And that brings us to today. I’m transitioning my way out of winter baking into bright and fresh springtime recipes. Easter is early this year! The first recipe on my to-bake list was lemon meringue pie. This has always been a challenging recipe for me. I ALWAYS have trouble stabilizing the meringue. And if it’s not the weeping meringue, it’s the pie crust tasting soggy. And if it’s not the weeping meringue or soggy pie crust, it’s the watery and too-sweet lemon filling.
Question I asked myself: is lemon meringue pie really worth this work?
Up until today, you couldn’t find a carrot cake cupcake recipe on my blog. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Considering carrot cake is simply known as “birthday cake” in my family, I’m ashamed. No miniature version of the world’s best cake flavor? Who even am I?
In my defense though!! I published a recipe for them in Sally’s Baking Addiction. But let’s make room for carrot cake cupcakes on the website. They’re a long time coming and I have a feeling they’ll fit right in with this crowd.
(By the way. Remember when I told you hummingbird cake was better than carrot cake? I was pregnant and being silly. It’s obviously a tie.)
My friend brought lemon ricotta cookies to our cookie exchange party in December. Never one to turn down a lemon treat, it was the first cookie I picked up. I tasted ricotta cookies once or twice before and they always left me unimpressed. Soft, yes. Cakey, yes. Boring, yes. But I never had any quite like this one. It was light. It was moist. It danced on my tongue like a spritely sugarplum fairy dressed in a yellow tutu. It was like the vanilla part of a black and white cookie, but soaked in sweet lemon.
I suppose you could say that at first bite, rivers parted and the heavens opened as I experienced one of the best cookies to ever hit my tastebuds.
Dramatic? No way!
Long gone are the days I turn up my nose at cakey cookies because lemon ricotta cookies, in all of their fragrant cake-like beauty, have completely stolen my heart. Dense and chewy cookies are great and all, but these little rays of sunshine take the cake. 😉 Add lemon ricotta cookies to your to-do list this week because you NEED to experience this too!
I baked and photographed these funfetti chip scones back in November. If I remember correctly, this was the first recipe I photographed after my sweet Noelle was born. It took me about 5 hours to bake and shoot and there are definitely still nonpareils on the kitchen floor.
So this recipe (and vacuuming, apparently) is a long time coming!
Let’s take a walk down memory lane. 4 years ago, I ventured up to Connecticut to Panera Bread’s test bakery. There, along with a few other food bloggers, I tested and tasted scones, bread pudding, muffins, cookies, soft pretzels, and more. Doesn’t that sound like THE WORST?
Happy Valentine’s Day! I’m taking the day off to spend with my family. I felt inspired to write this and I hope that it can help you or someone you know.
If you have anything to add, please comment. There is no judgement here. There is no mom-shaming here.
DEAR FIRST TIME PARENT,
My baby is 5 months next week and I struggled adjusting to motherhood after she was born. Everything felt random. There was no schedule. I was tired. I was lost. Is this the new normal? Time flew by, my confidence grew, and yes… this is the new normal. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
I experienced delayed bonding and that doesn’t make me a monster, even though I felt like it at the time. I was flooded with hormones and birth was complicated. I had never taken care of a baby before and even though I took infant care classes and read “all the books” when I was pregnant, I still felt like I was in a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language. It took me time to adjust to this role. As the months go by, we experience these stages together and the journey is something we’ll always share. I learn Noelle and she learns the whole wide world. Now she smiles at me. Giggles at me. Sometimes reaches for me when someone else holds her (my heart!!!!). I loved her at 6:58pm on September 23rd 2017, but the bonding came with time. Now I’m overwhelmed with love. I would move mountains for her smile. And I can’t imagine life without my girl.
I am, by no means, an expert on motherhood. But if you’re about to have a baby or are in those first few weeks, let me share some lessons I’ve learned.
You’re taking care of your baby, but it’s also important to take care of yourself. Taking time for yourself or doing something you love doesn’t make you selfish. It makes you a better mom, dad, wife, husband, daughter, son, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, and friend. And it’s ok to ask for help. Even if that’s having a friend come over so you can get your hair cut or take a nap. And if your friend wants to bring dinner, let them.
And, new mom or dad, it’s ok to cry. This is a big change and it’s really hard. Remember you aren’t a bad mom or dad. You’re a new mom or dad having a bad day. It’s unrealistic to think you’ll be a parenting expert overnight. Parenthood is a constant and there will always be a new lesson to learn. And that includes learning from mistakes. I think we’re all sort of making it up as we go! Treat yourself with a little more grace because you’re doing the best you can.
