Chocolate Cranberry Coffee Cake

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Coffee cake with a chocolate swirl, the taste you can see!

This is my favorite coffee cake and it just might become yours too! Filled with sweet cranberries and a ribbon of cinnamon-scented chocolate, this Chocolate Cranberry Coffee Cake (C4?) adds another layer of flavors to a dense sour cream coffee cake. This is a BIG cake and it will stay fresh in an airtight container for a few days, so you might find yourself looking for occasions to make it even if you aren’t having a crowd over for brunch.

We all drink our coffee black at my house (which a friend of mine once said was barbaric) but strong black coffee is the perfect thing to drink with a slice of this coffee cake. My dad, who has the hugest sweet tooth of anyone I’ve met, says that it’s sweet enough even 20160326_192237though it doesn’t have any frosting, haha! I’ve made it for number of holidays at home and the incredible baking smells of cinnamon and chocolate (and the whole process of getting covered in flour while I make the batter), is one of the things that means “home” to me.

As with Grandma Mary’s Banana Bread, a key element of this recipe is making sure that after 20160326_154751the dry ingredients are incorporated the batter is thick enough to hold its shape but loose enough so that it doesn’t stick to the beaters of your mixer. If your batter looks too thick add some milk a couple tablespoons at a time until you have the right consistency.

Layering can also be a bit of a challenge with this recipe, be sure to save enough batter so that there are a couple distinct layers of chocolate, this will give you that pretty marbled effect. To get an even layer of chocolate I use a spatula to spread out the chocolate chips as much as possible after sprinkling them into the pan.

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To cut a circle of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the bundt pan, I remove the center portion of the pan and trace around it on the parchment. Then I fold it in half and cut a semi-circle out of the center.

I made this cake as part of our Easter festivities this past weekend, along with Eggs Benedict for our late in the day brunch. What are some of your favorite brunch foods?

Chocolate Cranberry Coffeecake

  • 1 ½ cups semi-sweet mini-chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 2/3 cups sugar, divided use
  • 1 ½ sticks (¾ cup) butter, softened
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 lb sour cream, light or regular
  • 3 eggs
  • Preheat oven to 325°. Grease  a 10” Bundt pan. Cut a piece of parchment paper to .fit the bottom of the pan and place it in the pan. Grease the top of the parchment, then flour the entire pan.
  • Combine chocolate chips, cocoa, cinnamon and 1/3 cup sugar, set aside.
  • In separate bowl combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt, set aside.
  • In another large bowl beat together butter with remaining sugar. Beat for 2 minutes at medium speed.
  • Gradually add vanilla, sour cream and eggs to butter and sugar mixture, beating to incorporate each new addition to the batter.
  • Beat for another 2 minutes at medium speed. Batter should be thick enough to hold its shape but loose enough so that it doesn’t stick to the beaters. If the batter is too thick beat in some milk 2 tablespoons at a time until batter reaches desired consistency.
  • Gradually beat in flour mixture until just combined. Fold in dried cranberries.
  • Pour 1/3 of batter into Bundt pan, sprinkle with half of the chocolate chip mixture. Top with half the remaining batter followed by the rest of the chocolate chip mixture. Spread the remaining batter on top.
  • Bake for about 1 hour and 16 minutes, or until  the top of a cake is an even golden brown and a tester inserted into the cake comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Cool cake completely in pan on a wire rack. Invert cake to remove it from pan.
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Golden Brown and Delicious

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Dubliner Scones

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Delightfully cheesy Dubliner Scones with Tea

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Want to make something special for St. Patrick’s Day that isn’t corned beef and cabbage or soda bread? Then I recommend these savory and oh so cheesy Dubliner scones!

Dubliner is an Irish cheese made by Kerrygold and is similar to white cheddar but with a hint of sweetness that makes it a slam dunk for baked goods. It’s also great on its own, grated over soups, melted into mac and cheese or… you get the idea.

To make your scones even more festive, serve them with Irish Breakfast tea spiked with a little Irish whiskey- Sláinte! (Cheers!).

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Tea time for the Doggy and Kitty: Illustration by Lisa Cieri

Everyone in my family is a huge fan of these scones, and they’re one of my mom’s favorites. This adorable illustration of our pets having their own tea time is her work. Her support and collaboration on the more visual aspects of the blog (she also helps out with photo shoots) has been a huge help and so much fun. Thanks mom!

Thanks to buttermilk, a generous amount of cheese, fresh oregano, and a dash of cayenne, these scones have a savory kick that sets them apart- even people who don’t usually go in for sweet and savory combinations will love them! A warm Dubliner scone not only makes a great afternoon snack but also works for breakfast or a side for more traditional St. Patrick’s Day fare. (Well, they might not go with green beer, but everything else is good!)

