Tag Archives: Chocolate

Gluten-Free Almond Chocolate Layer Cake with Roasted Plums

August 2014

My name is Quelcy, and I am prone to perfectionism.

I fully admit this is a problem, but rather than acknowledge a higher power and 12-step my way through this issue, I just seek constructive friends to indulge my need for critiques. I am also prone to perfectionist tantrums, in which I want to hide my work and/or start over.

Chocolate Cake Layers

This cake was one of those tantrums. I set out to impress, obviously. One doesn’t just layer cake for the sake of any ol’ Monday. I wanted to contribute to a group and announce, “oh hey, did I mention I bake?” I did not want to announce, “Oh hey, did I mention I bake, but the texture of my baking is a complete failure?”

Roasted Plums

My decision to be amenable to a crowd, and therefore gluten free, resulted in a grittier texture (second issue with this batch of almond flour, so maybe it was a milling fluke?). Perhaps I was rushing as well, and I didn’t allow the cake to bake or cool long enough. As always, there are several factors and several ways to beat yourself up.

The result was a very rich, chocolatey fail in my mind. However, the cake was chocolatey enough, and I had all the right toppings to gussy it enough, so I just decided to offer my cake with a humble apology for the texture, and you know what happened?

That friendly crowd ate every last morsel, and in the words of Life cereal, they liked it! They really liked it!

Is there a moral to this cake? Sure. The moral of this cake story is: eat more chocolate and don’t hate on yourself too much.

Chocolate Plum Cake

Gluten-Free Almond Chocolate Layer Cake with Roasted Plums


2 cups organic almond flour, spooned and leveled
1 1/2 cups organic raw cane sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened, pure cocoa powder
1/2 cup organic light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup organic, unsalted butter (2 sticks), cut into pieces, plus more for the pans
1 cup red wine

2 large organic, cage-free eggs
1/2 cup organic ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Heat oven to 350º F. Butter two 8- or 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each with a round of parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, granulated sugar, cocoa powder, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt.

In a small saucepan, combine the butter and red wine, and bring to a boil. Add to the flour mixture and, using an electric mixer, mix until combined.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then the ricotta and vanilla.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes. Cool in the pans for 20 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.


Whipped Cream Topping
Note: I typically use maple syrup for my whipped cream sweetener, but I wanted this topping to have a little more structure, so I used powdered sugar. 


1 cup organic whipping cream
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup organic powdered sugar


Chill the cream in a mixing bowl in the freezer until the cream just starts to freeze. Remove from the freezer. Add the vanilla.

Use a mixer, on medium speed, to beat until peaks begin to form.

Add the powdered sugar, and continue to mix until combined. Keep chilled until ready to use.


Balsamic Roasted Plums


4-5 organic plums
organic unsalted butter
balsamic vinegar
organic light brown sugar


Cut plums in half and remove pits.

Arrange in a baking dish, cut side up. Brush each plum surface with melted butter and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with sugar and spices.

Bake at 350 F for 15-20 minutes.



Transfer one of the cakes to a platter and spread with ¾ cup of the whipped topping.

Top with the remaining cake, and spread with the remaining whipped topping.

Top with roasted plums (I threw in some gooseberries also). Sprinkle with powdered sugar and garnish with thyme or the fresh herb of your choice.


Here’s to Chocolate Failures!

Chocolate & Raspberry Cheesecake Swirl

June 2014

“You can’t go wrong with chocolate.”

That could be the title of my memoir. It might one day be the title of my memoir, but for the time being, it was a birthday cake request for a friend’s big 3-0. This friend also happened to deem a local bakery’s raspberry ricotta pie “the perfect dessert.” If you’re turning 30, I do believe you should have everything you want, so it was time for some chocolate and raspberry swirling action!

Cake Top View

Raspberry Swirl

Raspberry Compote

Raspberry Compote


12 oz frozen raspberries, thawed
1/2 cup Turbinado raw cane sugar
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 Tablespoon Grand Marnier
½ teaspoon organic cornstarch


Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and stir to combine.

Simmer for 10 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.

Once the raspberries fall apart and the sauce is thickened, remove from heat.

Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Note: This will make extra, but it’s worth having extra to top ice cream or toast. Alternately, you could add a raspberry layer in between the chocolate and cream cheese batters or simply halve the recipe.


Note on the Cake Size: The recipe below will make two 9-inch springform pans, or you could make one cake with much thicker layers. 

Chocolate & Raspberry Cheesecake Swirl

Cheesecake Batter

16 ounces organic cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup Turbinado raw cane sugar

2 eggs + 2 egg whites (organic, cage-free)

2 Tablespoons whole-wheat pastry flour

Brownie Batter

2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup organic half & half
4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 organic eggs
3 cups organic light brown sugar, packed

*raspberry compote (recipe above)


Preheat oven to 350 and oil or butter two, 9-inch springform pans.

For the Cheesecake Batter:

Use a mixer to cream together cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add sugar, and mix well. Add egg and egg white and mix. Stir in the flour. Set batter aside.

For the Chocolate Batter:

Use a whisk to combine flour, cocoa powder, and salt in a large bowl.

In another large bowl, combine the oil, half & half, vanilla, eggs and brown sugar. Mix until smooth.

Slowly mix in flour mixture until completely combined.

Pour all but approximately one cup of brownie batter into prepared pan(s).

Spread cheesecake layer evenly on top of brownie layer.

Drop Tablespoons of reserved brownie batter and raspberry compote on top of the cheesecake layer. Use a chopstick or a knife to swirl the batter.

Bake about 25-30 minutes, until top is set.

Allow to cool completely before cutting. Store in airtight container, keep refrigerated.


Bon Appétit!

Maple Pecan Chocolate Cake for a Birthday BFF

May 2014

“You are the only ab workout I need,” Sandra gasped in a fit of laughter.

The three of us met twelve years ago. TWELVE YEARS AGO! One was a sloppy drinker, another an angsty teen scorned by the lack of beaches, and me, an intense bitch who rarely looked away from her drawing board. First impressions, though somewhat true, faded, and we bonded in a way that flourished all the way that stomach-cramping laughter in a colorful dining room and this cake…

Chocolate Maple Cake

The last of our trio to bid her 20s farewell, we convened to celebrate Nina’s “Dirty Thirty.” We had set out to spend each of our birthdays together despite living in different cities. One Garnets & Ganache dessert social, one Maple Syrup Festival and one Maker Date later, we had achieved sweet success! We laughed, we teared up, and we hugged our way into this third decade. I’m so proud of where we are, where we are going and how close we have become.

Pecan Design

Thirty hasn’t fully sunk in for me yet, but sometimes I step back to appreciate the maturity and clarity we now mix with our old jokes and nostalgia. Our conversations have evolved to include mature topics we never imagined- relationship complexities, babies (holy F$%k!!!), home ownership (I’m only beginning to understand this)- all the twists and turns TWELVE years of trusted friendship brings. We have developed the confidence and closeness to inspire each other and tell each other how proud we are of one another. In short, we have grown together from girls to women.

