Walnut Carrot Cake


February 28th is a special day, it’s Sarah’s birthday! Sarah is my good friend, roommate, AND coworker. This means that Sarah taste-tests essentially every baked good I make. Out of all the cake flavors I’ve made, carrot cake is her favorite. I used my go-to carrot cake recipe, and had some fun with the decorating. The ingredients include:

Cake Base:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 5 large eggs
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups finely grated carrot (use microplane or food processor)
  • 1 (12-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts


  • 16 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cup (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • additional cup of chopped nuts for decorating

Yield: 20 servings

Prep Time: 30 minutes (if grating the carrots by hand)

Cook Time: 1 hour

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Begin by lining and lightly greasing four nine-inch, round, cake pans. Set the pans aside. In a very large bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Mix in the eggs, sugar, oil, buttermilk, and vanilla at a medium speed, until fully incorporated. Fold in the carrots, pineapple, coconut, and walnuts. Pour the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans.

Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 15 minutes. Remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks.

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While the cakes are cooling, prepare the frosting. Combine all ingredient in a mixing bowl, and mix at a low speed until combined. Once the cakes have cooled, spread Cream Cheese Frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake. Coat the exterior with a crumb coat, and place in fridge. Let the frosting harden for 30 minutes, then apply a thicker layer of frosting to the exterior of the cake.

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Everyone at work loved the cake. I think they like my carrot cake just as much as Sarah 😀


It’s a GIRL!!! Baby Shower Cupcakes


One of the managers on my team is having a baby girl, and we threw her a surprise baby shower! I wanted to choose crowd-pleasing cupcake flavors, and ended up making three classic flavors. I made a baby-face vanilla cupcake, a pink velvet cupcake, and a triple chocolate cupcake. My go-to chocolate and red velvet cupcake recipes are from the brown eyed baker, which are shown below. I went to party city and got some adorable cupcake toppers, along with some decorations for the party. The recipes I used are listed below:

Vanilla Cupcake Base (makes 15 cupcakes):

  • 1 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk

Triple Chocolate Cupcake Base (makes 12 cupcakes):

  • 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • ⅓ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • ¾ cup hot coffee
  • ¾ cup flour
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 6 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pink Velvet Cupcake Base (makes 24 cupcakes):

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 egg
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 tablespoons pink food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 teaspoons distilled white vinegar

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 drop pink gel food coloring
  • 1 drop yellow gel food coloring

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:

  • 2 sticks butter
  • 8 oz. dark chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 2 sticks butter
  • 8 oz. package cream cheese
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla

I got off work at nine, and went into turbo mode in the kitchen. I bought the ingredient when I grabbed dinner, so that they would all be room temperature by the time I was able to bake. The below directions are the my speed method of making cupcakes.

For each type of cupcake base, whisk together the dry ingredients in one bowl, and combined the wet ingredients in another. Gradually incorporated the dry into the wet, and mixed with an electric mixer until everything was combined.Fill each cupcake tin 2/3 full, and baked the cupcakes between 15-19 minutes. Remove from oven when edges begin to brown, or when a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool on a wire rack fully before frosting (at least 1 hour). If you are crunched for time, you can always pop the cupcakes in the freezer to speed up the process.

For each frosting type, beat the butter until fluffy. Add remaining wet ingredient, and beat until fully incorporated. Gradually add in the powdered sugar and other remaining dry ingredients, until fully mixed, and fluffy.

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For the vanilla cupcakes, I decorated them with mini pacifiers, some left over chocolate frosting, and chocolate chips to make baby faces! I used a round tip and the cupcake toppers to decorate the pink velvets, and used some baby candy and a star tip for the triple chocolate cupcakes. Each type turned out great! I was very pleased with the taste and appearance of these cupcakes, and I think everyone at the party liked them too 😀 It was a wonderful evening at the office.

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Lemon Date Energy Bars (LÄRABAR copy-cat recipe)


This weekend I ran the Austin half with three of my friends! I figured we could use some healthy snacks this weekend as we explore Texas for the first time. I originally got the idea to make date bars from my friend Hannah. She makes hers with sour cherries, ginger, and lemon. I tried her date bars this past weekend, and they were amazing.  I decided to make a lemon version, since I’m a huge citrus fan. In my book, any recipe that has five ingredients or less is a winner. The fact that these bars are also packed with protein, have no added sugar, and are dairy AND gluten-free?? Just added bonuses. What I’m really trying to say is that this recipe is a winner. The ingredients include:

  • 1 lb. (16 oz.) pitted dates
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1 cup cashews
  • The zest and juice of two large lemons
  • 1 Tbsp lemon extract


In a food processor, pulse half of the cashews and almonds into large chunks, and set aside. Next, pulse the pitted dates, remaining almonds and cashews, and lemon zest, until a thick paste forms. Add in the lemon juice, and pulse a few times to combine. Mix in the reserved almond and cashew chunks, until the nuts are evenly distributed.


