Making Whoopie…Pies

My kids love to puruse lovely food photos in cookbooks and tell me which things they’d like to make.  While my husband and son were making plans to watch the superbowl, my daughter was checking out a baking activity for us ladies.  In the Whoopie Pie cookbook by Love Food (UK) she spied after dinner mint whoopee pies, and that was it. She even checked the cupboard and saw we had the ingredients.  Except one which she couldn’t reach.  So while we were baking the cookies and getting ready to make the frosting I realized we were out of mint extract.  Oops!  Hmmmm.  Here’s where it’s good to have a stocked pantry and the ability to make substitutions and create your own flavors.  Although my daughter was hoping for lemon extract.  I’m not a fan of lemon and chocolate.  Orange, yes.  Lemon, no.  Next she suggested coffee.  I was surprised by her choice, but chocolate and coffee is a perfect flavor pairing.


So we made After Game Mocha Whoopie Pies.  My kids not having too many whoopee pies in their lifetime were surprised by how soft the “cookies” were.  I had to explain this is more like cake and the cookies aren’t hard like an ice cream sandwich.  They understood better after seeing them assembled.  And yes, they scored a touchdown with the whole family.  These would be great for Valentine’s Day.  You could even shape the cakes into hearts.

Mocha Whoopie Pies

(this makes about 30 pies)

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

scant 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa

large pinch of salt

6 tablespoons butter, softened

generous 1/3 cup vegetable shortening

3/4 cup light brown sugar

1 large egg, beaten

2/3 cup milk


Coffee Filling

1 1/4 cup cream cheese

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

2 1/2 teaspoon coffee extract

1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugarm sifted plus extra for dusting

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line 2 large cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Sift together the flour, baking soda, cocoa and salt.

Place butter, shortening and sugar in a large bowl and beat with electric mixer until fluffy.  Beat in egg followed by half the flour mixture and the milk.  Stir in the rest of the flour mixture until incorporated.

Pipe or spoon small mounds of batter on the cookie sheets, spaced about 2 inches apart to allow for spreading.  Beake, one sheet at a time for 8 – 10 minutes until risen and just firm to the touch.  Cool for 5 minutes on pan, then carefully transfer with palate knife or spatula to a cooling rack to cool completely.

For the filling, place the cream cheese and butter in a bowl and beat together until well blended.  Beat in coffee extract and confectioner’s star until smooth.  Chill filling in refrigerator for 30 minutes.

To assemble carefully spoon the filling into a pastry bag fitted with a star nozzle or simply spread carefully on flat side of half the cakes.  Top the filling with a second cake and dust with confectioner’s sugar if desired.


Happy Birthday with Ghostly Good Cake Recipe

My children’s b-days are both in July.  (Actually mine is too, but who’s counting?)  There’s always a lot of gatherings and feasts as the various grandparents each come to celebrate.  Of course this also means birthday cakes.  I’ve talked about my cupcakes and cookies for birthday and my cakes at the half (birthday), but it was time to try someone’s else’s recipe.  Luckily we had been to the library and found a really great children’s book called “The Bake Shop Ghost” by Jacqueline K. Oghurn.

It’s the story of a baker named Cora Lee Merriwheather who ran a wonderful bakery and was relied upon by the town for all it’s cakes, pies and pastries.  Cora Lee dies and she haunts the bakery; scaring away all the new owners and sending them out the door in hysterics.  After the shop sits for years a pastry chef from a cruise ship, Miss. Annie Washington, settles in and has it out with ghost Merriwheather.  Annie asks the ghost what she wants and Cora Lee replies “Bake me a cake to fill me up and bring tears to my eyes, a cake like one that I might have baked but that no one ever made for me”.  Annie is stumped and makes hundreds of recipes from around the world but can’t  please the ghost for over a month.  Finally she figures out the thing that Cora Lee never got… a birthday cake with her name on it.  The ghost and Annie continue to get along and bake together (unbeknownst to the towns people, of course) , now for the Washington and Merriwheather Bake Shop. 

At the end of the book is a recipe for that birthday cake that my kids and I made to celebrate the birthdays.  It really is one of the best (for this world and beyond).

Ghost-Pleasing Chocolate Cake

This rich chocolate layer cake would satisfy the hunmgrioest ghost.  Is is adapted from my friend Luli Gray, a wionderful writer and baker, from a recipe published in Cook’s Illustrated magazine.  Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.  Prepare two 8 or 9 inch round pans or one 13 x 9 inch pan, by lining the bottoms with parchment paper. 

