Holiday Cookbook Now Available!

I am excited to announce that my holiday e-cookbook is now available for downloading, printing and sharing!

Just click the top menu option: “New: Holiday Cookbook.”

Thank you for reading, and enjoy!


Banana Bread Crumb Cake Bars

Having already tackled cookies, cake, cheesecake and cobbler, I wasn’t sure what dessert categories I had left. But, of course, I was forgetting one of the most basic dessert forms: bars!

Bars were a staple growing up in my family. Almost any dessert could be made in bar form, and some even tasted better that way. Not to mention, bars make for easy preparation and storage.

I came across a picture for this banana bread crumb cake bar recipe and couldn’t help but click. That brought me to the blog Cookies & Cups, heaven for a dessert lover such as myself.

This was another great, simple recipe for a busy week of Thanksgiving preparations, which had me driving all over town last night in search of key lime juice for my family-famous key lime pie.

Which brings me to an announcement:

That recipe, along with 14 other family favorites, will be featured in a holiday cookbook I will be releasing next week! Keep an eye out for a link on the top menu to the PDF version.

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Banana Bread Crumb Cake Bars, Step-by-Step Photos

Spray a 9×13” baking dish and set aside. Add 2 cups flour to a medium bowl.


Add 3 teaspoons baking powder.


Add 1 teaspoon salt, and whisk ingredients together. Set aside.


In a large bowl, mash 3 ripe bananas until they become liquefied.


Add ½ cup butter, room temperature, and mix until combined. Having forgotten to set out my butter ahead of time, I cheated and slightly melted mine in the microwave.



Add 2 cups sugar.


Add 2 eggs.


Add 1 teaspoon vanilla, and mix well.


Stir in flour mixture and 1 cup milk until well combined.



For the crumb filling/topping, add 2 cups flour to a small bowl.


Add 1 cup cold butter, cubed.


Add 2 cups brown sugar and cut together with a pastry cutter (I used a fork and my hands) until a coarse crumb forms. (In attempting to soften my brick of brown sugar using the moist paper towel and microwave method, I punched in the wrong time and completely melted it. Therefore, I had to substitute regular sugar, which can be used to replace brown sugar in a recipe in a 1:1 ratio. The taste will be slightly different; if you happen to have molasses on hand, adding 2 teaspoons per cup of white sugar will actually create a brown sugar.)



Pour ½ of the batter into the prepared pan.


Top with 1/3 of crumb mixture.


Pour the rest of the batter into the pan, then top with remaining crumb mixture.



Bake for 50-55 minutes at 350 degrees until center is set and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes.


In the meantime, combine 1 cup powdered sugar and 1-2 tablespoons milk in a small bowl to create a glaze.

Drizzle over bars, and serve warm or at room temperature.

(Given how much sugar went into the bars already, I decided the added glaze would be too sweet for me, so I skipped this.)




Look at that texture!

I have to say, this recipe wasn’t a home run for me. Perhaps it was the sugar substitution, but I found the bars low on any flavor other than sweetness. Then again, maybe this recipe just isn’t to my taste. One thing I think would have improved it (besides using the correct sugar) is the addition of some chopped nuts, to make it more reminiscent of banana bread (which I love). I would encourage you to give it a shot, though, and share your experience!


Banana Bread Crumb Cake Bars Recipe

Yield: 12 servings


For the bars:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • ½ cup butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup milk

For the crumb filling and topping:

  • 1 cup cold butter, cubed
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 cups flour

For the glaze (optional):

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk

1. Spray a 9×13” baking dish and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, mash bananas until they become liquefied. Mix in butter until combined, then stir in sugar, eggs and vanilla until mixed well.

4. Stir in flour mixture and milk until combined.

5. Prepare crumb filling/topping by combining all ingredients and cutting them together until a coarse crumb forms.

6. Pour ½ of the batter into the prepared pan. Top with 1/3 of the crumb mixture, then pour in remaining batter and top with remaining crumb mixture.

7. Bake for 50-55 minutes at 350 degrees until the center is set and a toothpick comes out clean.

8. Cool 10 minutes, then drizzle with glaze (optional). Can be served warm or at room temperature.


If you try this recipe, please leave a comment below!



Chocolate Cobbler

In keeping with my theme thus far of experimenting with a new category of dessert each week, I’d been keeping an eye out for a different form of sweet deliciousness. I came across a recipe for chocolate cobbler on Facebook, and while it’s a dessert I’ve heard of, it’s one I’ve never tried to make – nor eaten, for that matter (the most important part).

