Copycat Hostess Cupcakes

I was never actually into the Hostess cupcakes that much as a kid. I was definitely more of a Nutty Buddy type. Wafers plus peanut butter plus fake chocolate tasted fabulous!

Now I prefer to bake stuff from scratch when I can, mainly because I like to know what’s in the food I’m eating and it’s weird that something can last for years on a shelf. Time for a copycat version that’s homemade!

This week’s Reddit bake challenge was childhood favorites. Hostess Cupcakes have been around quite a while and look really monochromatic and cool. My husband fondly remembers eating the rubbery chocolate layer off them first as a kid, so I’m going to assume these count as a childhood favorite πŸ™‚

The Basics

Your cupcake base is a FABULOUS chocolate cake recipe simply in cupcake form. I actually use this particular recipe for all my chocolate cakes because it’s so good. Don’t be afraid of the instant espresso; you won’t taste it and it just intensifies the chocolate flavor.

Each little cake is filled with a simple 7-minute frosting, cooked over the stove and whipped. The recipe for that is here. Save your leftovers after filling them, cuz you’ll need it to pipe the little swirly on the top to decorate. They aren’t the real deal without the swirl πŸ˜‰

They are all topped off with a 2-ingredient ganache. I used bittersweet chocolate chips, but I bet you’ll get an even more “authentic” flavor if you use semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips instead. Let them sit in the fridge for about 10 minutes to firm up the ganache, and pipe your curly-cues on top for the finishing touch with the leftover frosting.

(Weird measurements in the recipe are from scaling it for exactly 12 cupcakes; we definitely didn’t need 24 of these sitting around πŸ™‚

The finished product really does taste amazing, and we had exactly none leftover from the dozen we made. There’s something SO satisfying about whipping up something that’s typically made in a factory πŸ™‚

Enjoy!

 

 

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Copycat Hostess Cupcakes
A homemade twist on the classic childhood favorite!
copycat hostess chocolate cupcakes
Course Desserts
Servings
cupcakes
Ingredients
Chocolate Cupcakes
Ganache Topping
Course Desserts
Servings
cupcakes
Ingredients
Chocolate Cupcakes
Ganache Topping
copycat hostess chocolate cupcakes
Instructions
Chocolate Cupcake Recipe
  1. Preheat oven to 350 and line a muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. In a large measuring cup, combine the milk, vegetable oil, vanilla, and 1 egg.
  4. Using a mixer, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until combined.
  5. Bring the 1/2 cup water to boil and add the espresso to it. Immediately add this to the batter and mix until combined. It will be thin and watery.
  6. Fill each cupcake liner with about 1/4 cup of batter.
  7. Bake about 18 minutes, until toothpick stuck in the center is mostly clean. Let cool in tin for 5 minutes, then remove and cool completely on a rack.
  8. When your cupcakes are cooled, get started on the 7-minute frosting. Recipe I used is up above in instructions, but any basic 7-minute frosting would be fine.
  9. If your cupcakes have a dome, use a serrated knife to shave a bit of the top off and level them. Now core out each cupcake for the filling. I just use a small metal veggie peeler and carve out of a little rough circle shape from the center of the cupcake. Fill with frosting.
Ganache Topping
  1. Place your chocolate in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Bring your heavy cream just barely to a simmer and take off the heat.
  3. Pour heavy cream over chocolate and cover the small bowl with a lid. Set aside for 3 minutes to soften the chocolate.
  4. Using a whisk, gently mix the cream and chocolate together in one direction, not vigorously. It will eventually come together in a smooth, glossy, beautiful ganache.
  5. Let cool for a few minutes until firmed up just a bit for spreading over cupcakes. I used an offset spatula to spread it just to the edges; dunking the whole cupcake upside down in the ganache resulted in a mess, so I would avoid that way with this recipe πŸ™‚
  6. Put the ganache-covered cupcakes in the fridge for 10 minutes to firm up the ganache. Make the swirl on top using the leftover white frosting.
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Dairy-Free Dark Chocolate Pastry Cream

Need a dairy-free dark chocolate pastry cream to fill eclairs, cream puffs, or even a croquembouche? LOOK NO FURTHER!

