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Sunshine Bars {Citrus Gooey Butter Cake}

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Food blogging can be rough on a girl’s diet.  I told you that I didn’t have any Easter-ish recipes and gave you what I could, and yet I still felt the pressure of posting one before the holiday.  And so I got to work in the kitchen and came up with something so delicious that sampling it when it came out of the oven at 1 AM, and having more for breakfast this morning (the breakfast of champions!) has completely depleted all my Weight Watchers Points Plus for the day.  And then some.  Oi.  But a dedicated food blogger owes it to her readers to sacrifice valuable points for the sake of their holiday enjoyment, right?  Yeah, that’s right.  I did it all for you.  Because I so wouldn’t have eaten all that tart-sweet gooey butter cake without my readers as motivation.

What?  You don’t believe me?  OK, fine.  I so totally would have made and eaten this regardless, but I’m rushing to post this recipe before work so you can make it for Easter and that’s all for you.  You’re welcome.  :)

I really love gooey butter cake, and in fact I was already planning to do a few posts on the basic recipe and the chocolate version since I made both almost two years ago and never got around to blogging them.  It reminds me of a different form of cheesecake, sort of like cheesecake bars, but muuuuuch more buttery.  The crust layer is soft, yet firm enough to hold the bars together, somewhere between cookie and cake, while the filling is creamy & gooey.  In this springtime version, I used an orange cake mix for the base (though lemon or even yellow would be great), and used up the rest of my lemon curd in the filling.  I had no idea how it would turn out and was greatly relieved to be rewarded with something I can proudly share with my husband’s family this weekend.  Well.  I mean.  What’s left of it.

Sunshine Bars 

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

Crust:
1 (18.25 oz) orange or lemon cake mix
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
1 egg

Filling:
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, room temperature
2/3 cup lemon curd
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 eggs
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
1 lb (4 cups) powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with rack in center of oven. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with oil and set aside. In a large bowl, mix the cake mix, egg, and butter with an electric mixer until well combined. Press the dough into the prepared pan and set aside. Wipe out the bowl and clean off the beaters, then cream together the cream cheese and lemon curd until well combined. Mix in the lemon juice, then the eggs until incorporated. Add the butter and powdered sugar and mix until well combined. Spread over the crust layer and smooth the top with spatula. Bake in preheated oven for 45-47 minutes, or until browned on top but still jiggly in the middle. Cool on wire rack until completely cool, about two hours, before cutting and serving. Can also be served cold, depending on your preference.

Recipe source: adapted from Paula Deen’s Gooey Butter Cake recipe.

Apple Cake Mabel

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Before we get to the cake, please remember to head on over to Steph’s Bite by Bite to check out all the wonderful goodies up for auction in the online bake sale, which started at 7 AM today and goes until 9 PM EST.  She’s raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and I can’t wait to mail a batch of my Mocha Toffee Brownies to the winning bidder!  Good luck!

OK, now let’s get down to business.  I begged this recipe off my friend, Judy, when she mentioned she had made a sugar-free apple cake that turned out well.  I’m intrigued by anything that is sugar-free that also tastes good, as I have not had a lot of personal success with this.  I discovered that the cake was made with Splenda and shortening and this repelled me on many levels, but also awakened a creative desire to make it healthier with a natural sweetener and not only non-hydrogenated fat, but less of it.  As I mentioned in my post on chocolate chip banana bread, I’ve been experimenting with Truvia, a natural calorie-free sweetener made from the stevia plant’s leaves, so I used that in addition to brown sugar to give a better, more natural flavor.  I didn’t mess with the diet soda in the recipe, but it could easily be switched out for any variety of Zevia (a calorie-free soda made with stevia), or with club soda and additional Truvia.

Now, I’m not sure who Mabel is, or if she was even the one to come up with the original recipe, but I hope that she would be as pleased as I am with my adaptation.  It isn’t as light and tender as a traditional cake, but a little more dense like coffee cake, moist, perfectly sweet & spiced, with tender chunks of apple in every bite.  It is best served the day you bake it as it gets a little dry a couple days later, but it can be returned to it’s former glory with a few seconds in the microwave.

