Category Archives: sweets

chocolate cake with white chocolate cream cheese frosting

chocolate cake with white chocolate cream cheese

Birthdays sometimes go unnoticed in my office, and while I can’t bake a cake for everyone, I try to do something. We hired a new project assistant a couple months back and we kind of forgot her birthday. My excuse was that I was working from home because of my never-ending knee problems. But I decided I would bake a cake for her 25th birthday + one week.  You know, keep everyone on their toes about whether or not there was going to be a cake.

I didn’t really know what kind of cake she liked, but I figured that most people like chocolate (how can you not?) and I had seen this stunning cake on tastepotting. I was a little thrown off by the ingredients because I was unfamiliar with golden syrup. I knew it was popular in England (coincidentally, I had read about it just the day before I cake across the recipe), but I didn’t want to go from store to store trying to find it. I have since learned that it’s actually available in every single grocery store I shop in. Oh well.

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cornmeal lime cookies

I promised you some yummy lime treats a while back and it’s taken me forever to deliver! I first had these cookies from Joanne Chang’s new cookbook, Flour, when a friend made them and brought them to work last fall. It was before I had gotten Chang’s book, named after her bakery in Boston, and one bite of this cookie further solidified my need to run out and get this cookbook.

I am first and foremost a chocolate lover, but I also really love both lemon and lime desserts. I used to eat lemons straight up as a kid until my mom got worried about what it was doing to my teeth and made me stop. To this day, one of my favorite non-alcoholic drinks is seltzer with a lot of fresh lemon or lime juice. So I love the sour citruses straight up, but I love the tartness that they lend to desserts. Joseph, unfortunately, tends to be a bit more of a chocolate purist, so I sometimes have to convince him that a lemon or lime dessert can be the perfect refreshing bite , especially on a sunny spring or summer day.

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perfect chocolate chip cookies from cook’s illustrated

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie from Cook's Illustrated

A few weeks ago my sister, Jessica, and I were talking on the phone when she asked me if I had any good chocolate chip cookie recipes. She was asking because she said she had tried several recipes and while they were good, they just didn’t really compare to the classic Nestle Toll House recipe. I can’t tell you how many times we made those cookies together as kids, but I’ve probably made them close to 100 times by now. The Toll House cookies and the apple pie I made every Thanksgiving were the most significant recipes of my childhood. But while I only made the apple pie once a year, the cookies we made whenever we wanted to bake, which was often.

brown and white sugar

As the younger sibling, I got stuck with the easy stuff: the dry ingredients. The wet ingredients always seemed so much more glamorous. Looking back, I’m not really sure what Jessica and I were doing, because those cookies seemed to take forever to make. I think we must have spent at least an hour making the dough, whereas I can now throw it together in about 10 minutes or less. So I really don’t understand what I was doing that took me so long, especially since my main task involved mixing flour, baking soda, and salt together. Perhaps it was because we were climbing on the counters trying to reach the ingredients and we had to stop to snack on the brown sugar and chocolate chips?

butter into browned butter

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key lime coconut cake

When we were planning our little Easter dinner (just for the two us), I was most excited about picking out a dessert (surprised, anyone?). I scoured recent posts on tastespotting and foodgawker, I checked out Epicurious and the Food Network, and while there many lovely, tasty looking desserts, nothing was jumping out as quite what I was looking for. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but I wanted it to be a little bit different, light and spring appropriate, and not too big since it was just the two of us. Then I went to Smitten Kitchen, clicked on the the cake recipes, and there it was: lime coconut cake.  I don’t know what it was about the lime coconut cake, but it just felt right.  It conjured pictures of tropical beaches with crystal clear blue seas and I wanted to go to there.

The cake may not actually transport you to Fiji, but it is exactly what I was looking for. It’s light and moist and the coconut adds a really nice, delicate crunch. Also, I’m just obsessed with lime.  I just love it and I’ve been on a total lime kick lately (I’ll be sharing another lime treat with you soon…).  It’s just so refreshing!

I like coconut, so I don’t know why I never cook with it. In fact, making this cake brought back memories from my bakery days when I worked at Cake Love because that was the last time I worked with coconut (5 years ago!).  I was a prep assistant and one of my jobs was to toast the flaked coconut. My boss was always giving me a hard time about leaving the oven door open too long and letting heat out while cakes were in there baking, while I was just trying to stir a huge, hot sheet overflowing with coconut without spilling it all over the place. It always stressed me out, but man it smelled good. Continue reading


chocolate angel food cake

I love baking for other people.  There’s just so much satisfaction in giving someone one of your favorite treats, like chocolate glazed gingerbread cakes, chocolate raspberry cake, apple cider cake, or a cranberry upside-down cake (can you tell I like cake?). But what about when that person is on a diet?  You’d hardly be a good friend if you showed up with these sinfully delicious, rich, gooey, brownies.

This chocolate angel food cake has become my answer to that.  It’s light and and airy and chocolatey and oh so very good, and the best part? There’s no butter, no egg yolks, no oil, and hey, it’s half air! How bad can it possibly be? It’s a much healthier alternative but it’s still so good, especially served with fresh strawberries and homemade whipped cream.

