Cakes and Cupcakes · Chocolate · Dessert · Pizza · Recipes

The Soul Sisters

I miss the Soul Sisters.  Isabel, Lucy and Pearl came out to California for their annual visit.  We had a great time feasting together.  We made ice cream for vacation Sunday, and we had a pizza party at our house.  We swam, actually floated in Veronica and Joey’s pool until our fingers and toes were shriveled up.  That’s a lot of floating time.  More on that later.  First I want to show you the cake I made for their last day in town.  It’s a chocolate-chocolate chip cake with cream cheese frosting.

Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 box Duncan Hines devils food cake mix
  • 1 box chocolate pudding mix
  • 8 ounces sour cream
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup corn oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 12 ounces chocolate chips

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1-8 ounce block of cream cheese
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican vanilla
  • 1 pound confectioner’s sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine ingredients for the cake and mix for 3 minutes.

Place in 2-10″ round cake pans lined with parchment. Do not butter and flour the pan. You actually want the cake to cling to the sides of the pan to ensure straight sides to the cake. I like to use baking strips . The top of the cake stays flat, and the sides do not overcook. Bake for 35 minutes. I tap the cake in the oven, if it jiggles, it needs to continue baking. Cool on a wire rack, then wrap the pan in foil until ready to frost. That usually means the next day for me.

To make the cream cheese frosting:
Cream butter and cream cheese in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle until smooth. Add the vanilla. Slowly incorporate the powdered sugar.
Frost the cake, refrigerate overnight.

I used smaller cake pans and loaded them up a little too much.  The cakes sunk in the middle, so I cut off the top to even them out.  I used the rest of the cake to make these cake balls.  I dipped them in dark chocolate, and then drizzled them with the white chocolate.

Check out Lucy, she’s enjoying a little pre-taste of our home-made vanilla ice cream.

Lucy is one talented artist.  I’ve commissioned her to paint something for me.  We’re not sure what she’s going to paint yet.  You can’t rush artists.

We had to have a pizza party!  Everyone made their own.  Pearl’s looks amazing, with a lot of cheese and just a sprinkling of pepperoni.

We had an awesome conversation about her goals.  She plans to marry a professional football player who’s loaded with money so that she can open a ski resort.  She plans to have five houses at different locations.  She told me sometimes her goals are a little hard to achieve, but it’s worth trying anyway, even if she’s a little disappointed when things don’t turn out as planned.  How old is she?  So wise for such a young age.  And then she mentioned she would like to be a mermaid.  And it would be great if she could just take a pill and transform back into a human.  Then she could have twice as many friends.  Ahhh, yes, she really is eleven.

Lucy and Isabel have plans to open a bakery.  Or maybe a bakery/tattoo parlor.  Or maybe a bakery with cakes that are adorned with tattoo-like art.  I just know that I can’t wait for whatever it is they decide.

Can’t wait for next year!

Cakes and Cupcakes · Dessert · Recipes

Suzie’s insanely delicious cake

Look what we got in the mail!  Suzie made this amazing cake and sent it to us!  It’s insanely delicious.

She warned me not to get carried away with garnishing it, but I just couldn’t help myself.  It really doesn’t need a thing.  Suzie’s cream cheese pound cake makes my mouth water just thinking about it.

She was kind enough to include the original recipe from Bon Appétit along with the cake.  The cake is put into a cold oven, and then slowly bakes at increasing temperatures.  She said you’ve got to follow the directions exactly, otherwise it won’t turn out.  Here is the recipe as originally written.

