But isn’t cake always fun?

March is a heavy birthday month in my family.  TD’s is the 3rd and my brother’s is the 17th.  So, we needed cake.  Lots of it.  While perusing the March issue of Bon Appetit, I spied a recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Fun Cake.  Well yeah, chocolate and peanut butter are always fun.  This is a single-layer cake made in a 8X8″ pan.  And, it starts with chocolate.

This is also one of those no-heavy lifting or serious kitchen tools required sort of recipes.  At least, the cake part is.

The resulting batter will be very dark and very thick.

And really difficult to not stick your fingers into.

Out of the oven, the cake looks a lot like a brownie.  But don’t be fooled.  This baby is all cake.

The frosting is a basic buttercream recipe with a lot of peanut butter thrown in.  Be prepared to be able to smell nothing but peanut butter for the rest of the day after making a batch of this confection.

Enough whipping (and air) and the color fades to a nice, mellow Tuscan beige.

And then the real fun begins.  We happened to have house guests the weekend of TD’s birthday.  So, I enlisted a mini-pastry chef to decorate.  She used salted peanuts, mini peanut butter cups and chocolate curls.

Here our chef spreads a nice thick layer of buttercream.

A border of baby cups.

She spelled-out the birthday boy’s name in peanuts…but was very artistic about it.

And that my friends, is a very fun cake.  I would have liked to hire Kate on permanently but her dad said something about kidnapping and child labor laws.


All kids songs all the time.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fun Cake

Bon Appetit, March 2012


Chocolate cake:

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (3 1/2 ounces)

Peanut butter buttercream:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup egg whites (from about 2 large eggs)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4″ cubes
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (about 1 3/4 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup chopped unsalted, dry roasted pinenuts  (TMH note: I believe this is a typo–I used salted peanuts)
  • Mini peanut butter cups (a TMH addition, optional)


For chocolate cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat bottom and sides of pan with nonstick spray; line bottom of pan with parchment paper. Whisk flour and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Add oil, vanilla, and 1 1/4 cups water; whisk until smooth. Fold in chopped chocolate. Scrape into prepared pan; smooth top. Bake until a tester comes out clean when inserted into center, 35-40 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

For peanut butter buttercream:
Combine sugar and egg whites in a medium metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Whisk constantly until sugar dissolves and mixture is hot to the touch, 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat; using an electric mixer, beat on high speed until cool and thick, 5-6 minutes. Beat in vanilla, then peanut butter. With mixer running, add butter a few pieces at a time, beating to blend between additions. Season with salt.

Run a thin knife around pan to release cake. Invert cake onto a serving plate. Spread peanut butter buttercream over top. Garnish with chopped chocolate and peanuts. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

Cut into 2″ squares.



It’s a little bit nutty

In reviewing the arsenal of recipes I’ve collected on this site, I realized that I’m missing quite a few basics.  In my opinion, the most egregious of gaps is the lack of a basic peanut butter cookie recipe.  I realize that peanut butter is enemy number one in many places nowadays.  This blog is NOT one of them.  In fact, if you pay close attention, you’ll notice that this recipe (if made verbatim) has four nut iterations.

Beginning with the first source: chunky peanut butter.  Or, use smooth, your call.  In our house, peanut butter doesn’t get utilized very much outside of baking (but when it does, there is always a peanut butter jelly time dance, I promise).  In fact, a jar will last us about a year.  So, I pick my peanut butter carefully and go all-in for the Skippy.  We’re classy like that.

This recipe calls for a good creaming. And, by the time all of the wet ingredients have been incorporated, the color will lighten considerably.

This recipe has a secret ingredient if you dare (nut reference #2…and no, I’m not talking about a Californian politician).

And then we get to the good stuff.  This recipe stands-up just fine without the add-ins.  But, I was feeling a little spunky when I made these and threw in some salted peanuts (#3), peanut butter chips (#4) and dried cranberries.

The batter will be thick and fragrant.

Don’t forget to roll each dough ball in sugar and then flatten with a fork.

These cookies freeze incredibly well.  And, not that I would know, they even taste good frozen.


I was testing out a new workout playlist while baking these cookies.  Let’s just say that in my workout world Kanye and Taylor Swift get along just fine.

