Category Archives: desserts

Flourless Chocolate Orange Cake


This is another easy dessert–the only kind I make– courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen.  I’ve adapted it to bring together one of my favorite flavor combinations; chocolate and orange but I think lemon would be equally as good.  To add depth to the cake, I use a combination of semi sweet and bittersweet chocolate.


1 pound semi sweet or bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped

16 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces

1/4 cup strong coffee

Zest from 1 orange

8 large eggs, cold

Confectioners sugar or cocoa powder (for serving)

12 orange or Mandarin sections (for serving)

2 ounces dark chocolate melted (for serving)

Colored sugar crystals (for serving)

  • Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees.  Lightly coat an 8-inch spring form pan with vegetable oil spray, then line the bottom with parchment paper.  Wrap the outside of the pan with two sheets of heavy-duty foil and set in a large roasting plan.  Bring a kettle of water to a boil.
  • Heat the chocolate, butter, and coffee together in a large bowl in the microwave, whisking often, until the mixture is melted and smooth, 1 to 3 minutes.  Let cool slightly.
  • Fold the orange zest into the chocolate mixture.
  • Whip the eggs in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed until they double in volume, 5 to 10 minutes.  Fold one-third of the whipped eggs into the chocolate mixture using a large rubber spatula until only a few streaks of egg are visible.  Repeat twice more with the remaining eggs, then continue to fold until there are no more streaks.
  • Scrape the batter into the prepared pan inside of the roasting pan and smooth the top.  Set the roasting pan on the oven rack and pour the boiling water into the roasting pan until it reaches about halfway up the sides of the cake pan.  Bake until the edges are just beginning to set, a thin glazed crust has formed on the surface, and an instant read thermometer inserted halfway into the center reads 140 degrees, 20 to 25 minutes.
  • Carefully remove the spring form pan from the water bath and let cool completely on a wire rack, about 3 hours.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  • About 30 minutes before serving, run a paring knife around the edge of the cake to loosen, then remove the sides of the pan.  Invert the cake on a parchment-lined plate and peel off the parchment from the bottom.  Flip the cake upright onto a serving platter, discard the second piece of parchment, and let come to room temperature.
  • Dust the cake with confectioner’s sugar.
  • Melt the dark chocolate in the microwave and dip each orange section into the melted chocolate then dip in colored sugar crystals.  Place evenly along the edges of the cake.

YIELD:  one 8 or 9 inch cake; serves 10 to 12

Rosemary Olive Oil Cake w/ Chocolate Ganache


This is another tasty cake courtesy of From Away, my latest, go-to food blog.  The combination of olive oil, rosemary, and chocolate is intriguing and surprisingly good.  The cake comes together quickly making it a perfect ending to a weeknight dinner where dessert is a necessity.  The ingredients are also staples in my kitchen and combined with our rosemary bushes in the garden, I will never have an excuse for not making the cake.   I cautiously served the cake at our dinner last night—I am always hesitant to try out a new recipe on guests— but it was a hit.  Even the children ate it; it probably helped that they ate it so quickly that they didn’t have time to see the little green flecks in the cake!


4 eggs

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2/3 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, very finely chopped

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, roughly chopped

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

  •  Prepare an 8-inch cake pan with cooking spray.  Pre heat an oven to 325 degrees.
  •   In the bowl of a stand mixer thoroughly beat the eggs, add the sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy.  Slowly pour in the olive oil.
  •   Fold in the rosemary with a spatula.  
  •   In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add the dry ingredients to the egg  mixture and stir until just combined.
  •   Pour into the prepared pan and bake, 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool completely on a wire rack.
  •  In a double boiler, slowly melt the chocolate over medium heat.
  •  In a small saucepan, warm the cream over medium low heat.  Stir the cream into the melted chocolate until the mixture is thick and shiny.
  •  When the cake is completely cooled, pour the ganache over the cake and smooth with a spatula. 

Apple Speculoos Bars

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For the uninitiated Speculoos are Belgian cookies. Wonderfully crisp buttery and spice filled cookies that are served alongside coffee and cappuccino in cafes and coffee houses across the country. You can also buy them by the bagful in grocery stores; yes they are that good and addictive. They are similar to a gingersnap but less gingery–if that makes any sense. However you describe them, they are that good. And as if the cookies themselves weren’t enough they even sell the cookies in paste form. Similar in texture to peanut butter or Nutella the cookies are ground up into a creamy spread that can be smeared onto toast, sliced fruit or eaten with a spoon directly from a jar. (Not that I would know anything about that). And every Belgian pantry, including my own, always has a jar of this yummy goodness on hand.

