Category: guest baker (page 1 of 3)

Guest Baker: Don’t fear the cheesecake

Alex's New York-Style Cheesecake

As soon as I found out that my dear friend Alex was baking a cheesecake, I KNEW I had to convince him to share his experience. Cheesecake is not the simplest dessert, but if you have the ingredients, patience and guts–like Alex–then you, too, can bake a dessert which most people only order in restaurants (and honestly, the cheesecakes served in a lot of restaurants are pretty subpar). And Alex did a fantastic job for his very first cheesecake! Kudos to Alex for being a baking warrior and creating a delectable dessert.

Let’s get this out of the way: I am not what some may call a “baker.” Sure, I cook. I like to experiment a little here and there with new recipes for meals and appetizers, and I know my way well enough around a grill; however, baking? Not generally my style. I love to follow recipes as close as I can to the letter, but baking always seemed too precise, even for me.

That being said, I had a sudden burst of insanity … I mean, inspiration … during the weekend before Thanksgiving that drove me to make a cheesecake for my family’s holiday gathering. “I love cheesecake! It’s one of my favorite desserts ever! I’ll totally make one myself!” A fellow Twitter-er pointed me in the direction of a recipe for New York-style cheesecake she’d tried and loved, so I checked it out.

To say the recipe looked complicated was an understatement. What the hell’s a spring-form pan? Where does one get lemon and orange “zest”? Five eggs and two egg yolks? Is that not against nature???

The combination of the recipe and my inexperience overwhelmed me, and I had a momentary inkling to scrap it and find a way simpler recipe (of which there are a ton). Not one to back down from a challenge, though, I decided to dive in headfirst and figure out how I was going to make this work (minus the cherry topping … blech). A trip to Bed Bath & Beyond for a pan, a few Google searches on zest and the separating of egg yolks, and a healthy case of the go-for-its got me in my sweet Doctor Who apron and ready to bake.

Alex's New York-Style Cheesecake cooling

I’ll be honest; I was pretty excited to finally get to use my wife’s coveted Kitchen Aid mixer.

Besides running out of sugar and literally having to go to my neighbors’ to borrow a cup, everything went pretty darn well. The graham cracker crust formed nicely, the cheese mixture went together smoothly, and putting my oven to 550° F did not burn my house down!

The outside of the cheesecake burned a smidge (perhaps a minute or two too long at 550° F before turning it down to 200° F), which made me a bit self-conscious, but it otherwise looked great. My family loved it (they worked around the burnt parts), and I have to admit that it tasted great! The next time I make it (because there will be a next time), I will probably take out the lemon zest and add a bit more orange zest, but I was very happy with how it came out.

As terrified as I was before I started, I’m really glad that I went through with it. I had a great time making it, learned a lot, and the end result was totally worth it.

Also, if you want to separate egg yolks in the coolest way ever, check out the video below. SCIENCE!

Guest Baker: Pumpkin bars with bourbon sea salt caramel and bacon

Pumpkin bars with bourbon sea salt caramel and bacon

Please welcome my second guest baker this week, Taylor! He’s the gent behind the Wyoming Whopper cookies, as well as the kind soul who sent me new whisks after my current one fought (and lost) and fierce battle with a vanilla pastry cream. When I read on Twitter that Taylor was making these pumpkin bars, I begged for him to share. They look sinfully divine!

I love the fall seasons, colors are starting change, it’s finally getting cold and the sun is getting ready to disappear for the next six months (it’s a Pacific NW thing).

So on a perfectly grey, dreary day this last weekend I set out to bake on of my favorite fall treats. Unlike a lot of baking favorites I have, these are not comfort food, or something anyone in my family used to make. I stumbled onto them almost completely by accident while looking for a caramel recipe involving bacon. My search lead to noble pig’s Pumpking Caramel Bars with Bacon recipe, which I have adapted slightly to fit my tastes a little better. These are a very rich and very gooey treat when made with my recipe, something that requires a plate and a fork.

I’ve made them a few times and have never had anything but great comments on them. You could forgo the bacon I suppose, but that would take away about half the joy. The frosting is relatively simple but can be all over the place on consistency, I’ve had it be everything from thick as a buttercream to thin and runny. If you want it thicker, leave out the bourbon, or add in more cream cheese.

Pumpkin bars with Bourbon Sea Salt Caramel and Bacon

  • Pumpkin Bars Ingredients
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp gated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tbsp bacon grease
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Frosting Ingredients
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 oz Bourbon
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cubed
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Sea salt
  • 8 oz. Maple bacon, diced

So first thing, dice up and cook your bacon. I find a bit larger dice on the bacon

makes it stand out a bit more, but some people prefer smaller pieces. I really prefer

this with maple bacon, it goes with the brown sugar nicely.

Drain your bacon and set aside 3 tbsp of bacon grease for the bars, if you get less than this it’s ok, but 2 tbsp is the bare minimum.

Heat your oven to 350 and grease a 9x13 pan.

Start the bars by combining the flour, baking soda, salt and spices in a bowl, mix them together and set aside.

