Yellow Cake with Mint Chocolate Frosting

I’m not much of a recipe repeater. Of course, I have a few perennial favorites. Like my pumpkin gooey butter cake, and these salted caramel chocolate chip cookies. I make those once a year, without fail.

But most the time, I try new things. I even have the data to prove it: In 2019, 84% of the things I baked were new to me.

It’s not that I don’t have favorites. I just get so intrigued by flavor combos and ideas, and HAVE to try them. And since I don’t really bake thaaaat often, I have to pick and choose.

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It turns out these rules don’t apply when someone else is doing the baking. When I go home to visit my family, I pretty much expect to have all the same things I had growing up. That means zucchini and applesauce bread at Thanksgiving. Banana chocolate chip muffins for New Year’s. And DEFINITELY this Yellow Cake with Mint Chocolate Frosting for any and all birthdays.

My mom made this every year for as long as I can remember. Once, when I was about 25, she swapped in orange extract for mint to surprise me. Orange/chocolate is one of my favorite flavor combos. But… I didn’t want it in this cake! It was technically delicious, but nostalgically, just not the same. It’s gotta be chocolate mint, or not at all.

I haven’t been home for a birthday in years so it’d been a while since I had this cake. And during the first month of quarantine, I just couldn’t stop craving it! So I made one.

The recipe comes from an old cookbook based around ideas for your Cuisinart food processor. I’ve never tried making this in a mixer, but you probably could. The cookbook makes you use a food processor for everything, even when it’s not totally necessary. I guess they had to fill a whole book, ya know?

My mom came up with the mint extract addition herself, and I highly recommend it if you’ve got extract on your hands. If you don’t, plain chocolate frosting would also be swell. It’s got a great richness and texture so it really adds something special to the fluffy yellow cake. Yellow cake isn’t so much a “flavor” as it is a texture and richness. It gets that richness from butter and whole eggs. It’s a lot simpler than some of the other cakes I’ve posted here. But just so. darn. good.

Yellow Cake with Mint Chocolate Frosting

Original recipe: Cuisinart Classroom, by Abby Mandel. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary.

Yield: This recipe technically yields 3 cake layers, but the frosting is only enough to cover 2 layers. If you want to frost all 3, multiply the frosting ingredients by 1.5x and you should be set. That’s what my mom does 🙂 The original recipe claims that this makes 12 servings, but that obviously will depend on how you cut the cake!

Suggested equipment: Food processor. You could probably just use a mixer, too.

Total Time: A few hours or so. You want to let those layers really cool before you frost them!

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1.5 sticks unsalted butter, cut into pieces (6 ounces)
  • 1 cup minus 1 tbsp buttermilk (so measure a cup, then measure 1 tablespoon and pour it out)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract

For the frosting:

  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 tsp mint extract
  • 4-5 tbsp sour cream

Instructions

Make your cake

  1. Preheat your oven to 375F
  2. Sift together your flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Set aside.
  3. Put your sugar and eggs in the food processor, and process until it’s thick and lightly colored. This should take a minute or so, using the metal blade attachment.
  4. Scrape the sides of your bowl, then turn it back on.
  5. Add your butter, and process the machine for about a minute. It should look fluffy! You might want to stop and scrape down your bowl halfway through.
  6. With the machine running, pour the vanilla and buttermilk through the feed tube.
  7. Stop the machine, remove the cover and pour in your dry ingredients. Then blend the batter by turning your machine on and off until the flour disappears. This should take 4-6 pulses.
  8. Line 3 cake pans with parchment, then grease them. Divide your batter among the pans.
  9. Bake for 30 minutes, or until it’s lightly browned on top and a toothpick comes out clean.
  10. Let the cakes cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then flip them onto a wire rack to cool completely. You gotta let them sit for a while before you frost them, or your frosting will get too runny!

Make your frosting

  1. Put your cocoa, sugar and salt in your processor work bowl. Using the metal blade, process them for 5 seconds.
  2. Add the vanilla, butter, mint extract and 4 tablespoons of your sour cream. Process until it gets a thick, spreadable consistency. You can add the remaining sour cream if you need it for a spreadable texture.

Frost your cake 

My cakes will never win a prize for their looks. I take a super lazy approach to frosting. Put one layer on a sturdy surface, and slather the top with frosting. Plop another layer on top, and repeat as needed with your layers. Then, use a spatula or angled spatula to spread more frosting on the very top and all around the sides. Smooth it out the best you possibly can. But don’t stress too much. It’s cake, and it’s gonna taste great no matter what.

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’ve made a lot of dairy-free recipes over the years, but haven’t ventured far into vegan territories. After a couple negative experiences with less-than-great vegan recipes, I worried that all the ingredient substitutions just couldn’t lead to an awesome final result.