This recipe from Tasty Kitchen (and featured on The Pioneer Woman) seemed easy enough, and had high ratings from readers. Looking at it, I was reminded of molten chocolate cake, one of my go-to desserts – but this recipe looked so much simpler! It seemed like the perfect recipe for an already busy week of cooking and baking for the Thanksgiving crowd. Plus, you’ve gotta love a family recipe!

Thank you to Tasty Kitchen and author Sooz Hawkins (and her grandmother!) for this week’s recipe!

Chocolate Cobbler, Step-by-Step Photos

Add 1 cup flour to a mixing bowl.


Add 2 teaspoons baking powder.


Add ¼ teaspoon salt.


Add 3 tablespoons cocoa powder.


Add ¾ cup sugar.


Mix well.


Add ½ cup milk.


Add 1/3 cup melted butter.


Add 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla, and stir to combine, mixing until smooth – it should resemble a brownie batter.


Pour the mixture into an ungreased 8×8” CorningWare (or similar material) baking dish.


Add the remaining ½ cup of sugar to a small bowl.


Add ½ cup brown sugar, packed.


Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of cocoa.


Mix well, then sprinkle evenly over the batter. Some clumps may form during mixing; you can break them up using your fingers, or simply leave them.


Pour 1 ½ cup hot tap water over the batter and topping. Do not stir!


Bake for about 40 minutes at 350 degrees until the center is set.


Cool for a few minutes before serving a la mode.


This must have been one of the easiest recipes I’ve ever made (no mixer required!), and it really did have the warm, gooey molten cake quality I was hoping for. It was almost like a cross between a brownie and hot fudge. The combination with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream was absolutely perfect, creating a mix of rich chocolate and creamy vanilla flavors and hot and cold temperatures (not to mention, the ice cream cools it down enough that you can eat it right out of the oven).

Chocolate Cobbler Recipe

Yield: about 10 servings


  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 7 tablespoons cocoa powder, divided
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 1/2 cups hot tap water

1. In a mixing bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt, 3 tablespoons cocoa and 3/4 cup sugar.

2. Stir the milk, butter and vanilla into the flour mixture. Mix until smooth.

3. Pour the mixture into an ungreased 8×8″ CorningWare (or similar material) baking dish.

4. In a small bowl, mix remaining 1/2 cup sugar, brown sugar and remaining 4 tablespoons cocoa. Sprinkle mixture evenly over the batter.

5. Pour hot tap water over the batter/topping in the baking dish. Do not stir!

6. Bake 40 minutes at 350 degrees until set.

7. Cool for a few minutes, then serve with ice cream.

If you try this recipe or have any tips to share, leave a comment below!



Raspberry Almond Shortbread Cookies

With the holidays right around the corner, I found myself craving a new cookie recipe to add to my book of go-to recipes. Cookies are appropriate for just about any occasion, and –for the most part, although I seem to be the one who often proves this wrong – they’re harder to mess up than cakes or pies, which makes them perfect for social gatherings. They’re quick to prepare, can be easily sized up or down in quantity, appealing to most tastes and easy to store as leftovers.

This raspberry almond shortbread cookie recipe from Parent Pretty (originally appearing in Better Homes & Gardens magazine) reminded me of one of my all-time-favorite recipes for butter-based almond cookies, but with the addition of the raspberry texture and taste – not to mention, six ingredients and three steps sounded pretty appealing after a long day.

Crissy, author of Parent Pretty, raved about this recipe, calling it her “hands-down favorite recipe of the year.” Her commenters seemed pretty pleased with it, too, so I decided to give it a try.

Thank you to Crissy of Parent Pretty and to Better Homes & Gardens for this week’s recipe!


Raspberry Almond Shortbread Cookies, Step-by-Step Photos

Start by adding 1 cup of softened butter to a mixing bowl.


Beat on medium speed for about 30 seconds until smooth.


Add 2/3 cup granulated sugar.


Add 1/2 teaspoon almond extract and beat until well combined.


Gradually mix in 2 cups of flour.


Cover the dough and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour or until it is easy to handle. (Mine was pretty stiff, but I refrigerated just in case).


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough into 1-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.


Using your thumb, press an indentation into the center of each ball. (I actually found that it was easier to create the right shape using my middle finger).


Spoon 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of seedless raspberry jam into each cookie.



Bake 8-10 minutes or until edges are light brown. Cool on cookie sheets for 1 minute, then transfer to a rack to cool.