Everything becomes more manageable as weeks go by and I know it’s difficult to believe that when you’re in the thick of it. But literally everything gets better. Stomach is bigger so she eats less often. Fingernails are larger so I don’t sweat bullets every time I cut them. She can hold up her head so carrying her and bathing her is easier. She can play, she can giggle, she can smile, she can roll over, she can sleep longer. Soon she’ll start solids, soon she’ll crawl, soon she’ll say mama, and soon she’ll go to school, make friends, grow up, and I’ll miss being her entire world. I guess what I’m trying to say is: don’t wish these difficult weeks away.
I know it feels daunting to get everything packed in the car and get out of the house, but it’s worth it. Even if that means a quick trip to the grocery store. Fresh air, fresh scenery, fresh faces, make plans, experience life, make memories, bring baby along. I always feel better when I push myself to get up and get out. And, more importantly, baby loves it!
Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about working because a working parent is still a full-time parent. I feel guilty working, I truly do, but I try to remember that I don’t leave “being a mom” behind when I’m working. I’m still Noelle’s mom, full-time.
Everything from birth and physically healing to sleeping and feeding were nothing like I expected. Don’t put added pressure on yourself by expecting a certain something. No birth, postpartum journey, and baby are the same so have an open mind. Noelle’s still changing and growing so our routine constantly adjusts. And I’ve learned to be open (not stressed!!!) when things don’t go according to plan. Two steps forward, one step back. Go with the flow. Lighten up. You’ll figure it out!
Offer me bread pudding and I’ll take a hard pass. The thought of soggy white bread swimming in a pool of cream sauce sounds like an epic waste of calories.
But as I work to expand my baking repertoire this year, I decided to dive into this mysterious dessert. Like, what really is bread pudding? What are you? What are you not? What can you be? Why am I talking to you?
I studied some recipes and baked a few disasters, thus proving that I, in fact, do not like bread pudding. Consider me crazy or delusional but so many of you told me you love it that I decided to give bread pudding one more chance.
Pull up a chair and listen up. Bread pudding can be delicious. REALLY REALLY DELICIOUS. And this is coming from someone who said nope!!!! to this dessert only a few weeks ago. There’s all sorts of ways to bake bread pudding, but this recipe– complete with buttery challah bread and real chocolate– is my favorite. My only regret is waiting so long to try it this way!
Hilari and I didn’t get a chance to test bread pudding in our recipe test week, so I slowly tackled it over the past couple weeks. I studied a couple traditional bread pudding recipes, made 3 or 4 batches, and concluded that I, in fact, do not like bread pudding. Perhaps it was the recipes I tried, but it just tasted like eggy bread chunks with a couple raisins tossed in.
This wasn’t a shock to me as I’ve never really been a fan of bread pudding.
I’m working to expand my baking repertoire this year, so I asked you your thoughts on this dessert. Many of you love it!! So I decided to give it one more shot, but with the addition of chocolate. Maybe that will be tastier? I took a look at 2 chocolate bread pudding recipes: King Arthur Flour and Food & Wine. I used cocoa powder, heavy cream, and eggs. I made sure the bread was super stale. I threw in some chocolate chips, topped with raspberries and caramel and whipped cream. The first batch was good. But I knew I could make it better.
The love for my new mini bundt cake pan . Now that I baked itty bitty pound cakes and topped them with pretty pink raspberry icing and sprinkles…. it’s a straight up bundt pan obsession.
Don’t these mini vanilla pound cakes look like donuts? 🙂
First thing’s first. If you don’t have a mini bundt pan, you can use a mini loaf pan. If you don’t have a mini loaf pan, you can use a regular loaf pan. (A full size bundt cake pan is a little too large.) No matter which pan you use, one thing’s certain: this pound cake is downright fabulous. Super tight crumb, dense, extremely buttery and moist, and flecked with vanilla bean. I’m excited for you to try it.
… our self control’s in serious trouble. And bonus: there’s strawberry hearts on top. Little cuties!
Here’s a cupcake I’ve been dreaming about since last Valentine’s Day when I showed you how I make strawberry frosting. Never really got around to making them, so I saved them for Vday 2018. And strawberry is fresh on our minds right now because helloooo fresh strawberry cake.
Chocolate HAD to be included in February’s Baking Challenge again. I decided on chocolate cake pops because many of you request them, especially after I shared my favorite vanilla version. Your wish is my command.
What I love most, however, is that you have creative control. You can decorate these cake pops in your own unique way, which makes the challenge 100x more fun.
I have plenty of step-by-step photos and lots of tips/tricks. I want you to understand every instruction so you can follow along and know what the heck you’re doing. The process isn’t difficult– you’re literally just baking a chocolate cake and making frosting then mixing them together. Things just get a little particular when it comes to rolling, lollipop-sticking, and dunking/dipping. If you can make bread bowls, you can totally handle cake pops! (They’re more fun to eat too… sprinkles!)