Smitten Kitchen’s Brownies

Smitten Kitchen Brownies 1

I have a weak spot for ooey gooey warm brownies fresh from the oven.  So it is no surprise that I have over a dozen different brownie recipes bookmarked that I am eager to try!  I finally made Smitten Kitchen‘s favorite brownies and they were excellent!  I topped mine with sprinkles for a little extra crunch.  These are really easy to make and you will be so happy that you baked them!  I would recommend eating them with some ice cream on top!

Smitten Kitchen’s favorite brownies recipe

Smitten Kitchen Brownies 2

Heartland Turtle Bars…with walnuts!

Turtle Bars 2

Last month I participated in a month long medical elective for integrative/alternative/complementary medicine.  25 medical students from across the country stayed in a retreat center in Ben Lomond, CA.  We all had to prepare meals for each other which turned out to be a blast!  I really enjoyed that when I baked a dessert, it was gone within 24 hours and for a change it wasn’t me who finished all of it 🙂

Turtle Bars

One evening I got the urge to bake and was looking through our ingredients to see what I would be able to make.  Turns out I had everything for these bars except pecans.  So I used walnuts instead and they worked beautifully!  I’m trying to come up with an alternative word to turtle to describe these with walnuts, but I haven’t come up with anything yet.  The crust for these bars is magical and rustic with oatmeal and cinnamon.  This was also the first time that I ever made caramel from scratch before.  It was easy and I used half and half instead of heavy cream (it was all I had on hand to work with) and the sauce thickened nicely as it cooled.  I would make these bars immediately!

Turtle Bars 3

Heartland Turtle Bars…with walnuts!

adapted from une gamine dans la cuisine


The crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted

The filling:

  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

The caramel:

  • 2 Tbsp half and half (or heavy cream)
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 10 Tbsp  unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes

DirectionsPreheat the oven to 350 F. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9×13-inch baking pan with butter.  Then line the pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil leaving a slight overhang around the edges.  Butter the parchment paper or foil.

In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the flour, salt, cinnamon and baking soda. Add the brown sugar and use your hands to work it into the other ingredients.  Mix in the oats.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the melted butter. Using a large rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir until the mixture is wet and combined.

Spread about 2/3 of the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Press into an even layer across the bottom. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or just until the edges begin to brown. Remove the pan from the oven and place onto a cooling rack.  Leave the oven on.
Allow the crust to cool for 1o minutes and then sprinkle the chopped walnuts and chocolate chips over the crust evenly distributing them.

To make the caramel sauce, place the brown sugar, salt, and butter cubes into a medium-size sauce pan. Heat over medium-high until the butter has melted, stirring frequently.  Bring the mixture to a slow boil and boil for about 1 minute, stirring constantly.  The mixture should be darkening in color at this point.  Once the mixture has darkened at least a little, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the half and half.   Pour the hot caramel directly over the chocolate walnut layer in an even distribution.  Use a spatula to carefully help spread the caramel if it is uneven.  (The goal here is not perfection but just that caramel is roughly covering most of the chocolate walnut layer)  Sprinkle the remaining crust onto the caramel layer.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the top is light golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven and place it onto a cooling rack. Serve warm, cool, or with vanilla ice cream!

Milk Bar Birthday Cake (8×8 version)


While going through a food blog spiral where I kept clicking on link after link I ran across a group of food bloggers to do “Milk Bar Monday” recipes.  The recipes looked a little bit involved but quite tasty, so I decided to give it a try for my mom’s birthday cake.  The original version requires a 6 inch cake cut out, acetate paper, glucose, and citric acid.  I have made a version that requires 8×8 round cake pans and ingredient substitutions for the glucose and the citric acid.


Part of what makes this cake so special and unique are the cake crumbs.  These are little crunchy bits of deliciousness!  You place them in the icing center layer of the cake which adds great texture to the cake.  This cake also calls for shortening.  I was very reluctant to use shortening, but this cake is so amazing that it was worth it!


Sprinkles make everything a little brighter and more fun!  Here is a picture of my Mom and her cake.

