Before POG was a game in the ’90s, it was an acronym for a juice blend invented in the ’70s on Maui. The tart yet sweet blend of passion fruit, orange, and guava juices is nostalgic for many — especially my Dad.
(Oddly enough, the game “pogs” is named after the juice — in ’91 a school teacher used POG juice caps to teach a modern version of a plantation-era game flipping ‘milk covas’ from the ’30s. My ’90s mind would have been blown!)
POG is relatively unknown on the mainland, and it is near impossible to find. I have only seen Aloha or Hawaiian Sun brands on the east coast, which are thick, syrupy, and lack freshness.
But, the POG experience can be re-created. For my sister’s rehearsal dinner in March we catered dessert from Taste of Aloha and the POG cupcakes were non-negotiable.
I asked baking kumu Amy if she would share her cupcake recipe so I could make it into a birthday cake for my Dad. Thankfully she obliged!
POG cupcakes from my sister’s rehearsal
The POG cake was a hit (again!). Since I made cakes instead of cupcakes, the baking time was much longer (~40 minutes), but the cake was still incredibly moist and flavorful.
I also opted for 2 different fillings since there were 4 layers of cake. Filling 1 was a tropical fruit curd which consisted of: peach-passion fruit juice, palekaiko tea, ginger, orange puree, li hing powder. Filling 2 was the incredibly creamy and smooth liliko’i butter from Kahuku Farms that I recently lugged back from Hawai’i.
I covered the cake in toasted coconut because I didn’t want to make candied orange peel, but in hindsight it would probably be quicker to make the orange peel!
I’ve been on a chocolate and caramel kick recently so I jumped at the opportunity to make Emily’s, of Life on Food, Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars for this month’s Secret Recipe Club reveal. I had a huge block of chocolate and an extra jar of fleur de sel caramel sauce that was itching to be used up so it was just meant to be.
The hardest part about these bars is pressing the cookie dough-like filling into all of the crevices of the pan. I found that if I took balls of dough and didn’t press too hard, I was able to fill most of the spots in one round. That being said, this was a super easy and great recipe. Everyone in my office loved them, marketed as Salted Caramel Blondies.
Nothing reminds me of the holidays more than spiced cookies. For this special Secret Recipe Club Cookie Carnival round-up for the winter, I was paired up with Cindy from Hun… What’s for Dinner?, a stay at home to 2 children. It was pretty much a no brainer when I saw her recipe for Ginger Molasses Cookies, a perfect way to take the edge off on a chilly day. My favorite way to eat these cookies are after they’ve been warmed over the a cup of tea — soft and chewy center with crispier outer edges.
These cookies bake uniformly and are pretty to look at with the crackly tops. Since we like our cookies on the softer side, we baked them for only 10 minutes and set them to cool on parchment paper. The molasses in these cookies keeps them soft for days after baking. My husband baked these for me one evening and I brought them into work 4 or 5 days later and they were still very soft and flavorful. This is also the first cookie I’ve heard of that used oil instead of butter; how these would bake into cookies seemed like a mystery to me.
Graduating college is a big deal! It’s tradition for me to make cupcakes or cookies for my sister’s graduation (high school, associates degree, undergraduate, and soon to be graduate!). Her schools colors are green and yellow so I opted for a “green velvet” cake and my tried and true cream cheese frosting.
Velvet cakes, I’ve found, are actually a pretty good crowd pleaser. It’s not a vanilla cake, and not quite chocolate. And these were even more awesome because I made some edible graduation caps to go on top. I was inspired by this post and used colored candy melts with my brownie bite pan and candy cup mold. And yes, I sorted out all the green colored mini M&Ms and cut the green out of strips of rainbow sour belt, but I was determined to have a super cute graduation cap and tassle!
The cupcakes were a hit and we surprised my sister at an end of the year Girl Scout event with a mini party in our hotel room.
caps in progress
Party setup in hotel room
With every ending there’s a new beginning. Or so they say. At work we had some interns that were returning back to school. A large project was coming to an end and we were all “rollin’ off” to new things. One of the intern’s favorite candies was Rolos® and she told me one day how she used to make candies out of pretzels and Rolo® candies. I decided for the end of project celebration to make these cupcakes, especially for her.
I had not remembered eating Rolos®, but there have been commercials about them recently. I wanted to get the Rolo® Minis (no un-wrapping required) and was surprised that they were a bit hard to find; in spite of or because it was around Halloween season.
Baked goods had become the standard accompaniment to my visits in to the office and these did not disappoint. In fact, I had under-estimated how many people would be in the office that day and there was a mini-riot at the lack of cupcakes. Thankfully I was able to pacify them with the leftover Rolo® candies that I had brought in case such a situation would arise.
This treat used my standard go-to chocolate cake recipe, paired with a graham cracker crust and filled with chopped Rolos®. The topping is a cream cheese frosting to keep bites from getting too sweet. I topped the whole cupcake with a single candy and drizzled it with salted caramel.