Amazing Marble Cupcakes {with a twist…of course}

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This weekend, my 8-year-old son and I made these cupcakes together. The interesting ingredients resulted in probably the best cupcakes we’ve made. Yum!

Enjoy! Denise

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Amazing Marble Cupcakes

1 Box Yellow Cake Mix
3 Eggs
1/3 cup Vegetable Oil
8 oz. Pepsi
4 oz. Maraschino Cherry Juice
1/4 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground Cardamom
1/4 teaspoon Vanilla extract
2 tablespoons Cocoa Powder
Maraschino Cherries

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Line 2 cupcake pans with liners and set aside.
  • Add cake mix, eggs, vegetable oil, Pepsi, maraschino cherry juice, cinnamon, cardamom and vanilla extract to a large mixing bowl.
  • Beat on low for 30 seconds then beat on med-high for 2-3 minutes.

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  • Pour 1/3 of cake batter to a small mixing bowl. Add the cocoa powder and mix well with a rubber spatula.
  • Divide the non-chocolate cake batter evenly between the 24 cupcake liners.

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  • Divide and dollop the chocolate batter evenly between the 24 cupcake liners.

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  • Using the dull end of a wooden skewer, marble the batter.

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  • Bake for 17-20 minutes.
  • Cool completely then frost with your favorite buttercream frosting and top with a maraschino cherry.20120826-135012.jpg
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Sweet & Salty Chocolate Toffee Cracker Candy

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I have thought about making this for a while. This recipe is not only easy, it is very rich and flavorful. My colleagues at work loved it…so I guess I need to make it again real soon!

My favorite thing about this recipe s that it is perfect for those last-minute “make & take” events because you can have the ingredients in your pantry….

Enjoy! Denise

Sweet & Salty Chocolate Toffee Cracker Candy

4 oz. Saltine Crackers (1/4 of avg. size box)
1 stick of Butter
1 cup Dark Brown Sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Powder (or extract)
2 teaspoons Himalayan Pink Sea Salt, divided
12 oz. Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
Candies, Sprinkles, or Nuts

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and grease it with shortening.
  • Place the Saltines in a single layer on the lined cookie sheet; set aside.

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  • In a heavy saucepan, melt the dark brown sugar, butter along with 1 teaspoon of the pink salt, cinnamon and vanilla powder over medium heat.

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  • Bring to a boil while stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Boil for 3 minutes.

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  • Carefully pour the mixture over the crackers. Use a metal spatula to spread the mixture evenly onto all the crackers.

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  • Place the cookie sheet into the preheated oven and bake for 7 minutes (toffee will bubbly).
  • Transfer cookie sheet to a safe surface.
  • Pour the chocolate chips over the toffee; set aside until chocolate chips soften and look glossy.

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  • Use a metal spatula or scraper to smooth out the chocolate chips evenly to cover the toffee layer.

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  • Sprinkle the remaining 1 teaspoon of pink salt over the chocolate layer.

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  • Sprinkle with your choice of toppings.
  • Cool completely. Transfer to the refrigerator to chill. Cut or break into bite-size pieces.

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Tres Leches Vanilla Steamer

Tres Leches Vanilla Steamer

“Baby, it’s cold outside…”

The holiday season can get very hectic.   Don’t forget to take time to soak in the holidays memories….

Make yourself a nice warm drink and take time for you. You deserve it!

Here is my take on my son’s favorite vanilla steamer.

Of course, I just had to add some Latina flair by using Tres Leches (3 milks).   In fact it was so good that somehow some of the foam ended up in my espresso.

Stay warm.  Enjoy!

Denise

Tres Leches Vanilla Steamer

Yields 4-6 servings

12 oz can Evaporated Milk

1-1/2 cups Milk (I used 2%)

4 tablespoons Sweetened Condensed Milk

1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

  • Pour all ingredients into a large glass measuring cup. Stir to combine.
  • Steam the milk according to your espresso makers directions. (If you don’t have an espresso maker, you can easily froth milk with just a microwave and a jar.
  • Pour into serving cups and sprinkle some freshly grated nutmeg on top.
  • Serve immediately.
Gypsy Spiced Chocolate Flan Cake Preparation

Gypsy Spiced Chocolate Flan Cake (aka Torta Imposible)

Chocolate Flan Cake (Torta Imposible or “impossible cake”) is a decadent, layered dessert with Chocolate Cake on the bottom and Flan on the top.

You are probably wondering why they describe it as “impossible”….

Well, when the cake pan goes into the oven, the flan ingredients are on the top and the cake batter is on the bottom.

Then two hours later, when the dessert comes out of the oven, the cake is on the top and the flan is on the bottom.