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Fresh oregano and cayenne bring out the cheesiness

Getting the texture of the dough just right can be tricky, I actually had to put the dough back in the bowl and add more buttermilk after my first attempt at forming the dough into disks. The important thing to remember is that the dough shouldn’t crumble when you  try to form it into a disk or cut it into wedges, but it also shouldn’t feel wet. (A little sticky is fine, but if you find the dough is sticking to your hands after you form it into disks add more flour.) I recommend freezing the scones on the baking sheet before baking because the bottoms of the scones tend to brown very quickly, and we want to give the baking powder and baking soda time to do their jobs in the oven and let the scones rise.

I hope however you choose to celebrate that all of you have a fun and safe St. Patrick’s Day! What are some of your favorite St. Paddy’s foods and traditions?

Dubliner Scones

  • 4 ½ cups flour, + more for work surface
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves, roughly torn
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Dubliner cheese (or sharp white cheddar cheese), divided use
  • 3 sticks (1 ½ cups) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 ¼ cups buttermilk, + more for egg wash
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  1. Preheat oven to 325°. Line two baking sheets with foil and spray them with butter flavored cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cayenne pepper and oregano. Cut in the butter and 3/4 cup grated cheese until just combined. (The mixture should resemble dry bread crumbs with a few pea-sized lumps remaining.)
  3. Make a well in the middle of dry ingredients, pour in the buttermilk and mix until just combined. Shape the dough into a ball, adding more flour as needed if the dough is too sticky or more buttermilk if it’s too dry. Dough may be a little sticky but should not be wet, or so dry that it crumbles.
  4. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and shape it into two 6” rounds 1 ½” thick.
  5. Cut each round in half, then cut each half into 3 wedges. Place scones on cookie sheets and freeze for at least 20 min. (It’s important to freeze the scones on the baking sheet that will go into the oven, so that the baking sheet doesn’t get hot too quickly and burn the bottoms of the scones.)
  6. Add two tablespoons buttermilk to the beaten egg. After removing scones from the freezer brush them liberally with egg wash.
  7. Bake scones 22-25 min, sprinkling the tops of scones with remaining cheese during last 3 minutes of baking time. When done, the bottoms of the scones should be an even golden brown and the tops will be golden brown in places. The scones are best warm from the oven but will keep for 1 day in a sealed  bag or container.

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Grandma Mary’s Banana Bread

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Walnuts, chocolate chips and a hint of rum go great with family recipes

This banana bread was one of the first things I learned how to bake and to this day is still one of my favorites. My mom makes banana bread using a recipe she wrote down while watching my Great-Grandma Mary bake. (She says my great-grandma was a superb baker who measured everything using the palm of her hand- which is impressive but not the most helpful when it comes to recreating her food.) Grandma Mary was also able to sew clothes without a pattern, which is amazing to me.

When I was in college I made the banana bread using my mom’s recipe because it used up leftover bananas, kept well and reminded me of home. Over time I began adding in nuts and chocolate chips, and eventually began throwing in a few tablespoons of rum because it improves the texture and, seriously, what dessert isn’t better with rum? It’s been an ingredient in two out of the three recipes posted on this blog so far!

This banana bread is moist and indulgent without being too sweet. Make it ahead for those breakfasts on busy mornings or packing in a bag lunch (I bet it would also make some epic french toast Mwahahah!)

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All those chocolate chips, yum!

The key to achieving a dense but not heavy texture in this banana bread is to beat the butter, sugar and together until light and fluffy, along with making sure the batter is just “loose” enough before folding in the nuts and chocolate chips. I found there’s a little bit of variation in how much liquid you’ll get from adding 1 cup of mashed bananas to the batter, so sometimes it’s a good idea to add more milk.

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Light and fluffy whipped butter with eggs and sugar- the color of sunshine
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Ideal texture for the batter before adding the chocolate chips and nuts- thick enough to hold it’s shape but thin enough that it won’t stick in the beaters of an electric mixer.

Grandma Mary’s Banana Bread

Recipe Notes: Overripe bananas work best in this recipe, you can freeze yours whenever you happen to have them around. You’ll need about 3 bananas. If you wish to omit the rum, just increase the milk to 6 tablespoons.

  • 2 scant cups flour
  • 1teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons milk or buttermilk
  • ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces, plus about 1/4 cup walnuts for garnishing the top of loaf, if desired
  • ½ cup/a stick of butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup mashed bananas
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons dark rum
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9x5x3” loaf pan. Stir together first 3 ingredients.
  2. In a separate bowl cream butter and sugar well. Beat in eggs one at a time, then beat mixture on medium speed for about two minutes until bright yellow and fluffy. Beat in milk, vanilla and rum.
  3. Alternating between flour mixture and mashed bananas, add both in batches to wet ingredients, beating until just combined after each addition. Batter should be light and fluffy, if it appears heavy add additional milk 2 tablespoons at a time. Fold in nuts or chocolate chips.
  4. Pour batter into prepared pan, and sprinkle the extra nuts on top (if using.) Bake for 60-70 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.
  5. Let bread cool completely in the pan. Run a knife around the edges of pan and invert to remove banana bread from pan.