Cream Cheese Pound Cake

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 8-ounce block of cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 large eggs, room temperature
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups sifted all purpose flour
Butter and flour a 12-cup bundt pan.  Using electric mixer, beat butter and cream cheese in a large bowl until fluffy, about 4 minutes.  Add sugar and salt; beat 10 minutes, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl.  Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition.  Beat in vanilla.  Beat in flour at low speed until batter is smooth (do not overbeat).  Transfer batter to pan.
Place pan in cold oven.  Set temperature to 200° F; bake 20 minutes.  Increase to 275° F; bake 10 minutes.  Increase to 300° F; bake until tester inserted nearest center comes out clean, about 1 hour longer.  Cool cake in pan on rack 15 minutes.  Turn cake out onto rack; cool completely.  Can be made 3 days ahead.  Wrap; store at room temperature.
Nice packaging!
Smells so good, even through the wrapping!  Buttery love.
Mom sent her favorite grand dog another pretty little dress.  Paige wore it for 3 days straight.  She really likes dressing up.
Appetizers and Snacks · Bacon · Chocolate · Cocktails · Dessert · Main Dish · Recipes · Salad

Pig Fest

Pig Fest 2011.  That’s right.  Sorry my vegetarian friends, this is not for you.  We had pig cocktails, pig appetizers, pig wrapped in pig and pig for dessert.  Laura even made bacon vodka.  It was quite a glorious feast.  We kind of felt like, well, pigs at the end of the night.

This is our Candied Bacon martini.  The candied bacon made a great stir stick.  We forgot the apple slice called for in the recipe, but it was still good.     We found this recipe in the Los Angeles Times.

Candied Bacon Martini

Candied Bacon:

  • 8 slices smoked bacon
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar

Candied Bacon Martinis:

  • 6 ounces premium vodka
  • 4 ounces Applejack brandy
  • 2 ounces amaretto liqueur
  • 2 ounces maple syrup
  • 4 thin slices tart apple
  • 2 slices candied bacon, halved crosswise

Preheat the oven to 400°.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.  Dredge the bacon on both sides in the brown sugar and arrange slices so they do not touch on the baking sheet.  Bake until bacon is richly caramelized, 15 to 25 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool and allow excess fat to drain.  In a cocktail shaker, combine vodka, brandy, amaretto and maple syrup with ice.  Shake until combined and chilled.  Strain into 4 martini glasses and garnish with apple slice and candied bacon.

Laura made her bacon jam.  It was awesome with a little crumbled blue cheese as a bruschetta.

Donna made the most amazing prosciutto wrapped salmon and scallops.   Oh man were they good.  We couldn’t take a picture fast enough to get the whole platter.  Sunshine said they were the best scallops ever.  The salmon was really good too!  Here is her recipe:

Salmon Kebabs with Parsley Vinaigrette

  • 5 tablespoons good-quality extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons good-quality red wine vinegar, such as Kimberley
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinned King or Coho salmon fillet (1″ thick), cut into 1 1/2″ chunks (or sea scallops!)
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced pancetta (Donna used prosciutto)
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Combine 1/4 cup olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a bowl.  Set aside.
Heat grill to high (450° to 550°).
In a large bowl, combine remaining oil with 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Toss with salmon or scallops to coat.
Set out 3 rows of salmon chunks on a work surface.  Unroll pancetta slices into strips and wrap strips once or twice around salmon, weaving long pieces between chunks.  Skewer each row of salmon with chunks slightly separated.
Oil grate using tongs and a wad of oiled paper towels.  Set kebabs on grate and grill, covered, turning once until fish is barely cooked through, about 4 minutes.
Remove salmon and scallops from skewers and arrange on a platter.  Stir parsley into the dressing, spoon on top of the salmon and scallops.  Serve warm with crusty bread for dunking.

Pig wrapped pig.  We served it with a refreshing arugula salad.  This recipe is courtesy of Giada De Laurentis.  I’ve adjusted the cooking time according to the new chart on the National Pork Board website.