Slice and Plates

For the girl who gave us the Maple Syrup Festival, for the thirty-year-old who makes 1,000s of positive things happen, I had this Chocolate Maple Pecan cake to give. I knew the birthday lady would give me a hard time if this cake did not include a boozy, whipped topping, so in between two layers of chocolate cake was a layer of a light, chocolate & Snap whipped cream.

Pecan Slice

Whole-Wheat Chocolate Maple Cake with Pecans
Yield: Makes a 2-layer, 9-inch cake


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
1 cup pure cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
3/4 cups pure maple syrup
1/2 cup Turbinado raw sugar

2 large organic eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup whole-fat European style yogurt

Pecans for garnish


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch baking pan; line with parchment, and butter parchment. Dust with flour, tapping out excess.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter, maple syrup, and granulated sugar until pale and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition; mix in vanilla.

Reduce mixer speed to low. Add flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with 2 batches of yogurt; beat until just combined.

Transfer batter to prepared pan; smooth top with an offset spatula.

Arrange pecans in circular pattern on the surface.

Bake until a cake tester comes out clean, about 40-50 minutes.

Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool 10 minutes. Turn out cake onto rack to cool completely.


Maple & Snap Whipped Topping


1 cup organic heavy whipping cream, chilled
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
2 Tablespoons pure cocoa powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
8 oz light cream cheese
1/8 cup AITA Snap liquor


Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix until well combined, light and airy. Keep chilled until ready to use.


To Assemble

Remove cake from pan and transfer to a plate. Use a serrated knife such as a bread knife to cut the cake into two layers.

Spoon the whipped topping onto the bottom layer of the cake. Use an offset spatula to smooth over the surface. Add the top layer, and serve!


Here’s to thirty years on this planet and twelve years together! xoxox

Chocolate, Whiskey & Ginger Cake with Whiskey Caramel Sauce

May 2014

A new someone enters your life. Together, you enter the cocoon of honeymoon bliss, a cocoon of swooning and smitten stares. Eventually, you two, lovey-dovey butterflies emerge to learn about each other’s lives, including each other’s friendship circles.

This is important. Meeting the friends is important.

Springform and Caramel

You watch those friends. You watch the dynamic they have. They invite you with open arms because you’re important to him. You go to their house for a bbq. You meet each other at a show. You have a drink after to revel in the revival of Neutral Milk Hotel. You find each other amongst a crowded music festival and loud brass music.

What is the common thread running through each encounter? What is the classic combination these friends clutch in their hands?

Whiskey & Ginger Ale.

Caramel Pour

It’s their drink, and it’s a good one. You know this because you have been paying attention (and drinking with them). When the next gathering rolls around, you come prepared, a little late, but prepared nonetheless.

Caramel Dripping Cake

This is a cake for his friends. The chocolate cake has bites of spicy, candied ginger, and the whiskey caramel sauce seeps into every chocolatey nook and cranny. The chocolatey, gingery cake may sink like a volcano after rushing the cooling process, but it’s a volcano of whiskey caramel sauce, so no one complains. They just grab forks and start eating directly from that chocolate, whiskey volcano.

Caramel Copper Spoon

The only snafu? These friends have kids, and when the adults say, “Cake,” that pack of kids comes running from every room in the house. With huge smiles on their faces, they charge at you. For a moment, you feel as though you’re in a battle scene and wave your hands frantically admitting defeat. “There’s alcohol in this cake,” you admit to the adults. The blonde boy, with the deepest sadness in his voice, WAILS, “Whhhhhhhhhhy would you put alcohol in a caaaaake?” This kid is not interested in your story about observing these friends and their drink of choice. The whiskey-ginger ale drinking adults distract the distraught child with Joe-Joes cookies, and your boozey, collapsed cake is still a success.

Chocolate Whiskey & Ginger Cake with Whiskey Caramel Sauce


1/2 cup (1 stick) organic, unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder, plus more for dusting
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar

2 large organic eggs
1/4 cup organic heavy cream
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger (from peeled ginger)

1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup candied ginger, chopped

For the Cake

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan. Set aside.

Put butter, molasses, brown sugar, and 1/4 cup water in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until butter has melted. Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Let cool 5 minutes.

Add eggs, milk, and grated ginger to the molasses mixture; whisk to combine.

Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon into a medium bowl.

Gently fold the flour mixture into the molasses mixture until just combined. (There should be lumps remaining.)

Gently fold in the candied ginger.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake cake until a cake tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let cake cool completely in pan on a wire rack.


Whiskey Glaze


3/4 cup packed organic light or dark brown sugar
4 oz. (1/2 cup) organic unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons honey
1-1/2 Tablespoons whiskey
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1/3 cup organic heavy cream
1-1/4 cups organic confectioners’ sugar
1/8 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Glaze

Set the cake on a rack over a rimmed baking sheet.

In a saucepan, combine the brown sugar, butter, honey, whiskey, and salt.

Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes.

Add the cream, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Continue to boil, stirring occasionally, for exactly 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

Gently whisk in the confectioners’ sugar and the vanilla until completely smooth.

Let stand until the glaze is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon but still warm and pourable, 3 to 8 minutes.

If a skin forms, gently stir it back into the glaze with a spatula; don’t over-stir or the glaze may crystallize.

Pour the glaze slowly and evenly over the cake. When the glaze is set, after about 15 minutes, transfer the cake to a serving plate.


Whiskey Whipped Cream


1 cup organic whipping cream
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup

2 Tablespoons whiskey


Chill the cream in a mixing bowl in the freezer until the cream just starts to freeze. Remove from the freezer. Add the vanilla and maple syrup.

Use a mixer, on medium speed, to beat until peaks begin to form.

Add the whiskey, and continue to mix until combined. Keep chilled until ready to serve.


Here’s to breaking children’s hearts and winning over adults!

ps: Most of the alcohol in the sauce should cook out, but the whipped cream is definitely boozy, so I erred on the side of precaution rather than the side of intoxicating children.

Banana Bread with Flax, Figs, Hazelnuts & Chocolate Chips

May 2014

After buying slice after slice of banana bread from my neighborhood coffee shop (disclaimer: mornings are often a little rushed around here, and those slices are oh so convenient and wholesome), I vowed to make a loaf or two of my own.

Banana Bread and Plates

Maybe it was the anticipation of the baking endeavor, or maybe it was the desire to make a dent in my pantry, but I may have gone a tad overboard on fillings: flax, figs, hazelnuts and chocolate chips! As I often decalre, there’s no “less” in “Quelcy,” which is to say, minimalism is not my strong suit.

Breakfast Banana Bread

While the flavors work, I would advise you to do as I say and not as I did when it comes to the figs and hazelnuts. I should have chopped the hazelnuts and sliced the figs into much smaller chunks. This would have balanced the flavors more in each bite. Alas, lesson learned, but luckily, not at too high of a price. This bread is still a great breakfast slice, especially when paired with cardamom browned butter!

Whole Wheat Banana Bread w/ A LOT of Fixin’s
Yield: makes 2 loaves


2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup flax seeds (I used the Golden Roasted ones from Trader Joe’s)
1 cup pure cane sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

3 very ripe bananas, mashed (about 1-1½ cups), with a few slices reserved for the top
1/4 cup organic sour cream
2 large organic eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup (1 stick) organic, unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup hazelnuts, chopped
1 cup organic, semi-sweet chocolate chips
12 dried Turkish Smryna Figs, sliced into small chunks

Additional Flax seeds for the tops of the loaves


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut out a piece of parchment paper the length of the loaf pan and about 3x the width. Oil or butter the loaf pan, and then place the parchment with edges hanging over the side of the loaf pan.

Whisk together the flour, flax, sugar, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl; set aside.

Mix the mashed bananas, water, eggs, butter, and vanilla together in a medium bowl.

Fold the banana mixture into the dry ingredients with a spatula until just combined.

Fold in hazelnuts, chocolate chips and figs.

Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the surface with the spatula. Sprinkle additional flax seeds on the surface.

Bake until the loaf is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55-60 minutes.

Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then lift the banana bread out of the pan with the parchment paper. Allow to cool fully on a wire rack.

Serve warm or at room temperature.


Go Crazy!

Whole-Wheat Chocolate & Caramel Ombre Cake

April 2014

Sometimes my sweet tooth demands something fast but flavorful. Sometimes I push up my sleeves, don my apron, carve out an afternoon and set my sights on something rich and fancy [I'm not talking gold digging here...baking, people, baking!] …

Ombre Cake on Stand

If you’re in the mood to serve a slice of cake with a wow-factor, this is the type of delicious time commitment for you!

Ombre Cake Florals

Baking Note: This recipe, adapted from Foods of Our Lives, uses an 8″ cake pan to make a 6-layer ombre cake. I was aiming for real height prowess, so I used a smaller cake pan (6″). My caramel and chocolate allocations did not achieve the color distinction for which I had hoped. Nor did I want my mile-high cake to topple, so I decide to make two ombre cakes, which worked out well for a dessert social. Follow the instructions below for the six layers or divide your batter amongst smaller pans to have two impressive color fade cakes.

Ombre Cake Slice

Chocolate & Caramel Ombre Cake
Recipe adapted from Foods of Our Lives

Caramel Sauce Ingredients

2 cups pure cane sugar
1 1/2 sticks (12 Tablespoons) organic, unsalted butter
1 cup organic heavy cream, room temperature


Make the caramel sauce first as it needs to be fairly cool before you can use it and it takes a long time to cool, several hours ideally. If you can make it the day before that is best. You can also speed up the cooling process in the refrigerator.

For the Caramel

Put the sugar in a large heavy saucepan over low heat. Stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar melts, this will take a few minutes.

Once the sugar has all melted start adding the butter one piece at a time. Whisk until the butter is all melted between additions.

Wait about 3 seconds and then slowly add the cream. Whisk until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Remove from heat.

Let cool in the pan for a bit and then pour, carefully, into a jar to store. Store in the refrigerator to cool.

Vanilla Cake Ingredients

2 sticks (16 Tablespoons) organic, unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups organic evaporated cane sugar

3 large organic eggs

2 1/4cups whole-wheat pastry flour
3/4 Tablespoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cups organic half and half (1 cup for high altitude)
3 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract

1 Tablespoon pure cocoa powder

For the Vanilla Cake

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. (For high altitude I bake at 300˚)

Butter your 8″ springform cake pans, you will need 3 of them [or bake, cool, rinse, repeat...you see how this can quickly become a time commitment?].

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 5 to 6 minutes.

Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until creamy, occasionally scraping down sides of the bowl using a spatula.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a small bowl, mix together half & half and vanilla.

With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture, alternating with cream mixture, beginning and ending with flour; beat until just combined.

Divide batter into three even portions, using a kitchen scale is the best way to do this accurately. The first layer is baked as is so go ahead and pour into the pan.

The second layer you want a caramel color so add about ⅓ cup caramel to the batter, then turn into the pan.

The third layer also add 1/3 cup caramel too plus one Tablespoon of cocoa powder, then turn into its pan.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean, about 35-40 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack before removing from pan.

Chocolate Cake Ingredients

8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cubed
1 cup bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup pure cocoa

1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

4 large organic eggs
1 1/2 cup organic evaporated cane sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon fine salt

1 cup organic sour cream

For the Chocolate Cake

Preheat your oven to 350˚. (300˚ for high altitude. Butter your cake pans again and set aside.

Combine the butter, bittersweet chocolate and cocoa powder using a double boiler method. Stir until chocolate and butter are melted and smooth.

Remove the pan of melted chocolate, and set aside, allowing to cool a bit while you combine the other ingredients.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and baking powder.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt until fluffy.

Add about 1/3 of the flour mixture, then the sour cream and then the rest of the flour mixture.

Divide the batter into three even portions again, and add about 2 Tablespoons of the chocolate mixture to one portion. Gauge the color. If you want it darker, add a touch more. Then pour the batter into its pan.

For the next layer, add a little more of the chocolate (about 1/4 cup). Again, gauge the color, and adjust as needed. Pour the batter into its pan.

Add the rest of the chocolate to the last layer. If it is not dark enough add a little more cocoa powder, and pour batter into its pan.

Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool in the pans about 20 minutes, and then remove to a wire rack.

Allow to cool completely before layering.

Chocolate Ganache Ingredients

24 oz organic semisweet chocolate chips
2 1/2 cups organic heavy cream

For the Chocolate Ganache

Place both the milk and the bittersweet chocolate chips in the top of a double boiler and heat and stir until completely melted and smooth. Place the heavy cream in a large bowl and pour the melted chocolate into it.

Whisk until smooth and homogenous.

Allow to cool slightly.

To Assemble The Cake

Place the chocolate cake layer on a cake board or serving plate. Smooth a layer of caramel over the top. Add the caramel color cake, followed by the caramel. Add the vanilla layer. Pour the warm ganache over the cake, allowing it to drip over the sides. Use a lazy susan cake stand and an offset spatula to smooth the ganache on the sides.

Optional: top with an orange peel rosette for a little something extra.


Enjoy the chocolatey fruits of your long labors!

Whole-Wheat Pancakes w/ Homemade Nutella & Homemade Whipped Cream

April 2014

What do you prioritize in a significant other?

Physical attraction? Intelligence? A sense of humor?

Brunch for Two

Those qualities are important, but I ask, what about brunch?

Beautiful Pancakes and Nutella

When brunching at a restaurant, will this Sig Fig candidate order strategically so as to maximize menu potential? Will we share and strike my desired balance of sweet and savory? When staying home, will brunch be a main item on our agenda? When it comes time for pancakes, will he take command of a skillet and flip that flapjack confidently? When it comes time for maple syrup, so help me god, if there is a plastic bottle shaped like a woman with racist undertones…NEXT!

Nutella Pancake Stack

However, when you find that guy who goes to bed thinking about bacon from the local butcher, shares wholeheartedly, and flips pancakes like a pro, well, even the brunch plate smiles in approval…

Happy Pancake Face

This brunch combination gives lots of reasons to smile! Whole-wheat pancakes are a more wholesome way to enjoy a lazy breakfast, and when you make the Nutella yourself, you eliminate some of those longer, questionable words from the ingredient list. You’ll feel free to lick the spoon, fork, knife, plate, container…all of it…with less guilt and more contentment.

