Monster Blondies

Monster BlondiesRemember that huge, ridiculous M&Ms Surprise Cake I posted last week? It’s long gone.Monster Blondies You know what’s still taking up space in my kitchen? This comically large container of M&Ms. It’s made it through two of those cakes, a batch of cookies and lots of late night snacks, and it’s still kickin’.Monster Blondies Also taking up space in my kitchen? Three different jars of peanut butter. THREE. And they’re all different brands. Just…what? I really need an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of all my baking supplies so I’m not compelled to pick up peanut butter every time I see it on sale.Monster Blondies So, what does one do with all that peanut butter and that huge container of M&Ms? Add some oats and make Monster Blondies, of course!Monster Blondies What makes these blondies so…monstrous? Well, they’re a riff on Monster Cookies, a sort of “everything but the kitchen sink” cookie that, at its most basic, contains peanut butter, oats, M&Ms and chocolate chips.Monster BlondiesMonster BlondiesMonster BlondiesMonster BlondiesMonster BlondiesThe original cookies are terrific, but skipping the cookie dough and tossing all those ingredients into blondie batter is absolutely the way to go! The resulting blondies have all the flavors and textures from their namesake recipe, but with an extra thick and chewy peanut butter base.Monster BlondiesMonster BlondiesMonster BlondiesNot only that, but blondies are way easier to make than cookies—this recipe comes together with just one bowl and a silicone spatula! And, of course, they don’t require baking in batches. Monster Blondies are ready to come out of the oven just 40 minutes after you start making the batter!Monster BlondiesOnce the blondies have cooled slice them up and dig in! You’ll love the soft & chewy blondie base, the slight saltiness from the peanut butter, the texture from the oats and crackly candy coating, and tons of chocolate. As far as I’m concerned, they’re the very best kind of mid-week pick-me-up ❤ Monster BlondiesMonster Blondies
makes 16 blondies

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup creamy-style peanut butter (not natural-style)
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 cup old-fashioned oats
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup M&Ms candy

Preheat your oven to 350F. Line an 8- or 9-inch square baking dish with aluminum foil, leaving some overhang on two sides. Grease with butter. Set aside.

Place butter and peanut butter in a small microwave-safe bowl. Melt together in 30 second increments, stirring in between, until smooth. Transfer to a medium large mixing bowl. Stir in light brown sugar, followed by egg and vanilla. Stir in flour and salt. Fold in oats, followed by chocolate chips and M&Ms.

Spread the blondie batter in prepared pan. Bake 25-30 minutes (mine took 28 minutes), or until turning golden at the edges. Let blondies cool completely in the pan on a rack.

Use foil to lift blondies out of pan. Peel off foil and transfer blondies to a cutting board. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice bars. Serve.

Leftover blondies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days.Monster Blondies

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M&Ms Surprise Cake

M&Ms Surprise CakeI posted pictures of a big M&Ms-stuffed chocolate cake on my social media last week and y’all went crazy for it!M&Ms Surprise CakeI get it—chocolate cake + buttercream + M&Ms inside + more M&Ms on top = MAGIC.M&Ms Surprise CakeThat original cake was for a friend and not intended for the blog, but given the response, I thought you might like to know how to make your own!M&Ms Surprise CakeFirst things first. You’re going to need four 9-inch round layers of chocolate cake. This one is a super easy no-mixer recipe that makes four soft, moist, perfect layers. You may recognize this recipe from my my Chocolate Cake with Malted Chocolate Buttercream—it’s exactly the same except that I scaled it up by 50%.M&Ms Surprise CakePlace one of the layers on a serving plate or your favorite of all your cakestands. Spread a little frosting on top.M&Ms Surprise CakeTake two of the layers and punch out holes in the centers. I use a 6-inch ring for this, but you can use a wide-mouthed glass or even just a paring knife and a circle of parchment. Layer those on top of that bottom round, frosting between and on top.M&Ms Surprise CakeAt this point, you’ll have a three layer cake with a hole in it. That’s where the surprise M&Ms are going to go ❤Spread a thin layer of buttercream on the “walls.” This will help keep the moist cake from melting the color off the M&Ms too quickly. And speaking of M&Ms…M&Ms Surprise CakeM&Ms Surprise Cake…pour in almost 2 cups of them ❤ ❤ ❤M&Ms Surprise CakeM&Ms Surprise CakePlace your last intact layer of cake on top, effectively hiding all that surprise candy. Frost the cake. For a sort-of photo tutorial on that, see last week’s Cinnamon Buttercream post.M&Ms Surprise CakeM&Ms Surprise CakeI decorated the top with even more M&Ms and used the last of the frosting to pipe a border. The dollops are all different sizes and I love it!M&Ms Surprise CakeM&Ms Surprise CakeM&Ms Surprise CakeM&Ms Surprise Cake