My favorite step is to invert the cake pan onto a platter.  It is definitely a “TADA” moment.  The caramel runs all over both the Chocolate Cake and Flan layers.   It is very hard not to slice it right there and then.  But do let it refrigerate and the flavors will marry even more because as Chocolate Flan Cake refrigerates, the chocolate cake absorbs the caramel like a sponge.

I like to think that nothing is impossible  and had to master this recipe after reading about it several years ago.   It has since become a family favorite. 

Below is the recipe…  

Enjoy!

Denise

Gypsy Spiced Chocolate Flan Cake

Gypsy Spiced Chocolate Flan Cake

12 Servings

Chocolate Cake Ingredients

  • 1 (18 oz.) box Butter Fudge Cake Mix
  •  3/4 cup Water
  •  3 eggs
  •  1 stick Butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
  •  1/2 teaspoon Cardamom

Flan Ingredients

  •  8-12 oz Caramel Sauce (depending on how gooey you like it)
  •  1(14 oz.) can Sweetened Condensed Milk
  •  1(12 oz.) can Evaporated Milk
  •  1/2 cup fresh Milk
  •  8 oz. Cream Cheese, softened
  •  3 eggs
  •  1 Vanilla Bean
  •  1/2 teaspoon Cardamom

Instructions

  • Preheat Oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a large bundt pan with nonstick spray.  Pour caramel sauce into prepare pan.  Set aside.

Gypsy Spiced Chocolate Flan Cake Preparation

  • Prepare cake mix according to package directions (adding cinnamon and cardamom).

Gypsy Spiced Chocolate Flan Cake PreparationGypsy Spiced Chocolate Flan Cake Preparation

  • Pour cake batter into cake pan (over the caramel).  Tip:  I typically only fill my cake pan a little more than 1/2 way.  Then make cupcakes with the rest of the batter (or leave more batter for the kids to have fun with. 🙂 )

Gypsy Spiced Chocolate Flan Cake Preparation...

  • Pour condensed, evaporated and fresh milks into a blender.  Split and scrape the vanilla bean.  Add the tiny vanilla beans to the blender along with the cream cheese and the cardamom.  Mix well.

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Pour flan mixture very slowly (with a ladle) over the cake batter.

Gypsy Spiced Chocolate Flan Cake Preparation

  • Spray aluminum foil with non-stick spray.  Cover bundt pan very tightly with the aluminum foil.  Set the bundt pan into a large pan and set on the oven rack.  Carefully pour hot water into the larger pan to a depth of 2 inches.
  • Bake for 2 hours.  Note: Do Not Take the Aluminum Cover Off During Baking Process.
  • Cool for 15 minutes.  Remove aluminum foil.  Invert cake onto a large platter.  Refrigerate for several hours before serving. 

Gypsy Spiced Chocolate Flan Cake Preparation

Source:  Recipezaar

Versatile Vanilla – Vanilla Infused Champagne Vinegar (Plus Bonus Recipe for Vanilla Champagne Vinaigrette)

Continuing on the Versatile Vanilla Voyage….

Lately, I have been into infusing vinegar with herbs and spices. 

Below are the steps on how you can make a vanilla infused vinegar.  Keep in mind that it does take a few weeks …so patience is key to success with this recipe. 

The results are worth it!

There is a bonus recipe below for a simple Vanilla Vinaigrette. 

Enjoy!

Denise

P.S.  If you are look ing for other ideas on how to use Vanilla, check out some “Vanilla Recipe Finds” on the Gypsy World Spice Cafe Facebook Page http://www.facebook.com/GypsyWorldSpiceCafe.  Please visit and remember to “like” while you are there.

Gypsy World Spice Cafe Recipe – Vanilla Infused Champagne Vinegar

Yield:  16 ounces

Ingredient List:

  • 1 Pint Size Mason Jar (16 oz)
  • 1 Vanilla Bean
  • 16 oz Champagne Vinegar

Extra:

  • Time
  • Patience
  • Sunny Shelf

Directions:

  1. Carefully split the Vanilla Bean with knife or kitchen scissors.
  2. Place Vanilla Bean in mason jar.
  3. Fill with Champagne Vinegar.
  4. Place cover on tightly.
  5. Place mason jar on a sunny shelf.
  6. Wait 3 weeks.  Give jar a soft shake every few days.
  7. Transfer to a nice vinegar dispenser (optional).

Blogger Comments:  I use vinegar on salads, in marinades, to deglaze pans, in vegetable saute’s and as a secret ingredient when I think a dish needs a little kick…  We tried this on berries and it was really good.

Gypsy World Spice Cafe – Bonus Recipe – Vanilla Champagne Vinaigrette

Yield:  8 oz

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup Vanilla Infused Champagne  Vinegar
  • 3/4 cup Olive Oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground Coriander
  • 3/4 teaspoon rubbed Sage
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Add all ingredients to a jar.
  2. Put the lid on the jar and give a good shake

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Versatile Vanilla – Very Vanilla Shortcakes (Plus Bonus Recipe for Very Vanilla Dessert Pancakes)

Continuing on the Versatile Vanilla Voyage….

