Tag Archives: dessert

Black Forest Brownie Trifles


Another oldie but goodie. Do try to find fresh cherries if you can. If you can’t, frozen ones will suffice.

In planning a recent dinner party I had visions of serving a rich and perfectly smooth creme brulee.  But then I realized that good quality heavy cream is hard, if not impossible, to come by in Tirana.  Switching gears I started pouring over my favorite food websites in search of an alternative recipe.  I stuck gold when I found a recipe for individual black forest brownie trifles on From Away.  (I encourage those of you who aren’t familiar with this Maine based couple’s writing to check it out.  Not only are their recipes and food insight great but reading their postings helps temporarily fulfill my longing for Maine).  Cherries are at the peak of their season now so this was the perfect dessert.

I love the combination of chocolate and cherries tempered with a bit of whipped cream. The cleaver way of serving these trifles, in individual jelly jars, made me realize they would add the perfect amount of whimsy to my dinner.  I’ve added my own twist onto this recipe.  I prefer my own brownie recipewhich is moist and has a touch of almond flavor.  I also adapted my the original cherry recipe by substituting orange liqueur for some of the liquid.

The results?  A simple yet visually pleasing dessert that pleased the entire table.  Try it for yourself.


For the brownies:

5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

3 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder

1 1/4 cups sugar

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons extract of your choice, I prefer almond

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup all-purpose flour

  • Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line an 8-inch square pan with foil then coat lightly with vegetable spray.
  • Melt the chocolates, butter, and cocoa in the microwave, stirring often, 1 to 3 minutes.  Let the mixture cool slightly.
  • Whisk the sugar, eggs, extract, and salt together in a large bowl until well combined.
  • Whisk in the melted chocolate mixture until smooth.  Stir in the flour until no streaks remain.
  • Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached, 35 to 40 minutes.
  • Let cool completely on a wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours, before removing the brownies from the pan using the foil and cutting into squares.

For the cherries:

4 cups fresh cherries, pitted

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

1/2 cup Grand Marnier liqueur, or other orange flavored liqueur

4 teaspoons corn starch

  • Place the cherries in a large sauce pan.  Add the sugar, juice, and liqueur and stir to combine.
  • Bring to a simmer a cook for 5 minutes or until the cherries start to break down.
  • Stir in the cornstarch and whisk to combine.  Cook an additional 5 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and set aside.  Allow to cool for at least 1 hour before assembling the trifles.

For the cream:

16 ounces mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

2 – 2/3 cups whipping cream

1/4 cup powdered sugar

  • Place all of the ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Using an electric mixer, beat until all of the ingredients are combined and the cream forms stiff peaks.


  • Crumble the brownies into small, bite-sized pieces.
  • Alternate layers of brownies, cherries, and cream in each of the 8 serving dishes starting with a layer of brownies and ending with a layer of cream.  Depending upon the depth of your dishes you should have 3 or 4 layers.
  • Top with a fresh cherry if desired.
  • Allow to sit in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving.

Serves 8

Lemon Burst Buttermilk Cake


If you love lemons, and lots of them, then this bright and tangy lemon cake from Melissa’s Southern Style Kitchen is just the recipe for you. It is so good that it has become my go-to recipe whenever I have an abundance of lemons on hand.

I love this cake because it is so moist. It also contains buttermilk which has become my preferred dairy product for baking.  And because it contains a generous amount of both lemon juice and lemon zest, you are rewarded with a mouthful of lemon flavor with every bite. And by all means don’t skip the lemony glaze; it is the finishing touch for this already delicious cake.


For the cake:

3 cup all purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

½ tsp baking soda

1 cup butter, softened

2 cup granulated sugar

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

4 large eggs

4 large lemons, juiced and zested

¾ cup buttermilk

For the glaze:

1½ cup powdered sugar

1 Tbsp heavy cream

1 Tbsp lemon zest from lemons

2 Tbsp lemon juice from lemons

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat 2- 8 x 4½ x 5-inch metal loaf pans with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
  • In a medium sized bowl, sift together the all-purpose flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda.
  • Using a hand mixer and a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, granulated sugar, and vanilla.
  • Beat until creamy then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  • Reserve 1½ tablespoons of the lemon zest for the glaze then add the rest to the creamed butter and eggs.
  • Mix together ¼ cup fresh lemon juice with ¾ cup buttermilk.
  • Add to the mixing bowl alternately with the sifted dry ingredients. Beat until fully combined and all of the dry ingredients are fully moistened.
  • Divide the batter between the 2 loaf pans, tapping the pans to release air bubbles.
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center shows moist crumbs.
  • Cool in the pan then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.
  • To make the glaze, mix together the powdered sugar, heavy cream, lemon zest and lemon juice until drizzling consistency. If needed add additional cream 1 tsp at a time to thin.
  • Drizzle the loafs with glaze, slice and serve.

