Raspberry Brownie Cake

Today I'm taking a little break from my "Top Ten Things That Make Me Happy" series to bring you a favorite recipe: Raspberry Brownie Cake.

Come to think of it, it probably could make my top ten things list.  We all know how much I love berries and chocolate.  (Seen here and here.)

And when you see how ridiculously easy this cake is to make AND how unbelievably beautiful it turns out, it will probably make your top ten list as well.  

You're welcome.

It's been awhile since I've done a full-on tutorial.  That's probably because I've been doing a lot of Pinterest-inspired projects and many of them come with their own tutorials.  No point in reinventing the wheel.

This recipe, however, came from my mother-in-law.  I think she clipped it from a newspaper.  (That's becoming kind of a quaint concept, isn't it?) Anyway, the recipe is so easy that I don't even have it written down anywhere.  You probably won't need one either.

Again, you're welcome.

So let's get down to business, shall we?

All you're going to need to make the beautiful cake pictured above is what you see below.  That is: 
  • A box of brownie mix.  I have always used Duncan Hines Chewy Fudge.  I'm sure any type would do.  You'll need to prepare the brownies as directed on the package which means you'll need:
  • Oil
  • Water
  • Eggs (if the recipe has a "cake-like vs. chewy" option, opt for cake-like.  That usually means an extra egg.)  For the topping you will need:
  • Seedless raspberry jam
  • Fresh raspberries
  • A small bar each of white and dark chocolate

Note the water spots on my fridge.  I like to keep it real here at `a casarella.

Begin by preparing the brownies as directed on the package.  (Reminder: use the cake-like option if there is one.)

For this recipe you're going to need a springform pan.  I know, I know, a lot of you don't have one.  I borrowed one the first time I made it.  (Then I went out and got my own.  It's eight-and-a-half inches in diameter.)

For some reason I always sift my boxed mixes.  I just think it helps avoid powdery lumps.  If you don't have OCD you can probably skip this part.

Add your wet ingredients (you will find the amounts on the box).

Even though my spring form pan is non stick, I give it a shot of cooking spray.  You want the cake to emerge from the pan unscathed.

Pour mix in spring-form.

Check your box for cooking times.  It is important that you don't overcook the cake or the edges will be rock hard.  I followed the 9"x9" directions using the recommended temperature for dark or non-stick pans (325 degrees).  

I actually set my timer for a few minutes before the minimum recommended time of 34 minutes and I ended up removing it at that 30 minute mark.

My mama always taught me to clean up as I go along so I try to that while the cake is baking and/or cooling.  Are you a "clean-up-along-the-way" type or a "do-it-all-at-the-end" type?

When the cake emerges, let it cool.

Then you're going to want to run a knife along the perimeter to help it release from the pan smoothly.  (If you used cooking spray this is barely necessary but, well, you know, the OCD and all...)

Ahhh... a perfect release!

The next step is to flip the cake over...

...and remove the bottom of the springform.

This leaves you with a nice flat (albeit somewhat patterned) surface to work with.

Then gather up your toppings.

Place a dollop of jam on the cake and start "frosting."

Once you have a nice layer of jam, you can arrange your berries.
Next put some squares of chocolate into microwaveable dishes and melt.

You'll want to start with the brown chocolate.

You're going to be drizzling this over the cake and sometimes, if the chocolate is too thick, I add a drop or two of oil to thin it out.  This makes for easier drizzling.

My drizzling technique is kind of primitive.  I get some chocolate on the tines of a fork and fling them back and forth over the cake in different directions.

Repeat the process with the white chocolate.  If you do the white first the brown covers it up and makes it less visible.

As you can see, I'm not the best drizzler/flinger.  The white chocolate always ends up with some blobby-looking parts.  

The beauty of this cake is that no one but you will notice the blobs.

Everyone else will be so busy complimenting your baking prowess and wondering how you made such a beautiful confection that they won't even see the blobs.

Again, you're welcome.  


2016 UPDATE:  Want an even EASIER version of this dessert?  
Check out my Raspberry Brownie Bites.  Click HERE for more details!



The Top Ten Things That Make Me Happy (#4)

If you're one of the three readers who have been around since the inception of this blog you're probably aware that I live in San Diego.

And I love it.

Since this is a series about the top ten things that make me happy, I didn't really feel that I could include "living in San Diego" on the list.  (Because that's more of an experience.)

There are many things that I have as a result of this experience, however, and that includes all of the fruit pictured below.

Backyard Fruit
Clockwise from upper-left: white wine grapes, red plums, red wine grapes, green pears

Clockwise from upper-left: lemons, unripe peaches, unripe red table grapes and oranges.

