There are few things in life that make me as happy as a delicious bar cookie. Shortbread on the bottom. Some sort of caramel layer. Nuts or coconut or seeds. And chocolate. Dipped in chocolate, drizzled in chocolate, painted with chocolate. Any of these options are okay.
My usual go-to bar for this type of craving is Alice Medrich’s Toffee Bar. Seriously delicious. Seriously addictive. Seriously easy to make. Like really really easy to make.
But my friends’ daughters have all been talking about Girl Scout cookie orders and I was looking through my Baked books for some ideas and then I found it: Samoa-inspired bar with coconut.
When you need to practice a presentation and are asking your colleagues to give up an hour of their time to listen to you and give feedback, it seems right to offer some baked goods.
Problem was, I planned my baked goods for an afternoon meeting and actually the meeting was scheduled for the morning. So I had to think of a ‘healthy’ breakfast treat I could make. While one of my favorites is Alice Medrich’s Breakfast Biscotti, I changed my tune and went with this oatmeal cake instead. Oatmeal – basically breakfast in disguise! Cream cheese frosting – just like eating a bagel!
This cake may not be the most nutritious breakfast you could choose, but it was glowingly reviewed and declared the favorite by many.
Something strange happens to me around birthdays. It has to do with cakes. And my firm belief that every birthday is better – significantly better – with a cake made just for you.
So when my husband’s birthday came around, I wanted to make something special. First I was going to make an ice cream cake with homemade salted caramel ice cream. But I didn’t have time.
So I decided to go back to his childhood favorite and attempt to make it from scratch. And his childhood favorite was angel food cake. Which everyone knows is best made from a box. Because it calls for 10 – count them, 10! – egg whites. And a lot of whisking. And is prone to not rising properly. And being finicky in other ways. And generally risking disappointment on the big day.
Not all cakes are planned. Well, at least, not in advance. Yesterday as I was leaving school a colleague mentioned it was another colleague’s birthday today. And since we have a joint meeting every Wednesday, she was going to bring a cake. So I immediately said: I’ll bring a cake!
But which cake?
As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, my carrot cake is often requested. Sometimes it feels to me as if it’s requested too often, given all the other recipes I want to try. But it’s requested so frequently for a good reason: it tastes good.
I had my first scone about 4 years ago and was not impressed. Since then, I’ve started baking them and you could maybe call me obsessed. Like, anytime someone has a brunch I’m invited to I offer to bring scones. Like, I read various recipes and scoff at their inclusion of ingredients such as evaporated milk or techniques like ‘blend.’
And then I realized I faced a terrible quandary: I have too many scone recipes with conflicting ingredients, proportions, instructions. When I make a batch of scones, they taste good. Then I make a different recipe and they taste good. But which one’s better?
In search for an easy, big, nut-free, and interesting cake to bring to feed my students on Tuesday, I was intrigued by this recipe in the cinnamon section of Baked Elements. Spicy brownies with cinnamon and a chili kick? Sounded like something worth trying.
Of course, I don’t have ancho chile powder. Don’t know if they sell it here, what it’d be called, or where I would even start to look for it. So my friend Google suggested I substitute a mix of cumin and cayenne pepper, which I did. But then when I tried the batter it had a mega kick and I thought I might kill the students with spice. Then I was convinced they wouldn’t like the brownies because none of them liked the ginger rhubarb cake I love so much. I attribute that to them having less sophisticated palates 🙂
(Photo credit: Sabrina; clockwise from top: chocolate chip cookies, Ali’s cupcakes, vanilla malt bundt cake, spicy brownies, cinnamon carrot cake)
Well, I was surprised. They all loved it. Some of them thought they weren’t spicy at all. Others got over the initial shock and then reached for seconds, thirds … claiming the kick at the back of the throat was addictive. A colleague tried one of the last remaining ones and declared it to be the perfect blend of a burger and a brownie. Needless to say, they were completely consumed before the end of the day.
My carrot cake recipe (from the Hummingbird Cafe cookbook) is a bit famous. It’s a perennial favorite and is always requested for friends’ and colleagues’ birthdays. It’s gotten to the point where I lobby – hard – for other cakes just because I get bored making carrot cake all the time.
(Photo credit: Sabrina)
For my school birthday party, where I had committed to bringing baked goods for all of my students (in honor of my birthday and the last class period before exams), I thought I’d try another carrot cake recipe. One of my students is deathly allergic to peanuts – and avoids all nuts just to be sure – and this recipe calls for walnuts (easy enough to leave out) and coconut, which I thought would add a little something that might go missing if I left out the walnuts.
The perfect brunch dish for the morning after a cake-laden birthday party is … a sweet baked delight! Well, at least according to me.
Bouchon Bakery’s blueberry muffins are a big hit. I made them in regular size. I made them in mini size for May Day brunch. And today I made them with raspberries instead of blueberries. And they’re all good.