Two cakes.

That is what I remember most about my birthdays growing up.

Right around this  time of year, my father used to tell me the story of how I was born. It was September 24th, 1982, a lovely Fall day and his own parents were visiting.  My mom was crazy amounts of pregnant with me and apparently my Grandpa Fabian, an obstetrician, took one look at her and told my grandma, “she is going to pop tonight, no doubt.”

Sure enough, as soon as they left, I started raising all kinds of hell in her womb and managed to send them straight to the hospital. This next part of the story is what I doubt really happened, but I always loved hearing my dad tell it. You see, he would claim that as my mom was lying in her hospital bed he insisted that she “stop labor and wait just a few more hours,” so that his daughter could have her own special day.

You see, September 24th is my dad’s birthday.

Apparently, if anybody heard him, it was me, because I showed face at about 1:50am the very next day…on my very own birthday.

For as long as I can remember, my dad and I shared our birthdays at the end of each September. My parents both insisted that we truly make each day special, which meant I would have to painfully sit through his birthday, while bursting at the seams with excitement over my own pending day. The one thing that kept me patient as a youngster was the amazing concept of two cakes.

When growing up, we each got to choose our own cake and for two days in a row, we would get to eat delicious desserts in celebration of our own individual births. Chocolate, vanilla, marble, ice cream, homemade, bakery-made… every time it was something different and unique.

As I got older and moved off to college and grown-up life, two cakes stopped happening and instead turned into just a phone call… that is, a phone call two days in a row. Still something special.  Last year, we celebrated Dad’s 60th birthday by flying home to Minnesota and taking him out with the family. It was the first time he had seen me since my wedding and he put his arm around me and wished me a happy birthday. He looked at me differently, with pride and admiration almost. He joked with me about “giving him a grandkid already” and we spent the entire night drinking wine, eating wonderful food and feasting on desserts.

If I had known that would be the last birthday spent with him, I would have insisted that there be two cakes.

So, in a fit of nostalgia and longing, I decided to rekindle such memories and bake not one, but two birthday cakes. I racked my brain for what cake I wanted to make for my dad and finally settled on a cupcake created for what I remember to be his favorite dessert: Cookies and Cream Ice Cream.

For my own birthday cake, I made a Pumpkin Spice Cake with Honey Icing, something the younger version of me would have made vomiting sounds over. Now, I love it.

Two cakes. This might have to become my new tradition: two cakes that I share with the people in my life now. It can be a way that we keep Steve in our memory forever.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

1 (18.25 oz.) package Devil’s Food cake mix
1 (3.9 oz.) package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1/2 cup warm water

2 cups miniature semisweet chocolate chips

24 Oreo Cookies, save the tops for frosting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper baking cups.

Twist off each Oreo cookie top, separating the frosted bottoms from the cookie tops. Put one frosted bottom into each baking cup.

In a large bowl, combine the cake and pudding mixes. Mix in sour cream, oil, beaten eggs, and water until just combined.

Stir in the chocolate chips and pour batter into prepared cupcake pans.

Bake for 20-24 minutes, until tops spring back when touched and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cook in pans for 5 minutes before removing to a cooking rack to cool completely.

Mrs. Leeds Kim, sporting one of my own birthday presents while being my special helper!

Cookies and Cream Buttercream

2 Sticks of Butter, softened

4-5 cups confectioners sugar

2 tsp vanilla

24 Oreo bottoms (leftover from cupcake recipe), crushed.

1/2 cup milk

Combine butter, milk, vanilla and 3 cups of confectioner’s sugar and beat well. Once combined, slowly add remaining sugar. Once smooth, stir in Oreo crumbs.

Finished product. Dad woud have loved this.

Oreo Bottoms!

Pumpkin Spice Cake

from Martha Stewart

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon pumpkin-pie spice (or 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, 3/4 teaspoon ginger, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, and 1/8 teaspoon each allspice and cloves)

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 can (15 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin puree

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan. (I used a circular pie pan)

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin-pie spice. In a large bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, butter, and pumpkin puree until combined. Add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture, and mix gently until smooth.

Pour batter into prepared pan, and smooth top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool cake 10 minutes in pan, then turn out of pan, and cool completely, right side up, on a rack.

