Birds’ Nest Lemon Cheesecake

Birds’ Nest Lemon Cheesecake

Greet spring in a cheerful manner at any holiday celebration with these cute birds’ nest lemon cheesecake trifles. Using a no-bake recipe, the lemon cheesecake is a yummy whipped mixture of lemon curd and mascarpone.  The “nest” is made with thinly slice phyllo dough, topped with cinnamon/sugar and the base is shortbread crumbles. If you need to cut some time, you can always use high-quality store-purchased shortbread cookies.


Phyllo Dough Nest

6 sheets of phyllo dough
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter


Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet tray. Cut 6 sheets of phyllo dough in half to make 12 shorter sheets. Roll together tightly and very thinly slice into long thin pieces then transfer to a baking sheet carefully separating the layers. Combine the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl. Sprinkle with butter, then with cinnamon sugar. Bake until browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove and cool completely.


Shortbread Crumbs

1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature, plus more for the pan
½ cup plus two tablespoons granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon vanilla
6 glass serving cups


Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Butter an 8×8” pan. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed for 3-4 minutes. Fold in flour and vanilla and blend until a soft dough forms. Press into the 8” x 8” pan and bake until light brown, about 40 minutes; remove and cool completely. Crumble then divide equally among the cups and press the mixture evenly into the bottom of the cups.


Lemon Cream Cheese Layers

8 ounces mascarpone cheese, room temperature
¾ cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
2½ cups cold heavy cream
1 cup homemade or store-bought lemon curd
Candy bird eggs


Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat mascarpone, powdered sugar, and lemon zest in a large bowl until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Reduce speed to low and gradually add the cream. When combined, increase the speed to medium and beat until medium peaks form. Transfer half of mascarpone mixture to another bowl. Add the lemon curd to the remaining half and beat in until combined.

Dividing the mixtures evenly, layer the lemon curd mixture over the shortbread crumbs in each cup followed by the plain mascarpone /cream mixture. Smooth the top, cover, and refrigerate for at least two hours and up until 24.

When ready to serve, form a nest in the top of each cup using the shorter pieces of cinnamon phyllo in the center and longer on the outside. Add the candy eggs into the center of the nest and serve immediately.

Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

Rhubarb is back and we couldn’t be happier. This upside down cake has cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger tossed together with rhubarb before baking under a tasty lemon cake. Serve warm and topped with fresh whipped cream for a sweet spring dessert.

1 pound fresh rhubarb stalks, trimmed, and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 ½ cups granulated sugar, divided
2 teaspoons cornstarch
½  teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ cup butter, plus more for the pan, divided
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan, divided
1 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼  teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
Whipped cream for serving


Line a 9-inch springform pan base with parchment. Butter and flour the pan sides and the parchment. Combine the rhubarb, ½ cup granulated sugar, ginger, cinnamon, and cornstarch in a bowl. Toss to coat; set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.

Whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium mixing bowl.

In the bowl of a mixer, cream together the remaining ½ cup butter, lemon zest, and the granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, mixing just until incorporated then add the vanilla. Add the flour mixture and buttermilk alternately in 3 batches, mixing at low speed after each addition until just combined.

Arrange coated rhubarb pieces in a single layer on the buttered parchment in pan, sprinkle over any excess sugar from bowl. Pour the batter into pan then smooth with a spatula. Gently drop the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles. Bake at 350°F until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Rest for fifteen minutes then remove the ring from the springform pan. Immediately place a cooling rack on the top of the cake and flip over. Place the cooling rack over foil to collect any dripping sugar syrup. Cool completely and serve warm with whipped cream.


Peanut Butter Cup Brownies with Peanut Buttercream Icing

Peanut Butter Cup Brownies with Peanut Buttercream Icing

These cute little individual brownies are baked with a peanut butter cup in the center, then topped with peanut butter icing. Their portability makes them perfect for both indoor and outdoor spring events.

