It’s annual pie party time!

Honey Almond Butter Tart with Chocolate Ganache

Every year one of my friends here in Milwaukee holds a pie party. You bring a pie and everyone votes for their favorite. This year, in a new twist, there was both a savory AND a sweet category.

Honey Almond Butter Tart with Chocolate Ganache

Contests like this remind me that there are times in my life when I get competitive. It’s rare. After all, I purposefully work in a field that is about as un-competitive as you can get (art education!). But when it happens, watch out.

Honey Almond Butter Tart with Chocolate Ganache

Happily for my baking ego, I won the sweet category with this doozy of a pie! And my pal who for two years running has gotten first place still won, taking the savory category with a cheddar tomato pie (yum). Everyone wins! Well, okay, two of us win. But you get the picture.

Honey Almond Butter Tart with Chocolate Ganache

I was a little worried that this tart wouldn’t be pie-ish enough for a pie party, so I baked it in a pie pan (that’s not cheating, is it?) and threw caution to the wind. Who could turn down something that combines local honey, almond butter, and chocolate ganache? And on top of that is nearly no-bake? Not this girl, that’s for sure.

Honey Almond Butter Tart with Chocolate Ganache

Surprisingly, I’m not the biggest pie person (I tend to go only for apple pie, and that’s mainly for the pie dough), and I especially hate mousse-y pies, but this thing… wow. I’m into it.

Honey Almond Butter Tart with Chocolate Ganache

First, the crust is vanilla shortbread, which is so easy it’s ridiculous (no rolling pan required! Just press it in). Second, the filling is a cream cheese, almond butter, and honey combo…

Honey Almond Butter Tart with Chocolate Ganache

Which you fold with whipped cream to make it light and fluffy, but still tangy and nutty and sweet. And THEN you top it off with the baking world’s best invention, chocolate ganache.

Honey Almond Butter Tart with Chocolate Ganache

Throw it all in the fridge and you’re set. It’s a bit ridiculous how easy it is for such an awesome payoff. Easy to make ahead, too!

Honey Almond Butter Tart with Chocolate Ganache

And, not only is it easy, but now it’s award winning. So the next time you need to win a pie contest, you know what recipe to turn to. You’re welcome!

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My birthday was yesterday and so — in keeping with tradition — I made myself a cake!

Lemon Thyme Cake

(Well, two cakes. I love my 6″ cake pans, in part because they leave me with leftovers, like this 3-incher.)

Lemon Thyme Cake

Every year when I tell people I’m baking myself a cake for my birthday at least one person gets kind of sad on my behalf and offers to bake a cake for me instead. Which is, of course, extremely thoughtful. But then I explain that I do in fact like baking for myself on my birthday. It might have started as a perfectionist thing, but now it’s more an excuse to have people over to share the finished product. (And act as hand models for your nerdy food blog. See: final photo of this post.)

Lemon Thyme Cake

I suppose it is a little strange that I like to bake myself a cake on my birthday. If I had a favorite cake spot in Milwaukee, I might consider getting myself a cake from there instead. I do have a favorite bakery here, but I don’t think they really do cakes. (If I was in New York, though, watch out, I might never bake myself a cake again. I’m thinking of this place. Oh man, THIS PLACE. What I wouldn’t give for a cake from there. Close second: thiiiis. Drool. Can you tell I’m in NYC withdrawal since finishing grad school?)

Lemon Thyme Cake

But! I digress. I found this cake on Pinterest last week, and it just looked so simple and pretty from the beautiful photographs on Spoon Fork Bacon that I couldn’t resist! Plus, longtime readers around here know I’m an herb-and-sweets fiend, and it was high time I broke out of my lavender obsession to try something new.

Lemon Thyme Cake

And indeed, this cake is pretty darn good. Since it was my birthday, I adapted this into a two-layer cake (rather than a one-layer as the original recipe suggests), making a slightly stiffer frosting to hold up the heavy layers.

Lemon Thyme Cake

I will admit that I could not detect much of a thyme flavor — I’m not sure if the thyme in my apartment building’s garden was too young, perhaps, or if I should have gone a little heavier handed on my tablespoonsful (let’s be real, I got tired of mincing), but no matter: the lemon-sweet flavor of this cake is STRONG. In fact, if you balk at herbed cakes, you can just leave out the thyme. This recipe really does makes the most lovely, super lemony cake.

Lemon Thyme Cake

So, I’ll leave you with some more pictures of my birthday cake (now half-demolished with remains making their way to work with me tomorrow, along with the baby cake, which is going to my fantastic catsitter as an extra thank you for putting up with my needy cats for pretty much the entire month of June while I was off grad-school-ing).

Lemon Thyme Cake

As I said in my previous post, not sure when I’ll next have the urge to bake, but stay tuned. In the meantime, I’ll be dreaming of my vacation to NYC next month, where I plan to continue my baked-good-fueled-birthday-celebrations…

Lemon Thyme Cake

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Sea Salted Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’m back!