Isn’t contentment what brunch is all about?

Homemade Nutella
Yield: 2 cups


1 cup hazelnuts
12 ounces dark, semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
2 Tablespoons hazelnut oil
1-2 Tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon salt, more or less depending upon your preference


Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Spread the hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven for about 12 minutes, until fragrant and the skins are blistered a little.

Wrap the hazelnuts in a kitchen towel and rub vigorously to remove as much loose skin as possible, some will remain. Let cool completely.

Melt the chocolate using a Maria bath. Stir until smooth. Let cool slightly.

In a food processor (or in a Vitamix!), grind the hazelnuts until they form a paste. Add the oil, sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, and salt and continue processing until the mixture is as smooth as possible-or as smooth as you like. Add the melted chocolate, blend well, and then strain the mixture to remove any chunks of hazelnut that remain. The resulting homemade Nutella will be thin and somewhat runny and maybe even a little warm but it will thicken as it cools.

Store in an airtight container, and let it cool to room temperature.

Note: If your city insists on clinging to winter, and your apartment insists on letting all heat escape, your Nutella might solidify. You can put the glass container in a saucepan of gently simmering water (water level should not surpass the container height) or if you’re one of those microwave owning folks, you can nuke it for a bit, but be sure to watch it. Burnt Nutella would be really sad.

Nutella Spoon

Whole-Wheat Pancakes
Yield: ~ 10-12 thin pancakes

1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
2 Tablespoons raw cane sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional
1 Tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2-2 cups organic whole milk
1 large organic egg
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for skillet
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


Whisk flours, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder and the salt in a medium bowl, set aside.

Warm the milk until lukewarm, not hot (you should be able to keep your finger submerged for 10 seconds).

Whisk milk, butter, egg and the vanilla together until blended.

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Pour milk mixture into the well and stir with a fork until mixed and only small clumps of flour remain. Do not over mix batter.

Heat a large skillet (or use griddle) over medium heat, and lightly brush skillet with melted butter.

Spoon a 1/4-cup of the batter onto the skillet and gently spread into a 4-inch circle.

When edges look dry and bubbles start to appear and pop on the top surfaces of the pancakes, turn over, about 2 minutes. Once flipped, cook 1 to 2 minutes or until lightly browned and cooked in the middle.

Nutella Pancake and Banana

Rum Whipped Cream


1 cup organic whipping cream
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup

2 Tablespoons spiced rum


Chill the cream in a mixing bowl in the freezer until the cream just starts to freeze. Remove from the freezer. Add the vanilla and maple syrup.

Use a mixer, on medium speed, to beat until peaks begin to form.

Add the rum, and continue to mix until combined. Keep chilled until ready to serve.


May your brunches be filled with smiles!

Garnets & Ganache: Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Espresso Ganache

February 2014

Long ago, I made my sister a cheesy, craft-fair style plaque boasting “I’d give up chocolate, but I’m no quitter.”

Quelcy 30th-0005

Photo by Joey Kennedy.

As country craft as that little plaque may have been, truer words about our family were never spoken. Persistance and chocolate were probably secretly woven into our Kogel crest, so my birthday would not have been complete without an element of chocolate, especially when the theme for my 30th was Garnets & Ganache.

Quelcy 30th-0011

Photo by Joey Kennedy.

As part of my birthday cake tradition of making one, miniature, beautiful cake for each year of life, I used a large cupcake pan and inverted the cupcakes to create these decadent cakelettes. Follow suit if you’re feeling fancy, or follow the instructions for a layered 8-inch cake (which is fancy in its own right).

Whole-Wheat Chocolate Cake with Espresso Ganache


Butter, for greasing the pans

1 3/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour, plus more for pans
2 cups organic evaporated cane sugar
3/4 cups pure cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup organic greek yogurt
1/4 cup organic milk
1/2 cup olive oil
2 extra-large, organic eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee or espresso


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8-inch x 2-inch round cake pans or cupcake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.

In the bowl of a mixer, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder.

In a separate bowl, combine the yogurt, milk, oil, eggs, and vanilla.

With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry.

With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

Pour warm ganache over the cakes and form a layer cake, or spread evenly over the cupcakes.


Espresso Ganache

8 ounces good semisweet chocolate chips
1 heaping teaspoon instant coffee granules

3/4 cup heavy cream


Bring the cream and coffee granules to a boil, in a saucepan over medium heat.

Remove from heat and add the chocolate, whisking to combine. Allow to cool slightly before pouring over cake.


Bon Appétit!

Garnets & Ganache: Lemon Ginger Cake w/ Lemon Syrup & Chocolate Ganache

February 2014

On January 21st, I hit the big 3-0, and on February 1st, I shared 30 cakes with friends. This is my tradition- one mini cake for each year of life. I hope to some day make 100 mini cakes and share them with equally crazy, vibrant people as this year, but I am perfectly content to enjoy 30 while it lasts.

Quelcy 30th-0005

Photo by Joey Kennedy.

This year, there were a few varieties counted amongst the total, one of which was a musical lemon-ginger. Since the party theme was Garnets & Ganache, the finishing touch was chocolate ganache of course.

Cakes and Tunes

Photos by Joey Kennedy.

Lemon Ginger Cake with Lemon Syrup & Chocolate Ganache

This recipe calls for a bundt pan. I used a large sheet pan in order to cut mini layers from the whole. If you use a sheet pan, adjust the baking time accordingly. Mine took about 25 minutes.


3 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 Tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup minced crystallized ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) organic unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
2 1/2 cups turbinado pure cane sugar

6 large organic eggs
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons)

1 cup organic Greek yogurt

Lemon syrup (recipe below)
Chocolate Ganache (recipe below)
Powdered Sugar & Candied Ginger for garnish


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a standard 12-cup bundt pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, lemon zest, ginger, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat butter and granulated sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes.

Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; mix in lemon juice.

With mixer on low, alternately add flour mixture in three parts and Greek yogurt in two, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix just until incorporated (do not overmix). Spoon batter into prepared pan, and smooth top with a rubber spatula. Firmly tap pan on a work surface to level batter.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes (if cake browns too quickly, tent loosely with aluminum foil).

Brush the cake with lemon syrup, to taste.

Let cake cool in pan 30 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.


Candied Lemon Slices & Syrup

*I made candied lemons for a different cake and used the reserve of syrup for this lemon-ginger cake. Since you’ll be starting from scratch, go ahead and add the candied lemons to this cake. I’m sure it will be delicious!


3/4 cups pure cane sugar
1/3 cup water
2 lemons, thinly sliced


Place the sugar and water in a large saucepan over medium heat and stir to dissolve the sugar.

Add the lemon slices and bring to the boil.

Cook for 12-15 minutes or until the syrup has thickened and lemon slices are translucent.

Pour some of the syrup* over the cake and top with the lemon slices. Allow to cool and serve.

*You can use any leftover syrup as a simple syrup in cocktails or add to homemade whipped cream and then dollop into your morning coffee.