This recipe was the result of not having enough cow’s milk to make a pastry cream. I had almond milk and as a substitute the results worked quite well! It is likely not quite as “rich” tasting, as almond milk is thinner, but still very yummy. I also like this recipe because it uses cocoa powder instead of melting chocolate, which I don’t always have on hand.

This, BTW, is thicker than a traditional chocolate pudding, on purpose. The sturdiness lends itself well to filling the inside of things. With enough cooling time to firm up, this would totally work in a dairy-free cream pie.

Enjoy!

 

 

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Dairy-Free Dark Chocolate Pastry Cream
A nice firm pastry cream, perfect for the inside of cream puffs, eclairs, or even filling a pie!
Course Desserts
Servings
Ingredients
Course Desserts
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Place a fine mesh strainer inside of a medium bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, off the heat, whisk together your dry ingredients: sugar, cornstarch, and cocoa.
  3. In a measuring cup, combine almond milk with egg yolks and vanilla extract.
  4. While whisking, drizzle your milk mixture into the saucepan. Try to get the lumps out the best you can.
  5. Place saucepan on medium high heat. Whisking constantly, cook until boiling. It will start to thicken up considerably. Cook 30 seconds longer while whisking. Remove from heat.
  6. Immediately strain the hot mixture into a bowl. This will remove all the bits of egg, cornstarch clumps, etc. ALTERNATIVE - if you want a cream pie, strain mixture directly into a ready-to-eat pie crust.
  7. Wait 5 minutes and cover the pastry cream with plastic wrap directly on it. This will prevent a "skin" from forming.
  8. Cool 2 hours and use to fill cream puffs, eclairs, or a cream pie.
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Mardi Gras Macarons

Happy Mardi Gras!

Is that what you are supposed to say? I don’t know – Mardi Gras here in PA is marked mostly by baked goods in grocery stores turning purple, green and gold for a few weeks and then disappearing. Hence these macarons!

This is my favorite go-to mac recipe now. It’s so easy to add some flavoring oils to change it up, but also just makes a yummy plain macaron. Yay for simplicity πŸ™‚

BTW, are you looking for step-by-step mac instructions? LOOK NO FURTHER! Click here for a picture tutorial.

As you can see by the pic, these macs are tri-colored, albeit not very evenly done. I used this Wilton Color Swirl decorating set (affiliate link). I’m still working on my technique! Macs are so little that getting the ‘twist’ color scheme is a challenge. I suspect I’ll have better luck with cupcakes.

Lastly, there’s a yummy cinnamon buttercream inside these colored cuties, which seems to be a common theme in a Mardi Gras king cake.

Enjoy!

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Mardi Gras Macarons
A simple and tasty Mardi Gras themed macaron. Filled with cinnamon buttercream and tri-colored!
Mardi Gras macarons
Course Desserts
Cuisine French
Servings
Ingredients
Macaron Shells
Cinnamon Buttercream
Course Desserts
Cuisine French
Servings
Ingredients
Macaron Shells
Cinnamon Buttercream
Mardi Gras macarons
Instructions
Make your macaron shells!
  1. Preheat oven to 280 F. Cover baking sheet with parchment paper or nonstick baking mat.
  2. Sift together powdered sugar and almond flour. Set aside.
  3. In a very clean bowl and starting on slow, whip up your egg whites. Once they are very foamy, start to slowly add your granulated sugar, a tablespoon or so at a time.
  4. Keep going until you get to stiff peaks. You should be able to turn the bowl over your head and not have a pile of meringue land on your head πŸ˜‰
  5. When you have stiff peaks, sift your almond flour/powdered sugar a second time directly over your meringue.
  6. Using the mac folding technique (see link to tutorial above or watch some You Tube videos!), fold in your flour/sugar into the meringue. Right before you get your lava consistency, add your gel color to your desired shade. For the tri-color I divided my batter up into 3 bowls and dyed each batch a different color and then used the Wilton Color Swirl coupler to pipe these. You could also still divide up the batter, dye 3 colors, and just make some purple macs, green macs, yellow macs, etc. Or make them plain and brush a little watered-down gel color on top when they are finished.
  7. After adding color, mix to the correct lava consistency appropriate for macs.
  8. Pipe batter into circles on your baking sheet.
  9. Bake for 10 minutes, turn them around, and bake for another 8 to 10 minutes for standard size macs. They are done when one can be picked up off the parchment and not come apart.
  10. Let cool and then carefully pluck off parchment.
Make the cinnamon buttercream!
  1. Using a mixer, whip up your butter.
  2. Sift your powdered sugar and cinnamon over the butter and mix well.
  3. Add in your vanilla extract. If buttercream is too thick, add a bit of milk, 1 teaspoon at a time until you get a nice piping consistency, i.e not runny but easily piped.
  4. Taste the buttercream and add more cinnamon if you like, a dash of salt, etc.
  5. Fill the macs with the buttercream.
Recipe Notes

