dessert party


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My daughter graduated from high school in June. (YAHOO! YIPPEE! WAHOO!) On that Sunday we had a dessert party to celebrate her graduation. She and I love to bake, so instead of typical luncheon foods and/or party snacks, it made sense to serve only desserts. A graduation open house dessert party!


In order to not have too much to do the day of the party, we started a few days prior. Here is the rundown of what we did:

Two days prior to the party my daughter baked the cupcakes, both cinnamon chocolate and vanilla bean. We kept them in the basement fridge until Sunday morning, when she made the corresponding frostings, and she then frosted all the cupcakes about one hour prior to the party.



With some of the cream cheese frosting, my daughter piped it onto the edge of oreos, then rolled them into color sugar. She did this right after frosting the cupcakes. It took longer than expected, and required a steady hand, but they were worth it! Cute and delicious!

foodwithpictures frosted oreo cookies


Three days prior to the party I made the cookie dough for the chocolate kiss cookies, rolled each teaspoon of dough into blue sugar (her school color), then put the balls into silicone ice cube trays so that they wouldn’t form one large ball by sticking together, then those trays were put into a large plastic zipper baggie. This was stored in the freezer until the morning of the party. On party day it sat out for about an hour, then the cookies were placed on parchment lined cookie sheets into the preheated oven. Cooking time was about 1-2 minutes longer than usual. These were baked about two hours before the start of the party.


foodwithpictures chocolate kiss cookies



foodwithpictures kiss cookies with blue sugar



The other cookies made ahead of time were the m&m cookies. I used the dough from our favorite chocolate chip cookies, but used a large bag of m&m’s instead of chocolate chips. Each teaspoon of dough was rolled into a ball, then placed into a mini-muffin paper liner, and then stored in the freezer in a covered 9×13 pan. The cookies also had an additional minute or two added to the baking time, but one batch came out a little too brown, so in the future, if baking from frozen dough, I would only add 1 minute to the baking time, not 2 minutes.

foodwithpictures m&m cookies




The night before the party I melted semi-sweet chocolate and in a separate container I melted milk chocolate.  I dipped some pretzel rods into each of these (not both chocolates on the same rod), then placed them on wax paper. Once on the wax paper, I quickly sprinkled a bit of sea salt on them. These were stored in airtight containers until just before the party was to start.


foodwithpictures pretzel rods dipped in chocolate


When I had the melted milk chocolate, I pierced marshmallows with decorative toothpicks (either one regular size marshmallow or 3 minis on each stick), dipped them in the melted chocolate, then rolled them in crushed graham crackers to create Smores-on-a-Stick. (These were very cute … but in my opinion almost too sweet!)

foodwithpictures smores on a stick



foodwithpictures smores on a stick



Shortly before the party started I washed strawberries, then cut a store-made pound cake into one-inch cubes. These were put onto wooden skewers, placed on a serving tray, then drizzled with chocolate sauce.

foodwithpictures pound cake and strawberries

foodwithpictures strawberries and pound cake


For my party guests who are gluten-free we purchased gluten-free pretzels and dipped half of the pretzels into melted semi-sweet chocolate chips, and the other half were dipped into melted milk chocolate. We also dipped marshmallows into the melted chocolate, such as for the Smores-on-a-Stick, but without the graham crackers. Also, strawberries and grapes were put on wooden skewers and served on another tray. And we made hot air popcorn, added butter and salt, and put that into individual paper cups.

foodwithpictures gluten free

foodwithpictures popcorn




In addition to the desserts, we had individual milk boxes (chocolate milk and white milk), juice boxes, water, iced tea, and lemonade. I meant to make a pot of coffee, but completely forgot! I also had some wine, sangria, and beer, for those that wished to drink that kind of beverage.


Can’t forget the decorations! I wanted the kitchen to look festive, colorful, and whimsical, but didn’t want to spend a lot of cash making it so. I purchased two rolls of crepe paper, and two packages of inexpensive paper lanterns.

foodwithpictures decorations 2

foodwithpictures decorations 1


For the paper products, I have been keeping a keen eye on the clearance section of Target for the past year and as I found bargains I purchased a few packages of plates and colorful napkins. I was also lucky to acquire some plates, paper straws, and bowls from a friend who had extras after purchasing too many for a large school party she planned. The dollar store was my final stop for the plates that said “Congrats 2014 Grad”.  Total cost for all the paper products was less than $10.


The party was fun. And sweet! The vanilla bean cupcakes were the first to go, and the m&m cookies and the cups of popcorn were also scooped up quickly.

