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Host a Cupcake Tour

Host a Cupcake Tour


Sample many kinds of cupcakes while hosting a cupcake tour through New York's Chelsea neighborhood

These days it seems as if a cupcake shop is popping up on every street corner in New York City. One could easily get lost in this world of cupcake shops, which sell everything from savory cupcakes to alcoholic ones. But instead of getting lost, host a cupcake tour to get to know your options.

To make sure you don't spend the entire cupcake tour on the subway crisscrossing your way from one bakery to the next, pick a particular neighborhood or area of the city in which to locate your tour. This way you can walk off the extra buttercream frosting while you are at it.

This particular cupcake tour is located in New York City's Chelsea neighborhood:

Billy’s Bakery: 184 Ninth Ave.
Billy’s offers old-fashioned cupcakes made with the simplest ingredients. Don’t miss their banana-Nutella cupcake!

Blossom Bakery: 174 Ninth Ave.
Try this vegan bakery and see if their vegan pastry alternatives are as good as the real thing.

Big Booty Bread Co.: 261 West 23rd St.
This mostly wheat-free empire is known for their Latin goodies such as pan dulce (sweet bread), but they also have delicious cupcakes. While you are here, enjoy a grilled cheese sandwich to reduce your sugar rush.

Empire Cake: 112 Eighth Ave.
Step inside Empire Cake to fulfill your junk-food cravings in a much more upscale way, with homemade Twinkies as well as classic desserts like Southern red velvet cupcakes (our personal favorite!).

Amy’s Bread: 75 Ninth Ave.
Although known for their variety of bread loaves, this bakery also offers mouthwatering cakes and cupcakes. Ones not to miss are the black and white, monkey cake, and Definitely Devil’s Food Cake.

This tasting tour will allow you to figure out which cupcake bakery is your favorite. Pick a few different flavors to try within your group. Or, rate each bakery on taste, texture, flavor, and decorations as you sample.


50 Unique Fundraising Ideas That Make Giving Back Easy

The best ways to raise money for your school, non-profit, or any other cause you're passionate about.

There are so many reasons you might want to start a fundraiser. Maybe your school needs a little extra money to start a new initiative. Or maybe you run a non-profit that's constantly strapped for cash. It might even be that there's an incredible charity or organization that you want to raise money for. Whatever the case, we've got the solution. Ahead, you'll find the best fundraising ideas you can use to raise money for any cause. From fundraisers as simple as hosting a bake sale to ones as involved as organizing a pop-up picnic at a local park, these ideas will get you thinking creatively and help you plan an event you'll want to repeat every year. We've even included some virtual fundraising ideas that you can do while social distancing. Looking for even more ways to give back? Don't miss our favorite community service ideas for kids, teens, and adults.


How to Host a Harry Potter Party – Recipes for Butterbeer and Golden Snitch Cupcakes

As soon as we decided on a Harry Potter Birthday Party for Littlest I knew that Butterbeer would be on the list. Where I got stumped was coming up with a cake! Thankfully, Quidditch proved to be the perfect inspiration. Rather than one large cake, I made edible Golden Snitch cupcakes for all the guests to enjoy. And they were super simple. Keep reading for both the Butterbeer and Golden Snitch Cupcake recipes.

Harry Potter Recipe – Butterbeer

This Butterbeer recipe is delicious and only uses 6 ingredients.

It’s made it two parts. The first is the Butterbeer itself and the second is the whipped topping.

To make the Butterbeer you combine chilled cream soda, caramel extract, and butter extract. That’s it! I simply added the extracts to my 2 liter bottle of cream soda, swirled it around a bit, and then kept it chilled in the refrigerator until it was time for the party. Of course I didn’t want my guests to know my secret, so I made this fun Butterbeer label to place over the 2 liter bottle.

With the Butterbeer chilling you can make the cream topping. Combine heavy whipping cream, butterscotch topping, and powdered sugar in a mixing bowl. I made this the night before and kept it in a resealable container until party time.

To serve I poured guests Butterbeer in fun glasses and then topped their drinks with the whipped topping. They can sip their Butterbeer or you can offer them a straw for their drink.

Harry Potter Recipe – Edible Golden Snitch Cupcakes

When it comes to parties, especially birthday parties, I love serving cupcakes rather than a large cake. It’s so much easier!