So when I said I’d bring dessert to a dinner party to celebrate the birthday of a friend that has lost over 30 pounds through several months of hard work and dedication, this is the dessert I immediately thought of.  But I was still pretty wobbly after knee surgery and was a little nervous to committing to that much time standing in the kitchen. What if I got halfway through and just couldn’t stand long enough to finish it? Continue reading


springtime sampler

We finally had some decent weather this past weekend and I was absolutely desperate to get out of the house. We’d never been to New Bedford, a town hailed for being one of the most important whaling ports in the 19th Century, so we made the one hour drive down from Boston and checked out some sites that Joseph had picked out.

The highlight was definitely Margaret’s (actually across the river in Fairhaven), a small, unpretentious seafood restaurant that we picked based on strong Yelp reviews. It was packed but turnover was fast enough that it seemed that no one ever had to wait. They had yummy focaccia at the table waiting for us before we even sat down which is both delightful and dangerous for someone who loves bread as much as I do. We both got seafood plates that had slightly different content, but pretty much the same sauce. The food – especially the huge, sweet, and plump mussels – was delicious and the prices were friendly on the wallet. Simple food done well, amazing prices, awesome service. If you’re ever in the area, I definitely recommend stopping by.

We also stopped by Lydia’s, a Portuguese Bakery, for some somewhat unmemorable pastries.  We knew nothing about Portuguese pastries and had no idea what to get, so that may have been the problem.  Next we headed to Sid Wainer & Son, a specialty food wholesaler with a retail store open to the public where you can get a $300 jar of winter truffles and enough free food samples to constitute a small lunch. Make sure to bring a jacket if you want to peruse their well-stocked cheese room.

Next was Travessia Winery, an urban winery that sources most of their grapes from a vineyard in Massachusetts. The Pinot Grigio and the Chardonnay are well worth skipping, while the Vidal Blanc and especially the red blend Jester, whose grapes are sourced from California, are tastier. Mostly I was just glad that you saved $2 off the tasting by opting out of getting the “free” glass.  Anyone want any winery wine glasses?  We have enough to stock a small restaurant.

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chocolate peanut butter macarons

Well, as I mentioned a couple days ago, I took an awesome class at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts taught by Master Pastry Chef Delphine Gomes.  Macarons are clearly the hot new (well, not as new now…) thing, and I love them, but I just can’t afford to keep up the habit with the prices shops charge for them.  Besides, it’s much more fun and rewarding to make your own!

The problem was that the first recipe I tried was a little more complex and I probably should have read up a little more ahead of time to really figure out what I was doing.  I guess I thought since I could handle meringues, macarons wouldn’t be too much harder.  I was wrong.  Macarons are notoriously finicky, are fragile, and crack easily.  My first attempt, did not go so well…. Continue reading


une leçon de macarons (a lesson on macarons)

Did you know that this past Sunday was Macaron Day in NYC?  I got an e-mail about it yesterday and then this afternoon a friend told me about her weekend in New York and all the macaron shops she hit up while she was there.  Oh man was I jealous. If only I had known!  The good news is that Anne told me that the Danish Pastry House, which I absolutely love and is just a short drive from our place (or a longer walk when my knee is up to it), has awesome macarons.  Yes!

The other good news is that my own macaron making skills have improved.  Dramatically.  Remember my horribly failed cinnamon apple macawhoopsie pies?  That were supposed to be macarons?  Right, well, I was kind of afraid to try making macarons again after that.  But my wonderful husband got me a class on macarons at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts as well as a cute little book on macarons for Christmas.

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cranberry, cherry, and clementine cream scones

Growing up, I was always very proud of my Irish heritage.  Every St. Patty’s day my mom would make her version of colcannon (basically mashed potatoes with shredded cabbage, bacon pieces, and grated cheddar) and currant scones.  The scones were always my favorite part.  As an adult, my celebration of St. Patty’s Day has changed considerably (hello, Guinness and Irish Coffee!), although I still always make  scones.

This year was my most uneventful St. Patty’s Day to date.  I had class that night and hadn’t been since my knee surgery and didn’t want to miss another class.  Not just that, but I haven’t been able to get in the kitchen and cook with my bum knee and didn’t want to ask Joseph to go out of his way to make an Irish meal for me when he has a lot going on himself (plus, he’s already been waiting on me hand and foot ever since the surgery). Continue reading


chocolate raspberry cake

Let me get straight to the point and tell you that this is one of my very favorite cake recipes.  It’s chocolate (which scores it several points right off the bat) accented by a delightfully tart raspberry filling.  The layers are moist and rich and the three of them piled up together give it some impressive height.

The cake is a little more complex and the ingredients are a little pricier than the average cake (especially because I always seem to accidentally buy twice as much chocolate as necessary because the original recipe calls for a ganache filling instead of raspberry), but it’s definitely worth it.  Still, I currently only make it once a year for the annual February get-together for the birthday celebration of my mother-in-law and sister-in-law.

Chocolate Raspberry Cake

This year’s family get-together was especially fun with the addition of Jill, an old college friend of my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, and because my niece, Amelia, is now nearly 2 1/2 years old. We don’t get to see Amelia nearly often enough and each time we see her it’s like I’m looking at a whole new person!  She grows and develops new skills so quickly and it’s so cool to see how much she has changed. Continue reading