Peanut Butter Crisscrosses (‘ll make you jump, jump)

adapted from Dorie Greenspan


  • 2 1/2 C all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • pinch of freshly ground (or grated) nutmeg
  • 8 ounces (16 TBS) unsalted butter at room temp.
  • 1 C peanut butter (crunchy or smooth)
  • 1 C packed light or golden brown sugar
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room tempt
  • 1 C chopped salted peanuts
  • 1 C peanut butter chips (optional)
  • 1 C dried fruit such as cranberries, cherries or chopped apricots (optional)
  • 1/2 C additional sugar for rolling


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, line baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and nutmeg.
  3. Working in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle (or electric hand mixer), beat the butter on medium for a couple of minutes. Add-in the peanut butter and beat until smooth.  Add the sugars and beat for an additional 3 minutes.
  4. Add-in the eggs, one-at-a-time, scraping down the bowl in-between.
  5. With the mixer on low, combined the dry ingredients until they are just mixed-in to the dough.
  6. Fold in (by hand) the peanuts, chips and dried fruit.
  7. Pour the 1/2 C sugar into a small bowl.
  8. Working with about a TBS of dough at a time, roll each into a ball and then roll in the sugar.
  9. Place on baking sheets with 2 inches in between each.  Dip the tines of a fork in the sugar and smoosh down the balls in a perpendicular “X” shape with the fork.
  10. Bake for about 12 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through.  Cookies will be lightly colored and a bit soft.  Let the cookies sit a minute or two before transferring to cool completely.
  11. I think these cookies just get better over time!

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Prime Time Misanthropic Hostessness

I know I’m late on this week’s post.  TD broke the internet at home before I could add-in the recipe to the scheduled post.  Alas, the new internet won’t be installed until Monday.  Stupid internets.

I’ve got a little clip to tide you over.  It appears I may not be the only Misanthropic Hostess out there.

I too refuse to be a Steppenwolf Wife!





This one was juuuuust right…reality shot added

Many thanks to Ann and Caroline for their feedback on the great love seat search!  Ann, I too am now eyeing that chaise.

On Saturday I speant some time playing Goldilocks.  I found options #1 and #3 in-store and liked neither.  Alas, option #2 was nowhere to be found.  After a quick trip to Crate and Barrel, I decided to swing by Ethan Allen…mostly because my mother told me to.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Ethan Allen.  I’d love to have a house full for furniture by Ethan Allen.  However, for this project, I thought the man was over my budget.  But, you know moms.  So, I stopped in, took half a lap and there it was.

The Chair.  In a perfect neutral fabric with enough texture to make it interesting.  It was even backlit with the natural light coming through the window behind so it sort of, you know, glowed.  To be fair, I wandered through the entire store before returning to The Chair.  I sat in it and there was clearly enough room for myself, a Kitchen God on the side and another on the lap.  I then took a deep breath and looked at the price tag.

Guess what?  The floor model was on sale.  For nearly half-off.  Which meant, I got really great chair bones for a total of $20 over my budget (including deliver).   Done.  And done.  It’s the Monterey Chair.  And here, it is in our office:

Now, I like to keep a tidy ship.  But, reality happens.  This is the reality I walked into the other day.

My chair indeed.

TMH needs an opinion. Any opinion.

I’ve been in the market for a reading chair.  I need a place to have deep thoughts.  Or deep naps.  Or just a place where I can sit and the Kitchen Gods aren’t fighting for lap space (one laptop plus nearly 25 pounds of feline isn’t very comfortable). 

Over time the idea of a chair has evolved into a love seat.  I know, love seats aren’t known for comfort.  But the practical side of me is concerned about what I’ll do with a single chair down the road.  Whereas, I ration, a love seat can go at the end of a bed or in a hallway.

Here is the wall it will go on in our office.  The wall measures about 76 inches and then is interrupted by the door to the hallway (after the door there is another two feet of wall space).  Right now we’re got a couple of arm chairs that look good but really are not optimal for longer-term relaxation (excuse the picture quality, came from the phone). In real life the walls in this room are a fairly bright robin’s egg. 


I think  I’ve narrowed it down to three moderately priced candidates (all are under $1000). 