These edible Golden Snitch Cupcakes are a two part process. The first part was making the cupcakes. Littlest loves yellow cake, so I made yellow cupcakes, and then let them cool while I started working on my Golden Snitches.

The Golden Snitches are sandwich cookie truffles. That’s ground golden sandwich cookies mixed with cream cheese.

Once mixed I formed the mixture into bite sized balls and put them into the refrigerator to chill. Whiling they were chilling I melted some yellow candy melts.

Dip the chilled sandwich truffles into the yellow candy melts, covering completely. Place back on a tray to set.

The last step was to make wings for my Snitches. These were made by cutting a wing shape out of yellow paper and then gluing around a toothpick. Make a bunch! Insert two wings into each Snitch.

Because Littlest doesn’t like chocolate I made him one extra special Golden Snitch covered in gold sprinkles. It turned out super cute, but used a lot of sprinkles. It was definitely easier making all the rest with the candy melts.


Top Tips for Baking Cakes and Quick Bread at High Altitude

Avoid dry cakes and quick breads with these tips:

For cakes using baking powder:

  • Don&apost overbeat the eggs. Overbeating adds too much air to the cake.
  • Raise the baking temperature slightly the faster cooking time will keep the recipe from rising too much. At elevations over 3,500 feet, the oven temperature for batters and doughs should be about 25 degrees F higher than the temperature used at sea level.
  • Decrease the amount of baking powder slightly this also prevents the recipe from rising too much.

For yeast coffee cakes:

Yeast cakes rise more quickly at high altitudes, so watch your dough carefully and judge the rise time by the change in the dough&aposs bulk, not by the amount of time it takes. Proofing time for yeast cakes should be reduced.

More High-Altitude Baking Tips

  • Cakes tend to stick more when they are baked at high altitudes, so always grease your baking pans well and dust them with flour, or line them with parchment paper.
  • Fill pans only 1/2 full of batter, not the usual 2/3 full, as high altitude cakes may overflow.

Life is a Party

So your kids’ birthday is just around the corner, and you find yourself racking your brain for a unique party ideas. When Melissa arrives to your party she will WOW all of your party guests with her sparkly personality and amazing sweet treats! Miss Melissa does it all! She brings all of the dishes, ingredients, and the FUN to your party location and keeps your guests fully engaged and having fun for the duration of your event!

Melissa also offers Online Baking Classes and Virtual Baking Birthday Parties Via Zoom!


Caramel Apple Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream Frosting

Normally I’m not much of a “sweet” eater, preferring savoury treats myself… but one of my boys absolutely adores sweet treats. So much so, that we gave him caramel popcorn and homemade style fudge from our local candy shop as part of his birthday present this past weekend!

He gets so over-the-top excited if I ever bake anything that it definitely inspires me to bake once in a while, despite the fact that I never care about eating it myself. Maybe it’s better that way? He certainly expends enough energy in his daily activities to take care of the energy from the odd sweet treat.

But even my “non-sweet eater” child loved these delicious caramel apple cupcakes maybe because the hint of green apple makes them slightly less sweet as it adds a tart and fresh flavour to the mix. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

Today I’m sharing these simple and delicious cupcakes as part of a fall cupcake hop – make sure to see all the cute ideas that my friends are sharing at the bottom of this post!

These caramel apple cupcakes (made from a mix!) with buttercream frosting have been making an appearance in my boys’ lunches this week. I’m definitely gaining in my popularity as resident lunch maker around here (though they don’t have many other options, regardless). They’d also be a fun thing to serve at any kind of fall party or gathering, but caramel apples don’t have to be relegated to only the fall – I think these would be delicious to serve any time of year. I mean, caramel?! Right?

I started out with a basic golden cake mix and beefed up the flavour with diced, tart green apples as well as caramel chips. Follow the package instructions and keep an eye on the baking time, as it may need to be slightly longer with the addition of the apples.


How to host a super-fun virtual birthday party for kids:

Step 1: Order a drive-by birthday kit from Party City

I hopped onto Party City's web site and let Little Pea pick the theme for her party.

They had a great selection of party theme options including:

  • Frozen
  • magic unicorns
  • Disney Princess
  • Toy Story
  • Avengers and more . . .

