birthday cake

triple chocolate squares with mint

My oldest turns 21 in just days. And he’s away at college on his birthday, so I’m sending him treats to enjoy while studying. When he returns home for the Thanksgiving break, I’ll make him his favorite birthday cake, brownie ice cream cake.

I wanted to give him a full week of goodies to eat, so earlier this week I sent double chocolate cookies, and today a package of banana muffins (his favorite), and triple chocolate cake squares. For the triple chocolate cake squares, instead of using semi-sweet chocolate chips, I used a bag of Nestle dark chocolate and mint morsels for the topping. So good!!!!! Since he’s a fan of chocolate and mint, he’s sure to love these!

ice cream cake

ice cream cake 4

In my recipe binder I have a recipe for Easy Ice Cream Cake from a 2007 Kraft recipe magazine. My daughter and youngest son made this for our July 4th celebration last week. We were unable to include the crushed cookies the recipe called for, due to an allergy issue, but plan to make homemade chocolate cookies to use next time we make this ice cream cake.

This cake is so easy to put together and because it’s made out of ice cream sandwiches, it’s great for a large gathering, especially if kids will be present. Summer cookout or birthday party or neighborhood get together…. This Ice Cream Cake is perfect!

*Edited to include the info needed if you do add the cookies! I had mentioned them above, but forgot to list them in the recipe when I first posted it. Oops! All correct now.

*Update: We’ve made this again — this time with the chopped sandwich cookies mixed in with the fudge topping, Cool Whip and pudding mix. OHMYGOSH! So ridiculously and sinfully good! 


Ice Cream Cake

1/2 cup ice cream fudge topping, warmed

1 8-ounce tub of Cool Whip whipped topping, slightly thawed, divided

1 4-ounce package instant chocolate pudding mix

8 chocolate sandwich cookies, chopped

12 ice cream sandwiches


In a bowl combine the fudge topping with 1 cup of the whipped topping.

Stir in the dry pudding mix until well blended.

Stir in the chopped cookies.

Use parchment paper (or foil) to line a loaf pan — leaving a large amount on each side for easy removal of the ice cream cake later on. (Make sure there’s enough parchment paper to go up the side and across the top.)

In the lined loaf pan, place four of the ice cream sandwiches across the bottom.

Spread half of the pudding mixture on the ice cream sandwiches.

Repeat with another layer of ice cream sandwiches, then the remaining pudding mixture.

Finish up with the last four ice cream sandwiches.

Frost the top with the remaining whipped topping. *Note: If you assemble this before putting it into the loaf pan, you could frost the sides as well at this point.

Fold over the parchment. Tuck in any extra parchment into the sides to help seal it.

Freeze at least 4 hours.

When ready to serve, allow to stand at room temperature for 10-15 minutes or so, to make cutting easier.

ice cream cake 1

ice cream cake 2

Use a sharp knife to cut about 1/2 inch slices.

ice cream cake 4

We prefer to cut the long side and then each of those large slices into three servings.

ice cream cake 5

ice cream cake 6

The hardest part of this recipe: Deciding if you should eat it with a spoon or a fork.

ice cream cake 7

Store remaining ice cream cake back in the loaf pan in the freezer.

chocolate cake with raspberries

chocolate cake with raspberries

Today is my husband’s birthday. Rather than go out to eat, he requested dinner at home, specifically barbecue bake followed by a chocolate raspberry cake for dessert.  The first time I made this cake for him was back when we were newly married. It was a huge hit back then (my friends were always excited when his birthday came around, because they would come over to help us eat the leftovers) and is still one of our favorites all these years later.


The recipe I used today was my most recent favorite chocolate cake recipe, and I made it in two 9-inch round pans. Once they were baked and cooled, on one I poked holes into the cake using a fork, then placed a layer of frozen raspberries on top of it (the holes are so that the juice from the raspberries can seep into the cake and give it wonderful raspberry flavor).  After the cake and the berries sat for a little while, allowing the berries to get to room temperature, I covered the raspberries with a nice thick layer of rich chocolate fudge frosting and placed a few fresh raspberries on top. On the second cake I put only the frosting — no raspberries or fruit of any kind — since my youngest child is a chocolate purist.

In my husband’s opinion, nothing says “I love you” and “Happy birthday” like a home cooked meal and a rich chocolate dessert. Today he is a year older, and a very happy man.

raspberry cake -- poke holes

raspberry cake -- frozen raspberries on top

raspberry cake -- cover with frosting

chocolate cakes

raspberry cake -- slice of cake

chocolate raspberry cake -- take a bite

vanilla bean cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

vanilla bean cupcake 1

Last Thursday during lunch time I received this text from my teenage daughter (FYI: At our local high school the students are allowed to use their cellphones during lunch period):

do we have vanilla beans?

