Merry Christmas : Gingerbread Cake

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope that you had a great day full of love, family, and delicious food! Today everyone here got up early (well, late compared to our childhood selves) to open presents and eat breakfast. I don't know about you, but morning is always the best part of Christmas day for me. Everyone wakes up excited and cheerful, ready for a day of lounging around, snacking, and watching Christmas specials on TV. Hello Elf, hello Christmas Story.

But by mid-afternoon, I'm always ready to get into the kitchen and start working on something. This year I really wanted to make a naked cake, something simple, but spicy and filled with holiday cheer. I wish I'd known before that gingerbread was so easy to make, I would have made it a long time ago. Gingerbread is something I think I could eat anytime of the year.

So pretty, right? The powdered sugar on top reminds me of snow!

I used the recipe from Once Upon a Chef, with modifications to make the recipe dairy-free. Just swap butter for shortening. Since my sister-in-law developed a dairy allergy, I've started to notice just how many desserts are off-limits to those with specific allergies. I like to find bakes that can be accessible to everyone, while still being delicious and easy to make. This recipe and the lemon square recipe were both very easy to transfer.

It was such a joy to bake today. The past few weeks have been so crazy (and dark outside) that blogging and baking have been out of reach. I work a 9-5 job as a communications assistant, plus I work at a donut shop on the weekends. I love my work and that I get to do these awesome jobs every day, but my schedule can get crazy and the late night shifts have been tiring. Most of the time when I'm home I just want to scarf down Trader Joe's biscotti and knit in bed!

But as the new year comes around again, I hope to write more and have lots of new bakes to write about. I'll keep you posted! In the meantime, have a Merry Christmas and a happy new year!

Happy baking!


Lemon Squares

Happy Christmas Eve! Sorry I disappeared for a while there. Life developments kicking into full gear coupled with less sunlight meant blogging was a challenge. But I did get in a quick bake before Christmas, these lemon squares!

These are particularly special to bake because I used my mother's lemon tree for the first time! I've never used homegrown fruit before, and it was awesome to bake something I picked myself. 
 I also used Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks as a butter substitute for the crust, making these dairy-free. 

Makes 24 squares
Prep time: 15 minutes
Bake Time: 40 minutes


For the Crust

1 cup butter or butter substitute, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 cup flour

For the filling

4 eggs
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
Juice of 2 lemons, about 1/4 cup
1/4 cup powdered sugar


1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Blend together the butter or butter substitute, sugar, and flour in a large bowl, until completely blended to the consistency of wet sand. Press into a 9x13 inch pan, until smooth.
2. Bake the crust for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown and firm. The butter substitute will not brown as well, but bake until firm. It may take an extra 5 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, whisk the sugar and flour together in a large bowl. Add the eggs and lemon juice, and whisk until blended smoothly.
4. Pour into the crust and bake for another 20 minutes. Drop the temperature in the oven to 325 F. The dish should be slightly wobbly in the center, and will firm up as it cools. 
5. Let cool completely, at least for one hour, then sift or sprinkle powdered sugar over the top.


These are tart, sweet, and perfect for a gift exchange!

Happy baking! And Merry Christmas!


Quick Chocolate Espresso Cinnamon Rolls

Mornings are about to get a whole lot brighter!

It's a testament to just how far into adulthood I am, that I'm actually excited about the end of Daylight Saving Time. Normally I mourn the loss of the sun in the evening hours, but this year, I'm excited to wake up to a bit more sunshine.

To add another brightness to your morning, try making these delicious chocolate cinnamon rolls! They are yeasted dough buns, that you can make in under an hour. Magic? Possibly, as only Joy the Baker could. Packed with espresso powder and chocolate chips, then covered in coffee icing, these are basically all my favorite things rolled into one.

These little guys came out kind of small, due to some dubious yeast I had stashed away somewhere. The first time I made these, almost two years ago, they came out absolutely perfect. Fluffy, light, like I bought them at an airport Cinnabon. So you can trust the recipe, if not this baker.


