Top Ten Recipes of 2012

Happy Holidays, imaginary internet friends! And congratulations on surviving the end of the world. Now I’m off to Barnes and Noble to demand a refund for my Mayan wall calendar. Wish me luck!

In the meantime, I hope you’ll take another look at the 10 most popular recipes I shared this year.

S’mores Fried Ice Cream with Chipotle Chocolate Sauce


Asparagus Lasagna Slice

Asparagus Lasagna with Pancetta, Goat Cheese, and Lemon


Baked Churros with Cinnamon Ice Cream and Dulce de Leche


Loaded Baked Potato Grilled Cheese Sandwich


Cinnamon Roll Grilled Cheese Sandwich


Oatmeal Cream Pies

Homemade Oatmeal Cream Pies


Cookies and Milk

Toffee Cashew Cookies


pie crust crackers

Chicken Pot Pie Soup with Pie Crust Crackers


Jalapeno Popper Grilled Cheese Sandwich

And the most popular recipe of 2012:

Pepperoni Stuffed Chicken

Pepperoni Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Here’s to a delicious (and gooey) new year!

Winter-Spiced Molten Chocolate Cakes with Rum-Ginger Ice Cream

This is a guest post and recipe from my dear friend, Jenny Karstad. Jenny is a phenomenal cook and baker, and a truly lovely person.

Happy Valentine’s! Or Christmas! Or Presidents’ Day! Really, there is no bad time of year (in the winter anyway) for these amazing, wonderful, tasty, and above all, impressive lava cakes. I read somewhere a few years ago someone complaining that “every restaurant in New York has a lava cake offering” or some such, said in a derisive way; a dessert that may have been impressive once but had gone the way of the Baked Alaska or the Floating Island.

For these people I say balderdash! Poppycock! I have served these several times now, and despite the fact that they are just about the easiest thing to make, people are still impressed, and don’t seem to mind they are now ‘out of fashion’. By now, of course, you have probably realized that most people who don’t cook or bake much are impressed by anything homemade. I do hope that in the future, people will be doing more home baking and cooking so that bakers and chefs will have to try that much harder to impress their friends and families. Having said that, let’s just go forward on the assumption that people are going to be impressed by anything that is a) chocolate, b) made at home, and c) full of ingredients that you’ll need to make them guess at. This recipe has all these things, all wrapped up in a delicious 3/4-cup ramekin. One could even have a little contest to see if everyone can guess all the spices.

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Homemade Oatmeal Cream Pies

As I may have mentioned once or twice before, I spent last summer singing in a musical revue of TV theme songs at the Minnesota Fringe Fest. Every evening leading up to the festival, the company gathered to learn the intricate harmonies of our favorite old television theme songs – Laverne and Shirley, The Great Space Coaster, Charles in Charge, Joanie Loves Chachi, and dozens more.

Oatmeal Cream Pies

I left rehearsal each night awash in sweet nostalgia, remembering all the lost treasures of my youth. Sweet Valley High books, Love’s Baby Soft, Donkey Kong, feather earrings. And in honor of our opening night performance, my own personal retro-fest extended to the kitchen, where I prepared one of my favorite childhood meals: an open-face Spaghetti-O’s sandwich on spongy, white Wonder bread, liberally buttered, and for dessert a Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pie.

Marshmallow Filling

I sat down to dine on happy memories in the sparkly glow of unicorn stickers, and I was sorely disappointed. The Spaghetti-O’s were nothing but pasta mush and mysterious gristle-balls in metallic-tasting goo. Uh-oh, Spaghetti-O’s, indeed. And the Oatmeal Cream Pie was oddly textured, and so sugary sweet, a single bite made my teeth ache.

Oatmeal Cookies

Sadly, my beloved childhood meal held up over time about as well as Elizabeth Wakefield’s tuxedo shirt.

Oatmeal Cookie Dough

I suppose it wasn’t all that difficult to let go of my fondness for Spaghetti-O’s sandwiches – the things I loved about them are easily duplicated in a big-girl plate of pasta and a sliced baguette. But how could I expect fresh-faced Little Debbie to mature along with my palette? It soon became clear that the only solution was to make oatmeal cream pies from scratch.

The recipe is adapted (just barely) from Natalie’s Killer Cuisine, where Little Debbie grew up and graduated with a master’s degree in tasty treats for the kid inside. The cookie-cakes are quietly spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon, then filled with creamy marshmallow frosting. The soft, puffy cookies combined with a fairly stiff filling made for a relatively tidy dessert with few squissues.

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Apple Cake

This cake broke my heart.

It baked in the oven for a full hour and a half, filling my apartment with the enchanting, homey scent of apples and cinnamon and whiskers on kittens. With such a glorious aroma perfuming my home, I was convinced it would emerge from the oven absolutely perfect. When the timer finally rang, I was horrified to find, well, a mess.

The cake batter bubbled over the sides of the pan and dripped in messy, brown glops down to the cookie sheet underneath (thank goodness for the cookie sheet!). The remaining edges were done when the timer rang, but the center was completely raw.