Apple Cake Mabel

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

2 eggs
½ cup brown sugar
4 oz cup (1/2 cup) unsweetened applesauce
1 cup diet Dr. Pepper or cream soda
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup Truvia
1 teaspoon Vietnamese cinnamon
1 t freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

1 large apple, peeled & chopped

Toppping
¼ chopped pecans
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons shredded, sweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a 9×13 pan.  Beat eggs until smooth & uniform in color, then add in brown sugar and beat until sugar is incorporated and mixture is slightly thickened. Add applesauce, diet Dr. Pepper, canola oil, and vanilla and mix until incorporated. Add in the remaining ingredients, except for the apples, and beat until smooth, 1-2 minutes. Fold in apples and pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle the toppings over the top in the order listed and bake for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack at least 15 minutes before serving. Serve with whipped cream if desired.

*Veronica’s note: I recommend using a sweet baking apple, such as Braeburn, Rome, or Gala.

Makes 15 servings. Per piece: 139 calories; 2.6 g fat; 28 g carb; 1.4 fiber; 3.2 protein

Recipe source: adapted from Judy L.

Mocha Toffee Brownies

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I’ve signed up to participate in an online bake sale to help fellow food blogger, Stephanie of Bite by Bite, raise money for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society while she trains with Team in Training to complete a marathon on June 5th.  I ran a half marathon with Team in Training in 2008 and I love to bake, so there was no question I was joining the effort!

My submission to the sale will be a batch of these Mocha Toffee Brownies.  In case you can’t tell from the photo, they are delicious! Imagine a thick, Kahlua-infused brownie with a layer of toffee & almond-studded milk chocolate in the middle, and a heavy sprinkling of crunchy English toffee baked into the top.  It’s an incredibly decadent treat.  The second best part?  They are incredibly easy to make!

If you would like to bid on these brownies, or any other treats (there are even healthy ones!) that will be in the auction from over 30 other bloggers, or would like to donate some of your own baked goods, click here for more information.  The bake sale is January 31st!

Mocha Toffee Brownies

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1 (19.9 oz) box fudge brownie mix
1 stick (1/2 cup) real butter, melted
1/4 cup coffee liqueur, such as Kahlua*
2 large eggs
2 large (4.25 oz) Symphony candy bars with almonds and toffee chips
1/3 cup toffee bits

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease the bottom of an 8×8 baking dish.  Mix together brownie mix, butter, coffee liqueur, and eggs until well mixed.  Spread half into prepared pan and place the candy bars side by side on top.  Cover with remaining batter, smoothing with a spatula.  Sprinkle toffee bits evenly over the top and bake for 40-45 minutes.  Cool completely in pan on wire rack before cutting.

*For Toffee Brownies, which are just as fabulous, omit the coffee liqueur and replace with 1/4 cup water.

Recipe by Veronica Miller, with inspiration from Paula Deen

Black Rice Pudding

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This stuff is just amazing.  I adore it!  The coconut milk and sugar makes it a little heavy on the calories, but I justify the splurge by reminding myself that the black rice is chock full of antioxidants, even more than blueberries!

Commonly served for breakfast in parts of Southeast Asia, this dish also makes a great dessert. Chinese black rice, sometimes called forbidden rice, works well, but if you live near a Southeast Asian market you can use this same method with the more traditional Thai black sticky rice.

If you can’t find any kind of black rice, substitute brown rice (not quick-cooking) — it will result in a thicker, light-colored pudding but will still be delicious.

Black Rice Pudding

Printable recipe

1 cup black rice
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 cup sugar
1 (13 1/2- to 15-oz) can unsweetened coconut milk, stirred well

Bring rice, 3 cups water, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil in a 3 to 4-quart heavy saucepan, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered with a tight-fitting lid, 45 minutes (rice will be cooked but still wet). Stir in sugar, a scant 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 1/2 cups coconut milk and bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thick and rice is tender but still slightly chewy, about 30 minutes.

Remove from heat and cool to warm or room temperature, stirring occasionally, at least 30 minutes. Just before serving, stir pudding and divide among 8 bowls. Stir remaining coconut milk and drizzle over pudding.

Recipe source: Gourmet, December 2005

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