 cup salted butter
  •  6 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  •  1/2 cup buttermilk
  •  2 large eggs
  •  1 teaspoon Mexican or regular vanilla extract

FOR THE ICING

  •  6 tablespoons milk
  •  4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  •  1/2 cup butter
  •  3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  •  1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  •  Pinch of salt
  •  3/4 cup chopped pecans, finely chopped

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a large, rimmed 12×18-inch baking sheet (aka a half sheet pan).
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  • In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the water, butter, and cocoa powder and bring to a boil, stirring to make sure there are no lumps.
  • Pour the chocolate mixture over the dry ingredients and stir until combined. 
  • Add the buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla, and mix until combined. You can do this with a hand mixer to make sure there are no lumps.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread in an even layer. Bake for 18-20 minutes until the cake springs back lightly to the touch and has barely started to pull away from the sides of the pan. Do not overbake!
  • Icing:  When the cake is almost done baking, start to make the icing. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter, cocoa powder, milk, and salt. Heat, stirring constantly, just until the mixture comes to a simmer.
  • Immediately remove from heat and add the vanilla, then whisk in the powdered sugar until the icing is smooth. Stir in the chopped nuts. If the cake isn’t ready yet, keep the icing warm and stir it every so often so it doesn’t harden on top.
  • Let the cake cool for 10-12 minutes, then pour the hot icing over the warm cake and spread it evenly with a spatula. Let the frosting set for 20 minutes before cutting the cake into squares. The frosting will completely set after 1-2 hours.
  • Serve the cake warm or at room temperature.

Salted Whiskey Caramel Corn

Caramel corn and Halloween go hand in hand, and in search for the perfect treat I stumbled upon this incredible recipe that needless to say was an absolute winner. It is irresistible…you can hardly control yourself from grabbing more handfuls of this delicious caramel corn until you feel you’re in a complete sugar coma. What makes this so much better is the contrast of salty and sweet, roasted pecans, and the light whiskey notes. I shared with my friends and family, and plan to make mason jars of the stuff for the holidays. Happy Halloween!

Ingredients

  • ½ cup popcorn kernels
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • ¾ cup (12 Tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • ¼ cup light corn syrup
  • ¾ teaspoon flaky sea salt (Maldon is a good one)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 Tablespoons Irish whiskey (Jameson is what we used)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

Instructions for Stovetop Popcorn

How to Make Stovetop Popcorn

  1. Use a good, heavy-bottomed pot. Cheap pots don’t distribute heat evenly, and you can end up with hot spots that burn the popcorn.
  2. Don’t crank the heat up too high. It’s too easy to burn oil at temperature higher than medium heat, and if you catch even a whiff of smoke coming from the pot, your popcorn is going to taste burnt.
  3. Add the vegetable oil to the pot. Start with two popcorn kernels to gauge the temperature.Once those pop, your oil is hot enough. Add the remaining kernels and remove the pot from the heat for 1 minute. This primes the popcorn to pop without burning the oil.
  4. Tip the lid ever-so-slightly while the popcorn is popping.That way, the popcorn doesn’t steam itself in the pot and lose crispness.
  5. If the popcorn starts overflowing the pot: Simply remove the lid and tip the excess popcorn into a bowl. Return the lid and return the popcorn to the heat until popping slows.

Instructions for the Caramel Corn

  • Dump popped corn into a large, heat-resistant bowl, add the pecans, and set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray and set aside.
  • In a 3-quart heavy-bottomed sauce pan, melt the butter over medium to medium-high heat.
  • Add to it the brown sugar, corn syrup, and sea salt and stir until it starts to boil.
  • Boil for 4-5 minutes without stirring. If the caramel isn’t dark enough after the time has elapsed, you can cook it longer, but watch it carefully; it will go from perfect to burned in no time if you’re not paying attention.
  • Remove from heat and add the vanilla extract, whiskey, and baking soda. It will bubble up, so be careful not to get burned.
  • Stir until smooth, then quickly pour over the popcorn and pecans.
  • Toss the popcorn and pecans to coat evenly, then spread half in an even layer in one prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the other.
  • Bake for about 30-45 minutes, or until it has reached desired dryness. Every 15 minutes, rotate pans and toss the popcorn a bit, breaking up any big pieces.
  • Store in air-tight containers for up to 3 days.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Turnovers

This is the first night it’s truly felt like autumn to me, there’s a nice cool front and its breezy. The whole day has been gloomy, like those spooky October days that I love. I have the windows open and hear the rustling of the leaves blowing….and it is absolutely perfect. This dessert is just what I needed for an easy fall dessert. It was unbelievably easy to make and will most definitely be gobbled up by all. Best served warm! Happy Hallo-week!