Sea Salted Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

(Well, maybe. See the last bit of this post!)

Sea Salted Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Anyway, I finished grad school three weeks ago yesterday (!).

Sea Salted Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Then I immediately went to Boston for an intense but awesome two-week-long institute related to my job (!!).

Sea Salted Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

So writing-wise, I must admit I’m a little spent (thus the brief nature of this post)…

Sea Salted Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

But luckily, exhaustion of the mind does not have anything to do with baking! So here’s what I made today, on a whim: another favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe (can’t believe it wasn’t on the blog yet!) sprinkled with a treat I bought myself when I was in Massachussetts: Maldon sea salt, which I’ve been trying to find for a long time!

Sea Salted Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

These are delicious: chewy, chocolatey, giant, and the fancy sea salt is the perfect finishing touch to play off the brown sugar and dark chocolate.

Sea Salted Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

My birthday’s coming up, and I do have plans to bake myself a cake, so you’ll see that soon. And who knows, maybe I’ll start baking and blogging again… but for the time being, I am completely reveling in having no reading to do or papers to write, and I don’t want this blog to become a to-do list. So posts may be sporadic, but I hope you’ll enjoy them when they pop up!

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Sandwich Cookie Party

I was so lucky last week to bake once more for Anthropologie!

Sandwich Cookie Party

Since I’m on summer break from grad school, it worked out that I could squeeze in some baking time for one of Anthropologie’s summer events series.

Sandwich Cookie Party

I decided to make the baking more interactive this time around: a make-your-own sandwich cookie party!

Sandwich Cookie Party

I made two cookies–sugar cookies and brownie cookies–and two kinds of frosting–rose and chocolate malt. The idea was that you could mix and match either cookie with either of the frostings.

Sandwich Cookie Party

I was also so happy that my new Milwaukee blogger buddy Colleen from Inspired to Share came out to join us, too! (Her blog is awesome–make sure you check it out!)

Many thanks to Lyn, Shannon, and the rest of the Anthropologie team for having me back this summer! It was so much fun!

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Lemon Berry Ginger Pie

I’m back for a post with my very first pie!

Lemon Berry Ginger Pie

I made this for a friend’s pie-bake-off party. I wasn’t totally pleased with the result but for a first try pie, it was pretty good. (Plus I did get some compliments, so my baker’s ego isn’t totally ruined! ;) Especially since I handmade the pie dough!)

Lemon Berry Ginger Pie

I would make this again but next time would definitely invest in the crystallized ginger the recipe calls for, since without it the streusel is pretty lame and not zingy enough. I really liked the addition of a quick lemon curd glaze as a prettier topping, though! Also, the pie dough is rolled out rather thick–about 1/4″–but it’s a good choice since the berries have a lot of water in them and the juice will bubble over.

Lemon Berry Ginger Pie

Finally, I’m excited to say that I’m participating in another event at Anthropologie this summer! They’re holding events for local women to talk about something they’re passionate about and I’m reprising my role as baker-in-residence on August 1 at 6 PM. I hope you’ll come join me if you’re local! I’ll be bringing treats for sure.

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You guys. I finally bought a doughnut pan.

Cinnamon Sugar Doughnuts

I couldn’t resist. They’re the only thing I’ve wanted to bake lately. And you can’t make doughnuts without a doughnut pan. (Well, I guess you could, but I’m not into deep frying.)

Cinnamon Sugar Doughnuts

I blame my friend AJ, who started this madness, and Tracy from Shutterbean, whose recipe I used– I love her blog (and you should definitely listen to her on the Joy the Baker Podcast)!

Cinnamon Sugar Doughnuts

These are delicious and are super fluffy, so you barely realize you’re eating baked doughnuts instead of fried. They’re going into work with me tomorrow because even I cannot eat six doughnuts in one night. So… two lucky people are going to be getting doughnuts tomorrow.

Cinnamon Sugar Doughnuts

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted, but grad school certainly keeps a girl busy. Happily, I can now fuel my studies with doughnuts.

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Black & White Cookies

In honor of the Oscars, some black & white cookies!

Black & White Cookies

I can’t believe I don’t have this recipe on the blog yet.

Black & White Cookies

It’s a good one: a little fussy, to be sure (it is a Martha Stewart recipe, after all), but worth a bit of work.

Black & White Cookies

A warning, though: without the icing, the cookies don’t taste amazing; and without the cookies, the icings taste way too sweet. So when you taste test along the way, just keep that in mind–they’re best when completely assembled.

Black & White Cookies

On a completely unrelated note, I have, in my limited amounts of spare time, been watching Alias. That spy show with Jennifer Garner from the early 2000s. Oh man. It is so good and addicting. Like Revenge‘s older sister. If you want to lose your weekend to Netflix, I highly recommend putting Alias in your Instant Queue…

Black & White Cookies

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