Category Archives: Baked Goods and Desserts

WHOA! or, How to Bake Letters into a Cake

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Every once in a while, I get to do something really cool and wacky and crazy that makes me feel like a legitimate food blogger (not that we were ever calling that fact into question, but I basically question its legitimacy all the time). Today I’m going to teach you how to bake letters into a cake, though–and I am SO excited to be sharing this fun creation with you guys today!

(I totally apologize in advance for the lack of process photos, by the way: this cake took me 6 hours to test and make–by the time I finished, it was already 2 AM! I’ve included a few, ahem, Snapchat photos that I downloaded at the end of this post, for reference.)

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Have you ever seen photos of cute things baked into other equally cute things? Like this heart baked into a cupcake, or oh my gosh I just Googled the phrase “baked into a cake” and this photo of three whole pies baked into a cake just came up and I kind of want to smoosh my face right into the screen!

Well, a couple of weeks ago I decided it would be a great idea to bake an entire word into a cake. I tried searching for a clear tutorial on how to do this, but ended up having to sort of cobble together my own version of how to accomplish this. One thing to note about this cake is that while it’s a bit of a pain to make, the WOW factor when I sliced in for the big reveal was massive. I’m talking mind-blowing, promotion-garnering levels of impressiveness here!

Other things to note about this cake before you start:

  • Your word will only be “presentable” on one side of the cake, i.e. the letters will appear backwards if sliced along the wrong long side.
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Oreo-Stuffed Peanut Butter Cookies

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #RoadTripHacks #CollectiveBias #Vons

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These days, I’d like to sit down for a tete-a-tete with good ol’ Father Time. I don’t know who thought it’d be funny to land us smack dab into the second half of August already (say whaaaaat?), but I sure as heck am not ready for the summer to be over just yet!bet

One big reason is because I haven’t gotten the travel bugs out of my system yet this summer. Between research and work and baking and blogging and attempting to maintain a semblance of a social life, I have definitely come down with a bad case of cabin fever. And that can only ever amount to one thing in my book, the BIG question I ask everyone around me every single day…

Road triiiiiiiiiiiiiip?!?!?

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I don’t know about you, but I’m one huge ball of emotions when it comes to the entire lengthy process of planning a road trip. I’ve basically broken down my 5 Fundamental Emotion-based Stages of Road Tripping to a science. Observe:

Stage 1: The Casual Reference. Almost every road trip begins with a light conversation that may or may not directly relate to roadtripping. At this point, no serious thoughts about actually embarking on a trip are actually entertained. The seeds of thought, however, are sown at this stage. Example:

(Casual conversation, over a cup of Joe at Starbucks)

Me: “I love food.”

Friend: “No way, me too!”

Me: “I hear Seattle has some killer maple glazed donut bars.”

Friend: “That’s so cool! We should totally go sometime.”

Me: “YES! Also, speaking of donuts, we should work on that donut-propelled jetpack that we talked about last week.”

Friend: “TOTALLY.”

While no concrete commitment has been formed, note that the idea of roadtripping has garnered a mutually-recognized level of excitement from all parties involved.… Read more

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Twix Millionaire Bars for a Virtual Baby Shower!

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There are three things I am loving right now. The first is surprises! Because who doesn’t love a good surprise? I know I do.

The second thing is babies. I mean, if you don’t like babies, does that mean you hate puppies and rainbows and unicorns and cupcakes and all things happy and cute, too? Nobody wants to be THAT person. In my mind, it’s safest to just love the cuddly creatures and get on with it <3

The third thing I love is…showers. Don’t get me wrong: the idea of a hot, luxurious bath at the end of a long day sounds as wonderful to me as it does to Julia Roberts’ character in Pretty Woman. But since the idea of stewing in my own juices has always sort of weirded me out – showers it is.

And speaking of showers… Congratulations, you have stumbled across this surprise baby shower for our wonderful blogger friend, Courtney!