Since we just rented Trolls World Tour a few weeks ago, my girl was super excited to spot Poppy, Branch & Co. among the options so we went with the Trolls birthday party theme.

Step 2: Divide up all the party supplies for your guests

The big box of party supplies arrives at your door. Party City includes literally everything you need to host the party:

  • A fun backdrop for the birthday girl/boy to hang for the Zoom session
  • Costume elements for everyone: Special items for the birthday girl/boy and headbands, bracelets, lanyards, beaded necklaces, etc. for the guests
  • Cupcake supplies: wrappers and birthday candles, you just have to bake up the cupcakes themselves from your own supplies
  • Tableware: party plates, napkins, cups
  • Fun favors and balloons
  • Gift bags for delivery of the supplies

I opened up all the supplies and evenly divided them among the party bags. I almost couldn't fit everything inside the gift bags there was so much included.

Step 3: Bake some easy cupcakes that will travel well

Since I knew we'd be bundling up the cupcakes into smaller delivery packages and driving them over to our friends' houses, I needed a cupcake that would still look as pretty upon arrival as it did in my kitchen.

Cupcakes with towering swirls of frosting tend to be a disaster in the car. Instead, I made these super-easy, super-delicious vanilla donut cupcakes. The easy vanilla glaze with rainbow sprinkles turn a basic box mix batch of cupcakes into the cutest, happiest little birthday treats ever.

I was sure to add a couple of birthday candles into each of the bundles for our guests.

Everyone knew to hold off on eating the cupcake until the party. The parents all stepped in to light the candles and the kids got to blow them out together.

Step 4: Deliver all the goodies to your friends' porches

We texted everyone to let them know we were on our way. I carefully organized everything into our trunk.

At each stop, the Peanut hopped out and walked the gift bag full of supplies and a plate of cupcakes up to the door, rang the bell, and came back to the car. Our friends opened the door to find the supplies neatly waiting for them.

Step 5: Everyone meets on Zoom for a fun and festive virtual birthday party

I sent out the party link and everyone joined at the same time. The Peanut served as Mistress of Ceremonies dressed as Poppy Troll in a pink wig and pink tutu. The birthday girl wore a tiara and carried a princess wand.

The Peanut ran the party guests through a series of virtual games.

We wrapped things up with the virtual candle blowing and birthday singing. Everyone chatted for a bit and then the party was done.

They ended up having so much fun together. There's just something about seeing everyone's happy faces with the cupcakes and supplies we dropped off. It was a great way to feel connected in honor of her special birthday.

5 fantastic virtual party games to play on Zoom:

The Peanut and I brainstormed some games to play with the kids. These are easy enough to do with just a whiteboard or large paper pad:

1. The Ultimate Rock, Paper, Scissors Tournament:

We made an official bracket on the whiteboard with all the guests' names paired up for the contest. Pair by pair, the Peanut would call their names.

The kids played rock, paper, scissors and the winner of 2 out of 3 won that portion of the bracket. They kept going until one guest was left as the official winner of the tournament.

We brainstormed several Trolls-themed words: Guy Diamond, Glitter, Poppy, etc. Then the Peanut called out each guest in turn to guess a letter and move the game along.

3. Pictionary:

If you plan ahead, you could add a few drawing prompts to each guest's supplies bundle. The supplies included a notebook and markers for everyone to doodle on.

Brainstorm some actions based on your theme and add the slips of paper to the guests' supplies bundle.

Perfect for the younger kids celebrating birthdays. Have everyone hang some of the party supplies into their own backdrop and take turns spotting things for I Spy.


At age six months, my daughter Savannah was diagnosed with severe food allergies to milk, eggs and peanuts. Since then, we have strictly avoided all of those foods. Through the years, we have had few accidental exposures, and to my knowledge, she had never consumed an egg product.

Life Without Eggs

Savannah has never eaten mayonnaise or marshmallow fluff. We are often asked, “Can she eat egg substitute, like Egg Beaters?” The answer is a firm, “No, that’s still actually eggs.” She can have egg replacers, such as Ener-G Egg Replacer, but those of us in the egg-allergy world know that is not something you would eat for breakfast. In a controlled environment, Savannah has successfully received flu shots (some egg-allergic patients do not tolerate flu vaccines, which use eggs in the manufacturing process).