Dark Chocolate Ganache


8 ounces organic, semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup organic heavy cream


Bring the cream to a boil, in a saucepan over medium heat.

Remove from heat and add the chocolate, whisking to combine.

Allow to cool slightly, and then pour over cake and use an offset spatula to spread evenly.


Bon Appétit!

Happy Valentine’s Day (Homemade Peanut Butter Cups)

February 2014


After hearing the scratchy record rotations and the sounds of compressed steam, I left the coffee shop humming “Stand By Me.” Inspired to change my listenings for the morning, I typed the title into my music program. A few repeats of the John Lennon version later, a bachata intro started to play, and damn if I didn’t tear up a little.

Cupcake Wrappers and Cookie Cutter

The Spanglish conjured memories of a calming garden, of a perfect lace dress that accented a neckline with utter elegance, of tall men in white suits, of palms and sunshine and grapefruit accents. The Spanglish version commemorated a German-American and an Ecuadorian joining hands to dip and twirl on a beautiful Florida day. All the warm memories of my best friend’s wedding hit me as I listened to the Prince Royce version.

PB Cups

I’ve had my fair share of heart flutters and heart breaks, but I’m still a sucker for seeing life through rose-colored glasses. I’m a sucker for true, sincere romance, big gestures and big loves.

Stacked PB Cups

I’m sure social media will bombard me with a fair share of cynicism, but a sucker for this day I shall be. I hope you take time on this Valentine’s Day to ignore commercial cards and cliche bouquets, to appreciate those who are junto a ti. Whether they are friends, family, four-legged, or big, big loves, this day is really just a day to say something sweet…and eat something sweet too (just like every other day should be)!


Homemade Peanut Butter Cups
Makes 24-36 peanut butter cups (depending on the thickness of layers)


32 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped

1 cup creamy natural peanut butter
4 Tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted (or to taste)
2 Tablespoons honey (or to taste)

Pink Himalayan Sea Salt


Line a standard muffin tin(s) with paper cupcake liners.

Melt half the chocolate using a double boiler

Distribute enough chocolate into each muffin cup to form a thin layer. If the chocolate is not level, drop the pan repeatedly on the counter, and it will flatten. Place the pan in the freezer for 15 minutes to harden the chocolate.

In the meantime, whip the peanut butter, butter, confectioner’s sugar and honey together with a hand mixer or in a food processor until mixed and light. Adjust the sugar and honey to your liking.

Place a spoonful of the peanut butter mixture into each cup. Place in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Melt the remaining chocolate, and portion small spoonfuls of chocolate into the cups, one cup at a time, immediately dropping the pan repeatedly on the counter to flatten each cup.

Allow the chocolate to cool slightly and then sprinkle with sea salt.

Chill the peanut butter cups for more bite, or leave them at room temperature for a softer, creamier texture.



Chocolate Sables with Pistachios & Pink Himalayan Sea Salt

January 2014

Trudging. Shuffling. Slipping. Trekking.

These are synonyms for walking in Pittsburgh in the winter. Though I am still managing to appreciate the pristine effects of the snowfalls this year, I do lament the many pairs of boots and shoes that sit idly while my Sorels steal the show [best investment ever!]. If it weren’t for my playful pup, who powders her nose like a model in an L.A. party scene, I might be singing a different tune (in the tone of a snow-stained, teary, emotional breakdown).

Chocolate Sables

If your hibernation needs a little inspiration, there’s nothing quite like piling on the blankets, firing up the projector, binging on guilty pleasures and dipping a little salty, chocolaty cookie into a mug of rich hot cocoa.

Chocolate Sables Pair

Sablés, as these biscuit cookies are called, come from the French word for sandy, perhaps as a nod to their crumbly consistency. Whatever their etymological origin, may these cookies help you to endure the longest stretch of winter, and if need be, may they mentally transport you far, far away to warmer places, brighter skies and sand between your toes.

Chocolate & Pistachio Sables
adapted from Bon Appétit
makes ~8 dozen cookies


2 1/2 cups white whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) organic, unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups (lightly packed) organic, dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 large, organic egg white

5 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup unsalted, shelled raw pistachios, coarsely chopped

Pink Himalayan Sea Salt


Whisk flour, cocoa powder, kosher salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl.

Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat butter, brown sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.

Reduce speed to low and gradually add dry ingredients; mix just to combine, then mix in egg white.

Fold in chocolate and pistachios.

Divide dough into 4 pieces. Roll each piece into an 8”-long log about 1½” in diameter, pushing dough together if it feels crumbly. Wrap tightly in parchment paper and chill until firm, at least 4 hours. (The colder the dough, the easier it will be to slice.)

Place racks in lower and upper thirds of oven; preheat to 350°.

Working with 1 log of dough at a time and using a serrated knife, cut logs into ¼”-thick rounds and transfer to 2 parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing ½” apart.

Sprinkle cookies with sea salt and bake, rotating baking sheets halfway through, until set around edges and centers look dry, 10–12 minutes. Transfer to wire racks and let cool.

Do Ahead: Cookie dough can be made 1 month ahead; freeze instead of chilling. Slice frozen logs into rounds just before baking.


Bon Appétit!

Coconut, Pistachio & Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies

January 2014

I have a guilty pleasure, and it starts with, “And who am I? That’s one secret I’ll never tell … You know you love me. XOXO, Gossip Girl.” I fought it at first. One episode into the dramatic lives of New York’s Upper Eastsiders, and I swore I had had enough. I fought it hard, but my inner gossip won. Multiple episode binges later, I’m sitting at the hairstylist’s divulging my love of Chuck Bass’s bravado, Dorota’s devotion, the brevity of “S” and “B,” and for the love of all that is sacred- those dresses and parties!!! Gossip Girl had clearly cemented itself as a guilty pleasure.


However, in that same hairstylist’s chair, I rattled off the laundry list of justifications for watching a show which quickly escalates into a teen soap opera with better lighting and locations.

1. Living vicariously stretches the imagination.
2. The show references a lot of high culture from art, to fashion, to music.
3. I dig the music featured in the show.
4. I now know what Louboutins are. Though clearly behind the curve, that acquired knowledge seems like a rite of passage. Now if only I owned a pair.
5. The actors’ names alone are quite elegant- Penn Badgley, Leighton Meester. I find different names interesting and inspiring in their own right.

If you’re going to have a guilty pleasure, might as well find a way [or five] to justify it, right?

Oatmeal and Chocolate Chunk

Tucked nicely in my collection of guilty pleasures is my belief that each day should hold a sweet indulgence. To be fair, I was reared on daily dessert offerings, and my bones were fortified with ice cream in addition to garden fresh veggies. Instilled though it was, this belief in sweets leads to its own set of justifications.

Chocolate Chunks

If I’m going to eat sweets, I might as well make them more than sweet nothings. Whole grains and oats blur the line between dessert cookie and wholesome granola bar, but chunks of chocolate satisfy the desire for a sweet indulgence.

Oatmeal Cookies Stacked

The slightly misguided moral of this blog post? Go ahead and justify your guilty pleasures.