Make Honey Frosting

Honey Frosting

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, very soft

1 bar (8 ounces) regular (or reduced-fat) cream cheese, very soft

1/4 cup honey

Combine together and spread on cake


Blueberry Crumb Bars

I visited the Prospect Park farmer’s market at Grand Army Plaza this weekend and was able to get the last of the season’s blueberries… as well as some other delicious vegetables and baked goods. Talk about a sweet hookup that market is! Too bad we live just on the border of Park Slope and South Slope, making the trek by foot a little annoying when you’re carrying bags of delicate (yet beautiful) cherry tomatoes and plump juicy blueberries. (Let’s just say I had a few accidents on the way home…nobody is to blame, but my market bag needed to go through the wash pretty badly)

I have been dying to try this recipe for quite some time and thought what better time than to celebrate my friend, Jennie’s, birthday. Cheers and Happy Birthday, August people!

First layer, before spreading the blueberries

Finished product-- totally delicious

Blueberry Crumb Bars

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cold unsalted butter (2 sticks or 8 ounces)
1 egg
1/4 tsp salt
Zest and juice of one lemon
4 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup white sugar
4 tsp cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 9×13 inch pan.

In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup sugar, 3 cups flour, and baking powder. Mix in salt and lemon zest. Use a fork or pastry cutter to blend in the butter and egg. The dough’s texture will be crumbly. Pat half of dough into the prepared pan.

In another bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Gently mix in the blueberries. Sprinkle the blueberry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble remaining dough over the berry layer.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until top is slightly brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Last weekend was a rip-roaring good time, starting with a whole buncha Midwesterners descending from the sky and landing on the isle of Manhattan. Several of them (my most immediate of family members) stayed in Brooklyn, since it’s obviously much ( so much) better than any other place in this city. The visit was mostly based around the nuptials of my cousin Kevin to his brand, spankin’ new wife, Teresa, but we managed to have some fun of our own as well.

In celebration of their arrival, my husband and I spent a good chunk of time cooking up a bunch of recipes from this here blog to share with them. Unfortunately, our guests were two people down due to vertigo (nope, not the Hitchcock classic…for realsies this time) and we were forced to fill their spots with some fellow Park Slopians in order to prevent food wastage. (Plus, we really like these people.) We definitely missed my brother and his girlfriend who were stuck back in Minneapolis, sorting out his shaky shakes. Next time, guys! (And you’ll get your very own blog post about whatever I end up *cooking for you!)

Nom Nom Nom

The menu was perfectly paired with all kinds of wine and fun. We decided to keep things somewhat simple by serving up a baguette and ciabatta alongside several signature salads. Everything was made ahead of time, which made serving less stressful (and no ovens!)

Smashed Chickpea Sandwiches

Black Bean Confetti Salad

Aunt Stella’s Czechoslovakian Potato Salad

White Bean Roasted Red Pepper Dip

We also pulled out some new dishes to share: White Bean Tomato Salad and Homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream with Blueberry and Raspberry Sauce. You can find both recipes below.

Love my family. Love my friends. Love Park Slope.


White Bean Tomato Salad

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

8 oz fresh mozzarella, cubes

1 lb roma tomatoes, diced into about ½ inch cubes (try to get seeds/water out)

1 15-oz can white beans, drained and rinsed

Handful of slivered basil

¼ cup olive oil

3-4 tbsp red wine vinegar

Salt and Pepper to taste

Combine tomatoes, beans, olive oil, basil and vinegar together in a bowl. Add mozzerella and salt/pepper to your liking. Serve with crusty bread or on its own.


Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

3 cups heavy cream, or 2 cups heavy cream and 1 cup whole milk

¾ cup sugar

Pinch of salt

1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise

¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

Pour 1 cup of the cream into a medium saucepan and add the sugar and salt. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the saucepan and add the pod to the pot. Warm over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved.

Remove from the heat and add the remaining 1 cup cream and the milk) and the vanilla extract.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator. When ready to churn, remove the vanilla bean and then freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.


Blueberry and Raspberry Sauce

2 cups fresh blueberries

¼ cups sugar

2 Tbsp water

1 cinnamon stick

1 cup fresh raspberries

Combine blueberries, sugar, water and cinnamon stick in heavy medium sauce pan. Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves. Then, increase heat and bring mixture to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer for 3 minutes.