In a stand mixer beat the pumpkin puree, sugars, butter, egg and bacon grease together.

Add the flour slowly until mixed.

Spread the batter in your prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes

out clean, usually 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool completely.

Start the frosting by boiling the brown sugar, a pinch of sea salt, and water in a large pot.

Boil for 5 minutes swirling it occasionally.

Whisk in 1 oz bourbon, then the butter and cream. If you’ve never made caramel before, prepare for a bubbling mess.

Whisk the mixture continually while boiling another 2 minutes.

Transfer the caramel to a stand mixer with the whisk attachment and whip at a high speed until

it has thickened and the sides of the bowl are cool to the touch.

Add the other oz of bourbon, and after it is incorporated begin adding cubes of cream cheese one at a time.

Continue to whip until the frosting is smooth.

Pour the frosting over your cooled bars and sprinkle with sea salt (a very small amount) and the diced bacon.

Guest Baker: Cute kid tested and approved!

Guest baker: Mocha pumpkin cupcakesMy mocha pumpkin cupcakes with espresso buttercream have been quite the hit with readers! I know of three different readers who baked this recipe over the past week (and 2 of them kindly reached out to me to get clarification on the recipe, since I made a couple of errors/omissions … yikes! Bad on me, though thanks to them, the recipe has been corrected and reviewed with a careful eye).

As always, I love to see and/or hear about your results when you bake one of my recipes, and I’m happy to share a couple photos from Jocelyn who baked these cupcakes last Friday.

Jocelyn writes:

The cupcakes turned out well.  The espresso in the buttercream was a bit strong for my tastes.  It seemed to overpower the pumpkin/mocha of the cupcake itself.  So next time (and there will be a next time) I will reduce the amount of espresso powder in my buttercream.  Overall, we all loved the cupcakes!!  Thanks for a great recipe!

Mocha pumpkin cupcakes: Kid tested and approved

I love this photo! These kids definitely have good taste :)

Thanks Jocelyn for baking along with me, and remember everybody, I want to hear about what you’re baking (preferably from scratch)!

Images courtesy of Jocelyn.

The Great Pumpkin Cupcake visits early and more!

Alexis' pumpkin cupcakeThis is a cupcake-packed week! Sunday I pulled a full-day shift at Sweet T’s, filling in wherever I was needed, whether it was finishing the top layer of a cake, cleaning out the fridge or doing dishes. It calmed down by early afternoon, so I was able to make my first batch of chocolate batter in the large mixer and hand mixed some chocolate chip cookie dough (hand mixing cookie dough is SO therapeutic, and a workout).

Yesterday, I brought in cupcakes from the bakeshop (one of the best sellers, cinnamon dolce, and vanilla with chocolate chip cookie dough buttercream–a recipe I introduced to Sweet T’s) to my taste testers as a little thank you present for their support. If it wasn’t for them, as well as all of you who read and bake along, I’d be doing this alone. And that wouldn’t be any fun.

Last night, Ray went to get his tattoo touched up by the extremely talented and charming Lee Cramer at Headlight Tattoos, and I had him bring one of the extra apple cider cupcakes I had tucked away in the fridge. Lee appreciated the treat, and after one nibble of the frosting said, “You could make money with these!” One day, Lee. One day.

Today, taste tester Alexis brought in her favorite pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting! She shared the recipe and some baking tips last year around this time, but I thought I would re-share the links to the recipes she likes to use.

This is a great treat for me, since I’m usually the cupcake bringer, not the cupcake receiver. Alexis picked a winner of a recipe to work with … the cake is moist and pumpkiny, with the right balance of spices. Her cream cheese frosting is also excellent, and I can appreciate that she doesn’t pile it on, like some people do. This way the cake and frosting shine through together.

And of course, I have something fun up my sleeves for this Friday.

So, what are some of YOUR favorite pumpkin recipes (cupcakes, breads, pies … anything goes!)? Share your favorites in the comments below!

Recipe for cupcake above: Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing (a.k.a. Heaven in a Baking Cup) from Patent & The Pantry

Guest Baker: Going to Mars again

Christine's NASA strawberry velvet cupcake

Cupcake Friday Project Facebook fan Christine posted this photo of her rendition of my NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover cupcakes, on Instagram and I think she did a smashing job! In her note she says “They look amazing and taste even better!”


Have you baked one of my recipes? I’d love to hear about it and share! Find me on the Cupcake Friday Project Facebook page, drop me a line here or email me at

Keep baking!

Guest Post: Mini orange cupcakes with miso caramel buttercream

Mini Orange Cupcakes with Miso Caramel Buttercream

Today I get to be the guest baker! Head over to Cupcake Takes the Cake and read about the mini orange cupcakes with miso caramel buttercream that I whipped up for a recent game night with friends. The cupcakes were a huge hit with them, and I think you’ll want to bookmark my miso caramel buttercream recipe. Soooooo good!

I’ll post the recipe over here in the next few days as well. Until then, run–don’t walk–to the grocery store and pick up some orange extract and red miso for this awesome recipe!


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