Strawberry swirl yogurt cake

A loaf cake sits on a sheet of parchment paper on top of an upside-down quarter sheet pan. There are two slices of cake lying in front of the larger piece - the insides of the cake are swirled in pale yellow and purply-red. Strawberries are scattered around the frame, and a stack of plates sits in the background

Do you ever wake up in the morning and decide that you’re going to do things the hard way? 

Because apparently I do. 

Last week the grocery store had decent-looking strawberries, and I was seized with the urge to make a strawberry cake. And not just any strawberry cake, but the strawberry cake I use for weddings – plush, finely textured, and rich with butter and egg yolks, filled with a strawberry-balsamic-black pepper jam. But I wanted it now, and I didn’t want to deal with my stand mixer, or with stacking, filling, and frosting a layer cake. 

A loaf cake sits on a white cake pedestal on the right side of the frame. The inside of the cake is swirled - yellow and red-purple. Two strawberries sit on the pedestal next to the cake. A slice of the cake is on a plate with a fork and another strawberry in the lower left corner of the frame.

I also didn’t want to spend time finding a recipe that checked all those boxes. 

So I decided to do it myself – partly because I’m apparently a masochist, and partly because the science of baking is just really freaking interesting. 

Coming up with a cake from scratch seems scary, but, as with most baked goods, successful recipes are based on simple ratios and rules. Batters need balance – flour, dairy, and eggs for strength, fat and sugar for tenderness. 

A half-eaten slice of swirled strawberry cake on a white plate. There is a napkin to the left of the plate, and another plateful of cake halfway out of the frame on the left side.

Chocolate Peppermint Crunch Marshmallows

Look, I know this isn’t technically a cookie, and I know that technically the workweek is over, but I just freaking love marshmallows*, ok.

Before you panic about the idea of making marshmallows, let me reassure you that if you can boil water and make whipped cream, you can make marshmallows. The whole process has like three steps, and one of them is scraping all that beautiful sticky fluff into a pan. I promise you, the extra effort is worth it.

Homemade marshmallows are pillowy and lush, with a fun springy snap that storebought can’t match. Plus, they actually have flavor! And some texture from the peppermint pieces! Imagine that!


Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

I am not a big chocolate cake person – but I love to make chocolate cake. Seems odd on the surface, but it boils down to one simple truth: I don’t like doing dishes. And most chocolate cakes are one- or two-bowl recipes that are essentially dump and stir – no stand mixer required.

So it stands to reason that I love this cookie – three bowls (you could probably manage it in two), no appliances, and a truly spectacular result. And, unlike chocolate cake, I actually want to eat these.


Raspberry Pistachio Thumbprints

My apologies if this post seems a little rushed – I need to pack up a few boxes, go vote, and hit the post office before it closes at five. It is currently 3:30. Could I have prevented this little conundrum with better planning? Absolutely. But this is not Eighth Street Everything Goes According To Plan, so…

But you’re here for the cookies.

In a glorious, grown-up ode to peanut butter and jelly, these thumbprints hit just the right balance between rich, nutty pistachios and sweet, slightly sharp raspberries. There’s a hint of ground cardamom and honey to bump up the complexity, and just enough rubbly pistachio chunks to keep things interesting.


Pecan pie cookies

I’m not through with cookies this week, but I can already say, with confidence, that if you bake nothing else this week, you must bake these. I’ve earmarked all the cookies from this grand experiment as holiday gifts, and I’ve already had to hide the containers of pecan pie cookies to keep my family out of them.

Heck, my mom said if Dad hadn’t gotten to her first, she would marry these cookies.


Lemon spritz cookies

Well, this was certainly starting off cookie week more with a whimper than a bang. I’m not going to say these were bad cookies – after all, even bad cookies are pretty good – but I have to admit that the standout elements, for me at least, had a lot more to do with making than eating. Generally, that’s not a selling point.

I’ll admit that these cookies made the list because a dear friend’s grandmother gifted me her vintage cookie press, and I’ve been looking for an opportunity to use it ever since. Now that I’ve tried it, I would guess more modern cookie presses have certain advantages – even pressure, controlled dosing, and less metal-on-metal screeching – but I have no plans to trade in.

For me, this press is a connection to a history of hosting and hospitality, and the honor of having been included in it outweighs any of the small inconveniences. I love that every time I pull it out, I think of Grandma May and all the good memories I have made (and will, in better years, continue to make) with her. Which is good, because given my tray full of slightly lopsided spritz cookies, I’m going to need a lot more practice.


Cookie Week 2020

At least around here, holiday baking is the best kind of baking. December is an excuse to try all the new cookie recipes I’ve been bookmarking, and the holidays make a perfect excuse for pawning off excess on friends gifting baked goods.

So. Welcome to five days of saccharine madness.

If you want to bake along, here’s what you can expect next week, plus shopping lists (which I haven’t converted to metric yet) if you want to follow along:

Pecan Pie Sandwich Cookies: NYT Cooking

Honestly, these sound so good that I actually might not make any tweaks – high praise coming from someone practically incapable of following the recipe as written.

You’ll need:

  • 325 grams pecan halves
  • 225 grams all-purpose flour
  • 340 grams (3 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 40 grams powdered sugar
  • 295 grams brown sugar (the recipe calls for light brown – I will probably use dark)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ea egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 80 grams dark corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon

Jessi Spell

A culinary degree and two years of professional experience has not stopped Jessi from making stupid mistakes – she just makes them more efficiently. She habitually reads cookbooks before bed, loses track of time on Wikipedia, and yells at cooking shows like dads watching football. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband Jackson, five plants, and more cookbooks than a 600 square foot studio should hold.


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