dessert

Maple Apple Dump Cake

Yesterday, for many, marked the official end of summer. That must make today the official start of fall, then, right? The day when it’s acceptable to start posting all things pumpkin spice lattes and apple cider and all things autumn? I certainly hope so, because I have the perfect cake to get your autumn kicked off the right way!

The best part is that this cake requires so few ingredients… some cinnamon apple sauce, a can of apple pie filling, some Instant oats, a stick of butter, and the main feature– Pillsbury Maple Brown Sugar cake mix. Oh, and if you accidentally pick up the Pillsbury Maple Brown Sugar Cookie mix, well, it won’t work for this recipe, but it’s definitely worth getting anyway. Yum. Who doesn’t love all things maple brown sugar?

The thing I love about dump cake is that it’s so incredibly easy. But your standard dump cake is so summery, with it’s pineapples and cherries. This cake is just as easy, and perfection for fall. Start by pouring a cup of cinnamon applesauce in the bottom of your pan. If you’re wanting to just open and dump, you can use 2 of the 4-ounce individual cups.

Now, pour half a cup of plain instant oatmeal on top of the applesauce. Making a true dump-and-go cake? Just add about 3 (Quaker-sized– 1.51oz) packets of Instant Oatmeal. It’ll be a bit more than the measured-out recipe calls for, but it won’t negatively impact the cake at all. It’ll taste pretty much exactly the same.

Now, evenly dump your can of apple pie filling on top. If you have some on hand, you could even use your own canned apple pie filling, but I used some store-bought apple pie filling for ease.

Now, dump your cake mix on top. Hence the name… “dump cake.”

Chop up a stick of butter, spaced out. Anything under the butter or touching the apples will become a cake like texture, and anything dry is going to be more like a crumble topping… perfection!

Bake it at 350 for 30 minutes, until butter is melted and everything’s hot and bubbly.

Serve it hot with some ice cream for dessert, or eat it at breakfast (hey, it has apples, oatmeal, and applesauce. That counts as breakfast, right?), or even drizzle it with a little caramel or some maple syrup.

Everything about this is so perfect for kicking off autumn, from the smell, to the taste, to the warmth of it. It’s beyond delicious, and I know you’ll love it for any occasion or meal. You could take it for a church potluck, serve it for fall festivities, or, like my family, grab some spoons and enjoy it straight out of the pan during a family game night.

Hungry for more recipes to get your fall started right? Try my Tuscan Bean and Sausage Soup, or one of my absolute fall favorites, Better than Pumpkin Pie Dessert.

Happy Fall, Y’all!

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A&W Root Beer Float Cookie Bars

I was walking through Walmart not too long ago and saw a product that made me stop dead in my tracks. As a member of a Root Beer loving family, I knew I had to make something awesome with the mix I saw on the shelf. Betty Crocker actually released a Walmart-Exclusive Root Beer Float cookie mix. The first thing I thought? “This is either going to be absolutely amazing, or really off the mark…” I mean, you can’t make a root beer cookie… can you? Well, Betty Crocker succeeded, and I decided to tweak their cookie to make the perfect party treat. The best part? It’s really simple.

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Salsa De Mayo Easy Fruit Salsa

Holy cow. It’s almost May. Seriously? How did it become May already? Just yesterday I was singing Christmas carols, it seemed like.

No. Wait. I literally WAS singing Christmas carols yesterday because I had Spotify on shuffle and couldn’t resist. But maybe it’s the April snowshowers or the Spotify confusion, or maybe it’s just my unwillingness to admit that summer is right around the corner and I still don’t have a bikini body, but it really is May and I’m really, really unprepared.

So, I decided I needed a festive treat for Cinco de Mayo to help get me in the mood for May.

I started by going to the store and buying any fresh fruit that was on sale and could add some color and texture to my special Cinco de Mayo fruit salsa. My picks were strawberries, plums, kiwifruit, and mangoes, but you pick whatever your family likes. Personally, I thought these tasted really great together and looked a lot like ACTUAL pico de gallo when chopped up.