For the Dough:
1/2 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 to 2 cups AP flour (might not use all of it)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg yolk

For the Filling:
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon instant espresso powder
3/4 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch of salt
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips

For the Glaze
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted
1-2 tablespoons strong coffee


  1. In a small saucepan combine the milk, butter, and sugar. Stir until the sugar has just dissolved and the butter melted. Take off the heat and allow the mixture to cool, about to room temperature. Sprinkle the milk/butter mixture with the yeast. Stir to incorporate. Wait 5 minutes for the yeast to activate and bubble.
  2. Place in a large stand mixer bowl. Add the 1 1/2 cup flour, salt, and the egg yolk. mix until completely incorporated, either with a spatula or with a dough hook attachment.
  3. Bring the dough together into a ball and knead a few times. If the dough feels too sticky, add extra flour, a tablespoon at a time, until it is the right consistency.
  4. Cover in a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for 10 minutes.
  5. When the dough has rested, roll onto a lightly floured surface until it forms a 12' by 9' rectangle.
  6. Spread 1/2 the melted butter onto the surface. In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon, sugar, espresso powder, cocoa powder, and salt. Sprinkle the spice mixture over the surface, making sure to get all the way to the edges. The roll into a tight log.
  7. Carefully slice into 6 pieces with a serrated knife (5 cuts, if you're like me a horrible at math). 
  8. Lightly grease an 8'x8' baking pan with the remaining butter. Nestle the buns carefully into the pan, with 1/2 inch in between for growth. Cover again with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 30 minutes.
  9. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 F.
  10. When the rolls have puffed up to 1/3 third size, bake for 18-20 minutes, until golden.
  11. Take out of the oven, and allow to cool slightly. 
  12. While they cool, make the glaze. In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioner's sugar and coffee. If needed, add another 1 tablespoon of coffee. Pour over the warm cinnamon rolls, and enjoy!

I know what you're thinking. "Man that's a lot to do first thing in the morning." While these are no weekday morning treat, I would highly recommend them for a Sunday. What better way to use the extra hour?

Happy baking!


Spooktacular Halloween Cut-out Cookies

Halloween is usually a night to dress up and get trashed on a extra weird night out. Or, as it was this year, Halloween falls on a Monday and it becomes a night of baking cookies and watching Hocus Pocus.

Either one sounds good to me. 

If you're like me, then you did not prepare for this bake. So you don't have fancy Halloween sprinkles or adorable pumpkin-flavors at hand.  You do, however, have some cute cut-outs from a 100+ cookie cutter bin you bought on Amazon on a whim one time (it just made more financial sense!). So this is one you whip up with basic ingredients, in between passing out candy to Trick-or-Treaters.

Relax, heat up some cider, and decorate the fudge out these cookies.


2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup water


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt together.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat the sugar into the butter with a spatula until pale and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract.
  3. Mix the flour combination into the butter mixture. Stir until incorporated, and pat together into a large dough ball. Wrap in plastic and place in the freezer to chill for 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, clean up yo' kitchen and get a smooth, floured surface ready. Roll that dough out, and cut into neat shapes. Place on a nongreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes
  5. To make the icing, mix the 1/2 the confectioner sugar with 1-2 tablespoon water until completely smooth and a little tacky. Place in a plastic piping bag or ziplock and snip the tiniest bit off the corner (as small as you can).
  6. Do the same with the rest of the confectioners sugar and the cocoa. Stir until completely combined and place into a piping bag or ziplock.
  7. Decorate to your hearts content!

Boo! Happy Halloween!

 Happy baking!

Flourless Chocolate Cookies : Stranger Things

Happy Halloween! This year I've seen some amazing costumes inspired by the Netflix show Stranger Things. If you haven't seen it, it's the bomb.com. A nod to all things Stephen King, it's the perfect balance of heartfelt, creepy, and fun.

I promise, these just look like they're from the Upside Down. Hidden in that bowl of slime is a terrific dark chocolate cookie recipe. It's flourless and gluten-free! 

While the batter looks sinister, the cookies are nothing but a treat! I can't get over how yummy and chocolatey these cookies are. The key is to get dark chocolate cocoa, and to cook them low and slow. 

Poor Barb.

Cookie time!


3 cups confectioners sugar
3/4 cup dark chocoalte cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 large egg whites


  1. Preheat the oven 325 F. Sift the confections sugar and cocoa powder in a large bowl. Stir in the salt and chocolate pieces.
  2. Mix in the eggs whites, stir until just incorporated.
  3. Drop the dough on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes, until dry and cracked. Rotate the sheets half way through.
  4. Enjoy!

