Birthday Vanilla Spice Coke Cake with Salted Peanut Butter Frosting

Every year (minus last year), I make myself a special birthday cake.  I try to pick something that’s really captured my imagination, that seems a bit fancy and more complex than I’d usually convince myself to tackle.  Something special.

This year, for reasons I can’t even quite explain to myself, I made a vanilla spice Coca-Cola cake with salted peanut frosting.

Vanilla Spice Coke Cake with Salted Peanut Frosting

Yes, you read that right.

It’s kind of conceptual…while I’m not a fan myself, boiled peanuts in Coke is considered a Southern delicacy.  Consider this the deconstructed cake version.  But without the weird texture issues.


It was really a gameday decision.  I’d pored over my whole Pinterest dessert board and nothing was really jumping out at me.  But then I finally got it into my head that this vanilla spice Coke cake was going to be my base.  I’ve never had a traditional Coca-Cola cake, but my understanding is that it’s almost always chocolate.  When I ran across this recipe from Local Milk, I was intrigued…the way the flavor profile was described so beautifully, and as an interesting transition into fall,I decided it had to happen.


But the frosting that went along with it was just way too finicky for my exhausted and busy self to deal with.  I looked at tons of different recipes but nothing really felt right, until I saw this salted peanut frosting.  Since I love all things peanut butter, I was on board right away, and I thought that it would be a fun complement to the cake.  While this was a bit overly sweet for my tastes (or maybe that was because I also ate a gallon of queso, so I felt a bit ill), the flavor was bomb and the cake was insanely moist.

I’ll definitely be revisiting this recipe down the road, and not just for a special occasion—the cake base itself (minus frosting the layers) was super easy and fast.  As you can tell, frosting cakes is not my particular skill set.

So happy birthday to me, and cut yourself a huge slice of cake and pour a Coke! [Read more…]

Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Banana Bread

Most normal people would look at a recipe for double chocolate banana bread and think, “hey, that sounds pretty amazing!”

Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Banana Bread done

But as we all know, I’m not normal.  So my first thought was, “You know what would make this so much better? Peanut butter chips!”

(weirdly, this is a fairly normal question/answer I have with myself…)

double chocolate peanut butter chip banana bread chips

Healthy?  Nah.  But amazing?  You betcha.

Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Banana Bread slice

This is super moist, almost fudgy, and the peanut butter chips take this to a whole new level.  It’s not unhealthy (in fact, most of it’s not bad for you at all), but the peanut butter chips take this over the edge into dessert territory and up the calories and sugar quite a bit.  Totally worth it in my world, though.   [Read more…]

Apricot Linzer Torte

I don’t mind admitting when I’m wrong. And BOY, was I wrong about this.

Apricot Linzer Torte

See, for the past two or three years, basically every time I’ve gotten with my friend Shalya for dinner, the conversation has eventually turned to food (okay, fine, it’s on food 92.5% of the time), and every single time she’s begged me to make a linzer torte.

Apricot Linzer Torte slice

Every single time.  And I always told her she was a weirdo, because who is obsessed with linzer torte, but fine, yes, I’ll make a linzer torte if she comes to my house.  But that day finally came.  And it was glorious.

Apricot Linzer Torte closeup

See, in my (limited) experience, linzer torte is basically just a simple buttery pastry crust with some jam in it, and a lattice topping.  Something that’s fine adorning a bakery case somewhere, but not something that anyone ever really chooses.  Fine, and sturdy, but not setting the world on fire.  Which just goes to show, I have been eating the WRONG LINZER TORTE all my life.

Apricot Linzer Torte slice closeup

This linzer torte recipe is anything but “fine”.  The dough basically punches you in the face with a combination of spices so aromatic my house smelled like heaven.  Pair that moist, tender spiced crust up with slightly chunky apricot jam, and you have a simple and perfect match made in heaven. [Read more…]

Jam Streusel Coffee Cake

This coffee cake is like the Sound of Music in real life.  It’s all about my favorite things.

Jam Streusel Coffee Cake slice

Jam?  Check.  Streusel?  Check.  Excuse to eat dessert for breakfast?  Check.

jam streusel coffee cake jam swirls 2

Coffee cake is kind of a perfect food.  It is easy to whip up and throw in the oven, leaving you to focus on other things.  It can be made the night before if you’re on a tight schedule in the morning.  It’s fancy enough for a brunch or shower.  It CAN even be a dessert.  And this recipe is particularly great, in that the cake itself is lovely and light and moist and fluffy—helped along by the buttermilk, greek yogurt, and extra egg yolks. [Read more…]

Creamy Sweet Corn & Chicken Sausage Pasta

It’s sweet corn season!!!