Still, I have a really hard time calling this dessert a failure. The truth is it was delicious – sweet and moist, with crispy-chewy, golden brown edges. I made it for Handsome Greg’s birthday dinner, and we all loved it. Well, we loved the parts that were baked through. We ate the edges then put the center back in the oven to finish baking it through, about 40 minutes.

And the failure? Is my fault. The original recipe from Smitten Kitchen is perfect. I wanted desperately to follow it as written, but I didn’t have a tube pan, so I used a 9 x 13. And that was my downfall. I read the many reviews that said, “Oh, I made this in a 9 x 13-inch pan, and it came out perfectly.” I’m convinced those bakers have not only raw, runny apple cake, but also pants on fire.

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Toblerone Cupcakes

Friends, I have some disturbing news: I’ve joined the seedy world of online competitive baking. Is it time for a kitchen carefrontation?

I’d been following Cupcake Hero, intrigued by the wild concoctions devised by the cupcake Iron Chefs. I mean, Raspberry Rose Lychee Cupcakes? Jalapeño Jelly Cupcakes with Pineapple Cream Cheese Frosting?

I finally worked up the nerve to enter, and just in time for October’s feature ingredient: honey. I’d been interested in making a Toblerone cupcake for some time, and Cupcake Hero provided the perfect opportunity to showcase the honey-laced Swiss chocolate bar.

If you’ve never had a Toblerone, well, you obviously haven’t been to German camp. I was there in 1987, and it was all the rage, as was 99 Luftballons.

A Toblerone bar is creamy milk chocolate with chewy bits of honey almond nougat, in a row of peaks like tiny, delicious Swiss Alps.

My Toblerone-inspired cupcake starts with a moist, dense chocolate cake, peppered with gooey Toblerone chunks. The cake is frosted with sweet honey buttercream, and topped with salty honey roasted almonds.

Recipe below the fold

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Olive Oil Lemon Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting

On the day of my spaghetti dinner, I followed a careful hourly plan, with every task scheduled from the moment I woke up. I stayed on program until about 4 p.m., when I was about to get in the shower and I realized that I’d failed to schedule a time to make dessert.

The rest of the afternoon was a mad rush to finish preparing the meal, get myself and my apartment cleaned up, and try to erase the expression on my face that screamed, the shirt is about to hit the flan.

My brother was running a little late anyway, and Mom and Greg pitched in on the salad when they arrived. Disaster averted!

These sweet and tangy cupcakes were the perfect end to my Lunch Bunch trial run dinner. I needed a treat that would be easy to transport to work, so rather than making an authentic Italian dessert, I decided to make a cupcake with some of my favorite Italian ingredients.

I’d been interested in baking a cake using olive oil ever since I had the lovely olive oil corn bread at Il Gatto a few months ago. Pairing it with lemon was a no brainer for me. I love lemon. No matter what time of year it is, as soon as I begin to zest a lemon, I’m overcome with an overwhelming sense of spring.


I adapted an olive oil cake recipe from Cafe Fernando that demanded I overcome my irrational fear of baking a cake from scratch. The cake turned out dense and moist—a little crumbly, like a pound cake. It’s very lemony, not overly sweet, and the olive oil gave it almost a savory flavor.

The mascarpone frosting recipe is Martha Stewart’s, so yeah. It’s perfect. The texture was light and fluffy, and the mascarpone gave it a luxurious buttery tang.

Recipe below the fold.

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s’mores cupcakes

I am afraid of cake.

That s'more!

Cake is dangerous – so many things can go wrong. It can turn out too heavy and dense, it can be dry, it can be tough. And worst of all is the fallen cake, the sad collapse, camouflaged with frosting. I confess – I’m overwhelmed and intimidated by all the variables: erratic oven temperatures, air pressure and humidity, the freshness of the ingredients, and the possibility of over-mixing the batter.

I have not invested the time and money in taming the Temperamental Cake. When I’m baking for others, I need to know that it’s going to turn out, so I rely on cake mixes, just in case. But I’m never going to bake a cake just for myself. So, when will I ever learn to bake a cake from scratch?

(That was a really long-winded and defensive justification for my shameful use of a boxed cake mix for Kate’s birthday cupcakes. I’m sorry you had to see that.)

For shame!

Kate requested a chocolaty dessert for her birthday potluck, and (about three years behind on the cupcake fad) I was happy to oblige with S’mores-inspired cupcakes. I guinea-pigged Mom and Greg on the cupcakes last week, and I was mostly happy with the results.

I made chocolate cupcakes with marshmallow buttercream frosting, topped with chocolate covered graham crackers. The frosting—equal parts buttercream and marshmallow fluff—didn’t quite work. It was yummy, but it didn’t taste at all like marshmallow; it tasted like extra sweet buttercream. So, for the potluck, I’m using straight fluff, and browning it under the toaster oven broiler.

I’d like to find a way to really integrate the graham crackers into the cupcakes, but none of the options appealed to me. I didn’t want to mar the texture of the marshmallow with graham cracker crumbs, and I didn’t want a crumbly graham cake. I’ll just have to accept that the graham cracker is mostly a garnish here.

Recipe after the fold

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