My first dozen at the 10 minute cook time in the original recipe came out slightly overdone and pretty flat – not quite like the recipe photographs. In addition, they were overly crispy and that affected the taste. For the second dozen, I reduced cooking time to 8 minutes. This was the result:


An improvement, certainly, but I still wasn’t satisfied. For the final dozen, I stuck with my 8-minute cook time, but I added a step and refrigerated the cookies for 5 minutes after shaping them (and before adding the jam). Butter that is too warm before baking causes cookies to spread out in the oven, and I suspected that the process of rolling and shaping the cookies was warming up the butter in the dough too much. I also used my middle finger to make a vertical impression in the dough, rather than at an angle, and used just 1/4 teaspoon of jam to fill each cookie to just below the edge of the depression. I thought this would improve the appearance of the cookies, and I had found the amount of jam (which is essentially sugar) to be overpoweringly sweet in the first two batches.


Finally, I achieved the result I wanted. Not only did this batch look better, the taste and texture were much improved.

For the icing, add 1 cup powdered sugar to a small bowl.


Add 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract.


Add 1 teaspoon water, and stir. Add more water if necessary to achieve a consistency that will drizzle.



Use a spoon, toothpick or fork to drizzle icing over the cookies in a back-and-forth motion. Here is a Better Homes & Gardens tutorial for drizzling.




Recipes can be refrigerated for up to a week, or frozen to serve in a month or two.


After I got this recipe down, it was a home run. I’m a sucker for butter cookies, and the almond in these adds a fantastic flavor. The amount of jam in the final batch was perfect for my husband and me, with just the right amount of sweetness allowing the flavor of the cookie dough to come through. Factor in simple instructions, six ingredients (most of which are household staples) and an easily adjustable yield, and this recipe is one for the book!


Raspberry Almond Shortbread Cookies Recipe 

Yield: 3 dozen


For the cookies:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ cup seedless raspberry jam

For the drizzle:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 to 4 teaspoons water
  • 1 ½ teaspoons almond extract

1. In a medium bowl, beat butter on medium speed for about 30 seconds. Add the 2/3 cup granulated sugar and ½ teaspoon almond extract. Beat until well combined. Gradually mix in the 2 cups of flour. Cover the dough and chill for 1 hour or until easy to handle.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet 2 inches apart. Using your thumb, press an indentation into the center of each ball. (Optional: Refrigerate 5-10 minutes to re-firm dough). Spoon ¼-1/2 teaspoon of jam into each cookie. Bake 8-10 minutes or until edges are light brown. Cool on cookie sheet for one minute before transferring to cooling rack.

3. For icing, in a small bowl combine powdered sugar, 1 ½ teaspoons almond extract and 1 teaspoon water. Add water as needed to achieve drizzling consistency. Use a spoon, toothpick or fork to drizzle cookies using a back-and-forth motion, and enjoy.


If you try this recipe or have any tips to share, leave a comment below!


Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake Minis

There’s one word that always gets me excited about a dessert: cheesecake.

Since I can remember, I’ve had a love for that creamy, rich dessert that can be combined with just about any other dessert (tiramisu cheesecake, anyone?) and taste amazing.

Mini cheesecakes were a staple of my mom’s dessert parties, and she always set a few aside for me in the fridge in case the party guests didn’t leave any left over – and that frequently happened, because they were just. so. good.

This week’s mini cheesecake recipe caught my eye because it resembled my mom’s recipe, but with a couple of twists: raspberry swirls and a chocolate crust.

The recipe comes from the blog Menu Musings of a Modern American Mom. Author Julie May is a working mother of four, and develops recipes that are enjoyable and easy to make and universally appealing, even to picky eaters and those with less-adventurous palates.

Julie’s Meet the Cook(s) page really resonates with me, as she describes the family origin of her love of baking. Julie naturally came to love cooking because she was surrounded by great food and great cooks growing up, and she now shows love to her family through food, much as I feel I do. And, like many of us, she simply enjoys eating things that taste good.

Thank you to Julie May of Menu Musings of a Modern American Mom for this week’s recipe!


Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake Minis, Step-by-Step Photos

First, set out all of the cold filling ingredients you will need (16 oz. cream cheese, 2 eggs, and 1/2 cup sour cream) to allow them to come to room temperature. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees, and prepare a muffin pan with paper or foil cupcake liners.

In a food processor, crumble 13 chocolate sandwich cookies.


Add 1 tablespoon sugar.


Add 5 tablespoons of melted butter, and blend.


The result should look like … well, wet dirt (appetizing, I know).


Press about 1 tablespoon of the cookie crust into each cupcake liner to make as uniform a base as possible.