Honey-Mustard Pork Roast with Bacon


  • 1/4 cup dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 3 1/2 pound center cut boneless pork loin roast
  • 12 slices (1 pound) bacon


  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 5 cups (5 ounces)  baby arugula
Place an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350°.
In a small bowl, mix the mustards, honey, garlic and rosemary until smooth.  Spread the mustard mixture evenly over the pork.
Starting at one end, wrap a piece of bacon around the pork roast.  Wrap slice of bacon around the roast, making sure to slightly overlap the first piece.  Continue with the remaining bacon until the roast is fully wrapped.  Using 6 to 8 pieces of kitchen twine, tied at regular intervals around the roast, secure the bacon in place.
Place the pork in a 9″ x 13″ baking pan and roast for 1 hour.  Cover the pan loosely with foil and roast for another 5 to 10 minutes, until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the pork registers 145°.  Remove from the oven.  Cover and allow to rest for 20 minutes.  Remove twine and slice into 1/4″ thick slices.
For the salad:  While the pork is resting, in a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice and olive oil, season with salt and pepper.
Arrange the arugula on a large platter and drizzle with dressing.  Lay pork slices on top and serve.

Chocolate covered bacon.  Okay, this was not for me.  But Laura liked it.  She’s kind of like Mikey.  Remember him?  The Life cereal kid?  Give it to Laura, she’ll eat anything.

Now this was good.  Really good.  INSANELY good.  It’s the maple-pecan sundaes with candied bacon.  I made the vanilla ice cream with the last of the Tahitian vanilla.

What’s so funny, Stephanie?

Donna!  You look like you’re up to something.

Manly men tending the fire and talking about manly things, like fire.

Classic Laura.

Paige barks a lot.  The only way to get her to shut up is to pick her up.  So we bought this contraption.  God bless Steven for wearing it.  Of course it didn’t work, so we gave her some Benadryl.  Of course that didn’t work, so we’ve resorted to on-line training with the Dog Whisperer.  And I have some shocking news.  Mom, you might want to sit down for this one.  Paige is an ANIMAL.  And then she’s a DOG.  She is not our child in a furry coat.

What’s next?  I think maybe a retirement party.  Not what you think though.  I’ve got a Mexican dress that I’ve had for way too long.  It’s been my go to dress for every party.  So, one last hurrah for my mexi-party dress, and then I’ll retire it.  Anyone who has something they’ve worn to death and need to retire is welcome.  Send Sunshine your pictures dressed in your oldies but not so goodies and he’ll make us a slide show for the party:)

Cakes and Cupcakes · Dessert · Holiday · Recipes

Vanilla Bean-Coconut Cupcakes with Coconut Frosting for Easter

Cupcakes for Easter!  These are rich and decadent.  They should be, there’s almost a pound of butter between the cake and frosting.  But it’s Easter, so live it up.

This recipe comes courtesy of  Happy Easter!

Vanilla Bean-Coconut Cupcakes with Coconut Frosting

Reduced coconut milk:

  • 2 13-to 14-ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk* (preferably organic)


  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • Seeds scraped from 1 split vanilla bean or 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup reduced coconut milk (see above), room temperature


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup reduced coconut milk (see above), room temperature
  • Seeds scraped from 1 split vanilla bean or 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut, lightly toasted (for garnish)

For reduced coconut milk:  Bring coconut milk to a boil in a LARGE DEEP saucepan, not a small pan like I did.  It pays to read the directions all the way through.

Reduce to medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.   Boil until the coconut milk is reduced to 1 1/2 cups.  Cover and chill.  Can be prepared 2 days in advance.

See my little saucepan?  And the puddle of coconut milk underneath it?  Now I’ve got some clean up to do.

For the cupcakes:  Preheat oven to 350°.  Sift the dry ingredients.  One of my favorite baking tools is my tamis.  It makes sifting so easy.  Just add all of your dry ingredients in the middle of the tamis lined with parchment.  Then give it a few taps and it’s done!

A lovely vanilla bean.  Save the empty pods and put them in a bag full of sugar.  Then you’ve got vanilla sugar.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffly.  Add the eggs, one at a time, incorporating each egg first before adding the next egg.  Add the vanilla seeds and coconut milk.  Add half of the sifted dry ingredients until just mixed together.  Add the remaining dry ingredients until just incorporated.  Fill lined cupcake tins with batter, you should be able to fill 18 cups.  Bake for 20 minutes, the tops should be lightly browned.

