PPQ: Berry Pie Bars

It’s my week to host Project Pastry Queen and I picked the Blackberry Pie Bars recipe. Little did I realize that this is nearly identical to the Berry Pie Bars recipe I have already posted, which I adapted from Joy the Baker. I guess this whole pie-in-bar-form idea is popular! Oh well, these bars are a fantastic dessert so I didn’t mind repeating the recipe. You can click here to see how the other PPQ members fared with the recipe.

I actually love to bake pie, but it’s a time- and labor-intensive process so I only bake pies for holidays. These bars, on the other hand, are really easy to make and serve, so they are great for a casual weeknight dessert. (Just make sure you leave enough time to defrost the berries if you are using frozen ones). I made the recipe as directed except for a couple small changes:

~ I used salted butter (all I had in the fridge) and omitted the additional salt in the crust.

~ I used a combination of frozen blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries (again, what I had on hand).

These bars are awesome. The crust has a bit of sweetness and nice texture, and the filling is that perfect blend of sweet and tart. Add a crumb topping and the result is perfection. I hope you’ll try these out soon and enjoy them as much as we do!

Berry Pie Bars (slightly adapted from The Pastry Queen, Rebecca Rather)

3 cups flour
1-1/2 cups sugar
1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) chilled butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup flour
Pinch of salt
2 (16 oz.) packages frozen mixed berries, thawed and drained

Crust/Topping: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9×13-inch pan with butter or cooking spray. Using either a food processor with the metal blade or stand mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the flour and sugar. Add the chilled butter cubes and process/mix until the butter is evenly distributed and the mixture is crumbly. Reserve 1-1/2 cups of the mixture for the topping. Press the rest into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake the crust for 12-18 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool at least 10 minutes.

Filling: Whisk the eggs in a large bowl, then add the sugar, sour cream, flour, and salt and combine. Gently fold in the berries. Carefully pour the mixture over the crust (you might have to even out the berry distribution). Sprinkle the reserved crust mixture over the top. Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned (I baked mine for 60 minutes and I probably could have let it go another 5). Cool at least 2 hours before cutting into bars.

PPQ: Mahogany Cake

This is my week hosting Project Pastry Queen, and all I can say is wow, I am so glad this is the recipe I picked to make during the week of Big Man’s birthday. Because if ever there was a decadent, pull-out-all-the-stops, grown-ups-only birthday cake, this is it.

Generally, I’m not a fan of Bundt cakes. Most of the ones I’ve tasted are really dry and kinda flavorless. Not so with this cake. Instead, the Mahogany Cake is very tender and not at all dry, especially with the layer of melted dark chocolate and plentiful glaze.

The cake definitely gets full points for flavor. This is no “add a bit of coffee to bring out the chocolate flavor” recipe. This is a full-on, coffee-and-chocolate-are-equals, sinfully dark cake. I’ve never tasted a coffee and chocolate dessert that was this heavy on the coffee flavor, and it was a really nice flavor balance.

I did make a couple slight changes to the original recipe. I used all purpose flour instead of cake flour to compensate for the high altitude. Also, after looking in 3 different grocery stores, I couldn’t find a coffee-flavored dark chocolate bar so I just used a dark chocolate bar.

I hope I’m selling you on this cake. It is one of my favorite Pastry Queen recipes that I’ve tried. I’ll definitely be making it again soon, maybe for my own birthday in a couple weeks!

To see how the other PPQ members made this cake, click here.

Mahogany Cake (from The Pastry Queen, by Rebecca Rather)


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup boiling water
1 rounded tablespoon instant espresso powder
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups sifted cake flour (sifted then measured)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces dark chocolate flavored with coffee, coarsely chopped


Mahogany Icing

1/4 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups sifted powdered sugar (sifted then measured)


To Make the Cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 10- to 12-cup Bundt pan with butter or cooking spray, sprinkle lightly with all purpose flour, and tap over the sink to remove any excess flour (or spray evenly with Baker’s Joy). Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl on medium speed about 2 minutes, until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating on medium speed about 20 seconds after each addition.

Pour the boiling water into a medium bowl. Stir in the espresso powder and then the cocoa, stirring until smooth after each addition. Stir in the sour cream and vanilla. Place the sifted flour in another medium bowl; stir in the baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add about 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just incorporated. Add half of the cocoa-sour cream mixture and beat until just incorporated. Continue adding the dry and wet ingredients alternately, ending with dry ingredients. Stir in the chopped chocolate.

Spoon the batter, which will be thick, into the prepared pan. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. (After about 40 minutes, the cake may crack slightly around the middle, and the crack may look slightly wet. Test with a toothpick anyway; the cake may be done.) If overbaked the cake will dry out. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan, invert onto a rack, and cool for 20 minutes before icing.

To Make the Icing: Pour the boiling water into a medium bowl. Stir in the espresso powder and then the cocoa, stirring until smooth after each addition. Stir in the butter and vanilla and add the salt and powdered sugar. Stir until smooth.

Set the cooled cake on a large serving plate and spoon the icing over it, covering it completely. The icing will pool in the hole in the middle of the cake as well as on the outside edges of the plate. The icing will cool within 30 minutes, making it possible to cover the cake with plastic wrap without smearing it.

The covered glazed cake will keep at least 2 days at room temperature. It can be frozen up to 3 weeks.

PPQ: Dulce de Leche Arborio Rice Pudding

So, as you may notice, there are no pictures here of this week’s PPQ recipe. As I am not a fan of rice pudding, I was planning to make the dulce de leche topping and maybe use it on ice cream. But I haven’t done it yet, mostly because it has just been busy around here. I’m hoping to get around to it this week, and I’ll update this post when I do. But those of you who do enjoy rice pudding should take a look at this dish, which was hosted by Emily over at Ruf Love. If you want to see how the other PPQ members made the dish, you can click here.