So growing up, we were always pretty convinced that Cinco de Mayo was the Mexican Independence Day (or if you’re my dad, it’s the day the Titanic sank carrying a big load of Mayonnaise meant for the Mexicans, and they were so upset over the loss, that they mourned with a holiday– the Sink-o de Mayo).  However, it’s not either of those things. Cinco de Mayo, which is actually more of an American holiday than a Mexican one, is the commemoration of the cause of freedom during the early years of the Civil War in America for Mexican-American communities in the West, a way of celebrating Mexican heritage and pride, and a way to celebrate Mexico beating the French in the Battle of Puebla in 1862, on, you guessed it…. May 5.

To start a good fruit salsa, just peel and dice your first fruit really finely. I decided to start with a mango. I used 1, but you just add as many of them as you want for the amount of fruit salsa you plan on eating. You’ll know a mango is ripe when it gets that pretty red color on the outside, and when it’s firm, but not squishy (overripe). You’ll want to make the dices very small– the same way you would want your pieces if you were eating a regular salsa, so you can fit a lot onto a chip. Unless you’re a dipper and not a scooper, in which case, you are salsa-ing all wrong.

While making the salsa, I got curious. What was the Battle of Puebla? I mean, Cinco de Mayo NOT being Mexican Independence Day (which is actually on September 16) kind of blew my mind, and I wanted to find out more info. Basically, after the Mexican-American war in 1846-48… AND the MExican Civil War of 1858… AND the 1860 Reform Wars… the Mexican Treasury was super broke. Like bankrupt broke. The president of Mexico at the time decided to just suspend all of the payments on debt that was owed to other countries. Because hey, no money. So France, Britain, and Spain were VERY much not cool with getting no money. I mean, it’s the equivalent of loaning your kid brother lunch money day after day after day, and him giving it away, and then when it’s time for him to pay you back, he says “Uh… yeah, maybe in 2 years, bro.” You’d totally want to beat him up, right? Well, Britain and Spain talked to Mexico, negotiated, and left, figuring things out. But Napoleon III of France was like, “No way, dude.” He wanted a Mexico that would be favorable to France, and moved his troops right in, storming Veracruz.

Taking a break from the very intense history lesson I was getting, I started dicing my plum. To add a little color and texture, I left the skin on this one… you do what you like, and remove that skin if you’d prefer. To me, it was easier, and looked way prettier in the finished product.

Again, you want really small dices!

After the plum dicing, I realized I wanted to know more. I mean, they stormed Veracruz… but then what? Turns out that the French force was so intense that the president of Mexico, and his government, took off and retreated, basically letting the French gain a lot of ground. However, the Mexicans near Puebla were not cool with this, and said “No! You’re not getting in here, dudes.” The French army was big, strong, and had 8,000 people. It was literally considered THE best army. In the world. Anywhere. The Mexicans really didn’t stand a chance… there were 4,500 of them, and they were poorly equipped. No way they’d be able to beat France’s best army ever… things just didn’t look good for the Mexicans.

I was plagued with the feeling of impeding doom for the Mexican army… or, as impending as something that happened like 150 years ago could be… so I decided to take another break from my history lesson to dice up the kiwifruit. Tossing it into the fruit salad, it was almost done… but it looks like it needs something else, yeah? This isn’t quite enough like pico de gallo in looks to me…

Then, I just had to keep reading to see what happened next for the Mexicans vs. the French.

Somehow, against all odds, the Mexicans CRUSHED the French in the battle on May 5, 1862! It was a great morale boost, and the Mexicans celebrated! Call it stereotypical of me, but I get mental images of that taco shell commercial where they’re all lifting the girl on their shoulders and cheering. The Puebla victory was a huge deal! Not only was the battle the first time that the French army had been defeated in more than 50 years, but it was also the last time that a country in the Americas was invaded by European military force.

I cheered for the Mexican Army as I sliced strawberries to add to my festive fruit salsa. It would add the perfect red color to it as a finishing touch!

However, I was pretty dismayed to find out that not long after the great victory, the French defeated the Mexicans, winning the war, and establishing Emperor Maximilian I as the ruler in Mexico. Luckily for my love of underdog stories, that was a short-lived victory. The French were in power only 3 years before the US started giving more help politically and militarily so Mexico could get rid of the French. When the United States finished their own Civil War, they had the opportunity to give that money to Mexico, and it scared the French, who decided to give up and let the Mexican president return and re-organize his government once again.

