Lighter Carrot Cake

I know Thanksgiving has come and gone, but I have one last recipe to share. This year on Thanksgiving I just felt like baking a carrot cake. I'm not really sure why, but it just sounded good to me. I've never made one before, and it definitley isn't on the top of my list of favorite cakes, but that doesn't at all mean I don't love a good carrot cake, I just like a lot of other cakes a little more! But this year a simple one layer carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and walnuts was calling my name.

I did some searching for a good recipe and ended up going with America's Test Kitchen recipe for lighter carrot cake. Since I don't have a go-to carrot cake recipe yet I figured why not just go with the slightly healthier version since I probably wouldn't notice the difference anyway. And I didn't. There was nothing about this cake that would have made me think that it was trying to be a 'lighter'. It was still delicious, moist and flavorful, slightly spiced and covered with a rich cream cheese frosting. Sprinkled with some toasted, chopped walnuts and cut into bite sized pieces, it was the perfect snack for Thanksgiving night, or any other night of the year!

Even though I did go with the lighter carrot cake, I had to go with the not-so-light cream cheese frosting, the lighter frosting just wasn't going to do it for me. It turned out delicious, as all cream cheese frostings do, you really can't go wrong with cream cheese and butter. I finished the cake off with some chopped, roasted walnuts, the perfect finish.

And with that it really couldn't be much easier. With oil instead of butter, and no need to layer the cake with the frosting it really is a quick and delicious cake. I will keep this one in my repertoire for years to come.

Lighter Carrot Cake

From America's Test Kitchen


  • 2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup (7 ounces) brown sugar
  • 1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 pound carrots (about 6 medium), peeled and grated (about 3 cups)
  • Cream cheese frosting (recipe follows)


Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13x9 inch cake pan, then line the bottom with parchment paper. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nugget, salt and cloves together in a medium bowl.

Beat the eggs, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together in a large bowl with and electric mixer on medium speed until the mixture turns thick and creamy, 1 to 3 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly beat in the oil until thoroughly combined and emulsified, 30 to 60 seconds.

Sift half the flour mixture over the batter and gently whisk in by hand. Repeat with the remaining flour mixture and continue to whisk the batter gently until most of the lumps are gone - do not overmix. Using a rubber spatula, gently stir in the carrots.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 35 to 40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time.

Cool the cake completely in the pan, about 2 hours. Run a knife around the edge of the cake and flip the cake out onto a wire rack. Peel off the parchment paper then flip the cake right side up onto a serving platter. Spread the cream cheese frosting evenly over the top and sides of the cake and serve.

Cream Cheese Frosting


  • 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese (or neufchâtel), softened
  • 10 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) powdered sugar


Beat the cream cheese, butter, sour cream, vanilla and salt together in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until smooth, 2 to 4 minutes.

Reduce the mixer speed to medium-low slowly add the powdered sugar and beat until smooth, 4 to 6 minutes. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, 4 to 6 minutes.

Fudgy Brownies with Cream Cheese Frosting

I don't know about you, but one of my go-to desserts when I don't have a lot of time is a delicious pan of rich, chocolatey brownies. Not just any brownies though, I need my brownies to be fudgy and full of chocolate flavor. No longer will I make brownies that are full of cocoa powder, without any chocolate in sight. No, I need there to be lots of melted chocolate to go along with the butter and sugar and eggs. These brownies have just that. With half a pound of melted chocolate for a 9x9 inch pan of brownies, these are definitely chocolatey! They are perfect with just a dusting of powdered sugar on top, but if you're feeling adventurous, try frosting them to put them over the top. Peanut butter frosting, mocha frosting, ganache, or like I did this time, cream cheese frosting. They will all be fantastic because of the delicious brownie at the base.

Not only are these brownies delicious, they are also super easy. All you have to do is melt the butter and chocolate in a pan on the stove (or the microwave works too), let it cool for a minute or two, and add in the rest of the ingredients. Mix it all up, pour it in the pan, and bake. Super simple, but oh so yummy! 

Fudgy Brownies

Adapted from 

Hidden Ponies


  • ½ cup butter
  • 1⅓ cups (8 oz) good chocolate
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ¾ cup flour
  • ½ teaspooon espresso powder (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-inch square or round pan thoroughly with nonstick cooking spray.