Peanut Butter Cup Brownies

1½  sticks butter, plus extra to butter pans
7 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 extra large eggs
¾  cups dark brown sugar, packed
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1½ tablespoons light corn syrup
½ tablespoon pure vanilla extract
¼  teaspoon kosher salt
¾  cup spooned and leveled bleached all-purpose flour
15 peanut butter cups
Peanut Buttercream Icing (recipe below)


Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Butter 15 of the cups in two 12-cup square brownie pans.

Place 1 ½ cups of butter around the edges of a microwave-safe glass bowl. Add the chocolate chips to the center. Melt the butter and chocolate in the microwave on highest power for 1 minute, stirring at least once, and then in 30 second increments, stirring one time in the middle of each one, until the chocolate is almost melted. Remove and stir until completely melted. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until the whites and yolk are just blended. Stir into the eggs the brown sugar, confectioners’ sugar, granulated sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, and salt; mix until combined. Add the cooled chocolate mixture, stirring until completely incorporated. Stir in the flour to completely incorporate.

Add a tablespoon of batter to each buttered cup in the brownie pan. Place a peanut butter cup over the batter. Cover with remaining batter until the cups of the pan are 3/4 full.

Place the pans in the oven and bake until brownies just begin to pull away from the edge of the pan, about 18 – 20 minutes. It’s better to undercook rather than risk drying out the brownies.

Let cool completely in the pans on a rack. Place the cooled pans in the refrigerator for one hour to set the chocolate cups. Carefully remove the brownies from the pan using a thin spatula. Wrap the brownies well with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.


Peanut Buttercream Icing

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons milk, more if needed


In a bowl, combine the butter, peanut butter, and salt using a stand or hand mixer. Add the powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon of milk, combine and then add the second tablespoon. Mix to a smooth, but still stiff consistency, adding any additional milk if needed. Use a piping bag or a spoon, top the cooled brownies an hour before serving.

Banana Meringue Cookies

Banana Meringue Cookies

Using only 5 ingredients, meringue cookies are some of the simplest to create. Egg whites are whipped to stiff peaks then dropped or piped onto cookie sheets and baked at a low temperature to dry to a crunchy delight. If you don’t like banana, you can substitute your favorite flavor extract.

4 egg whites
¼  teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 tablespoon banana extract
1-1/2 cup fine* white sugar

Preheat oven to 200˚F. Add pieces of parchment paper to cover two baking sheets.

Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites, salt, cream of tartar, and banana extract until firm. Slowly add sugar in a stream while beating into the egg white mixture.

Drop or pipe by onto the parchment lined sheet trays to make 15 cookies per sheet. Bake for 2 hours. Turn the oven off and leave the cookies in the oven to cool, 2 hours or up to overnight, to dry. Makes 30 cookies.

*process the sugar in a food processor for 1-2 minutes until ground fine.

Chocolate Stout Cake Truffles with Irish Whiskey Sauce.

Chocolate Stout Cake Truffles with Irish Whiskey Sauce.

Celebrate like the Irish on St. Patrick’s Day with a special treat created with Irish Stout and Whiskey. We used a deep chocolate stout cake rolled into delicious truffles, then coated with dark chocolate ganache. To top it off, we created a pastry dipping sauce flavored with Irish Whisky.

Be sure to roll the cake truffles when the cake is still warm. The melted chocolate pieces in the still warm cake are what holds the truffles together.

Cake Truffles
1 ½ stick unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the pan
1 ounce unsweetened natural cocoa powder, plus more for dusting the pan
2/3 cups Guinness or other Stout
3 tablespoons molasses
3 ¾ ounces all-purpose flour
¾  teaspoon baking powder
¼  teaspoon baking soda
¼  teaspoon salt
¾ cups packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs yolks, at room temperature
3 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

Ganache coating
½ cup cream
6 ounces chopped dark chocolate

Irish Whisky Sauce
1 ¼  cups whole milk
1 ½  teaspoons vanilla bean paste
4 large egg yolks
2 ½  tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoon Jamison Irish Whiskey or other Irish Whiskey

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line an 8×8” pan with parchment paper. Butter, then dust the sides and parchment with cocoa. Set aside.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the stout and molasses to a simmer. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.

Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter in the mixer work bowl on medium speed until smooth. Add the brown sugar and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, stopping to scrape the bowl after each addition. Turn the mixer on low speed, and add 1/3 of the flour, then half stout mixture. Continue adding another 1/3 of the flour, the remaining stout mixture, and end with the flour. Scrape the bowl and then beat at medium speed until the batter is smooth. Stir in the chopped chocolate.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it, 20 minutes. The cake should be just slightly underdone. Set the pan on a rack to cool for 20 minutes or until just barely warm. Then scoop and roll into 16 equal size balls and place on a parchment lined sheet tray. Refrigerate for 2 hours until cold.

To make the ganache topping, place the chocolate in a bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the cream until just steaming. Pour over the chocolate. Let sit five minutes then stir until the chocolate is completely melted, shiny, and smooth. Dip the balls in the chocolate placing them back on a parchment lined sheet tray. Return to the refrigerator until set, about two hours.

While the cake truffles set, make the whiskey sauce. Fill a medium bowl with ice water. In a small saucepan, heat the milk with the vanilla bean paste until it just comes to a simmer.

In another medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and salt until the mixture is pale yellow and thickened. Whisking constantly, temper the eggs by drizzling in the hot milk, a little at a time. When combined, pour the entire mixture into a clean saucepan and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 7 to 8 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve into a medium bowl and add the whiskey, whisking to combine. Set the bowl in the ice bath until cold. Cover and refrigerate the sauce.

To serve: spread a tablespoon of sauce on each plate, add two cake truffles and serve cold with the extra sauce.  Makes 8 servings.

Mardi Gras King Cake

Mardi Gras King Cake

Mardi Gras isn’t complete without the sweet and colorful King Cakes appearing on tables in New Orleans throughout the Carnival season. Layered with pecans, cinnamon, and dark brown sugar, the cakes are decorated in green, gold, and purple. The cake is finished with a tiny plastic baby hidden inside to symbolizes luck and prosperity to whoever finds it in his or her slice.

For the Cake
1 cup warm milk, between 100-100˚F
2 tablespoons dry yeast
½ cup sugar
3 ¾ cups flour
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 sticks butter, melted
5 egg yolks

Butter & Brown Sugar Spread
1 cup brown sugar
2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon lemon zest
¾ cup roasted pecans, chopped

2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons dried egg white powder
2 tablespoons fresh juice

To Finish
Purple, green and gold decorative sugars
1 plastic baby to insert after baking

In a large mixing bowl combine the warm milk, with the dry yeast, sugar and  ¼ cup of the flour. Mix with whisk until both the sugar and the yeast dissolves. When the mixture begins to froth or foam, add the remaining cake ingredients. After the dough comes together as a large ball, turn the dough out and knead dough on a clean but floured surface for 15 minutes or until smooth and elastic.

Place the dough in a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap move to a warm place in the kitchen for 90 minutes or until the dough has doubled in volume.

While the dough rises, using a wooden spoon, combine all the ingredients for the butter and brown sugar spread.

Preheat the oven to 375˚F. When the dough has risen, punch it down and weight it. Divide the dough into three equal pieces by weight. Roll into three 18” long ropes of dough. Roll out each long rope of dough into a long rectangle about 4 to 5” x 18”. Spread 1/3 of the butter and brown sugar spread over the dough and roll tightly back up to a rope shape. Braid the three pieces around each other and then form into a circle.

Place the braided circle of pastry onto a parchment lined baking sheet, cover lightly with a piece plastic wrap and allow it to rise for another half hour or so or until it doubles in size. Once doubled place into the oven and bake for 30 minutes until golden brown. Remove the cake and place onto a wire rack to cool for another 1 to 1½ hours.

When the cake is cooled mix the powdered sugar, powdered egg white, and lemon juice together with a small wire whisk so that the icing is smooth and thick. If too thick add water a teaspoon at a time until you reach your desired consistency. if it’s too loose, add a little more powdered sugar.

Drizzle the icing over the top of the cake, then immediately sprinkle with purple, green, and gold decorative sugars while the icing is still wet. Insert a plastic baby into underside of the cake and transfer to a platter and serve.


Makes 10-12 servings.