Tag Archives: Dessert

Sweet Jelly Beans

In my family, Labor Day weekend has always been, to quote the VP, a big freaking deal. Traditionally, we convene at the cottage to mark the last hurrah of the summer, enjoying the sun and lake right up until twilight on Monday. But last year, my niece’s appearance in early September guaranteed that from then on, our Labor Day celebrations would be especially significant. And with her first birthday, we started a new tradition.

When Etta made her first ultrasound appearance, she looked so much like a little bean, we started calling her “Jelly Bean”. Back in December when we started making plans for her first birthday fête, the theme was a no-brainer. And so, my sister Claire strung the tent with tissue paper puffs and made centerpieces out of mason jars filled with jelly beans and pinwheels. She hung a ribbon clothesline above the fireplace with photos of Etta taken every month of her first year.

G was in charge of the menu – a classic barbecue spread with chicken, potato salad, baked beans, and corn on the cob. And like any adoring auntie with pastry skills, I made dessert.

For her first taste of sugar (ever!), it had to be simple – a vanilla cake frosted with thick, ultra-sweet classic buttercream. And not just any cake – it also had to withstand approximately 2 lbs. of jelly beans piled on top. After extensive internet research, I settled upon this cake from Sweetapolita, based upon a Rose Levy Berenbaum technique, and customized it for our sweet little jelly bean.

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An Epic, Delicious, Somewhat Gross-Out Birthday Cake

My entire extended family is very much into gross out humor. Two years ago, I baked a kitty litter cake for my little cousin’s birthday and since then, she and I have been stepping up our game with each subsequent birthday. Last year was a chocolate fudge cake with homemade hot pink raspberry icing- pretty, but not particularly clever. Imagine my pride when this year, a full two months before her 9th birthday, she sidled up to me a brunch and said, “Emily, I know what kind of a birthday cake I want this year- a dog poop cake!” As we hashed out the details, we decided the cake should be a scene of a dog park, complete with grass, play areas, and defecating dogs.

Don’t worry, cakes are not going to become a regular feature on this blog. Although my obsessive compulsive tendencies lend themselves fairly well to the precision of baking, I’m much more into rustic desserts. In fact, I only create a ‘celebration cake’ a few times a year. But thanks to the Baking & Pastry Boot Camp my mom and I took last fall, I have acquired some skills that allow me to turn out a cake that is both delicious and humorous.

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Skillet Peach Cobbler

I have a knack for making simple tasks complicated and impractical. When it occurs to me to bring in breakfast for the office, my mind immediately leaps to waiting in line at The Doughnut Vault , before I remember the many pastry shops that deliver. And don’t ask my mom about last year’s Thanksgiving turkey- the one I volunteered her to drive an hour to pick up, the turkey so large she had to secure it to her front seat with a seat belt. More recently, I offered to make dessert for a housewarming dinner at my friend’s new condo, so of course I broke out the cast iron skillet, in spite of the logistical difficulties of transporting it on two train rides.

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Feeding the Monster

My sister is pregnant, and while a generation gap and lots of young cousins have given us plenty of practice with kids, my family is reacting in pretty predictable ways to the new addition to our little family unit. My mom hasn’t put down her credit card since my sister and brother-in-law told her the news- I think she has outfitted this child at least through her third year.  My dad immediately took a week-long scuba diving trip with his brother (also about to be a first-time grandpa), just in case his grandfatherly duties keep him too busy to pursue his hobbies. I have confidence that I will be an amazing aunt when she’s a bit older- my future niece and I already have a standing date for her first Planned Parenthood rally, just as soon as she’s old enough to hold up a sign.  But other than buying her Baby Wayfarers and cracking jokes about performing her baptism in the lake at our cottage, I’m at a loss when it comes to baby preparations.  I have no advice about bottles, diapers, or strollers, just an affinity for onesies printed with strands of pearls.

Baby loves bacon

But as always, food is a reliable way of demonstrating care.  Her whole life, my sister has been the world’s most moderate eater. A vegetable lover from an early age, she was never a sweets fiend, and has been known to order a second shrimp cocktail when everyone else is having dessert. So it is amusing to watch this baby turn her into an eating machine. Specifically, a bacon eating machine.  When she went gaga over a family friend’s Facebook post about the bacon milkshake at Michael Symon’s B-Spot, it was clear I would need to recreate the recipe. A note: use the best quality real maple syrup you can find- the subtle maple flavor adds a needed depth to this shake, and Mrs. Butterworth is not going to cut it here.


Maple-Bacon Milkshake

From Thoroughly Modern Milkshakes, via Serious Eats

2 slices bacon, cut into thin strips
6 tablespoons cold milk
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
Pinch of salt
1 quart French Vanilla ice cream

In a cast iron skillet, cook bacon on medium high heat, until fat is rendered and bacon strips are crisp.  Set bacon aside on a paper towel lined plate.  Remove the skillet from heat, and let bacon fat cool in the pan.

In a blender, combine milk, maple syrup, salt, and ice cream. Add 1 Tbsp of rendered bacon fat, and blend until thick, scraping down the sides with a flexible spatula if necessary.  Pour milkshake into four chilled glasses, and garnish with crisp bacon strips.

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