The Day After.

gingerbread cake

When I was a little kid, I saw this made-for-TV-movie called “The Day After,” and was scarred for life. It was about an atomic bomb going off, and basically everyone was getting zapped instantly into skeletons. It was horrifying. I cried for days and couldn’t sleep for many nights. However, that’s not The Day After I’m referring to here. I’m talking about the day after Christmas.

It’s always such an odd day. Suddenly, everyone shifts into “time to change the sheets and clean the house and lose weight and take charge of my life” mode. And of course, there’s food everywhere you look. Particularly desserts. And nothing pains me more than to see a perfectly good dessert go to waste. It’s a crime, I tell ya. This year, however, I came much closer to my goal of “no dessert left behind,” at least as far as the ones I baked go. I’m down to the last few cookies, there’s only two slices of gingerbread cake left, and a couple of mini cheesecakes. Well played, self.

Anyway, just for the heck of it, here are a few pics of the aforementioned almost-gone Christmas Day desserts. Feast your eyes on these seasonal sweets:

Christmas Cookie Platter.

pretty maids all in a row.

pretty maids all in a row.

from left to right: chocolate chip, oatmeal cinnamon chip, honey whiskey balls, breakfast cookies, cottage cheese cookies, and good old sugar cookies shaped like Christmas trees.

Mini Cheesecakes.

the "original" small indulgence.

the “original” small indulgence.

These were a last-minute addition, but well worth it.

Gingerbread Cake with Cinnamon Sugar Glaze.


my masterpiece.

One of my specialties – I look forward to making it every year, and like a fine wine, it just keeps getting better.

Put them all together, and you have a lovely Christmas dessert table, sure to put a smile on the face of even the grumpiest Scrooge.

all together now.

all together now.

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, and may your lives be filled with sweets, love, and harmony not just on Christmas day, but every day.

Get sauced.

I never gave sauce much thought, other than it’s the stuff that goes on pasta. And as far as desserts go, in my home baking, it did not enter the equation. However, in this dessert plating class i just took, one of the main focuses (next to the desserts themselves) was the sauce. We must have learned how to make at least 15 sauces, and the beauty of most of them is that with one small ingredient switch, they can become any flavor you desire. A sauce is like the premier dessert accessory – the handbag of desserts, so to speak. It can make or break a dessert. But the right look, texture, and design can really take your plate to the next level. I’ve grown to appreciate sauces, in all their many colors, flavors, and viscosity, and will use them in my own desserts from hence forth.

What really got me sauced though, was when I created a sauce in class for our “final.” Basically, it was like that show “Chopped”– we were given a box of mystery ingredients, and from this box, we had to create a menu of desserts, utilizing all of the ingredients. At first, it sounded like a daunting task – but we came together as a team, and started brainstorming, and before we knew it, a menu had been strewn forth – a pretty good one, in fact. I won’t go into detail, but I will say that my main dish was a black bean gingerbread cake, which I will be making again. But I also was tasked with making a sauce – a jalapeño tabasco chocolate sauce. Being someone who does not normally eat jalapeño or tabasco sauce (I avoid spicy for the most part), I was a little wary of creating a sauce that had the perfect combination of chocolatey sweetness and “kick.” Somehow, through the grace of who knows what, I did it.

houston, we have sauce.

And not only did I do it, but when the teacher asked the class what was the best sauce, my jalapeño tabasco chocolate sauce got quite a few shout-outs.

So just like every fasionista has a signature bag, I now have a signature sauce. And just in time for graduation. I’m gonna make it after all.

the sauce in action.


No time for love, Dr. Jones.

Or for blogging. The hecticness of the holidays has begun. Throw in pastry school finals, and some minor family drama, and sadly, my favorite pastime has been sent to the back-burner (I love a good oven pun). But not for long! With graduation a little over a week away, I’m going to have so much free time I’m not going to know where to begin. It’s been so long, I forget how to have free time. But one thing I know for sure, this newly found freedom will definitely include a lot of baking and blogging. So hang tight, young grasshoppers. For every oven door that closes, another one opens. In the meantime, enjoy some photos of plated desserts from my class (that’s almost over!).

Chocolate Marquise (with edible Tuile spoon).

have your dessert and eat the spoon.


Chocolate Lava Cake (with mini meringue ice cream sandwich).

you'll lava it.


Gingerbread Cake (with poached pear).

what a lovely pear.


and finally: Apple Strudel (with cinnamon ice cream).



Stay tuned – they’ll be much more to come when I have no class….

Cranberry, Gingerbread, Pumpkin, oh my!

Thanksgiving may be gone, but the leftovers remain…and will probably for at least a week or so. This is by no means a bad thing, in my book, especially where dessert is concerned. I was particularly busy this Thanksgiving, as I had not one, but three Thanksgiving celebrations to make desserts for! And I couldn’t have been more thankful for the opportunity to do so. Not only did it give me a chance to try out some recipes, but as I mentioned in the past, the flavors of fall are by far my favorite and really do make the best desserts. So this year, I spread my little baking wings, and tried three distinct dessert varieties:

1. Pumpkin.

I wound up making two pumpkin desserts, both from one cake recipe. A pumpkin cake with pumpkin buttercream:

pumpkin inside and outside.

 And out of  the leftover cake and icing, came pumpkin cake balls:

great balls of pumpkin.

 2. Cranberry.

Last year, I made a cranberry fudge pie for the first time. It turned out pretty good, but after a year of schooling, I thought I’d try again, and see if I’ve improved at all in a year.

a year's worth of pastry school was worth it.

