Congo Bars

Umm yes, that is me in the purple sweater and yes, that is Bakerella!  I know, I can hardly believe it myself... I got to sit next to her!  Oh my gosh.  She even signed my Cake Pops book!  Oh my gosh.  

Turns out, she not only rocks at making amazing sweet treats - she's even a sweet gal in person.  

So this week I decided, in honor of finally meeting Bakerella in person, I would indulge in one of her very own recipes.  Congo Bars to be exact.  It's kind of like combining a brownie with a cookie and then taking the level of amazing x10

Here's my rendition of Bakerella's Congo Bars...

Congo Bars
2 3/4 c. flour
2 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt 
4 T. cocoa powder 
2/3 c. butter (softened) 
1 lb. light brown sugar
3 eggs
1 t. vanilla
11.5 oz. package chocolate chips (I used dark chocolate chunks)
Powdered sugar for garnishing

1.) Prepare a 13x9 inch pan and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  
2.) Mix flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder in a large bowl. Set aside.
2.) In a separate bowl, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
3.) Add room-temperature eggs, one at a time to sugar mixture.  
4.) Add vanilla and continue to blend on low.
5.) On low, add flour and mix only until combined.
6.) Stir in chocolate chips.  Spread batter into pan.  
7.) Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30-35 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.  
8.) Sprinkle with powdered sugar.  

Happy Baking!

Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes

It's finally fall which means it's time to put pumpkin in everything anything you bake!  I have always loved pumpkin bread, pumpkin bars and of course pumpkin pie, so I thought why not make pumpkin cupcakes?!  I first made and ate most of these cupcakes (not all by myself, but almost) without any form of frosting... I ate a lot of naked pumpkin cupcakes.  I did this mostly because I couldn't figure out what kind of frosting I wanted to put on them, but also because these cupcakes are so moist and full of flavor on their own that they really didn't need a topping.  However I decided, when I have the opportunity to make buttercream, I just can't pass that up!  

Note: I have wanted to try these cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, I think that would go really well with their sweet, pumpkin base.  Otherwise just a dollop of whipped cream would go well with these just like whipped cream is good on top of an actual pumpkin pie.  If anyone tries something other than buttercream, please let me know how you like it!

The first time I made these cupcakes, I used canned pumpkin, which by the way is so easy!  To be honest, I've never used canned pumpkin before these cupcakes!  I've always used either a fresh pumpkin or pumpkin that I had frozen myself.  But canned pumpkin was certainly a nice break from my normal pumpkin baking experiences - not that I'm saying we should all starting using canned pumpkin for the rest of forever. A freshly prepared pumpkin is still the best in terms of flavor and making your house smell good (something that's very important to me).  Plus, why not buy a local pumpkin now that they're popping out of every farmer's ears?

The most recent time I made these, I used fresh pumpkin.  I wanted to try something new though, so steamed the pumpkin on the stove top as opposed to baking it in the oven.  Steaming was a much faster process, I recommend it (if you want to give this a go, my directions for steaming a pumpkin are at the bottom of this post).  Keep in mind however, you're probably losing more of the pumpkin's nutritional value with steaming than you would with baking.  

OH and by they way... I finally have a new mixer!  It's so pretty.  I touch it every time I walk through the kitchen just to make sure it's actually there.  Thank you to my parents for the wonderful birthday gift!

And this was my birthday gift to myself... yay!

These were my thank-you gifts to my new co-workers...

And these, were for anyone who came to visit me while they were in my kitchen.  Since the recipe has both crystallized and ground ginger in it, I thought it would be fitting to sprinkle some crystallized ginger on top of the buttercream.  This was good and looks really nice, but only if you really like ginger.  

Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes 

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 (3.4 oz.) package instant butterscotch pudding mix
  • 2 t. baking soda
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1 t. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 t. ground ginger
  • 1/2 t. ground allspice
  • 1/4 t. ground cloves
  • 1/3 c. finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1 c. butter at room temperature
  • 1 c. packed brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 2 c. pumpkin puree

  1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare 24 paper cupcake liners. Whisk together the flour, pudding mix, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ground ginger, allspice, cloves, and crystallized ginger in a bowl; set aside.
  2. Beat the butter, white sugar, and brown sugar with an electric mixer in a large bowl until light and fluffy. The mixture should be noticeably lighter in color. Add the room-temperature eggs one at a time, allowing each egg to blend into the butter mixture before adding the next. Beat in the vanilla and pumpkin puree with the last egg. Stir in the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin cups.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven until golden and the tops spring back when lightly pressed, about 20 minutes. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.

Steamed Pumpkin

What you'll need: 
Large pot with 1-2 inches of water in the bottom
Metal Steaming collander
1 small pie pumpkin
  1. Carefully cut one pumpkin in half next to stem.  If the stem is going to make the pumpkin too large to fit in the covered pot, cut off the stem.  
  2. Place steaming colander in the bottom of a large pot filled with 1-2 inches of water.  
  3. Place both halves, cut side up, in pot with 1-2 inches of water in the bottom. 
  4. Steam for 15-20 minutes or until fork will easily insert through the pumpkin's meat to the shell.  .  
  5. Remove pumpkin from steam bath and set aside for 10 minutes to cool.  Then scrape pumpkin from shell into a medium-sized bowl.  
  6. Beat on high until pumpkin is smooth and even in consistency.  
  7. Add to any recipe and enjoy!  
Note: Do not add hot pumpkin to any recipe!  Place pumpkin in fridge (or freezer for a short period of time) until cool.  

Happy Baking!