Getting Ready for the Challenge

When Savannah turned six last year, our allergist told us that she had reached the age that we could try a baked egg challenge. If she passed the food challenge, she would be able to eat fully baked or processed eggs in the form of most baked goods, such as bread, cakes, muffins and brownies. Baked goods that wouldn’t be considered safe are quiche, angel food cake, breads that are brushed with egg-white (so they look shiny and pretty in the display case), meringues, egg custards (such as flan and crème brulee), or anything else that might have a high concentration of eggs. She would also be able to eat egg noodles.

I’ve met other allergy moms whose kids have had successful baked egg challenges, and that was encouraging. Some of them went on to have successful scrambled egg challenges. Even more encouraging. Risky? Yes, but we felt comfortable that Savannah was in good hands in the controlled doctor’s office environment, so we decided to move forward this week with the baked egg challenge.

Savannah seemed very excited about our appointment, probably because she loves to watch Youtube videos of people making baked goods, many which contain eggs. But, she has never been able to eat those same recipes. If she passed the baked egg challenge, it could open up some new options that she couldn’t have before. Additionally, it could lower her risk of accidental exposure to the allergen.

For our appointment, I made a 9” round chocolate cake that contained one small egg. Knowing the process would last a few hours, I came prepared with magazines, a coloring book, and an iPad. When we arrived, our doctor spoke to us about what to expect, the stats, and the risks. We were told that 70% of egg-allergic patients can tolerate baked egg. For the test, Savannah would consume precisely measured amounts of the cake every 15 minutes, six times, increasing the amount of cake each time. She would be closely monitored for any allergic reactions. The staff would be coming in and out of the office throughout the process, checking her skin, breathing, heart rate, blood pressure and her mouth (for any swelling). In between each round, if we needed help, I could push the nurse’s call button on the wall.

Let Her Eat Cake!

The first serving was a few itty bitty crumbs of cake. No reaction. Yay! Second serving, no reaction. Yay! Third serving, no reaction. Yay! By now she had watched one episode of Fresh Beat Band and played several rounds of Temple Run. Fourth serving, no reaction. Savannah says, “Mmmm, this cake is so yummy!” Yay! But, she was really bored and wanted to go home (Sorry, not yet Sweetie).

Fifth serving, no reaction. Yay! By then I was thinking about baking her a dairy-free gooey butter cake (one recipe that I still hadn’t mastered egg-free).

While we were waiting, my hubby had called to ask how it was going. I told him very well, so far no reactions. I then told him I would call him back later, as they were getting ready to give her the sixth serving of cake.

This last serving was the size of one small bite of cake. Like the previous doses, the nurse fed Savannah the cake on a tongue depressor, then left the room. I then turned to go back to reading my Better Homes and Gardens magazine. But before I sat down, I said, “Savannah, do you want me to call Daddy back?” She looked at me and said, “No.” And that’s when I saw the fear in her eyes. I had seen that look once before, at age 4, when she had an accidental exposure to milk in a supposedly vegan cookie. Not good.

Checking the Signs and Symptoms

I said, “Do you feel sick?” She said, “Yes.” I called the nurse into our room. Savannah was nauseous and had chills. Her mouth was salivating and she thought she was going to vomit. She wanted to go home. She wanted me to hug her tight. She started to cry, which brought tears to my eyes as well. She was scared, and so was I.

The doctor came in and looked at her skin and mouth, both fine. Her blood pressure was still normal. All good signs that she was not experiencing anaphylaxis. But the nausea and other GI symptoms were definitely the indicator: she would not pass the baked egg challenge today.

What Happened Next?

The nurse administered a dose of Benedryl, and Savannah immediately felt better. Thank God! But we had to wait another hour to make sure the worst had passed. During that time, I think she felt the same thing I did…relieved she was going to be okay, but disappointed that she didn’t pass.

Before we left the doctor’s office, he gave us a prescription for an anti-nausea medication in case she needed it that evening (she didn’t). His last instructions were to give her another dose of Benedryl when we got home, to watch her the rest of the evening, and to call back in the morning to give him an update. That was it. The entire process took four hours.

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da!

While it is disappointing that it didn’t work out, we are all okay with it. Savannah has lived without eggs her entire life. We’ve become experts at replacing eggs in our baked goods. To accommodate people with egg allergies, several products are available, including Veganaise, Ricemellow, Oreos and Whole Foods 365 brand frozen waffles. Instead of decorating Easter eggs, we decorate dairy-free, egg-free and nut-free Easter cookies.

