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“…You make me so hungry, Robot, I get so hungry, I get so hungry I could die…”
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Chocolate has always been famously paired with peanut butter, but I’ve seen a recent shift in the food scene to pair chocolate with pretzel (or chocolate paired with both peanut butter AND pretzel at the same time, but that’s too much to compute).
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I moved to a new city a few months ago and I’m overwhelmed with food.
I moved from Springfield, Missouri, which is a decently sized little city. We had four grocery stores options in the whole town. Now that I live in Columbus, Ohio, I have six grocery options on my street alone.
Six! On one road! Where am I supposed to shop? I’ve been shopping at each store bit by bit – flour here, sugar there, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream pints from over there, etc…
One of those stores is Trader Joe’s, which I have waxed poetically on before. Trader Joe’s is a super fun pit stop for candy or cookies, but it’s too expensive for us to viably shop there for all of our groceries. But hey, I’m not complaining about their cookies or candies. You’ve had cookie butter before, right? You haven’t truly lived until you’ve seen a robot piling a cart high with cookie butter in Trader Joe’s. I like to give the locals a little something to look forward to in their menial grocery shopping. I’m a super nice robot like that.
However, it is a bit disappointing to admit that I did come across a Trader Joe’s cookie failure. It might not be a failure to you if you prefer crunchy cookies. We don’t.
We (and by we I mean the humans I bake for, OBVIOUSLY) are soft, chewy cookie fans. As in, if it isn’t chewy, it’s not a cookie. It’s like a cookie-wannabe. The Cousin Oliver of cookies, if you will.
So Trader Joe’s offers these tiny crunchy cashew caramel cookies. The flavor was great but it was like eating rocks (only a slight exaggeration). But don’t worry, I’ve fixed that problem in this recipe. These cookies are delightfully soft (but not fall-apart-in-your-hands-soft, if you know what I mean) and chewy, and the kick of salt from the cashews pairs with the caramel bits like – well, like salt and caramel.
And that flavor combination is just as popular in Ohio as it in Missouri. You humans are all the same.
Chewy Cashew Caramel Cookies
makes 3 dozen
slightly adapted from Oh My Sugar High
3/4 cup shortening
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup cashews, halves and pieces, salted
1 cup caramel bits
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or Silpat!).
2. In a large bowl, cream together shortening, light brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Add eggs, one at a time. Stir in vanilla extract.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda. Gradually add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, mixing until just combined. Gently stir in cashews and caramel bits.
4. Roll the dough into rough balls, approximately 2 tablespoons-worth. Space cookies about 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the cookies are just turning golden brown. Let the cookies sit on the baking sheet for a minute before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.
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You’re going to think this is totally crazy, and judging by what countless people have told me over the years: you’re right.
My favorite part about chocolate candies is the fruit flavoring on the inside. Scandal!
I remember visiting Las Vegas as a wee little robot and touring Ethel M Chocolates. I gave all of my attention to the orange chocolates, and would immediately discard the chocolate and focus on the cream center.
Come at me, human! I was young and my computer brain was still booting up. But you can relate just a little bit, right? Those cream centers are good, and you know it.
It’s time to give those cream centers a bigger starring role. Enter: buttercream.
I think I can buttercream all the things. Give me any ingredient, any flavor, and I’ll turn it into a buttercream. Do you want to go out for a fancy steak dinner but can’t afford it? Let me make you some steak and loaded baked potato buttercream.
I’m mostly joking.
The secret to a buttercream that tastes exactly like the cream centers in chocolates isn’t much of a secret; it’s using actual cream centers. I used Chocoley’s Maraschino Cherry Cream Center and it turned out divine, like eating a cherry chocolate but much, much bigger.
I’ll end this post with a confession. I made this buttercream a week before I piped it onto the cupcakes. A week! I didn’t even know buttercream could last that long. I stored it on my kitchen counter in a plastic container. And the crazy thing is that it tasted even better a week later. The flavors developed and married and great little party together. So if you think you might be pressed for time, don’t hesitate to make the buttercream ahead! Just make sure to store it in a sealed container in a dry place.
As for the cupcakes, choose your favorite recipe. I used a devil’s food cake mix, but feel free to try anything you like!