Gather all your family, friends, neighbors, coworkers—really, anyone will do. Get them all around the table so they can see this amazing thing you’ve made in all it’s rainbow candy avalanche glory. This cake is delicious—with that much chocolate and butter, it has to be—but the magic is in the presentation.M&Ms Surprise CakeThen again, I was alone when I sliced this sucker open and it was still pretty damn magical. But I also took 200+ photos of it for you, so I suppose you were practically there.M&Ms Surprise Cake

M&Ms Surprise Cake
makes 1 large 9-inch round cake

Cake:
2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup + 2 Tbsp natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon (3 teaspoons) baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher or sea salt
3/4 cup neutral-flavored oil (I like canola)
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 cups strong, hot coffee

Chocolate Buttercream:
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
5 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1 1/4 cups natural unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2-2/3 cup heavy cream

For Assembly:
1 3/4 cups M&Ms candy, plus more for decoration

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease 4 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment and grease again. Set aside.

Make the cake batter. In a large mixing bowl to sift together flour, cocoa powder, granulated sugar, dark brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together oil and eggs, followed by vanilla, buttermilk, and coffee. Whisk in dry ingredients in three installments, just until combined. Divide batter evenly among the pans. Tap full pans on the counter five times to release any air bubbles. Bake 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let cakes cool in pans for ten minutes before running a small, thin knife around the edges. Invert cakes onto cooling racks and allow to cool to room temperature.

Make the chocolate buttercream. In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until light and fluffy (about two minutes). Beat in confectioner’s sugar, followed by cocoa powder and salt, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Add in vanilla and 1/2 cup heavy cream. Beat on high for 1-2 minutes, until very fluffy. Add up to 2 more tablespoons of heavy cream, until desired consistency is reached.

Assemble cake. Place one round on a serving plate and top with a layer of frosting. Set aside.

Use a 4-6 inch cutter (or a wide-mouthed cup or jar) to cut the centers out of two layers. Set centers aside for another use. Place one cut-out layer on the bottom layer and top with a layer of frosting. Place the other cut-out layer on top and frost. Coat the inside of the hole with a thin layer of frosting.

Fill the hole in the cake layers with M&Ms. Top with the last (fully-intact) layer of cake. Frost cake as desired. Decorate with more M&Ms, as desired.

Layer cake will keep covered at room temperature for up to three days, or in the refrigerator for up to a week. M&Ms may lose their color over long periods of time.M&Ms Surprise Cake

Almond Joy Shortbread Bars

Almond Joy Shortbread BarsI don’t want to write about baking today—I want to write about how much I love the Olympics. I’ve watched the coverage every night and had it on in the background while I’ve baked during the day. This isn’t a recent habit—I grew up in a family that gathered to watch the games (summer or winter) every night they were on, and I even once had a wall of my teenage bedroom dedicated to the decorated short track speedskater Apolo Ohno.

Yeah…when it comes to the Olympics, I’m a real big nerd. I’m also a baseball nerd and an Oscars nerd, so…well, maybe I just watch too much TV. That’s probably it.

Almond Joy Shortbread BarsAnyway, this isn’t an Olympics blog. It’s a baking blog. So, let’s talk about baked goods, specifically Almond Joy Shortbread Bars.

Almond Joy Shortbread BarsIf you’re going to try to improve on the practically perfect combination of chocolate, almonds, and sweet coconut filling, layering it all onto a buttery chocolate shortbread crust is a pretty good way to start.

Almond Joy Shortbread BarsAll the layers in these bars make them look like they take hours to prepare, but in reality, they take about 90 minutes from start to finish and are nearly no-bake. That easy chocolate shortbread crust is the only layer that has to spend time in the oven.

Almond Joy Shortbread BarsIt’s topped with a thick layer of coconut filling and dotted with whole roasted almonds…Almond Joy Shortbread BarsAlmond Joy Shortbread Bars

…and a layer of milk chocolate. You can use dark chocolate if you like, but apparently Almond Joys are made with milk chocolate. I’ve been wrong for two years. Oh well.

Almond Joy Shortbread BarsAlmond Joy Shortbread BarsBut back to the bars. Slice ‘em up and admire your handiwork. #thoselayerstho

The flavor is everything you love about sweet, chewy, crunchy Almond Joys, but better because they’re homemade. Oh, and because they have a crispy layer of chocolate shortbread offsetting all their sweetness. After sinking your teeth into one of these, you’ll never be able to go back to the mass-produced candy bar.