Life is still sweet, and we’re going to enjoy each and every blessed moment.


20 Recipes That Are Perfect for an Elegant Afternoon Tea Party

A previously elegant social event that is now a gathering for all, the tradition of serving afternoon tea dates back to the 1840s in Britain. While it's hard to pinpoint exactly when, or why, the tradition of afternoon tea started, many reports link it to Anna, the Duchess of Bedford. The Duchess was said to have had mid-afternoon hunger pains and wanted to fill the long period of time between lunch and dinner with small bites such as finger sandwiches and sweets, as well as tea. Within a few decades, the event became a parade of pageantry, where hosts could show off their impressive collection of china, fine linens, and exquisite taste in the form of pricy teas and dainty fare.

You don't need to be a duchess to take afternoon tea. Grand hotels offer it, so do some restaurants and cafés, but we think this grand tradition is best enjoyed in the comfort of your own home. In addition to serving a selection of teas, a variety of small foods, both savory and sweet, are essential. Our recipes will give you a sense of what to serve at your next afternoon tea.

Considering the British history of this event, scones are must. Rhubarb-Buckwheat Scones and Herb-Cheddar Scones offer something for everyone. And what's afternoon tea without cucumber sandwiches (the two are practically synonymous)? An open-faced Scandinavian Shrimp-and-Cucumber Sandwich has a gorgeous mix of bright colors and Vegan Cucumber Tea Sandwiches won't make the dairy-averse feel left out.

Care for something sweet? Rose Raspberry Macarons, while technically French, are a delight to eat. Other special occasion sweets include Polka-Dot Petit Fours, Orange Madeleines, and Mini Chocolate Cakes with Dark-Chocolate Ganache. Set a couple of hours aside in the afternoon to enjoy tasteful blends of tea and treats (oh, and keep those pinkies down&mdashit's an antiquated habit!).


Professional Chefs Share Their Favorite Simple Baking Recipes

Efforts to flatten the coronavirus curve by social distancing means more time at home for many of us. Baking is a great outlet for keeping your hands (and mind) busy, with the benefit of fresh-baked, from-scratch goodness at the end of it all. The below recipes are straightforward to make and primarily composed of pantry staples, meaning that if you don’t already have these ingredients on hand, you’ll just need to pick up a few additional things on your next grocery trip or delivery.

Choco Toffee Cookies

Recipe by Greg Rales, owner and baker of Red Gate Bakery

“The chocolate chip cookie is everyone’s favorite comfort food and uses up all those pantry staples you have around from your last baking adventure,” Rales said. “Turn the volume all the way up with chunks of toffee and gooey bits of chopped chocolate for a decadent treat. The hardest part will of course be waiting for them to cool before you dive in.”

The owner of the intimate East Village bake shop added that you can substitute the toffee bar with even more chocolate in case you’re unable to find it in stores and don’t have it on hand. “You’ll lose a bit of crunch, but by varying different cacao percentages between two chocolates (or more!) you can achieve a great depth of flavor,” Rales said.

Recipe for Choco Toffee Cookies

Yields approximately 12 large cookies

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Ingredients:

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

2 large eggs, room temperature

3 oz (1/2 c) chocolate-covered toffee bar (Trader Joe’s makes a great one), chopped

8 oz (1 c) bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

Cream together both sugars with the butter until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Your arms will thank you if you don’t have an electric mixer! You’re looking for a noticeably lighter, creamy result, where sugar has nearly dissolved.

Add eggs one at a time, making sure to scrape down the sides between each addition.

Add all of the dry ingredients and mix just to combine. Fold in both the chopped toffee and chocolate.

Using a 4-ounce scoop, scoop mounds of dough onto a baking tray, at least 2 inches apart. Sprinkle with flaky salt.

Bake cookies for 15 minutes, rotating the pan from top to bottom and front to back halfway through. If you, like me, are into crinkly edges, rap the pan against the rack in the oven during rotation to deflate the centers and create ripples toward the edge of each cookie.