If we aren't going to eat macs within the day, I put them in the fridge and they will last a few days (although I believe taste better room temp!). They also freeze well for longer periods and thaw out quickly.

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Mint Trifle

Week 5 of the Reddit 52-week baking challenge was trifles. I have never made one of these before, but have drooled many a time at pictures of them. Mint isn’t generally a winter favorite of mine (cool and refreshing are for summer!), but my son is a huge fan of mint so I threw him a bone this week πŸ˜‰

The dark chocolate layer you see is a fabulous Taste of Home chocolate chiffon cake – http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/chocolate-chiffon-cake – The icing was left off since I was just going to cut it up into chunks anyway. This cake was so light and airy, and my daughter actually (almost) requested this specific cake for her birthday. A winner!

The white layer is just a standard homemade whipped cream, i.e. heavy cream tossed with a bit of sugar and whipped up.

Finally, the Leprechaun-green color is a mint pudding. I had to “wing it” for this, as the only recipes I found online were for chocolate mint pudding, and that wouldn’t get me a cool green color πŸ™‚ Layers are alternated, and a few crushed Andes candies are on top for good measure.

Enjoy!

 

 

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Mint Trifle
An easy and versatile recipe! Just cake, pudding, and whipped cream in alternating layers.
mint trifle
Course Desserts
Servings
Ingredients
Course Desserts
Servings
Ingredients
mint trifle
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan off the heat, whisk together your sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Slowly add in milk while whisking. Add your food coloring now; I used about 3 drops of green leaf gel coloring.
  2. Cook on medium heat while whisking. It will thicken and start to boil. Boil for 1 minute more while stirring.
  3. Take about 1/4 cup of the hot pudding and mix with your egg yolks in a separate small bowl. You are "tempering" them so you don't get scrambled eggs! Now add your yolks back into your saucepan of boiling pudding. Keep whisking and boil for 1 more minute.
  4. Stir in the cut up butter and peppermint extract.
  5. Strain your hot pudding into a separate bowl to get rid of lumps. Pour into dessert cups, Pyrex container, another bowl, etc. Let cool for 2 or 3 minutes and place plastic wrap on top to prevent a skin from forming.
  6. Refrigerate for at least an hour to firm up and get cold.
Recipe Notes

Recipe adapted from Betty Crocker's vanilla pudding.

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Little Lemon Pudding Cakes

Something about winter makes me crave lemon/lime/orange stuff. Maybe my body trying to avoid scurvy during these cold and gray Pennsylvania days? I’m not entirely sure, but it will be my excuse for making these lovely little lemon pudding cakes!

You may be asking, “Wait…is this PUDDING or CAKE? Make up your mind, woman!” They are in fact both – light springy cake on top and creamy lemon pudding hiding underneath. Perfect for 35 degree weather and pretending it’s another season entirely!

You will find exactly zero lemon zest in this recipe because I truly hate zesting anything. Maybe I have the wrong tools, maybe probably I’m too lazy to scrape my knuckles against my grater for a teaspoon of fruit peel, but I’ll pass on that nonsense. I have, however, found a close second to zesting…CITRUS OILS. Think extracts but stronger and much less is needed. They give fabulous flavor without the hassle πŸ™‚

Enjoy!