Today’s Vanilla post features a dessert recipe… There are many Vanilla dessert recipes that come to mind.

 Custards…Cake…Cookies…Ice Cream… The list is long…

I was inspired by a new kitchen gadget that my Mom recently gave me.  We went to visit her and she pulled it out…laughing…because she had meant to give it to me as one of my Christmas gifts…

What was it? None other than a Xpress Redi Set Go*… I was inspired by one of the recipes that came with this gadget for a “Cookizza”.   I adapted it and below is my take on the “Cookizza” to feature Vanilla.  (there is a bonus recipe below for those that do not have this appliance).   

Thanks for the cool gift Mom!

Enjoy!

Denise

*Please Note: this is not a product endorsement or recommendation…

Gypsy World Spice Cafe Recipe – Very Vanilla Shortcakes

Servings: 8 (makes 2 shortcakes, each serves 4)

6 tablespoons lite butter, softened
1/3 cup Splenda Brown Sugar Blend
1-1/3 cup Baking Mix (I used Bisquick)
1 egg
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 teaspoon Vanilla Powder

  • Spray appliance with cooking spray and pre-heat using manufacturer instructions.
  •  Mix together all the ingredients with a spatula.

  •  Spread 1/2 mixture into base.

  • Close and bake for 5 minutes.

  •  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

  • Repeat steps 3-5 for remaining batter.
  •  Cut each shortcake into 4 wedges.
  • Top with Vanilla Ice Cream, Caramel Sauce and Sprinkles.

Blogger’s Comments:

I served it up with Vanilla Ice Cream and Caramel Sauce. You can top with whatever you like. Whipped Cream and Berries with Vanilla Sugar would be really good too…

Since some people may not have this nifty appliance, we used the other half of the recipe to make Dessert Pancakes… See the the bonus recipe and pictures below…  The topping options are endless…

I will be making peach cobbler soon and plan to use this as the topping and bake it.  Another fun option would be to use the batter to make mini-muffins.   This recipe is not only Very Vanilla … it is Very Versatile…

 

Gypsy World Spice Cafe – Bonus Recipe – Very Vanilla Dessert Pancakes

Servings: 10 Dessert Pancakes (1 pancake per person)

One Batch Very Vanilla Shortcake Batter

  • Heat griddle and spray with butter flavored cooking spray.
  • Drop batter onto griddle by tablespoon.

  • Cook like you would pancakes.

  • Top with your favorite dessert toppings.

Versatile Vanilla – Shrimp Penne with Vanilla Bean Vodka Sauce

Continuing on the Versatile Vanilla Voyage…

When buying Vanilla beans, you want to make sure that the Vanilla bean is dark brown (almost black), flexible and very aromatic.    When buying Vanilla extract, be sure to examine the ingredient list to make sure that what you are paying for is only flavored with Vanilla and not with artificial flavors.

Today’s Versatile Vanilla post features a recipe for an entrée.  Below is my take on Shrimp Penne with Vodka Sauce… I added a Vanilla Bean (minus the seeds) that I reserved from my previous Versatile Vanilla post.  The Vanilla really took it up a notch.    

My picky eater loved this dish!

Enjoy!

Denise

 

 

Gypsy World Spice Cafe Recipe – Shrimp Penne with Vanilla Bean Vodka Sauce

2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 medium Onion, sliced thin
2-3 Garlic Cloves, minced (depending on your taste)
1 1/2 teaspoons dried Oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons dried Thyme
2-3 tablespoons fresh Basil, chopped  (plus more to garnish)
2 cups prepared Marinara Sauce 
1/2 cup Vodka
1 Vanilla Bean, split (with or without seeds)
1/2 Cup Fat Free Half & Half
2 lbs medium Shrimp, Peeled and Deveined
1 lb Penne Pasta, cooked (drain and keep warm)
Salt & Pepper

  • Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan.
  • Cook onion for 3-4 minutes.  Add garlic, oregano, thyme and basil.  Cook for 1 minute.  

  • Stir in marinara sauce and Vanilla Bean and cook for 5 minutes. 

  • Remove pan from heat and stir in Vodka.
  • Place pan back on heat and stir in Half & Half.  Bring to a simmer and add shrimp.  

  •  Cook shrimp until opaque (about 2-3 minutes).  Season with salt & pepper.
  • Add your pasta to your Vanilla Vodka Sauce.  Stir to coat.  Plate or serve family style.

