December 21, 2023


My last post of 2023 and I present to you Pizzelle.   I confess that the inspiration to make these Italian waffle cookies was anything but divine.  In reality it was the cutest video of a nonna making them for her grandchild that came across my Instagram feed.  

Undoubtedly you'll already have all the cookie ingredients on hand in your pantry, but the required  equipment is the pizzelle iron.  I've had mine for ages, bought years ago at Sur La Table, but you can easily source one online. 

The pizzelle batter comes together really quickly and to make portioning easier I like to place it in a decorating bag fitted with a plain open tip.  The cookies take literally seconds to cook in the grill and you end up with stacks of golden brown, crispy cookies.  Once cooled you can add a light dusting of powdered sugar on top if you'd like, but I tend to prefer mine plain.  
Season's Treatings from me to you.  See you in 2024 for more delicious treats!

December 19, 2023

Lime Meltaways

Wanna know a surefire way to get me to bake for you?  Present me with a challenge, coupled with an intimation that I'll most likely fail, and I take the bait every single time: hook, line and sinker.  When it comes to baking chalk it up to my competitive and perfectionist tendencies, which makes me predisposed to fall for the dare.  I refuse to accept defeat! 

Such was the case recently when a lime-lover lamented that they'd never had a cookie that successfully captured the taste and essence of the verdant citrus fruit.  While there were dozens of cookie recipes devoted to its well known lemon cousin, the overlooked lime continued to be cast in the shadows.  I set about to rectify the situation with these Lime Meltaways.

I remembered seeing this Martha Stewart recipe years ago but had never bothered making it.  Now was the perfect excuse to give it a go.  The only tweak I made to the original recipe was replacing vanilla extract with lime juice.  In the end my dough boasted more than three tablespoons of freshly squeezed juice.  If that didn't make you pucker up I don't know what would!
Once formed into a log the dough was chilled until firm and then sliced and baked.  (The dough also freezes beautifully.)  A final dredge in snowy white powdered sugar and you have a symphony of perfectly crisp, buttery cookies that build to a crescendo of tart lime flavor.   (Pardon the hyperbole..ha!)

December 12, 2023

2023 Holiday Cookie Box


For the 2023 Holiday Cookie Box I stuck to the tried and true classics that everyone seemed to love along with the new addition of vanillekipferl.  Year after year I vow to cut back on the different types of cookies I make to save myself the time and effort, yet every year I never do.  I can't help it, baking is my love language and what better way to show someone you care than by gifting them a box of homemade treats?



December 8, 2023

Checkerboard and Marble Sablés


French butter cookies are a personal favorite of mine and this year I made them as Checkerboard and Marble Sablés.  Don't be intimidated, the checkerboard pattern isn't as difficult as it may appear.   I made two batches of Cook's Illustrated sablés recipe, one flavored vanilla and the other chocolate, to create these beauties.  For the design I turned to this King Arthur's video which was super helpful.  As you cut the rods of dough to make the checkerboard you inevitably end up with many scraps.  Don't throw them away!  When you smoosh the scraps together you get the marbled cookies.


These cookies will impress anyone and they taste fantastic too.  Not too sweet, buttery and crunchy.  They will be the stars in this year's holiday cookie box.

December 2, 2023



Vanillekipferl are crescent-shaped almond shortbread cookies traditionally made at Christmas time in many European countries, e.g., Germany, Austria and Switzerland. They're a very close cousin to nut snowballs or Mexican wedding cookies, but the dough is much smoother with the addition of almond flour.  I love that they aren't too sweet so you don't feel guilty eating so many.  I'll be including them in this year's holiday cookie box.  

November 21, 2023

Rice Krispies Turkey

For Thanksgiving I present to you a Rice Krispies Turkey.  
I love a 3-D cake pan so when I saw this turkey shaped one I had to add it to my (evergrowing) Nordic Ware collection.  My favorite use for these type of cake pans is to make molded rice cereal treats like the ones I've done for Easter, here and here.  Note to self for the next time I make it: prepare 2x the treats recipe in order to fill both cavities of the mold.  Unfortunately I only had enough ingredients for one recipe so my turkey is only half formed.  Oh well...still tastes great!

Happy Thanksgiving!

October 29, 2023

Pumpkin Cupcakes

Pumpkin Cupcakes are  perfect for your Halloween or autumn gathering.  For the chocolate cupcake I used Cook's Illustrated's recipe which is super easy to make and comes together by hand in one bowl.  My favorite Swiss meringue buttercream was piped on top of each cupcake to create the pumpkin effect.   

