Halloween Strawberry Shortcake Skull Cake

Halloween Strawberry Shortcake Skull Cake

We topped elegant strawberry shortcake with a ghoulish white chocolate skull in this spectacular Halloween dessert. Pour over the hot strawberry sauce to reveal the surprise inside!

Level: Intermediate

Total: 2 hr 45 min (includes chilling and cooling times)

Active: 1 hr 10 min

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

Chocolate Skull:

4 ounces white chocolate melting wafers

1 tablespoon unrefined coconut oil

4 ounces strawberries, sliced

Cake and Filling:

Nonstick cooking spray, for the pan

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (see Cook’s Note)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 large egg, at room temperature

1/2 cup sour cream

8 ounces strawberries, sliced

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

2 cups sweetened whipped cream

Strawberry White Chocolate Sauce:

8 ounces strawberries, finely chopped

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup heavy cream

3 ounces red candy melting wafers

Directions

 

1. For the chocolate skull: Add the white chocolate melting wafers and coconut oil to a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring in between each, until melted and smooth, about 2 minutes.

2. Pour the chocolate mixture into the front and back cavities of a 2-part medium plastic skull mold (3-by-4-by-4-inch) and tilt to swirl the chocolate around until coated entirely (you can also use your finger to swirl the chocolate around). Tap out any excess and freeze until the chocolate is set, about 5 minutes.  

3. Reheat the melted chocolate, if needed, and brush the sides of the mold cavities with a second layer. Freeze until set, about 5 minutes. 

4. Carefully unmold the skull halves and fill one with the sliced strawberries. Microwave the melted chocolate again until smooth, about 30 seconds. Use the melted chocolate as glue to carefully attach the skull halves. Refrigerate until ready to serve. 

5. For the cake and filling: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 6-inch round cake pan with 3-inch sides with nonstick spray. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment and spray the paper. 

6. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.  

7. Beat the butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until pale yellow, about 2 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar and beat on low just to incorporate, then beat on high until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the vanilla and egg, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and continue to beat until creamy, about 2 minutes (the mixture will look curdled, but will come back together after everything is combined). With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the sour cream in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. 

8. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. 

9. Bake until golden on top and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the pan, turn the cake out onto the rack, remove the parchment and cool completely.  

10. Meanwhile toss the sliced strawberries and granulated sugar in a medium bowl. Set aside for at least 30 minutes to allow the strawberries to release their juices. 

11. Cut the cake into 3 layers with a long serrated knife. Place a cake layer on a cake stand and top with half of the strawberries. Spread 3/4 cup of the whipped cream on top. Repeat with another cake layer, the remaining strawberries and 3/4 cup whipped cream. Top with the final cake layer and remaining 1/2 cup whipped cream. Position the skull in the center of the whipped cream.

12. For the strawberry white chocolate sauce: Add the strawberries and granulated sugar to a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the strawberries have broken down and thickened slightly, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice and vanilla. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve and return the liquid to the saucepan (discard the solids). Add the cream and red candy melting wafers to the sauce and heat over medium heat, whisking constantly, until melted and hot, 10 to 15 minutes. 

13. When ready to serve, pour the hot sauce over the center of the chocolate skull.

 

 

Cook’s Note

When measuring flour, we spoon it into a dry measuring cup and level off excess. (Scooping directly from the bag compacts the flour, resulting in dry baked goods.)


Halloween Strawberry Shortcake Skull Cake
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Halloween Strawberry Shortcake Skull Cake
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Ingredients
Chocolate Skull:
Cake and Filling:
Strawberry White Chocolate Sauce:
Servings:
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Mummy Hand Pies

Mummy Hand Pies

This easy, Halloween-inspired recipe can be made ahead and served later as a scary-good party dessert.

Level: Easy
Total: 55 min
Active: 25 min
Yield: 6 hand pies

Ingredients:

1/4 cup canned pumpkin

2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Kosher salt

 

2 refrigerated pie crusts, thawed if frozen

All-purpose flour, for dusting

1 large egg

12 raisins

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, optional

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

 

  • Add the pumpkin, sweetened condensed milk, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and a pinch of salt to a medium bowl and stir to combine.

 

  • Roll out 1 pie crust on a lightly floured surface with a rolling pin to form a rectangle about 9 inches by 12 inches. Square off the crust with a knife, reserving the scraps for decorating. Cut the pie crust into 6 equal rectangles, each about 3 inches by 6 inches. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet.