Y’all, these are seriously good. I know I say that about everything on this blog, but I really mean it today. These are a gold medal recipe for sure.Almond Joy Shortbread Bars

Almond Joy Shortbread Bars
makes one 9-inch square pan, about 16 bars

Chocolate Shortbread Crust:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder (natural or Dutch process)
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes

Coconut Filling:
1/2 cup whole raw almonds
5 fluid ounces (10 tablespoons) sweetened condensed milk
1 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3 cups sweetened flaked coconut

Chocolate Topping:
6 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9-inch square pan with foil and grease well with butter. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, light brown sugar, and salt. Use your fingertips to rub butter into dry ingredients until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. It will be powdery, but should hold together when pinched. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Spread it around to cover the bottom of the pan before using your hand to pack it down into an even layer. Prick several times with a fork. Bake 14-15 minutes, until no longer wet-looking. Let shortbread crust cool completely in the pan on a rack.

Make the filling. Place almonds on a dry baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 5-7 minutes, or until fragrant. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together sweetened condensed milk, confectioners sugar, vanilla extract, and salt. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in coconut. Mixture will be very thick. Drop filling in spoonfuls over the cooled crust and spread across the entire surface. Arrange almonds in lines (or as desired) over the top of the coconut and press down to adhere. Freeze full pan for 15 minutes.

Make the chocolate topping. Combine chopped milk chocolate and butter in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 15 second increments, stirring in between, just until melted. Drop chocolate over filling one spoonful at a time. Use a small offset icing knife (or a silicone spatula) to carefully spread it over a section of the filling. Continue dropping and spreading chocolate until it’s all used and the almonds are covered. Freeze until chocolate has hardened, about 15 minutes.

Use foil overhang to remove bars to a cutting board. Carefully peel foil down the sides. Use a lightly-greased sharp chef’s knife to slice bars. Lift bars from foil with a thin spatula. Serve.

Bars may be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days. Layer them with wax paper if they are to be stacked.

Almond Joy Shortbread Bars

Chocolate Mint Magic Bars

Chocolate Mint Magic BarsSo far this season, I’ve posted Cashew Butter Ginger Cookies, Peppermint Mocha Buttercreams, Pecan Florentines, an Eggnog Puff Pancake, Maple Spice Stars, gluten-free Mexican Hot Chocolate Crinkles, and my mom’s recipe for Wassail. If none of those strike your holiday fancy, there are at least twenty more Christmas-appropriate recipes in the archives.

Chocolate Mint Magic BarsWhat can I say? I love holiday baking ❤️💚❤️💚❤️💚❤️💚❤️💚

Chocolate Mint Magic BarsToday’s recipe–the last one before Christmas–is everything you could want this close to the 25th. Chocolate Mint Magic Bars come together quickly and easily, don’t require a mixer or any unfamiliar techniques, and are so. freaking. good. If you love chocolate and mint, this is your lucky day 😊

Chocolate Mint Magic BarsI mean, who can resist chewy, chocolaty Andes mint-studded filling and a buttery chocolate cookie crust?!

Chocolate Mint Magic BarsChocolate Mint Magic BarsTo make the bars, start by blitzing two sleeves of chocolate sandwich cookies into crumbs. Add some butter and then press the mixture into a foil-lined pan. Bake the crust for five minutes, just to set.

Chop up some Andes Creme de Menthe candies…

Chocolate Mint Magic Bars…and whisk together a can of sweetened condensed milk, cocoa powder, vanilla, peppermint extract, and a tablespoon of melted butter.

Chocolate Mint Magic BarsChocolate Mint Magic BarsPour that mixture over the crust and top it with the chopped candy. I like to add some chocolate chips, too. Bake the bars for half an hour, until they’re still a little jiggly–they’ll set as they cool. Once they reach room temperature, slice ‘em up.

Chocolate Mint Magic BarsLook at those streaks of candy in the filling 😍😍😍

Chocolate Mint Magic BarsThese bars, y’all. They’re so delicious. The filling is chocolaty and minty without being too rich, and has a fudgy brownie-like quality that I absolutely love! And then there’s that crumbly, buttery chocolate cookie layer. Seriously, what’s not to love?!

Merry Christmas, y’all!Chocolate Mint Magic Bars

Chocolate Mint Magic Bars
makes 1 9-inch square pan, about 16 bars

24 chocolate sandwich cookies (like Oreos)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, divided
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk (not fat free)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract (not mint extract)
1/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
30 Andes Creme de Menthe candies (1 9.5 ounce package), chopped
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9-inch square pan with aluminum foil, leaving overhang on two sides. Generously butter foil. Set aside.

Place chocolate sandwich cookies the bowl of a food processor and process until pulverized. Add 5 tablespoons of melted butter. Pulse until combined. Transfer mixture to the prepared pan. Press into an even layer. Bake for five minutes, until set. Set crust aside to cool while you prepare the filling.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together sweetened condensed milk, 1 tablespoon melted butter, vanilla and peppermint extracts. Whisk in cocoa powder.