In a Large Bowl Mix Together…

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/4 cups ll purpose flour, siften before measuring

3/4 cup cocoa

4 tablespoons buttermilk powder (available in supermarket baking sections)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

In a Medium Saucepan, melt over low heat (or you can use the microwave)…

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter

8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate

Remove from Heat and Add…

1 cup water

4 beaten eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just until blended.  Pour evenly into prepared pans and bake on the middle rack of the oven about 30 -40 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out with moist crumbs gathering to it.  Do not overbake.  Cool thoroughly on a rack before icing.

Easy Frosting

This frosting can also be tinted with food coloring for decoration or writing.

3 cups confectioner’s sugar

1/3 cup softened unsalted butter

1/4 cup water 

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch salt

Combine all ingreidnets in a large bowl and beat until smooth.  If using an electric mixer, beat at low speed.  Add more sugar for stiffer frosting.


Dad’s Birthday and the Burger Bar Cookbook Experience


As promised, I’m reporting back on the cookbook, Burger Bar: Build Your Own Ultimate Burgers by Hubert Keller.  Sorry to keep you waiting.   I can’t weigh in an opinion on a book until I’ve at least made a few recipes.  There’s nothing more frustrating than people who have comments and criticism based on the look, weight or photos of a cookbook.  Make something then tell me what’s it’s like.


Anyways it was my husband’s birthday and he requested making a burger recipe from the new book – Blue Cheese Stuffed Bacon Sliders.  I’ll put the burger and accoutrements together and my husband will grill it outside.  Easy enough, I thought.  However the first challenge was when trying to buy the coarsely ground sirloin at the Whole Food’s meat counter.  They did not have ground sirloin (that’s what makes the burgers a stand out and the price in a restaurant, or so I’m told) and when I asked the gentleman behind the meat counter he said too much of the meat would get stuck in the grinder.  What?  He was looking over me at the long line and his watch.  Instead of holding my own and telling him to grind it anyway, I went with the best quality grass fed beef.  I should’ve gone to a local butcher.  Next time.


I was annoyed with myself when I got home, but tired and wanting to focus on the other elements of the birthday dinner and of course dessert.  The cake requested was a flourless chocolate cake.  Easy and yummy enough.  Something I can mix up in about 20 minutes, then another 20 to bake.  My usual sprinkle of powdered sugar or cocoa wasn’t going to cut it for my kids.  They think all birthday cakes should have writing.  So we whipped up a bit of royal icing and served the cake with mint ice cream (my husband’s fav) – it’s rich, quick and perfect.


Flourless Chocolate Cake
Flourless Chocolate Cake

Back to the burgers.  I have to say they were yummy.  However there were some elements or steps that were not really necessary.  Stuffing the burgers with blue cheese didn’t add much except for time to make and worry whether they were going to break open on the grill.  Adding it to the top of the burger would’ve yielded the same flavor and not made the burger so high.  These were so tall, there was not way to get your mouth around.  We made them full size and they were messy and awkward to eat at home.  If we had made true sliders and wanted to have them at a party, they would’ve ended up on the floor (or guests would’ve been too intimated to eat).   See photo.  It also wasn’t necessary to add bacon to the meat mixture.  It was plenty on top as opposed to pieces in the meat.

 On the plus side, the sugared pears were great.  This combo with the burger and blue cheese was great and yielded a bit of moisture.  My kids loved these on the side too.  Who wouldn’t?  I’m going to remember these for salads too.  Another plus from the book was the Marinated Vegetable Salad I made to accompany.  This was easy, crisp and refreshing.  This will be a new side dish at our house for just about anything.  Even a good potluck or picnic dish.


marinated salad
marinated salad

I’m looking forward to making more of the recipes.  However like I do with most recipes, I will read and make a few changes if too complex, to edit the ingredients and steps and make more convenient.


Hooray for the Half! Angels vs. Devils (cakes, not kids)

From Lisa Barnes

When you ask a child under 10 years old their age, you’re bound to hear a fraction in the answer. “I’m 5… and a half” says my son. Of course the “half” is said louder than the rest of the answer. A friend of his says “Well I’m 5 and a quarter”. My kids both get their halves in January. In order to celebrate this momentous occasion, we make a half dessert. It could be half a cake (to be shared by the family) or each person gets half a muffin or cupcake.

We even cut the candle in half. So you still get a wish, it’s just a stubby one. And we sing “Happy Half Birthday to You…” There are no fancy gifts (isn’t the title enough?), but I like to give a pair of socks or shoes (just wrapping one).

My daughter is a vanilla lover while my son goes for chocolate (like, Mom, the darker the better). I’ve shared a few cupcake recipes (carrot cupcakes, better brownie cupcake) which work well cut in half. Here’s also an angel food and devil’s food recipe, so you can see who wins out in your house.
Happy Half!