Prior to the party I had plans to make whoopie pies, and made the cake part two days ahead, but I made the mistake of using a new recipe and they didn’t turn out as expected. They were very tasty, but LARGE. More like cupcakes rather than easy to hold and eat whoopie pies. After the party I sliced each one in half, then put in the filling, and my kids enjoyed them very much.  Here is a pic of those.

foodwithpictures whoopie pies 1


foodwithpictures plate

mini cheesecakes with chocolate cookie base

cheesecake with cookie base

Last month, when it was time to make cookies to leave out for Santa on Christmas Eve, my insistent soon-to-be 8 year old decided we needed a chocolate cookie instead of the butter cookies we had made the day before. I searched my recipes, but nothing jumped out at me as the perfect chocolate cookie for Santa, so I did the logical next step by going to Mel’s Kitchen Cafe. There I found her White Chipper Chocolate Cookies. Perfect! We made a batch on Christmas Eve and we all loved them, as I’m sure Santa did as well, based on the empty plate we found the next morning.

One thing about this recipe: It makes a lot of cookies. At least 4 dozen. Which got us wondering what we could do in addition to regular cookies because even though we’re cookie lovers, even the most delicious cookie can seem boring when you have over 4 dozen of them to eat. My soon-to-be college freshman daughter immediately thinks of cheesecake when we’re brainstorming things to bake. I remembered the other mini cheesecakes she made, the ones with an Oreo as the base. I thought, why not use one of these delicious white chipper chocolate cookies as the base? We were drooling just imagining how yummy it would taste!

So that’s what we did last week. We made the cookies as per Mel’s recipe, and made two dozen as regular cookies.

white chipper chocolate cookies (2)

The remaining cookie dough was put into muffin tins lined with paper liners. We put in one rounded tablespoon of dough into each paper liner. These in the muffin tins we took out of the oven on the lower end of the baking time — just before the 9 minutes were up. (We used 2 pans, for a total of 24 mini cheesecakes.)

cookies in muffin tins

After they were baked and cooled, my daughter made the cheese cake using the basic Philadelphia cream cheese recipe, but halved the ingredients, which ends up being:

  • 2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs

Once those ingredients were blended together, she put a large scoop of this cream cheese mixture onto each of the cookies in the paper liners in the muffin tins, filling them about 1/2 – 2/3 full.

cookie base with cheesecake

These little goodies were baked at 325F for 20 minutes. Once cooled, they needed to be refrigerated for a couple hours before serving.

cheesecake with cookie base (2)

Good news: They were as delicious as I expected they would be! And I think next Christmas Eve we may surprise Santa with one of these mini cheesecakes instead of just cookies. We’ll be the favorite house on his route!

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


cream cheese frosting

cream cheese frosting (4)

Last month we celebrated my oldest son’s birthday, and his cake request was brownie ice cream cake. Today we’re celebrating my daughter’s birthday, and she requested chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting. (*Note: I “cheated” this time and used a box chocolate cake mix. This is very unlike me, but I was short on time.) Next month will be my youngest son’s cake of choice (I’m guessing he’ll pick something chocolate). And I wonder why I have such a hard time losing weight during the winter months.

Now, I have many recipes for frosting, but I do not have a cream cheese frosting recipe. Until now. I did a bit of online searching and found a couple recipes. Many called for 8 ounces of cream cheese. Others for twice that. Since I had only 8 ounces of cream cheese in the refrigerator, I decided that would be the recipe to try. But the amounts of powdered sugar varied in each of the recipes. Taking what I know about frosting, and knowing what my daughter desired (fluffy frosting), the recipe below is what I ended up with. It’s based on a dozen recipes online, but not exactly like any one of them that I found.


Cream Cheese Frosting

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

8 ounces Philadelphia cream cheese, room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 – 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar


In mixer, beat together the butter and cream cheese until smooth and creamy, at least 2 minutes.

cream cheese frosting (1)

Add the vanilla and beat well.

cream cheese frosting (2)

Slowly add the powdered sugar, starting with 3 cups, continuing to beat until light and fluffy.

Stir occasionally.

Taste and check the consistency. If too thin or not sweet enough for your taste, add the extra 1/2 cup powdered sugar.

Mix on high for at 1 – 2 minutes.

cream cheese frosting (3)

Frosts one double round cake, one 9×13 layer cake, or 24 cupcakes.

cream cheese frosting (6)

cream cheese frosting (7)

breakfast muffins

The last post was from a link my daughter found. Remember? I mentioned how she emailed me with the subject line “YUM” and three links to recipes. This is the second link on the list. It’s a muffin recipe (here’s the link to where she found it), and we have no idea why the original has the word “French” in the title. Nor do we understand why they are called “breakfast” muffins. First of all, isn’t it common to serve different kinds of muffins at breakfast? And isn’t it also true that you can eat muffins at any time of the day? Yes, and yes. So maybe they are breakfast muffins because they taste very good with a cup of coffee served at breakfast. And maybe they originally were considered French because the person who first made them was from France? We may never know.

