Old-fashioned Chocolate Cake (aka Tony’s Birthday Cake)


Tony loves chocolate cake.  So when I first saw this recipe in Bon Appétit in September 1995, I knew that I’d make him one for his birthday that December.  And I did.  And he loved it.  And I’ve been making it for his birthday just about every year since.  It really is just a good “old-fashioned chocolate cake”.  It’s rich and moist and chocolatey and dense and pretty darn simple.  I love the addition of chocolate chips in the cake.  And the cocoa frosting is thick and fudgey…I could eat it off a spoon (and often do!)  And I love that it’s three layers!  It’s become a family favorite and a great birthday tradition.


The Birthday Boy with his birthday cake

Silver Creek Pictures 076

For his 50th…made it into a quarter-sheet sized cake with a cute picture of little Tony

PS  The day after his birthday this year, our son Kyle’s friend Steven was over and was eyeballing the one leftover slice.  It was hard to give it up, but I did.  This was the text he sent later, “Dude.  Tell ur mom I wish it was my b-day so she could make me one of those chocolate cakes.  Good lord!  Best chocolate cake I’ve ever had.”  Steven’s birthday is May 31.


For cake
3 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups cold water
1 cup corn oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

For frosting
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
5 cups powdered sugar
8 tablespoons (about) whole milk
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Make cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour three 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides. Sift first 5 ingredients into medium bowl. Mix water, oil and vanilla in large bowl. Whisk in dry ingredients. Divide batter among pans. Sprinkle 1/2 cup chocolate chips over batter in each pan.

Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on racks 15 minutes. Cut around pan sides to loosen cakes. Turn cakes out; cool completely.

Make frosting:
Beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Gradually beat in 3 cups sugar. Beat in 6 tablespoons milk and vanilla. Add cocoa and remaining 2 cups sugar; beat until blended, thinning with more milk if necessary.

Place 1 cake layer, chocolate-chips side up, on platter. Spread 2/3 cup frosting over. Top with second cake layer, chocolate-chips side up. Spread 2/3 cup frosting over. Top with remaining cake layer, chocolate-chips side down. Spread frosting over sides and top of cake.

(Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome; let stand at room temperature.)


Peanut Butter Butterfinger Cookies

2013-11-17 004

A couple of months ago I went to this event at the San Diego Public Market called Cake Bake 2013.  It was a fundraiser to benefit No Kid Hungry.  There were booths featuring sweets for sampling from some of San Diego’s best bakers.  They had a Bake Sale and a Cake Walk (y’know, you’d think I would’ve learned…I never won a single thing in any cake walk at any of those Halloween carnivals when I was in elementary school and my luck didn’t change now.  Oh well, it was for a good cause). 

I discovered two really wonderful bakers that I hadn’t heard of.  Under the Crust…Hannah makes adorable and delicious “sweet & savory handcrafted mini pies” and sells them out of converted vintage pick up truck.  And The Cravory…really yummy cookies that you can actually have delivered to your home!  I, of course, left will a half dozen cookies…among them Lemon Bar, Ultimate Chocolate Chip, Rosemary Balsamic and a couple of their “Flavors of the Month”.  My very favorite was the PB Butterfinger…a peanut butter cookie with Butterfingers and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.  Holy Moly.

So, Halloween rolls around and I buy Reese’s, Snickers and Butterfingers (so what if I happen to buy my favorite candies??) to hand out to our trick-or-treaters. Well, the peanut butter cups were the first to go, but we did have a few leftover Snickers and Butterfingers, so I decided I’d use the Butterfingers to make my own Cravory-inspired cookies.  I spent a fair bit of time online trying to find a recipe for a peanut butter cookie with Butterfingers.  There were plenty of just regular chocolate chip variety recipes, but not many with peanut butter cookie dough (not sure why I didn’t just look in my favorite Dorie Greenspan Baking cookbook and use her peanut butter cookie recipe, but I didn’t think of it until the cookies were in the oven!  Sorry Dorie.)


I found this one at My Baking Addiction (I loved the look of the blog…great photos and graphics).  I questioned the use of just egg whites, not whole eggs, but they turned out great.  Really great, in fact.  I really like that they are not too soft, not too hard, just right.  Might be my new favorite cookie (in fact, Tony said they are his new favorite!)

Would they have been better with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in them too?  Perhaps.  Next Halloween I’ll make sure to set aside some of those too. 

As Bart Simpson would say, “nobody better lay a finger on my (peanut butter) Butterfinger (cookie)!!”