Yields 24 slices



Tiramisu is the all time favorite dessert in our house.  Glenn and I discovered our mutual love of this Italian dessert early in our relationship over a late night dinner at Filomena Ristorante in Georgetown, Washington D.C.  Since that snowy January night, if tiramisu is on the menu, we order it.  Tiramisu was the dessert at our rehearsal dinner the night before our wedding (it would have been our wedding cake if I could have figured out how it could have been made in a tiered form), it is the cake I make for Glenn’s birthday every year, and it is becoming a favorite dessert for our formal dinners.

I’ve discovered that not all tiramisu is created equal. Cake that is too dry or filling that is too sweet yields  disappointing results.  This recipe comes from Williams Sonoma and in my opinion is the perfect combination of moist, yet not too wet, lady fingers and rich and delicately sweet filling.  Always make it a  day ahead of time. This lets the flavors meld together.  Of course, if there are leftovers, it is even better the following day.


1/2 cup sugar 

1/2 cup water

2 cups freshly brewed espresso 

1/4 cup dark rum 

45 ladyfingers

1/3 cup sugar 

6 egg yolks 

1/2 cup heavy cream 

1 1/2 cups mascarpone cheese 

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract 

Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting 

  • In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and water. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the espresso and let cool to room temperature. Stir the rum into the cooled espresso mixture. 
  • Pour the espresso mixture into a wide, shallow bowl. Working in batches, briefly immerse the ladyfingers in the liquid, then transfer them to a plate. Set aside. 
  • To make the filling, select a heatproof bowl that fits snugly in the rim of a saucepan. Pour water to a depth of about 2 inches into the saucepan and bring to a very gentle simmer.
  • Meanwhile, in the heatproof bowl, whisk together the sugar and egg yolks until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is pale yellow and creamy, about 2 minutes.
  • Place the bowl over, but not touching, the simmering water in the pan. Using a handheld mixer on medium speed, beat the yolk mixture until very thick and tripled in volume, about 6 minutes.
  • Remove the bowl from the heat and set the yolk mixture aside to cool completely, stirring frequently. 
  • Meanwhile, in a bowl, using the mixer on medium-high speed, beat the cream until stiff peaks form.
  • Add the mascarpone and vanilla to the cooled yolk mixture. Beat with the mixer on medium speed just until smooth and well blended.
  • Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold in the whipped cream just until combined. 
  • To assemble, carefully transfer 15 soaked ladyfingers to a 9-inch square cake pan. Arrange them in a single layer in the bottom of the pan.
  • Using the rubber spatula, evenly spread one-third of the filling over the ladyfingers. Place another layer of 15 ladyfingers over the filling in the pan and evenly spread with half of the remaining filling.
  • Top with the remaining ladyfingers and filling, again spreading evenly. Gently tap the pan against the counter to settle the ingredients. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or up to overnight. 
  • Run a small knife around the inside edge of the pan to loosen the sides. Using a fine-mesh sieve, dust the top with the cocoa powder. Cut into slices and serve directly from the pan.

Serves 8. 


Salted Caramel Orange Upside Down Cake


Pineapple upside down cake is common, but orange? With salted caramel?  Why not?  These popular flavors are good on their own but even better when served together.  I came across this recipe in the Food Network Magazine, which is not a magazine I read regularly but came across while sitting in a waiting room.  I took one look at the cake and was immediately intrigued.  I made a few adaptations, substituted the almond flour I had on hand for the ground almonds called for in the original recipe, and was good to go.  What resulted was a sweet and salty gooey cake that was a resounding success with everyone at the dinner table.  Enjoy!