Option #1

Number one is in velvet but I’m not willing to pay for custom upholstery so we’d have to go with the ivory shown below.  Dimensions are: 54″W x 36″x34″H. 

Pros: Of the three, it is the most to scale for the wall and I like the style.  Down the road, it would look nice at the foot of the bed in the master or could be put in a hallway. Cons: is 36″D really comfortable (there will be an ottoman)? Also, ivory is a bit of a chance in our household. I’m not in love with the feet, but those are easy to replace.

Bachelor #2

Very midcentury but neutral enough that it could be mixed with other furniture styles in the future.  Dimensions: 60″ W x 37″ D x37″ H. The material is sort of a nubby boucle.


Pros: I like the clean lines and the color would allow for some wear-and-tear.  Cons: Little more stylized that I usually go with and TD will hate it (but, he doesn’t have to sit in it).

Final Choice

The third finalist is a bear compared to the others.  At 70″W x 47″D  x 30″H this thing is really only a loveseat in name.

Pros: At 47″ deep, comfort is assumed.  In a pinch it would also go with the giant man-couch we have in the loft.  It would also hide the dirt well. Cons:  It’s schclempy and huge.  I’m REALLY not a fan of rolled-arms. 




They’re always after me lucky charms

Over the last couple of years, I’ve produced some solid St. Patrick’s Day recipes.  There’s my all time favorite stout cake.  And a potato cake.  And kale chips (what?  they’re green). So, this year that slightly deranged muscle I call my brain came up with something a little more…creative?

If the title of this post isn’t a dead give away, I thought we’d play ‘guess that sweet’ with pictures.

Sugar+corn syrup+water

Boil to 240 degrees F.

Unflavored gelatin and a little water to hydrate.

Add molten sugar mixture to gelatin mixture.

Then whip, whip, whip.

When tripled in volume, in go the beaten egg whites.

Into the prepared pan and into the fridge overnight.

And here is where the original recipe pretty much ends. Congratulations, you’ve just made marshmallows from scratch.  Cool or what?

Of course, you could take this a step further.  I’ll give you a hint: pink hearts, yellow moons, green clovers, orange stars, blue diamonds and purple horseshoes.  Well, except I didn’t have any green so the clovers were purple.

To color the confectioner’s sugar, I ground colored sanding sugar in the spice grinder and then mixed it in with the confectioner’s sugar.  A little labor intensive, but it worked for my purposes.

After the marshmallow mixture set up over-night, I used cookie cutters to punch-out the shapes.  Then, I dropped each one into the appropriate bag of colored sugar and gave it a good shake.  The result, some fairly convincing if not ginormous, lucky charms.

They’re magically delicious!

Oh come on, you knew I was going to say that.  Happy St Patrick’s Day!


I don’t think I had one.  But, here is my favorite Irish drinking song:  Seven Drunken Nights.

Lucky Charms

Original marshmallow recipe adapted from Gourmet Magazine, 1998.  The charmifying is all MisanthropicHostess.


  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 1/2 envelopes (2 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup hot water (about 115°F.)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large egg whites*
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • sanding sugar + 1/2 C confectioner’s sugar for each color


  1. Oil bottom and sides of a 13- by 9- by 2-inch rectangular metal baking pan and dust bottom and sides with some confectioners’ sugar.
  2. In bowl of a standing electric mixer or in a large bowl sprinkle gelatin over cold water and let stand to soften.
  3. In a 3-quart heavy saucepan cook granulated sugar, corn syrup, hot water, and salt over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to moderate and boil mixture, without stirring, until a candy or digital thermometer registers 240°F., about 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat and pour sugar mixture over gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved.
  4. With standing or a hand-held electric mixer beat mixture on high speed until white, thick, and nearly tripled in volume, about 6 minutes if using standing mixer or about 10 minutes if using hand-held mixer. In a large bowl with cleaned beaters beat whites (or reconstituted powdered whites) until they just hold stiff peaks. Beat whites and vanilla into sugar mixture until just combined. Pour mixture into baking pan and sift 1/4 cup confectioners? sugar evenly over top. Chill marshmallow, uncovered, until firm, at least 3 hours, and up to 1 day.
  5. To make color powdered sugar, grind sanding sugars in a spice grinder.  Then mix with 1/2 C confectioner’s sugar in a ziplock baggie.  If you wanted, you could skip the grind and combine the sanding sugar and confectioners directly.  The sanding sugar would sand out as little jewels in the sugar mixture.
  6. Using the cookie cutters of your choice, carefully cut out desired shapes.  You may find it easier to give the cutter a quick spray of oil though I didn’t need to do this.  Drop shapes into baggies of colored sugar one-at-a-time and shake until completely covered.
  7. Store in an air-tight container with layers separated by parchment paper.



