Summer test kitchen

Now that the drab spectrum of winter is behind us, the weather is warm and a variety of produce is in season, baking with fresh flavors and lots of color is an effortless decision. I’ve been cranking out cookies, cupcakes, cakes, candies, ice creams, puddings, breads, donuts, and whoopie pies nearly every day for the past few weeks at work on new book recipes, effectively creating a surplus of sweets around the house. You’d think making desserts every day would be a fantastic way to happily replace two meals of the day with cake, but it’s actually a strange way to instill portion control. I really enjoy the inventive process and baking sweets, but at the end of the day my sweet teeth crave something hearty like falafel! And maybe a little cake. Here are a few of the decidedly summery treats that have made their way through my kitchen recently.

Blackberry Cosmopolitan Mini Cake

I almost always prefer mini cakes over traditional eight inch double layer cakes. You don’t have to whip out a gigantic batch of buttercream, tiny cakes are easy to transport, and mini cakes are the perfect amount of cake for a small group. This cake is two layers of vanilla orange blossom orange zest lime cake with blackberry swirls, blackberry jam filling, lime triple sec buttercream, and fresh blackberry garnish. I think orange blossom water tastes like sunblock, but a small amount is a perfect floral accent. A taste tester (my mom) described this cake as having a “wedding cake texture” and lots of fresh, citrus flavor.

Strawberry Basil Balsamic Cupcakes

I had leftover basil syrup from the Cucumber Basil Sorbet (or maybe it was the other way around, we’ll never know. The tofu chicken or the egg replacer?) and combined the iconic pairings of strawberry/basil and strawberry/balsamic in an eccentric cupcake. I’m not sure if the phrase “eccentric cupcake” is ever usable again in this context since Cupcake Wars presented contestants with hot dogs, head cheese, and bone marrow.

Okay, I made those up. Was I right?? Anyway, this cupcake is a very vanilla (see what I did there, using an alternate meaning of vanilla? Hilarious! …I’m sorry) chocolate cake infused with basil and the addition of balsamic vinegar and strawberries. It’s filled with basil buttercream and topped with balsamic chocolate ganache and a strawberry garnish.

Strawberry Kool-Aid Cookies

I’d say “keeping with the strawberry theme…”, but I’m not sure strawberry Kool-Aid has ever met a real strawberry. It’s its own neon pink animal. Kool-Aid is actually pretty fun to bake with because it makes your batter the brightest of bright colors, replaces flavor extract (who’s laughing now, $6 bottle of strawberry extract?), and the acid in the package reacts with baking soda, so you don’t have to worry about lemon juice or vinegar for leavening. Sure, it’s completely artificial and chemical, but the concept of using natural food coloring in a dessert, full of sugar and fat by nature, is lost on me. I like to believe most people don’t make dessert multiple times per day, so when they do, it won’t hurt to load it up with neon sugar once in a while! These cookies would be great at a lemonade/Kool-Aid stand in the summer.

Cranberry Lime Gin and Tonic

Here’s a cookie to take Play-Doh cookies a notch down. This moderately sweet cookie teeming with tart lime and gin-soaked cranberries is a great finish to a low key dinner party.

Tropical Banana Smoothie Pudding

This coconut-based pudding (people like coconut-based things, right? I’ve been putting coconut milk in EVERYTHING lately) has every element of a tropical smoothie: banana, pineapple, orange, cherry, and a cocktail umbrella. Well, this bowl of pudding doesn’t have one, but it could! Plain chocolate pudding is nice, but a yummy banana pineapple pudding done up like a cocktail is a great summer treat.

That concludes this round-up! Stay tuned for more dessert blogs and updates.


4 thoughts on “Summer test kitchen

  1. Those all look great. I’ve never thought of using kool-aid in baked goods, but the color is really dazzling. I definitely want to try those gin and tonic cookie (my favorite drink!) – I’ll be eagerly watching for it

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