My fruit salsa was finally complete, and the Mexicans were back in power after the French invasion. Thank goodness.

But then I started finding out that, had the Civil War not ended, or had the French gotten the chance, they would have pushed farther into the States, backing the Confederacy, and quite possibly changing the United States as we know it! Can you imagine what might have happened had France won the battle, defeating Mexico at Puebla, and then marching their way into the South? The United States may have stayed divided! That’s what makes Cinco de Mayo such an important holiday in the United States, as well. In fact, the Mexicans barely even celebrate it, with it being an official holiday in Puebla and Veracruz, but not in the rest of Mexico! Today, though, Cinco de Mayo celebrations can be found around the world, in Canada, the Caribbean, Australia, Japan, and ironically, even France.

When looking for the perfect vessel to get the yummy fruit salsa into my tummy, I knew that these Taco Bell Cinnamon Nacho chips from the Cinnamon Nacho Dessert kit would be perfect! Intended to be served with ice cream, I decided to shake it up, set the included caramel aside to enjoy at a later date, and just enjoy the chips with my fruit salsa. I even sprinkled the included toffee bits over the top as I indulged in the delicious Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Chips.

It is the PERFECT snack for Cinco de Mayo, no matter what country you’re celebrating from!

 

Do you want some helpful tips on easy cleanup from all your peels and pits while making the fruit salsa, and a fun way to use up and leftover fruit salsa? Don’t forget to follow @jengerbread88 on Instagram to find these two great tips appearing later today! Not an Instagram user? That’s okay, they’ll be on the DigitalEraMom facebook page, too, which you can access by “liking” it in the sidebar!

 

Do you celebrate Cinco de Mayo? Let me know how you celebrate in the comments below!

 

Strawberry Pretzel Salad

It seems like every family has it’s staple foods that are a must-have at every big family gathering, like Thanksgiving and Easter. For my family, that was always Strawberry Pretzel Salad. I’m not entirely sure why we call it a salad, because it doesn’t have any of the traditional characteristics of a salad, but we always called it a salad, and it never, ever found it’s place at the dessert table, despite it being oddly dessert-like. No, Strawberry Pretzel Salad’s place was on the main buffet of food, alongside potatoes and deviled eggs and ham.

Over the past few years, I’ve seen similar recipes float by. Some with pineapple, most with more or less cream cheese or Cool Whip, some with powdered sugar instead of granulated, but it seemed that I had no chance at finding THE Strawberry Pretzel Salad I grew up eating. However, after hours of searching through old church cookbooks, I finally found the Strawberry Pretzel Salad that I knew and loved. And now, I’m sharing it with you.

The ingredients are quite simple: Strawberry Jello, Strawberries, Pretzels, and a few others. I’ve found that Philadelphia cream cheese works better than store brands, but that’s a personal preference and you can use what you have on hand. It’s just my preferred brand. When buying the Strawberry Jell-O, make sure you’re buying the 8-serving large box, rather than the small box.

You’re going to start by making the pretzel crust. For those of you who love sweet and salty, this crust is made for you. Start with 3/4 Cup melted butter or margarine, and stir in 3 Tablespoons of granulated sugar. Then, crush enough pretzels to make 2 cups (it took me 3-4 cups of whole pretzels to get 2 cups of crushed pretzels) and spread them into the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Pour the butter mixture over the crust, making sure the pretzels are coated and packed into the pan.

Just like this!

Bake the crust for 8 minutes at 350 degrees. Be sure to let it cool completely before moving on to the filling.

For the filling, you’ll take your package of Philadelphia (8 ounces) and a cup of sugar and cream them together until they’re well combined and a bit fluffy. You can use a beater if you’d like, but a fork will work just fine.

Add in an entire tub of Cool Whip and combine that very well, also.

Spread it over the cooled crust and refrigerate as you prepare the topping.

For step 3, start by boiling 2 cups of water. It will look like… uh… boiling water. In a separate bowl, go ahead and open the package of Strawberry Jell-O.

When your water boils, stir it into the Strawberry Jell-O until the gelatin is dissolved.

