Chocolate & Strawberry Birthday Cake

I’ve made a lot of ugly cakes over the years. They always taste great, sure, but the whole layers thing has always been a bit of an issue for me. Do you have any idea how much cake you have to cut off to make them level?? It just seems like a waste, really. And so I end up with crooked cakes that fall apart almost as soon as I ice them. Fortunately everyone is always just happy to have cake, so it’s not like it’s ever been a huge issue, but it’s something I wanted to work on.

So last week I made a triple-decker birthday cake for my friend Jen, and I was determined to get it right. Which I did. More or less. It’s a decadent cake: rich and chocolatey, with dark chocolate ganache and strawberry jam between the layers, and the whole thing coated with my favorite (Magnolia Bakery) chocolate buttercream. Yum.


(See? Almost totally not-crooked.)

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Shortbread Cookies & How Not To Make Lemon Curd

I’ve had a fair few baking disasters in my time. I’ve thrown away whole batches of cookies, entire saucepans of caramel. But nine times out of ten, when I think I’ve had a baking disaster, I’ve just had a small hiccup and the results end up being more or less just as tasty as usual. Prime example: the lemon curd I made for this week’s cookies.

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Valentine’s Day Cupcakes

Before I came to the other side of the world, I was lucky enough to visit New York City several times. And like any good tourist, I stood in a very long line for a very overrated (though, to be honest, phenomenal) cupcake. Yes, I’m talking about the famous Magnolia Bakery, and yes, that is where I get most of my favorite cupcake recipes (and one of my all-time favorite cookie recipes, but we’ll get to that). Whatever you might think about the place itself, they’ve yet to lead me astray.

lone cupcake

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Triple-Threat Chocolate Chip Cookies

chocolate 2

I have a few different go-to recipes – cocoa brownies, Magnolia-inspired cupcakes, peanut butter blondies – but chocolate chip cookies are probably my favorite. They’re simple, familiar, and nearly everyone likes them. For years I swore by the recipe from the back of the Ghiradelli’s chocolate chip bag, which I still love, but then I stumbled across the famous New York Times chocolate chip cookie recipe and never looked back. Turning a simple classic into something extraordinary is the best sort of baking success.


But the real reason I’m baking these cookies this week is because it’s so easy to make a double batch and end up with a borderline insane quantity of the things. Because this weekend brings us Wellington Rugby Sevens: beloved kiwi piss-up, winner of the Guinness World Record for the biggest costume party, and far and away the busiest weekend my coworkers and I will have this year. We’re going to need sugar. Lots of sugar.

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