Cover the pan using foil, parchment paper, plastic, wrap, etc., and place in the refrigerator to harden while you prepare the rest of the recipe.

For the sauce, add 6 oz. (1 heaping cup) of fresh raspberries to a small saucepan.


Add 3 tablespoons sugar.


Add 1 teaspoon cornstarch.


Mix until the sugar and cornstarch coat the raspberries.


Heat on medium until bubbles start to form, then continue to cook until the sauce thickens. While you are waiting for the sauce to heat and cook, break down the raspberries. Julie suggests a potato masher for this step, but I didn’t have one so I just worked at them with my wooden spoon.


When the sauce has thickened, remove from the heat and store in a bowl in the fridge. I am strongly anti-seed, so I added an extra step in-between here, putting my sauce through a strainer before setting it aside to cool. Here was my result:


For the filling, add the 16 oz. of room-temperature cream cheese to a mixing bowl, and mix on low.


Break down the cream cheese before adding the other ingredients.


Then, add 2/3 cup sugar.


And 1/8 teaspoon salt.


Followed by 1 teaspoon vanilla.


Add ½ teaspoon lemon zest (about 1 small lemon).


And 2 large eggs, room temperature. I gave my filling a quick mix at this point to blend the eggs.


Finally, add ½ cup full-fat sour cream, room temperature, and mix until the ingredients are combined.


Like with last week’s pumpkin mix, I ended up with a few lumps in my filling, but it was a much milder case this time. Instead of a half hour, I allowed my cold ingredients a full hour to come to room temperature for this recipe. A little longer and I hope to solve the lump issue for good!


To make the cheesecakes, bring your muffin pan out of the fridge and fill each liner about 2/3 full. I made the mistake of filling my liners all the way, since the original recipe didn’t specify, and had a slight overflow problem during baking. I would recommend having a second cupcake pan handy in case you have extra filling.



Next, add three tiny spoonfuls, about ¼ teaspoon each, of the raspberry sauce to the top of each cheesecake.


Use a chopstick, knife, toothpick or fork to swirl the sauce. I only used about half of my sauce, so I think it could cover two dozen cheesecakes.



Bake the cheesecakes at 300 degrees for 18-22 minutes. The center of each cake should be jiggly and appear slightly wet. Remove the cheesecakes from the oven and allow them to cool before refrigerating them overnight.

You can leave your cheesecakes in the pan for refrigeration, but may run into the issue of the crusts getting stuck to the pan as the butter that seeps through the liner during baking hardens. This can be solved by soaking the bottom of the pan in warm water to loosen the crusts, but I chose to remove mine carefully from the pan (after cooling 30 minutes on a rack) using a fork and refrigerate them in a separate container.


Serve and enjoy!



This recipe is a hands-down keeper! Moist and creamy with a mix of sweetness and tang, this recipe is easy and appropriate for any occasion. I had wondered how the lemon zest would pair with chocolate in the crust, but the combination of flavors was perfect. And, unlike last week’s pumpkin cake, this full-sized recipe yielded plenty of leftovers – but they won’t be around for long.


Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake Minis Recipe

Yield: 1 dozen


For the crust:

  • 13 chocolate sandwich cookies
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch

For the sauce:

  • 6 oz. (1 heaping cup) fresh raspberries
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch

For the filling:

  • 16 oz. full fat cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (about 1 small lemon)
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup full fat sour cream, room temperature

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees and line a muffin pan. Take cold filling ingredients out of the fridge to allow to come to room temperature.

2. In a food processor, crumble the sandwich cookies. Add sugar and melted butter, and blend. Press about 1 tablespoon of the mixture into the bottom of each cupcake liner.

3. Add the raspberries, sugar and cornstarch to a small, cold saucepan and stir. Heat over medium until bubbles appear, then cook until the sauce is thickened. (Optional: pour sauce through a strainer to remove seeds and raspberry pieces). Refrigerate until ready to use.

4. Cream cream cheese in a mixing bowl at low speed. Add sugar, salt, vanilla, lemon zest and eggs and lightly mix. Add sour cream and mix until all ingredients are thoroughly combined.

5. Remove crusts from refrigerator and fill each liner about 2/3 full with cheesecake filling.

6. Add three ¼ teaspoonfuls of raspberry sauce to the top of each cake, then swirl.

7. Bake at 300 degrees for 18-22 minutes, then cool. Refrigerate overnight to set the cheesecake.

8. Serve and enjoy!

A Tasty Experiment

I’m Sarah, and I like to bake desserts.

And I especially like to eat them.