 

  • Roll out the other pie crust to the same thickness as the first. Cut into thin strips about 1/4 inch wide and 7 inches long. Repeat with the reserved dough scraps. Transfer the strips to a parchment-lined baking sheet.

 

  • Add 1 heaping tablespoon of the filling to the center of each rectangular crust. Use the back of a spoon to spread out the filling, leaving about a 1/2-inch border around the edges. 

 

  • Lightly beat the egg with 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl. Use a pastry brush to brush the edges of the pies with the egg wash. Layer the strips of dough, varying the angle of each strip to create a “mummy” look. Seal the edges with a fork and use a paring knife to trim the overhang. Lightly brush the tops of the hand pies with the egg wash. Add 2 raisins to each hand pie for the eyes. ‘

 

  • Bake, rotating the pan halfway through for even color, until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool on a baking rack slightly, about 5 minutes. 

 

  • Serve as is or decorate with a simple icing. Combine the confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl with 1/2 teaspoon water. Stir until smooth and glossy. Transfer the icing to a resealable plastic bag and snip off the corner. Pipe the icing onto the hand pies using the stripes of pie crust as a guide. Serve.

Mummy Hand Pies
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Mummy Hand Pies
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Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Chocolate Chips are probably the most popular cookies in the world.  I know they’re my favorite.  I also know that there are many recipes out there and we all have our favorites.

The original creator of the chocolate chip cookie is said to be Ruth Graves Wakefield.  She first made it in the late 1930’s when she and her husband owned the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts.  The Inn was a popular restaurant known for its home cooking and desserts.  She created the cookie to serve to her guests, the recipe was published in the Boston Herald-Traveler and she was featured on a radio program hosted by Marjorie Husted aka Betty Crocker.  She later gave her recipe to Nestle and was paid with a lifetime supply of chocolate.  The recipe was also published in the 1938 edition of her cookbook “Ruth Wakefield’s Tried and True Recipes”.  It rapidly became a favorite cookie in American homes.  As they say the rest is history.

As much as I love homemade chocolate chip cookies (I have several favorite recipes), I’m not too fond of making them.  Actually I’m not a great fan of making any type of cookie, not because it’s difficult, more so because I find it tedious.

I find that dropping, cutting, or pressing cookies on to sheet and baking for less than 10 minutes is tiresome.  The only time I really enjoy making cookies is when I do my Christmas baking when I devote a couple of days in the activity with my grandchildren.  That’s why I absolutely love bar cookies!

Cookie bars are so easy to make.  You mix the dough, spread into a pan, bake, cool, and cut into bars.  It’s a wonderful way to get your homemade cookie fix without spending the day in the kitchen.  And chocolate cookies are no exception.  Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars are just as yummy as any Chocolate Chip Cookie you can make.  So here’s a recipe so you can make some today.  You probably already have all the ingredients in you kitchen!

One thing I’ve found when baking chocolate chip cookies, or actually when baking anything, that’s to use the best and freshest ingredients available.  I never use generic brands so for this cookie stick with Nestle’s Toll House Semi-Sweet chips, Guittard, or Gharadelli brands.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Ingredients:

2 1/4 Cup All Purpose Flour

1 Tsp. Baking Soda

1 Tsp. Salt

1 Cup Butter, softened

3/4  Cup Sugar

3/4 Cup Packed Brown Sugar

1 Tsp. Vanilla

2 Eggs

1 12-0z Package Semi Sweet Chocolate chips

Nuts are optional, but if you want to add them use 1 cup of the nut you prefer, chopped up of course.

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees

Lightly oil a 9 x 13 baking pan

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.

Cream together butter and both  sugars using the paddle attachment of your stand mixer.  If you don’t have a stand mixer you can use a hand mixer.

Add vanilla and mix  until creamy.

Add in eggs one at a time while continuing to mix.

Gradually add in dry ingredients making sure to mix it well.

Stir in chocolate chips and nuts if you’re using nuts.

Spread evenly in the pan.

Bake for about 25 – 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Cool for about 10 minutes then cut into bars.

I use flip the pan over onto a large sheet and use a pizza cutter to cut it into bars.  I find it easier to cut into even pieces.

 

 

 

Chocolate Chip Bar Cookies
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Chocolate Chip Bar Cookies
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Lemon Parmesan Chicken with Arugula Salad Topping

Lemon Parmesan Chicken with Arugula Salad Topping

Total: 35 min

Active: 35 min

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 extra-large eggs

1 1/2 cups seasoned dry bread crumbs

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Unsalted butter

Good olive oil

5 ounces arugula

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)

1/4 pound chunk Parmesan cheese

 

Directions

1. Combine the flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper on a dinner plate. On a second plate, beat the eggs with 1 tablespoon of water. On a third plate, combine the bread crumbs, the 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, the lemon zest and thyme, and set aside.

