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Craftsy Writer

Using Color to Convey Emotion in Art

Did you know that color can be a powerful way to show emotion in art? Beyond the obvious, here's an exploration of some of the ways color can bring your message clearly across, messy emotions and all. Read the entire post on Craftsy!


How to Draw and Paint Mixed Media Flowers

This is a fun and vibrant thing to discover as an artist: how to draw/paint a mixed media masterpiece featuring flowers. This is a tutorial I made for Craftsy, but it's tons of fun for all sorts of creative types. It doesn't include cake, it's true, but I can strongly suggest a slice of this rich cake topped with spiced pecans and pears to accompany it if you want something sweet to eat while you work. Here's the complete post about how to draw mixed media flowers.


Pillsbury Bake-Off Countdown: Cinnamon-Pumpkin Muffins

CakeSpy Note: OMG! It's getting to be that time of year again. The Pillsbury Bake-Off is coming in November! Since I so deeply loved attending the 45th Bake-Off as well as the 46th Bake-Off, I thought I would get you excited the 47th one early by sharing all of the sweet recipes in the running. I will focus on sweets! You can follow them by clicking the bakeoff tag below to see the recipes posted so far (as well as recipes from previous Bake-Off events). 

I famously consider muffins a waste of my time. My primary issue: they are just not cake.

However, every now and again a muffin comes along that I feel as if I could fit into my diet and life without much issue. Well, it certainly helps that Anna Zovko of Tampa, Florida includes sugar cookie dough in the batter! Plus, there is glaze. Now that's my kind of muffin.

Good luck at the Bake-Off!

Cinnamon-Pumpkin Muffins

  • Prep Time: 20 Min
  • Total Time: 1 Hr 5 Min
  • Makes: 12 muffins


  • 1 roll Pillsbury refrigerated sugar cookie dough
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 3/4 cup self-rising flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/3 cup cream cheese creamy ready-to-spread frosting


  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Let cookie dough stand at room temperature 10 minutes to soften. Place baking cups in each of 12 regular-size muffin cups.
  2. In large bowl, break up cookie dough. Add eggs and pumpkin. Beat with electric mixer on medium speed about 1 minute or until well blended. Add flour and 2 teaspoons of the cinnamon; beat on low speed about 30 seconds or until blended. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.
  3. In small bowl, mix sugar and remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon until blended. Sprinkle rounded 1/4 teaspoon sugar mixture over batter in each muffin cup.
  4. Bake 18 to 28 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 3 minutes; remove from pan to cooling rack. Cool at least 15 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, place frosting in medium resealable food-storage plastic bag. Cut off small corner of bag. Squeeze bag to drizzle frosting over each muffin. Store covered.



Immaculately Delicious: Immaculate Baking Company Mixes

Immaculate Baking Cookie Mix test

Not so very long ago, Immaculate Baking Company contacted me and asked if I would like to try some samples of their new, fairly virtuous cake mixes. Sure, I said. I love cake mix, it's true.

I was surprised when not long later, a huge box arrived. There was a lot of mix coming my way, I could plainly see.

Immaculate Baking Cookie Mix test


Immaculate Baking Cookie Mix test

And flour, too!

Immaculate Baking Cookie Mix test

Well, I figured I'd best get to baking to see what these cookies were all about. I got mildly bummed out by this: Immaculate Baking Cookie Mix test

Because truthfully...

But anyhow, I decided to start with cookies. Chocolate cookies, and they were gluten-free to boot. I don't know about you, but I actually get super excited about gluten free chocolate stuff. That means there's less "texture" getting in the way of my chocolate experience. 

So, I added the requisite ingredients (oil, eggs, etc).

Immaculate Baking Cookie Mix test

I mixed it all, and a nice dough formed. Immaculate Baking Cookie Mix test

I lined a baking sheet and set it up with rounds of dough. Aren't they beautiful?Immaculate Baking Cookie Mix test

For no particular reason, I added almonds on top of some of them. Immaculate Baking Cookie Mix test

I baked 'em up and here's how they looked.Immaculate Baking Cookie Mix test

The cookies were VERY soft after baking and tough to transfer until a few minutes had passed, but after 30 minutes on a wire rack, they had solidified and were ready to eat. Immaculate Baking Cookie Mix test

The gluten-free chocolate cookies came out very nicely. I loved how they became crispy on the edges but still retained a chewiness on the interior. The taste was assertively but not aggressively chocolate, which made it a nice cookie to combine with other dessert-stuffs: for instance, perfect bookends for an ice cream sandwich. I found that for stand-alone eating the cookies were a nice base, but benefitted from bonus additions: the almonds, and a sprinkling of sea salt, really made them come to life. But I should tell you: I'm a salt freak. It's true:

I also tried out the pancake mix as I was developing a recipe for bacon-filled pancakes, and I can't share that one yet, but I can tell you the mix was really quite good. 

Bacon pancakes

I say that Immaculate Baking Company's mixes are well worth a try--I can't wait to try out the cake mix to make Gooey butter cake!

Check 'em out: Immaculate Baking Company.


Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links!

Photo via Smart Girl AccessoriesTHIS SHIRT. I WANT IT I NEED IT. Via Smart Girl Accessories.

GIVEAWAY!! Win a copy of the cutest cookie decorating book ever.

I love this: root beer float cupcakes (that look like little mugs!)

"Krispie treat" style...but made with Honey nut cheerios and banana. Yum!

Craftsy cake decorating classes are on MEGA sale right now. Take advantage!

Sweets inspired by sopaipillas. Love it!

Passionfruit Meringue Coconut Cake. Try saying that five times fast!

Raw chocolate almond truffles. These sound good.

Interesting read for fall bakers: what is pumpkin pie spice, exactly?

Helpful for artists: how to digitally remove a paper background from an illustration in Photoshop.

Shortbread Nanaimo bars. Just as amazing as they sound.

A fascinating look back at the Columbian Exhibition of 1893 in Chicago - when many modern foods were debuted.

Clever Hen: a recent discovery of mine. A cute online shop with plenty of specialty baking products.

Bowl desserts. Live the dream. 

Book of the week: The Language of Food: A Linguist Reads the Menu. Want to know why we eat toast in the morning but make toasts in the evening? Read this book. An awesome look at food words from the point of view of a smarty-pants linguist.


Giveaway: Decorating Cookies Party by Bridget Edwards



It's Joanna, whose comment was chosen at random: "My favorite cookie EVER is a bar cookie that's a family recipe called "Revel Bars" ... they're an oatmeal cookie with a thick layer of fudge, and topped with dots of salty oatmeal cookie on top and they're to DIE for. Starbucks used to make a version of it that was not nearly as good."
Sounds like a tasty cookie to me!

Listen up. I want to give you a book!


I don't know if you're familiar with Bridget Edwards of Bake at 350, but if not, you're in for a treat. She is a cookie decorator ROYALE. And she is willing to teach you her secrets in two books: her previous release (which I loved) entitled Decorating Cookies: 60+ Designs for Holidays, Celebrations & Everyday, and now, her brand new book, Decorating Cookies Party: 10 Celebratory Themes. The new book includes 50 designs to be made from a few master cookie recipes (one of them is even gluten-free, people). 

So, you want to win the book?

All you have to do is tell me the following:

What is your favorite cookie in the world and why? 

Yes, that's an open ended question. It could be a store bought cookie, your grandma's recipe, or one you make. Just tell me why it's so special!

I'll choose a winner one week from today (that's Friday, October 3rd). Meantime, you can buy the book here if you need it ASAP! Since the publisher is sending this out directly, I'm honoring their request that the entrants for this giveaway have US or Canadian shipping addresses, please.


Pillsbury Bake-Off Countdown: Hot Chocolate-Marshmallow Cookies

CakeSpy Note: 
OMG! It's getting to be that time of year again. The Pillsbury Bake-Off is coming in November! Since I so deeply loved attending the 45th Bake-Off as well as the 46th Bake-Off, I thought I would get you excited the 47th one early by sharing all of the sweet recipes in the running. I will focus on sweets! You can follow them by clicking the bakeoff tag below to see the recipes posted so far (as well as recipes from previous Bake-Off events). 

What's better than hot chocolate with melty marshmallows? A cookie accompaniment, of course. These tasty treats take all the best parts of a hot chocolate experience and condense it into cookie form. The recipe was dreamed up by Sarah Meuser of New Milford, Connecticut...and on behalf of everyone, everywhere, I say "thank you"...and good luck at the Bake-Off!

Hot Chocolate-Marshmallow Cookies

  • Prep Time: 20 Min
  • Total Time: 55 Min
  • Makes: 12 cookies


  • 1 roll Pillsbury refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough
  • 1 cup chocolate hazelnut spread
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened baking cocoa
  • 3/4 teaspoon chili Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground Saigon Cinnamon
  • 6 large marshmallows, cut in half


  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Let cookie dough stand at room temperature 10 minutes to soften. Line 2 large cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In large bowl, break up cookie dough. Add hazelnut spread, cocoa, chili powder and cinnamon. Beat with electric mixer on low speed about 2 minutes or until well blended.
  3. Shape dough into 12 (2-inch) balls. Flatten each ball into 3-inch round. Shape 1 cookie dough round around 1 marshmallow half, covering completely. Repeat with remaining dough rounds and marshmallows. Place 2 inches apart on cookie sheets.
  4. Bake 10 to 13 minutes or until surface of cookie appears cracked and marshmallow shows through. Cool 5 minutes; remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks. Cool 5 minutes. Serve warm. Store tightly covered.

Pillsbury Bake-Off Countdown: Cherry-Orange Pull-Apart Breakfast Bread

CakeSpy Note: OMG! It's getting to be that time of year again. The Pillsbury Bake-Off is coming in November! Since I so deeply loved attending the 45th Bake-Off as well as the 46th Bake-Off, I thought I would get you excited the 47th one early by sharing all of the sweet recipes in the running. I will focus on sweets! You can follow them by clicking the bakeoff tag below to see the recipes posted so far (as well as recipes from previous Bake-Off events). 

I'll tell you what including cherries and orange in your breakfast bread means. That means it is health food. 

 But the best kind of health food ever, because it's accompanied by a generous amount of sugar and almond extract to make a dreamy carbohydratey treat! This feat of breakfast brilliance was dreamed up by Maria Rokas of San Francisco, California. Good luck at the Bake-Off!

Cherry-Orange Pull-Apart Breakfast Bread

  • Prep Time: 30 Min
  • Total Time: 1 Hr 40 Min
  • Makes: 8 servings


  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried cherries
  • 2 tablespoons grated orange peel (from 2 oranges)
  • 2 cans Pillsbury refrigerated thin pizza crust
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Almond Extract


  1. Heat oven to 350°F. In small microwavable bowl, microwave 1/4 cup of the butter uncovered on High 30 to 50 seconds or until melted. Line bottom of 9x5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper. Lightly brush bottom and sides with small amount of the melted butter.
  2. In small bowl, mix granulated sugar, cherries and orange peel; set aside. Unroll 1 can of dough on work surface; press to form 16x12-inch rectangle. With pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut crosswise into 4 rows to make 4 (12x4-inch) rectangles. Brush rectangles with some of the remaining melted butter. Working quickly, sprinkle 1 rectangle with 1 rounded tablespoon sugar mixture.
  3. Top with another dough rectangle, butter side down. Brush top of rectangle with some of the butter, and sprinkle with 1 rounded tablespoon sugar mixture. Repeat with remaining 2 rectangles.
  4. With sharp knife, cut stack crosswise into 5 (4x2 1/2-inch) stacks. Carefully place small stacks, cut side down, in loaf pan. Repeat with remaining can of dough, sugar mixture and melted butter. Brush any remaining butter over top of loaf.
  5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes or until deep golden brown, covering with foil, if necessary, to prevent excess browning.
  6. Cool 15 minutes in pan on cooling rack. Run knife around sides of pan to loosen bread. Remove from pan to cooling rack set over a sheet of parchment paper or foil. Meanwhile, in medium microwavable bowl, microwave remaining 1/4 cup butter uncovered on High 30 to 50 seconds or until melted.
  7. Add the powdered sugar and almond extract; mix until smooth. Brush icing over breakfast bread. Serve warm.

Baking With Coffee: Five Tasty Things to Try

Dalloyau, Paris

This post was inspired by a cool company that contacted me recently, called Craft Coffee. They offer a "craft coffee subscription service", which intrigued me because I lived in Seattle enough years to become a snob about coffee. They offered me a free sample, and I took them up on it--after all, it was interesting, and I like interesting. 

The way it worked was this: I answered a short questionnaire about my coffee preferences, and then a week or so later, a package came in the mail with all sorts of coffees to try. Each one was labeled with its taste profile and characteristics. Well, I am not much of a mindful sipper when it comes to coffee (I'll be honest) but I do know that what they sent tasted good. It made me buzz around in my baking projects, and the coffee quiz gave me a bit of fun, so I fully suggest this service if it sounds of interest to you. They even offered a code for me to give my readers a discount. It's like so: CAKESPY10. Use it if you wanna.

But anyway.

This is a long way of telling you that it got me thinking: how can I use coffee in baking? I mean, I know a few ways right off the top of my head: tiramisu, adding a bit of coffee to brownies to bring out the chocolate flavor. But I wanted to put together a list of some interesting ways to use coffee in baking, for my reference and yours. So here goes!

Five Ways to Use Coffee in Your Baking


One of the best tips I ever got about brownies came via the boys of Baked. It is this: a little bit of coffee in your brownies will absolutely make the chocolate flavor SING. It's true, too. Their recipe calls for instant espresso powder, but some of the strong coffee like I received from Craft Coffee would probably do, too. 

Coffee syrup

This syrup can basically be used for anything you'd sweeten. You can use it as an ice cream topping, a drizzle atop bread pudding or brownies, or even to sweeten coffee (and caffeinate it further, cos why not?). All you need to do is combine equal parts strong brewed coffee to sugar, bring to a boil, and then simmer down until it has reduced to your desired consistency. Store it in the fridge and pull it out whenever you want to sweeten something. 

Coffee whipped cream

Yes, coffee whipped cream. It's amazing, and it's a creative way to top an Irish coffee for an extra-indulgent treat. You can attain coffee whipped cream in a few ways. First, you can add a few teaspoons of instant coffee to your whipped cream once it has attained soft peaks, then whip it til firm. Second, you could add coffee syrup at the same point in the whipping process. Third, you could add a tablespoon of really, really strong coffee (like an espresso shot) to your whipped cream. Either way, the delicate creaminess works beautifully with the slightly bitter (in a good way) coffee. 

Chocolate coffee ganache

Doesn't the phrase just give you joyful shivers? I think that ganache benefits very much from the addition of coffee. You could add instant coffee, as in this delicious recipe, or you could add a shot of espresso to the cream mixture. Up to you. Cakes of all sorts love coffee ganache. 

Opera cake


I realize that you were expecting me to mention tramisu is the ultimate coffee-containing dessert, but that's kind of obvious. Opera cake, on the other hand, contains coffee syrup and coffee buttercream, and it's French. So that makes it like pastry royalty! Try Dorie Greenspan's recipe, which is most excellent. And while you're at it, read up on the history of Opera cake in my second book, The Secret Lives of Baked Goods: Sweet Stories & Recipes for America's Favorite Desserts.

How do you use coffee in your baking? 


Unicorn Love: The Recovery Part of the Blog

I'd like to take a moment to introduce this new division of the CakeSpy blog, which I intend on using for writing about eating disorder recovery.

I realize that "Unicorn Love" might sound like a funny name for an eating disorder recovery blog, so let me explain just a little bit.

In my eating disorder recovery, I consider the unicorn my totem animal. Mostly sweet and full of goodness...but capable of kicking some serious ass when needed. 

Check back to the Unicorn Love division of CakeSpy often for writing on eating disorder recovery. 

Disclaimer: because of the nature of this writing, if you are suffering from an eating disorder, some of the content on this site may be triggering. I will mention food, calories, and behaviors. So consider yourself warned!

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