Uncover and cook until berries look tender and saucy. This will take about another 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and gently stiry in raspberries. Chill until serving. (Can be made up to two days ahead of time.)

*sorry, Paul. No meat. Big feet.

Park Slope is dreary with rain today and life feels heavy with memories and reflection. After experiencing such a crazy winter, a recent and untimely bout of strep throat, and the latest news of our kitten’s degenerative sight disorder (she’s going blind and there is nothing we can do about it) I decided it was time to whip out a recipe that would make pretty much anybody forget their woes.

I made these little gems awhile back for two lovely couples, two separate occasions, in hopes of perfecting a carrot ginger cupcake recipe of my own! I must say, I do love me some cupcakes and boy can they cure the blues.

These were tricky and kind of sticky with the use of candied ginger, but well worth the effort. The frosting comes to you courtesy of none other than Magnolia Bakery- and I decided to forgo the candied carrot sprinkles for the sake of time. However, I did add some lovely orange sprinkles to keep things festive. Check out the link at the bottom of the page for an excellent tutorial on how to frost a cupcake.

So in an effort to stay positive, here are lots of smiley smiles sent to you straight from Park Slope Kitchen, with love.

Carrot Ginger Cupcakes

adapted from Cupcake Bakeshop

1 cup pecans
1 pound carrots
3 large eggs
1/2 cup 1% fat buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1/4 cup candied ginger (purchased at Fairway Market. Mine came in cubes, so I coursely chopped them)
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Toast pecans in oven for 5 minutes, remove from the oven, let them cool, then chop coarsely. Set aside. Keep oven at 350 for cupcakes.

Peel, rinse, and then grate carrots coarsely.

In a large bowl, combine carrots, eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, sugar, vegetable oil, fresh ginger, and candied ginger.

In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Fold flour mixture into the carrot mixture. Fold in pecans.

Scoop out into cupcake pans and bake at 350 degree oven for ~20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for 15 minutes and then cool on wire rack completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting

From Magnolia Cookbook

One pound (two 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, softened and cut into small pieces

6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened and cut into small pieces

1 ½ tsp vanilla extract

5 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar

In a large bowl, on medium speed of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and beat well. Gradually add the sugar, one cup at a time, beating continuously until smooth and creamy. Cover and refrigerate icing for 2-3 hours, but no longer, to thicken before using.

To smooth frosting onto cupcake: I found this amazing article and video that pretty much changed the entire way I frost cupcakes. Genius! Check it out: How to Frost A Cupcake

I woke up today with a full-on food hangover. This holiday season was full of delicious sweets and treats that I thoroughly enjoyed with absolutely no regard to the morning-after feeling I would have come January.

Despite my tummy’s slight disagreement with some of my holiday decisions, I can’t help but post this delicious dessert that I served for some guests a few weeks ago. Molten cakes might possibly be the simplest dessert with the flashiest results. I ask you: who doesn’t get butterflies over chocolate oozing from chocolate?

The only tricky part of molten cakes is timing. You have to pull them from the oven at exactly the right moment or they will dry out and (while still delicious) not be quite as spectacular and impressive. The key is waiting until the edges are hard but the middle is still looking just a bit mushy, almost like it is about to bake over. *If you accidentally over-bake them, just add a scoop of ice cream and the wow factor will immediately be returned.

Molten Spiced Cakes

Makes 4 servings.

4 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

1 tablespoon Cabernet Sauvignon or other red wine

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 eggs

1 egg yolk

6 tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon Ground Ginger

1/8 teaspoon Ground Cloves

Preheat oven to 425°F. Butter 4 (6-ounce) ramekins. Place on baking sheet.

Melt chocolate and butter in large microwavable bowl on HIGH 1 minute or until butter is melted. If you’re anything like us (microwave-less) do a double broiler and melt over low heat. Whisk until chocolate is completely melted. Stir in wine, vanilla and confectioners’ sugar until well blended. Whisk in eggs and yolk. Stir in flour, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Pour batter evenly into prepared ramekins.

Bake 10 to 15 minutes or until sides are firm but centers are soft. Let stand 1 minute. Carefully loosen edges with small knife. Invert cakes onto serving plates. Sprinkle with additional confectioners’ sugar. Serve immediately.