Peanut Butter Butterfinger Cookies

(adapted from http://www.mybakingaddiction.com)


1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
2/3 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
2 egg whites
1 1/4 cups crunchy peanut butter (I used smooth because that’s what I had in the pantry)
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 (2.1 ounce) Butterfinger candy bars, chopped (I used about 8 Halloween-sized bars; I think 5 regular-sized would be a lot)


Preheat oven to 350°. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Add the egg whites and beat well. Beat in the peanut butter and the vanilla, mixing until well combined.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture and mix until just combined. Stir in the chopped candy bars.

Using a medium cookie scoop (about 1 ½ tablespoons) shape dough into balls and place on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove cookies from oven and allow them to cool for about 5 minutes on the cookie sheet before moving them to a cooling rack.

Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce

2013-11-16 012

Salted Caramel.  It’s everywhere, right?  I love it. There’s just something about that combination of sweet and salty.  My favorite dessert in the whole world is at Nostrana in Portland…Butterscotch Budino with Salted Caramel.  Oh. My. God.  I’ve made a few attempts at my own salted caramel sauce, but with not such great luck.

So, I was having a book club meeting at my house and was going to be perfectly satisfied with serving Brownie Sundaes (made from my “Only Brownie Recipe You’ll Ever Need” recipe) and drizzled with some store-bought chocolate fudge sauce and vanilla Haagen-Dazs ice cream, but the day before, a post on my Facebook feed from Bon Appétit pops up that says, “make homemade salted caramel sauce from scratch…to drizzle over anything and everything” and think it would be so good on the brownie sundaes!  Okay.  Fine.  I look at the recipe.  It looks pretty easy.  I’ll give it a whirl.

It was, in fact, VERY easy.  No candy thermometers involved.  I didn’t feel like I was waiting for ever and ever for the mixture to turn dark amber colored.  Honestly, the easiest and most delicious caramel sauce I’ve ever made (and I’ve experimented with a few!)  I could have eaten it by the spoonful, right out of the pot (okay, I’ll admit to using a spatula to scrape what was left in the pot to gobble up every drop!)

The sundaes were a hit ….you’re definitely going to want to make them. (And I highly recommend the book too…The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker.)

Now the question is what will I do with the sauce leftover in the fridge?  I’ve dipped green apples in it already.  It would be amazing drizzled over a slice of Pumpkin Roll or on top of a dollop of whipped cream on pecan pie or apple pie for Thanksgiving!  Stir a spoonful into your coffee or hot chocolate.  Even just lick it right off the spoon.

I might even be inspired now to try to find that Butterscotch Budino recipe and try it!

Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce


3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

3/4 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/2 tablespoon flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)

For Brownie Sundaes you’ll need to bake a batch of double chocolate brownies (aka “The Only Brownie Recipe You’ll Ever Need“) and buy some Haagen Dazs vanilla ice cream 


Bring granulated sugar, corn syrup, and 2 tablespoons water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil, swirling pan occasionally, until mixture turns a deep amber color, 8–10 minutes.

Remove from heat and gradually add cream (mixture will bubble vigorously). Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and mix in butter and salt.  Let cool slightly before serving.

DO AHEAD: Caramel sauce can be made 5 days ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Chunky Peanut Butter Chocolate Chipsters

2013-10-27 008

So I suppose you’ve noticed that I love cookies…home-baked cookies. (I think I might have more cookie recipes posted on this blog than any other category…lol!) And I mean, most any kind of cookies…chocolate chip, shortbread, peanut butter, oatmeal…all of ’em. I think it started with my Gramma Lulu who used to make so many different cookies (oh, and pies, too…pumpkin, mincemeat, apple, “Dream Pie”) during the holidays. I loved her peanut butter cookies with the Hershey’s Kisses in the middle, her chocolate crackle cookies, sugar cookies, but most of all…Snickerdoodles!

Four Generations! Gramma Lulu, my mom, me and my daughter Ally (at Ally's bat mitzvah in 2003)

Four generations! Gramma Lulu, my mom, me and my daughter Ally (at Ally’s bat mitzvah) in 2002. Gramma passed away the following year, at age 93. And believe me, she baked right up until the end!