Mom's Birthday Cake 2013

Milk Bar Birthday Cake (8×8 version)

adapted from the baker chick

Ingredients and Directions

Birthday Cake

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp rainbow sprinkles
  • 4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) salted butter, at room temp
  • 1/3 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 Tbsp light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (reduced fat works too!)
  • 1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Prepare two 8×8 round cake pans by spraying with cooking spray and covering the base with a circle of parchment paper cut to size.
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and 1/4 cup sprinkles in a small bowl.
  3. Cream together the butter, shortening, and sugars on medium-high speed for 2 to 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed.
  4. Add the eggs (all at once) and then beat again on medium-high for another 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl.
  5. Mixing on low speed, add the wet ingredients (buttermilk, canola oil, and vanilla) in a steady stream. Increase the mixer to medium-high speed and beat for another 4 to 6 minutes. Don’t stop mixing until the mixture is completely homogeneous, with no visible streaks of oil or fat.
  6. With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients, and mix until the ingredients are just combined.
  7. Pour half the batter into each of the prepared cake pans.  Spread it out into an even layer with a spatula if needed. Sprinkle each cake with 1 Tbsp of sprinkles.
  8. Bake for 20–25 minutes until the cake bounces back slightly when gently pressed in the corner and the center of the cake  no longer jiggles when the pan is shook.  Cool the cake completely in the pan on a wire rack.

Birthday Cake Crumb

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup cake flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp rainbow sprinkles
  • 1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  1. Turn the oven down to 300 and line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper.
  2. Combine the sugars, flour, baking powder, salt, and sprinkles and using an electric hand mixer mix on low speed until combined.
  3. Stream in the oil and the vanilla extract on low speed and continue beating the mixture until the ingredients clump and form small clusters.  Add another 1-2 Tbsp canola oil if the mixture seems too dry.
  4. Carefully spread the clusters in a thin layer on the prepared baking sheet and bake them for about 20 minutes.  They will be slightly moist but will harden as they cool.  Let them cool on the baking sheet for about 10-15 minutes.  Then transfer them to another plate or bowl and break them into small chunks.  Let them cool completely before using.

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Birthday Cake Soak

  • 1/8 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Whisk together the milk and vanilla in a small cup or bowl.

Birthday Cake Frosting

  • 16 Tbsp (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temp
  • 4 Tbsp light corn syrup
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2-3 cups powdered sugar
  • pinch baking powder
  1. With an electric mixer, cream the butter, shortening, and the cream cheese for 2 to 3 minutes on medium-high until the mixture is smooth and fluffy.
  2. Add the corn syrup and vanilla  and beat the mixture on medium-high speed for 2 to 3 minutes until the mixture is smooth and glossy white.
  3. Add 2 cups of powdered sugar and baking powder and mix on low speed until just combined.  Taste the frosting and add more powdered sugar until the desired level of sweetness is reached.  Crank the mixer to high speed and beat for 2 to 3 minutes or until the mixture is stark white and fluffy.

Now it is time to assemble the cake!


  1. Invert the birthday cake onto a sheet of parchment paper or wire rack and peel off the parchment paper backing.
  2. Place one cake layer on on the serving plate
  3. Dunk the pastry brush in the birthday cake soak and give the bottom cake layer a good, healthy bath of half of the soak.
  4. Spread a portion of the birthday cake frosting over the base layer. Then sprinkle with half of the birthday cake crumbs evenly over the top of the frosting. Gently apply pressure to the cake crumbs to anchor them to the frosting. Top with another portion of the birthday cake frosting, carefully spreading it so that it is even, but without disturbing the crumbs.
  5. Place the second cake layer on top of the frosting.
  6. Brush the rest of the cake soak over this layer.
  7. Use the rest of the frosting to cover the top and sides of the cake.  Reserve a little extra for some decorations if you wish.
  8. Place the rest of the cake crumbs in the center of the cake
  9. Refrigerate the cake overnight.
  10. Let the cake come to room temperature before serving.