Cherry Chocolates Cupcakes
12 chocolate cupcakes, baked and cooled
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup Chocoley Maraschino Cherry Cream Center
Chocoley Drizzle & Design Chocolate in Dark Chocolate
1. In a large bowl, cream together butter and powdered sugar. Add salt and vanilla extract. Stir in Maraschino Cherry Cream Center until completely incorporated into the buttercream. Using this frosting heavily (like in the photos) you’ll be able to frost 12 cupcakes.
2. Following the instructions on the package, melt the Drizzle & Design Chocolate. I squeezed the chocolate directly on the top of the frosting and let the chocolate flow down to create a covered effect, but you can also create swirls or stripes for a more delicate look.
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If you like food (hi!) – especially making food (hi friend!) – especially especially baking – (hi best friend!) – then you probably spend twenty minutes down each aisle in the grocery store, gleaning ideas and inspiration for future recipes.
That’s not how I came up with this one. In fact, the reason I made this recipe is because I’ve never seen any of the original cake popsicles in a store before. Turns out humans and robots alike always want what they can’t have.
I stumbled upon this review of Good Humor Birthday Cake Ice Cream Bars. And, like, what? This is amazing, why haven’t I ever seen it before? No matter! I’ll make my own, and tailor it to exactly my taste and preferences. Which… for the most part… would be birthday cake.
But I decided to try something a little different – blue raspberry cake with vanilla bean ice cream. And that’s the beauty of this recipe: you can use ANY flavors that you want! Chocolate cake with strawberry ice cream, carrot cake with butter pecan ice cream, yellow cake with chocolate chip ice cream, it’s endless!
The original Good Humor bars are coated with rainbow crunchies. I chose to forgo those this time for a simpler popsicle, but maybe you might want to roll your popsicles in Fruity Pebbles or M&Ms. No judgment here.
And if you’re wondering what these cake popsicles taste like, imagine a cake pop encased in ice cream. Oh yeah. We’re going there.
Make sure to check out Sucre Shop for some adorable popsicle sticks. Here I used their spoons, which worked just fine except they didn’t fit through the top of my popsicle mold, so that’s why the sticks look a little (a lot) crooked. You’d think that since I’m a robot I would automatically be making measurements and doing calculations to avoid this problem… maybe you humans are rubbing off on me.
makes 16 popsicles
1 box (15.25 oz) cake mix, any flavor (I used Pillsbury Blue Raspberry)
4 tbsp frosting, canned or homemade (I used Pillsbury Blue Raspberry)
1-1/2 quart ice cream (I used vanilla bean)
1. Bake cake mix according to box instructions. Let cool completely, then crumble into little pieces using your hands. Gradually add the frosting, one tablespoon at a time, until the cake crumbs are solid and firm enough to press into the bottom of the cake pan. You might not need the full 4 tablespoons. (It’s like making cake pops.) Freeze the mixture for about ten minutes.
2. Once the cake/frosting mixture has hardened – it should have the feel of clay at this point – cut the cake into pieces your desired size. I ended up with about 16 equal-sized rectangles. The rectangle (if you’re using a popsicle mold like this one) should be just big enough to fit into the mold. Take a popsicle stick and insert it into the cake rectangle. If your cake falls apart (as mine did, since I was actually using small spoons instead of sticks… oops) just reform it to a rough rectangle around the popsicle stick. You’ll have a chance to reshape it to the right size later.
3. Once all of the popsicle sticks have been inserted into the cake rectangles, re-freeze the cake pops for another 5 – 10 minutes.
4. While the cake pops are in the freezer, melt the ice cream. Transfer the ice cream from its container and into a microwave-safe bowl. (It’s okay to work in batches!) Melt the ice cream for about 30 seconds and stir vigorously to remove any lumps. The ice cream should still be thick but also pourable. Bad descriptor, but: kind of like melt-y soft serve.
5. Fill your popsicle mold about 1/2 full with ice cream. Remove the cake pops from the freezer – if necessary, use a sharp knife to trim the edges – and gently press a cake rectangle into each individual popsicle mold. The cake pop will push up the ice cream so that it’s surrounded, but if you have any leftover space at the top, take a small spoon and carefully ladle extra ice cream to fill up the mold.
6. Freeze the popsicle mold until the ice cream has completely hardened – I let mine freeze overnight. To remove the popsicles, run warm water over the outside of the mold to loosen the popsicles. They should pop right out! Enjoy!