Needless to say, all of that fruit makes me very happy.

And it's pretty remarkable when you consider that, from the front, ours is a typical suburban tract home:

Step out back, however, and it's a little like stepping into an orchard.  We have lemon, lime, orange, red plum, and peach trees.  (And our very generous neighbors have apple, pear and Loquat trees.)  

We also have a small vineyard consisting of 50 grape vines.  We have red and green table grapes and a variety of red and white wine grapes--enough to produce two hundred bottles of wine.

(A little side note: we have never actually made wine but the woman who owned the house before us used to make it in the coat closet.  No lie, my winter coat smelled like a nice Cabernet for the first year we lived here.)  

Apparently wine-making is a bit labor-intensive.  This surprised me because I have vivid memories of my Uncle Frank stomping grapes in the backyard of his Staten Island home.  (And Uncle Frank was not a complicated man.)  The wine-making books I've checked out make it sound a lot more difficult, though, and they recommend lots of pricey equipment.  Despite this, I would love to make wine, or at the very least find someone who would make it for me. One year I went so far as to put an ad on Craig's List offering the grapes free to anyone who wanted them.  All I asked for in return was a bottle of the wine.  I didn't get any takers.  If you're local, and you know an amateur vintner looking for some grapes, please leave me a comment or send me an email.

Because a bottle of wine made out of grapes from my very own backyard vineyard?  Now that would totally make the top-ten list..


The Top Ten Things That Make Me Happy (#3)

Thing number three coming at you (and this time it's sentimental).

Several years ago my sister-in-law received a beautiful, enameled St. Christopher's Medal as a gift.  Her friend bought it at a small, main street jewelry store in the town where we grew up.

It's the kind of thing that people often stop to admire and/or inquire about.  In fact, after she got it, I was one of its biggest admirers.  (Perhaps "admire" isn't exactly the right word.  "Covet" might actually be more accurate but, really, who's keeping track?)

Well, apparently my sister-in-law was because a few years later, on the eleventh anniversary of my 29th birthday, she presented me with one of my very own:

St. Christopher's Medal

It's large (about the size of a fifty-cent piece) and rather striking.  But I don't just love it for its good looks.  (I'm not that shallow.)  What I love most about it is its significance.

St. Christopher was a Catholic Saint and, according to Wikipedia, "medallions with St. Christopher's name and image are commonly worn as pendants, especially by travelers, to show devotion and as a request for his blessing."  In light of this, all of the women in our family--each of whom lived in a different state--eventually received one.  The idea was that St. Christopher would watch over us as we traveled to see one another.  Although I'm not actually Catholic, I love the sentiment, and try to wear it whenever I fly.  

They come on various sizes and colors.  My sister-in-law's is pictured below, along with a small one she received upon the birth of her daughter.  Aren't they pretty?

Keep watching this space for "thing number four," coming soon!



The Top Ten Things That Make Me Happy (#2)

Did you think I forgot about this little series?  No way!

After a small break for a dear friend's wedding I am back with installment two.

So what's the second item that makes me happy?  (Remember, these are in random order...)  Well, that would be my Roomba.


Unfamiliar with the Roomba?  Basically, it's a little robot that vacuums for you.  (In other words, it's awesome.)

That is my actual Roomba pictured above.  You can see that he's a bit care-worn but that's just a testament to how much I rely upon him.  (Yes, I did just refer to my vacuum as a "him."  The urge to anthropomorphize one's Roomba is almost irresistible.  Ask any Roomba owner.)

Now, I should probably take a moment to make some disclaimers.  The first is that Roomba is not my only vacuum.  I also have a Dyson for heavy duty cleaning.  That gets pulled out every week or two.  Roomba, however, is used on a daily basis.  I love turning him on before I leave the house only to find, upon my return, that he has parked himself on his charger when the room is finished.

The second disclaimer is that I don't always love Roomba.  You see, every so often the little guy will malfunction.  Usually it's a maintenance issue: he needs his brushes removed and cleaned, etc., and that I can handle.  But on one occasion I wasn't able to fix him and that was little traumatic.  (The best way to describe my reaction would be that of a woman scorned.  I felt positively betrayed when Roomba stopped working and even banished him to the garage.)  Thankfully my husband took pity on me--and on Roomba-- and ordered a new part for the little guy.  So now he's back up, working, and in my good graces (so much so that I had to include him on this list).

So that's it: item number two.  Stay tuned for item number three, coming soon!