Press the mixture into a parchment-lined 8- inch brownie pan, cover, and refrigerate or freeze for 2-3 hours. Cut the bars into squares, and separate them up in parchment paper (foil doesn’t work very well, the bars stick terribly!). Place them in a sealed container, and refrigerate for up to a week.




Candied Grapefruit Peels


My roommate is really into juicing, and our apartment just got a new juicer. This means lots of fresh grapefruit-orange juice, and lots of left over fruit peels! I didn’t want the peels to go to waste, so I decided to make these candied grapefruit peels. The process takes a bit of time, but it’s not labor intensive, and definitely worth it. The end result? A chewy, sweet delicacy.

Yield: 2 lbs

Time: 2 hour

  • the peel of 4 grapefruits
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 cups water
  • 3/4 corn syrup
  • 1 cup superfine sugar for dusting

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Peel the skin off with your fingers in large sections, keeping the pith attached. Lay each piece of skin on a cutting board and cut to make uniform strips from 1/8 to 1/4 inch wide, according to your preference. Cover peels with water in saucepan and bring to boil over medium heat. Boil for 1 minute, then drain, Cover with water again and repeat two times (total of three times). Then, cover again and simmer the peel for 20 minutes. Drain and set aside. In the saucepan, make the syrup with the sugar, water and corn syrup. Boil for about two minutes, then add the peel. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the syrup is considerably reduced, then watch closely. For candy-like peel, watch closely until only about a centimeter of syrup remains at the bottom of the pot. Arrange the peel on a bed of sugar , and straighten while hot if you want them symmetrical. You can also crumble them if you like a more tangled look. Sprinkle more sugar over the strips and toss them occasionally as they cool. When cool enough to handle, put the strips onto cake racks and let them dry.


The consistency of the finished candy will depend partly on how long they are cooked for, and how long the strips are left to dry. My peels were chewy and translucent, kind of like a gummy candy. I tossed the peels in a cup of sugar right when I took them out of the pot, and the sugar crystallized very quickly. If I made these again, I would let the peels cool a bit before tossing them in the sugar.


Ombre Chocolate Cake


One of my coworkers has been in India for the past 5 weeks, teaching some procedures to our team members in Bangalore. It just so happens that the day he returns to work is also his birthday! Considering that this was a welcome back cake AND a birthday cake, I knew I needed to make something special. Patrick is a man of simple tastes, and requested a plain chocolate or vanilla cake. Of course, I wanted to do a little more than that….so I decided to make this chocolate ombre cake. It’s base layer is rich and fudgy, which is followed by chocolate vanilla layers that fade into a light, vanilla layer. I covered each layer with a thick slather of vanilla buttercream, and then drizzled a decadent chocolate ganache over the entire thing. And as a final touch, I added some white chocolate shavings to the top.

Fudgy Cake Base:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup coffee
  • 1/2 cup cocoa, unsweetened

Vanilla Cake Base:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • ½ cup vegetable shortening
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 eggs, room temperature
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cocoa (divided into thirds)

Chocolate Ganache:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Vanilla Buttercream:

  • 2 cup (4 sticks) butter
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract
  • 8 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the fudgy cake base first. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar, until well mixed. Add eggs one at a time. Beat in the vanilla and melted chocolate squares. Add the sour cream and then the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, until well blended. Stir in hot coffee. Bake in a greased 9 inch cake pan for 35 minutes. Let this layer cool fully, and continue baking other layers.

For the chocolate vanilla layers, cream together butter and shortening until light and fluffy with an electric mixer. Slowly add sugar one cup at a time, making sure to fully incorporate each cup before adding another. Add eggs one at a time, making sure to fully incorporate each egg before adding another. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to butter and shortening mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Add vanilla extract. Beat cake batter on high-speed for about 5 seconds to fully incorporate all ingredients. Stop mixer and scrape down sides and bottom of bowl, making sure to have all ingredients mixed well. Evenly distribute cake batter between three bowls, and stir 2/3 cup of cocoa into one, and the remaining third of a cup of cocoa into the other, leaving one bowl without any cocoa.  Pour each bowl into a greased, lined 9 inch baking dish, and bake for 25-30 minutes (or until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean). Remove and allow to cool slightly in cake pans for about 5 minutes, then cool completely on a wire rack.