Add in 20 ounces of thawed frozen berries. I personally love the pre-sliced Dole strawberries, but they come in a 14 ounce package. You’ll use about 1 1/2 packages, so you’ll have half a package leftover for smoothies later. After adding the berries in, you’re going to stir and wait until the Jell-O mixture is cooled, but not fully set.

Carefully pour it over the cream cheese layer, then refrigerate for several hours until the Jell-O layer is firmly set.

This dessert is just perfect, especially for Easter, because it tastes light and fresh, not too heavy, and has a great sweet-salty consistency, and a bit of crunch from the pretzels. It’s a great choice. But if you serve it, don’t forget, it’s a salad, not a dessert, which means if you over-indulge on the desserts this Easter, well… at least you ate your salad, right?

 

What’s your must-have food for Easter? Let me know in the comments below!

Rustic Carrot Cake Cookies

I might be part rabbit. I love all things fresh veggies, especially carrots. And, well, of course carrot cake is included in that. But sometimes a carrot cake is just too… fussy for me around the Easter season. With all of the other cooking to do for Easter dinner, I just can’t imagine adding a full from-scratch cake to the list. Plus, between getting crazy full during dinner, and the Easter egg hunting going on, it’s just no fun to have to sit down at the table again for dessert.

Cue these cookies. No muss, no fuss, and no need for a plate and a fork… just simple, delicious, and packed with all of the flavor of a carrot cake.

But is it difficult you ask? Tons of crazy ingredients just like a real carrot cake? No, and no. Let me show you…

This is all you need. Yup, really. Well, I mean, you’ll need a little water, but that hardly counts, right? Other than the mix, you’ll need 1 egg, 3 egg yolks (save the whites for an omelette!), a tablespoon of butter, the Whipped cream cheese frosting, and of course, the water.

For this recipe, you’ll want to be sure you’re buying the Duncan Hines Classic Carrot cake from their Decadent line. It’s important because you want the raisins and carrots to be separate, like they come here, in a pouch of their own. If you were making the cake, you’d stir them into the batter, but we’re not making cake, are we? Start by setting the cake mix aside.

The carrots and raisins come dehydrated, so the first thing you’ll want to do is re-hydrate them. You’ll do this by pouring the pouch and 1 1/4 cup of HOT water into a bowl. Just let it sit while you prepare the rest of the cookies, and they’ll do their thing.

For the cookie part, pour your cake mix, your egg, 3 egg yolks, and the tablespoon of butter into a bowl, combining them. I’ll tell you a little secret here… these cookies are actually modified from a cake mix pie crust recipe that Chef Joe from Duncan Hines gave me! So, if you want, you can always stop here and use this as a crust for a pie… but let’s keep going. If you find that it’s a little too dry to work with, add no more than 2 Tablespoons of water to the mixture, a teaspoon at a time, until it’s moist enough to work with, but not too sticky.

Roll your dough out to pie crust thickness and cut into circles using a round cutter or a class or another round object about the right size. I used my trusty round cutter that I use for just about any round cutting I have to do in the kitchen. You’ll bake these for 7-10 minutes at 350.

When they’re removed from the oven, immediately transfer them to a wire rack to cool. You’ll want them cooled completely before you add the frosting between them.

Whoa! Check out what happened to those carrots and raisins when we weren’t looking! They’ve tripled in size, at least! But there still might be a little more water in them, and we do NOT want that water thinning out our icing!

Strain the carrots and raisins completely…

Then use a towel to pat off all of the remaining excess water.

Take your Duncan Hines cream cheese frosting and the carrots and raisins, and mix them together until well blended.

Then, pipe it onto half of your cookies. Don’t make the mistake of piping too many cookies like I did… and then having to scrape it off. Ha! You can spread it with a spoon, but I’ve found I cover it more evenly if I pipe it. Your choice.

Finish by sandwiching the frosting with another delicious cookie, then chilling for awhile in the fridge. Or, enjoy them the way my family prefers, frozen like an ice cream sandwich!

Send some home with your Easter guests as a treat, put them in pretty bags to leave on a neighbor’s porch with a sweet note telling them to have a wonderful Easter, or enjoy them all yourself. There is no wrong way to handle these cookies.