The Top Ten Things That Make Me Happy (#1)

The other day while I was watching the Real Housewives of New Jersey flipping the channels looking for Masterpiece Theater, I happened upon a show on Bravo entitled, The Top Ten Things That Make Me Happy, and I thought to myself, what a great idea for a blog series.

So I started thinking: what are the top ten things that make me happy?  For the purpose of this exercise, I am talking about purely materialistic things.  None of this, "my family and friends" business because that's a given (and frankly a little bit boring).  And I'm not including activities either.  For this, I'm getting my Madonna on and talking about things.

I will be presenting them in no particular order over a series of posts.  And that brings us to #1:

Fit Flops
My current faves :)

When I moved to San Diego six years ago I was thrilled to find myself in a place where I could comfortably wear flip flops eight months of the year.  (And just slightly less comfortably for the remaining four ;)

I picked up a few pairs of oh-so-cute-but-not-so-terribly-supportive-flip-flops and quickly remembered that mine are the feet of a middle-aged woman.  (Could you tell from the Madonna reference?)  

And as it turns out, middle-aged women need arch support.

Thankfully, it was not long after that painful experience that I was introduced to FitFlops.  They're super-supportive, stylish, and I might just own five pairs.

I know that I sound like a cheesy pitchwoman, but seriously, these things are the bomb.  And you should also know that good people at FitFlops have not compensated me in any way.  (Though if they wanted to send me a pair, I wouldn't complain...)

So that's it for today's installment.  I'd love to know some of the things that make you happy.  Feel free to leave a comment :)


Succulents, a Fountain... and Murder!

Remember the post wherein I revealed that I am a murderer?

(A plant murderer that is.)

It was in that same post that I professed my love for succulents.

(Because I can't kill them.)

(And that makes me feel good about myself.  I don't actually aspire to be a murderer, you know.)

In light of these revelations, I need some advice.  Sitting in the back corner of our garden is this:

And when it's working properly, it is positively lovely.  

As I sit at my "desk" doing my work (no, not the murdering; that's more of a hobby), I can look out upon it and enjoy the pleasant sound of water flowing from its concrete tiers.

As you've probably already guessed, the key words here are when it's working properly.  Because the other 90% of the time, that sucker is nothing more than a giant cement eyesore.  

Which is why I am trying to convince my husband that we should do this:

Or perhaps this:

Aren't they pretty?!  I saw them at the San Diego County Fair and fell. in. love. (!)

My husband, however, is not sold.  

He loves the sound of flowing water and seems perfectly content to settle for 10% of the time over nothing.  

As for me, if I can't repurpose the fountain into a succulent planter, then I just want to get rid of it.

(Because as far as I'm concerned, the back corner of the garden would be a perfect place to throw the bodies.)

So, internet, what would you do?



Campfire Cones

Looking for an easy, delicious summer treat?  Well I certainly was when we decided to hunker down and watch some third of July fireworks  (yeah, I don't know why they do it on the third...) from our new master balcony last night. 

Enter these super-easy, crazy-delicious "campfire cones."  

Now is probably the time where I should say that mama don't camp.  You can tell me how great it is to sleep under the stars until the cows come home.  (And by then, I will have checked into the nearest Hilton.)   

But campfire cones?  Now those I can solidly get behind.  

I found the inspiration on Pinterest.  (Shocking, I know.)  The original source can be found here.  You should go and check out her link as mine is more of the Reader's Digest version.  She definitely used more ingredients than we did.  

So here's what you do...

Grab an ice cream cone.  I probably should have gotten ones that are even all the way around the rim but, oh well, live and learn.  (Plus these came wrapped in those cute paper cones and you can be darn sure I'm hoarding um, I mean, saving those bad boys for some future project.)

Then you start filling the cone with ingredients.  In this one we started with chocolate chips...

Then we added mini-marshmallows...

Followed by a dollop of peanut butter.  (We actually tried a couple of different methods and as it turned out, it's better to put the marshmallows on top.  They form an insulation of sorts that helps hold in the melted peanut butter.)

Wrap up your cone in foil...

...and pop on the grill.  (We were up on the balcony so we used this tiny tabletop grill that I bought last year at Cost Plus World Market.)  You don't need to keep them on very long, just a few minutes, and I recommend giving them a little turn with a pair of tongs so you don't end up with a burnt cone.  

Here is my daughter's finished cone in all of its ooey-gooey deliciousness.  As you can see, hers had the marshmallows on top.  The one with the peanut butter on top was far less photogenic.  

The great thing about these is that you can customize them.  We did ours on the fly but next time I'm definitely going to have some alternate fillings, including fruit (like peaches and bananas).  

But even on the fly these bad boys were delicious!  

Happy Fourth!
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