Happy Halloween! And happy baking!


Pumpkin Spice Waffles

Ready for the weekend? I am! This has been such a crazy October. I can't believe Halloween is right around the corner.

I know, I know, pumpkin is literally seeping out of everything right now. Coffee, candles, soup, soap, Peeps. Nothing is safe. If one more article tells me to make a pumpkin keg, I'm going to lose my mind. But guys, these are home made, and drizzled with caramel sauce. So even if pumpkin ain't yo thang, or if you're so sick of it, these are still freaking delicious and not too pumpkin-y. 

This season I had a lot of friends and family visit who have food allergies. So it was a great opportunity to experiment with dairy-free and gluten-free recipes! I got this waffle recipe from the Minimalist Baker, who in my humble opinion is a dream boat and a genius. Because I am not nearly as savvy, these are not full-on vegan, but they are dairy free and delicious. That being said, my homemade caramel sauce is not, but there are really great caramel sauces on the market that are. 

Despite its name, pumpkin spice has no pumpkin in it. I dunno what I was thinking when I was a kid, maybe that it had powdered pumpkin essence? But if you don't have pumpkin spice at hand, you can mix cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger together. Bam! You're own hand-crafted pumpkin spice. 


1 egg
1/4 pumpkin puree
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice OR:
   1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
   1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
   1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/2 cup almond milk
1/3 cup coffee
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup pecan halves
Caramel Sauce, for topping or maple syrup


  1. If you need to keep your waffles warm for a while, also preheat the oven to 250 F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the egg, puree, brown sugar, oil, baking powder, and all the spices together. Stir in the almond milk and coffee.
  3. Lastly, gently mix in the flour. Make sure not to over stir! You want to use the muffin method here, leaving the mixture alone once the flour has just been wetted. Let it rest for 20 minutes. Turn on your waffle maker to preheat. 
  4. Generously spray the waffle iron with cooking spray, and pour 1/4 cup mixture into the center. Press and allow to cook following your irons instructions.
  5.  If warming in the oven, place the waffles on a tin or cookie sheet and cover with a slightly damp towel. 
  6. Toast the pecans in a sauce pan, tossing gently over medium heat until just browning and aromatic.
  7. Serve drizzled with caramel sauce or syrup, sprinkled with pecans! Don't forget a big mug of coffee or tea!

Happy baking!


Salted Caramel Sauce

This is a recipe for a really basic caramel sauce, that goes great on just about anything. I've used it on cakes, pies, and drizzled over waffles. You can never go wrong with a good caramel sauce in your arsenal.

Caramel is sugar, melted and boiled. That's it. I didn't really understand it's simplicity until I started trying to make it more frequently, in its various forms. Buttercreams, sauces, candies, honeycombs, fillings, or spun into thin webs. 

Caramel sauce is just caramel with the addition of cream and butter, to make it soft and runny.


1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 stick butter, cubed
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon sea salt


Before making the caramel sauce, it's good to get all of the ingredients out and ready before hand.  

Place the sugar and water in a sauce pan and cook on medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves and begins to bubble. Do not stir, but swirl occasionally.
The sugar will begin to change color rapidly, make sure you are watching! Don't do other stuff. Just focus on this sugary facial.
When the mixture has turned a golden brown, add all the butter at once. Whisk very quickly, until the butter is completely incorporated.
The mixture will foam and froth, but will eventually return to smooth consistency after 10-20 seconds.
Once the mixture has settled, add the cream, and again whisk very quickly until completely incorporated.
Once the cream is incorporated, leave on the heat for another 2-3 minutes, to thicken the sauce.

Take off the heat, and add salt. Allow the caramel to cool briefly, before pouring into a heat-proof bowl. 

Happy baking!


Dark Chocolate Buttercream

Hello people!

Here's a lovely buttercream recipe featured on the Chocolate Caramel Popcorn Cake. This is a particularly thick icing because it uses melted dark chocolate and is cocoa powder-free. You can make it with a mixer or by hand! Make sure the chocolate is completely cooled before mixing in the butter.


