Wedding Cake Should Be Chocolate: The Bridal Cake


Last summer, I tried on the hat of official wedding cake baker, and I baked for a gorgeous wedding with 200 guests! Today I am going to share with you the ultimate challenge of that adventure: the bridal cake.

After making this cake, I truly understand why wedding cakes are so costly.

The intricate detail, the careful timing, the insane pressure of delivering a perfect masterpiece for the most well photographed day of anyone’s life…

The lovely bride envisioned some very fancy decorations on her cake, with a swirly, lacy look and pearls and pretty much everything that a fairy tale cake would have, minus the ability to actually glow. (The bride would glow enough on her own!)

I was initially so worried about frosting a bridal cake with a brown frosting (can you make a cake look “bridal” when the natural color of the frosting is so dark? and not at all conducive to being dyed a pretty color?), but in the dark, romantic light of the country club where the reception was held, this cake stood tall and lovely, surrounded by pink flowers and twinkle lights, and it was a vision.

You can’t photograph flavor, but I can promise you that this wedding cake, with its dark chocolate crumb and rich espresso buttercream, was utterly delicious.

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Peppermint Mocha Ice Cream

Peppermint Mocha Ice Cream

I know…it’s a little crazy to be making ice cream in December. But someone once told me that ice cream is even better in cold weather, because it doesn’t melt while you are trying to savor it slowly!

Just get on board, okay? Because this ice cream is so delicious, and the festive wintery flavor combination will make your taste buds swoon.

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Devil’s Food Cake (Gluten-Free Dairy-Free)

Devil's Food Cake

Happy Mother’s Day!

Aren’t moms the best? My mom certainly is! Last week she came to help out with the kiddos: she took over breakfasts with Jake so I could sleep in with the baby, and sent me off to take naps in the middle of the afternoon, and cheerfully ate soup from a can while we gorged ourselves on leftover pasta and enchiladas—all things she cannot eat. I might nominate her for sainthood.

So I thought that for Mother’s Day, a day when we should all treat our mothers to much deserved praise and thanks and special sweet treats, I would share a delicious and indulgent, mom-approved cake recipe! My mom has several food intolerances, and so in honor of her, I bring you a lovely chocolate layer cake that contains no wheat or dairy!

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Gianduia Date Balls

Gianduia Date Balls

I heard a terrible, terrible rumor a few weeks ago: apparently, we are about to experience a worldwide shortage of hazelnuts!

Gasp! The horror!

Before you run out and buy every jar of Nutella in the store (and don’t think I haven’t contemplated that), let’s try a healthier yet equally delicious version of the incomparable chocolate-hazelnut combination: date balls.

Have you ever heard of gianduia? Maybe you’ve seen this flavor nestled among other exotic-looking scoops (stracciatella…nocciola…) at a nearby gelato store. Gianduia is the original chocolate and hazelnut confection, made from hazelnut paste, cocoa, and sugar. Apparently, hazelnuts are enormously popular in Italy. Italians know the good stuff.

I absolutely love chocolate and hazelnuts together, and I’m really going to miss these date balls when the price of hazelnuts skyrockets!

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Chocolate-Date-Nut Balls

Chocolate-Date-Nut Balls

Let me give you a leg up on your New Year’s resolution.

You know, the one where you vowed to eat healthy foods and give up refined sugar!

No? Maybe that was just me.

True story, I have resolved to give up refined sugar (and as much refined white flour as possible) for one whole month. That may sound either impossible or too short, depending on your own eating habits. But I have come to a point where I can’t stuff the guilty feeling I get when I tell people I’m a vegetarian because I believe it is healthier, all the while tossing back cookies like they are going out of style.

We need a healthier way, a way that is actually full of nutrients, not just absent anything truly horrible (er…which sugar is. Sorry, folks).

There are so many foods I am going to miss this month, and I am not making any promises about staying away from them forever, but I am actually pretty excited about detoxing from my sugar addiction.

If only my sweet tooth would get on board…

That’s why I made these delicious and nutritious chocolate-date-nut balls. Let’s call them truffles. Or even fudge! That would make my sweet tooth even happier!

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Black Bean Brownies

Black Bean Brownies

This month for the Secret Recipe Club, I was assigned the blog Jenny’s Cookbook.

Boy did I have a hard time deciding what to make. Given the chilly weather, I was leaning toward one of her many delicious-looking (vegetarian!) soups, but when my eyes lit on the name Black Bean Brownies, I knew I was set.

You may have noticed that I named my blog after brownies. I really, really like them. And yet, if you scroll through the archives or recipe index, brownies and desserts in general aren’t featured as prominently as you may expect. Maybe one reason for this oddity is that, um…I often don’t let my brownie batter turn into brownies. Oops. And sometimes I am too eager to taste to bother with the labor of love known as food photography.

But also, I am pretty particular about brownies. They have to be spectacular if I am going to share them with you.