Swiss Meringue Buttercream 
5 large egg whites (~150g)
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 lb unsalted butter cut in to pieces, at room temperature
Place sugar, egg whites and salt in the heat-proof bowl of an electric mixer. Set bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, and whisk until sugar has dissolved and egg whites are hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. Test by rubbing the mixture between your fingers; it should feel completely smooth.

Transfer bowl to mixer stand. Using the whisk attachment, beat on high speed until mixture has cooled completely and formed stiff and glossy peaks, about 10 minutes.

Add the butter, one piece at a time, and beat until incorporated after each addition. Don't worry if the buttercream appears curdled after all the butter has been added; it will become smooth again with continued beating. Add vanilla extract, and beat just until combined.

Decorating Tips
Pumpkin Body: Ateco 862
Pumpkin Stem: Ateco 19
Leaf:  Ateco 352
Vine: Ateco 2

October 21, 2023



I could literally kick myself for never having tasted Maritozzi, a traditional Italian breakfast treat consisting of a brioche bun filled with freshly whipped cream, whenever I visited Italy.  This enticing Instagram post from Bread by Elise motivated me to correct that grievous error. 

What especially drew me to Elise's bun recipe was the use of tangzhong.  This flour and milk roux added into the dough ensures that the bread maintains a soft interior long after baking.   As I was making the dough I could tell straightaway that the buns were going to be fantastic because the dough's texture was so elastic, light and easy to work with.    

Who doesn't love freshly whipped cream and maritozzis are filled to the brim with it, along with a layer of homemade tart raspberry jam.  A marriage made in breakfast heaven.  The only drawback, if you consider it one, is that the maritozzi tastes best when consumed à la minute, i.e., right away.    Next time I think I'll freeze some of the unfilled, baked buns and then reheat and fill them at a later time.  Now that I'm confident in my maritozzi-making skills I can save myself the price of a plane ticket to Italy, although I'd happily still go for pasta and shopping!

October 13, 2023

Boston Cream Pie


The last time I made Boston Cream Pie was more than a dozen years ago but I had another go recently for my Mom's birthday.  Back then I wasn't satisfied with the runny texture of the pastry cream, so for this attempt I made sure it was firm.   To assemble my cake I also went a bit off piste.  The cake was baked as three layers, instead of the traditional two, and for the chocolate ganache icing I went the simple, minimalist route. 

October 7, 2023

Bien Cuit Shortbread

Four simple ingredients: butter, powdered sugar, flour and kosher salt.  Basic staples found in any pantry that triumphantly come together in these delicious Bien Cuit Shortbread.  I've never been to the eponymous New York bakery where the recipe comes from but, fortunately, now I don't have to make the cross-country trek. 

I first saw the shortbread featured on Food 52's Instagram account.  To be honest, it was their finger-like shape that really caught my attention.  When I read Amanda Hesser's testimony that they were the world's best shortbread I couldn't not make them.  Indeed, she was absolutely correct...the cookies were so delicious: short, buttery and just a hint of sweetness.   I think they will be a strong contender for this year's holiday cookie box.

October 1, 2023

Dutch Apple Cake


I've visited The Netherlands exactly twice: the first time as a university student passing through with a Eurail pass and the second when one of my besties was working there on a long-term project.   During neither of those trips did I have the fortune to taste the famous appeltaart (more like cake) from Cafe Winkel 43 in Amsterdam. Actually, I'd never even heard of this famous dessert until I saw it on Amanda Frederickson's blog when she tried to replicate it at home.  Since we're at the beginning of fall I thought her Dutch Apple Cake would make the ideal first bake to celebrate the season. 

Amanda's recipe makes a 9-inch cake, but I ended up halving the ingredients and making a smaller cake using a 6-inch pan.  I was happy when the downsizing worked out perfectly.  For the apples I used my favorite variety, honeycrisp, which are crunchy, sweet and tart and hold up perfectly when baked.   The cake baked up to a lovely golden brown and it took all my willpower to not slice into it straightaway.   As soon as it cooled I indulged in a slice with vanilla whipped cream.  My first taste was a triumph and unlike any other apple cake I'd had before.  The cake top was almost like shortbread while the apple chunks in the middle add a nice, fruity contrast.   I can't wait for my next visit to Amsterdam so I can try the original, but until then this replica version suits me just fine.

September 24, 2023

Lemon Curd Gooey Butter Cookies


Pardon the extended hiatus from my blog but I was enjoying a long overdue sabbatical for most of the summer.  I missed my kitchen and baking to be sure, but I kept myself busy with traveling and relaxing...a perfect way to recharge. Now that I'm home I'm easing back into the swing of things.

First up are these Lemon Curd Gooey Butter Cookies, which I'd seen pop up on my Instagram feed from Butternut Bakery.  I've made gooey butter cookies before on this blog, but I loved the idea of combining lemon curd with the chewy, citrus cookie.  Propitiously I had all the ingredients I needed, including homemade meyer lemon curd, and the cookies came together easily.  My only other enhancement was to add a few tablespoons of poppy seeds to the cookie dough.  

One bite of the finished cookie and I was a goner; the perfect marriage of tart, sweet and chewy.

May 1, 2023

Cal Berkeley Sugar Cookies

The month of May heralds the start of commencement season, graduation from high school and college/university.  Can you hear the notes of Pomp and Circumstance in your head?  My friend Bibsy commissioned these Cal Sugar Cookies for a dual celebration in her family: her youngest child's recent acceptance into Berkeley, as well as her oldest's graduation from the esteemed university.  Talk about a smart family!

The cookies aren't too hard to make, as long as you have a good stencil.  I got this "Cal" one from U-Stencil.  They have a wide range of college and universities to choose from.  I started with my tried and true vanilla sugar cookie and applied a base coat of royal icing until it was completely dry.  With the aid of the stencil I applied a thin layer of colored royal icing in the shape of the school's logo.  The consistency of the royal icing for the logo is key; it needs to be thick, like toothpaste.  
Be forewarned, though, that stenciling can be a messy affair, especially when working with a darker icing color as I was.  After I finished stenciling one cookie I had to thoroughly wipe and dry the stencil before moving on to the next.  But I think the end result makes it worth it.


April 18, 2023

Platinum Engagement Ring Cookie


Recently my friend Jesse commissioned a cookie order to celebrate the upcoming nuptials of her soon-to-be sister-in-law.  I suggested a Platinum Engagement Ring Cookie as the design, selfishly on my part because I haven't made or decorated that shape before.  I bought this cookie cutter set from Amazon and used my favorite sugar cookie and royal icing recipes.  

Aren't the packaged favors so cute?  They would be beautiful for a bachelorette, bridal shower or wedding reception.

April 13, 2023

Lemon Pudding Cakes


I recently had a friend over for lunch and for dessert I made these individual Lemon Pudding Cakes.  As a lemon lover I will gravitate towards citrus flavors any day over something like chocolate.   The recipe comes from America's Test Kitchen and while it's very simple to make, it packs so much delicious flavor.  

Miraculously, when the batter bakes you end up with a thick pudding on the bottom of the ramekin and a light, fluffy cake on the top.  Don't ask me about the science of how that works because I have no clue.  All I know is that it's divine!  Will definitely be keeping this recipe on hand.

April 9, 2023

Coconut Pineapple Cake

The Duncan Hines Dolly Parton coconut cake mix has become a recent favorite of mine and I'm finding even more ways to incorporate it into my baking.  I wanted to thank a friend for a recent act of kindness and I thought the cake would be a nice and delicious gift.   This time I took a tropical turn and made a Coconut Pineapple Cake.  Who doesn't love the combination of coconut and pineapple?  [You have the right to remain silent if you don't!]
The first time I made Dolly's coconut cake I filled and frosting it with cream cheese ermine frosting.  While that cake was delicious, to reduce the sweetness on this cake and let the pineapple flavor really come through, I made a small batch of vanilla pastry cream for the filling.  I then added homemade pineapple compote which was spread between the cake layers.  On top of the pastry cream layer I also applied another thin layer of the pineapple compote.  You can never have enough pineapple in my book.

Lightly sweetened mascarpone whipped cream enveloped the cake which was then finished with a flurry of dessicated coconut.  As I was gifting the cake on Easter Sunday I added a few holiday themed sprinkles.  I can attest that this coconut pineapple cake not only looks good, it tastes amazing!

April 7, 2023

Hot Cross Buns


Yesterday (Holy Thursday) I decided to make a batch of Hot Cross Buns, which are traditionally eaten on Good Friday, but I like to enjoy them throughout the Lenten season.  To make the buns I used my all-time favorite fluffy dinner rolls recipe from Cook's Illustrated. The only revision I made to the original version was to add cinnamon, nutmeg and plenty of raisins.  

While I was making the buns an idea came to me that I think was quite ingenious.  As I finished shaping the buns it just so happened that my dishwasher beeped, signaling the end of a recent cycle.  When I opened the dishwasher door I was reminded of how warm and humid the interior was.  EUREKA! Why not proof the dough buns inside the turned off dishwasher since it had the optimum conditions?  
After only 30 minutes the dough doubled in size beautifully and validated my hypothesis.   Normally the ambient temperature in San Francisco is too cold to proof dough without some assistance so the dishwasher solution is perfect.  Who says you need an expensive dough proofer?  Not me!  I will definitely be using this funny technique going forward.   