Ingredients

  • Pillsbury Crescents (2 cans)
  • 1 can pure pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 14 oz of cream cheese (divided)
  • 1 egg at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar (divided)

Glaze

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 14 tsp vanilla extract
  • 12 tbsp milk

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  • Melt cream cheese in microwave or on stove until warm and no longer clumpy. Use a mixer to combine 1 egg, 1/4 cup of sugar, and 8 oz. of cream cheese. Mix until well combined. Reserve mixture in bowl.
  • In another bowl, combine the pumpkin puree, 1/4 cup of sugar, and the pumpkin pie spice.
  • Get each perforated crescent rolland fill the dough with a spoonful of pumpkin mixture and a spoonful of cream cheese mixture, this is not an exact measurement. Fold the edges of the dough until mixture is covered and not visible.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Allow them to cool a bit before drizzling with glaze. To make the glaze, combine the powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and milk until blended together. You can add more or less milk to create desired consistancey.

Chocolate Mousse with Berries

This is such an easy recipe and can be modified for any occasion. I made this recipe up when I was looking to take a mousse to a family dinner. It was a crowd pleaser to the MAX! It’s almost embarrassing to admit how easy it is and definitely “semi-homemade”. Enjoy this anytime for a delicious chocolate treat!

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Start to beat pudding mix and heavy whipping cream in electric mixer
  • Add in 3-4 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa until mousse consistency, about 2 minutes
  • Scoop out mousse mixture into serving bowl, and decorate with assorted berries.
  • Serve cold!

Southern Peach Cobbler

It’s peach season in the Texas hill country! I absolutely love fresh peaches and can enjoy them in just about any way. These sweet, juicy, full of nectar little beauties go well in cocktails (like my Hill Country Peach Spritzer I did last season), for pies and cobblers, on top of pancakes and waffles, jams & preserves, accompanied on a charcuterie board for a nice cheese pairing, or just eaten fresh! I am a huge fan of cobblers and pies, as I feel they are such a staple in the south. I grew up on peach cobbler, and wanted to make it for a family BBQ recently. This recipe is easy and is as authentic and comforting as it gets! Enjoy with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or some whipped cream for the perfect summer (or anytime) dessert!

Ingredients

Peach Filling

  • 8 medium-size fresh peaches peeled and sliced into thin wedges or bite size chunks
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch

Crust Topping

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 12 tablespoons butter chilled and grated (use cheese grater)
  • 1/2 cup boiling water

Cinnamon Sugar Topping Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 425°F. Place a large baking sheet covered in foil on the lowest rack in the oven. This cobbler overflows a bit almost every time I make it. The baking pan will catch the drips and prevent a mess in the oven.
  • In a large bowl, combine the peaches and the lemon juice and then add the rest of the filling ingredients. Stir to coat and then pour into a 9×13 baking dish.
  • Bake the peach mixture in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. While the peaches are baking, combine the  dry topping ingredients and whisk to combine. Toss the grated butter in the flour mixture. Stir in the boiling water, just until combined, leaving plenty of little lumps of butter.
  • Remove the peaches from the oven and drop the topping over them in spoonfuls. Sprinkle the cobbler topping with the cinnamon sugar topping. Bake until the crust is golden and a toothpick inserted into the crust comes out clean, about 28 minutes. Serve warm. Enjoy!
  • FREEZER DIRECTIONS: The peach filling can be prepared and frozen in advance. I have frozen it for up to a year without any problems. Combine the peach filling ingredients in a large ziploc bag, press the air out and freeze flat. When you are ready to bake the cobbler, thaw in the refrigerator and then pour into the baking dish and proceed with the recipe.