Coconut, Pistachio & Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies


1/2 cup (1 stick) + 6 Tablespoons organic, unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup organic evaporated cane sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed organic brown sugar

2 organic eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, optional

3 cups organic rolled oats
1 cup organic semi-sweet chocolate chunks
1/2 cup roasted pistachios
1 cup unsweetened, coconut flakes


Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two cookie sheets and set aside.

Beat butter, sugar, and brown sugar together on medium speed until smooth and creamy.

Add eggs and vanilla and mix until well combined.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, then add to the butter mixture and beat until combined.

Stir in oats, chocolate chips, pistachios and coconut.

Scoop dough into rounded tablespoons and place on baking sheets about 2 inches apart.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until done (crisper edges and gooey centers)

Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies.


Bon Appétit!

Chocolate Cake with… Mayonnaise!

January 2013

In the attention-craving, shock-value style, characteristic of young kids’ humor delivery, I used to boast my favorite kind of pizza was blueberry. In the highly exaggerated, dramatic, facially expressive style, characteristic of young kids’ reactions, my friends would squeal, “Blueberry? Eeeewwwwwwwww.” The detail I was purposefully withholding for heightened childhood drama was the fact my favorite pizza was a dessert pizza.

Chocolate and Gold

If you want to revert momentarily to your inner child, you’ll present these cupcakes with a minimal yet alarming description, “Have a chocolate mayonnaise cupcake!” Faces will drain of the zeal that filled their faces just seconds ago. Just like little Quelcy, you’ll let their minds reel momentarily, and then you’ll quickly remind your sweet-toothed friends, mayonnaise, when made simply and purely, is mostly oil and eggs. Mayonnaise in cake merely means a richer, moister cake. Order will be restored, and chocolate cupcakes will be savored!

Bon Appetit Chocolate Cupcake

I adapted these cupcakes from a Bon Appétit cake recipe, in an effort to share chocolate cake more conveniently with more people. I used a salty, roasted pecan for some of the garnishes and pink Himalayan sea salt for others. The choice is yours, but I highly recommend popping the frosted cupcakes into the toaster oven to melt the icing ever so slightly before serving.

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake with Chocolate Caramel Icing
adapted from Bon Appétit

Cake Ingredients

Olive oil for greasing pan

2 1/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3 large organic eggs
1 1/2 cups raw cane sugar

1 cups organic, olive oil based mayonnaise (not low-fat)
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Frosting Ingredients 

12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped

3/4 cup organic light brown sugar
1 Tablespoon pure maple syrup
1/4 cup water

1 cup organic heavy cream

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 teaspoon Pink Himalayan sea salt for garnishing
pecans for garnishing

For the Cupcakes

Preheat oven to 325°. Lightly brush cupcake pans with olive oil.

Whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat eggs and sugar until pale and doubled in volume, about 4 minutes.

Add mayonnaise and vanilla and beat until just combined.

With mixer on low speed, add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with 1⅓ cups lukewarm water in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.

Scrape batter into pans, dividing evenly.

Bake cupcakes, rotating halfway through, until a tester inserted into the centers comes out clean, 20–30 minutes.

Transfer pans to wire racks and let cool 20 minutes before turning out onto racks. Let cool completely.

For the Frosting

Put chocolate in a medium bowl.

Bring sugar, maple syrup, and 1/4 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar.

Boil, swirling pan occasionally and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush, until mixture turns a deep amber color, 10–12 minutes.

Remove from heat and whisk in cream (mixture will bubble vigorously). Return to medium heat and cook, stirring, until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Pour caramel over chocolate and stir until mixture is smooth; let cool, stirring occasionally.

Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat chocolate mixture, gradually adding butter, until frosting is thickened and smooth, about 1 minute. Chill, stirring occasionally, until stiff enough to spread easily, 20–25 minutes.


Bon Appétit!

Double Chocolate Cookies with Orange, Cranberry & Hazelnuts

December 2013

Brown bags became a covering for the wooden kitchen table. Once the cookies had cooled sufficiently on a rack, my mom would transfer them to the paper. I can still see the circular imprints from the buttery bottoms. She’d cover that impressively long wooden table with cookies and fill the house with their fresh-baked scent. I would do my part to eat them while they were still warm, soft and gooey. From my little step-stool, my mom’s massive cookie endeavors always seemed effortless.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

This year, I holed away and made cookies for hours upon hours for a Harvest & Gather winter market. Though I covered my long dining room table with cookies, the word to describe my endeavor was “frenzy.” One element from my cookie memories remained the same though. I still took time to eat these double chocolate cookies while they were warm, soft and gooey.

Double Chocolate, Orange, Cranberry & Hazelnut Cookies
makes ~4 dozen


2 cups white whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup pure cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup organic, unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup organic pure cane sugar
2/3 cup organic brown sugar

2 large organic eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon orange zest

3/4 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup chocolate chunks (pref. dark chocolate chips)
1/2 cup hazelnuts


Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together melted butter and sugars.

Mix in the eggs, stirring them in one at a time, then add the vanilla and orange zest.

With the mixer on low or working by hand, stir in the flour mixture, mixing until no streaks of flour remain.

Stir in dried cranberries, chocolate chunks and hazelnuts.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheet (dough balls were a bit larger than 1 inch in diameter). Leave about 2 to 3-inches between cookies to allow for spread.

Bake for 9-11 minutes, until cookies are set at the edges and tops are slightly cracked looking. Cool on baking sheet for 5-10 minutes, until firm enough to transfer to a cooling rack.

Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.


Bon appétit!

Thanksgiving Recap: Chocolate Pecan Pie

November 2013

The first time I heard “chocolate” uttered as an adjective preceding “pecan pie,” I had an aha moment! What decadent brilliance! The dessert course for our Harvest & Gather Thanksgiving had to provide the type of finale that would leave each guest with fond memories and full, content stomachs. A chocolate pecan pie was just the right choice.


The love this pie received made my heart swell. The two main tricks to its success were maple syrup instead of corn syrup, and a minimal accent of rich, dark chocolate chunks. The creamy, bourbon whipped cream and deep-dish, whole-wheat pie crust balanced the indulgent sweetness of each bite. Additionally, a slice of this pie and a large mug of coffee make the perfect post-Thanksgiving, recovery breakfast because after cooking for ten, there surely will need to be some recovery time.

Chocolate Pecan Pie

Flaky, Whole-Wheat Pie Crust
*This might make slightly more pie dough than necessary. When baking for the holidays, anything extra is difficult to discern, since the excess will quickly be claimed by another dessert’s preparation.


2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup organic, unsalted butter, chilled
5-8 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar, chilled


Sift flour and salt into a large mixing bowl.

Cut butter into 12 pieces and rub into dry ingredients until the mixture resembles a coarse meal with some pea-size pieces.

Sprinkle apple cider vinegar over mixture, one Tablespoon at a time and knead lightly just until dough forms.

Form dough into a ball. Cut in half and press each into a disc shape. Wrap each disc in waxed paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes before rolling.

Makes two 9-inch pie crusts (16 slices).