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A group of 12 bloggers, including myself, have put our heads together on this lovely day to celebrate the amazing Courtney from Neighbor Food. I met this fantastic lady almost 2 years ago now, back when I was just a wee blogger with bright wide eyes looking for a friend or just a warm smile to welcome me into the big wide world of food blogging. Courtney was so gracious and was one of the rare few who would light up every single blog post of mine with a thoughtful comment, even when the photos were blurry or the writing was crap or my mind was plain jarbled up and my thoughts made zero sense.

In short, Courtney quickly grew to become a wonderful friend.

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Now, with a wee one on the way in just a few short weeks, I’m so excited to be sharing a recipe with all of you today that epitomizes the best of all worlds when it comes to dessert time.… Read more

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Lemon Curd Raspberry Crumb Bars for #SundaySupper

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You’d think that with summer vacation finally here and in full swing, I’d find more time to do summery things like frolic through lush fields of berries or buy fresh produce every week from the farmer’s market down the street from us. Instead, in the 4 weeks that have elapsed since my last academic conference, I have done goodness-knows-what with my time: running all of the annoying errands I never bothered to do during the school year, catching up here on the blog, and trying to earn a few extra bucks here and there when I can.

I never understood what all of my aunts meant when they said that they are “ten times busier now that they have retired,” but now I’m starting to get the point. Vacationing is rough, there’s no denying it.

The struggle is real.

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No, I’m kidding–of course, I know I’ve got it good. What is summer vacation anyway? Just a kid’s recess session on the playground of life. In the adult world, there is no recess. In the adult world, there is no nap time (unless you’re in Spain). There is no playground, and there definitely is no such thing as a “summer vacation.”

That being said……….

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“Adulting” (verb: the act of acting like a real, honest-to-goodness, bona fide adult) is actually kind of all kinds of awesome in its own way. Sure, you don’t get official nap time at work–but when you’re working a real job, nobody will stop you from vegging out on your couch watching Netflix for so long that you actually end up falling asleep with your face in the bowl of buttered popcorn (none of this “no butter” nonsense). And okay, maybe our metabolisms work precisely 9.5 times slower than they did five years ago – let’s be honest, it feels good to know that if you’ve had a rough day at work, nothing stands between you and that half-gallon of cookies ‘n cream special edition toffee crunch ice cream sitting in your freezer.… Read more

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Checkered Red & Blue Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

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Happy July 4th weekend to my folks in the States! For those of you who aren’t: howdy, and I hope you’re all enjoying the sudden onslaught of all things Red, White, and Blue that’s slamming your feed this week <3 guilty as charged.

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Growing up, I was never a huge fan of July 4th. As a non-meat-eating A/C comfort kind of gal, I just couldn’t see the appeal of a holiday where a) grilled meat popped up EVERYWHERE you turned, b) any and all outdoor activities promised to end in sticky, stinky sweat-bomb baths, and c) national levels of machismo bravado exploded by about tenfold.

And then I became a food blogger, and all of that changed overnight. Suddenly the choruses of the national anthem bellowed proudly overhead as I experimented with 4th of July-themed desserts; all around me, explosions of raspberries and blueberries on white cakes conspired to convert me to the grand old holiday. And hey, I ended up making this Checkered Red & Blue Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting for my team this week, so who’s to say it didn’t work, right?

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Ever since my dormmate told me what a checkered cake was in college, I’ve wanted to make one, and this year I thought July 4th was as good an excuse as any for the occasion. While the presentation could use some work, I was blown away by just how easy the process was once I decided to actually follow some instructions. On top of that, the red & blue velvet cake recipe I use here was hands down AMAZING: moist, rich, deep, and completely balanced by the sweet cream cheese frosting I slathered all around it. Trust me, it’s NOT just a chocolate cake or buttermilk cake with food coloring in it: it is so.… Read more

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Graham Cracker Crumb Cheesecake Bars with Golden Oreos: a recipe/post from your newest PhD candidate! (eep!)