Credit: Anna Francese Gass

Homemade Pop Tarts

“These days, I am spending A LOT of time with my kids,” Gass said. “It’s a great time to create fun, pantry-friendly desserts to break up the day and keep us in good spirits. One of my favorite breakfasts or desserts for the kids (and fun-loving adults) is my homemade pop tarts. I have everything I need at home and they come together in less than an hour.”

The cookbook author always has frozen roll out pie dough in her freezer because of its versatility. In addition to pop tarts, she uses frozen pie dough for chicken pot pie, apple hand pies and more. As for fillings, she simply uses what she has in her pantry. “My kids love chocolate hazelnut spread, so a few always end up filled with chocolate,” Gass said. “Jams and jellies are also great to use up here. The trick with fruit jams, though, is to add in a bit of cornstarch to avoid it oozing out. Finally, a few get a cinnamon and brown sugar filling because those truly bring me back to childhood!”

Recipe for Homemade Pop Tarts

Ingredients:

2 roll out pie crusts, rolled out and shaped into rectangles

1 c chocolate hazelnut spread

1/4 c flour (for rolling out dough)

Make fillings. Make jam filling by mixing your favorite jam with cornstarch. Make brown sugar filling by mixing brown sugar, flour and cinnamon. The chocolate hazelnut spread is ready to go as-is.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cut premade dough into equal 5 x 4-inch squares.

Cover half of the dough squares with the various fillings.

Cover the filled dough squares with the remaining squares.

Press down the edges of the dough with the tins of a fork. Make an “X” with a sharp knife over each tart.

Place tarts on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake for 20 minutes, then let cool.

(Optional) Mix confectioners’ sugar with water to make a sugar glaze. Top pop tarts with glaze and sprinkles.

Crinkle Top Brownie Bites

Crinkle Top Brownie Bites

“These brownie bites are made entirely of pantry staples and require almost no time to make,” Dalkin said. “It’s basically like those incredible boxed brownies from the store but they’re homemade. If you don’t have a mini cupcake tin to make these, use a regular muffin tin and just increase the baking time by about 5-7 minutes.”

Recipe for Crinkle Top Brownie Bites

Ingredients:

3/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and spray a mini cupcake tin with nonstick baking spray.

Melt the butter in a medium pot. Once melted, add the sugar, cocoa powder and salt and mix until smooth. Remove from heat.

Add the vanilla and eggs and combine. Add the flour and chocolate chips and mix until no more flour is visible.

Using a spoon, scoop the brownie mixture into the mini cupcake tin and bake for 12-15 minutes.

Run a knife along the edge of the mini brownie bites to lift them out of the pan.

Let brownies cool on a cooling rack before serving.

My Go-To Banana Bread

Recipe by Dominique Ansel, excerpted from Everyone Can Bake: Simple Recipes to Master & Mix (Simon & Schuster, 2020)

This recipe comes straight from the cronut creator’s cookbook Everyone Can Bake , which comes out on April 14. A project that’s three years in the making, the book focuses on the basic building blocks of baking and is filled with Ansel’s go-to home cook-friendly recipes for bases, fillings and finishings, allowing home bakers to get creative and mix and match recipes to make their own unique desserts.

“I tasted banana bread for the first time when I moved to America,” Ansel writes. “Even though it’s traditionally baked in a loaf pan, I loved its flavor so much that I thought it could be a component to build even more desserts. Its forgiving texture—moist and easy to slice—allowed me to experiment with it. I built it into layer cakes. I added ingredients like pumpkin, strawberry and zucchini, and I loved those variations, too.”

Recipe for My Go-To Banana Bread

Yields: One 8-inch (20 cm) round cake or one 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch (21 x 11 cm) loaf cake

Ingredients:

400 g (2 c) granulated sugar

250 g (2 c) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

400 g (2 c or about 4) overripe bananas, peeled and mashed

200 g (14 Tbsp or 1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing

Preheat the oven to 350 °F (175 °C).

Butter the bottom, sides and edges of an 8-inch (20 cm) round cake pan or 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch (21 x 11 cm) loaf pan. Pour in some flour and shake it around until the pan is evenly coated, then tap out any excess flour. If you’re using a loaf pan, you can line the bottom and sides with parchment paper instead of buttering and flouring it. (This makes cleanup a little easier.)

Combine the sugar, flour, baking soda, nutmeg, salt and baking powder in a large bowl.

Whisk the eggs in a separate large bowl. Mix in the mashed bananas.