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Little Lemon Pudding Cakes
Easy to bake lemon pudding cakes in individual portion sizes.
lemon pudding cakes
Course Desserts
Servings
Ingredients
Course Desserts
Servings
Ingredients
lemon pudding cakes
Instructions
  1. Grease 6 ramekins and lightly dust with a bit of sugar. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  3. Using a hand mixer, gently blend together egg yolks, milk, bottled lemon juice, and lemon flavoring oil. You want a smooth consistency.
  4. Sift your flour, sugar, and salt into the egg/milk mixture and blend the batter briefly.
  5. In another small bowl, mix your egg whites until the soft peak stage. Fold the whites into your lemon batter.
  6. Ladle your batter into your ramekins and place them into a large pan. I just used a glass 13 x 9, but you could use something smaller as long as the ramekins fit inside with room around them.
  7. Pour water into the pan around and halfway up the sides of the ramekins; you are making a water bath to gently bake your cakes.
  8. Bake 20 to 30 minutes, or until your cakes are lightly browned and springy to the touch. Lightly dust powdered sugar on top. Enjoy warm or room temp!
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Savory magazine, Light Lemon Pudding Cakes, January 2017 issue

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Chocolate-Dipped Meringue Cookies

I find meringue to be fickle sometimes. I went through 2 batches of another meringue recipe on a drizzly day and it refused to make stiff peaks both times! Almost weekly I whip up egg whites for macarons, so I’d like to THINK I have my technique down at this point. I’ll blame it on the rain that day πŸ˜‰

This recipe was used to make tiny mushrooms for a Buche de Noel for Christmas…they were the best meringues EVER. They literally melted in my mouth, which was quite a change from other dry, hollow hockey pucks I’ve made in the past. I’ve narrowed it down to temperature being important here; too high a temp seems to create giant gaps in meringue cookies. So go low and slow!

Like macarons, this recipe only uses whites and you’ll need to either throw out your yolks or save them to make this deliciousness.

Shockingly enough, these are even better dipped in chocolate and the bottoms bathed in nonpareils. The texture rocks on these – crunchy sweet bottoms with light and airy meringue on top. I really enjoy the contrast! I also just drizzled some bittersweet chocolate on a few of them, because why not?

One more tip – make sure your cooled meringues are stored in an airtight container. They like to absorb moisture from the air and become sticky, although still tasty πŸ˜‰

Enjoy!

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Chocolate-Dipped Meringue Cookies
Meringue cookies are both easy to make and impressive to serve to guests! A batch of these would make a welcome gift.
Chocolate-Dipped Meringue Cookies
Course Desserts
Servings
Ingredients
Course Desserts
Servings
Ingredients
Chocolate-Dipped Meringue Cookies
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 200 F and cover a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place your egg whites and cream of tartar in a very clean bowl; any fat/oil/grease in the bowl will prevent your eggs from peaking.
  3. Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, start to mix on low and inch your way up to medium speed until soft peaks form.
  4. Increase your speed to high and slowly add your granulated sugar. I just hold the small bowl over the mixer while it's running and just sprinkle it in small amounts until gone. Mix until you get stiff peaks.
  5. Now you can either use a spoon to place small teaspoon-sized mounds on your parchment, or you can use a piping bag with tip to make a small "kiss" shape on your parchment. I made these about 3/4 inch in diameter.
  6. Bake for 1 hour at 200 F and turn your pan around; my oven has "hot spots" and this keeps one side from browning before the other. Bake for another 30 minutes and turn the oven off, leaving them inside another 15 minutes. Depending on the size of your meringues, you may need more or less time in the oven. When they feel light, crisp and airy and come off the paper easily, they are done. They will start to shrivel a bit if overcooked, although taste will still be yum πŸ™‚
  7. Dip the bottoms of your cooled meringues into the melted chocolate and then into nonpareils, or alternatively you can drizzle the chocolate over them. They will rock either way!
  8. If you have leftovers (why would you??), then keep them in an airtight container to prevent "chewiness" from absorbing the humidity.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Chowhound's Meringue Mushroom recipe.