I’ve mentioned my friend Dale (yes, of Chip and Dale), aka the Cookie Queen, a lot on this blog. She’s a wonderful cook and an amazing baker. She’s always got an assortment of cookies going on at her house. And she gave me my favorite cookbook, Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, which has a plethora of wonderful cookie recipes. I’ve never made a recipe from that book that I haven’t loved and usually it becomes my new favorite…Margarita cookies, Chocoblock cookies, World Peace cookies…and now this one. Chunky Peanut Butter Chocolate Chipsters. They’re like all three of the best cookies baked into one (for when you can’t decide whether you want peanut butter cookies, oatmeal cookies or chocolate chip cookies.). I think Gramma Lulu would like these.


Just a note – I wasn’t sure if I was going to like the addition of cinnamon and nutmeg with peanut butter, but you know what? It works. I adapted the recipe just slightly, as I didn’t have fresh nutmeg (uh…who does?), so I reduced the amount to 1/8 teaspoon of the ground kind.

Chunky Peanut Butter Chocolate Chipsters


3 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chunks, or 1 1/2 cups store-bought chocolate chips or chunks (I used chocolate chips)


Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Whisk together the oats, flour, baking soda, spices and salt. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter, peanut butter, sugar and brown sugar on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition, then beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients, beating only until blended. Mix in the chips.

If you have the time, cover and chill the dough for about 2 hours or for up to one day. (Chilling the dough will give you more evenly shaped cookies.) Note: I only chilled the dough for about half an hour, so didn’t bother with the rolling into balls and flattening…they turned out perfect. If the dough is not chilled, drop rounded tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto the baking sheets.

If the dough is chilled, scoop up rounded tablespoons, roll the balls between your palms and place them 2 inches apart on the sheets. Press the chilled balls gently with the heel of your hand until they are about 1/2 inch thick.

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back after 7 minutes. The cookies should be golden and just firm around the edges. Lift the cookies onto cooling racks with a wide metal spatula – they’ll firm as they cool.

Make sure you wait for the baking sheets to cool completely before making the next batch. And I used parchment paper, which I turned over to use the unused side for the second batch.

Cinnamon Roll Cake

2013-09-29 001

Debra, one of my very favorite coworkers, had a birthday (a BIG birthday) last month.  Okay, really, Debra’s not just one of my favorite coworkers, but one of my very favorite people on the whole planet.  Really.  She’s kind and thoughtful and funny and generous and has a laugh that is absolutely contagious.

I was invited to her surprise party but couldn’t make it, so I wanted to do something special to make up for missing it.  I asked her wife what her favorite baked good was.  She said, “Deb loves cinnamon rolls…lemon bars too, but cinnamon rolls are her favorite.”  Cinnamon rolls.  Hmmm…I think I’ve made them once or twice and I really didn’t have time to do the whole wait-for-the-yeast-to-rise thing.

Then I remembered seeing a recipe that someone had posted on Facebook for a Cinnamon Roll Cake.  I tried to find which friend had posted it (spent way too much time on that little venture), but couldn’t.  So I Googled.  Duh.  There were dozens of them…seems to be a popular recipe on Pinterest and the food blog circuit.  And they are all exactly the same recipe. So I went to the blog that I thought looked cutest (The Girl Who Ate Everything) and made that one.  It was really easy and smelled heavenly while baking.

(As a little side note here, it smelled so good baking that it caught Tony’s attention.  He came into the kitchen and asked what I was baking.  I told him it was for Debra’s birthday.  He said something along the lines of, “how come you always bake such good stuff for work and not for me?” Guilt.  So I made a second one!!!!  Crazy, I know…but at least this way I got to sample it!  And it tasted just as heavenly as it smelled.  All warm and cinnamon-y and gooey and delicious.  Tony loved it and the neighbors we shared it with did too.)  

2013-09-29 003

The next day, I took the one I made for Debra to work and left it on her desk.  And then waited for her to discover it.  A while later, she walked over to my cubicle and said, “Bruser…did you make this delicious cinnamon cake”?  And I said, “yes, it’s a cinnamon roll cake.”  And she said, “Cinnamon rolls are my favorite thing.”  And I said, “I know.”  Giggle, giggle.  And she said, “how did you know?”  Giggle, giggle.  “Did my wife tell you?”  More giggling.  Anyway…it was very cute.  She said she loved it.  Said it might even be one of the best things she’s ever eaten in her life, “like a cinnamon roll and coffee cake all in one.”

Later that night, Debra texted me a picture of her son 14-year-old Ethan eating a piece of the cake.  She said, “He’s in heaven, Bruser!”