Pour the egg mixture over the dry ingredients and whisk until well combined. Stir in the melted butter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, filling it to 3/4 inch (2 cm) from the top (you may have extra batter). Bake until the cake is golden brown, about 1 hour.

There are 3 ways to check if it’s done:

Jiggle it: The cake should wiggle a little in the middle. If it wiggles a lot, it’s not ready.

Nudge it: Press the top gently it should bounce back to your touch.

Poke it:Stick a toothpick or paring knife into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, it’s done.

Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes. While the cake is still warm, turn it out of the pan.

Let cool completely if using it to build a layer cake. Otherwise, slice and eat while still warm.

The banana bread can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap or placed in an airtight container and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days. For longer storage, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, place in an airtight container, and freeze for up to 3 weeks. To use the frozen banana bread, remove it from the airtight container and transfer it to the refrigerator (still in the plastic wrap) to thaw for at least 3 hours or up to overnight, until the banana bread is soft again.

Lemon Shortbread Cookies

Recipe by Caroline Schiff, pastry chef at Gage & Tollner .

“These buttery rounds are incredibly comforting, especially right now, and with a cup of tea are just the thing we need,” said Schiff, the pastry chef of the historic Brooklyn oyster and chop house which has had to postpone its grand reopening following a 15-year closure.

Recipe for Lemon Shortbread Cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

2/3 c powdered sugar, sifted

2 Tbsp poppy seeds (optional)

2 c all-purpose flour, sifted

Flaky sea salt (optional) and granulated sugar for dusting

In a mixing bowl, beat the butter with a wooden spoon or handheld electric mixer until creamy.

Add the lemon zest and juice and mix to combine. Add the powdered sugar and poppy seeds (if using).

Beat until all the sugar is incorporated and the butter is light and fluffy. It should be a uniform mixture.

Gently incorporate the flour and kosher salt, folding until the mixture is uniform.

Shape the dough into a log about 8 inches long, wrap it in plastic and chill for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit with the racks in the center.

Allow the dough to sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes, and then slice it into 1/4-inch thick rounds.

Dust each round in the extra granulated sugar and transfer them to 2 parchment paper-lined sheet pans, baking 9 cookies per tray at a time.

Bake cookies for 8 minutes, then rotate the pans 180 degrees and top each cookie with a little flaky sea salt if using. Bake for another 8 minutes.

The cookies are done when still light in color, with a touch of golden brown around the edges.

Let the cookies cool fully on the sheet trays before eating or boxing them up. They’ll keep for about 4 days in an airtight bag or container.

Credit: Fields Good Chicken

Recipe by Dan Jackson, director of culinary at Fields Good Chicken

This spruced-up cornbread recipe from the fast casual chicken-centric restaurant group based in New York City is straightforward and customizable. Jackson notes that if you’re low on baking powder or baking soda, you can use a boxed cornbread mix with leavening agents. “There are many high quality options available—I like Bob’s Red Mill the best. They also make a great gluten-free mix.”

For a perfectly golden brown, crispy crust, “Make sure to get your cast iron skillet screaming hot in the oven,” Jackson said. The Eleven Madison Park alum added that cornbread is incredibly versatile and you can switch up the flavors by adding ingredients like jalapeño, scallions, cooked and crumbled bacon, fresh corn, roasted garlic, coconut milk instead of regular milk (for extra creaminess), roasted tomatoes, mascarpone cheese, pumpkin puree, etc.

Recipe for Cornbread

Ingredients:

20-oz box of your favorite cornbread mix

1/4 c shredded Cheddar cheese

3-4 Tbsp butter, oil or bacon fat to grease the skillet

1/2 c extra virgin olive oil

1/8 c shredded Cheddar cheese (to sprinkle on top)

Preheat a well-seasoned cast iron skillet in an oven set to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (cornbread mix, Cheddar cheese, kosher salt, cayenne pepper), making sure to coat the cheese in the cornbread mix.

In a separate smaller bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients (eggs, milk, olive oil).

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and gently mix until just combined.

Carefully remove the hot cast iron skillet from the oven. Add the butter, oil or bacon fat. Let it melt, then add the batter and spread it in an even layer.

Bake for about 15 minutes, top with reserved Cheddar cheese, then bake for another 5 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Serve warm with butter and/or honey.