1 cup dark chocolate morsels
1 cup butter (2 sticks) softened to room temperature
2-3 cups icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon cream


  1. Melt the chocolate morsels, and wait until completely cooled.
  2. Beat together the chocolate and butter until completely incorporated. Sift in the icing sugar in small increments, and beat until thick and fluffy. Stir in the vanilla and cream.
  3. Spread on a cake and enjoy!
Happy baking!


Honey Apple Babka

This is a creation that was half request, half secret bucket-list-wish-fulfillment. My friend Mollie suggested I make something with apple and honey flavors in honor of Rosh Hashanna, the first day of the Jewish new year. Unfortunately, life caught up to me real quick last week, and I missed it and all the apple/honey goodness. But Yom Kippur begins tonight, and what better way to break fast than with a soft, yeasted bread brimming with apples and cinnamon?

While in New York, I'd seen (and eaten) way too many babkas when I worked at a popular Jewish bakery. So I was already familiar with the traditional sweet loaf. I was curious on how to make it, but had never dared try it. Until now!

This recipe is a variation of The Kitchn's Sticky Caramel-Pecan Babka, which looks utterly delicious. For my babka, I changed the fillings and third-ed the recipe (third-d? trecimated?) for a single loaf serving. Smaller recipes are a little less intimidating, I find. However this yeasted bread takes time to make, so it might be worth it to make multiple at a time. If you'd like to do so, revert back to the original, and triple the apple filling ingredients.

Total time: 5 hours-3 days
Bake time: 45-55 minute
Yields: 1 loaf 


1/4 cup water
1 teaspoons yeast
1/4 cup whole milk
1 egg
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups AP flour, plus extra for rolling
4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
2-3 apples
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons slivered almonds
2 tablespoons honey, plus extra for serving


Make the dough:
1. In a mixer bowl, combine the water and yeast. Let soak for 10 minutes, or until the yeast has completely dissolved.
2. Add the milk, egg, sugar, and vanilla, and whisk until completely combined.
3. Add the flour and carefully stir until combined. It should be a shaggy mess.

4. Beat for 5 minutes with the dough hook until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides.

5. Then carefully add the butter 1-tablespoon at a time (you may need to use your hands to fully incorporate it into the dough). Knead for another 5-10 minutes, until the dough is smooth, elastic, and springs back at your touch. 

6. Place in a large greased bowl. Cover and let it rest for 1 1/2 -2 hours. Then set it in the fridge for at least another hour-up to 3 days (it'll keep, woo!).

For the filling:
1. Slice the two apples (you can skin them if you like, but it's not necessary) into quarter-inch cubes.
2. Toss with brown sugar and cinnamon. Cook in a sauce pan over medium-high heat, until just softened, about 5-7 minutes.
3. Allow the apples to cool completely, before forming the loaf (to prevent the dough layers from melting together).

To form the loaf:
1. Grease an 8-inch x 4-inch loaf pan. 
2. Take the dough out of the fridge and place on a well-floured surface.
3. Roll out the dough into roughly a 10-inch x 12-inch rectangle, 1/4-inch thick.
4. Spread the apples evenly over the surface, making sure they reach the edges.
5. Than carefully roll the dough into a log, tucking in the apples into the folds as you roll. If any of the filling falls out, just gently stuff back into the sides.
6. Tuck in the ends and pinch to seal like a burrito.
7. Dip a sharp knife into water, then slice the loaf in half. Twist the separated halves around each other once, keeping the exposed-filling-side up.
8. Carefully transfer into the loaf pan. Let proof another 45 minutes, until puffed up. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
9. Before baking, beat the egg yolk well and brush over the loaf. Bake for 45-55 minutes. Cover the last 10 minutes to avoid burning. Let cool in the pan.
10. In a small frying pan, toast the slivered almonds over medium heat until just browned. Let cool.
11. When the loaf has cooled completely, remove from the tin. You can gently slide a knife around the sides, and then carefully wiggle it out into your palm. Or just leave it, it will still look good.
12. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with almonds. 

And finally, enjoy! Serve with extra honey and lots of butter. L'Shanah Tovah!

Happy baking!

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Honey Apple Babka

This is a creation that was half request, half secret bucket-list-wish-fulfillment. My friend Mollie suggested I make something with ap...