Well, dear readers: I stand corrected. These Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies are pretty darn amazing. If someone handed you one of these cookies on the street*, you’d never guess they’re vegan. And based on what I read on baking blogs, that seems to be the ultimate compliment for ingredient-restricted recipes.

These cookies swap in coconut oil and coconut milk for more standard cookie ingredients like eggs and butter. I’d never used either ingredient before, so I wasn’t totally sure how this would go. But the final cookies have such an amazing texture! They’re thick and chewy, with a nicely firm exterior. The original recipe writer recommended making these decently big, and I took that advice. The final cookies were truly delicious, and very satisfying.

I guess these cookies have officially convinced me that vegan baking can be awesome. Maybe I’ll try this vegan chocolate cake next…

* If someone actually handed you a cookie on the street would you eat it? Because I definitely wouldn’t! My Lyft driver took one of these and I will always wonder if he actually ate it once I got out… or tossed it in the trash. Stranger danger! 

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

Original recipe: Baker by Nature. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary. 

Yield: ~30 cookies

Suggested equipment: Mixer

Total Time: ~60 minutes

Cook Time: ~10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil. I used refined/virgin oil because I read it has less of a coconut taste. Your coconut oil needs to be totally solid—if it has started to melt at all, stick it in the fridge for a few minutes to get it back to a solid state
  • 1 1/4 cups light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk. I got the Thai variety based on the recipe’s original notes, but you can use any kind you want
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips. If you really need these to be vegan, make sure to find vegan chocolate chips! I use the Enjoy Life brand

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 375F
  2. Use your mixer to beat the coconut oil, brown sugar and vanilla. They should be well-combined before you move on.
  3. Add in your coconut milk and applesauce, and beat again.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together your flour, baking soda and salt.
  5. Pour your dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, and mix until the ingredients are totally combined. Note that your batter will be thick! If it seems too sticky, you can add a little more flour. If it seems too dry, add another tablespoon of coconut milk.
  6. Stir in 1.5 cups of chocolate chips with a wooden spoon.
  7. Scoop your cookies onto a lined cookie sheet. I used a two tablespoon scoop to measure out my dough.
  8. Bake for 9-11 minutes, or until the edges are golden and the centers are set. Keep a close eye on them—they’ll start to burn if you leave the cookies in too long.
  9. Cool your cookies on the baking sheets for 15 minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack and let them finish firming up.

 

 

Milky Way Chocolate Chip Blondies

For friends’ birthdays, I like to ask about their favorite flavors and surprise them with a special treat. Sometimes I try to fly under the radar and just pepper food questions into normal conversation so they don’t suspect what I’m up to. Other times…I’m way more obvious about it and literally ask people to send me their favorite flavors.

DSC07981That’s the kind of questioning that led to these awesome blondies. One of my friends said she really loved Milky Way candy bars–and I couldn’t resist finding a way to bake with them.

Lucky for me, Crazy for Crust had already thought about this. I used her recipe for Milky Way Chocolate Chip Blondies, but cut the caramel chips. I’m a huge fan of recipes that use a ton of flavors but for some reason, the caramel chips felt like too much going on.

These bake up beautifully, with a classic blondie top and a really nicely textured middle layer of caramel, chocolate and nougat. The Milky Way candy bars melt into a wonderful flavor combo and take these bars to the next level.

I never would have thought to bake with Milky Ways since I don’t really eat them–so thanks to the friend that inspired this!

Milky Way Chocolate Chip Blondies

Original recipe:  Crazy for Crust. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary. 

Yield: ~30 bars

Suggested equipment: Mixer

Total Time: ~1 hour

Cook Time: ~25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups light brown sugar, packed firmly into your measuring cup
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 15 Fun Size Milky Way candy bars, chopped into pieces

Step by Step Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F
  2. Line a 9×13 pan with foil and spray it with nonstick cooking spray
  3. Use the paddle attachment on your mixer cream your brown sugar and butter
  4. Add eggs and vanilla, then beat until combined
  5. Add baking powder, salt and flour. Mix until combined
  6. Stir in the chocolate chips and chopped Milky Way bars
  7. Press your dough into the prepared pan. The dough can get sticky, but you can spray your hands with cooking spray so the dough doesn’t stick as much while you’re trying to spread it
  8. Bake for about 22-25 minutes. Keep a close eye on these blondies–you don’t want to overcook them! The center will still jiggle a bit when the bars are done, but they’ll firm up as the bars cool
  9. Let the bars cool completely before slicing them into pieces

These keep for a few days in an airtight container, or you can freeze them to save the goodness for longer.

 

Cinnamon Cayenne Brownies with Cinnamon Buttercream

This might be the perfect spicy sweet treat. First you make rich, fudgy brownies, slightly spiked with a bit of cayenne. Then you add a smooth, cinnamon-tinged buttercream. The finished dessert is chocolatey, spicy and sweet all at once. It’s pretty incredible!