Place butter and semi-sweet chocolate in a large microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 1 minute, then in additional 30 second increments if necessary until chocolate is mostly melted. Stir to melt chocolate completely.

Whisk sugar, salt, and eggs into chocolate mixture just until combined (don’t overbeat, or the brownie will rise too high and then fall).

With a wooden spoon, stir in flour until no streaks remain.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes (until center is just barely set and toothpick comes out with a few crumbs sticking to it). Do not overbake. 

Gooey Cream Cheese Butter Cookies

When I heard these cookies described as being somewhat like baked cream cheese frosting I was sold. A cookie dough lover's cookie at its finest? Yes please, now please. Since I also happened to have a block of cream cheese sitting in the back of my fridge, just begging me to do something with it, I knew it was meant to be. It's funny how there are some recipes you come across that you just cannot pass up. They must be made and they must be made soon, today if possible. This was one of those recipes.

These cookies lived up to their name and description. They were pillows of buttery, cream cheesy goodness, super soft and full of vanilla goodness. They were as light as air, almost seeming under baked in the center, reminiscent of cream cheese frosting. The cream cheese flavor really came through, so if you aren't a big fan these probably aren't for you, but since that isn't a problem for me I thought they were fantastic. I like pretty much everything under baked; cookies, cinnamon rolls, brownies, hey, I even like my steak as rare as possible, so this recipe was perfect for me, it's meant to at least seem like it is under baked.

The recipe was a simple one, all you need are the basics along with cream cheese. It calls for a vanilla bean but if you don't have one I'm sure they will still turn out amazing. The next time I make these I think I will try the addition of some mini chocolate chips, chocolate makes everything better, right?

Butter, sugar, cream cheese and vanilla bean

Beat until nice and fluffy

Add the egg


After adding the flour mixture

Shaped, covered in powdered sugar and ready to bake

The finished product

Try to let them cool at least a little before eating, if you can handle it that is

Gooey Cream Cheese Butter Cookies
From  See You In The Morning

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/4 - 1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped (optional but wonderful!)
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • powdered sugar for rolling and dusting

Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt, set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese, butter, vanilla bean seeds, and sugar together until fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla extract, beating until combined. Add in the flour mixture, stirring until just combined. Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325. Shape the dough into roughly 1 ounce balls and toss in the confectioner's sugar, rolling around to coat. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and bake until they spread and puff slightly, about 12-16 minutes. They will be really soft in the center. If they start to brown, they've gone too far. Cool to room temperature.

*refrigerate and serve cookies cold out of the refrigerator...these cookies are said to taste much better cold than warm.

Red Velvet Cheesecake Cake

I've had a wonderful Christmas break, but Monday it's back to school for my final semester of my master's program. While I don't want to go back, I am ready for this semester to be finished. Fortunately I was able to do a lot of cooking and baking this break, especially for Christmas. My grandparents hosted Christmas dinner a couple weeks ago. My grandma made a delicious beef tenderloin roast that was meltingly tender, like butter. She asked me a couple of days before if I would like to make the dessert and of course I jumped at the chance. Last year we had red velvet cake and everyone loved it, so this year I decided to stick with that theme, but bump it up a notch and make a red velvet cheesecake cake.

I'd seen this idea online in a couple of places and it sounded like a winning combination. Bake a thin layer of cheesecake and sandwich it between two layers of moist and delicious red velvet cake. Frost with a thick layer of cream cheese frosting and dig in. It just had to be good, and it was!

I used my favorite red velvet cake and frosting recipes from America's Test Kitchen, and the cheesecake came from 17 and Baking. Although this recipe did take two days and had several different steps, none of it was very difficult. Putting all of the components together the day of our Christmas party was so satisfying. The final product was gorgeous, and more importantly it was delicious. I was surprised to find that I hardly even noticed that the middle layer was cheesecake, it all just melded together seamlessly. Even my dad who says he doesn't like cream cheese or cheesecake loved this cake. So if you're looking for an impressive and delicious dessert for any special occasion, give this idea a try.