2. Pound the chicken breasts between two sheets of parchment paper until they are 1/4 inch thick. You can use either a meat mallet or a rolling pin.

3. Coat the chicken breasts on both sides with the prepared flour mixture, then dip both sides into the egg mixture and dredge both sides in the bread-crumb mixture, pressing lightly.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large sauté pan and cook 2 or 3 chicken breasts on medium-low heat for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until cooked through. Add more butter and oil and cook the rest of the chicken breasts.

5. Place the arugula in a large bowl. In a 1-cup glass measure, whisk together the 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Pour enough dressing on the arugula to moisten. Toss well.

6. Pile some arugula on top of each hot chicken breast. With a very sharp knife or a vegetable peeler, shave the chunk of Parmesan into large shards and arrange them on top of the arugula.


Lemon Parmesan Chicken with Arugula Salad Topping
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Servings Prep Time
6 Servings 35 min
Cook Time
35 min
Servings Prep Time
6 Servings 35 min
Cook Time
35 min
Lemon Parmesan Chicken with Arugula Salad Topping
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
6 Servings 35 min
Cook Time
35 min
Servings Prep Time
6 Servings 35 min
Cook Time
35 min
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Savvy Nana’s Ono Mango Bread

Savvy Nana’s Ono Mango Bread

Mango

Mango season in Hawaii is from May to July.  When we’re lucky we get a bumper crop of mangoes.  During the summers when mangoes are abundant we eat mangoes every which way we can think of, those we can’t eat fresh we freeze and turn into different mango desserts, our favorite is mango bread.

Here is my favorite recipe for mango bread.  I’ve been baking them for over 20 years!  Bake some for the family and bake extra for friends.  They make great gifts!

You can make this bread ahead of time and freeze.  Wrap each loaf in foil and place in freezer safe ziplock bags.  They will keep in the freezer for 6 months.  Just remove from freezer and thaw out before serving.

By the way “Ono” means tastes good in Hawaii!

Ingredients:

2 cups flour

1 tsp. cinnamon

2 tsp. baking soda

1 ½ cups sugar

½ tsp. salt

¾ cup oil

3 eggs, slightly beaten

2 cups diced ripe mango

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

Sift dry ingredients together, making sure baking soda is distributed evenly, no clumping.
Add remaining ingredients, stir well.  Batter will be thick.

Lightly oil 5 – 2 ½ “ x 5” loaf pans OR 2 large ones.

Pour batter into pans til 2/3 full.
Bake for 55-65 mins or until tester comes out clean.

To freeze wrap each loaf in foil, then place in freezer zip lock bags.
I don’t recommend doubling the recipe, the batter gets too difficult to mix.  When I’ve doubled the recipe somehow the the baking soda doesn’t get distributed well and some parts of the loaves will be bitter.


The Best Mango Bread Ever
Print Recipe
This is a tried and true recipe for mango bread. I've been baking it for friends and family for over 20 years.
Servings Prep Time
5 Mini Loaves 20 Minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
65 Minutes 65 Minutes
Servings Prep Time
5 Mini Loaves 20 Minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
65 Minutes 65 Minutes
The Best Mango Bread Ever
Print Recipe
This is a tried and true recipe for mango bread. I've been baking it for friends and family for over 20 years.
Servings Prep Time
5 Mini Loaves 20 Minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
65 Minutes 65 Minutes
Servings Prep Time
5 Mini Loaves 20 Minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
65 Minutes 65 Minutes
Ingredients
Servings: Mini Loaves
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Sift dry ingredients together, making sure baking soda is distributed evenly, no clumping.
  3. Add remaining ingredients, stir well. Batter will be thick.
  4. Lightly oil 5 – 2 ½ “ x 5” loaf pans OR 2 large ones.
  5. Pour batter into pans til 2/3 full.
  6. Bake for 55-65 mins or until tester comes out clean.
Recipe Notes

Mango Bread CollageTo freeze wrap each loaf in foil, then place in freezer zip lock bags.

I don't recommend doubling the recipe, the batter gets too difficult to mix. When I've doubled the recipe somehow the the baking soda doesn't get distributed well and some parts of the loaves will be bitter.

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