IMG_7222I’ve made other spicy chocolate recipes in the past, but think this one’s my new favorite. There’s a really great depth to the brownie recipe: it’s a satisfying, deep chocolate, and the spices bring out more flavor. The cinnamon buttercream adds yet another layer of flavor, and complements the brownies in a really unique way. I used a pretty thin layer of buttercream compared to the original recipe, and felt good about the frosting/brownie combo. You could also cut the frosting altogether if you’re short on time or watching your decadence–the brownies definitely stand on their own!

Several coworkers declared this recipe their favorite thing I’ve baked. I’ve brought quite a few things into the office over time so…that’s quite the declaration!

Cinnamon Cayenne Brownies with Cinnamon Buttercream

Original recipe: Garnish with Lemon. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary.

Yield: ~25 brownies

Suggested equipment: Mixer optional

Total Time: ~2 hours, including cooling time

Cook Time: 27-32 minutes

Ingredients

For your brownies

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 10 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs

For your frosting

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 16 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp milk or heavy cream (I used milk, it’ll be a little thicker if you use cream)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon

Instructions

Make your brownies 

  1. Preheat your oven to 325F
  2. Whisk your flour, cinnamon and cayenne in a small bowl
  3. Place the butter, sugar, cocoa and salt in a large microwaveable bowl. Heat in 30 second increments, stirring after each increment. Repeat this process until the butter is fully melted, then put the mixture aside so it can cool a bit
  4. Stir your vanilla and eggs into the cocoa mixture. Your batter should be thick and shiny when you’re done
  5. Add the dry ingredients, and stir again until just mixed
  6. Beat the whole batter vigorously for about 30 seconds
  7. Line a 8×8 pan with parchment, leaving a little hanging over the edges so it’s easier to pull the brownies out later
  8. Pour your batter into the pan
  9. Bake for 27-32 minutes. Mine took the full 32. Stick a toothpick in the middle to check for doneness. Your toothpick should have just a few crumbs sticking to it when these are done
  10. Cool the brownies in the pan for 15 minutes, then lift them out to cool completely before frosting. You don’t want to frost hot brownies–the frosting will just melt all over the place!

Frost your brownies

  1. Put your powdered sugar and butter in a mixer bowl. Beat them for about 2-3 minutes, until it’s totally smooth
  2. Add salt, vanilla, milk or cream and cinnamon. Mix it altogether until the frosting is thick and smooth. Taste the frosting before declaring it done–sometimes I add a little more sugar or salt depending on how things are coming together!
  3. Frost your brownies, then cut them into squares. I found these a little harder to cut than some other brownie recipes, so definitely use a sharp knife!

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Olive Oil Chocolate Cake (Dairy-Free)

I’ve never been one to use the word “unfussy” to talk about food. And yet, here we are: let’s talk about this unfussy cake. It’s rich and delicious, but also really simple. It’s great on its own–but also easy to dress up with mix-ins, toppings or ice cream.

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I also love that this recipe is dairy-free, because I have several friends who avoid dairy. Olive oil gives the cake a great texture, and also brings out richness from the cocoa. The cake is light, airy and the perfect ending to a dinner with friends.

I opted to use regular flour in this, but the original recipe gives you substitutions if you want to make it gluten-free.

Olive Oil Chocolate Cake (Dairy-Free)

Original recipe: Nigella Lawson. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary.

Yield: One 9-inch cake

Suggested equipment: Mixer; food processor if you need to grind sugar

Total Time: 1.5 hours

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup olive oil, plus more to grease the pan
  • 6 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 cup superfine sugar (You can find this at some stores, usually called superfine sugar, baker’s sugar or caster sugar. Alternatively, you can just use your food processor to grind up standard granulated sugar. I followed The Kitchn’s advice, and ground up 1 cup plus 2 tsp of sugar in the food processor for roughly 30 seconds.) 
  • 3 large eggs
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 325F
  2. Sift your cocoa into a bowl
  3. Whisk in your boiling water until it’s a smooth paste. It will still look a little runny
  4. Whisk in your vanilla, then let the mixture cool for a bit
  5. In a separate bowl, mix your flour, baking soda and salt
  6. Use your mixer to beat the sugar, olive oil and eggs. You should beat them for about 3 minutes until it’s a thickened, yellow-ish cream
  7. Turn the speed down on your mixer, and add in your cocoa with the mixer still running. Stop to scrape as needed
  8. Use a spatula to mix in the flour. When you’re ready to bake, your mix should look dark and liquidy
  9. Grease a 9 inch cake pan (or springform if you have it!) with oil and line it with parchment
  10. Bake 40-45 minutes, until the sides are set but the top still looks a little damp. Use a toothpick to check for doneness–it should be mostly clean with just a few crumbs
  11. Let the cake cool in its tin for 10 minutes
  12. Remove the cake from its pan
  13. Dust with powdered sugar right before serving

 

 

Brownie Bit Cookies

Can’t decide whether you want a cookie or a brownie? Have I got a treat for you!

img_0453These chewy cookies boast more than chocolate chips: there are also chewy brownie bits. Start with a cooled batch of brownies. Then you whip up a batch of cookie dough, crumble the brownies into bits, and fold those bits right into the dough.