My response:


Then this text from her, two minutes later:

I want to make vanilla bean cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

My response to that:



My daughter has never made vanilla bean cupcakes. Nor have I. We don’t even have a recipe for vanilla bean cupcakes. I’m not exactly sure how the idea for these cupcakes popped into her head last Thursday, but I’m very glad it did.

So, after school that day she stopped at the grocery to pick up vanilla beans, butter, and cream cheese. At home she searched for recipes online and after reviewing a few picked this one (minor changes were made, as noted below). Later that evening she made the vanilla bean cupcakes and the next day after school she and her friend made the cream cheese frosting and frosted the cupcakes. Then we ate them (well, not all of them, but enough). It was a good day.

The cupcakes were light and delicious and yummy. Now I’m looking forward to her next food related text.


Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

(The original recipe states this makes 16 cupcakes, by filling the cups just over half full. Instead we filled them just under half full and made 24 cupcakes.)

1 cup sugar

1 vanilla bean

1 3/4 cups flour, sifted (original recipe called for cake flour, which we did not have)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 eggs

1/3 cup sour cream

1/4 cup canola oil

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

2/3 cup whole milk


Heat oven to 350F.

In a small bowl, combine the sugar and seeds from the vanilla bean, using the back of a spoon to break up the clumps and to infuse the flavor into the sugar.

Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in the mixer.

To this add the vanilla bean/sugar mixture. Mix all until well combined.

Add butter. Mix on low speed for three minutes.

In a small bowl whisk until smooth the eggs, sour cream, oil and vanilla extract.

Add the egg mixture to the flour/butter mixture. Beat on medium speed until combined.

While on low speed, slowly add the milk.

The batter will be thin.

Using paper liners (or silicone liners, if you prefer) in muffin tins, fill each one about 1/2 full (as noted above, you may get anywhere from 16 to 24 cupcakes, depending on how much batter goes into each one).

Bake for 14 minutes. Use a cake tester or wooden toothpick to test if they are done. They won’t be golden brown, so do no go by sight to test if they are done … trust the toothpick! Continue to cook for one minute more, if need be, and then test again. Repeat a time or two if the toothpick comes out wet.

When the toothpick is clean, remove muffin tins from oven and transfer each cupcake to a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.


Cream Cheese Frosting

1/2 stick butter (1/4 cup), at room temperature

8 ounces Philadelphia cream cheese, at room temperature

approximately 1 tablespoon vanilla extract (*Note: My daughter states “I don’t measure vanilla extract” and is surprised others do.)

3 to 4 cups powdered sugar


Beat butter and cream cheese in mixer on medium/high speed until well blended.

Add vanilla and continue to mix for a couple minutes.

Gradually add powdered sugar until desired consistency.

*This recipe was found on the Kraft Brands site, a link to it is here, though they use less vanilla extract in their recipe (and I assume they measure it as well) and is similar to the recipe I’ve posted previously, found here.

vanilla bean cupcake 4


brownie ice cream cake

For years now my oldest son has requested an ice cream brownie cake (or brownie “pie”) as his birthday cake. The first year I made one it was a disaster in terms of appearance, but tasted oh so good. Over the years I’ve mastered the technique in making it look as good as it tastes. He turned 20 this month, so when he returned from college for the Thanksgiving holiday, I had this waiting for him. Food is love.


Brownie Ice Cream Cake

Step #1:

Use your favorite brownie recipe, or prepare a boxed brownie mix, according to package directions. Instead of using the batter in a 9×13-inch pan, put 2/3 of the batter into a deep baking pan (I used a disposable foil pan), and the remaining 1/3 into a similar sized square pan. Bake for about 2/3 of the time listed on the package (since they are thinner they will take less time to bake).

Note: For the one baked in the square pan, I used a baking liner which makes transferring it to the top much easier. But we’ll get to that later on.

IMPORTANT: Make sure the pan for the base is deep enough to hold all the ice cream that will go in later on! This one is about 2 1/2 inches deep.

Step #2:

When they are done baking and have been removed from the oven, allow to cool for a little while.

Do not remove the brownie from the deep pan, but do remove the thinner one from the square pan (when it’s cool enough to handle, of course!).

Allow to cool completely before starting the next step.

Now is a good time to take your favorite flavor of ice cream out of the freezer, so that it can get soft (but not melted).

Step #3:

On top of the brownie base in the deep pan, drizzle a decent amount of chocolate syrup (optional), then scoop the softened ice cream onto that.

My youngest child can’t have mint chocolate chip ice cream, which is the flavor the birthday boy requested, so a portion of the cake was made to be solid chocolate (I used a permanent marker to mark on the outside of the foil pan which section had the chocolate ice cream … makes cutting into it much less of a guessing game!)

Step #4:

Drizzle more chocolate syrup on top of the ice cream. Again, this step is optional. If you have a young child helping you, as I did, they may not agree with you that it is optional. You have been warned.