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Lebkuchen (German Gingerbread Cookies)

Leb-a-who?? Lebkuchen, i.e. German gingerbread cookies. The baking theme this week (see https://www.reddit.com/r/52weeksofbaking/) was Germany.Β  I’ve always been interested in all thingsΒ Deutschland related. With 2 years of German language in high school and a love affair with marzipan, I am almost German, right??

I also happen to have a brand new sister-in-law from the UK that brought my attention to Lebkuchen. According to all-knowing Wikipedia:

Lebkuchen or Pfefferkuchen, is a traditional German baked Christmas treat, somewhat resembling gingerbread.

These lebkuchen are soft when they first come out, but quickly harden and become more crisp as they cool. Eating the cookies plain was a bit underwhelming to me, but the chocolate on top converted me πŸ™‚ There is a reason most pics of Lebkuchen are smothered in icing and it’s because they are definitely tastier πŸ™‚ Having something on top adds moisture that seeps into the cookies and softens them up nicely.

Enjoy!

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Lebkuchen (German Gingerbread Cookies)
Spiced German gingerbread cookies iced with either powdered sugar or bittersweet chocolate.
Lebkuchen German gingerbread cookies
Course Desserts
Cuisine German
Servings
cookies
Ingredients
Course Desserts
Cuisine German
Servings
cookies
Ingredients
Lebkuchen German gingerbread cookies
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Add the molasses and corn syrup to your melted butter and stir. Set aside.
  3. Mix your flour, brown sugar, spices, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
  4. Add your butter mixture to your dry ingredients and mix well.
  5. Add your eggs one at a time and mix well after each addition.
  6. Using a cookie scoop or tablespoon, drop spoonfuls onto your cookie sheets, leaving about 2 inches between them for spreading.
  7. Bake 15 to 20 minutes. Cool on a rack before icing.
  8. To make your chocolate icing, melt your chocolate and coconut oil together either in the microwave or over a double boiler on low heat.
  9. Add your melted chocolate to a piping bag, snip the tip off, and pipe in a swirl fashion. Start from the inside and work your way out to the edge for half of the cookies.
  10. Decorate with almond slices while chocolate is still wet. You can also take a few almonds and drag them through the excess melted chocolate to set aside for later.
  11. To make your white icing, mix your powdered sugar with a few tablespoons of water to get a flowing icing consistency. Either add a bit more water or a bit more icing to get the thickness you want.
  12. Add your icing to a piping bag, snip the tip off, and pipe in a swirl fashion to the other half of your cookies.
  13. You can either add plain almond slices to the wet icing or use the chocolate dipped almond slices you made earlier for a nice black/white contrast.
Recipe Notes

Recipe inspired by Just Like Oma.

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Peanut Blossom Cookies

Peanut Blossoms need no introduction, right? The match made in Heaven that is chocolate and peanut butter. The horrifying thing is I actually lived a large portion of my life not knowing these existed. My world was forever changed when my cousin made some for Christmas and my eyes were opened πŸ˜‰

Now I have to make up for lost time by baking these babies periodically. I feel like I have it down to a science now, which means I’m either a genius or bake too much. I especially love this recipe here because it uses all butter for those who aren’t a fan of shortening.

Another epiphany (the only word I know that rhymes with Tiffany!) I had about these: bake time is everything. Really just a minute or 2 longer than needed and they’ll get hard and crispy, and my peanut blossoms must be soft!

You will notice in my pic that I used three mini Hershey Kisses instead of one big one. I found those on sale (hence using them instead) but have made them before with regular sized Hershey Kisses, and you know what? The tiny ones are better! You get THREE bites of chocolate in your cookie instead of one, which sounds like a no-brainer to me.

Enjoy!