This recipe takes longer than most, since you have to bake brownies all the way through and then bake a batch of cookies too. But you can totally save time by making semi-homemade brownies, or even buying some at the store. You could definitely use store-bought cookie dough, too. Makes no matter: you’ll end up with great cookies regardless. Every bite into these beauties rewards you with buttery dough, chocolate chips and fudgy brownie. Plus, you should have extra brownies left over…so that’s a win, right?

Brownie Bit Cookies

Original recipe: Two Peas and Their Pod. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary. 

Yield: ~30 cookies

Suggested equipment: Mixer

Total Time: ~2 hours

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients

Brownies

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp espresso powder
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, at room temp
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 cups chocolate chips

Cookies

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp sea salt (regular salt is fine if you don’t have sea salt)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temp
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temp
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups brownie chunks
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
  • Extra sea salt to sprinkle on the cookies

Directions

Make your brownies

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F
  2. Use a medium, microwave-safe bowl to melt the butter. Use 30-second increments until the butter is fully melted
  3. Add your sugar and stir to combine
  4. Microwave the mixture until it’s hot, but not bubbling. Keep an eye on it, and stop microwaving once it’s shiny
  5. Stir in your cocoa, baking powder, salt, espresso powder and vanilla
  6. Whisk the eggs into the batter, stirring until it’s totally smooth
  7. Line a 9×13 pan with foil, and spray with nonstick spray
  8. Pour your batter into the pan. Bake about 28-30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs. Your edges will look set, but the center will still look pretty moist
  9. Let the brownies cool completely, then chop them into bite sized bits so they’re ready to go for your cookies. Measure as you go, because you’ll have leftover brownies and can just keep the rest in the pan for later. You only need 1.5 cups of chunks for the cookies!

Make your cookies

  1.  Preheat your oven to 350F
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk your flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt
  3. Use your mixer to cream butter, sugar and brown sugar for about 3 minutes
  4. Add your eggs and vanilla, then mix again until it’s fully combined
  5. Set the mixer to low, and slowly mix in your dry ingredients. Only mix until it’s combined—the dough is a little runny so you might be tempted to keep going, but don’t overmix the dough!
  6. Add your chocolate chips and brownie chunks, and stir one more time. I like to do this part by hand so I can keep an eye on mix-in distribution and size!
  7. Line baking sheets with parchment
  8. Use about two tablespoons of dough per cookie, and place onto the baking sheet. You can sprinkle the tops with sea salt if you want (definitely recommend this!)
  9. Bake about 10-12 minutes, until the edges are turning a golden brown
  10. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes, then move them to a cooling rack to cool completely

M&M Blondies

Sometimes I do things like bake basil into cupcakes. Other times…I just want something simple.

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Such delightful color!

These bars are certainly simple, but they’re also incredibly good. Brown sugar makes for an excellent blondie base, and Mini M&Ms add a bit of chocolate to every bite. The M&Ms also add a nice burst of color—which is never a bad thing.

This is an easy recipe that comes together quickly, but you’ll want to allow for a couple of hours of chill time. That helps the bars firm up and locks in the flavor so you get the best blondie possible. I won’t tell anyone if you sneak some extra M&Ms while you wait for the bars to cool…

M&M Blondies

Original recipe: Inside BruCrew Life. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary. 

Yield: 30 bars

Suggested equipment: Mixer

Total Time: 3 hours (includes a couple of hours for the bars to fully cool and firm up)

Cook Time: ~22 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups Mini M&Ms

Instructions 

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F
  2. Beat the butter and brown sugar together until they’re creamy
  3. Add the eggs and vanilla, then beat the mixture again
  4. Sift together your salt, baking powder and flour
  5. Slowly beat your dry ingredients into the butter mixture
  6. Measure out a cup of the M&Ms, and mix them into the batter by hand
  7. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick spray
  8. Pour your batter into the dish
  9. Sprinkle your remaining M&Ms over the top of the batter
  10. Bake 22-24 minutes. They’ll look a little under-done when you pull them out, but will firm up as they cool
  11. Let the bars cool for a couple hours, then cut them into squares. Bars keep well in a covered container.