Creamy Sweet Corn & Sausage Pasta

I was so stoked when my CSA box this week included four ears of sweet corn.  Fresh corn is the best.  It can be a side dish, elevate even the most mundane pasta, and even become a dessert (and yes, you better believe this is happening in the near future).

creamy sweet corn & sausage pasta corn sliced

In fact, I was so excited about the first corn of the season that I actually cooked on a Saturday night.  That may not sound earth-shattering, but anyone who knows me knows that Saturday night is reserved for Chinese food.  Specifically, one of three dishes from House of Chan five minutes from my house.  I call at around 5:02, pick it up 15 minutes later, and am comfortably ensconced on my couch shortly thereafter.  So for me to choose cooking on a Saturday night is pretty major.

Creamy Sweet Corn & Sausage Pasta finished

And this pasta is totally worth it.  The sweet corn, summer squash, and onions meld with the mascarpone, Parmesan, and starchy water to make a comforting yet not heavy-feeling chunky sauce that covers the noodles and sausage for the perfect pasta marriage.  Add a little fresh basil and I’m in heaven.  The fact that it all came together in less than half an hour?  Even better. [Read more…]

Eating My Way Through Istanbul: Exploration

How can I *not* start with this pic.  I mean, LOOK. AT. IT.


If you caught my post a couple weeks ago, you’ll know how much I LOOOOOVED the food in Turkey, and the two different food tours we went on to get a feel for the culture and cuisine.  But the tours were just the beginning…we spent all three days eating everything in sight (and maybe seeing some sights in-between).


We couldn’t have asked for a more gorgeous day to explore.  The Blue Mosque looked particularly majestic against the blue sky.


We were up early and tramped over the Galata Bridge, in search of breakfast.


And boy, did we find it.  So, this is definitely one of the stranger things we ate.  We sat down to a lovely breakfast, I ordered a cappuccino and honey and sweet cream with bread, and then something on the menu caught my eye.  That white dish in the back is tavukgogsu—otherwise known as chicken breast pudding.

I KNOW.  [Read more…]

Lemon Cupcakes with Raspberry Frosting

I think I’ve found my new favorite cupcake recipe.  These are as close to a perfect texture and taste as any cake or cupcake I’ve ever made.

Lemon Cupcakes with Raspberry Frosting done

Someone described them as “bomb-ass”, and I’m not going to argue with them.  I mean, it would be rude.

Lemon Cupcakes with Raspberry Frosting

We wanted to do a special girls’ night for Casey’s birthday a few weeks ago, and I heard through the grapevine that she was obsessed with some Publix lemon raspberry cake, so the flavor palette for her cake was easy enough.  I was super excited, because usually people want chocolate or something super sweet, so the chance to make a fruity dessert was one I wouldn’t pass up.

lemon cupcakes with raspberry frosting lemons

And it’s a good thing these were basically perfect, because they were pretty much the only thing that went right that evening.  The restaurant ended up being a nightmare (45 minutes to order, hour and a half for food to come, took two hours to get a second drink order in), so by the time we left our numbers had dwindled by half and it was already quite late.  Thankfully, three of us persevered and went to our friend’s Midtown high rise for wine and cupcakes and a great rooftop view.

Lemon Cupcakes with Raspberry Frosting finished

Right call.  The cupcakes are the most insanely moist, dense crumb you can imagine, packed with super tart lemony flavor that never tips over the line into that weird cloying fake lemon flavor that I hate.  Even without the icing they’re perfection.  But the icing is a work of art itself.  Fluffy buttercream taken to the next level with raspberry jam adding some fruity goodness and tanginess to the frosting’s sugar overload.

In other words, you should make these TODAY. [Read more…]

Eating My Way Through Istanbul: Food Tours

Oh, internet peeps, this trip was just amazing.  No other word for it.

The view that welcomed us at our Airbnb rooftop apartment

The view that welcomed us at our Airbnb rooftop apartment

When my co-worker randomly texted me in February saying she’d found a ticket to Istanbul for around $700, did I want to go, I immediately jumped at the chance to visit a city that’s always been on my bucket list.  As a total history nerd, the Roman Empire and Constantinople has always fascinated me, and so off we went for a whirlwind Memorial Day weekend.