 3. Gingerbread.

I’ve been on a gingerbread kick since I made it in class two weeks ago, so I decided to make a gingerbread cake to take over to my parents. Well, in a true act of serendipity, the cake went from good to heavenly by the mere mistake of melting too much butter. I realized it immediately after I had melted it, and didn’t add any extra butter to the recipe, but had this bowl of melted butter just sitting there, with nothing to do. “Hmmm…I bet I could make some sort of glaze with that,” I thought. So I grabbed some cinnamon and confectioners’ sugar, and next thing I knew, I had created an easy, yet amazing buttery glaze which fit the cake like a glove.


 I also added something else to this gingerbread cake which was entirely intentional – mashed pears. I had all these leftover little pears that were starting to turn brown and I really wanted to use them. So, I cut them up, mashed them in a bowl, added some cinnamon and brown sugar, and threw it into the batter. The result? An even moister and flavorful cake!

Now, I should be happy that I wound up with no leftover desserts – it means that everyone really liked them and that’s the goal, right?  Next year, I’ll just have to make them bigger. 😉

Recipe Sunday: Gingerbread Mini Cupcakes.

I’m not sure why, but I always imagined that gingerbread was really hard to make. I think it was because I always associated it with gingerbread houses, and those ARE hard to make. Well, not hard, but complicated. Sure, you could make an uncomplicated gingerbread crap shack, but that’s defeating the purpose. A gingerbread house is supposed to be elaborate – covered in various candy adornments. Gingerbread itself however, contrary to my longstanding belief, is not.

I made gingerbread for the first time last week in class. It was the school’s recipe, and it was very good. But, I thought it could use a few minor adjustments, so I went home, and tried out my tweaked version as mini-cupcakes. It worked. And here it is, for you to try, too! I topped them with a very very simple pear frosting. I’m almost embarrassed to post it, it’s that simple. But the two worked together so well, that I’ll share.


no house, no problem.

Gingerbread Cupcakes.

What you’ll need:

10 oz Flour

1/2 tsp Salt

1 tsp Baking Powder

1/2 tsp Baking Soda

1 tsp Ginger

9 oz Molasses

4 1/2 oz Water (hot)

2 1/2 oz Butter (melted)

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 350. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and ginger. On top of the dry ingredients, add the molasses, hot water, and melted butter. Mix until homogenous. Line a mini cupcake pan with paper liners, and using a small ice-cream scoop, fill each cup with one scoop. Bake for 15 – 18 minutes.  Makes about 4 dozen minis (about 2 dozen regular sized).

one bite wonder.

Once cooled, you can top with whatever you like, but I went with the super easy aforementioned Pear Frosting…

What you’ll need:

1 Stick (about 8 oz) Shortening

2  TBSP pureed pear (made from a fresh pear)

1 tsp water

about 16 oz confectioners’ sugar – depending on how stiff you like your icing.

What you’ll do:

Peel and slice a pear, and place in a pot filled with equal parts water and sugar on the stove. Once it boils, reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 30 minutes. Place in a food processor, and puree. In a large bowl, cream together the shortening, pear puree and water. Add the confectioner’s sugar, a little at a time, mixing between each addition. Stop adding sugar when desired thickness is reached.

How bazaar.

When I was in grade school, every year around this time our school held it’s annual “Christmas Bazaar” in the gym. It was a bunch of vendors, selling handmade items and crafts, and a giant table loaded with donated baked goods in the hall. There was also a giant tree in the center of the lobby, and even a classroom where Santa was hanging out. I pretty much did all my Christmas shopping there as a kid. My mom would help me write my list, and then send me off to shop for everyone in one place. It’s a lovely memory and one I hold dear to my heart and look back on with a touch of melancholic nostalgia (as if there is any other kind).

But being a crafty lass even in those days, just shopping at the Bazaar wasn’t enough. So, I asked my mom if I could sell things that I made there, specifically those pot holders you weave on that plastic loom, as I was making them non-stop and thought instead of giving them away, I could sell them for money. I was 6 at the time. 

my first business enterprise.

 So I was not allowed to be a vendor at the Bazaar…but I was allowed to sell my pot holders at someone else’s table (I don’t know who – my mom took care of it – probably a random friend of hers). As I walked through the gym that year, purchasing my gifts, I saw my very own pot holders out for sale, and I was elated. And I even sold some! (well, I assume I did – it could have been an elaborate adult cover-up). But either way, this was my first taste of selling hand-made goods, and I was hooked.

Fast forward to today. I was an actual vendor at a Holiday Bazaar – not my old school, but it was exactly the same set up – baked goods in the hall, vendors in the gym. I was selling my book, but I had donated baked goods to the event in the form of:

Gingerbread mini cupcakes with pear buttercream…

nice molasses.

 white chocolate wreath cookies….

deck the halls, then eat them.

 and finally, the surprise hit of the fair, mini marzipan mice.

a mouse you'd want in the house.

 It was a lot of fun. I sold a few books, but besides that, I got a ton of positive feedback on the selection of “Small Indulgences” I baked and donated. It was like 1982, all over again. It’s funny how so many things change over time as we age…yet a wonderful feeling is a wonderful feeling, whether you’re 6 or 35. Knowing that others are enjoying things I made with my own hands, my own heart and my own soul – pot holders or marzipan mice – well there’s really nothing better. So encourage your kids to do what they love – they’ll be better people for it, and one day, they’ll thank you.

Thanks, Mom. 🙂