Step #5:

Carefully flip over the thinner layer of brownie, placing it on top of the ice cream, and remove the baking liner. (See how easy that was!)

Gently push the top brownie to compress the ice cream just a bit. Not too much… just enough to get out any excess air.

Step #5:

Drizzle more chocolate syrup over the top layer of brownie. You think I’m going to tell you this is optional, right? Well, no! You must drizzle the chocolate on top. You must! Not optional.

Cover and freeze.

Step #6:

When ready to serve, remove from freezer about 5 or 10 minutes before you want to cut it.

Note: Once you cut it in the foil pan, you may end up cutting through the foil. Or maybe that’s just me. Anyhoo, after cutting pieces for everyone I transferred the remaining cake to a freezer safe container, and back in the freezer it went. Until the next morning. Yes, when you’re 20 and home from college for a few precious days, you may have brownie ice cream cake for breakfast.

chocolate cake

Even though I’ve used the same chocolate cake recipe dozens of times, we didn’t have luck the last time we made it into cupcakes (see my daughter’s post), though that was most likely due to the baking powder/baking soda switch.

Because I’ve usually had great success with other Hershey’s chocolate recipes, today I searched their site for a chocolate cake recipe that included only ingredients I had on hand (my weekly trip to the grocery store is not until tomorrow, and I was not going to make a special trip just for one recipe). Found one they call Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake. I made just one small change to it, by substituting 1/3 cup milk for 1/3 cup water (the cup of water stayed the same). Why? Not really sure … it just seemed like a good idea at the time.

The batter was fluffy and looked delicious, though when the two round cakes came out of the oven, they weren’t as high as I expected. Also, the recipe called for a baking time of 30 to 35 minutes, but it took a bit over 35 minutes until the toothpick I inserted at each test came out clean.

I frosted it with chocolate frosting. After dinner we cut into the cake. I asked everyone at the table to tell me what they thought. Here are the responses:


“MMMMMMMM…. so moist.”

“Yum! It’s so moist!”

I think we’ve found our new favorite chocolate cake recipe! And just so you know, it’s very moist.


Chocolate Cake

3/4 cup butter, softened

1 2/3 cups sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 eggs

2/3 cup cocoa

2 cups flour

1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup water + 1/3 cup milk (or use 1 1/3 cups water)


Heat oven to 350F.

Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans, or use silicone baking liners (my preference).

Mix together the softened butter, sugar, vanilla and eggs.

In a bowl combine the dry ingredients.

Add to the butter/sugar/egg mixture the dry ingredients with the water and milk — a little of each at a time — until all mixed together well.

Distribute evenly between the two cake pans.

ready for the oven

Bake for 30-40 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool in pans for 10 minutes.

Remove from pans and cool cakes completely on wire racks.

Frost and serve.

golden yellow cake

My grandmother was a great cook — the absolute best! Seriously…. Just ask anyone who ever ate her food. Amazing.

The bad news is that she didn’t have many recipes written down that I know of. One that I have from her is this golden yellow cake. Now, I believe it’s her recipe — I’m 98% sure — but it may be from my 7th grade home economics class. All I remember for sure is that this recipe was added to the recipes made in that class, in my mini 3-ring cookbook binder that I used to store them all. Some recipes we were asked to bring from home, to use in the class, and I’m sure that’s why this one is included. I remember going to Gram with requests for a few of my favorites.

So I guess there is a 2% chance my memory is completely goofed up and Gram never made this. I’ll check with my mom soon — she’s got a better memory for the history of recipes than I do!


Golden Yellow Cake

1 stick butter, softened but NOT MELTED

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 eggs

1 cup milk (I use whole milk)

2 1/2 cups flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 375F (350F if using glass or dark metal pans).

*Note: This is where I differ from Gram’s instructions for this recipe. On her version the directions are simply to “beat all ingredients for 4 minutes”, but over the years I’ve done it a bit differently, as noted below.

Cream together butter and sugar. On low speed add vanilla and eggs. Slowly add milk alternatively with combined flour, baking powder and salt. Once all combined, beat on medium speed for 4 minutes. Scrape sides a few times.

Grease and flour a 9×13 or two 8×8 or 9×9 pans, or use parchment paper to line your pan(s).

If using a 9×13 pan, bake for 25-30 minutes.

If using two 8×8 or 9×9 pans, bake for 14-18 minutes. (*Note: I’ve made this cake again in 9-inch round pans, and the oven temp was at 350F due to something else in the oven at the same time. The cooking time for the cakes at that temp was 18-22 minutes.)

*Edited to add that on May 16th I made these into cupcakes, and baked them for 18-20 minutes. I frosted them with chocolate fudge frosting and they were delicious!

A toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean when the cake is done. And it will be golden yellow on the top… hence the name of the recipe!