And having a jar of Speculoos was perfect after I bought a bag of apples from the market and decided to bake these apple bars from the Yankee Kitchen Ninja. The Ninj’s recipe called for Biscoff which is essentially Speculoos with a different name. Bar cookies are great since they only require one baking pan and these cookies are no exception, coming together quickly and filling your entire house with the warm smell of caramel apples and spicy Speculoos. Your neighbors will be jealous!

Apple Speculoos Bars

8 tablespoons butter
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup Speculoos spread
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 small apples, peeled, cored and diced

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Melt the butter and sugar in heavy saucepan set over medium heat. Stir continually until the mixture is smooth.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the Speculoos spread. Cool slightly. (The batter will be very stiff but this is OK).
  • Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a bowl. Set aside.
  • Add the eggs, one at a time, to the sugar mixture, beating well between each addition.
  • Stir in the vanilla.
  •  Add the wet mixture to the dry, and stir until smooth.
  • Fold in the apples as best you can.
  • Pour the batter into a lightly greased 9 x 13 pan and bake for about 30 minutes.
  • Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into bars.

Yields: 24 bars

Banana Snickerdoodles


What is better than a snickerdoodle cookie? A banana snickerdoodle! I have fallen in love with these banana infused cookies from my childhood. This recipe, courtesy of the Noble Pig is just as easy as the original recipe. And since it is filled with ripe banana, it is yet another way to use up those ripe bananas you have sitting around. But best of all, it is delicious. So delicious that these cookies have become the new favorite in my house and I need to make a double batch since a single one just isn’t enough.


3 cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon cream of tarter

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup vegetable shortening

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 medium banana, very ripe

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the coating:

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup sugar

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.
  • In a large bowl cream together the shortening and sugar until well blended.
  • Add in the eggs, banana and vanilla extract, mixing well.
  • Add flour mixture and mix until just blended.
  • Combine the cinnamon and sugar in a shallow bowl.
  • Using a tablespoon sized scoop, form balls with the dough and drop them into the cinnamon and sugar mixture, using your hands to roll the balls until coated. The dough will be very soft but the sugar coating will firm it up.
  • Place the balls on the prepared baking sheet about 2 inches apart.
  • Bake for 9 minutes or until the cookies are set and the edges are just beginning to brown.
  • Remove the cookies from the oven and allow to sit for 2 minutes before moving the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Yields: 3 dozen cookies

Blueberry Tea Cake


I’m a huge fan of summer berries and going back to my Maine roots, blueberries are by far my favorite of all the berries. And because I am a native Mainer, when it comes to blueberries, in my opinion wild ones are far superior to cultivated ones. Smaller in size and darker in color, wild blueberries are sweeter and yield more of a “summer taste”. Unfortunately, fresh wild blueberries aren’t easy to find in many parts of the world so fresh cultivated ones will do in a pinch–because after all, fresh blueberries are better than no blueberries at all.

When you’ve had your fill of blueberry pies, pancakes and muffins and you’ve canned more jam than you can possibly eat and/or gift (can you tell what I do will all my fresh berries?), it is time to look for alternative uses for these sweet little berries.  And when that time comes, look no further than this easy and flavorful tea cake from Williams Sonoma. The cake comes together quickly and with just a hint of spicy cardamom and a generous amount of fresh blueberries, it is the perfect snack or lunchbox treat. Of course, fresh wild blueberries are best but lacking them, feel free to substitute cultivated ones or even frozen berries. If you do use the frozen version, be sure to lightly dust them in flour before adding them to the batter. This will prevent them from “bleeding”.



8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar

2 tablespoons dark rum

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 cup plain yogurt

2 cups fresh wild blueberries

Confectioners’ sugar for dusting (optional)

  • Preheat an oven to 350°F. Coat an 8 inch square baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
  • In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cardamom. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and brown sugar until thick and fluffy.
  • Using a wooden spoon, stir in the melted butter, rum and lemon zest.
  • Add the flour mixture in two additions, alternating with the yogurt, and stir until just smooth.
  • Using a rubber spatula, fold in the blueberries.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and smooth the top with the spatula.
  • Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes.
  • Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the cake cool completely in the pan.
  • Using a fine-mesh sieve, dust the cake with confectioners’ sugar.