For the caramel:

2/3 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

5 oranges

For the cake:

1/2 cup almond flour

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 stick butter, at room temperature

2/3 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon orange zest

1/2 cup buttermilk

Sea salt, for sprinkling

  • To make the caramel:  Combine the sugar, 1/3 cup water, and the salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring just until the sugar dissolves.
  • Cook, gently swirling the pan occasionally, but not stirring, until amber 8-10 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat and carefully whisk in the butter.
  • Pour the caramel into a 9-inch round cake pan, tilting the pan so the caramel coats the bottom.  Set aside.
  • Slice off the top and bottom of each orange and cut off the peel and white pith using a chef’s knife, following the curve of the fruit.  Cut along each side of the membrane to remove the segments.  Discard any seeds and place in a decorative pattern in the caramel.  Set aside.
  • To make the cake:  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Combine the almond flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl and whisk to combine.
  • In a large bowl beat the butter and sugar with a mixer set on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  • Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition.  Beat in the orange zest.
  • Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour in three additions alternating with the buttermilk, until just smooth.
  • Pour the batter over the top of the orange slices and smooth the top.
  • Bake the cake for 40 to 45 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
  • Transfer to a rack and let cool slightly, then run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan.
  • Invert the cake onto a serving plate and allow to cool completely.
  • Sprinkle with the sea salt before serving.

Serves 8-10

Gingerbread Trifle

In preparation for Thanksgiving, I’m showcasing some of my favorite holiday recipes this month.  Some of them are family recipes while others are my own creations but each of them always has a place on my dining room table.  This fall I had the opportunity to be profiled by Albanian Living magazine as a part of their “traditional American Thanksgiving” article.  All of the recipes I’m sharing were a part of that Thanksgiving table.
Trifles only look complicated because in reality, they are ridiculously easy to make.  All you need to do is create layers of cake and cream and you have a dessert that will impress.  Any type of cake, brownie, or cookie will work so choose a flavor combination that excites you.  Fresh fruit or preserves can also be added to the layers for even more flavor.  I’ve also discovered that trifles are the perfect way to use that cake that wouldn’t come out of the pan in one piece.  This trifle, made with a spicy ginger cake that is adapted from Fine Cooking, combines ginger with a rich cream to form a decadent dessert.  As with all trifles, this one tastes better if it is made a day ahead of time.
For the cake:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup buttermilk
  • Position a rack in the center of the oven and pre-heat the oven to 350.  Lightly grease an 8×8 inch square cake pan.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the flour, ground spices, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.
  • Place the butter in a medium sized bowl.  Using a hand mixer, set on medium speed, beat the butter until light and fluffy, approximatley 1 minute.
  • Add the fresh ginger and mix until just combined.
  • Add both of the sugars and beat on medium speed until well combined.
  • Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg and mix until well combined.
  • Turn the mixer on low and add the molasses.
  • Add one third of the dry ingredients to the bowl and mix until combined.  Add one of the buttermilk and beat until combined.  Repeat alternating ingredients until everything is incorporated.
  • Scrape the batter in the prepared pan and smooth the top.
  • Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
  • Let the cake cool completely in the pan before assembling the trifle.
For the ginger syrup:
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Add the water and sugar to a small saucepan set over medium heat.  Stirring ocassionally, heat until the sugar is dissolved.
  • Add the ginger to the sugar water and stir to combine.  Bring to a gentle simmer being careful that the sugar doesn’t scorch.
  • Remove from the heat and allow to cool.  Strain the syrup through a fine mesh sieve to remove the ginger.  Set aside.
For the cream filling:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon Kirsch
  • Place all of the ingredients in a medium-sized chilled bowl.
  • Using an electric mixer, beat the cream until it is light and fluffy.
To assemble the trifle:
1 ginger cake
1 cup ginger syrup
4 cups whipped cream
1/4 cup candied ginger
  • Cut the ginger cake into bite sized cubes.  Place a single layer of the cake on the bottom of the  medium-sized trifle dish.
  • Brush the cake with the reserved ginger syrup.
  • Place a layer of the whipped cream on top of the cake.
  • Repeat this layering pattern until your trifle dish is filled ending with a layero f whipped cream.  You may have some cream left over.
  • Evenly sprinkle the candied ginger pieces over the top of the whipped cream.
  • Cover the trifle dish tightly with plastic wrap and allow to sit for at least 4 hours or preferrably overnight before serving.
Serves: 12

Apple Pie


In preparation for Thanksgiving, I’m showcasing some of my favorite holiday recipes this month.  Some of them are family recipes while others are my own creations but each of them always has a place on my dining room table.  This fall I had the opportunity to be profiled by Albanian Living magazine as a part of their “traditional American Thanksgiving” article.  All of the recipes I’m sharing were a part of that Thanksgiving table.