Angel Food Cake

This is a yummy, light, and airy cake for celebrating just about anything. It is a lighter alternative to chocolate cakes with heavy frosting. The fun part for kids and adults is letting them choose their own toppings and décor for their piece. Set out fresh raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries; whip up some cream; and maybe have some chocolate sauce for a truly decadent treat. Let children create their own special pieces.

Makes 12 servings

1 cup organic cake flour, sifted
1 1/3 cups evaporated cane juice
12 large cage-free organic egg whites, at room temperature
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan or tube pan.

Mix cake flour and sugar together in a bowl. Beat egg whites and the cream of tartar with an electric mixer on high until stiff peaks are formed, about 5 minutes. Sift one-third of the flour mixture into the egg whites and gently fold in. Repeat by sifting another one-third of flour and finally the last one-third until all combined. Fold in salt, vanilla, and almond extract until combined.

Pour or spoon batter into prepared pan. It will fill the pan. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until top is golden brown and batter does not shake. Remove pan from oven and completely cool in pan on a wire rack, about 1 hour. When cool, place plate over top of pan and carefully turn over. If cake does not come out, slide a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen cake.

Little Devil’s Cake

This is not a true devil’s food cake because it does not contain melted chocolate in addition to cocoa. However your little devil will be happy to indulge in this tasty cake. The drizzle of frosting is especially pretty and lends moisture to the cake.

Makes 1 (8-inch-round) cake; 8 servings

5 tablespoons organic unsalted butter, melted
½ cup organic unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup organic applesauce
½ cup packed brown sugar
2 large cage-free organic eggs
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup unbleached organic all-purpose flour
¼ cup hot water


1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon organic milk, plus additional if needed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour an 8-inch-round cake pan.

In a small bowl, whisk together butter and cocoa. Stir in applesauce and brown sugar until combined. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating to combine. Stir in vanilla, baking soda, and salt.

Gradually add flour to cocoa mixture, stirring just until blended but do not over mix. Stir in hot water, just until blended.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Gently turn out cake and cool completely on wire rack before icing.

To make icing: Combine all icing ingredients in a small bowl. Using a fork, drizzle icing over cake. To serve, cut into 8 wedges.

Disappearing Icing. We made this for my son’s half birthday. The next day my son wanted a piece and noticed the icing was gone. He wondered what happened. I explained it was magic and that it just sunk into the cake. He asked, “If I say abracadabra will it reappear?”
See also Lisa’s She Takes The Cake (with Organic Flourless Chocolate Cake Recipe For Kids)
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler, Williams-Sonoma: Cooking For Baby, and lives in Sausalito, California.
Image Credit: Lisa Barnes |

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She Takes The Cake (with Organic Flourless Chocolate Cake Recipe For Kids)

From Lisa Barnes

So if you read my blog this time last year you’ll be reminded that both my children’s birthdays are in July. Last year was the quest for the perfect cupcake. I had some success and some failures. This year as it approached my daughter’s birthday I asked her what she wanted to choose for her special dinner. She said Thai food. Yes, she is quite decisive and specific for a newly turned two year old. We made plans to go to a new favorite Thai Restaurant without any problems.

Then I asked about the dessert (or as she pronounces “dirt”). I was kind of cringing at the cupcake request, but I lucked out and she said chocolate cake. My husband was happy too as he quickly said how about the flourless chocolate cake. This is such a quick and easy (yet very rich) cake. The recipe is from Gourmet Everyday. I felt a bit guilty since it would not have frosting (just too over the top) so I decorated with powdered sugar. Instead of a simple dusting or using a pre-made stencil, I thought of a way the kids could help. Remember making snowflakes out of paper? I folded a piece of wax paper (careful not to crease) and my son and I used the scissors to cut shapes. When we unfolded it we placed our own snowflake stencil on top and sprinkled the confectioner’s sugar over the cuts. Voila!

My daughter didn’t really notice the decoration. She liked seeing the candle and loved eating the cake.

4 oz. fine quality bittersweet chocolate (I use at least 65% cacao), chopped into pieces
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted organic butter
3/4 cup sugar
3 large cage free organic eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 375°F and butter an 8-inch round baking pan. Line bottom with a round of wax paper and butter paper.

Melt chocolate with butter in a double boiler (or microwave) and stir until smooth. Whisk sugar into chocolate mixture. Whisk in eggs. Sift cocoa powder over chocolate and whisk until just combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake in middle of oven for 25 minutes or until top has formed a thin crust. Cool in pan on rack for 5 minutes and invert onto a serving plate.

To serve, dust with powdered sugar as explained above or sprinkle with cocoa. Goes great with a scoop of  vanilla ice cream.
See also Lisa’s Easy, Creative Organic Dips For Kids Recipes
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California. |
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