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

Easter Bunny Cakes

Each Easter we make a bunny cake. It’s a tradition that started when I was a child. Sure, there were many years a bunny cake didn’t get made, such as when I was single, but once I had kids the tradition got started up again.

My favorite cake recipe to use when making our Easter bunny cake is this orange cake and we frost it with vanilla frosting. All the kids (yes, even my older kids!) have fun decorating the bunny with sprinkles and candies.

Here are some of the bunny cakes from the past few years:

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Here are the photos to show how easy it is to make this bunny out of two round cakes.

Leave one of the round cakes as is, and cut the other as shown in this photo.

Leave one of the round cakes as is, and cut the other as shown in this photo.

Place the cake pieces as shown (you'll need a large platter or cookie sheet).

Place the cake pieces as shown (you’ll need a large platter or cookie sheet).

If you make one of these adorable bunny cakes, send me a picture … I’d love to see your bunny creation!

bunny cake — 2013

bunny cake 2013

Each Easter we make a bunny cake that the kids decorate.

Sometimes I use golden yellow cake, other times orange cake. This year I made the orange cake and my daughter made white frosting using the basic ingredients of softened butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk. She’s been baking long enough to know how to make this frosting without a recipe.

Here’s our bunny cake from this year, 2013. You can see some others we’ve made in past years in the original bunny cake post, here.

2013 bunny cake (step 1)

2013 bunny cake (step 2)

bunny cake (step 3)

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

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)

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

picnic cake

When I was young, our family would frequently have picnics and cookouts with a distantly related family. I’m not sure how often we all got together at their house, but in my unreliable memory I think it was most often on Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day.

I’m not sure what food was served — I do remember potato salad, and I’m guessing hamburgers and hotdogs were the main dish — but I clearly remember the cake made by the host mom. I call it picnic cake. Maybe because she once referred to it as that, or maybe because I didn’t know the name of it and associated it with picnics, since it was at every picnic at her house.

A few summers back I made this cake when our family got together for a rare picnic with some of my other siblings. And here’s the funny thing: None of them remembered picnic cake from our youth. Weird. It sure did make a huge impression on me.


Picnic Cake

Make golden yellow cake in either a 9×13 pan, or two round or square pans.

Immediately after the cakes are done baking, remove from oven and place a single layer of marshmallows on top of the cake.

Return to oven for about 3 minutes, until the marshmallows are slightly toasted.

Allow to cool.

Remove from pan and frost with chocolate frosting.


*Note: Any marshmallows will do, but I have found that when using regular marshmallows, the marshmallow layer is too thick, so I started cutting each one in half, putting the sticky side down onto the cake. That works if you don’t want too much marshmallow, and you have the patience for cutting them. I don’t suggest using the mini marshmallows. They are just too little and don’t work well for this recipe.

I have found the best solution…. Last week I was purchasing marshmallows and found these at the store:

They are perfect for picnic cake!!!!! Just the right amount of marshmallow, and no cutting necessary.