I love that they’re very rustic, like something you’d find in your grandmother’s kitchen (provided your grandmother doesn’t severely dislike raisins, like mine does!), but at the same time, they’re incredibly simple. No one will ever believe that you made them from a mix.

 

What’s your favorite Spring dessert? Tell me in the comments below!

 

How to Make Fruit Stripe Cupcakes

Remember that pack of gum that you always begged your parents to buy you, the Fruit Stripe kind with the Zebra on the package and the tongue tattoos? Even though the flavor faded within the first 30 seconds, it was the coolest gum ever. It didn’t matter if it ended up flavorless by the end, as long as you had the tongue tattoos and the Zebra to get you by.

Yeah, these cupcakes are kind of like that, except the flavor doesn’t fade at all. Packed with stripes of fruity flavor, these have all of the nostalgia of the zebra stripes, with none of the downsides. Sadly, tongue tattoos are not included.

I’m going to say right off the bat, this isn’t a recipe. You can do this with literally any cake mix you love, provided you have enough of it to divide it into two batches. However, I love using the Duncan Hines Spring Velvets because they’re pre-colored, which is no work for me, and they’re nice and rich, even before you add in the fruit flavored extracts.

To make fruit stripe cupcakes, you’ll need your ingredients for your cake (listed on the box, or as spelled out in your own personal favorite recipe; the Duncan Hines Spring Velvets take 2 eggs, some water, and half a stick of butter per cake mix included in the box), one fruit flavored extract for each color you’re using, and some fun toppings… I chose Cool Whip and these beautiful SweetWorks Pearls to add a pretty springtime touch.

One basic thing you’ll want to remember about making Fruit Stripe Cupcakes is to make sure your flavors are complimentary. You probably DON’T want to do Lemon and Root Beer extracts in one cupcake, right? Nevermind that Root Beer isn’t a fruit anyway. If it were, they’re just not compatible flavors. Consider flavors that work well together– chocolate and strawberry, lemon and raspberry, etc. I decided to go with lemon and raspberry for my cupcakes to make a raspberry lemonade flavor mix.

Make your first mix according to package directions or recipe, and, if it’s a white cake, go ahead and tint it the color of your choosing. Since I was using the Duncan Hines Spring Velvets that are already yellow and pink, I didn’t need to add any food coloring to the mix. It’s at this point that you’ll choose one of your extracts and add in about a teaspoon, to taste. I decided to make the lemon yellow, because, well… that just makes sense. Set that aside.

Repeat the process with your second cake mix, adding in your chosen flavor, about a teaspoon or to taste. I used the Raspberry flavoring in the pink mix, again, because it made sense. It was really convenient to buy the Spring Velvets mix because the colors looked perfect side-by-side and didn’t need any food coloring. Plus, who can resist that perfect texture?

Now, you’ve got two mixes with two different flavors and colors, which will create an awesome striped effect inside the cupcake and allow the flavors to swirl seamlessly. You’ll start by lining your cupcake pans with cupcake liners of choice, then grabbing a tablespoon and a teaspoon, or figure out how to eyeball it.

Start with a tablespoon of each cake mix in your cupcake liner, one on top of the other. Don’t spread it out or anything, just let it do it’s thing. It’ll stripe on it’s own. If some of your mix falls more to one side than the other, that’s okay. That’s part of the charm of these cupcakes. What I like to do is make sure that if I started one on pink, I started the next on yellow, then back to pink, to really add to their character. Which means one cupcake would be yellow-pink-yellow-pink, and the next pink-yellow-pink-yellow.

Add a teaspoon of each batter on top of the tablespoons, continuing the pattern. As you can see, when you add the next bit of batter, it starts to make the lower parts spread out, filling the liner and moving the mixes a bit to give it it’s own swirl and character. Every cupcake will be different.

Bake your cupcakes according to recipe or package directions. As you can see, every cupcake’s top looks different from the next, and each one has it’s own swirl and character lurking beneath the surface. When you bite in, you’ll get both flavors at once, but in varying intensities as you get through the cupcake, giving it a unique flavor that makes every bite better than the last, versus just putting both extracts into a mix and making a cupcake with the whole flavor throughout.

