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.

Project Pastry Queen: Jubilation Granola Chews

This is my week to host Project Pastry Queen and I chose to make Jubilation Granola Chews. I’ve always thought I should try making homemade granola bars, but somehow whenever I got in the kitchen I’d always end up making brownies or cookies instead. I’m really happy I picked this recipe; it was fun to make a snack food and the results were really delicious.

I made a couple small changes to the original recipe.

~I used grated coconut instead of shredded

~I reduced the amount of dried cranberries to 3/4 cup, and added 3/4 cup of mini M&Ms

~I left out the flax seed. Neither of my normal grocery stores carry it and I was too lazy to drive to the Whole Foods half an hour away (pathetic, huh?)

~After pressing the bars into the pan, I added an extra 1/4 cup mini M&Ms on top. I just wanted to make sure the bars looked colorful and adding extra chocolate is never a bad idea.

These bars are quite sweet. I’d even say you could crumble one up, sprinkle over vanilla ice cream, and call it dessert. You could probably reduce the sugar or honey by a bit if you don’t want something so sweet. The only other thing to note is that the next time I make these I’ll probably increase the salt by 1 teaspoon.

I hope you get a chance to make these bars. It’s a fun and easy recipe and the bars are really good. Little Man was a huge fan and Big Man took a few to work for his colleagues as well. And I definitely enjoyed my share!

You can see how the other PPQ members made the bars by clicking here.

Jubilation Granola Chews (from The Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather)

  • 3/4 cup firmly packed golden brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup almonds, sliced or slivered
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 cup sweetened dried cranberries or golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds (I used roasted, salted seeds)
  • 2 tsp. sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup golden flax seeds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with butter or cooking spray. Combine the brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, and water in a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat. When the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and simmer about 8 to 10 minutes until it reaches the soft-ball stage, registering 234 to 240 degrees F on a candy thermometer.

Stir in the butter, peanut butter, salt, and vanilla. Spread the oatmeal, almonds, coconut, sunflower, and sesame seeds evenly on 2 baking sheets. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes, stirring once, until lightly browned. Combine the oats, almonds, coconut, cranberries, and sunflower, sesame, and flax seeds in a large bowl. Pour in the honey mixture and stir to combine. Cool for about 30 minutes. Evenly press the granola into the pan using a sheet of waxed paper or plastic wrap to keep your hands from sticking. Cool for another 30 minutes before cutting into bars. Cut the bars in half the long way and in eights the short way to make 4-1/2 by 1-1/2-inch bars.

Project Pastry Queen: Turbo-Charged Brownies with Praline Topping

This week was a Wildcard Week for Pastry Queen members so I chose this brownie recipe. Oh. My. Goodness. I am so incredibly glad I did (and so is Big Man)! These brownies are ridiculously good. As you can see, we couldn’t even wait until I took pictures before we ate some!

The brownie base is tender and chocolatey and not too thick, with an extra kick of flavor from the espresso. And then the topping. Wow. Homemade caramel with toasted pecans is poured over the brownies and then sets up to a soft candy-like texture. This dessert is flat out amazing. Bonus points because it doesn’t require any hard to find ingredients (I just subbed strong coffee for the espresso powder).

I hope you’ll try these brownies soon. They are easy to make for a special weeknight dessert and fancy enough for company. And they taste absolutely amazing!

Tara from Smells Like Home was the host for this recipe, and you can find her original post here. You can also see how other PPQ members made the brownies by clicking here.

Project Pastry Queen: Bourbon Pumpkin Tarts w/ Streusel Topping

This week’s PPQ Challenge was hosted by Tara over at Smells Like Home and she picked Bourbon Pumpkin Tart with Streusel Topping. For the full recipe (and pretty photography), see her post here. Also, you can see how other members made the recipe here.

I was excited to make this recipe since I really love baking and anything with streusel topping.  Actually, I am not a big fan of pumpkin pie normally. But since this one had a tart crust, lots of spices, and streusel I thought I might like it. And I was right! I prefer this recipe by far to any pumpkin pie recipes I have previously made. The spices and liquor made it warm and comforting and I really loved the crispy streusel topping. Big Man is a huge pumpkin pie fan and he loved this recipe too. He said it was one of the best pumpkin recipes I have made. So this week’s PPQ challenge was a big Win here, and I’m already planning to make this Tart instead of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I did make a couple changes to the original recipe. I used allspice in place of cloves since I usually find cloves to be too strong for my taste. I also didn’t have Bourbon and didn’t want to buy it for this recipe so I used Jack Daniels instead. Since I don’t drink whiskey I couldn’t tell a difference. Finally, I made six 4-inch mini tarts instead of one 10-inch one because I will take any chance I get to use mini baking pans.

So if you are looking for an alternate pumpkin recipe to replace the traditional pie or just want an excuse to eat streusel topping, make this recipe! You won’t regret it.

Project Pastry Queen: Tuxedo (Cup)Cake(s)

So, as you can probably tell from the title, this week’s PPQ recipe was Tuxedo Cake. This week was hosted by Shawnda and her site has the full recipe (and beautiful pictures) for this stunning dessert. You can also see the other PPQ members’ results here.

When I saw this recipe I had two reactions: 1) Wow, this cake is awesome and beautiful and no doubt delicious, and 2) should I really make a cake that serves 12-14 for just Big Man and myself? Probably not.

And then there was a third reaction: layer cakes are my nemesis. I have never been able to make one successfully. My layer cakes taste good, but look good? Not so much. I can probably blame some of my failures on the high altitude, but I think most of it is just me and layer cakes not getting along.

So, I decided to only make 1/4 of the original recipe and try cupcakes. I got 10 cupcakes that looked OK and tasted awesome. The cupcakes didn’t look nearly as stunning as the full cake, but were easy to make and yummy. Actually, I really want to call these Penguin cupcakes, since they are the shorter, fatter, less fancy version of the Tuxedo Cake. And I like penguins. But anyway. . .

Along with cutting the recipe down to 25%, I used dark cocoa powder (all I had in the pantry), and light corn syrup instead of the Lyle’s golden syrup called for. Here is the recipe as I made it.

Tuxedo Cupcakes (adapted from The Pastry Queen)


1/2 stick (4 tbs) unsalted butter
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup dark cocoa powder
1 cup flour
1 egg
1/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 tsp baking soda
dash salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

Whipped Cream Frosting

1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar

Chocolate Glaze

1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/8 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tbs light corn syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Cupcakes: Prepare a muffin tin with paper liners and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine butter, water, and oil in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat until the butter melts. In a bowl, whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder, and flour. Whisk in the butter mixture, then the egg, then the buttermilk. Finally, whisk in the baking soda, salt and vanilla all at once. Transfer to the muffin tin, filling each liner about 3/4 full. Bake 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the cupcakes sit in the tin for about 10 minutes before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Frosting: Using the whisk attachment of a stand mixer, whip the cream to soft peaks. Add the powdered sugar and whip to stiff peaks. Place the frosting in a piping bag with a large round tip. Poke the tip into the center of each cupcake and fill with frosting. Use the remaining frosting to cover the top of each cupcake, and smooth with a knife. Refrigerate 1 hour until the frosting is set.

Glaze: Put the chocolate in a bowl and heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until it is steaming but not boiling. Pour the cream over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted. Add in the corn syrup and vanilla and stir to combine. Let sit for 5 minutes to cool slightly, then spoon over the cupcakes, letting some drip down the sides but leaving some frosting showing. Refrigerate for 1 hour to let glaze set, then enjoy!