April 6, 2023

Lily of the Valley Easter Table


The theme for my Easter table this year, Lily of the Valley, came courtesy of tablescape extraordinaire brand Mrs. Alice.  Setting a beautiful table gives me so much joy and upon discovering the brand in 2020 I've been a super fan ever since. Their raison d'être is "take the hassle out of hosting" and they certainly do with all of the beautiful products they sell. 

In previous years I'd leaned towards cute critters for inspiration, but I took a more floral turn this year after seeing this lily of the valley linen set.  The baby blue and green color scheme is very versatile and can be used not only for Easter, but for spring too. 

I decorated the table with moss green bunnies, tiny lambs, pastel colored eggs, ceramic dishes and lots of Easter candy.  
Wishing you a very Happy Easter!

April 5, 2023

3D Bunny and Basket Rice Krispies Treat

Since 2020 I've been making a 3D Rice Krispies treat bunny centerpiece for my Easter table.  It always elicits ooohhhhs and aaaahhhs when people see it, but in actuality it couldn't be simpler to make.  My "secret" is to use Nordicware's bunny cake pans.   I've collected two (so far!) and usually nab them at Williams-Sonoma in their post-Easter sale.  

The pan I used for this year's centerpiece was a bunny holding a basket.  To make the basket part really stand out I relied on Cocoa Krispies.  I absolutely love how the chocolate basket is such a nice contrast to the spring-colored bunny.   All the bunny needed was a final accessory of a ribbon necklace and it was ready to grace the table.

February 12, 2023

Dong Phuong King Cake

As a self-proclaimed foodie it's a bit ironic that I never had a desire to visit New Orleans, home of gumbo, jambalaya and po' boys, until I heard about Dong Phuong King Cakes.  Dong Phuong is a renowned Vietnamese bakery in New Orleans East whose king cake is considered by many to be the best in The Big Easy and even nationwide.  I can't remember where I first heard about it but I had to try their take on the traditional celebratory cake that's made and sold only between Epiphany and Mardi Gras.   

My introduction to king cakes was as a student in France where it's known as galette des rois and made with puff pastry and frangipane filling.  Its Louisiana cousin, however, is more like a large iced cinnamon roll  decorated with purple, green and gold colored sugars, the colors of Carnival and Mardi Gras.  What differentiates Dong Phuong's cake from all the others is the brioche-like bread which bakes up lighter and flakier and topped with cream cheese frosting.
Since winning the prestigious James Beard award in 2018 the popularity of Dong Phuong's King Cakes has skyrocketed.  The bakery only produces the cakes during Carnival season and in limited supply, which makes it quite difficult to get your hands on them.  There's definitely a time investment involved to procure one.  I tried to order a cake online, via Goldbelly, but  unfortunately all the pre-orders were sold out within weeks of going live.  Not to be deterred , and more determined than ever, with plane ticket in hand I headed to MSY.
Here's how I was able to get my hands on the elusive Dong Phuong King Cake....  
Without a pre-order there are basically two ways to get a cake: 1) purchase from an authorized retailer or 2) join the walk-in queue at the bakery itself.  Luckily I had success with both options.  The place I was staying at in New Orleans was close to one of their retailers.  I had called the shop in advance and learned their process for buying a cake.  [Note: Each retailer has their own process.] This particular shop passed out cards to fifteen customers each morning, first come first serve, which gave the card holder the right to return in the afternoon to purchase up to two king cakes each.  That's how I was able to buy my first Dong Phuong King Cake - the original cinnamon flavor. 

My strategy was to buy and taste one cake first to see if it lived up to the hype and decide if it was worth the drive to the bakery. One bite and the decision was lived up to all the hype and there was no doubt that I would joining the queue the next day so that I could buy some other king cake flavors. The bread was flaky and light and the cream cheese frosting was incredibly fluffy and not too sweet.  Heaven in a bite. 
I drove to Dong Phuong Bakery the next day (it was a Thursday) arriving half an hour before the 8am opening, where about twenty people were ahead of me in the queue. I highly recommend going on a weekday, ideally Wednesday or Thursday, as several people in the queue told me that lines and wait times were much longer on Fridays and the weekend.   When it was my turn to purchase I chose  three of the filled king cakes: strawberry, coconut and pecan.  The bakery also sells cream cheese filled and almond creme filled.  While all the cakes were delicious my favorite was the original cinnamon, followed closely by the strawberry and then the coconut.  I found the pecan one's filling was a bit too sweet for my taste.     
You're probably wondering, "Was it worth the cross-country trek for the Dong Phuong King Cake?" My reply: sans doute...without a doubt! I don't see myself returning to New Orleans any time soon but come Dec/Jan when online ordering is available I already know which flavor(s) of Dong Phuong King Cake I will buy.  
Laissez les bons temps rouler!
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