As the layers cool, prepare the ganache. Place the chocolate into a medium bowl. Heat the cream in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil, watching very carefully because if it boils for a few seconds, it will boil out of the pot. When the cream has come to a boil, pour over the chopped chocolate, and whisk until smooth. Allow the ganache to cool slightly before pouring over the cake. Start at the center of the cake and work out.

As the ganache and cake layers cool, prepare the buttercream. Whip the butter at a medium speed, until light and fluffy. Gradually add in the powdered sugar. Add the vanilla, and continue to beat until fully incorporated. Add in cream, until desired consistency is achieved.

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To assemble the cake, place the fudge layer at the base. Frost with a thick layer of buttercream. Repeat with fading layers. Once all layers are stacked and frosted, apply a crumb coat, and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Once the crumb coat has set, apply another thick layer of frosting to the entire cake. Place in the fridge for another 10 minutes to set the frosting. Once the frosting is set, pour the thickened ganache onto the center of the cake, and gently spread it toward the edges.


Let some of the ganache spill down the sides. Finish with a garnish of white chocolate shavings.


The layers ended up being colored just how I had hoped! The texture of the cake was perfect for stacking, and held the weight of the cake nicely. The buttercream was wonderfully rich and fluffy, and did a great job of highlighting the ombre effect. I think Pat liked the cake too 😀


The Ultimate Nutella Cupcake


In honor of National Nutella Day (February 5th), I decided to create the ULTIMATE Nutella Cupcake Recipe. The amount of Nutella used is a bit aggressive, but I feel like you can never have too much . I made my favorite chocolate cupcake base (adapted from the Brown Eyed Baker), filled with a candied hazelnut filling, and topped with a Nutella Buttercream. And because there wasn’t already enough chocolate hazelnut goodness, I threw a Ferrero Rocher on top. These cupcakes are the epitome of all things Nutella 😀

Cupcake Base:

  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cup hot coffee
  • 1 1/2 cup bread flour
  • 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Candied Hazelnut Filling:

  • 3/4 cup candied hazelnuts, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup Nutella
  • 3/4 cup cream
  • pinch of salt

Nutella Buttercream:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup Nutella
  • 1 tablespoon clear vanilla extract
  • 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • pinch of salt

Yield: 24 large cupcakes

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Bake Time: 18 minutes per batch

Cool Time: 1 hour

Assembly Time: 30 minutes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a standard-size cupcake pan with liners. Place the chocolate and cocoa powder in a medium bowl. Pour the hot coffee over the mixture, and whisk together until smooth. Set the mixture in the fridge for 5 minutes to cool. Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl; set aside. Whisk the oil, eggs, vinegar, and vanilla extract into the cooled chocolate-coffee mixture until smooth. Gradually add the flour mixture, and whisk until smooth. Divide the batter evenly between the muffin pan cups, filling them about 2/3 full. Bake until the cupcakes are set and just firm to the touch, 17 to 19 minutes. Cool the cupcakes in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove the cupcakes from the pan and place on the wire rack to cool completely, about 1 hour.

While the cupcakes cool, make the candied hazelnut filling. Place the heavy cream in a sauce pan. Heat at a low hear, until the milk is warm to the touch. Add in the Nutella, and whisk until smooth. Gently fold in the candied hazelnuts. Refrigerate until just barely chilled (10 minutes).

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While the ganache cools, whip together the Nutella Buttercream. Cream the butter, until fluffy (about 2 minutes). Slowly add in the powdered sugar, and continue mixing until well blended. Add in the salt, vanilla, and half of the heavy cream. Reserve 1/4 of the frosting in a separate bowl, then add in the Nutella. Blend on low-speed, and add additional cream until you reach the desired consistency. Beat at high-speed until frosting is smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes.


When the cupcakes have cooled, hollow out the center of each cupcake (1 inch daimeter). Fill with a tablespoon of the hazelnut filling. Pipe on the Nutella buttercream using a large round tip. Using the reserved vanilla buttercream, pipe a swirl of frosting on top of the Nutella buttercream, using a  star tip. If desired, drizzle warmed nutella over the frosting. Top each cupcake with a truffle. And TAH DAH! More Nutella than you could dream of.