So here you have it.  Cinnamon Roll Cake.  Like coffee cake and cinnamon roll all in one.  You don’t even have to wait until one of your favorite people’s birthday.  Make one this weekend. You’ll be so happy you might even laugh like Debra.

Cinnamon Roll Cake


3 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1-1/2 cups milk
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup butter, melted

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Mix everything together except for the butter. Slowly stir in the melted butter and pour into a greased 9×13 pan.

For the topping, mix all the ingredients together until well combined. Drop evenly over the batter and swirl with a knife. Bake at 350° for 28-32 minutes.

2 c. powdered sugar
5 Tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla

While still warm drizzle the glaze over the cake.

Espresso-Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

2013-09-01 003

Labor Day we had a few friends over for a barbecue.  (Of course, you knew that already because you read the Pomegranate-Queso Fresco Salsa post, right?  Remember…Rosh Hashanah started just days after Labor Day…I was in barbecue mode, not Jewish holiday mode…remember? Yeah.  Yeah.)  Main course was Sriracha-Glazed Chicken Skewers and Broccoli Slaw.

Well, I really wanted to break out the Kitchenaid ice cream maker attachment and make a new flavor ice cream for dessert.  I looked all through David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop and didn’t see anything that really grabbed me, so I went to old faithful Smitten Kitchen and found Butterscotch Ice Cream.  I had been dreaming about this dessert (Butterscotch Budino from Nostrana) I had in Portland while visiting our son Kyle last year (okay, I dream about that dessert a lot…one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Seriously.), so I figure I’ll try the ice cream.  It was good (not Butterscotch Budino good, but good).  I served it sprinkled with a few chopped sugared pecans from Trader Joe’s on top and accompanied by Espresso-Chocolate Shortbread Cookies.

Oh yeah, the Espresso-Chocolate Shortbread Cookies.  At the very end of the ice cream recipe, she says, “Note: If you serve with espresso-chocolate shortbread cookies, your friends might never leave. Proceed with caution.”  Okay fine.  Now I gotta make the cookies too.  Well, let’s just say it was a very good decision.  In fact, the cookies received far more kudos than the ice cream!  I mean, I love shortbread cookies anyway, but hat I liked about these is that you can really taste coffee in them.  And with the little bits of dark chocolate?!?  Mmmmm.   Will definitely make these again (even without the Butterscotch Ice Cream)!

Espresso-Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

(SK says these are adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking, of which I am also a huge fan!)

Makes 42 cookies


1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon boiling water
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (plain, or a toffee variety), finely chopped, or 3/4 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting (optional)


1. Dissolve the espresso in the boiling water, and set aside to cool to tepid.

2. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and confectioners’ sugar together on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until the mixture is very smooth. Beat in the vanilla and espresso, then reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, mixing only until it disappears into the dough. Don’t work the dough much once the flour is incorporated. Fold in the chopped chocolate with a sturdy rubber spatula.

3. Using the spatula, transfer the soft, sticky dough to a gallon-size zipper-lock plastic bag. Put the bag on a flat surface, leaving the top open, and roll the dough into a 9 x 10 1/2 inch rectangle that’s 1/4 inch thick. As you roll, turn the bag occasionally and lift the plastic from the dough so it doesn’t cause creases. When you get the right size and thickness, seal the bag, pressing out as much air as possible, and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours, or for up to 2 days.

4. Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

5. Put the plastic bag on a cutting board and slit it open. Turn the firm dough out onto the board (discard the bag) and, using a ruler as a guide and a sharp knife, cut the dough into 1 1/2-inch squares. Transfer the squares to the baking sheets and carefully prick each one twice with a fork, gently pushing the tines through the cookies until they hit the sheet.

6. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point. The shortbreads will be very pale–they shouldn’t take on much color. Transfer the cookies to a rack.

7. If you’d like, dust the cookies with confectioners’ sugar while they are still hot. Cool the cookies to room temperature before serving.

Apple-Pomegranate Crisp

2013-09-16 007

When I wrote the post about Summer Berry Crisp, I told you all just how easy fruit crisp desserts are.  Believe me, they are.  Another great thing about a crisp is that you can make them with any fruit and combination of fruit.  You can adapt it to any fruit that’s in season.  Case in point…Apple Pomegranate Crisp.  The recipe is exactly the same as the Summer Berry Crisp, except I replaced the berries with Granny Smith apples and tossed in some pomegranate seeds.

