Mini Carrot Cake Cheesecakes

“More carrot cake jam?”– you may ask, wondering just how many more recipes for this delectable condiment I have planned. Well, this is my last variation, and it’s just as delicious as the previous ones. It’s simple, really– standard bite-sized cheesecakes with a swirl of jam baked into them– but irresistible once you’ve tried one. I like them best frozen, and really can’t decide whether I like these or the Carrot Cake Ice Cream better. Obviously, the recipe would work equally well with a jam or preserve of your choice– I’m thinking sour cherry next time?

I will note that this recipe makes 40 bite-sized cheesecakes in a mini muffin pan. I used a silicone pan, which made it a snap to remove the chilled cheesecakes– if you’re using metal, I recommend using paper liners. If you don’t have two mini muffin pans, the unbaked crumbs and filling will keep at room temperature while you bake and freeze your first batch– just don’t let it sit overnight or anything.

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Carrot Cake Macarons

So, having made (and loved) my carrot cake jam, it was time to make macarons! They turned out absolutely delicious– the macaron shell was just “cakey” enough to really evoke carrot cake, with the almonds lending a nutty background. The filling combination– carrot jam and cream cheese frosting– was perfectly sweet and tangy at the same time. I know I say this a lot, but these may be a new favorite macaron recipe!

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Hogwarts Spellbook Cake

When my daughter decided that she wanted a Harry Potter-themed party, perhaps unwisely, I promised to make her whatever kind of cake she wanted… and she chose a three-tiered cake that looked like stacked spellbooks. Made of three different flavors of cake (lemon, chocolate, and marble). Iced in buttercream, not fondant. Oh, boy…

The toughest part was definitely going to be getting nice, smooth, flat book covers without using fondant. Not that I blame her– frosting is definitely tastier– but it was going to be difficult. I thought back to her Kitty House Cake, though, and decided that I would make the book covers out of graham crackers, which were naturally flat and smooth, and had some structure to them.

In order to keep the frosting as smooth and leather-like as possible, I decided to spread it onto a sheet of parchment paper– once spread, I pressed the graham crackers directly into it (for a 9×9″ square cake I ended up with eight crackers per side, plus two more for the spine), then pushed the frosting up over the edges so they would be colored on all visible sides.

Then I spread a bit more frosting on top to keep things sticky, placed my cake up against one edge of the “bottom” cover, and frosted it with white frosting to resemble pages.

Once that was smoothed out, I used the parchment to wrap the rest of the cover over and around it. Luckily for me, the width of the spine was just about the same as the height of the cake, so it worked out nicely. Since it was pretty chilly outside I then put the whole thing under a cover in my garage to chill down and firm up– necessary to be able to unwrap the parchment later without smearing. I will admit that the cakes, once frosted and crackered, ended up being a LOT larger and heavier than I’d anticipated…

I peeled off the parchment paper from each book and carefully transferred each cake to a sheet of cardboard– the bottom one was on a big cardboard presentation board, while the top two were on 8×8″ squares that wouldn’t show once stacked. I pushed drinking straws into the bottom two layers to support the weight of the cakes on top.

Then I stacked the cakes, slightly askew, on top of each other– and they held! They looked great! It was time to decorate. I used a grass tip to make brown fur on the Monster Book of Monsters, but the other two books were left smooth. To add some extra detail I made a batch of candy clay (more on that later) and rolled it out to make book spines, plus one frontispiece for the top book, which I painted with gold highlighter dust and vodka so the books would have legible titles.

And here’s the cake! I love it. Also, it was huge, so I was giving away cake left and right to the party guests, which I’m sure they didn’t mind one bit!

All in all, I think this experiment went well. True, I went through massive amounts of butter to make all the frosting (and the red was inedible due to the sheer amount of red food coloring I had to stir in to get it bright enough– note to self: use the “no taste” coloring next time), but the structure held, and the frosting-covered graham crackers were actually a nice extra treat to nibble on between bites of cake.

I’ll have to try this technique again, perhaps with a smaller cake next time!

Frozen S’mores


My daughter has recently been bubbling over with enthusiasm over s’mores– that sticky-sweet concoction of chocolate, graham crackers, and toasted marshmallows, sacred to campfires everywhere. Personally, I find them too sweet, and prefer plain toasted marshmallows without the extraneous crackers and chocolate to get in the way– but I’ve never been one to pass up a challenge when I see one!