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If it’s felt quiet around here lately, you’re completely right. But guys. Guys.

Guess who’s penning this post as a newly baptized English PhD candidate? (eeks!) Excuse me while I bust-a-move around the room a la old-school 90s arcade game.

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So for those of you who are just like, Ala you big nut what are you even talking about we have no idea please speak English okay, I have basically spent the past few months working furiously toward writing a dissertation proposal (called a “prospectus”) that I finally discussed with my entire exam committee on Monday. For a little shy of two hours, we sat in a room and questioned and brainstormed and pontificated about my ideas on the construction of children’s fantasy literature (and yes, that’s my dissertation topic–booyeah!).

Then they sent me out of the room and were all like GO STEW IN YOUR SWEATY INSECURITY and closed the door and deliberated.

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Okay, actually they sent me out at a really nice and comfortable point in our conversation, and basically everyone was grinning as I walked out and everyone was still grinning when I walked back in. I was honestly a little bit scared because I have never seen my advisor beaming so broadly before at me, and I expected a terrifying green imp to burst out of his skin at any second and shout, “NYAH NYAH, you failed!”

But thankfully, my advisor’s skin stayed intact and he actually shook me heartily by the hand as he said: “I am so happy to congratulate you on successfully passing your exam!”

I imagine there being a palpable exclamation mark at the end of that sentence. Like, never ever have I heard him use an exclamation mark and the word “you” in the same sentence before, so you know–pretty big deal!… Read more

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S’mores Bars { + S’More Thoughts on the Difficulty of Loving Yourself }

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Almost a year ago now, I wrote this post on Defining Your Self-Worth, which received tons of amazing, thought-provoking, vulnerable, and deeply genuine comments from all of you readers out there. Today, in the midst of one of the craziest and most turbulent but also “happiest” periods of my life, I want to continue the discussion by bringing up another related topic: the Difficulty of Loving Yourself.

This is going to be a long post, so if you’re here for the S’mores Bars recipe (which is phenomenal BTW), go ahead and skip to the bottom of this post. I promise I won’t be offended!

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“We accept the love we think we deserve.” This is the catchphrase of that wonderful coming-of-age book-turned-film that I’m watching alone tonight, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Having always identified as a Wallflour/Wallflower myself, that line always resonated with me. We accept the love we think we deserve. Fine. But what if there was no love to accept? What if, at the heart of it all, the problem wasn’t that I wasn’t accepting love, but that I didn’t deserve to be loved in the first place?

At my lowest moments, these are the thoughts that hang over my mind like an invisible but palpable cloud that blocks out all sunlight. Despite considering myself to be a fairly cheerful and positive person, the difficulty of loving myself has been something with which I have always struggled, but exponentially more so in the past six or seven years since all this crappiness happened. What makes the whole experience even more trying is–or at least was, as I’ll explain in a moment–what I perceived as a lack of stable support systems on which I could rely to actually talk about my problems. My blog has provided a surrogate version of that outlet for the past three years, but at some point the irreplaceability of face-to-face human warmth and contact just hits you, and suddenly the whole illusion of knowing what you’re doing and being the person the world thinks you are crumbles, leaving you to reconstruct some semblance of order from out of the rubble.… Read more

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Loaded Oatmeal Monster Cookies { + loads of updates! }

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Time for some SERIOUS updates.

I know, I’ve been flagging on the writing/commenting/replying end of things (which is a total shame, because that’s the part of blogging I love best). In between teaching, prepping for my Part II exam (more on that in a sec), and some really exciting new developments in the cooking/baking part of my life, I’ve been catching about 4 hours of shuteye a night…when I’m lucky and don’t get insomnia. So to perk things up around here, I thought I’d take a big break from everything else, share some of the BEST colorful cookies I know (seriously, I served these at my ice cream cookie sandwich party a few weeks ago and they were ALL GONE), and sit down for a little life chat with all of you.

