Friday, November 13, 2015

Pumpkin Apple Fritters

Anyone else have that moment (typically towards the end of fall) when you look in your pantry and see about a dozen cans of pumpkin puree staring back at you? Well, that happened to me today. I usually buy a bunch of cans in late August assuming I will use them all, but this fall I may have overdone it. I'm still fully stocked, despite making pumpkin bread, pumpkin scones, pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin tacos (ok, maybe not pumpkin tacos), pumpkin pie, pumpkin risotto….you get the idea. Even when I cook these things, I rarely use all the pumpkin in the can. So then I go to place the extra pumpkin in the fridge and…Agh! I forgot about that entire drawer full of apples. Yes, those apples that you got apple picking because you just knew they would go so fast! Well, they haven't. So "how do you like 'dem apples?" 

Don't get me wrong, I love apples and pumpkins–all things fall, really! But, if you also find yourself with leftovers, this pumpkin apple fritter recipe is the answer. Apple fritters are a favorite of mine and I make them quite often for a quick and insanely delicious dessert. They're warm, crispy and dusted with powdered essentially they're perfection. The pumpkin just seemed like a natural addition to the fritter fest. But there's another secret ingredient that takes these fritters to the next level of awesome, and it's pumpkin beer. (Yet another thing I stock up on in early fall, but I have no problem finishing those.) So, make these fritters today and consider it a "winter-cleaning" of sorts. Because no matter how much you deny it…winter is coming.

Keep the extra beer close. You'll have time for a few sips as the fritters fry.

Pumpkin Apple Fritters
makes about 2 dozen 

vegetable oil for frying  (about 4 cups)
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 cup pumpkin puree 
1/2 cup pumpkin beer (or milk if you're not into booze)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large apple, peeled cored and diced
confectioners' sugar (for dusting)

1. Place the vegetable oil in a saucepan and set over medium heat. Line a baking sheet with paper towels and set aside. 

2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and cardamom in a large bowl and set aside. In a small bowl, combine the pumpkin, beer, egg and vanilla. Stir until combined, then add to the dry ingredients, mixing until just incorporated. Fold in the apples, making sure not to over mix the batter. 

3. Test the oil by dropping a tiny pea-sized amount of batter into the pan. If the batter floats and sizzles, it's ready. If it browns too quickly, turn down the heat as your oil is too hot. If it doesn't sizzle and float, the oil isn't hot enough. (If using a thermometer, the oil should be at about 350 degrees.)

4. Use a spring loaded cookie scoop (or teaspoons) to gently drop rounded spoonfuls of batter into the oil. Cook for about 3 minutes on each side, or until crispy and golden brown in color. Use a slotted spoon to carefully remove the fritters from the oil and place on the paper towels. 

5. Dust with the powdered sugar and enjoy! These are best eaten immediately while they're still crunchy and warm. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

It's Here! It's Here!

My book Sweet Envy: Deceptively Easy Desserts, Designed to Steal the Show is finally hitting the shelves today! Sorry about all the exclamation points, I'm just really excited. If you recall, I told you about my book a little ways back, and now you can actually walk into a bookstore and purchase it. Or, you know, get it Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Either way, I've been waiting for this day for some time and it's really lovely to feel the actual book, smell the freshly-inked pages and–most importantly–bake from it. Here are a few of my favorite spreads from the book. 

If you want to see the whole shebang, you'll have to get a copy. Sweet Envy is fun, approachable and makes a great gift.

"But you don't have to take my word for it!"
Actually, just take my word for it….I hope you love this book as much as I do. I really think you'll love it. The most amazing thing you can do would be to give it a positive review on Amazon. Thank you and happy baking!!


Monday, September 7, 2015

Peach & Thyme Biscuits

Although school is back in session and wearing white might be faux pas, the weather is telling me that summer isn't going anywhere. Here in Maryland, the past several days have been in the 90's. If it weren't for that low-hanging sun, I'd swear we were stuck in July. I also seem to be in a mild state of denial, wondering where all those "dog days of summer" went. But labor day is now behind us and that only means one thing…BOGO at Payless. Right, that... and also that sadly, summer really has come to an end.  

This year I refuse to go out without one last summer fling with peaches–And this biscuit recipe is just that. These biscuits are the perfect way to end things with the most delightful summer fruit. (Sorry watermelon, I still got love for you.) But seriously, these biscuits are good. Like, really good. They're flaky, sweet, crumbly and packed with flavor from the ripe peaches and savory thyme. Did I mention this recipe is about as simple as they come? It's my simple foolproof biscuit recipe, fancied up with diced peaches. The thyme is subtle, yet adds so much to the overall taste. An early-rise for school might be difficult, but if you know these biscuits will greet you in the A.M., setting the alarm won't be necessary. Bakers beware…This recipe only makes about 7 biscuits, so you might need to make several batches. And remember, the better quality the butter is, the better your biscuits will be.