The cocoa and food coloring paste

The ingredients all set to go

Beat the butter and sugar until fluffy

Add in the flour mixture, and then the 

food coloring paste

Pour into two round cake pans

And bake

Let cool on a wire rack

Meanwhile, whip together the frosting

(my favorite part!)

Ready to assemble

Start with a layer of cake

Place cheesecake on top

(I froze it for a couple of hours so it would be

easy to work with)

The cheesecake was a little bigger than then 

cake so I had to trim off the excess

Then place the final layer of cake on top

Cover the whole cake with a crumb 

coat of frosting

And then frost it up

Dig in! (not the most beautiful photo, but I just wanted to take a bite; trust me, you don't need a big slice of this!)

Red Velvet Cake
From: America's Test Kitchen

  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda 
  • Pinch salt 
  • 1 cup buttermilk 
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 2 large eggs 
  • 2 tablespoons natural cocoa powder 
  • 2 tablespoons (one 1-ounce bottle) red food coloring 
  • 12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened 
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar 


  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened 
  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar 
  • 16 ounces cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces, softened 
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract 
  • Pinch salt 

FOR THE CAKE: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl. Whisk buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla, and eggs in large measuring cup. Mix cocoa with food coloring in small bowl until a smooth paste forms.

With electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and sugar together until fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping down bowl as necessary. Add one-third of flour mixture and beat on medium-low speed until just incorporated, about 30 seconds. Add half of buttermilk mixture and beat on low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape down bowl as necessary and repeat with half of remaining flour mixture, remaining buttermilk mixture, and finally remaining flour mixture. Scrape down bowl, add cocoa mixture, and beat on medium speed until completely incorporated, about 30 seconds. Using rubber spatula, give batter final stir. Scrape into prepared pans and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool cakes in pans 10 minutes then turn out onto rack to cool completely, at least 30 minutes.

FOR THE FROSTING: With electric mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add cream cheese, one piece at a time, and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Beat in vanilla and salt. Refrigerate until ready to use.

From: 17 and Baking

  • 20 oz full fat cream cheese, at room temperature 
  • 2/3 cup white sugar (5 1/4 oz) 
  • Zest of half a lemon 
  • 1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice 
  • 1/4 tsp salt 
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature 
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature 
  • 1 tablespoon all purpose flour 

Grease a 9″ springform pan, and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper. Wrap the outside of the pan with heavy duty aluminum foil, and set the pan into a larger pan (for the waterbath.)

In the bowl of a mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium until fluffy. Add the sugar and beat until smooth. Switch to a wooden spoon and beat in the lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt. Add eggs one at a time, making sure they are combined but not overmixing. Add the sour cream. Stir in flour and gently mix just until combined.

Pour the batter into the greased pan. Pour boiling water into the larger pan halfway up the cheesecake. The aluminum foil should protect the cheesecake from seeping water. Bake until the cheesecake is just set in the middle, about 40 minutes at 325 degrees. Run a knife around the sides and let the cheesecake cool completely. Press plastic wrap onto the surface of the cheesecake and refrigerate overnight.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

It's time for more pumpkin! I love muffins, I love pumpkin and I love streusel so these muffins already have three things going for them, but when I found out that they also contain cream cheese I knew I had to make them. Where is the cream cheese you might ask? Well, it's hidden inside, a sweet surprise when you bite in. I will eat anything with cream cheese, it is one of my favorite things, and in these muffins it is amazing! I have to admit, classifying these as muffins might be a little misleading. Although I have eaten them for breakfast (loving every bite!) they really more of a cupcake, incredibly moist and tender with a very fine crumb. With the cream cheese filling in the center, they truly are cake, the frosting just isn't on top, it's inside. But whatever they are called and at whatever time of day you want to eat them, they are definitely delicious!

Fresh from the oven

 Pumpkin, eggs and oil ready to go

 Mix it all together

 Add in the flour mixture

 And combine

 Grab the cream cheese log

from the freezer

 Ready to assemble

 First: a little batter on the bottom

 Second: a slice of cream cheese in the center

 My favorite part!