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Peanut Blossom Cookies
A soft peanut butter cookie topped with miniature Hershey Kisses.
peanut butter blossom cookies
Course Desserts
Servings
cookies
Ingredients
Course Desserts
Servings
cookies
Ingredients
peanut butter blossom cookies
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F and place parchment paper on your cookie sheets.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together your butter, both sugars, and peanut butter.
  3. When smooth, beat in your egg and add the milk and vanilla.
  4. Sift your flour, baking soda, and salt directly over your bowl of batter.
  5. Use your mixer to blend it all together, making a nice soft dough.
  6. Using a cookie scoop or small spoon, shape the dough roughly a little smaller than a golf ball and roll each one in the 1/3 cup white sugar. Place cookies about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.
  7. I bake these for exactly 10 minutes in my oven. You want a nice puffed up and crackly surface that is lightly browned.
  8. Take them out and immediately press 3 mini Hershey Kisses on top; if you wait too long, your kisses won't stick very well in the cookie.
  9. Remove from cookie sheet and set aside to cool on a wire rack. Attempt to avoid eating right away and most likely fail.
Recipe Notes

You could also use regular sized Hershey Kisses or even a few chocolate chips clustered together on top if that is what you have available.

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Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

Are you a cheesecake fan? I think it’s probably one of my top 5 desserts to make and eat. I love the endless flavor combinations and the cold creamy center.Β  Speaking of cold, creamy center…do yourself a favor and resist the urge to try your cheesecake warm out of the oven because you have no self-control. It was kinda gross.

Now onto the recipe! Bars are fabulous if you don’t feel like dealing with your springform pan and want ease of serving. Just cut into huge reasonably sized squares and slap some whipped cream on top. Honestly, is there a recipe that whipped cream doesn’t improve upon?Β  These bars (SPOILER ALERT) have pumpkin in them, which is awesome, and contrary to my children’s claim, pumpkin is NOT just for Thanksgiving and is, in fact, something to be enjoyed from October to December 31 πŸ™‚

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Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
Creamy pumpkin cheesecake bars with a graham cracker crust.
pumpkin cheesecake bars
Course Desserts
Servings
bars
Ingredients
Graham Cracker Crust
Cheesecake Filling
Course Desserts
Servings
bars
Ingredients
Graham Cracker Crust
Cheesecake Filling
pumpkin cheesecake bars
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 300 F.
  2. Grease a 13 x 9 pan well, including up the sides.
  3. In a bowl, mix your melted butter and graham cracker crumbs.
  4. Press mixture into bottom of 13 x 9 pan and set aside.
  5. In a large mixing bowl, beat your cream cheese and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the lemon juice.
  6. Beat your eggs in one at a time on low speed. When one egg is incorporated, add another and so on. Don't go nuts here with mixing. Beating at a low speed keeps too much air from getting into your batter and causing cracks.
  7. Pour half your mixture onto your crust. If you want more exact and even layers, use a scale to weigh your batter first and halve that amount for your first layer.
  8. Add your spices and canned pumpkin to the other half of your batter. This will look like a light orange/brown color, but will darken after baking and cooling.
  9. Stir until smooth and carefully pour on top of your first cheesecake layer.
  10. Bake about 45 minutes; you want a bit of wobble still in the middle, but just set on top.
  11. Turn off the oven, open the door, but leave your cheesecake in there. Let it sit in place for about 15 minutes.
  12. Take out of oven and cool on wire rack. When completely cool, cover and put in fridge for 3 hours before digging in.
  13. When ready to serve, slice with a sharp knife wiped off between cuts to get a nice look. Garnish with whipped cream.
Recipe Notes

Recipe adapted from A Treats Affair.

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Spiced Gingerbread and Chocolate Bundt Cake

Chocolate + gingerbread = deliciousness. This recipe screams HOLIDAY to me!

Are you a gingerbread fan? There seems to be a love/hate relationship with gingery things out there. I can say I’m now a bigger fan of the combo of chocolate and gingerbread than just plain gingerbread. Speaking of gingerbread, I love to browse cookbooks for the food photography recipes and I came across a fabulous one –Β American Cake: From Colonial Gingerbread to Classic Layer.Β  Apparently gingerbread has been around a long time, like 13th century long time.

(Also – am I the only one who won’t bother with a cookbook unless it has BEAUTIFUL pictures? I have literally flipped through a book, saw it had little/no pictures, and placed it back on the shelf. Who sells a cookbook filled with only WORDS?? Ok, rant over πŸ™‚

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