I like all kinds of brownies, really, but I have a special place in my heart for more creative recipes. Like a brownie that replaces all the flour with black beans, thus rendering it gluten free! In fact, I spent a few weeks last year testing a recipe for black bean brownies that honestly never came out right. It was vegan and gluten free, which I applaud…but unfortunately it had no structure or flavor. Not cool.

This recipe, however, is amazing. It’s not vegan, but it is dairy free (if you monitor your add-ins), which means I can make brownies for my mom again! The flavor is spot on, a blend of rich chocolate, coffee, and vanilla. While the texture is somewhat different from a typical brownie, I would never guess there were beans in these brownies if I hadn’t made them with my own two hands!

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Espresso Ice Cream

Espresso Ice Cream

Smells Like Brownies is turning 2! It’s so hard to believe that it’s been two years since I finally got up my nerve to type my first blog post. So, to celebrate, let’s make some amazing espresso ice cream!

This ice cream tastes just like a latte. It has an incredibly rich coffee flavor, creamy and just barely sweet.

Anyone who knows me knows that is a major must…I am a very heavy coffee drinker, sometimes to the tune of a cup an hour from dawn til dusk (yikes, that’s way too much caffeine, right?). I am not at all a coffee snob, but I always drink it black.

Coffee is one of the only things in my life that must never be sweetened. In my opinion, sugar (and, come to think of it, flavored syrup of any kind) completely ruins a great cup of coffee. It’s not that I like my coffee super strong or anything, though I admit a certain sense of pride whenever someone asks if I want room and I say no. It’s just that the bold, slightly bitter flavor of coffee is perfect as it is. So, to me, this ice cream is absolutely perfect!

(And don’t worry if you like your coffee with half a cup of sugar poured in…this ice cream appeals to everyone I’ve served it to!)

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Glazed Cinnamon Buns

Glazed Cinnamon Buns

To read the updated post about making perfect cinnamon buns, complete with tips and tricks and much improved photos, click here! 

These cinnamon buns represent one of the worst kitchen meltdowns I have ever had.

Let me be clear…the cinnamon buns were amazing. Which makes me think they are idiot-proof (yay!).

But me in the kitchen at 2:00 in the morning with melted butter oozing all over my counters? Not so amazing. I huffed and puffed about how horrible the buns were going to be and what a failure I was, and my poor husband just kept sprinkling sugar and trying to keep me from going off the deep end and using my giant knife for something more sinister than slicing the buns.

Note to self: If you are making something you’ve never made before, and you intend to share it with a large room full of hungry moms the next day, don’t wait until 10:00 pm to get started.

Despite the fact that my cinnamon buns leaked their filling all over the counter, that they flattened completely when I was cutting them apart, that I only ended up with 36 unevenly sized buns when I was hoping for 50, and that I forgot I needed to make the glaze while the buns were in the oven…they honestly turned out perfectly! I scooped the cinnamon sugar over top of the buns, which rose and filled out until you couldn’t even tell they were once oblong and somewhat different sizes. And the slight delay in glazing the buns didn’t seem to make a bit of difference—they were still moist and sweet and pretty much the best things I have ever put into my mouth.

You should make them for yourself. And all of your friends (because who needs 3 dozen cinnamon buns in their fridge, just waiting to be eaten?). Seriously. These babies are delicious!

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Neiman Marcus Cookies

So perhaps you’ve heard of the infamous Neiman Marcus cookie.

As urban legend goes, a mom and her daughter were shopping at the Neiman Marcus department store, and they stopped to get some lunch. After sampling a chocolate chip cookie, which they deemed to be the best chocolate chip cookie on the face of the earth, they asked their waitress if they could get the recipe. The waitress hesitated a bit, then agreed saying, “Okay, but I’ll have to charge you two-fifty.” $2.50, thought the mother, what a deal! However, when she got home and looked more closely at her credit card receipt, she saw that she had been charged $250.00 for the cookie recipe! Indignant, she decided to make the recipe public so that no one else could be taken advantage of in the same way.

Neiman Marcus of course denies this ever happened, that in fact they didn’t even sell cookies until after this incident supposedly occurred. And for a long while, they had a cookie recipe posted on their site as evidence that they would never perpetrate such an injustice.

I can’t find that “official” recipe anymore, but there are still several recipes floating around the interwebs claiming to be the Neiman Marcus cookie recipe. Whether or not the story is true, I was intrigued enough to want to try these cookies (or at least a version of them) for myself. After all, something claiming to be the best chocolate chip cookie in the world is worth investigating, right?

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Marbled Mocha Coffee Cake

What can I even say about this amazing cake? Chocolate, coffee, and vanilla batters, all mixed together to form one single cake? Get outta here!

I hesitate to call it a breakfast food, because it’s really full of butter and sugar and other unhealthy but delicious ingredients; it might really be better as an after-dinner treat with a steaming cup of java. But I will leave that up to you.

No matter when you decide to serve it, this coffee cake is sure to be a hit! It’s moist and crumbly, sweet but not too sweet…in short, it’s delightful. Unfortunately for you, it does require about a thousand bowls (er…three). Also it’s really a danger to keep around the house when you are home alone, because slivers of it will just keep disappearing…

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