Drizzle sweetened condensed milk mixture over the crust. Scatter chopped Andes Creme de Menthe candies and chocolate chips over the top. Bake for 30-32 minutes, tenting pan with foil at the 10 minute mark. Bars are done when the center jiggles just slightly when the pan is jostled.

Let bars cool completely in the pan on a rack. Use foil overhang to remove bars from the pan to a cutting board. Peel off foil. Slice with a lightly-greased knife and serve.

Chocolate Mint Magic Bars

Peppermint Mocha Buttercreams

Peppermint Mocha ButtercreamsDo you listen to the Stuff You Should Know podcast? My sister turned me onto it a few months ago and it was love at first listen. As my job is very solitary, I spend my days listening to Josh and Chuck talk about all sorts of things I have never given a passing thought. Imagine my surprise to find that yesterday’s episode was about something that I know all about: cake!

Yes, I spend many waking hours thinking about cake. Really. At any given moment, I am thinking about baking, layering, decorating, or eating cake. If you listen to the podcast (which you should!), it sounds like Josh, Chuck, and I may have that in common…the eating part anyway 😉

Peppermint Mocha ButtercreamsOne thing we definitely agree on though is that we all occasionally eat cake solely as a vehicle for frosting. For some *unknown* reason, it’s socially unacceptable to eat a bowl of frosting, so we eat cake to get our fix 😉 Until now, anyway…

Peppermint Mocha ButtercreamsEnter buttercream candies: literally frosting coated in chocolate.

Peppermint Mocha ButtercreamsFrosting. coated. in. chocolate.

Peppermint Mocha ButtercreamsFrosting for frosting’s sake.

Peppermint Mocha ButtercreamsIf you’re anything like me (or Josh and Chuck, apparently), this is basically the best news ever. These are the no-bake treat of my dreams.

Peppermint Mocha ButtercreamsYou can make buttercreams using any flavor of frosting you can imagine–if it can be whipped into buttercream frosting, it can be rolled into candy. As we’re just a few weeks out from Christmas, I’ve decided to go with Peppermint Mocha Buttercreams today 😊

The frosting base of these candies is a classic American chocolate buttercream that I’ve souped up with 1/4 teaspoon of peppermint extract and some instant espresso. It comes together in just a few minutes and is super fluffy and luxurious.

Peppermint Mocha ButtercreamsChill the peppermint mocha frosting before scooping it by the teaspoon and rolling it into balls. This is not a glamorous process, but it is helped greatly by coating your hands in confectioner’s sugar.

After another chill, it’s time for a dip in melted chocolate…

Peppermint Mocha Buttercreamsand a smattering of crushed peppermints, or perhaps some holiday sprinkles.

Peppermint Mocha ButtercreamsPeppermint Mocha ButtercreamsOne more quick chill later, the Peppermint Mocha Buttercreams are ready to eat. And oh, are they good. I mean, how could the combination of a chocolate shell and a melty espresso-mint center be anything but delicious?!

Peppermint Mocha ButtercreamsThey’re basically holiday perfection in a mouthful.

Peppermint Mocha ButtercreamsLooking for more Peppermint Mocha? Try my Peppermint Mocha Cookies ❤️💚❤️💚

Peppermint Mocha ButtercreamsPeppermint Mocha Buttercreams
inspired by and heavily adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction
makes about 4 dozen candies

1 tablespoon instant espresso granules
2 teaspoons warm tap water
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure peppermint extract (NOT mint extract)
2 tablespoons heavy cream
16 ounces dark chocolate (not chocolate chips)
crushed peppermints, for decorating (optional)
sprinkles, for decorating (optional)

In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together espresso granules and warm water. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until light and fluffy (about two minutes). Beat in confectioner’s sugar, followed by cocoa powder and salt, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Add in vanilla and peppermint extracts, followed by espresso mixture. Add heavy cream. Beat on high for 1-2 minutes, until very fluffy. Press plastic wrap to the surface of the frosting. Chill one hour in the refrigerator.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Remove chilled frosting from the refrigerator and discard the plastic wrap. Scoop frosting by the teaspoon, roll into balls, and place on prepared pan. Coating your palms in confectioner’s sugar may help the rolling process. Chill rolled frosting uncovered for one hour.

Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to chop chocolate. Place in a microwave-safe bowl. Melt chocolate in 30 second increments, stirring between, until smooth. Alternatively, melt chocolate in a double boiler. Let cool five minutes.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Remove buttercreams from the refrigerator.

To dip, drop one ball of buttercream into the melted chocolate. Use a fork to coat buttercream in chocolate. Drain briefly by scraping the tines of the fork on the edge of the bowl. Use the fork to gently lay the buttercream on the prepared pan. Immediately top with crushed peppermints or sprinkles. Continue until all buttercreams have been coated and topped.

Chill buttercreams for at least fifteen minutes before serving. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.