We decided to adapt the s’mores to the warm summer weather by turning them into a frozen dessert! We mixed pre-toasted marshmallows into a no-churn ice cream base and added a ribbon of dark chocolate ganache, then layered it between sheets of graham crackers to make cold and creamy, sweet and sticky treats that (admittedly) melt in your hands but are worth it!

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Mossy Cupcakes

Since I’m always paranoid while prepping for parties that there will not be enough cake (spoiler: there is ALWAYS more than enough cake), I decided to make some extra cupcakes to supplement the tree stump cake. I used a dairy-free box mix (many Duncan Hines mixes are dairy-free), which had the added benefit of providing cake for the party guest who I knew was allergic to dairy and who otherwise would have had to make do with some of the other random sweets on the table.

I decided to make moss a component of my edible dessert table, so in addition to adding some green food coloring to a double batch of my no-mixer sugar cookies, I topped my cupcakes in “moss” made of crushed graham crackers.

Note– it’s not as simple as just squirting food coloring into a bag of graham cracker crumbs and mushing them around to combine; the dye immediately gets absorbed into just a few surrounding crumbs and doesn’t do much good. Instead, the trick is to dilute your food coloring in a few tablespoons of water, pour that into your crumbs, and mix until it distributes evenly. Don’t worry if your crumbs seem wet and mushy– the next step is to spread them onto a baking sheet and bake for about 10-15 minutes at 300 degrees F, until they dry out. Crush one more time to ensure that there are no clumps, and they’re ready to use!

I frosted my cupcakes with a relatively small amount of frosting, then dipped them into the container of mossy crumbs to get a nice, even coat. For a few, I added meringue mushrooms as decoration– for others, some flowers piped with my new Russian floral tips!

Key Lime Pie Ice Cream

key-lime-ice-creamI admit, this is just a riff on my Key Lime Pie Tartlets, but I did say at the time that it was possible to add whipped cream to the original recipe to make it fluffier– this is just another application of the concept!

Basically, I whipped 2 cups of heavy cream and folded it into the original mixture, which I augmented with additional lime juice, corn syrup, and sugar to balance out the flavors and keep the texture creamy when frozen. Add some graham cracker crumble and presto– instant key lime pie ice cream!

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Strawberry Graham Napoleon

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As I expect will happen often this summer, last weekend I found myself with a barbecue to attend and no ideas as to what dessert to bring. And as I often do, I turned to Smitten Kitchen for inspiration. This time it was an icebox cake– but not just any icebox cake, a cheesecake-inspired, graham-layered, strawberry-studded icebox cake.

I was tempted to take a shortcut and use storebought graham crackers rather than making my own round cracker layers, but in the end I went with the recipe as written, and was really glad I did. The dough rolled out incredibly easily, and baked up into the most deliciously crisp, flavorful cookie ever– I found myself nibbling away at the scraps all afternoon.

The filling was simple and tasty– the cream cheese and lemon zest worked together nicely to make a tangy, creamy counterpoint to the sweet graham layers, and when I dipped some extra strawberry pieces into it and added a cookie scrap to the mix, the combination was fantastic.

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Frozen Key Lime Tartlets with Secret Ingredient!

key lime tartlets banner

I am indebted to my dad for this recipe, as he’s always been one for making simple desserts that nevertheless end up tasting fantastic. (I still remember him blending up instant chocolate jello pudding with a peppermint Altoid and pouring it into a chocolate crumb crust– easiest chocolate pie ever!)  Anyway, he made me try this recipe the last time I visited home and I’ve been making it ever since.

The filling, which you can pour into a graham cracker crust to make a pie, into dishes to make pudding, or into mini muffin tins to make tartlets, is amazingly simple– you just blend together your basic ingredients and you’re set! I admit to making things a bit more complicated with a homemade graham cracker base, but the basic recipe is fantastic just as it is– creamy, tangy, perfect for summer. Plus, unlike other key lime recipes I’ve seen, it’s got (secret ingredient!) low-fat cottage cheese in it rather than cream cheese, sour cream, or egg yolks, making it a healthy (okay, slightly healthier) alternative to the standard dessert!

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