 Third: Top with the remaining batter

 Fourth: Finish with streusel 

 And bake them up


Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins
Adapted from Annie Eats

  • 4 ounces cream cheese 
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar 


  • 1 1/2 cups flour 
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves 
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 2 eggs 
  • 1 cup sugar 
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree 
  • 1/2 cup + 1/8 cup vegetable oil 


  • 1/4 cup sugar 
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons flour 
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon 
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces 

To prepare the filling, combine the cream cheese and powdered sugar in a medium bowl and mix well until blended and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a log about 1½-inches in diameter. Smooth the plastic wrap tightly around the log and transfer to the freezer and chill until at least slightly firm, at least 2 hours.

To make the muffins, preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line muffin pans with paper liners. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, pumpkin pie spice, salt and baking soda; whisk to blend. In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the eggs, sugar, pumpkin puree and oil. Mix on medium-low speed until blended. With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated.

To make the topping, combine the sugar, flour and cinnamon in a small bowl; whisk to blend. Add in the butter pieces and cut into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender or two forks until the mixture is coarse and crumbly. Transfer to the refrigerator to chill until ready to use.

To assemble the muffins, fill each muffin well with a small amount of batter, just enough to cover the bottom of the liner (1-2 tablespoons). Slice the log of cream cheese filling into 12 equal pieces. Place a slice of the cream cheese mixture into each muffin well. Divide the remaining batter among the muffin cups, placing on top of the cream cheese to cover completely. Sprinkle topping mixture over each muffin.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Pumpkin Scones

I'm way behind, it is coming to the end of October, and I still haven't posted a pumpkin recipe. These scones will fix that problem, and I promise to have at least one or two more pumpkin recipes in the coming days. Fall is definitely my favorite season for baking, the flavors are warm and comforting; who doesn't want to sit down with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and feast upon a warm and decadent baked good? I especially love putting pumpkin in all different goodies: muffins, cinnamon rolls, scones, you name it. The pumpkin itself doesn't really add much flavor to the food it is in, but it does ensure that the final product is moist and tender, and the spices that always seem to accompany pumpkin are perfect for the chilly fall weather, and the shortening days.

I've made these scones several times now and think they are fabulous, extremely tender and soft, full of spicy goodness. Instead of using just butter as the fat component, these scones take it to the next level and use a combination of butter and cream cheese. I love the little bit of tang that the cream cheese lends to the scones. I usually add chocolate chips to the dough, I love biting into a soft fluffy scone and sinking my teeth into some chocolate at the same time, however this time I actually forgot the chocolate chips. I know, I don't know how I did that either. They are my favorite part, and I forgot them. I had the dough rolled out and cut when I realized that they were missing something. So I had to improvise and drizzle chocolate on top. Quite delicious, but I prefer an explosion of chocolate chips. But regardless of what form the chocolate is in, these scones are a wonderful breakfast treat for a chilly fall morning!

Pumpkin + Chocolate

I froze my butter and cream cheese ahead of time


Add the buttermilk

Mix that all up with maple syrup and vanilla

Measure out those dry ingredients

A little sugar

And a lot of spices

Cut the butter and cream cheese into

the flour mixture

Then just add the wet ingredients

to the dry

Fall color

Mix it all up

Onto the counter it goes

Shape into a 7-8 inch round

Cut into wedges and place on a parchment lined

baking sheet

Bake them up

If you forget the chocolate chips, just drizzle with some chocolate 

Grab a cup of coffee and relax

Pumpkin Scones

  • 2 cups flour 
  • 2 tablespoons sugar 
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon 
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice 
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger 
  • 6 tablespoons butter 
  • 4 ounces cream cheese 
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree 
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk 
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla 
  • Chocolate chips 

Cut the butter and cream cheese into small pieces and place in the fridge or freezer until needed. You want them to be very cold.

In a medium bowl, mix together the pumpkin, buttermilk, syrup and vanilla until well blended. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt.

Cut the chilled butter into the flour with a pastry blender or two forks until it looks like coarse crumbs. Then do the same with the cream cheese but less vigorously. You want to be left with some chunks of cream cheese.

Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour and mix until it just comes together adding the chocolate chips about half way through. Do not over mix.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, knead a few times and then shape into a 7-8 inch disk about 1 1/2 inches thick. Cut the circle into 8 wedges and place them on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes.