Chocolate Strawberry Italian Love Cake

I’m the worst food blogger ever. You know why? I totally forget to take pictures of the process sometimes. I get so focused and involved in cooking or baking that I completely forget to pick up my phone and capture the moment. It really shouldn’t matter so much but in order to make Google happy, I need to post lots of pictures and lots of words. I guess I’ll just have to be rebellious this time because this is what I got…

But really…do you need anything else? Look at this beauty! My Chocolate Strawberry Italian Love Cake is just as delicious as it is beautiful. I have been making it without the strawberries for years and now I can’t live without this new version.

What is Italian Love Cake? The origin is a bit of a mystery according to my research so this is what I think: The ricotta makes it “Italian” and when you taste this cake for the first time, it will be love at first bite. Sounds like a good story to me!

When my kids were younger, they loved watching this cake bake in the oven. The ricotta layer swaps with the cake batter and it’s like magic the way they both end up separated. Make sure to turn the oven light on and watch!

I love the addition of the strawberries to the ricotta so much! They add a touch of tart and sweet that really enhances the flavor. Now, if you aren’t a fan of ricotta this might not be for you. I’m just being honest! I love the texture but my ricotta hating daughter wasn’t sold. For the cake layer you know I love a dessert that uses a box cake! You can use any flavor chocolate you like but I prefer the “double fudge” kind. The whipped “mock mousse” layer is divine! Just 2 ingredients are transformed into the most delicious, fluffy, perfectly sweet chocolate mousse. I think it might be my new “go to” frosting for chocolate cakes!

Valentine’s Day is just a few days away and I can’t think of a more perfect dessert! Chocolate and strawberries are a classic combo for the holiday and this dessert is a delicious new spin that is sure to make any occasion special.

Sponsored post for Lee’s Marketplace. Items on sale the week of February 11-17: chocolate cake mix, ricotta cheese, eggs, sugar, vegetable oil

Chocolate Strawberry Italian Love Cake

Ingredients

1 box chocolate cake mix (plus eggs, oil, water to prepare)
32 oz part-skim ricotta cheese
¾ cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 eggs
1 pint strawberries, hulled and diced
1 (5.9 oz) box instant chocolate pudding mix (large box)
3 cups heavy whipping cream

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Prepare cake mix as directed on box. Pour batter into a greased 9×13 baking dish. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combing ricotta, sugar, vanilla, and eggs. Blend well. (A stand mixer with paddle works best) Fold in the strawberries. Pour and spread mixture carefully and evenly over the cake batter.

Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes if using a glass dish. Add 15 minutes if using metal. Be careful not to overbake. It’s done when inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Using an electric mixer, blend heavy cream with pudding mix until combined and a thick mousse texture. Add more cream (or milk) if it gets too thick. Spread evenly over cake once it has completely cooled. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving.

Churro Toffee Cookies

Introducing…your new favorite cookie! My Churro Toffee Cookies might be my proudest creation yet. My husband described them as “snickerdoodles on steroids!” Haha! Let me tell you how I thought of these…

Back in October my family and I went to Disneyland and beforehand I, of course, made a list of all the foods and treats that I wanted to eat. One thing that kept popping up on all the Disney food related accounts that I follow was “churro toffee.” It looked like something I’d normally pass up but if that many people were obsessed with it, I thought it was worth a try. Oh my goodness I fell in love! It’s basically a large square of perfectly crunchy English toffee, dipped in white chocolate, then generously coated in cinnamon sugar. I didn’t even get a great picture because it’s not that photogenic but here’s one I found online in stock images:

I’m so glad that I tried the Churro Toffee! On the way home from our trip I could NOT stop thinking about it. I didn’t want to totally recreate it but wanted to make a dessert inspired by the flavors. These cookies have been in my head for 2 months and I’m so happy that I finally got them in my belly! They are the softest snickerdoodle type cookie with Heath chips added in. The toffee chips melt and are so soft! Then white chocolate is drizzled over the top with extra toffee chips for that crunch needed to taste exactly like a cookie version of Disneyland Churro Toffee. Y’all HAVE to make these cookies for the holidays!

These are the plain toffee chips you need. Not the kind with chocolate.

Sponsored post for Lee’s Marketplace. Items on sale the week of December 10-16: flour, baking soda, salt, cream of tartar, cinnamon, butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, Heath toffee chips, white chocolate chips. All ingredients!

Churro Toffee Cookies

  • Servings: Makes Approx. 4 Dozen
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
8 oz bag plain Heath toffee chips, divided (bits o’ brickle)

For the coating:
½ cup granulated sugar
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon

For the topping:
1 ½-2 cups white chocolate chips, melted
Remaining toffee chips from bag (about ½ cup)

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Make the coating by combining sugar and cinnamon in a small, shallow bowl or plate. Set aside.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, cream of tartar and cinnamon in a bowl and set aside. In a large bowl using a stand mixer or hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla. Beat until combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients in small amounts. Scrape sides as needed. Add toffee chips and mix until just combined.

Scoop out spoonfuls of cookies and roll them into balls then roll in cinnamon sugar mixture to coat completely. Arrange cookies on a baking sheet 2 inches apart and bake for 10 minutes. Cookie should be very light brown around edges when done. Allow to cool on sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Once cookies have completely cooled, drizzle with melted white chocolate and sprinkle toffee chips on top.

Notes:
1. Cookies will bake even better on a silicone mat that is placed on the sheet tray. Use one if you can!
2. If kept in an airtight container, they will last for up to a week. They remain soft for days!

One more close-up of these beauties…

Loaded Pumpkin Blondies

Move over pumpkin cookies because I’ve got something even better. Loaded Pumpkin Blondies. My favorite! I really wanted to make a pumpkin recipe this week for Lee’s Marketplace and am so glad I chose this one. 13 out of 17 ingredients are on sale! Now don’t freak out over the 17 ingredients! They are called “loaded” for a reason and are so easy to throw together. Need to clean out all of your baking chips? This recipe is for you! They are “loaded” with white chocolate chips, semi-sweet chocolate chips, toffee pieces and caramel. If you like nuts you could totally add those too! They turn out so ooey gooey and have been known to turn pumpkin haters into lovers. You have to add these to your fall baking list! (Sponsored post for Lee’s)

Items on sale at Lee’s October 8-14: flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, butter, brown sugar, sugar, eggs, vanilla, pumpkin, white chocolate chips, semi-sweet chocolate chips, evaporated milk

Loaded Pumpkin Blondies

  • Servings: 12+
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Ingredients

2 1/2 C flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 C butter, melted
1 C brown sugar
1/2 C granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin purée
1/2 C white chocolate chips
1/2 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 C toffee pieces
1 bag (11 oz) caramels, unwrapped
1/3 C evaporated milk

Directions

Preheat oven to 350. Prepare 9×13 pan with cooking spray or line with parchment paper.

In a bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, baking soda, and salt. In a stand mixer, combine the butter and both sugars. Add egg, vanilla, then pumpkin. Add in dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Fold in the white and semi-sweet chips and toffee pieces.

Pour 2/3 mixture into prepared pan. Use a spatula to spread thick mixture to the edges. Bake for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine caramels and evaporated milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until caramels melt and mixture is smooth.

Pour caramel sauce over the blondies (that have baked for 10 minutes) then add remaining batter to the top by spoonfuls. Bake an additional 30 minutes or until cooked through. Let cool before serving.

**Note: You can replace caramels and evaporated milk with your favorite caramel sauce. You’ll need about 3/4-1 cup.

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Trifle

Hey y’all, remember me? I’m finally coming up for air after working the Utah State Fair for 11 days straight. It was so fun but totally exhausting! I got to meet so many Utah foodies that I’ve been following and made lots of new friends! I also got to be around SO MUCH amazing food everyday! The demonstrations and contests were lots of fun to be a part of and I loved doing my own demos. I ended up doing four cooking demonstrations and this Caramel Apple Cheesecake Trifle was one of them. I’ve been dreaming this one up for months and am more than happy with the final recipe.

Getting ready to demo my Caramel Apple Cheesecake Trifle at the Utah State Fair!

Even though I’m super excited for “pumpkin everything” season, right now I’m thinking about apples. I absolutely love anything caramel apple flavored. Add cheesecake and I’m obsessed! This trifle is similar to the Carrot Cake Trifle that I made back in April because it has the same cream cheese layer. This one uses spice cake instead of carrot but I doctored up the cake mix the same way by replacing the oil with applesauce and adding an extra egg. Doing this keeps the cake super moist but slightly more dense so that it holds up in the trifle better.

I have made this Caramel Apple Cheesecake Trifle about SIX times over the last month and I’m still not over it. It tastes like fall and I know it will make its way to your family gatherings over the next few months. It would even be amazing at Christmas!

Also, just a note, but you don’t need a fancy trifle bowl to make this. Any glass bowl will do! I was recently hired to do a cooking class for a corporate training event and needed to have a double batch of this ready beforehand. I just used a large, plastic rectangular container and it worked great! If you do want a trifle bowl like mine, I have this one.

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Trifle

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Ingredients

For the cake:
1 box Betty Crocker Super Moist Spice Cake Mix
1 cup water
½ cup applesauce
4 eggs

For the apple layer:
4 Granny Smith apples – peeled, cored, and diced small
¼ cup butter
¼ cup water
1 teaspoon cornstarch
½ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

For the cream layer:
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese
1 cup white sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream

1-1 ½ cups caramel sauce (I use Torani sauce in the squeeze bottle)
6-8 Biscoff cookies, crushed

Directions

Preheat oven to 350. Grease 9×13 pan. Add dry cake mix to medium-sized mixing bowl. Add water, applesauce, and eggs. Beat for 2 minutes. Add batter to prepared pan and bake for 27-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool completely. Once cool, cut cake (while in the pan) into small squares.

Melt butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add apples and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until apples are just starting to soften. In a small bowl, mix water and cornstarch with a fork or whisk. Add cornstarch to apples and stir. Add brown sugar and cinnamon then stir. Bring to a low boil, stirring often. Once thickened (about 1-2 minutes), remove from heat and cool completely.

In a small bowl, beat heavy whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
In a larger bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, salt, and vanilla until smooth. Fold whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture. Set in fridge until ready to use.

In a trifle bowl (or large glass bowl), layer 1/3 of the cake cubes, 1/3 of the apple filling, 1/3 of the cream, then drizzle generously with caramel sauce. Repeat two more times ending in cream. Top with crushed cookies and caramel sauce.
Refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving.

*Notes:
1. Graham crackers can be used instead of Biscoff cookies if preferred.
2. If using a different brand of spice cake, water, egg and oil measurements may be different. Just make sure to use applesauce instead of oil an add an extra egg.

Funnel Cake Bites

I had a cooking segment this week representing the Utah State Fair and, of course, had to make everyone’s favorite fair food! If you’re new around here, I am the Culinary Supervisor for the Utah State Fair. Last year, they saw me on TV and asked me to do a cooking demonstration. The activities director kept in touch with me and then asked me several months ago if I would be their new supervisor. I thought it sounded like a fun opportunity so I agreed! I am in charge of organizing all of the cooking demonstrations and contests during the 11-day fair that runs from Sept 5-15. I will be doing two more TV segments at other stations over the next couple of weeks so be watching for more delicious fair food! Watch me make the Funnel Cake Bites here.

It’s always so much fun to cook with any of these beautiful ladies at Good Things Utah!

Now let’s talk about these Funnel Cake Bites! I love funnel cake but don’t order it often because it’s messy and hard to eat, especially walking around an event! I wanted to re-create it but in bite-sized form and love how they turned out. I couldn’t stop there, though. I needed something to dip these delicious fried bites in so I came up with three different dips. Strawberry topping is usually my go-to when ordering funnel cake so I came up with a delicious Strawberries & Cream. Of course, we needed a chocolate one so I created the Nutella Dip and oh my gosh it’s heaven! I thought Cinnamon Glaze sounded yummy and it ended up being the favorite among my kids. Honestly, I can’t pick a favorite because I loved them all! Each dip only has 3-4 ingredients so you can whip them up fast before you get started on frying.

Strawberries & Cream, Cinnamon Glaze, and Nutella Dip. They’re all my favorites!

If you watch my segment you’ll hear me talk about how I forgot my small scoop at home. I totally thought that a spoon would work just fine for dropping the batter into the oil. Nope! It ended up creating more small, fried strips instead of the balled pieces that I wanted. Definitely use a scoop because it drops the batter into the oil in one plop like you need it to! That might be the last time I ever fry food on live TV! Ha!

Funnel Cake Bites

  • Difficulty: moderate
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Ingredients

1 egg
2 tablespoons canola oil
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 cups milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
Canola oil, for frying
Powdered sugar, for garnish

Directions

In a large bowl whisk together egg, oil, butter, vanilla, milk, and sugar. Gently whisk in flour, baking powder and salt. Stir until everything is combined (a few lumps is ok).
Add about 3 inches of oil to a large, deep pot and heat to 350-360 degrees.
Use a small scoop to carefully drop batter into oil. Do not crowd pan because the oil will cool down too much. Fry until golden on both sides.
Remove from oil and drain on paper towel-lined plate. Allow to cool for about 1 minute then sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve immediately.

Cinnamon Roll Glaze Dip
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla
3-4 tablespoons milk
Add all ingredients to a bowl and stir to combine.

Strawberries and Cream Dip
½ cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons powdered sugar
3 tablespoons strawberry jam
Add all ingredients to a bowl and stir to combine.

Nutella Dip
1 ½ cups Cool Whip
¾ cup Nutella
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
Add all ingredients to a bowl and stir to combine. Add more cream if needed to reach desired consistency.

One more close up of these perfect, delicious Funnel Cake Bites!

White Chocolate Cherry Blondies

Utah cherries are my favorite! We have a giant, beautiful cherry tree at my house but it didn’t do well this year. I was so sad but got excited when I saw that fresh, local cherries were on sale at Lee’s Marketplace this week. I knew that cherries would be amazing in my go-to blondie recipe and love how it turned out! My son proclaimed this my “best Lee’s recipe so far!” With the pop of red from the cherries and the white chocolate chips, they are the perfect 4th of July dessert but you don’t need a holiday for an excuse to make them!

Items on sale for July 2-July 8: cherries, butter, brown sugar, eggs, almond extract, flour

This is a sponsored post for Lee’s Marketplace. My posts for them are usually only posted to my Instagram but I’ll be posting them on my blog as well now. I love working with them! It gets my creative juices flowing as I think of recipes based on their weekly sale ads! Even if you aren’t local, these are still great recipes that anyone can use!

White Chocolate Cherry Blondies

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

1 cup butter, mostly melted and slightly cooled
2 cups brown sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon almond extract
2 cups + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup fresh dark cherries, pitted and cut in half

Directions

Preheat oven to 350. Prepare a 9×13 baking dish by lightly coating with nonstick cooking spray.

Mix together the butter and brown sugar then mix in the eggs, vanilla, and almond extract.

Add flour and salt then stir until everything is well combined. In a separate small bowl, toss cherries in 1 tablespoon flour until coated. Fold white chocolate chips and cherries into the batter.

Pour batter into baking dish and bake for 30-40 minutes or until edges just start to brown and center is set. (The top will have a shiny look to it and that is ok.) Let cool completely before cutting.