Peachy-Thyme Biscuits 
Makes 7-8 Biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) very cold, unsalted butter, cubed
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup peeled and diced ripe peaches (about 2 large peaches)
1 heaping teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a non-stick liner. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Use a pastry blender or fork to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until small crumbs form. Slowly pour in all but about a tablespoon of the heavy cream and mix until the dough just comes together. Stir in the peaches and thyme.

2. Turn dough onto a floured work surface and pat into a disk about 1 1/2-inches thick. Use a 3-inch round circle cutter or a drinking glass to cut out biscuits and place them directly on the lined baking sheet. 

3. Use a pastry brush to brush the remaining heavy cream on the tops of the biscuits. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until biscuits are puffed and golden. 

Carefully collect the scraps to make the biscuits. The less you work the dough, the better.

Top the biscuits with extra heavy cream to achieve that golden color. Then sprinkle with extra thyme leaves.

This is what happened as I tried to shoot photos of the final product. Little hands can't resist. (Neither can the blurry dog in the background). 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Ocean Mosaic Cake

This mosaic cake is inspired by the colorful blues found in the ocean. It's delicious, fun to make and it celebrates all things summer! I originally conceptualized it as a cupcake, decorated with blue frosting and topped with Swedish Fish. But I wanted something more exciting and creating a mosaic cake was the perfect excuse for me to break out a bunch of white chocolate candy melts I've been wanting to use.

Making mosaics out of white chocolate couldn't be easier, and it's actually quite fun. (Not as fun as eating an entire box of Swedish Fish while decorating this cake, 'cus I did that, too. But's a good time. And, it's something you can do with your kids!) Although candy melts aren't top-quality white chocolate, they are really forgiving (meaning they're easy to melt and work with). Plus, they come pre-colored (a great shortcut!) I used three 12 oz. bags in this recipe and had a ton of "mosaic tiles" left over. But I think it's nice to have at least three colors on the cake, so if you're left with extra tiles, just bag them up and save them for another project. Or, you could always tint plain white chocolate with gel food coloring to your liking. 

The white chocolate tiles I made were roughly cut to about 1/2" long, making for a more "abstract" pattern. If you cut your tiles smaller, you can achieve a more intricate pattern. I added the Swedish Fish for a pop of color and to bring the "Ocean" theme to life. All looks aside, the real star of the show here is the buttermilk vanilla cake. It's deliciously buttery, topped with a cream cheese buttercream that has just the right amount of sweetness and tang. It's tinted blue to go with the ocean theme, but you could always just leave it white. This cake is perfect for a birthday party at the pool, beach or any summertime gathering. After this past winter, I promised to celebrate every gorgeous summer day. And while I might not make this cake everyday, it reminds me why I love the ocean so much. 

To create parchment circles, fold a large piece of parchment paper in half, then again. Place the the pan on top and trace a circle. Cut and you'll have 4 parchment circles that fit the pans perfectly. (You'll only need 3 for this recipe.)

Buttermilk Vanilla Cake
Makes one 8-inch layer cake


2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
5 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups buttermilk


1. Preheat the oven to 350. Grease three 8-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper, grease and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, and set aside.

3. Beat the butter and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the vanilla.

4. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture, alternating with the buttermilk until the batter is completely mixed and smooth.

5. Divide the batter evenly among cake pans and bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cake comes out clean. Cool completely.

White Chocolate Mosaic Tiles
Candy Melts in Assorted Blues and White (12 oz. bags, found at any craft store)
Parchment paper
Baking Sheet 
Offset Spatula

1. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Melt the candy melts according to the instructions on the bag. (Or in a heat safe bowl in the microwave in 20 second increments until fully melted.)

2. Use an offset spatula to spread chocolate in an even layer (about 1/8" thick) across the parchment paper. Set aside to cool. 

3. Once chocolate is hardened, use a sharp knife to cut 1/4" squares and place in bowls. It's OK if a few of the pieces aren't perfectly square! It adds character to the mosaic pattern.

Cream Cheese Buttercream 
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
4 ounces (1/2 package) cream cheese, softened
4 cups (about 1 lb.) confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Blue gel food coloring 
Mosaic Tiles (see recipe)
1 package Swedish Fish
Graham cracker crumbs (optional)


1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and cream cheese until well combined. Make sure the cream cheese and butter are both at room temperature, otherwise they won’t mix properly and you’ll have streaks of cream cheese.

2. Slowly add the confectioners’ sugar and mix until frosting is creamy and smooth. Mix in the vanilla and salt. If the frosting is too thick, mix in a teaspoon or two of milk.

3. Add a few drops of blue food coloring and mix until you have the desired shade.

4. Create a crumb coat by using an offset spatula to spread a thin, even layer of frosting all over the cake. Chill the cake in the fridge for a few minutes before you apply the final frosting layer.

5. Apply the final coat of frosting, then carefully press on the mosaic tiles and Swedish fish. Spread graham cracker crumbs around the edge of the cake to mimic "sand."

