Delish to nibble along with a Mother's Day brunch or to serve during a special mid-afternoon Mother's Day tea, these decadent dessert bars are extraordinarily punctuated with dark chocolate, zesty orange and sweetened cream cheese. For a flavorful change, you can deliciously substitute goat cheese in place of the cream cheese and lemon or lime for the orange.
1 (18.24-ounce) box dark chocolate cake mix
Finely grated zest of 1 orange (reserve orange juice)
2 eggs, divided
1/3 cup fruity extra virgin olive oil
1 (8-ounce) package Neufchatel or reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
2 to 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 cup dark chocolate shavings
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and grease a 13x9-inch baking dish.
2. In a bowl, combine cake mix, orange zest, 1 egg and oil until crumbly. Remove about 1 cup of the cake mixture and set aside. Evenly scatter remaining cake mixture into prepared baking dish and press down lightly. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes then remove from oven and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, beat together cream cheese, remaining egg, sugar and orange juice until smooth. Spread cream cheese mixture in pan over warm cake mixture. Sprinkle with reserved cake mixture dark chocolate shaving. Bake 15 to 18 minutes longer. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
4. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together confectioners' sugar and orange juice to make a thin glaze. Add more or less orange juice as needed.
5. When bars are cool. Use a sharp knife (wiping blade after each slice) to cut 12 bars. Carefully transfer to a serving platter and drizzle with sugar glaze.
Makes 36 cookies
Whether you are throwing a small Mother's Day party or a large family affair, the ladies will love catching up and sharing stories over tea and cookies (beware, the kids will run off with these cookies, too).
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup molasses
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup water
1 cup chopped premium white chocolate
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. and grease 2 large cookie sheets.
2. In a large bowl, beat shortening and sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg until smooth. Add molasses and beat until well incorporated.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Add flour mixture to shortening mixture alternating with water. Mix until just combined.
4. Drop dough by generous teaspoons onto greased cookie sheets. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool.
5. Meanwhile, gently melt white chocolate in a double boiler or heat-proof bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water. Watch chocolate closely and remove it from heat as soon as it is melted and smooth.
6. Dip one-half of each cookie in white chocolate and transfer to wire racks to set up. To catch any warm white chocolate drips, place parchment or waxed paper underneath racks. Store completely cooled cookies in an airtight container, layered with waxed paper in between.
Strawberries (or any in-season berries and same-flavored preserves) are a scrumptious partner for melt-in-your-mouth angel food cake and fluffy whipped cream. Both cake and frosting can be made ahead but must be assembled within a couple of hours of your Mother's Day fete. If you have leftover cake, be sure to keep it stored in an airtight container in the fridge to keep the frosting fluffy.
1 (16-ounce) box angel food cake mix
1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
1 pint whipping cream
1/4 cup superfine sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
3/4 cup raspberry preserves
Fresh strawberries, preferably small in size, trimmed, halved
Fresh mint leaves
1. Prepare angel food cake according to package directions and cool completely. Loosen from pan and invert onto a cake plate.
2. In the bowl of a standup mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, moisten gelatin with water. Add cream and whip until soft peaks form. Add sugar and extracts and continue to whip until firm peaks form. Fold in almonds and set aside. (This can be made a day ahead, covered tightly, and refrigerated until ready to use.)
3. Using a serrated knife, cut cake in half horizontally. Set top half aside. Make a trench in the bottom half of the cake that extends about half way down. Reserve the extra cake for another use.
4. Fill trench with strawberry preserves. Spread 1/3 of the whipped cream mixture over the top of preserves and cake (like filling a regular two layer cake).
5. Put top half of cake in place. Use remaining whipped cream mixture to frost the sides and top of entire cake. Slice and serve with strawberries and fresh mint leaves.
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