Credit: Goldenrod Pastries

Pantry Pound Cake

Recipe by Angela Garbacz, owner of Goldenrod Pastries

The Lincoln, Nebraska, bakery owner has fond memories of her mom making this cake growing up. “She made it as a poppy seed bundt cake, with imitation almond and butter extracts,” Garbacz said. “I always told people it was a lemon poppy seed cake and she finally overheard me saying that and said, ‘You know there’s no lemon in this cake, right?’ I didn’t know that.”

Garbacz added that you can make this cake “just about any flavor you want, just don’t add extra liquid or more flour. You can add fruit, spices, nuts—whatever you have that sounds great. We make this with cardamom at my bakery, Goldenrod Pastries. We also make it with lemon and orange zests and poppy seeds. Use what you have. It’s great without any added ingredients, too.”

Recipe for Pantry Pound Cake

Yields One 9 x 5-inch loaf cake

Ingredients:

2 1/2 c granulated sugar, plus 2 Tbsp for dusting loaf pan

1 1/4 c neutral oil (we use vegetable oil)

1 1/2 c milk (use the milk you drink—any kind is fine)

1 tsp vanilla or almond extract (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Spray a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with nonstick spray. Add the 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar to the sprayed pan and shake it around so the pan is coated with a thin layer of sugar. This will help the cake release later on.

Add all the ingredients to a mixing bowl and mix together using a whisk or spoon. Mix for 5 minutes. If you have a stand mixer, add the ingredients to the mixing bowl and mix on medium speed with the paddle attachment for 5 minutes. If you want to add any fruit, nuts, or spices, now is the time to fold those in.

Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for 60 minutes, or until light golden brown on top. You know your cake is done when the edges are starting to release from the sides of the pan, and when you gently poke the top of the cake, it gives back slightly.

Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Run a butter knife around the sides of the pan to release the cake and gently unmold.

Eat warm, but if you want neat and clean slices, wait until fully cooled.

Sourdough Bread

Recipe by Leigh Omilinsky, executive pastry chef at Bellemore , Swift & Sons and Cold Storage

With more time at home, Omilinsky is baking bread every day as she finds it grounding and “really kind of magical.”

If you’ve always wanted to try making bread from scratch but never have, now is the perfect time. “I think this is a time to futz around with things that maybe you were scared to make before. I mean, if you mess it up, so what? You’re alone in your house! Plus, if it works, you can then feel kinda fancy and accomplished while alone in your house.”

Recipe for Sourdough Bread

To start a starter:

Mix the flour and yeast until it’s combined in 80 °F water.

Cover and place the mixture in a plastic container or large glass bowl. Cover the plastic container with a lid or cover the glass bowl with plastic wrap. Whatever container you choose, make sure there’s room for the starter to grow.

Leave the starter at room temperature for 4-7 days. It should be bubbly and sour-smelling (in a good way) when it’s ready. If it turns funny colors, throw it away and start over.

For the dough:

1 c whole wheat flour (optional, any flour works)

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon until it’s mostly together. It’ll be a ball, but kind of shaggy still.

Let sit, covered with plastic, overnight.

In the morning, pour the dough out and smoosh together and push it into a ball, tucking the shaggy bits underneath so the top becomes a ball.

Put the dough in a bowl lined with a towel that is dusted with flour. Cover and let sit at room temperature for another 9-10 hours.

To bake, line a cast iron or Dutch oven with parchment.

Dump out the proofed dough onto the parchment, keeping its shape. At this point, you can score it with a knife to make pretty designs.

Bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit, covered, for 20 minutes.

Uncover and bake for another 30 minutes.

To finish, bake right on the wire rack for another 10 minutes.

Cool the bread, then slice.

I’ve been planning trips around notable eateries and the buzziest new dishes even before my food writing career began as an associate editor at The Daily Meal, where I

I’ve been planning trips around notable eateries and the buzziest new dishes even before my food writing career began as an associate editor at The Daily Meal, where I reported on food and drink news and wrote longer form culinary travel features. After TDM I moved on to a content editor position at Google where I wrote Zagat content – both reviews and blog posts – as well as copy that appears in Google Maps and Google Earth. For Forbes I cover a wide range of food and drink topics, from interviews with chefs and artisanal makers to national dining trends.