Uhm, yum!

Sometimes MisanthropicHostess posts are meant to build to the big moment. I’ll show you some ingredients, a bit of batter, try to create a little mystery and whatnot. Other times, like with this post, there really is no other option than to hit you right in the pie hole with what could be yours if you decided to do a little baking of your own.

These are keepers.  Definitely.

And, to think, they were a last minute add-on to a Saturday already queued-up with three other recipes.  I felt the need to make something with chocolate and had bookmarked this recipe in Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from my home to yours at some point along the way.  Oh man, I wish I had made these sooner.

This is a triple-layer bar.  The base is a bit surprising with a little cinnamon and ground espresso powder.

The first layer is finished with a few ounces of chopped chocolate. The recipe calls for a fine chop.  I was feeling rebelious and went a little chunkier.  I think I like my version better.

When faced with the necesity of spreading sticky dough in a thin even layer, I have found (through much trial and error) the off-set spatula to be superior in its distribution capabilities.

Once you have a nice, even layer, into the oven until golden brown.

While the dough is in the oven, it is time for a little destruction therapy.  I am fairly sure you can buy Heath or Score bars already pulverized into bits.  But, it’s way more fun to do it yourself.  I gave some Heath bars a rough preliminary chop and then finished the job in the mini-prep (a food processor or meat tendorizer would also do the trick).

You’ll also want to chop some more chocolate.  I had some milk chocolate left over from another recipe and so, used a combo of milk and bittersweet.

And here is the part where you do what I say, not what I do.  After chopping my chocolate, I spaced-out a little and threw it into the same bowl as the chopped toffee.  You don’t want to do that.  I picked out most of the chocolate, but as you can see below, I didn’t get it all. The chopped chococlate gets sprinkled on the still-warm cookie and then back into the now-off oven for a little melty-melty action.

Out of the oven, the chocolate gets spread into a nice, even layer (those clumps are the toffee bits I couldn’t get out).

THEN the toffee bits are added.  Let the whole mess cool until the chocolate is hardened.

Cut into bars, and you’ve got yourself a new form of currency.  These would be fantastic served with ice cream or a cold glass of milk.


Beach Boys.  No explanation.

Caramel Crunch Bars

Dorie Greenspan


for the base

  • 1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp instant espresso powder (I used a tsp from an Nespresso capsule…not instant, no big deal)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter at room temp.
  • 1/2 C light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 ounces bittersweet or milk chocolate, finely chopped (or maybe a rough chop)

For the topping

  • 6 ounces bittersweet or milk chocolate, chopped
  • 3/4 C Heath Toffee bits


  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.  Lightly butter a 9X13 inch baking pan, line with parchment and butter.
  2. Whisk together the flour, espresso powder, salt and cinnamon.
  3. In a standing mixer or with an electric hand mixer, beat the butter on medium until smooth (about 3 minutes).  Add the sugars and beat another 3 minutes, until the mixture is light and cream. Beat in vanilla.
  4. Turn off the mixer.  Add all the dry ingredients and pulse the mixer about 5 times or until flour begins to incorporate.  Then, mix on low until dough just comes together.  Fold-in the chocolate.
  5. Scrape the dough into the prepared pan and using an off-set spatula, spread into a thin, even layer.
  6. Bake for 20-22 minutes.  The cookie should look like it is trying to pull away from the pan.  Turn off the oven.
  7. Scatter the chopped chocolate evenly over the top of the hot base and put pan back in the oven for 2-3 minutes, until the chocolate is soft.
  8. Using an offset spatula, spread chocolate evenly over the base.  Sprinkle the toffee bits over the chocolate and press them in slightly with your fingertips.
  9. Cool until chocolate becomes firm.  Cut as desired.