Got your tea or coffee? Good.

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1. First parcel of big news, which you might have read about on Sunday’s post, but anyway: guys, I’m competing in this year’s annual California Strawberry Festival Berry Blast-Off competition! After an hour of intensive cooking in a professional kitchen last week, the judges picked my original Steamed Strawberry Coconut Poke Cake as one of two entries for the final showdown. This will be my first time on a live stage (eep!) cooking (eep!) in front of hundreds of people (EEP!) with a microphone and cameras trained on me as I try to keep my hands steady enough to crack an egg like a normal person which I cannot for the life of me do (okay, where’s my fainting couch?). We’ll be traveling to Oxnard that morning so if you’re in the area, you might want to stop by the Strawberry Promenade at 1 PM! You can read more press releases about the competition here and here. Wish me luck!… Read more

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Steamed Strawberry Coconut Poke Cake for More-than-just-a-Mother’s Day!

Even as recently as high school, I recall taking it for granted that my mom’s identity was somehow singularly defined by motherhood – that, according to some unwritten and tacitly understood code of universal maternity, mothers were defined not by the lives they had led up to the moment of our births, but rather by their relationship to us, their children.

To me, my mom – my smart, sharp, wonderful, supportive mom – was therefore first and foremost a mother. Any other role she happened to inhabit – worker, wife, daughter, aunt, friend, sister – was incidental, almost like an afterthought meant to amplify her ability to continue to be, in my mind, the best mom in the world.

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It really wasn’t until grad school, a period when I finally started coming into my own and following some of the paths I had laid out for myself, that I learned the most valuable lesson about her: not only is she more than a supporting actor – she’s a dreamer, a visionary, an enabler, and one heck of a strong woman in her own right.

In the grand scheme of things, I’m not surprised it took me so long to realize this. Growing up, I distinctly remember telling my mom that I would one day become a famous actress, to which she replied: “It’s fine to think about – but don’t get your hopes up.” Never one to mince words or sugarcoat the truth, my mom was (and still is) undoubtedly a realist, and this fact made it difficult for me to perceive how, at the core, she was also the greatest dreamer I have ever known.

So when I started blogging three years ago, the hobby concerned her: did I have enough time to study? Were there enough hours in the day?… Read more

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The BIG Blog THANK YOU { + peanut butter chocolate rice krispies-smothered jumbo marshmallows }

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #ShareYourSummer #CollectiveBias

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The post you’re about to read to me is SUPER near and dear to my heart in many ways, mostly because it features two of my DEAREST friends, fans, and unconditional supporters (who you’ll be meeting today, yeee!). What’s more, today’s post is a rare chance for me to put my blogging overdrive on pause and say a BIG thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to the people who have meant the most to me throughout this amazing blogging journey: yep, that’s all of you!

An Introduction to the SUPPORT (SUPer ImPORTant) Team: Behind every blogger is a critical SUPPORT–or SUPer ImPORTant people–system. Whether this consists of the entire food blogging community or just your mom, blogging is never a solitary activity. It takes a lot of dedication to update your Instagram account every day at 6 AM with #frappuccino, photograph everyone’s food every time you go out to a restaurant, and hurl your kitchen into a tornado disaster zone on a semiweekly basis only to clean it up again right away because the clouds set in and all of your hard work is no longer photograph-worthy. Sure, who doesn’t admit that we’ve got our work cut out for us?

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Cheering squad at the annual Edible Book Festival

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In Vancouver 2014, meeting Nancy, the wonderful, lovely, multi-talented lady behind Gotta Get Baked

But when you’re the person who has to put up with the person who does all of this loco stuff on the regular, like most of my friends and family do, it takes much more than time: it takes patience, enthusiasm, and a genuine willingness to put your faith in the fact that your friend is not perhaps just a crazy loon whose life goal is to give every single person around her onset diabetes.… Read more

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