And Istanbul?  You did not disappoint!


But while I’ve always looked forward to seeing Istanbul’s architecture and culture and history, I hadn’t given its food much thought.  In my pre-trip research I read about a lot of things that sounded great, and we decided what better way to get our bearings in the city than with a food tour (or two)—and that was an excellent decision, if I do say so myself.

I totally fell in love with Turkey’s food…join me, if you will, on this gastro extravaganza (gastro-vaganza??).


We arrived at our apartment in late afternoon, refreshed ourselves, and hit the streets right away.  After accidentally getting on the tram going the wrong direction for a stop, we quickly got headed the right way and met up with our tour guide in Sultanahmet.

Dinner in a local family's apartment

This was our guide, Burek.  He brought us to a local family’s house, where the mom made a traditional meal including corba (a delicious lentil soup), chicken with vegetables and sauce and pilav and yogurt, and bread and watermelon.  We also had the traditional black tea.  We sat on the floor like they do regularly, in the same room they sleep in as well.  Throughout the meal we conversed with the family, with Burek translating, and learned about their life in the eastern part of the country prior to coming to Istanbul about a decade ago (they are Kurdish) and what their life is like now.  It was such a cool experience.

Apple shisha and tea in a pub

Burek took us to a local pub next.  Pubs don’t serve alcohol, but instead the traditional shisha (also called hookah, nargile, etc.) and tea.  The pub was really beautiful, with ornate light fixtures and beautiful inlaid tables.  Frequented by locals, the building is over 300 years old, was once a religious school and dervish lodge, then bazaar.  The waiter brought us glasses of “apple tea” (which is more like the powdered apple cider that comes in packets, and only drunk by tourists and children) and apple (elma) shisha.  While the shisha is definitely not for me, it was a really interesting and authentic experience. [Read more…]

Levain Bakery Copycat Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

Yeah, that’s a mouthful.  But these cookies deserve all of that name and more.  They probably are the best cookies I’ve had in my life.

Levain Bakery Copycat Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

So, this all goes back to December, when some sales rep sent us a box of cookies from Levain Bakery in New York.  These cookies weighed like 5 pounds each and were the size of your fist.  Now honestly I’m rarely that tempted by store-bought or bakery cookies.  I’m a homemade girl all the way.  But I was stressed and there were these chocolate ones with peanut butter chips that were calling my name.

So I broke off a piece of one and took it into a meeting with me…

Levain Bakery Copycat Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

Game over.  I became instantly obsessed (and I ate the rest of that cookie, duh).  We decided to order more and then found out it was $75 for four cookies, which…NO.  So I decided that, hell or high water, I was going to perfectly replicate these cookies.

Levain Bakery Copycat Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

And I believe I’ve gotten like 99% of the way there.  I tried a couple different copycat recipes and this was definitely the closest.  I also read through a lot of the comments and suggestions and found a couple that make a big difference, so I’ve incorporated them into my recipe below.  One other thing I’ve found is that I actually like them better the next day, vs. fresh.  The texture sets and they become moist and amazing and dense, and a little less rich than fresh out of the oven.

Fair warning, each cookie is like 550-600 calories.  But it’s definitely worth it on occasion.  Trust me and make these NOW.   [Read more…]

Banana Cake with Caramel Frosting

It’s kind of crazy that I’ve never made banana cake before, because it’s something that my extended family made quite a bit when I was growing up.

Banana Cake with Caramel Frosting slice

But it was always with cream cheese frosting, and then a few years ago my sister had a brainwave and threw this caramel frosting on instead.  And a legend was born. (I may be being melodramatic)

banana cake with caramel frosting sugar butter beat

Now don’t get me wrong, I really like banana cake with cream cheese frosting (pretty much anything with cream cheese frosting, for that matter).  But there is something about this sugary, crackly caramel frosting that just adds the perfect depth and complement to the moist, dense cake.  The fact that it’s crazy easy is just the icing on the cake…so to speak.

Banana Cake with Caramel Frosting slice2

This is also a cake that is perfect to make the night before, because this frosting really seals in the moisture of the cake.  And, of course, use up the billions of browning bananas sitting on your counter.

I haven’t eaten a banana in probably six months, but I still buy them like clockwork, with the best intentions.  This is a thing everyone does, yes?

Humor me… [Read more…]

%d bloggers like this: