Banana Bourbon Bread

Have I *ever* got a treat for you. It's a recipe courtesy of Tracey Ceurvels, author of The NYC Kitchen Cookbook.

It's a recipe for a little something called banana bourbon bread. Because if, like me, you've ever found yourself eating a boring, G-rated banana bread and found yourself wishing for it to be at least PG-13, this is the solution. 

This recipe doesn't mess around. It's simple and to the point, letting the sweet banana and the bracing bourbon flavors come together and caramelize while they bake, yielding a delicious and sophisticated banana bread for your anytime-eating delight. As Tracey says in her headnote, "The scent of this cake baking in the oven is intoxicating. I often make two and keep one in the freezer for when friends visit. Serve this cake as is or with ice cream, whipped cream, or icing." 

Let's not be silly, Tracey, we're always going to serve it with one or all of the three latter suggestions. :-) 

As for the book--Tracey has done something very cool here, not necessarily offering recipes for NYC classic dishes only, but celebrating the ingredients and resources in her NYC home and creating thoughtful dishes based on her favorite vendors and shops. It's a great volume with lots of tasty-sounding recipes; check it out here

Banana Bourbon Bread

Makes 1 loaf

  • 1⁄3 cup melted butter, plus extra to grease pan
  • 4 ripe bananas
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon (I recommend Four Roses Bourbon)
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 11⁄2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons cardamom or Cake Spice from Penzeys Spices
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt

Butter a loaf pan and preheat oven to 350°F. Combine bananas, egg, bourbon, and vanilla in a bowl and mash together. Add the melted butter and mash until combined. Then, add the remaining ingredients and mix until thoroughly combined. Pour batter into loaf pan. Bake for 55 minutes. 

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake Pie

In case you hadn't heard the word, CakeSpy is 10 years old. As such, I've been revisiting some of my all time favorite recipes. Today? COOKIE CAKE PIE.

OK, so the Cookie Cake Pie I made in 2009 really kind of went viral, you guys. It was featured all over the interwebz and believe it or not, it even has its own Wikipedia entry (yes, proud moment). 

I mean, it was a brilliant idea. The basic premise was "cookies? cake? pie? why decide?". Genius might not be quite the right word, but it's the first one that comes to mind.

I decided the other day it was about time that I make it again. I didn't refer back to the old recipe, but instead just kind of winged it and kept it simple, with a construction punctuated with plenty of chocolate chips. It tasted just as good as I remembered.

The nice thing about this recipe is that you can make it using whatever components you like. Use your favorite pie crust, cookie dough, cake batter, and frosting. It can all be store bought or homemade. The bake time can vary but just keep an eye on the thing and you'll be fine.

Give this baby a try, if you never have! It's a little naughty, incredibly high carb, and intensely delicious. 

COOKIE CAKE PIE

Makes 1 pie

  • 1 unbaked pie crust
  • Cookie dough 
  • 1 box cake mix, batter mixed to package specifications 
  • A big ol batch of frosting (I used a can of Funfetti Frosting, but sadly I had poached the sprinkles from it so I had to use edible glitter to garnish)

Start by preheating the oven. I preheated to 350, because that's just always a good moderate place to start.

Place your cookie dough in the pie crust. Me, I happened to have about 10 portions of this "egg free" cookie dough so I just plopped them right in the crust. There were two types, whole wheat and all purpose flour cookie dough, I figured a little extra health couldn't hurt, right? 

On top of the cookie dough, pour a big ole bunch of the cake batter. Me, I used vanilla cake batter but stirred in a handful of chocolate chips to help it match the cookie dough. Now, this is important: you probably will not need the entire batch of batter, particularly depending on how full the crust is after the cookie dough. Basically, don't overfill. You can use that extra to bake some cupcakes or make pancakes, you know? 

Put your pie unit into the oven. Bake until golden on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. For me, this took about 30 minutes, but depending on the type of cake batter and cookie dough you use, plus your oven, this could vary. Use your senses. 

Remove from the oven, let cool, then frost (generously). Garnish with sprinkles, edible glitter, whatever feels great to you. 

Serve in big fat slices. Thank your lucky stars that you've tasted this and can die happy now.

What kind of cookie cake pie flavor combo would you like to make?

BIG MAGICAL NEWS

Guess what, my sweet friends? As a Happy 10 Years of CakeSpy anniversary present to me, you, and the world, I've been hired to do something VERY VERY SPECIAL YES ALL CAPS NEEDED. Please watch: 

OMG, right? I am writing the book I was born to write and illustrate, about UNICORNS! It's very hard to not die right now. Of happiness.

Now, this book is going to be a little different from what I usually do. It has a few recipes, but it's NOT a recipe book. It is an illustrated humor book that is basically a unicorn's guide to life. While intended for adults, it's totally appropriate for kids, too.

Here's a preview of the cover.

And guess what? It's already available for pre-order. LUCKY YOU! 

Pre-order Stuff Unicorns Love here.

CakeSpy is 10 Years Old Today!

My blog is going into the 5th grade. It's practically a tween. And I couldn't be prouder. 

My first post on this blog was on August 1, 2007. It was a very different time than today, when "blog" was not a well known word at all. Basically, within a month or two of starting a blog I had probably "networked" with every single other food blogger out there. I may be exaggerating a bit, but compared to today, it was a very small world. 

I am thankful that I started my blog when I did.

This is partially because if I started it today, I am not sure if I would stand out. This isn't because I don't think I'm special, it's just that there are so MANY blogs now, and all of them are so beautiful. I mean, it's like flipping through an Anthropologie catalog when you visit some of the food blogs out there! It's inspiring, but as a newbie, I think I might have found it intimidating, as well.

When I started CakeSpy, what set my blog apart was two things.

First, I was very laissez-faire about baking (I had actually just started baking in earnest, since I'd just gotten a stand mixer as a wedding present) and loved doing all sorts of kooky experiments like "how NOT to ship a cupcake" and "cereal treat wars" and "Little Debbie death match". Funny stuff.

Second, my artwork. Not many other bloggers were also illustrators, so to feature my L'il Cuppie character (now just Cuppie) was something really different. 

Within a year of starting my blog, Cuppie was kind of an internet celebrity. I did all sorts of paintings of him (yes him) and sold them on Etsy, which was also new around that time. I did a lot of paintings for people--Cuppie all over the world, Cuppie in custom scenes requested by people, Cuppie with people's dogs, etc, etc.

Among my favorite requests ever? A painting featuring (I kid you not) two cupcakes in their underwear, eating soup and watching Dawson's Creek, "with a cat playing with some yarn nearby".

I mean, to get just a small idea of how many paintings I have created, check out this Flickr gallery

People loved Cuppie. They made tributes to him. Readers sent me crafts, drawings, and sculptures of Cuppie. Cuppie was used as part of marriage proposals. Videos were made:

More than one reader even got a tattoo:

Now, I don't know if it is quite possible to explain how it feels, as an artist, to see your work / character have such an impact. It's humbling. It's unbelievable. It's incredible. I appreciate every single thing that people made, every single painting that I was commissioned to do, and everyone who loved and loves Cuppie.

In less than 2 years of starting my blog, I was able to quit my job working for a refrigerator magnet company to do this full time. 

Over the years, CakeSpy has changed a lot.

My photography has gotten better, my illustration style has changed a bit, and I have gained more prowess in baking, though I still feel in many ways like a beginner. 

Me, circa...2009, I think! My hair is about 2 feet longer now. 

Me, circa...2009, I think! My hair is about 2 feet longer now. 

I've had so many amazing experiences and opportunities through this blog. I've had art shows. I've had travel opportunities. I've developed recipes for major companies. I've met Ben of Ben and Jerry, Martha Stewart, Jay and Silent Bob...

2011! 

2011! 

the Pillsbury Dough boy (yes, I got into trouble for hugging him "too hard" here):

2012!

2012!

and more. I've written books! I've been on the cover of magazines! My artwork has been in movies! My first book was featured on the Today Show! For a few years, I even owned a retail gallery in Seattle!

Things have changed personally, too. When I started out my blog, I lived in Seattle. Since then I have lived in Philadelphia, Santa Fe, Asheville NC, and am now about to move back to Philadelphia. Whew! 

My blog outlasted my marriage, which is kind of funny and in other ways heartbreakingly sad. I have "come out" as a disordered eater, and share my recovery struggles here. I've had bangs, I've grown out my hair, I've had favorite outfits come and go. 

I don't know if I have quite enough words to thank everyone who has played a part in the wonderful unfolding process that is CakeSpy. Because more than just about anything else, the best part of this site has been the people. The people who read the site, the other bloggers I've met, the companies I've worked with. The people have been like the salt in baked goods: that thing that transforms it from a good thing into pure magic. 

I still don't know where the journey will lead, but I am so happy to still be on it after all these years.

2015! Me and my bro Ben (of Ben and Jerry's)

2015! Me and my bro Ben (of Ben and Jerry's)

August is a pretty special month for me: it's the blog's anniversary on the first, and my own birthay on the 26th, so I basically feel like it's MY month. Please, come back often this month as I repost some of the best posts from over the years and tell you all about what I decide to bake for my birthday! 

OH! And don't forget to pre-order The Cupcake Coloring Book, my latest coloring book volume which features Cuppie the Cupcake! 

Happy birthday to CakeSpy! 

Naturally Sweet Banana Muffins (No Added Sugar)

It has happened, you guys. I baked something without sugar.  Don't worry, I haven't gone paleo or "healthy" on you or anything. It just sort of happened.

I found a recipe for no-sugar added banana muffins online, and I got curious about the concept, so I decided to try it. In my mind, it was less about making muffins without sugar and more about making little banana bread rolls that let the natural sweetness of the bananas shine through.

I love cake for breakfast, but I can't eat it all that often because my brain feels foggy mid-morning (sad but true). Don't get me wrong, I still love to do it as a treat on occasion (particularly the day after my birthday!).

This recipe, however, offers a good solution for when I need to use my brain but want something more interesting than plain toast.

Just for the record, I'm not even calling these dessert. I'm not in any way or form saying that you should substitute these for dessert. They're more like bread; I found them very pleasant for breakfast, particularly with a little bit of peanut butter on top. 

If you feel like making a nice little batch of these and enjoying them for breakfast all week long, join me! They're tasty and perfect for topping with all sorts of tasty stuff as you would toast. 

Banana muffins with no sugar added

Makes 12 muffins

  • 4 large ripe bananas
  • 1/4 cup oil (I used coconut oil) or melted butter
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (can just use cinnamon, too)
  • 1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease or place muffin/cupcake liners in a 12 cup muffin pan.

Using clean hands, mash the bananas in a large bowl. Add the oil/butter, egg, vanilla, and spice (I add the spice now because I feel like it infuses better this way). Give it a stir with a wooden spoon to combine.

In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Add them to the wet mixture and stir only until evenly moistened. It’s gonna be somewhat lumpy.

Divide the batter evenly between the muffin tin.

Bake in your preheated oven for 14-20 minutes (big range here because my oven runs very hot so it was on the low end), or until golden and a toothpick inserted inside comes out pretty clean. Remove from the oven, let cool in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Do you like banana baked goods? 

Aquafaba Lemon Meringue Pie

Guess what? There's no egg white on top of this lemon meringue pie. That's freaking chickpea water! (AKA "aquafaba", but I think you know which name I prefer). 

Image credit: Colin Erricson

Image credit: Colin Erricson

It's from the new book Aquafabulous! 100+ Egg-Free Vegan Recipes Using Aquafaba by Rebecca Coleman © 2017.  The publisher, Robert Rose, was kind enough to share this recipe for excerpt. 

Believe it or not, this pie is totally vegan! No eggs were employed in the recipe at all. I find that kind of incredible, don't you? 

But I digress. Let's hear what the author has to say, then get to the recipe! 

"I love lemon curd. Although it’s normally made with butter and eggs, olive oil works very well here to replace the fat of the butter, and the curd is thickened with cornstarch instead of egg yolks. I challenge you to feed this to your omnivore friends and have them tell the difference."

Before you bake, assemble/do the following: 

•    Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C)

•    Stand mixer fitted with wire whisk attachment

•    9-inch (23 cm) pie plate

•    Propane or butane torch (see Tips, at left)

Crust

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour  (250 mL)
  • 1⁄2 tsp salt (2 mL)
  • 1⁄4 cup vegetable oil  (60 mL)
  • 2 tbsp cold water (30 mL)

Lemon Curd

  • 1⁄3 cup water (75 mL)
  • 1⁄3 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk (75 mL)
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch  (15 mL)
  • 6 tbsp granulated sugar (90 mL)
  • Pinch salt 
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 6 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice 90 mL (about 2 to 3 lemons)
  • 1⁄4 cup olive oil (60 mL)

Meringue

  • 1⁄3 cup aquafaba (75 mL)
  • 1⁄3 cup granulated sugar (75 mL)
  • 1⁄4 tsp cream of tartar (1 mL)

1.    Crust: In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Add vegetable oil and stir well. Add water and stir to combine. If the mixture seems too dry, add a bit more water until it sticks together and forms a cohesive ball. The mixture should not be very sticky on the outside.

2.    Roll mixture into a ball and place it in the center of a large sheet of wax or parchment paper. Place another sheet of paper overtop. Using a rolling pin, roll out to desired thickness (and so that crust is big enough to fit your pie plate with a little left over). Remove top layer of paper and flip upside down into pie plate. Trim.

3.    Bake pastry crust in middle of preheated oven until lightly golden brown and a bit crispy around the edges, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

4.    Lemon Curd: In a small bowl, combine water, non-dairy milk and cornstarch. Whisk well to combine. Pour into a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring well with a whisk, until it starts to bubble, about 5 minutes.

5.    Add sugar, salt, lemon zest, lemon juice and olive oil. Continue to cook, whisking, until it thickens and bubbles, about 3 to 5 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when it coats the back of a spoon and you can run your finger through it without it running back together. Transfer to a separate bowl, cover and let cool in the fridge.

6.    Meringue: In mixer bowl, combine aquafaba, sugar and cream of tartar. Set mixer speed to low and beat for 2 minutes. Turn speed up to medium and beat for 2 minutes. Set to highest speed and beat mixture until fluffy and peaks form, about 4 to 6 minutes. It will have a similar texture to marshmallow fluff.

7.    Spread lemon curd in an even layer in pie shell. Top with meringue. With torch at full blast, holding it 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm) from surface, toast top of meringue until golden brown. Serve immediately.

Tips

You can make individual lemon meringue tarts by following the same process, substituting a 12-cup muffin pan for the pie plate.

The pie crust and lemon filling can be made up to 1 day in advance and stored in an airtight container in the fridge, but the meringue should be made shortly before serving.

Payday Cookie Bars

Listen, I my 12 year old self feels uncool saying this. BUT...my favorite candy bar is the Payday bar.

Happily, my 35 year old self feels a lot better about proudly declaring my Payday love with the world. But at 12, in a world where the biggest candy bar debate was Snickers v. Milky Way, I always felt like I should stay silent, preferring a non-chocolate containing candy bar like I did. 

Doubly happy: as an adult I have my own kitchen to make my own Payday-inspired concoctions. These cookie bars are made with a melange of caramel, marshmallow, peanut butter, and salty peanuts, which rest atop a shortbread-like base. They are wonderful. They are sweet, salty, gooey, and ridiculously satisfying. They are like a dream never realized by my 12 year old self, but that tastes perfect in my mid-30s. 

If you love Payday bars like I do, give these babies a try. You won't regret it! They're pretty darned easy to make.

Of course, if you're not a Payday fan, please leave this site and never come back. 

Payday Cookie Bars

Makes one 9x9-inch pan (you decide how many servings)

For the crust

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • pinch salt 

To top

  • 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (I used chunky but smooth would actually probably work better) 
  • 2 cups mini marshmallows 
  • 1 bag (11 ounces) caramel squares, unwrapped
  • 1 cup salted peanuts, divided
  • more salt, to top 

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Generously (and I mean DO NOT BE SHY) grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch square baking pan.

Make the crust. Cream the butter until nice and smooth; add the sugar and vanilla, and mix until fluffy. Add the flour and salt; mix until it comes together into a cohesive dough. Press into the bottom of that well greased pan.

Make the topping. In a large saucepan, combine the milk, peanut butter, mini marshmallows, and caramel candies. The mixture will first look monstrous.

Heat it over low-medium heat. It will continue to look awful for a while, but then will gradually melt into this.

Once melty, add in about half of the peanuts. 

Remove from heat, and spread evenly atop the cookie base. Scatter the remaining peanuts on top. Sprinkle with a little more salt on top if desired. 

Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, or until it's looking bubbly and "set" on the edges and the bottom looks slightly browned (there's no egg though so no need to be insane about it).

Remove and let cool before slicing. I found that slicing is kind of difficult unless they are at the perfect temperature, which is slightly cool but not cold. Be sure to wash the knife between slices to keep things from getting mega messy. 

What was your favorite candy bar as a kid? How bout now?

Rainbow Unicorn Pizza

Did you know that pizza is the only savory food that officially appears on the unicorn food pyramid?

Honestly, this fact alone speaks to the magical nature of pizza. But unlike humans, unicorns are not content to simply enjoy plain ol' yellow/beige pizza. They kick things up six notches by incorporating all of the colors of the rainbow.

Since you might have trouble lassoing a rainbow on your own, this recipe employs food coloring to tint the cheese. It still tastes like regular pizza, but it looks like a unicorn farted on it. Lucky you! 

 

RAINBOW UNICORN PIZZA 

Makes 1 pizza

  • 1 portion pizza dough, uncooked (your favorite recipe)
  • 2 tablespoons alfredo or white sauce
  • 6 ounces grated mozzarella cheese
  • Food coloring in as many colors as you want
  • Edible glitter and/or sprinkles (optional)

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees F.

Divide the cheese into as many equal portions as you want colors on your pizza.

Put each portion of cheese into a plastic bag. In each respective bag, squeeze a few drops of the food coloring color you want to tint it. Just an FYI: don't go too dark with the purple, because it can appear blackened once baked (as you can see in some of the photos). Still tasty though! 

Shake each bag vigorously to coat the cheese in your chosen color.

Spread/stretch your pizza dough to about 12 inches. Place it on a lightly oiled baking tray.

Spread the white sauce on top of the dough, leaving a perimeter around the edges for crust.

Scatter the cheese into strips across the surface of the pizza. While it might seem fun to scatter it all willy nilly, keeping the colors somewhat divided in their own sectors will make for the prettiest outcome.

Bake in the preheated oven until the cheese is browned to your liking; usually no more than 7-10 minutes.

Remove from the oven; if desired, add sprinkles. Slice into 8 wedges using a pizza cutter. Serve warm. Taste the rainbowwwww! 

Would you eat rainbow pizza?