If you’ve ever seen my kitchen tour on instagram, you’ll know that I am not a minimalist. The abundance just sort of happened. I’ve lived a full life and gathered stuff along the way. Too much stuff, perhaps. I just got Melissa Coleman’s (thefauxmartha) beautiful new book and I am determined to declutter, downsize and minimize my kitchen (and eventually my whole house). I vow to go through each cabinet and keep only what is essential. The rest I will donate or pass along to the next owner. The other thing that is wonderful about her book and philosophy is the way she approaches a recipe. Use as few utensils and equipment as possible. In my instagram video of this recipe, I did just that. I tried to stick to the two bowls she recommends and even chose one with a spout, so I could just pour the batter out, instead of using a spoon to scoop. It’s amazing to be so conscious of what is crucial and what is just extra. I normally live in the “extra” zone, but now I will be more mindful.
I adore carrot cake. It’s one of my favorite desserts. This carrot cupcakes recipe is delicate and less hippie than my go to, so it was fun to try Melissa’s sophisticated take on the classic. The mascarpone frosting is so good I had to keep my whole family from eating all before I could pipe it onto the carrot cupcakes. Melissa has kindly given me permission to share her lovely recipe with you here. I also have a video of making them on my instagram page.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Here is a simple, but delicious St. Patrick’s Day cupcake to help you celebrate this greenest of holidays. You can watch me bake and decorate these in my Instagram videos. You’ll also see me save a buttercream from ruin and bring it back to fluffy perfection. The art of pastry is being able to fix what goes wrong. And there is a blow torch involved, so that’s fun. Read More
My story with sugar is long (my whole life long) and a bit convoluted. I was raised by hippies in the the 1960s. We lived on communes, as one did. Until I was about 7 it was really the only life I knew, so never struck me as unusual. It wasn’t until I started to attend school that I understood that my life in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont wasn’t the way the whole world lived. It was sugar that was the first and most profound indication. I’d grown up thinking (being lead to believe) that raisins and other dried fruits were candy. I was perfectly happy with this, until I went to kindergarten and someone produced a Twinkie from their Mickey Mouse lunch box. WTH is that? I was mesmerized and completely distracted by this sweet smelling cylinder of cake. I must have convinced that kid to give me a bite and there began my obsession. It became my life’s work to get more of it. This was no easy chore, considering all I had to trade were peanut butter and honey sandwiches. And when I say peanut butter, I mean the kind we ground ourselves and honey from our bee hives, on bread my Aunt Melissa made from wheat we milled. Today that sandwich sounds like heaven, but wasn’t so popular with those kids eating Ho Ho’s and Twinkies. Every once in a blue moon I’d score something sweet and be amazed.
Eventually in college I went through a naturally sweetened phase. I couldn’t exactly admit that my parents had been right to deny me all the sugary snacks, but I found myself pushing them aside for honey and maple syrup. This was right around the time I started to bake and was really curious about how to make baked goods that were delicious and had a wonderful texture, without sugar. There weren’t a lot of people doing this, not in a graceful way, and I didn’t have the skills to make the recipes up. I eventually went to culinary school to figure out the food science behind baking, with a notion that I’d retool pastry with natural sweeteners. But, their pantry was stocked with sugar and I was too impressionable to resist. I loved what the sugar could do. I was fascinated not only by it’s ability to transform flavor, but it’s ability to take on structure. When heated to just the right temperature I could make candies, both hard and soft, or spin it into gossamer threads. I didn’t really look back to honey and maple, except as a flavor, until I had my boys.
You guessed it. I didn’t let them eat sugar until they discovered it on their own. Yep, I did exactly what my parents had done, and I was a pastry chef. They were little and just didn’t need the sugar, then they got bigger and had a similar discovery that I went through. I wasn’t as hard core about denying them sugar and how could I be, since I worked with it all day. I think I struck a healthy balance and my boys ate their fair share of sweets, but all homemade and I think they didn’t have a Twinkie until they could pay for it themselves and they weren’t as impressed as I had been.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love sugar and all that it can do. I also love playing with honey, maple, agave and other natural sweeteners. They have some nutritional value, true enough, but more importantly they are amazingly delicious. Back in the day, when I was going to culinary school, everyone there looked at me crosseyed when I wanted to make meringue without sugar. Now there are many books on the subject and I am creating all kinds of gorgeous treats that even my folks would have allowed me to eat in my commune days.
These Tea Cup Rose Cakes have no sugar. NO SUGAR! They are also gluten-free (not an issue for me, but is for many of my friends and readers), Dairy-free (if made as the recipe was written, but I did use butter). And, they are delicious and so beautiful, no one will ever know they’re remotely healthy.
It just takes a tweet to get a company like General Mills to realize they’ve made a big mistake. Ok, the tweet has to come from Katy Perry and then be backed up by the frosting evangelist, Benjamin Johnson, who started a change.org campaign and got 7,000 Rainbow Chip Frosting fans to petition its return. Betty Crocker heard the call and is bringing back the well-missed confection, after removing it from the shelves 2 years ago. I got to be a part of this historic frosting moment. I was invited to a surprise party for Benjamin at the Betty Crocker test kitchen to celebrate his victory.
I didn’t grow up with this frosting, but Katy Perry and Benjamin did. (My folks were trying to pass off raisins as candy during those formative years.) However, based on the outcry for the frosting’s return, (people were actually paying hundreds of dollars for cans of it on ebay), I suspect many of you remember it too. Well, you’re in luck, Read More
‘Tis the season of Girl Scout cookies and there is none more famous and beloved than the thin mint, at least in my house. I love Girl Scout cookies, both for the memories of being a scout and for what they represent; empowering kids is always a good thing. Sadly, the days of my 13-year-old metabolism are long gone, when I was capable of eating an entire box at a sitting. Now just a couple cookies will do me and the thin mints are still my favorites. They just seemed to have the perfect ratio of chocolate to mint, and go down easy with a glass of milk. I have to act quickly, because my boys are still at the age when they can polish off an entire box, even though mom would never allow such a thing. 😉
This cupcake recipe manages to be light, fluffy and moist, all at the same time. It starts with a true all-American white birthday cake. The recipe is made with whipped egg whites and no yolks, so the color is bright white. It’s perfect for adding color, but this time I left that to the mint icing. A thin layer of ganache between the cake and icing makes these just a touch more sophisticated, in case you are looking for a St. Patrick’s Day treat to bring to work. The super creamy icing is one that I made from Vintage Cakes, an adorable addition to my cookbook collection. It is made by thickening milk and flour together into a smooth paste, then adding it to creamed, sweetened butter. The thickened milk and flour gives the icing body and a luxurious texture. Despite the extra step, it is an easy recipe, my 11-year-old made it start to finish with perfect results. The basic icing takes flavors really well, so a bit of mint extract and a few caps full of Crème de menthe and these cupcakes taste just like a thin mint. Read More
This is a carrot cupcakes recipe I developed for my Weekend Baker post on the Cooking Channel website. It is a new version of one of my most popular cakes to date, The Ultimate Carrot Cake. This version is made with pineapple and walnuts. Try them both and let me know which is your favorite.