Monday, June 15, 2015

Sweet Envy is Available for Pre-Order!

I've got some really exciting news, you guys. I'll give you a hint…It's a project I've dreamt about forever and it's finally coming to fruition. (No, it's not a comprehensive biography of all the cast members of Saved By the Bell. Because, if asked, I could easily write that.) But, you're close. It is a book! I couldn't be more excited to share my book Sweet Envy with you! It hits the shelves on October 5th, but you can pre-order it today. I've spent the good part of this year taking this book from a small morsel of an idea, to a full-fledged shiny object. 

Here's the cover!
It's a coconut cake inspired by the ever-awesome Almond Joy candy bar. If you're intrigued, know that I've got an entire chapter devoted to desserts based on candy.There are also desserts inspired by nature, art and even a bunch of boozy sweets! 

Sweet Envy has something for everyone. If you’re ready to create a pastry presence, this book will equip you with the techniques to impress. (Read: here's how you can kick ass at the bake sale.) The recipes range from sweets so easy your kid could make them, to mini cheesecakes adorned with spun sugar nests and fondant bees. Whether it’s a quick go-to cookie recipe, or a hand painted cake, the recipes are a solid foundation to build upon. These recipes really are designed for any skill level and they'll always look just as amazing as they taste. The book will feature a few favorites from my blog (like a more detailed succulent cupcake how-to), but most of the recipes are brand spankin' new and super creative. 

Here's a sneak peek at some of the images in the book. 

I hate to play favorites, but these are my two favorite recipes from the book: Faux tacos (they're cookies, I swear) and a Mint Chocolate Trifle. Yum.

I shot them all in my kitchen/dining room (and occasionally on the front porch if the lighting was just right:) Aside from writing, testing, styling and photographing every recipe, I also designed the book! A true labor of love. It's been a year of endless hours in the kitchen, editing, cursing and ultimately sweet triumph. (Not to mention the good 15 pounds I gained while writing this sucker.) But I couldn't be happier with it. It's full of really approachable and fun recipes. 

So today I'm asking you to pre-order it on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. And when it comes out on October 5th, go to your local bookstore and buy another copy to show the local shops some love. This book is the answer to all the complexities in life. Ok, maybe it won't solve everything, but Sweet Envy will most certainly make you a more creative baker. Flex those creative baking muscles—being envied never tasted so sweet.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Banana Bourbon Milkshakes with Cardamom Whipped Cream

I'm feeling bourbon inspired as of late. Mostly because the Kentucky Derby takes place this week and mint juleps are all the rage (for me at least). In fact, when people mention any horse race (doesn't even have to be the Kentucky Derby), the mint julep is the first image that pops into my head. This year, however, I wanted to create a dessert that was more bourbon focused and less of a "julep-esque" creation. Don't get me wrong, I think a minty, bourbon-kissed cupcake is the bees knees. But for this Derby, I've got something better….a banana bourbon vanilla milkshake! The idea of a bourbon vanilla milkshake is nothing new. Pretty much every bar displays a boozy shake in some form or another. But the addition of bananas to said shake is so incredibly delicious, you may never make a shake without bananas again. 

In an effort to keep our kids from crazy sugar highs, my sister has been pushing the whole "Let's make ice cream with bananas" thing for a while now. From a health perspective, I get it. But as an ice cream purist I've been quite reluctant to swap that rich milk and cream for bananas. In this recipe, I've compromised and combined both bananas AND traditional ice cream. Together, they make for one heck of a milkshake. Top it with cardamom scented whipped cream and you've got a go-to dessert that will never lose its appeal. 

The most exciting thing about this recipe is its simplicity! The milkshake AND the whipped cream are both made in the blender. Just as I was about to make the whipped cream in the stand mixer I thought, "Well, this is annoying--needing two kitchen appliances to make such a simple dessert…Why can't I make the whipped cream in the blender!?" Turns out, you CAN make whipped cream in a blender! Just be sure to keep a close eye on it so you don't over-whip the cream. Am I a little bit nuts for getting so excited about making whipped cream in a blender? I should probably get out more. Or drink a few less boozy milkshakes…

Banana Bourbon Milkshakes
makes 2 large, or 4 small milkshakes
1 cup heavy whipping cream, very cold
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 bananas, sliced
1 pint high-quality vanilla ice cream
1/4 cup bourbon

1. Combine the heavy cream, cardamom and confectioners' sugar in the blender. Cover and blend on high for about 10 seconds. Uncover, stir the whipped cream and continue to mix for another few seconds if needed. Make sure not to over-whip!

2. Carefully scoop whipped cream into a bowl. Cover and place in the refrigerator until time to serve shakes. Rinse out the blender. 

3. Combine the milk, banana's, ice cream and bourbon in the blender. Blend on high for about a minute, or until smooth. 

4. Pour into chilled tumblers, top with a large spoonful of whipped cream and enjoy!

Instant whipped cream in the blender! Make sure the cream is very cold. 
Let's shake things up a bit, shall we?