Once cooled, frost and decorate your cupcakes. I personally went with piped Cool Whip because it complimented the fruit stripe flavor without overcomplicating it or overpowering it.

Plus, it looks so deliciously inviting when swirled on top!

And who could resist adding some of the SweetWorks Pearls on top? For an easy spring display, add some Easter basket grass or shredded paper to a cupcake tree, then nestle the cupcakes into the grass. Bonus? You can use out-of-season cupcake liners and no one will notice if they’re hidden beneath the grassy display.

To be honest, these cupcakes are so delicious and inviting that my family couldn’t even wait until I was done photographing them for the blog before trying to snatch them up.

Luckily, my little guy’s thievery gave you a chance to see a cross-section of the cupcake and show you how every cupcake is unique, and each bite will contain it’s own swirl of flavors unique to that bite.

The flavor will depend on where you bite into the cupcake, and what flavors are on that section of the cupcake. Isn’t that cool?

These totally took me back to the fruit stripe days of my childhood, and made me realize that these great cupcakes could be tailored to any party colors and theme. Chocolate mint cupcakes for tea, raspberry lemonade for a summery party, root beer and vanilla for a backyard barbeque, and any color choices you like. They’re surprisingly easy to make, too.

 

What flavor would you make? Let me know in the comments below!

Watermelon Quick Bread (Or How To Make a Sweet Bread out of ANY Cake Mix!)

I’ve mentioned a lot lately how much I love spring. It’s that 70 degree weather and the delicious seasonal foods that appear in stores about this time, for sure. So the other day, I was shopping at Target, wandering the store the way I do… you know how you go into Target for one thing and there’s that unspoken law that you can’t leave without spending $50 even if you went in for just one $5 item? Yeah, so, I was wandering. And stumbled upon a Target exclusive.

Oh my goodness, Target, you kill me with those exclusives…

Betty Crocker got sneaky and made a WATERMELON cake mix. And frosting to go with it. And oh my goodness, this cake mix, it’s just like a watermelon. But like, in cake form. Psht, like I needed another excuse to eat cake!

So I gathered my Betty Crocker Watermelon Cake mix, a box of Jello Instant Vanilla Pudding, 4 eggs, 1 cup of water, and 1/2 cup oil, then preheated my oven to 350.

Now, I want to tell you here, I used the Watermelon Cake mix because I really wanted to have that amazing watermelon bread flavor. The vanilla pudding compliments that well, but you can use literally any flavor of pudding and cake mix. Want chocolate bread? Try chocolate cake and chocolate pudding. Want chocolate covered strawberry? Use a strawberry mix and chocolate pudding. Want lemon? Use lemon cake mix and lemon pudding and add some poppyseeds… or, use lemon cake and vanilla pudding for a lighter flavor. The sky is the limit!

But for today– Watermelon Cake Mix, Vanilla pudding. Everybody still tracking along?

Put your dry ingredients in the bowl, then add in your wet ingredients while mixing.

Aww, look at all of the fun “seeds” in the watermelon mix! This is a good time to mention that, while these great black seed bits came in the mix, you CAN add in mix-ins like chocolate chips or poppyseeds when making a cake mix quick bread. Use your imagination!

 

I divided my batter among 4 mini loaf pans, but you can make two regular loaves instead. I like mini loaves because they’re so cute, and great for sharing! The baking time should stay the same or increase just slightly if you’re using the regular loaf pans. Always insert a toothpick or use your method of choice to check for doneness!

Bake at 350 for 35 minutes, or until edges are golden. Then, cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes to an hour before slicing and serving. See, breads will continue to bake just slightly after removed from the oven, so cooling them before slicing allows that soft center to get fully cooked.

Cake mix quick breads are great because they use ingredients people usually keep on hand, and they’re so easy to take to friends or family, serve as a breakfast or dessert, and are just a great treat.

The best thing about the Watermelon quick bread is it’s delicious watermelon flavor that tastes so true to the actual fruit. This is the moistest sweet bread you’ll ever taste!

 

What cake mix/pudding combo would you try in your Cake Mix Quick Bread? Let me know in the comments below!