My friend Sandy invited us for break-the-fast on Saturday night. I offered to make dessert.  She requested a fruit crisp (no surprise there, she was the one who requested a crisp when I made the berry one for her Memorial Day party.)  I wanted to do something Fall-ish.  In the back of my mind, I was going to do an Apple Cranberry Crisp, but it’s a little early for fresh cranberries (and though I usually buy extra fresh cranberries when they are in season, throw them in a Ziploc bag,  put them in the freezer, so I have them on hand, but there were none).  I looked in the fridge and saw that I had a container of pomegranate seeds (you may have noticed lately my new found obsession with said seeds…sprinkled on my Everyday Granola and yogurt in the morning, added to Pomegranate Margaritas, baked into oatmeal-white chocolate chip cookies…), so I decided I’d try them.  And we were all glad I did!  They added just a little tartness to the apples and it was delicious.

And then I got super motivated and decided to make a Honey-Vanilla ice cream to go with it.  Yum!  Until I remembered that we were picnicking at the beach (DUHHHH!), so how could I bring ice cream?! What a dork.  I ended up whipping a little cream and bringing that.  Now I have a container of Honey-Vanilla ice cream in the freezer!  I may just bake another batch of the oatmeal cookies and make ice cream sandwiches.  Mmmmmmm….

 Apple-Pomegranate Crisp


5 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin

1/2 cup pomegranate arils (seeds)

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup flour

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Crisp Topping:

1 cup old-fashioned oats

1/2 cup flour

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

pinch of salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream or, for serving


Preheat oven to 375°.  Butter a 9×13″ baking dish.

Gently combine the apples with the sugar, flour and lemon juice.  Gently mix in the pomegranate arils.

Prepare the topping:  Combine the oats, flour, both sugars, cinnamon and salt in a bowl.  Use a pastry blender or two knives to work the butter until topping resembles coarse meal. (Fold in pecans if using.)  Sprinkle evenly over the berries.

Bake until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden brown, about 40-45 minutes.  Remove the crisp to a rack to cool slightly.  Serve in dessert bowls, warm or at room temperature, with ice cream or whipped cream.

Lime Shortbread Cookies with White Chocolate and Almonds

2013-06-02 004

The other night our friend Christine invited us to dinner.  Christine is originally from Paris, France and is a wonderful cook (and a lovely person!)  We got to know her through her daughter Elisa, who was a high school friend of our son Kyle.  Elisa, btw, is no slouch in the kitchen either. She has actually studied with Alice Waters (yes, THAT Alice Waters!) and did research for a couple of Michael Pollan (yes, THAT Michael Pollan!) books, including his newly released Cooked (which, btw, I highly recommend.  Such an important message.)  He even thanked her, by name, in his Acknowledgments!  So impressed.

Okay, where was I?  Right. Christine invited us for dinner.  I asked what I could bring.  She said (in her lovely French accent), “I have been dreaming about your white chocolate lime cookies.”  Wow.  Dreaming about them.  Okay then…how could I possibly say no? Decision made.  The cookies are delicious…a light, buttery shortbread with a nice zesty lime flavor, a tiny bit of sweetness from the white chocolate and a crunchy almond topping.

The cookies were a lovely ending to Christine’s exceptional meal which included classic French dishes Salade Lyonnaise and Blanquette de Veau.  Très magnifique!

I’m sharing the recipe for the cookies.  If you want recipes for Salade Lyonnaise and Blanquette de Veau, you’ll have to ask Christine.

Lime Shortbread Cookies with White Chocolate and Almonds

(adapted slightly from Bon Appétit April 2009)


2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 tablespoons finely grated lime peel (3-4 limes), divided
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 3.5-ounce bar high-quality white chocolate (such as Lindt or Perugina), finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds


Preheat oven to 325°. Butter 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan.

Blend flour, sugar, and salt in processor. Add butter, 2 tablespoons lime peel, and lime juice; process just until blended and dough forms clumps.

Press dough evenly into prepared baking pan. Pierce dough all over with fork. Using sharp knife, cut dough into 12 squares, cutting through dough completely, then cut each square in half on diagonal, forming 24 triangles total.

Bake shortbread until golden brown, crisp around edges, and firm to touch, about 35-40 minutes. Remove from oven. Using sharp knife, immediately recut shortbread, gently separating triangles. Cool shortbread in pan on rack.

Place white chocolate in small metal bowl. Set bowl over small saucepan of gently simmering water and stir just until chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove bowl from over water. Using fork, drizzle melted chocolate in zigzag pattern over shortbread. Sprinkle evenly with almonds and remaining 1 tablespoon lime peel. Let stand until chocolate sets, about 1 hour.  Gently separate into triangles.