Who doesn’t love a good apple pie?  The combination of apples and cinnamon make for the perfect fall dessert.  Growing up this pie was always a part of our Thanksgiving dessert table. Following in New England traditional, it was served with thick slices of Cabot Vermont Sharp Cheddar Cheese but you can also serve it with vanilla ice cream or even a lightly sweetened whipped cream.  I like the pie best when it is slightly warm (just put it in to still warm oven while you are eating dinner and it will be just the right temperature when it is time for dessert).

Of course, apple pie isn’t the only pie on our Thanksgiving dessert table.  Pumpkin pie served with fresh whipped cream is another must have Thanksgiving dessert!


For the crust:

12 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces

3 cups all-purpose flour

8 tablespoons cold buttermilk or water

  • Using a pastry cutter, two forks, or a food processor fitted with a metal blade, cut together the butter and flour until the mixture is uniformly blended and resembles coarse cornmeal.
  • In half tablespoon increments, add the buttermilk or water and stir, cut, or process until the dough just holds together.  You might not need to use all of the liquid.
  • Divide the dough in half and cover and set one half aside.
  • Place the piece of dough between two sheets of waxed or parchment paper.  Using a rolling pin roll and stretch the dough to fit the bottom of an 8 or 9 inch pie plate.
  • Carefully remove on piece of the paper and fit the dough into the pie plate.  Press it into the edges.
  • Repeat the process with the reserved dough but instead of placing it on the pie plate cover and set it aside along with the prepared dough in the refrigerator until ready to proceed.

For the pie:

6 cups mixed apples, peeled, cored, and diced into 1/2 inch pieces

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped (optional)

1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon milk

1 tablespoon sanding sugar or other coarse sugar

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

  • Place the apples in prepared pie crust.
  • Squeeze the lemon juice over the top of the apples being careful not to let any seeds fall into the pie.
  • In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, walnuts, cornstarch, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Toss to combine.
  • Sprinkle the sugar mixture evenly over the top of the apples.
  • Carefully place the remaining pie crust over the apples.
  • Trim the edges of the crust if necessary and crimp the top and bottom crusts together.  You can use a fork or even your fingers to form a neat and pretty edge.
  • Score the top of the crust with a knife to allow steam to escape. If you have any scrap pieces of dough you can use them to create a decorative top.
  • Brush the milk over the top of the crust and sprinkle with the sugar.
  • Place the pie in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.  Without opening the oven, reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 35 to 45 minutes or until the crust is brown and the juices are bubbling.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool.  You can serve the pie either warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream, a sharp Cheddar cheese, or whipped cream.

Serves 8

Pecan-Chocolate Chip Cookies


Chocolate chip cookies are a classic American childhood treat.  Just the smell of a warm, fresh from the oven chocolate chip cookie brings me back to my childhood.  This recipe is an adaptation of the classic Nestle Toll House recipe with a few adult twists.  I like to use a combination of butter and Crisco (you can substitute another all vegetable shortening) since it results in cookies that bake up chewy and not too flat.  If you don’t have Crisco you can use all butter but your cookies will spread more in the oven and be crisper.  I don’t like using all Crisco, or even butter flavored Crisco since there isn’t any substitute for real butter taste.  Bake some of these cookies up today and enjoy them warm with a tall glass of milk.


2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature

1/2 cup Crisco

3/4 cup white sugar

3/4 cup light brown sugar

2 large eggs, at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups chocolate chips

1 cup chopped toasted pecans (optional)

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  • Place the pecans in a dry skillet set over medium-high heat.  Toast until brown and fragrant being careful not to scorch them.  Let cool slightly, chop them, then set them aside.
  • In a small mixing bowl combine the flour, baking soda, salt, ground cinnamon, and ground nutmeg.  Set aside.
  • Place te butter and Crisco in a large mixing bowl.  Using an electric beater set on a  medium speed, beat until the mixture is creamy and fluffy.
  • Add the sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract.  Beat for 1 minute.
  • Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  • Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture.  Beat until just combined.
  • Add the chocolate chips and nuts to the batter and use a rubber spatula to fold them into the cookie batter.
  • Using a one inch scoop drop the dough one inch apart onto the prepared cookie sheets.
  • Bake one sheet at a time for 9-11 minutes or until the cookies are puffy and brown.
  • Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and allow to sit for 3 minutes before removing the cookies to a wire rack to cool further.

The cookies can be eaten warm or allowed to cool completely then stored in an airtight container for up to three days.

Yields 3 dozen cookies

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