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All Dressed Up Chocolate Cake

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Decorate the top of the cake with candies (like these gummy hearts) for extra festive flair

Valentine’s Day means an abundance of sweets at my house and an extra-special dinner from my dad, who made pasta with homemade meat sauce in honor of my mom and I- awwww. My dad’s sauce is one of those recipes I’d love to post on this blog, but I haven’t mastered the knack of balancing the tartness of the tomatoes and the sweetness from sugar and red wine. The other day my dad said, “Everyone has their own sauce, you start off with someone else’s and then make it your own.” I’m not there yet but I know what I like in a tomato sauce, so hopefully with practice and patience I’ll be able to create my own unique version and share it with you all.

My contribution to Valentine’s Day dinner was a chocolate cake that’s one of my go-tos for special occasions. Easy to throw together but with a huge chocolate taste and moist, dense and fudgy texture, this cake dresses up chocolate cake mix in a way that will wow  your friends, family (or Valentine!) any time of year.

As for frosting, I used store-bought (cookies and cream flavor) this time and it turned out great. Feel free to use your favorite homemade or store-bought frosting for this recipe, either way you’ll have a cake that’s way more chocolaty and rich than your usual box cake.

All Dressed Up Chocolate Cake

Recipe Notes: Be sure to check the capacity of your bundt pan, since many of them will only hold 8-10 cups. Flour the sides of your bundt pan by placing about of tablespoon of flour in the bottom, then turning the pan on its side and slowly rotating it. If you wish to omit the rum just increase the amount of milk to 1/2 cup.

  • 1 box chocolate cake mix
  • 1/4 cup chocolate milk (or plain full-fat milk)
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 lb sour cream
  • 1 package or 4 serving sizes chocolate fudge instant pudding mix
  • 12 oz or 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup dark rum
  • Frosting of your choice, homemade or store bought
  1. Preheat oven to 350º. Generously grease a 12 cup bundt pan and lightly flour it.
  2. Beat together butter, sour cream, rum and chocolate milk. Then beat in eggs. Stir in cake mix and pudding mix. Fold in chocolate chips. Spoon batter into pan
  3. Bake 55-65 minutes. Let cake cool completely in pan before frosting. Invert cake onto a wire rack or plate to remove from pan. Decorate!

 

Blood Orange Tea Cakes

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The cakes get a lacquered, glossy appearance from a marmalade glaze.

I tried blood oranges for the first time this year and they’re one of my new favorite fruits- even though they only stick around for a little while. If you’ve never had one they’re totally worth picking up a few, the flavor is more complex than a navel orange and the colors are gorgeous. I especially like the variation in colors from reddish purple to bright orange.

When I was looking for new recipes so I could try out the blood oranges I’d just bought, I stumbled across Rachel’s blog Ice-cream in the rain.  I adapted her Blood Orange, Almond and Brown Sugar Tea Cakes to what ingredients I had on hand (I swapped ground walnuts in the cakes for ground almonds) and to U.S. measurements.

The result was a moist, dense, not overly sweet cake that is wonderful on a “meh” winter day with a mug of hot tea.Taste tested and approved by people who go out of their way for bittersweet (like me) and those with a major sweet tooth (like my dad), these cakes are a great way to make use of a fruit that becomes widely available only in late winter.

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Blood oranges come in a variety of hues, which makes the fruit topping for these cakes especially pretty.

Blood Orange Tea Cakes

  • 2 blood oranges
  • 10 tablespoons salted butter, softened
  • 1/8 tsp coarse salt
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar, plus more for dusting
  • 2 1/3 cups ground walnuts or almonds
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • About ¼ cup sliced almonds
  • 2 tablespoons bittersweet marmalade
  • 2 eggs
  1. Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with nonstick spray.
  2. Zest both oranges and set zest aside. Remove peel and pith and slice oranges into ¼” thick rounds.
  3. Place orange slices on baking sheet and bake (at 400°) for 20-23 minutes, or until orange slices begin to caramelize. Allow orange slices to cool fully on baking sheet.
  4. Meanwhile, beat together brown sugar, butter, salt and vanilla. Beat in eggs one at a time (batter may appear grainy at this point but this is ok.) Fold in four and nuts
  5. Grease 10 standard-size muffin cups and divide batter among them.
  6. Using a plastic or silicone spatula, very carefully remove orange slices from baking sheet and divide fruit among cakes. (Each cake will have 1-2 slices of fruit on top.)
  7. Top each cake with a few sliced almonds and sprinkle with a little bit of brown sugar.
  8. Bake tea cakes at 400° for 13-15 minutes, rotating muffin pans halfway through baking time. The cakes are done when the edges are a deep golden brown and a tester inserted in the middle of a cake comes out clean.
  9. During the last few minutes of baking time, combine marmalade with a few drops of water in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave 15-25 seconds until marmalade is runny but not bubbling.
  10. Immediately after taking cakes out of the oven, brush the tops with marmalade glaze. Allow cakes to cool for about 4 minutes in pan. Run a knife around the edges of each cake then remove from pan. Serve cakes warm or at room temperature.