Deep Dish Chocolate Pecan Tart


6 large organic eggs
1 1/4 cups pure maple syrup
1 1/4 cups packed, organic dark-brown sugar

5 Tablespoons organic, unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 cups coarsely chopped roasted & salted pecans (about 10 ounces), for filling

2 cups pecan halves (about 8 ounces), roasted & salted, for topping
1/2-1 cup dark chocolate chunks, to taste/design


Set a 9-inch cake ring (with 1 1/2-inch sides) on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to a 13-inch round. Fit dough into ring; trim edges. Freeze 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Whisk together eggs, syrup, and sugar in a medium bowl until smooth.

Whisk in butter, vanilla, lemon juice, and salt.

Stir in chopped pecans.

Pour filling into shell. Arrange pecan halves and chocolate chunks on top, in concentric circles or in the design/pattern of your choice.

Bake, tenting with foil after 15 minutes, until filling is set, about 1 hour.

Let cool at least 2 hours on a wire rack. Serve with whipped cream.


Bourbon Whipped Cream
makes 1 1/2 – 2 cups whipped cream


1 cup organic heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2-3 Tablespoons bourbon, to taste


Place a metal mixing bowl and metal whisk into the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes.

Remove the bowl from the freezer. Add the whipping cream and vanilla. Use a mixer to beat until light peaks form. Add the bourbon, and continue to beat until stiff peaks form, being careful not to over mix.

Chill until ready to serve.


Bon Appétit!

All photos in this post were taken by my talented friend Chris Goodman

Orange, Cranberry & Pistachio Spelt Brownies

December 2013

“That will be different next time,” a man relayed nonchalantly, multi-tasking a phone call into his evening commute like so many of us do. My little one’s leash pulled me within earshot, over the darkness enshrouded golf course. Had we been earlier, had we caught the last glimpse of sun, she surely would not have been allowed on the green, but under the purple and navy sky, her presence marked time and change. Beyond the silhouetted trees, a city glimmered, and two universities flickered with the frenzy of minds at work, bodies on the go, teams in competition, feeding, sleeping and all the ups and downs of success and stress.

La Belle Chocolatiere

I used to seek the manicured course for a brief escape. I’d walk the hills and the private drives with enviable condos, hoping to ease the mounting stresses in my mind. Over the course of my own university frenzies, I walked to the neighboring park with the both the weight of a broken heart and the lifted shoulders of accomplishment.

Open Cocoa Container

The past few months have had their fair share of unexpected life changes, and their stresses crept up to me in the night and stole my slumber. My subsequent escape to the park was subconscious. How fitting to find myself in the park, where darkness forced me to focus on simple steps, literally one foot in front of the other, avoiding tree roots and the unexpected. How fitting to share this peaceful place with a puppy and to see the sensory overload exhilarate her.

Breakfast Cocoa

As I tread carefully in the darkness, my past and present tiptoed around each other, just as the man said, “that will be different next time.”

Tin Top with Brownie

In my recent frenzies, my kitchen has been more of a collector of dirty dishes than the typical haven for culinary creativity. However, a craving drove me to make my way through the kitchen sink’s collection to whip up something sweet and satisfying. I originally made a very simple spelt brownie, but the second time around, I added more variety. The beauty of this 8×8 chocolate canvas is it can be different every time!

Orange, Cranberry & Pistachio Spelt Brownies
Makes an 8×8 pan of brownies


4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped (Ghirardelli)
1 stick organic unsalted butter, plus extra for pan

1 1/3 cups turbinado raw sugar
2 large organic eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure orange extract
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt or 1/4 teaspoon table salt
2/3 cup spelt flour

1/2 cup pistachios, chopped
1/2 cup organic dried cranberries


Heat oven to 350°F.

Oil an 8×8-inch square baking pan and set aside.

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt chocolate and butter together until only a couple unmelted bits remain.

Off the heat, stir until smooth and fully melted.

Whisk in sugar, then eggs, one at a time, then vanilla and salt.

Stir in flour with a spoon or flexible spatula and scrape batter into prepared pan, spread until even.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out batter-free.

Let cool and cut into desired size.

If desired, dust the brownies with powdered sugar before serving.


Bon Appétit!

-With The Grains

A Craving Conqueror: Coconut Rum Blondies

October 2013

At one point in time, I conquered my cravings with box mixes. It’s true. Granted, they were organic box mixes comprised of magical ingredients like protein-rich hemp (not THC), but still, they were a lazy girl’s box mixes nonetheless. As I ventured into some elaborate cake decorating, most pre-made ingredient lists made it so I didn’t want to eat my creations, let alone feed them to anyone else. Fast forward a bit, and I was hovering over mixing bowls of wet ingredients, dry ingredients, and a warm oven. Fast forward even further in this film, and we are here…

Coconut Rum Blondie

An easy way to satisfy your mid-week sweet tooth, blondies are staples, which also means blondies are blank canvases. Once you’ve made one batch of the standard sort, you can start to tweak and embellish, ie: booze it up and make them taste like summer. Then serve with a scoop of organic vanilla bean ice cream (because I was reared on ice cream as some sort of fourth meal if not its own food group) and a drizzle of smoky Scotch Butterscotch.

Coconut Rum Blondies


2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted, organic butter, browned
1/4 cup raw cane sugar
1 cup tightly packed, organic brown sugar

2 large, organic eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup spiced rum

3/4 cup chocolate chips, plus more for the top
3/4 cup pecans, toasted
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a square baking dish with parchment paper and butter generously.

Toast your coconut flakes over medium heat in a pan or in your toaster oven, watching to make sure they don’t burn. Set aside and allow to cool.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the brown butter, pure cane sugar and brown sugar.

Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing completely.

Add the vanilla extract and rum.

Slowly add in the flour mixture until completely combined.

Fold in the toasted coconut, chocolate chips and pecans.

Pour into your pan and smooth the top.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before cutting.

Double Chocolate Cookies with Pink Himalayan Sea Salt

August 2013

I consider myself a pretty empathetic person. I “occasionally” cry during movies (shhh…don’t tell). I understand why my sister is losing it as she prepares to send her baby to college. I listen understandingly to looming life questions from friends.

Salted Chocolate Cookies

However, when someone stares at an almond croissant, from an authentic French bakery and tells me, “Meh, I’m just not that into sweets. I’d rather have a bagel,” I am at an utter loss. A COMPLETE & UTTER LOSS.

Pink Himalayan Sea Salt

When said person has a potluck to celebrate his new abode, my response is to put some salt on something sweet. The result is a beautiful, pink accented, middle ground?

Salty Cookie Stack

Double Dark Chocolate Cookies with Sea Salt
makes 24 large cookies


6 oz semisweet chocolate chips
8 Tablespoons (1/2 cup) unsalted butter

1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup pure cocoa powder
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cup pure cane sugar
2 large, organic eggs

Pink Himalayan sea salt


Preheat oven to 325°F and line a baking stone (or cookie sheet) with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a saucepan over medium-low heat, melt chocolate chips and butter, stirring until smooth. Let cool 5 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

Stir sugar and eggs into the chocolate mixture until smooth.

Add the dry ingredients to the chocolate, mixing until fully combined.

