cranberry chocolate chip blondies

plate of blondes

I’ve had some unexpected girl time this week with my daughter, and have really enjoyed it.  It isn’t that I thought I wouldn’t enjoy it…I’m not that cold.  I think because she is 9 now, we can communicate more than during the Dora years.  (Oh, and maybe because I’m not working right now is another reason for my enjoyment?)  She has been home from school due to the usual cold going around, and besides having a fever and a lovely new raspy voice, she has felt reasonably fine.  But that doesn’t keep her from getting bored, so we have put on all our favorite Victorious episodes, agreed that the iCarly kids are no longer kids, and watched a marathon of Clean House.  (I have a HGTV and Style networkee in training!).  She and I discussed all the important things in life.  I learned just how much Disney kids are recycled.  She pointed out how iCarly was on Drake and Josh, some blond girl on Ant Farm is Crazy Connie on Jessie and many more.  I also got to enjoy watching her make notes for Joy – our Elf on a Shelf who has been watching my kids for about a week.  (I was a little late to that game).  We painted toes, braided hair and rearranged her room.  And being house-bound, I was in the kitchen of course.  Chicken soup was made, braised turkey tacos were devoured, and so to top it off I wanted to make a sweet treat.  To be honest though, I wasn’t in the mood for anything difficult (remember my skills as a baker are not concrete).  So I scanned a few different brownie recipes and decided to make what I thought would be similar to my favorite indulgence of all time – soft and chewy chocolate chip cookies.  It is a blond brownie recipe that is a little healthier than most, so to counteract that – chocolate chips were added!  I also threw in some dried cranberries for color.  Oh who am I kidding!  I threw them in for the hell of it.  This recipe was super simple to mix together and came out just as I wanted them to.  I got the nod of yumminess from my daughter, and so I had to immediately put the foil over the pan to keep myself from finishing the pan…in one sitting.  Oh I’m finishing that pan though….

cranberry chocolate chip blondies (adapted from Cooking Light December 2008)

1  cup brown sugar, packed
1/4  cup butter, melted
1/4  cup egg substitute
2  tsp. vanilla extract
1  cup all-purpose flour
1/2  tsp. baking powder
1/8  tsp. salt
1/4  cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4  cup dried cranberries
Non-stick cooking spray

melted buttermixing in flour

get started on the brownies:

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl and stir with a whisk.  Add flour, baking powder and salt to butter mixture.  Stir just until moist.  Stir in chocolate chips and dried cranberries.  (Make sure you separate the cranberries so you don’t have large chunks).  Spread batter into a 8 inch square baking pan coated with non-stick cooking spray.  Bake at 350 for 22 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out almost clean.  Cool in pan on a wire rack.  Store covered for up to three days (if they last that long!).

cranberries on toppan of brownies

note:  I read somewhere that the ‘scooping method’ of flour is preferable to the ‘spoon into the cup and level method’.  I’m sure there is a slight effect using one method or the other…I don’t feel like researching that though.  I’ll save my time for the results!

blond brownies


banana chocolate chip cake with peanut butter frosting

banana chocolate chip cake with peanut butter frosting

I don’t bake.  Actually I should say that I don’t bake well. Salt gets forgotten, butter gets neglected to get to room temperature, or my personal favorite was my choice to use a removable bottom cake pan when making my grandmother’s gooey biscuit cake (think monkey bread), and I open the oven to find all the yummy brown sugary syrup had oozed on out of that pan and formed a hard slick on the bottom of my oven.  So it is ironic that my first post is of a cake. However, as I stated in my ‘about page, I like to challenge myself.  Chalk it up to being stubborn.  So memories of dry cookies and purple-green blueberry muffins banished, I decided I was going to try this recipe.  I tore it out of the Bon Appetit October 2012 issue because…oh hell, just look at it.  It’s like a perfect storm of all good ingredients.  So armed with a Stuart Smalley-like mantra of ‘I can do this’, I dove into making this cake.  A short word on a few changes I made – one deliberate and one not.  One – I used regular sized chocolate chips as that is what I had in my cabinet, and two – I used two round cake pans because I didn’t read the recipe all the way through.  Classic Erin.

banana & chocolate chip cake with peanut butter frosting (adapted from Bon Appetit October 2012)


2  9 inch round non-stick cake pans
non-stick spray (either canola or baking)

3  cups all-purpose flour
2  tsp. baking soda
2  tsp. kosher salt
1 1/2  cups sugar
1  cup unsalted butter, room temperature (go figure)
1/2  cup packed brown sugar
3  large eggs
1 1/2  tsp. vanilla extract
2  cups mashed very ripe bananas (about 4 large)
1  cup sour cream
1  10 oz. bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips, save some for the top of cake

mashed bananabanana batter


2  cups creamy peanut butter
1 1/2  cups powdered sugar
1  cup unsalted butter, room temperature (again)
2 1/2  tsp. vanilla extract
chocolate chips

banana cake slicebanana cake

get started on the cake:

Preheat oven to 350.  Coat cake pans with non-stick spray.  Line bottom of pans with parchment and coat with non-stick spray (although I skipped the paper step).  Whisk flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.  Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar, butter and brown sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions.  Occasionally scrape down sides and bottom of bowl to fully blend.  Beat in vanilla.
Add dry ingredients; beat on low speed, just to blend.  Add bananas and sour cream; beat just to blend.  Fold in chocolate chips.  Divide batter evenly among pans; smooth tops.   (I chose to drop each pan flat on counter because I saw it on a cooking show and always wanted to do that!)
Bake cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes.  (I had to add 10 more minutes because of my larger pans).  Transfer to a wire rack; let cool in pans for 10 minutes.  Invert cakes onto racks to completely cool.  Peel off parchment if you chose to use.

get started on frosting:

Using an electric mixer, beat first four ingredients in a medium bowl until a light and fluffy frosting forms, 2-3 minutes.


Place one cake on a plate.  Spread 1 1/4 cups frosting evenly over the top of the cake.  Place remaining cake on top with flat side (bottom) facing up.  Cover top and sides of cake with remaining frosting.  Garnish with chocolate chips however you see fit!  You can spell something, do a design, or just leave it random.


Cake can be made 2 days ahead.  Cover and chill.  Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving.  (My kids complained that the frosting was hard when serving a slice right from the hoo).