My daughter has made these twice. The second time she doubled the recipe, which is the one below, because doing all that work for 8 or 10 muffins seemed silly. I’ve also made a few changes/alterations to have it read better (I’m a stickler for listing ingredients in the order they are used in each recipe).

We really like these muffins. This recipe is a winner! Awesome addition to my morning coffee (or afternoon coffee … or evening coffee).


Breakfast Muffins

Muffin ingredients:

1 cup sugar

3 cups all purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 cup milk

2/3 cup butter, melted

2 eggs

Topping ingredients:

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup butter, melted

Heat oven to 350F.

In a mixer bowl, sift together all dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients and mix slowly until combined (may be a bit lumpy). Don’t over mix.

Line muffin tins with paper liners (makes about 20 muffins).

Distribute batter into the lined cups.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until they just start to turn a bit golden at the edges.

For the topping, stir together the cinnamon and the sugar in a small bowl.

Dip the warm muffins in the melted butter (we dipped just the top … we considered attempting to dip the whole muffin, but it was a bit too messy), then dip/roll the buttered section of the muffin in the cinnamon sugar mixture.

Make a pot of coffee and enjoy. 🙂

cookies and cream mini cheesecakes

Technology is a great thing. Very helpful. Extremely convenient. My teens have cell phones and we find it’s easier to text each other rather than yell up or down the stairs to get someone’s attention. We also email often when there is important information we need to tell each other, usually including a link or other pertinent details, such as SAT test dates at school or deadlines for things, etc. (This is especially helpful for me since my old brain forgets most everything five minutes after I hear it.)

Over the weekend I got an email from my daughter. She was up in her bedroom, I was down on the main level. The subject line was “YUM” and along with the links to three recipes was the following text:

I’m definitely making one…or all of these tomorrow. I’m feeling a baking spree coming on.

This is a perfect example of using email for important things! The next day we went shopping for the necessary ingredients, then went home and she started baking.

Of the three recipes she chose to make cookies and cream mini cheesecakes first. I’m very glad she did because I was having a not so great day — the kind of day where cheesecake makes all my problems go away (okay, temporarily, but still…).

Isn’t technology great!


Note: The recipe came from Handle the Heat. In her post it states she got the recipe from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes cookbook.


Cookies and Cream Mini Cheesecakes

42 cream-filled sandwich cookies, such as Oreos (store-brand works great), 30 left whole, and 12 coarsely chopped (*Note: We chopped them by putting the cookies into a large plastic zipper bag, removing as much air as possible, sealing it, then crushing the cookies using a potato masher.)

4 8-ounce packages cream cheese at room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 large eggs at room temperature, lightly beaten

1 cup sour cream

Pinch of salt


Heat oven to 275F. *Note: I thought this sounded too low, but after doing a bit of research, I confirmed it is listed correctly. I also found that the recommended temperature for baking cheesecake is 300-325F, therefore 275F is close enough to not be a problem.

Line muffin tins with paper liners and place 1 whole cookie in the bottom of each. *Note: The recipe says it makes 30, yet we had extra of the cream cheese mixture and ended up making 36, therefore don’t eat all the extra cookies until you know for sure how many you’ll need!

In an electric mixer beat cream cheese until smooth, occasionally scraping down the sides of bowl.

Gradually add sugar. Mix until combined.

Add vanilla and mix well.

Slowly add the beaten eggs, mixing well to combine into the cream cheese mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Mix in the sour cream and the salt.

Add the chopped cookies and mix by hand or on low speed.


Divide batter evenly among cookie-lined muffin tins, filling each almost to the top.

Bake about 22 to 25 minutes, until filling is set. It will help to rotate the muffin tins halfway through.

Allow the muffin tins to cool completely on wire racks, then refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving. *Note: The waiting is the hardest part of this recipe.

a list of chocolate frosting & chocolate chip cookie recipes

As with all blogs, some readers arrive here due to online searches. Quite often the search terms that lead readers to this blog are for chocolate chip cookies and chocolate frosting. (It’s good to know there are so many others out there who enjoy chocolate as much as I do!)

To make it easier to find all the different recipes for these searched items, I’m listing them here with links to each one. Hope this helps … and welcome new readers!



Chocolate Fudge Frosting

Chocolate Frosting #2

Chocolate Frosting


And if you’re looking for frosting that isn’t chocolate:

Vanilla/White Frosting

Orange Frosting

Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting



Double Chocolate Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies #3

Jumbo Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Oat Cookies