Use a Tablespoon to scoop dough and place on cookie sheet, leaving room for spreading. Sprinkle lightly with pink Himalayan sea salt.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until center is set. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes and then transfer to a cooling tray. Sprinkle with additional salt if need be.

Serve warm or store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Chocolate Tres Leches Cake (Gluten Free)

June 2013

There is a simple question I ask myself quite frequently in my baking endeavors- “would this be better with chocolate?” There is a simple answer that follows quite frequently in said baking endeavors- “YES! Absolutely, this would be better with chocolate!”

Chocolate Tres Leches Cake

When a friend asked if I could come up with a dessert for a tropical/Caribbean, gluten-free dinner party he was catering, chocolate was absolutely the answer! Tres leches cake tastes like a spongy cake saturated with a milkshake. Though I sent this cake into the world before tasting the result for myself, I was told its eaters agreed with the chocolate upgrade.

Chocolate Tres Leches Cake


6 large, organic eggs, separated, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine salt

1 cup raw sugar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, divided
2 teaspoons spiced rum

1/2 cup organic unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for baking pan

1 cup almond meal
1/2 cup pure cocoa powder

2 1/2 cups organic heavy cream, divided
1 can (13.75 ounces) unsweetened coconut milk
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup spiced rum
2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 ripe mango, peeled and diced
1 organic lime, zested


Preheat the oven to 350F and butter an 9×13 baking pan.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine egg whites, baking soda, and salt. Use an electric mixer to beat on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 3-4 minutes, depending on the strength of the mixer.

Add the egg yolks to the mixer and continue beating until well combined.

Add sugar in a slow, steady stream and whisk until well blended. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla and rum and mix to combine.

Stop the mixer, remove the whisk, and fold in the melted butter with a spatula.

In a separate bowl, combine the almond meal and cocoa powder.

Add 1/4 cup flour mixture and fold to combine. Repeat with remaining flour, folding in 1/4 cup at a time.

Pour batter into the prepared pan; bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.


While the cake is baking, whisk together 1 cup heavy cream, the coconut milk, the condensed milk and the cinnamon. Reserve ½ cup of the mixture. Set aside.

As soon as cake is removed from oven, pour the bulk of the cream mixture over cake. Let cake cool in the pan on a wire rack. Cover cake with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 5 hours and up to 8 hours.


Just before serving, whisk the remaining heavy whipping cream (1 1/2 cups) and the milk mixture reserve until soft peaks form and add remaining 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract.

Spread the whipped cream over cake and smooth with a spatula. Pipe remaining whipped cream into rosettes. Top with a mango chunk and sprinkles of lime zest.

Arrested Development Inspired Recipes: Bluth’s Banana Stand Cheesecake

May 2013

If someone tells me they either don’t like or don’t get the hype around Arrested Development, it makes me seriously question our friendship (or potential friendship). My Special One is so clearly not one of those questionable types. His quoting abilities earned him an Arrested Development themed birthday present and dinner, which would have been incomplete without an hommage to the Bluths’ Banana Stand.

Banana Stand Bananas

From the Arrested Development Wiki

“Bluth’s Original Frozen Banana”, a frozen banana stand was started by George in 1953 as part of the Bluth Company. It is located on the Oceanside Wharf boardwalk, on Balboa Island in Newport Beach. Throughout the series, the banana stand gets destroyed and rebuilt several times.

Banana Stand Bananas 02

The Banana Stand Menu:

The Original Frozen Banana
Frozen banana dipped in hot fudge and covered with fresh nuts

The George Daddy
Frozen dipped bananas sandwiched between chocolate grahams

The G.O.B.
Frozen banana double dipped in chocolate with double the nuts. (“Charity Drive”)

The On the Go-Go Banana
Frozen banana in a cup of sizzling hot fudge

The Giddy-Girly Bananab
Frozen banana dipped in hot fudge and covered with our pink heart candy

The Simple Simon

Double-Dipped Frozen

Banana Garnish

“Bluth Banana Stand” Inspired Chocolate Bananas


1 cup organic semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped peanuts
2 bananas, sliced


Use a Maria bath to melt the chocolate. Use prongs to roll a banana slice in the melted chocolate.

Roll the banana in a bowl with the chopped peanuts.

Transfer to wax paper. Repeat with all the slices, and then transfer to the freezer.

Banana Cheesecake

Bourbon Whipped Topping

Half Pint local heavy whipping cream, chilled
1 Tablespoon local honey
3 Tablespoons bourbon (I used Wild Turkey)


Pour the heavy cream into a chilled bowl. Use an electric mixer to beat until soft peaks form.

Add the honey and bourbon. Continue to beat until stiffer peaks form (but not too far, or you’ll end up with bourbon butter!)

Arrested Development Dessert

Do as I say or do as I do?

I adapted this recipe from The Candid Appetite, but some of my portioning seems to have been overzealous. A combination of throwing in one extra banana and perhaps not having the crust crawl up the side of the pan enough, resulted in a lot of excess filling. I chose to freeze the extra filling for another time when I crave this dessert (because it is an addictive type of dessert). At that point, I’ll be halfway finished the process! Take your pick. Either follow the recipe and relish the excess, or use three bananas, maybe some extra nuts and perhaps a smidgen less mascarpone. How’s that for a grandmother style recipe? Either way, definitely use the Newmans Own cookies for the crust!

Bluths’ Banana Stand Cheesecake


2 cups Newman’s Own Ginger-O’s cookies (one 8-oz package), finely crushed
1/2 cup mixed salted nuts, finely crushed

1/2 cup (1 stick) organic, unsalted butter, melted

4 large ripe bananas
1 Tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1/4 cup organic, light brown sugar
2 Tablespoons bourbon whiskey (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
16 ounces mascarpone cheese

1 cup pure cane sugar

4 large, organic eggs

1 Tablespoon bourbon whiskey


Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan and wrap the outside with aluminum foil. Set aside.

In a bowl, stir together the cookie crumbs, crushed nuts and melted butter until well combined and forming clumps.

Transfer the crumbs to the prepared pan and pat down with your hands, making sure to flatten out the bottom and pat the crumbs into the sides of the pan as well.

Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Remove and allow to cool completely.

In a small sauce pot, mash the bananas until they are completely mashed and smooth. Add the brown sugar and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat for a few minutes until the sugar has melted and the bananas cook slightly.

Remove from heat and add the bourbon or vanilla if using. Mix and allow to cool down completely.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the cream cheese for 2 minutes, until light and fluffy.

Slowly stream in the granulated sugar and continue to cream together for another 2 minutes.

Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Add in the bourbon.

Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, mix again. Stir in the banana mixture until just incorporated.

Spread the filling over the crust and place in a roasting pan.

Pour hot water into the roasting pan until the water level reaches half way up the springform pan. Bake at 350°F for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the center is firm and doesn’t jiggle when shaken.

Place on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. Place in the fridge and chill for at least 8 hours.


Pipe whipped cream onto the cake. Top each rosette with a frozen banana slice.

Chill in the freezer. Allow to thaw slightly before serving.


Remember! There is ALWAYS money in the banana stand!