For the frosting:  In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, cream butter until light and fluffy.  Add the coconut milk, vanilla bean and powdered sugar.  Continue to whisk until the frosting is light and fluffy.  Fill pastry bag with frosting fitted with a piping tip.  Frost the cupcakes, leaving a rim of cake exposed.

Aren’t they pretty?

When we were kids… coloring Easter eggs.   That’s John, me in the middle and Chris on the right.  Veronica wasn’t feeling so good.   I hope Mom has some eggs for us to color today.  I don’t care if I am moments away from being 50 years old, I still want to find an Easter basket, or some plastic eggs filled with goodies in the backyard.  Dad, are you going to hide something on the roof for John to find?

See?  There’s Veronica, trying to get some sleep while the rest of us are apparently trying to prevent that from happening.

Check this picture out of all four of us Schwartz kids.  Doesn’t Chris look just like the E-Trade baby?  Apparently riding the dog is FROWNED UPON in this ESTABLISHMENT!  Good stuff.

Chocolate · Dessert · Recipes

frozen banana balls of joy

Aren’t they fabulous?  They’re frozen chocolate covered banana bites, sprinkled with a little walnut and toasted coconut love.  I found the recipe on and tweaked it a bit.  

Chocolate-Dipped Frozen Banana Bites

  • 2 – 3.5 ounce dark bittersweet chocolate bars (I used Valrhona)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 bananas, cut into 3/4″ slices
  • toasted coconut
  • crushed walnuts, or any nut, cookie, candy sprinkles or candy bar


Melt the chocolate and butter.  Carefully.  Use the lowest possible heat, and don’t walk away.  The chocolate just needs to melt.  It should barely be warm, not hot.


Dip ’em.  I used my fondue fork to dip the banana slices into the chocolate.

Add the crunchy exterior.  Or not.  I did leave a few just dipped in chocolate.

Freeze ’em.

And so it begins.  We’ve ordered our wood-burning pizza oven plans, and moved all of Chik’s left over pizza oven supplies from his house to ours.

Chocolate · Dessert · Recipes

Sunshine’s birthday mocha cheesecake

Hi there.  It’s been a while!  We had a fabulous time in Moorea.  The lagoon water was AMAZING!  More on that later.  Check out this tasty mocha cheesecake.  And the best part…it’s made with non-fat cottage cheese!  So chocolately…so cheese-cakey!  So easy:)  The recipe is from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food Magazine.  I made these for Sunshine’s birthday.  He’s requested a repeat performance for his Italian birthday bash tonight.  He’s sort of like me now when it comes to birthdays.  One day of celebrating is clearly not enough.

Mini Mocha Cheesecakes

  • 2 cups nonfat cottage cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons espresso powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (I used Tahitian vanilla!!)
  • 9 chocolate wafer cookies, such as Famous
  • whipped cream, for serving

Preheat oven to 275º.  Line a 12 cup muffin pan with 9 paper cupcake liners, leaving the empty cups in the center for even cooking.  In a food processor or blender, combine cottage cheese, eggs, confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder and vanilla.  Process until smooth, about 4 minutes, scraping down sides as needed.  Spoon mixture into lined cups, leaving 1/4″ space at top.  Place 1 cookie on top of each filled cup.  Bake for 25 minutes.  Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 1 1/2 hours (or cover for up to 3 days).  When ready to serve, peel off the paper liner and invert onto a plate.  Add a dollop of whipped cream.


Yumm…  Seriously, yum.

Chocolate · Dessert · Recipes

Chocolate Souffle…on the light side

These precious little chocolate souffles were really good and so easy to make.  It’s another great recipe from Weight Watchers, and they’re only 3 points per serving.   I’m definitely going to add a splash of Tahitian vanilla to this the next time I make it, just as soon as we return from Moorea.  We leave on Friday night!  I can not wait!!!

Individual Chocolate Souffles

  • Pam baking spray
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons sugar, plus more for dusting the ramekins
  • 6 tablespoons low-fat chocolate milk
  • 2 large egg whites
  • powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°.

