Recipe: Salted Caramel Hazelnut Cake Brownies.

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That’s a long name right there.

The recipe I started with was simply called “Nutella Cake.” But what I ended up with was so much more. It was snowing, and I really wanted to bake something, but I wasn’t about to go back out to get any missing ingredients. I found a recipe for Nutella Cake in my binder. It looked like something someone probably gave me, but it was very vague and it seemed to be missing some key details, like how to mix the ingredients together (did it matter in what order?) and what temperature to bake the thing at (when in doubt, go with 350). It also called for Nutella (obviously) which I thought I had, but it turns out all I had was this:

salted caramel hazelnut spread (not Nutella)

salted caramel hazelnut spread (not Nutella)

Although this was clearly not Nutella, I deemed it a suitable replacement, and marched onward with the cake. Upon further investigation, I realized that the recipe called for butter – a lot of it. I, alas, had only a little. Refusing to leave my house in the snow, I improvised, replacing most of the butter with shortening. The batter seemed awfully thick, more like brownies than cake, but I didn’t let that dissuade me from baking it. When it was done baking, it definitely looked more like brownies.

not nutella, not cake.

not nutella, not cake.

It smelled pretty good, and appeared to have baked properly, so I went with it, and waited for it to cool. When it finally cooled, I sliced into it, and sure it enough, it was definitely more brownie-like.

definitely brownies.

definitely brownies.

The next step was to eat one. And then another one. And then another one. They were THAT good. Two people even said they were the best brownies they ever had (wow!). Even though they were neither Nutella nor Cake like the original recipe claimed, the Salted Caramel Hazelnut Cake Brownies were definitely a major success, and will be made again. Maybe I’ll even make them for my own wedding this Spring….and now you can make them too!

wedding worthy.

wedding worthy.

Salted Caramel Hazelnut Cake Brownies.

What you’ll need:

1 box of chocolate cake mix

1 egg

4 oz of shortening

———–

1 8 oz package of cream cheese (softened)

2 oz butter (half a stick)

2 oz shortening

1 cup confectioners sugar

1 cup Jif salted caramel hazelnut spread

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, egg and shortening. The batter will be thick. Grease a 9×13 pan, and spread the batter across the bottom (using your hands makes it easier). Set aside. In a separate bowl, cream together the cream cheese, butter, and shortening until smooth. Mix in the sugar and salted caramel hazelnut spread until there are no lumps. Pour mixture evenly on top of the cake mixture in the pan. Bake for 35 minutes, or until the cake starts pulling away from the sides of the pan. Let cool completely, cut and serve.

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cupcake matchmaker.

I made birthday cupcakes this weekend, for one of my favorite 2 year olds. Not only did I get to contribute to the celebration with some confectionery love,  but I also got to double the fun, with cupcakes in not one, but 2 different flavors. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, it did – the flavors requested just so happened to be 2 of my personal favorites (and specialties) as well!

Flavor #1: Cookies and Cream

oreo-my-oh.

I’ve mentioned before that these are probably my most popular cupcake (available in either chocolate or vanilla). I’m certainly not complaining – they’re fun to make, and taste good too (note the “Toy Story” wrappers). I mean, how can you go wrong when oreos are involved? (Random aside: when my brother and I were kids, we went to a babysitter while our parents worked, and our mom always sent us with “snacks,” which were often oreos. Well, the first time we were eating our oreos, we did what we always did, which was to break them in half. The babysitter was none too pleased by this turn of events, and promptly removed the halved oreos from our plates and with finger shaking, informed us that we were never to break oreos in her house again. True story.)

Flavor #2: Salted Caramel.

2 times the fun.

This one has become my favorite, mainly because the frosting is wicked good  – as in, I have to make extra because I know that I will not be able to resist eating it which could potentially cause me to run out before the product is completed. Knowing yourself is half the battle.

Anyway, the order was for 2 of each type in a box, making 4 total, like so:

soul mates.

Not only do these two very different cupcakes look great together, but the flavors compliment each other like yin and yang. I’m a cupcake matchmaker, people.

The good news is that I have extras of everything. So somewhere, someone in the next day or so is going to be pleasantly surprised with some unexpected cupcakes; and those are ultimately the best kind. 🙂

 

balls of (salted caramel) cake.