Carrot Cheesecake Muffins

Carrot cake and cheesecake in muffin form?! I think yes! These scrumptious muffins were easy to make and are a very shareable Easter dessert. Make for your family and friends without having to cut slices of a huge, messy, cake. I for one am not a huge fan of icing cakes, so this provided me all the flavors I was looking for without the extra work! These would also go great with a cup of coffee for breakfast… mmm yes, I think this will be a repeat recipe for me!

Happy Easter everyone, stay safe, stay healthy, and stay happy!

Ingredients

For the Muffins

  • 2/3 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup finely shredded carrots

For the Cheesecake Filling

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 4 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 Tablespoon flour
  • 1/2 cup diced pecans

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 12 count muffin pan and a 6 count muffin pan with nonstick baking spray, you can also use cupcake liners.
  2. Beat the oil, sugars, and extract until combined. Add the eggs and beat again.
  3. Stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Slowly add the dry ingredients into the egg mixture.
  4. Add the buttermilk and shredded carrots and stir until completely combined.
  5. Spoon the batter evenly in the prepared muffin tins.
  6. In a small bowl, mix together the cream cheese, sugar, orange extract, and flour. Spoon the mixture evenly into a plastic sandwich bag and cut one tip off the bag.
  7. Squeeze half the cheesecake mixture evenly into the center of the muffin batter, then add a swirl of cheesecake to the top of the batter.
  8. Sprinkle the pecans around the outside of the muffin batter. Bake for 15-16 minutes.
  9. Remove and let cool in the pan for 2-3 minutes before gently removing them from the pan and placing on a wire rack.

Grapefruit Poundcake

After spending the afternoon picking citrus at my mom’s house this weekend and making delicious and refreshing cocktails (see previous post), I wanted to utilize the grapefruit juice to make a sweet treat. I love citrus desserts, especially in the springtime, so I’m glad I discovered this recipe using very simple and fresh ingredients. This bread is moist, dense, with just a hint of citrus; the grapefruit juice is not overwhelming or too tart. I will definitely make this again to share with my friends and family!

Ingredients

  • 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil 
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, strained
  • 1 and 1/2 Tablespoons grapefruit zest
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Grapefruit Glaze

  • 1 cup confectioners sugar, sifted
  • 2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, strained
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan (Baker’s Joy, my favorite!)
  2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs. Once combined, whisk in the yogurt, brown sugar, oil, grapefruit juice, zest, and vanilla extract. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix with a large wooden spoon or rubber spatula until combined. Avoid overmixing.
  3. Spread batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes. Baking times vary, so keep an eye on yours. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If you find the top of the cake is browning too quickly in the oven, loosely cover it with aluminum foil.
  4. Remove the cake from the oven and set on a wire rack. Allow to cool before drizzling with glaze.
  5. For the glaze, simply whisk the ingredients together and drizzle over cake. Slice and serve. Cover and store leftover cake at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Bourbon Pecan Pie

For many years it has been my tradition to make bourbon pecan pie for my family and friends on Thanksgiving. I grew up having my grandmother’s pecan pie every year, and it was my mission and duty as a true southern woman to make the best pecan pie I could possibly make. I tried about 5 different recipes until I found the perfect one, and made a few adjustments of my own to add my personal touch. This pie is highly requested by all who have tasted it, and I am proud to say that my pecan pie is a winner! Any bourbon is fine to use… recipe says 1-2 tbsp for 1 pie and I always put 2. Also, vanilla from Mexico is my secret to making it extra flavorful, but regular vanilla extract from the store will do. You can follow the recipe for a homemade crust, or buy a frozen 9” crust, either way it is delicious! It is so fun to make this pie and I look forward to sharing it every year with my loved ones!

Ingredients (for 1 pie)

For the crust:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cold butter (1 stick), diced
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • Flour, for rolling the dough

For the filling:

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup dark corn syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 2 cups chopped toasted pecans
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten

Instructions

  • Make the dough by hand: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Using your fingers, work the butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles yellow cornmeal mixed with bean-sized bits of butter. (If the flour/butter mixture gets warm, refrigerate it for 10 minutes before proceeding.) Add the egg and stir the dough together with a fork or by hand in the bowl. If the dough is dry, sprinkle up to a tablespoon more of cold water over the mixture. 
  • Alternatively, make the dough in a food processor. With the machine fitted with the metal blade, pulse the flour, sugar, and salt until combined. Add the butter and pulse until it resembles yellow cornmeal mixed with bean-sized bits of butter, about 10 times. Add the egg and pulse 1 to 2 times; don’t let the dough form into a ball in the machine. (If the dough is very dry add up to a tablespoon more of cold water.) Remove the bowl from the machine, remove the blade, and bring the dough together by hand. 
  • Form the dough into a disk, wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 1 hour. 
  • On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough with a rolling pin into a 12-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie pan and trim the edges, leaving about an extra inch hanging over the edge. Tuck the overhanging dough underneath itself to form a thick edge that is even with the rim. Flute the edge as desired. Freeze the pie shell for 30 minutes. 
  • Set separate racks in the center and lower third of oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Put a piece of parchment paper or foil over the pie shell and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake on a baking sheet on the center rack until the dough is set, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and lift sides of the parchment paper to remove the beans. Continue baking until the pie shell is lightly golden brown, about 10 more minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. 
  • While the crust is baking make the filling: In medium saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and stirring constantly, continue to boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the nuts, bourbon, and the vanilla. Set the mixture aside to cool slightly, about 5 minutes. (If the crust has cooled, return it to the oven for 5 minutes to warm through.) Whisk the beaten eggs into the filling until smooth. Put the pie shell on a sheet pan and pour the filling into the hot crust. 
  • Bake on the lower oven rack until the edges are set but the center is still slightly loose, about 40 to 45 minutes. (If the edges get very dark, cover them with aluminum foil half way during baking.) Cool on a rack. Serve slightly warm or room temperature.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

Thanksgiving calls for all things pumpkin, but sometimes we need a little change from the traditional pumpkin pie. This is especially easy for taking to a holiday party, as you can cut the bars in advance and plate them nicely, instead of cutting a pie. I loved making this recipe and will definitely make time and time again!

Ingredients

Graham Crust:

  • 1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 7 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar

Filling:

  •  16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  •  1 cup granulated sugar
  •  1 cup pumpkin puree
  •  3 large eggs, room temperature
  •  1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  •  1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  •  1/4 teaspoon salt
  •  3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  •  hot water

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. Line 8×8-inch baking pan with baking parchment or aluminum foil allowing overhang. Lightly coat with cooking spray.
  • For crust: Pulse graham crackers in food processor until fully ground, continue pulsing while gradually streaming in melted butter until incorporated, add the sugar. Press mixture evenly into prepared baking pan. Bake 10 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool about 10 minutes.
  • For filling: Using an electric mixture on medium speed, beat together cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Mix in pumpkin puree, then eggs one at a time, and beat together until smooth. Add vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, salt, and flour, beat until just combined.
  • Pour evenly over prepared crust. Place pan on large rimmed baking sheet, and place in oven on center rack. Pour hot water into baking sheet until almost full. Bake at 350-degrees F for about 40-45 minutes, until set around edges, but still slightly jiggly in middle.
  • Remove from oven cool completely on rack. Once cool, cover and chill until firm, at least 3 hours.
  • Using the parchment or foil overhang, lift cheesecake out of pan and cut to desired size.

Mama’s Pumpkin Bread Muffins

My grandmother would make pumpkin bread for every occasion, not matter if it was fall or not! Some of my best baking memories are when I would help her make this. You can use regular size loaf pans, small loaf pans, and muffin tins, just adjusting the cook time (loaves take about 50 minutes). For a sweet fall treat, this never disappoints and fills my heart with all the right amount of warmth and spice.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 can (15 ounces) LIBBY’S® 100% Pure Pumpkin
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup water or orange juice

INSTRUCTIONS

PREHEAT oven to 350° F. Paper-line or grease 30 muffin cups.

COMBINE flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Combine sugar, pumpkin, eggs, oil and juice in large mixer bowl; beat until just blended. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture; stir just until moistened. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling 3/4 full.

BAKE for 25 to 30 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Store muffins in covered container or resealable plastic bags.

FOR 72 MINI MUFFINS:
PREPARE as above; filling 3/4 full. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes.

FOR 12 JUMBO MUFFINS:
PREPARE as above; filling 3/4 full. Bake for 33 to 36 minutes.

FOR 2, 10″ LOAVES:
PREPARE spray the two loaf pans with baking spray, fill with mixture. Bake for 60-70 minutes or until bread is firm and cooked through.