Whisk the cocoa powder, flour and 4 tablespoons of sugar in a small saucepan, stir in the chocolate milk until smooth.  Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat, allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk egg whites and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar until soft peaks form.  Gently fold into chocolate mixture.  Fill batter into five prepared ramekins.  Place on a sheet pan and cook for 14 minutes.

Remove from oven and dust with powdered sugar.  Serve immediately.

Chocolate · Dessert · Recipes

week day brownies

These brownies are delicious, and the best part…they’re from Cooking Light!  I actually found the recipe for these on another blog.  They made them look so good.  I never would have made them otherwise.  The picture on Cooking Light, well, not so pretty.  My picture looks a little goofy too, but you get the idea.  The middle brownie on the top row is extra light, I didn’t eat that one.  I like the one on the lower right better…

I call them week day brownies because we’re trying to eat lighter Monday through Friday.  But the weekend comes and  it’s a free for all.  We’re losing weight, but just think how much more we could lose if we actually made light and healthy choices all week long.  We lose weight during the week, and then celebrate our weight loss on the weekend, with not so healthy choices.  It sounds really lame as I write it.  Okay, better choices all week long…

I think these were actually better than the fattening ones I made for my seven beautiful Valentines. I loved the Baileys addition.  I also loved that they were fudgey without being too dense.

I made these for my Valentines day Valentines, Melissa and Sunshine.  We ate brownies and watched the Bachelor.  I’m stoked Brad finally got rid of crazy Michelle.  But now that she’s gone, I’m going to miss her crazyiness.

Irish Cream Brownies

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup Baileys Irish Cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup sugar

Preaheat oven to 350°.  Sift the flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda together.  Set aside.

In a small saucepan set over low heat, melt the chocolate and butter.  Stir to combine.  Remove from heat.

Whisk eggs, vanilla and Baileys in a separate bowl.

Add 1/4 cup of the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture to temper, whisk to combine.  Add the egg mixture to the chocolate along with the sugar.  Stir over low heat 2-3 minutes or until sugar dissolves a bit.

Fold the chocolate mixture into the dry ingredients, stirring until just combined.

Pour batter into a 8×8″ square pan lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 18-20 minutes.

Cool, dust with powdered sugar.  Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and fresh berries.

Chocolate · Dessert · Recipes

Tropical brownies for my seven beautiful Valentines

I made these for my seven beautiful Valentines.  They are Flo Braker’s Tropical Nighte Brownies…with a few tweaks of course.  I found the recipe in The New Taste of Chocolate.  They’re loaded with toasted coconut and cashews, and just a hint of dark rum.  Yummy.

Tropical Brownies

  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate ( I used Scharffen Berger)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsifted all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup coconut flakes, toasted
  • 1/4 cup cashews, coarsely chopped

Place rack in the lower third of the oven preheated to 350°.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate over low heat.  Remove from heat and add both sugars.  Pour into a large mixing bowl and allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Add egg, rum and vanilla, stir until just combined.  Stir in flour and salt, and then the coconut and cashew.

Spread batter in an 8″ square pan lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 22 minutes.  Cool completely.

Cooled brownies, ready to cut.

My seven beautiful Valentines.  XOXO, Marge.

Cakes and Cupcakes · Dessert · Recipes

easiest cake ever

It’s pineapple angel food cake….it’s easy, delicious and it’s light!  I made this for Melissa’s birthday dinner.  I got this recipe from one of my Weight Watcher buddies a long time ago.  It’s not much of a recipe really…a box of angel food cake mix and a 20 ounce can of crushed pineapple.  Mix it, dump it in a baking dish sprayed with a little cooking spray, and bake at 350° for 25 minutes.  That’s it.  I added a little whipped cream and berries.

It’s been at least one million years since I’ve made this.  I thought it looked a little funny when I pulled it out of the oven.

Poor Paigey…she’s a little embarassed in her bikini.  Grandma Sherry sent her some more lovely outfits.  Sunshine said…”Oh Sherry….you are the next Tyra Banks.  Maybe a show called “The Next Top American Dog Model”….