I love cake balls. I have no idea why no one thought of this sooner, or if they did, market it sooner. Not only is it a great way to recycle cake crumbs, but it’s also a great way to control your dessert eating habits. When a slice of cake or a cupcake is put in front of you, you’re gonna eat it.  The same goes for a cake ball, but it’s about 1/3 the size of a cupcake, if even that, and you have the choice of whether to reach for another, or slap yourself on the hand and cut yourself off after 1 (or even 2 – that’s still not even a whole cupcake).

Not to mention, cake balls are super easy to transport, and resist the heat of summer better than the average cupcake, since the icing is mixed in with the cake, rather than piled on top.

So, my decision to make cake balls to bring to an outdoor pool party this past weekend was an easy one. I had some salted caramel cake left over and a bit of the icing as well. So, that settled that. Everyone loves salted caramel, so I really couldn’t go wrong. However, I wanted to add a little something extra to the balls. I whipped up some caramel, and drizzled it across the top of each one, adding  that extra touch of fabulousness. 

have a ball.

Also unlike a cake or cupcakes, I took none home. All the balls were gone. I was kinda bummed about that. I guess I’ll just have to make more and keep them all to myself, completely defeating the purpose of the cake ball to begin with.

By the way, a few of the party guests commented that these tasted like pancakes (and that’s a wonderful thing).

no cake left behind.

Anyone who knows me, knows how I absolutely abhor waste. I will repeatedly use the same tissue until it crumbles into nothing. I have clothes in my closet that I’ve had for 15+ years (as long as they’re still stylish – the rest go to Goodwill). I use a mug to drink my coffee at work instead of a paper cup and sip through a metal reusable straw to create less plastic waste (those straws add up quickly, folks). So, it goes without saying that I apply the same principles to baking.

reduce. reuse. eat cake.

 

Now, I am by no means suggesting that using old, moldy, ingredients is ok; in fact quite the opposite. I’m telling you to use it before you lose it. Don’t let that extra icing go to waste – be creative! experiment! Mix and match! This is your chance to play. Like I do.

chocolate cake and salted caramel icing mash up.

I had some leftover chocolate cookies and cream batter and a whole tub of leftover salted caramel icing. The two were not created to go together. However, it was what I had, so I went with it. And boy, was it a match made in confectionery heaven.

MFEO

Now, I have also had some recycling fails of epic proportions, but hey, at least I tried. And it was a learning experience, and education is never a waste.  

And if you don’t try, you could be missing out on the best dessert you’ve ever tasted. It’s not always the obvious choice, that makes the best cake.

married? yes, married!

A good friend of mine got married yesterday. A year and a half ago, she got engaged. At that time, she asked me if I would be a bridesmaid in her wedding. I said yes, with 100% assurance.  She went on to say that they were opting for wedding cupcakes in lieu of a cake. She then asked me if I would make the cupcakes. I said yes, and then threw up in my mind from fear. This was big. HUGE. Sure, I’d been baking for years on the side. I had no real professional training at that time. I was flattered and honored that she would ask me to take on such a huge and personal endeavor. I feigned confidence as we chatted periodically over the next few months about said cupcakes, discussing flavors, decorations, etc. I was mortified. It would be one thing to screw up a stranger’s wedding confection of choice, but a close friend? This is the biggest day of a girl’s life – the one we are trained to live for since the very second we as baby girls are thrust out into the world, screaming our heads off.  Anyway, the last thing I wanted to do was to have ugly cupcakes not only ruin my friendship, but also my just-starting-to-spread positive reputation as a dessert artiste.

But, as they often do, things began to change.

First, I started a formal education in the baking and pastry arts.

Then, I got a part-time job at a real life bakery.

Then, I was asked by another friend to make wedding cupcakes, with great success. (see them here)

In the last month leading up to the wedding, as my friend and I again discussed the cupcakes, I suddenly realized that I was no longer afraid. That I couldn’t even imagine feeling afraid of baking something anymore.

I’d made it.

And the cupcakes turned out great (so practically every guest at the wedding said, anyway, including – most importantly – the bride ). 😉

bring it on.