Yields: 1- 8 inch square cake


Peanut Butter Bars


Who doesn’t love the combination of chocolate and peanut butter? I know I certainly do so when the craving strikes these bars from Add A Pinch are the perfect treat. These taste like a homemade Reese Peanut Butter Cup only better. They are also ridiculously easy; so easy that it is almost embarrassing. There is even no need to turn on the oven so technically you aren’t even baking. But they are so good that you too will find yourself making them again and again.


For the crust:
1 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1½ cups creamy peanut butter

For the topping:
¼ cup creamy peanut butter
2 cups chocolate chips

  • Combine the ingredients for the crust in a large mixing bowl mixing until well-combined and smooth.
  • Spread evenly into a 9×13 baking dish making sure to push the crust into the corners of the dish.
  • Place the remaining peanut butter and the chocolate chips in a microwave proof bowl.
  • Melt in the microwave for 1 minute at a time on 80% power. Remove from the microwave and stir until smooth.
  • Spread the chocolate mixture over the top of the peanut butter bar base and place in the freezer for 15 minutes.
  • Remove from the freezer and cut into individual bars.

Yields 36 bars

Salted Cardamom Oatmeal Cookies

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Cookies. Who doesn’t love a good cookie? I know I do. They are great with coffee, tea or milk; can be eaten as a stand alone dessert or a snack are the perfect lunchbox treat for kids of all ages. And just as much as eating them, I love to bake them. Cookies that come together quickly are my favorite as are those with interesting ingredients. And these cardamom infused oatmeal cookies from The Yankee Kitchen Ninja fit the bill on both fronts.

Cardamom is definitely an acquired taste; you either love it or you don’t. Personally, I love it. Cardamom is spicy with hints of pepper and ginger and adds a surprising punch of flavor to any dish. Although I most often think of it as belonging in savory dishes, when combined with salt and added to these oatmeal cookies it is absolutely fabulous. So if you don’t already have cardamom on hand, go buy some and make these cookies. I promise that you won’t be disappointed.


3/4 cup al-purpose flour

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

2/3 cup dark brown sugar

1 egg

1/4 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla extra

1 1/2 cups old fashion rolled oats

Coarse sea salt (for topping)

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a small bowl whisk together the flour, cardamom, salt and baking soda. Set aside.
  • Using a handheld electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Add in the egg, buttermilk and vanilla extract and beat until smooth.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and using the electric mixer, beat on low-speed.
  • Fold in the oatmeal.
  • Leaving 2 inches of space between each cookie, drop the batter by spoonfuls onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
  • Sprinkle the tops of each cookie with sea salt.
  • Bake for 11 to 12 minutes or until the edges are browned and the middle of the cookies are still soft.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before moving the cookies to a wire rack.
  • Cool completely.

Yields: 32 1 1/2 inch cookies



Carrot Cake Cookies


Cool weather means it is baking season and my oven has been going full blast making cakes, cookies, and other baked treats.  I’m always on the lookout for new recipes and hit the jackpot with these.  Sidney loves carrots and he loves cookies so these sweet little treats are the perfect way for him to enjoy two of his culinary loves.  The recipe is courtesy of the the Yankee Kitchen Ninja, a.k.a. “the Ninj”, one of my favorite go-to food blogs.  The cookies are good as is but I added a few chocolate chips and a bit of spice to kick them up a notch.  (After all, Mamma needs to fulfill her chocolate cravings as well).  I prefer dark chocolate chips but milk chocolate would work too.  As a bonus the recipe makes the perfect amount of cookies; 20 are just enough for your family to enjoy without over doing it!