Summer Berry Crisp

Summer Berry Crisp.  And look how beautiful it is sitting on Sandy's adorable Memorial Day "tablescape"!!!

Summer Berry Crisp. And look how beautiful it is sitting on Sandy’s adorable Memorial Day “tablescape”!!!

Juicy berries beneath a crispy, crumbly crust of oats, cinnamon and brown sugar.  Summer Berry Crisp.  Crisps are hands down one of the easiest desserts to make. You can even make this one with frozen (gasp!) berries to simplify even further.  But with the abundance of fresh berries in the market right now, you’ll want to use fresh.  And the colors of the red (strawberries and raspberries), white (vanilla ice cream) and blue (blueberries) make this Summer Berry Crisp the perfect dessert for your Memorial Day or Fourth of July cookout.  (In fact, I made it just yesterday to bring to our friends Sandy and Joel’s BBQ!  Great time, great food and Sandy always does the best job of decorating!!)

OR you can use this recipe as a guide and play with any combination of fruits and/or berries you like…mix it up!  Peach/Blueberry…Strawberry/Rhubarb…Nectarine/Blackberry…what’s your favorite?


(adapted slightly from Sheila Lukins in PARADE, via Epicurious)


Berry filling:

2 cups each strawberries (cut in half or thirds if large), blueberries, blackberries and raspberries (or, two 12-oz. bags of frozen berries; no need to thaw!)

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup flour

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Crisp Topping:

1 cup old-fashioned oats

1/2 cup flour

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

pinch of salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream or, for serving


Preheat oven to 375°.  Butter a 9×13″ baking dish.

Gently combine the berries with the sugar, flour and lemon juice.

Prepare the topping:  Combine the oats, flour, both sugars, cinnamon and salt in a bowl.  Use a pastry blender or two knives to work the butter until topping resembles coarse meal. (Fold in pecans if using.)  Sprinkle evenly over the berries.

Bake until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden brown, about 40-45 minutes.  Remove the crisp to a rack to cool slightly.  Serve in dessert bowls, warm or at room temperature, with ice cream or whipped cream.

Pistachio Pound Cake


This recipe was in the April 2012 issue of Bon Appétit, in their RSVP section (where readers write in to request their favorite restaurant recipes).  The reader who wrote in said, “The sublime pistachio pound cake at the Tasting Room in Houston is my dream dessert.”  And as soon as I read through the recipe, I couldn’t wait to make it.  And I did.  And it was so good that I was just looking for excuses to make it again.  For a couple of months, any time we either entertained here or we’d go to someone’s house for dinner, I’d volunteer  to bring a dessert and I’d make another Pistachio Pound Cake.  It’s buttery and light and citrusy and full of pistachios (don’t you just love pistachios?)  And it’s absolutely  gorgeous when you slice into it.  Yes, even sublime.

It’s delicious “dressed up” for dessert with some fresh whipped cream on the side (and maybe even a sprinkling of sugared pistachios…I did that once) and perfect for breakfast with coffee.

Anybody have a good excuse for me to make another one?


Pistachio Pound Cake


Nonstick vegetable oil spray
2 cups all-purpose flour plus more
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
1 cup shelled, unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped, divided


Arrange a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 325°F. Coat a 9x5x3″ loaf pan with nonstick spray. Dust pan with flour; tap out excess.

Whisk 2 cups flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add sugar; beat until well incorporated, 1-2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions. Add juices and zests; beat until well combined (mixture will look curdled), 2-3 minutes. Add dry ingredients; reduce speed to low and beat just until blended. Fold in 3/4 cup pistachios. Pour batter into prepared pan; smooth top. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup pistachios over.

Bake cake, rotating halfway through, until a tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 1/2 hours. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely in pan. Run a sharp knife around sides to loosen; unmold cake. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

 Serve accompanied with a dollop of freshly whipped cream and sprinkled with a few sugared pistachios (optional).

Sugared Pistachios

Heat oven to 350°.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.  Slightly whisk an egg white in a small cup.  Transfer 1 tablespoon egg white to a medium bowl; whisk until frothy (discard remaining egg white).  Add 1 cup coarsely chopped pistachios and 3 tablespoons sugar; toss to combine.  Spread on lined baking sheet.  Bake for about 8 minutes or until dry and toasted.  Cool; break apart.