Sweet & Savory Vanilla Bean Dip

Versatile Vanilla – Spiced Sweet & Savory Vanilla Bean Dip

Who doesn’t like vanilla? Vanilla has a classic, unique flavor and an enticing aroma that is both relaxing and comforting. It is no surprise that this spice is widely used as an ingredient for baking, in perfumes as well as for aromatherapy.

Vanilla is a member of the orchid family. There are over 100 varieties of Vanilla. The pods that grow on the Vanilla flowers grow in clusters and are known as beans or pods.

Vanilla was actually discovered during the early 16th century in Mexico by the Spanish explorers. Mexico was the main producer of Vanilla until mid 19th century. Nowadays, Madagascar produces most of the world’s Vanilla.

The harvesting of Vanilla beans is very labor intensive which is why Vanilla is the second most expensive spice (saffron being the most expensive). It is purchased in several ways: Vanilla Beans; Vanilla Extract, Vanilla Paste and Vanilla Powder. Luckily, Vanilla beans can be stored in an airtight container for up to 18 months.

Vanilla beans do not have any aroma or flavor when they are freshly picked. The flavor/aroma develops during the curing process. The Vanilla bean is filled with lots of seeds. But do not limit the flavor to just the seeds…the bean/pod can be used to add flavor too.

When most cook with Vanilla, they add it to recipes for sweet dishes. For my appetizer post, I definitely wanted to think outside the box and create a savory recipe which demonstrated Vanilla’s versatility. It was not at easy as I thought it would be. I spend a lot of time thinking. I love to think… Then it hit me… I decided on a creamy vanilla bean dip using white beans as the base…. The result was a big hit…

What is your favorite way to use Vanilla? Let us know!

Enjoy!

Denise

P.S. Look for more Versatile Vanilla recipe posts later this week.

Gypsy World Spice Cafe Recipe – Spiced Sweet & Savory Vanilla Bean Dip

1 cup dried Cannellini Beans
2 tablespoons Honey
Juice of 1 Lemon
Seeds from Vanilla Bean (reserve pod for another recipe/use)
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Powder
Pinch ground Nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground Coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground Cardamom
3/4 teaspoon dried Marjoram
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
6 oz. Greek Yogurt
Salt & Pepper

  • In a medium saucepan, add dried Cannellini beans and cover with water. Cover and soak overnight. Next day, bring contents to a boil and them simmer for 1 hour. Drain (reserving bean fluid) and set aside to cool.Add cooled beans along with eight ingredients to a food processor. Process until smooth.

  • Add reserved bean fluid as needed to get the smooth consistency. (I added about 2-3 tablespoons). Season with salt and pepper to taste.

  • Transfer bean mixture to a small bowl and fold in the Greek yogurt. Chill in the refrigerator to allow flavors to marry.

  • Serve with crackers, bread, apple slices or veggies.

Variations: If you prefer to use can beans, substitute 1 can of Cannellini beans. Drain ( reserving bean liquid) them rinse before using. If you want, you can also try adding a bit of mint or some cayenne pepper to take it up a notch.

Recipe – Vanilla Almond Coffee Martini

I’ve been reading about coffee lately…  I’ve started to wonder…

Is coffee a spice?  

Well, spices are produced from bark, root, buds, seeds, berry or fruit of tropical plants and trees.   So, at the surface, to me it sounds like coffee beans could definitely fall be described as a spice.  My initial googling resulted in finding out that there are mixed reviews on this subject.  

Hmmm…  Sounds like a future article opportunity….Adding it to the list…

Anyway, I read that there are quite a few spices that complement coffee.  It was not a surprise to find out that cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and ginger all complement coffee.  I was surprised, however, to learn that cumin pairs well with coffee (especially since cumin is categorized as being pungent).   Evidently, cumin adds an earthy undertone to cold coffee drinks (especially when served cold with milk).   

Here is my recipe for a really good coffee based martini.  Enjoy!

 

 

Gypsy World Spice Cafe Recipe – Vanilla Almond Coffee Martini

Serves 2

4 oz of Vanilla Flavored Vodka

2 oz Cold Coffee (Brewed Strong)

8 oz Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk

1/2 teaspoon Gypsy Sweet Spice Blend

1/8-1/4 teaspoon cumin (to taste)

2 packets Splenda

crushed ice

  1. Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker… shake well.
  2. Pour into martini glasses.
  3. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

 

Blogger’s Comments:  

Gypsy Sweet Spice Blend consists of cinnamon and some other select spices.  If you want, you can substitute just cinnamon. 

To get fancy, mix Gypsy Sweet Spice Blend with Splenda and coat the rim of your martini glass.

If martini’s are too strong a beverage for you, increase the amount of coffee noted in the recipe to 8 ozs and serve in a tall glass. 

 

Taster’s Comments: 

My husband said “This is really good.  But, it’s not something that I would typically drink.  It’s too girly”… We’ll have to see what spices pair well with beer.  ha ha