7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup white sugar

1 egg yolk

3/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup old-fashioned oats

3/4 cup finely shredded carrots

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

1/3 cup golden raisins

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a large bowl, stir together the butter, brown sugar, white sugar, and egg yolk.
  • In another bowl, combine the flour, ginger, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until blended.
  • Mix in the carrots, chocolate chips, and raisins.
  • Use a 1 1/2 tablespoon scoop to drop the dough onto parchment lined baking sheets, leaving 2 inches of space between each cookie.
  • Bake for 17-20 minutes or until the edges begin to brown.
  • Remove the cookies from the oven but allow to cool slightly on the baking sheets before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

Yield 20 cookies

Amaretto Fudge Brownies


What chocolate lover isn’t a fan of brownies?  I prefer mine to be rich, dense, and fudgy and am of the mindset that one small decadent bite is better than an entire pan of brownies that are only ho-hum.  I’ve adapted this recipe from America’s Test Kitchen by substituting the almond extract for the vanilla extract called for in the original recipe.  You could also use amaretto liqueur with similar results or go in a totally different direction by changing the extract flavor to peppermint or creme de menthe.

Regardless of the flavor you add, this recipe is fool proof and can easily be doubled if you are feeding a crowd.  Because the brownies are so rich, I cut them into small, 1- inch squares.  A little goes a long way with these treats.  Versions of this brownie show up at every bake sale I contribute to or buffet table I put together.  And they only thing that ever remains on the serving tray is crumbs.


5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

3 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder

1 1/4 cups sugar

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons extract of your choice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup all-purpose flour

  • Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line an 8-inch square pan with foil then coat lightly with vegetable spray.
  • Melt the chocolates, butter, and cocoa in the microwave, stirring often, 1 to 3 minutes.  Let the mixture cool slightly.
  • Whisk the sugar, eggs, extract, and salt together in a large bowl until well combined.
  • Whisk in the melted chocolate mixture until smooth.  Stir in the flour until no streaks remain.
  • Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached, 35 to 40 minutes.
  • Let cool completely on a wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours, before removing the brownies from the pan using the foil and cutting into squares.

YIELD:  36 small brownies

Mini Lemon & Thyme Pound Bundt Cakes with Lemon Thyme Glaze


Thanks in part to a gift of fresh lemons from friends, this past weekend was spent in a lemon infused haze.  These mini lemon and thyme bundt cakes were a part of lemon-palooza.  I came across the original recipe from Martha Steward via  The cakes called for using lemon thyme but here in Albania I am lucky if I can find regular fresh thyme (which I fortunately was this past week) so I used what I had.  To make up for the lack of lemon thyme I added fresh lemon juice and finely grated zest to the glaze. Last time I made a herb infused dessert our guests loved it but Glenn’s office thought I was trying to poison them so I was a bit hesitant to try another savory dessert.  However, I gave it another go and served little cakes as the dessert course of a dinner and they once again disappeared with gusto.

Mini Lemon & Thyme Pound Bundt Cakes With Lemon Thyme Glaze


  • 18 Tablespoons (plus 2 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted plus more for pan
  • 12 sprigs fresh thyme, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • finely grated zest of one lemon
  • 1-1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 6 large eggs room temperature


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • finely grated zest of one lemon
  • 12 sprigs fresh lemon-thyme


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with rack in lower third. Butter six (1-cup) molds of a mini angel food cake pan or mini bundt pan. Dust with flour, and tap out excess. Pick 2 teaspoons small sprigs from tops of thyme sprigs, and divide evenly among molds; set aside. Coarsely chop remaining lemon thyme leaves to make 2 tablespoons; whisk chopped thyme with the flour, salt, and lemon zest in a small bowl. Set aside.
  • Put butter into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream on medium speed until pale and fluffy, scraping down sides of bowl as needed, about 4 minutes. Add sugar. Mix until pale and fluffy, scraping down sides of bowl as needed, about 3 minutes.
  • Mix in vanilla. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing well after each addition; mix until smooth. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing until just combined after each addition.
  • Spoon batter over lemon thyme in prepared molds. Smooth tops using a small rubber spatula. Firmly tap the pan on counter to eliminate any air bubbles. Bake until a cake tester inserted into centers comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Let cakes cool slightly in pan on a wire rack, about 10 minutes. Run a knife around edges of molds to loosen; unmold cakes.
  • For the glaze, bring sugar, lemon juice, zest, water and thyme to a simmering boil. Turn down heat and let simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Place each cake on a serving plate, and drizzle with about 1 tablespoon warm glaze. Garnish with thyme sprig.
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