Delicious with ice cream!

Spiced Ginger Cookies

The Holiday season is upon us and you will quickly notice a surge in dessert recipes on this blog. I’m obsessed. I have a problem. Dear Santa, All I want for Christmas is a vat of chocolate and a spoonful of sugar. Thanks, Sarah.

These spiced ginger cookies were my first experience with cookies flavored with ginger, much to my husband’s delight. It seemed there could be no better pairing with these cookies than a fresh batch of pumpkin ice cream. I hit the dessert blogosphere and found the recipes that looked the best and gave them a solid try. Results? Happy cheer.

Spiced Ginger Cookies

from Fun and Food Cafe

2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (packed) light/golden brown sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg
1/4 cup mild-flavored (light) molasses

Combine first 6 ingredients in medium bowl; whisk to blend. Using electric mixer, beat brown sugar and butter in large bowl until fluffy. Add egg and molasses and beat until blended. Add flour mixture and mix just until blended. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly butter 2 baking sheets. Spoon sugar in thick layer onto small plate. Using wet hands, form dough into 1 1/4-inch balls; roll in sugar to coat completely. Place balls on prepared sheets, spacing 2 inches apart.

Bake cookies until cracked on top but still soft to touch, about 12 minutes. Cool on sheets 1 minute. Carefully transfer to racks and cool. (Can be made 5 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.)

Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream

Easy Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream
from blog “Our Best Bites”
2 C Heavy Cream
1 C Whole Milk (vit D milk)
1 C canned pumpkin
2 t vanilla extract
3/4 C Brown Sugar
1 t cinnamon
1/8 t ground ginger
1/8 t nutmeg

Make sure all liquid ingredients are very cold.

Place brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in a mixing bowl. Stir with a whisk to combine. (Doing this helps the spices to distribute better in the mixture). Add cream, milk, pumpkin, and vanilla. Stir with a whisk until the brown sugar is dissolved. How do you know if the brown sugar is dissolved? Stick your finger in there and then taste it! You shouldn’t be able to feel any of the granules on your tongue.

If you have time, chill the mixture for a few hours in the fridge before putting in your ice cream maker. If you don’t have time, or you’re just dying to eat it, take the plunge and just make it right now. It’s okay. I do it all the time. Process according to the manufacturers instructions. When finished, transfer to an airtight container and place in freezer to firm up

Individual Apple Crisp with cinnamon ice cream

Apple crisp in ramekins! Hooray! I love the fall! This one was made at Gillian’s dinner party where good people met up with great food.

*If you don’t have an ice cream maker try the Cinnamon Whip Cream at the bottom of this page– or try to find some Edy’s Grand Cinnamon Ice Cream at your local grocery store.)

Apple Crisps baking away in Gillian's oven

Individual Apple Crisps
This one if my own!

Needed: 8 Ramekins for baking

4 golden delicious or granny smith apples
3 Tbsp flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp lemon juice

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup oats
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
6 Tbsp butter

Start by peeling and then dicing the apples. Throw these into a large bowl and mix in 3 Tbsp of the flour, all of the brown sugar, maple syrup, and lemon juice. Scoop evenly into ramekins, leaving enough room on top for a layer of your oat mixture.

To make topping: Mix together remaining flour, oats, ground cinnamon, and salt. Dice cold butter and mix in with your fingers, kneading until completely mixed and you have a nice crumble going… Sprinkle this mixture on top of each ramekin. Voila! Now, bake at 350 for about 30-35 minutes, or until the smell is so delicious that you can no longer stand waiting!

Let cool for about 10 minutes before adding a scoop of ice cream to each one. Make sure to warn your guests that their ramekins may be hot!

Making Cinnamon Ice Cream

Cinnamon Ice Cream

Needed kitchen equipment: Ice cream maker (see below for alternative recipe)
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Whisk eggs until light and fluffy, then whisk in sugar a little at a time. Add milk, cream, vanilla, and cinnamon and whisk to blend. Then use ice cream maker according to its directions. Makes 1 quart.

Cinnamon Whip Cream
1 C whipping cream
2 Tbsp powdered sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

Mix together and whip until stiff.

Shared with: Friends!
Paired with: waaayyyy too much wine. =)

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