Growing up, my mom was always baking desserts – for family, for friends, and especially for her annual dessert party in December that attracted about 50 guests, even in a blizzard. I suppose I was raised to love baking, sharing and enjoying desserts.

But, despite having mastered almost 100 different dessert recipes, I can never seem to get a new recipe right on the first try.

So, I’ve decided to start an experimental baking blog, where I try new recipes, document my successes and failures and (hopefully) learn a lot along the way. I hope that you will find this blog helpful and relatable, and give some of these recipes a try yourself!

When I set out to find this week’s recipe, I knew it had to involve one thing: pumpkin.

For me, pumpkin and fall go hand-in-hand, and it’s definitely been feeling like fall here. (That’s my nice way of saying the weather is basically gross). What could be a better antidote to the dreary fall weather than baking in a warm kitchen and enjoying the pumpkin aroma wafting from the oven?

So, I typed “pumpkin” into my Pinterest search bar, and immediately this recipe from the blog Dessert for Two stood out.

Gooey? Yes. Butter? Yes. Cake? Yes. Pumpkin? Yes, yes, yes!

Making this recipe even more perfect is that Christina Lane, author of Dessert for Two, provides her recipes in downsized portions for two people. Living with just my husband, I understand the peril of having ¾ of a cake sitting in the fridge when I’m trying to eat a healthy breakfast.

This recipe yields about two servings each for two people. To make the full recipe, quadruple the ingredients and bake in a 9×13” pan.

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake, Step-by-Step Photos

Preheat your oven to 350, and have a metal bread loaf pan ready. I used my Mom’s hand-me-down loaf pan that may have been non-stick in the 80s, but certainly isn’t anymore, sprayed with Pam.

To prepare the crust, add ½ cup of sugar to a medium bowl (I used my Kitchen Aid mixing bowl).


Add ½ cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour.


Then, add 1/8 teaspoon salt.


Add ½ teaspoon baking powder and combine the dry ingredients.


Separate one large egg, and add the yolk to the bowl (save the white for later).


Add 1 tablespoon of milk.


Then, add 2 tablespoons of melted, unsalted butter.


Stir until a wet dough forms. My dough was on the dry side, so I added about a tablespoon of water.


Press the dough mixture evenly into the bottom of the loaf pan.


Next, in the same bowl, prepare the pumpkin filling. Start with 3 ounces of softened cream cheese. (I like cream cheese and may have added a little extra – you never know, some of it might get stuck in the wrapper, okay?!)


Add the remaining egg white.


Add ¼ teaspoon of vanilla.


Add 2 tablespoons of melted, unsalted butter.


Add 1 cup powdered sugar.


Add ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon.


Add ¼ teaspoon nutmeg.


And, finally, add 1/3 cup pumpkin puree.


Beat the ingredients on low speed until well-blended, about 1 minute.


I had trouble getting my cream cheese fully blended, and ended up with little specks in my mixture. According to the Food52 Hotline, this could be a result of stabilizers in the brand of cream cheese I used (Philadelphia), not allowing the cream cheese to soften enough (which I am probably guilty of), or not ensuring that the rest of my ingredients were room temperature. I have used Philadelphia many times, so I am going with option #2.

Pour the mixture over the crust.


Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the cake is brown on the edges but soft and sunken in the middle.


Let cool completely. I refrigerated mine for 4 hours prior to serving.

Dust with powdered sugar, and eat up!




Okay, so that last step wasn’t so easy for me. My light spray of Pam wasn’t enough to keep the cake from sticking to the ancient (sorry, Mom!) loaf pan. I didn’t end up with the most glamorous result, but one of my favorite things about desserts is that it’s hard to make them taste bad, even when they don’t look so pretty.

This cake was perfectly pumpkin-y, with a rich, buttery crust and delightful mix of textures. I may have eaten both of my servings in one sitting.


Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake Recipe


For the crust:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 large egg yolk, egg white reserved for the filling
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the gooey part:

  • 3 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup canned pumpkin puree

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Have ready a metal bread loaf pan that measures 5×9.”

2. First, make the crust: In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, flour, salt and baking powder. Add the egg yolk, milk and melted butter. Stir until a wet dough forms, then press the mixture evenly into the bottom of the bread loaf pan.

3. Next, make the gooey butter filling: In the same bowl you used to make the crust, add all of the filling ingredients. Beat together on low speed until well blended, about 1 minute. Pour the filling over the crust.

4. Bake the gooey butter cake for 35-40 minutes. It will be browned on the edges, but slightly jiggly and sunken in the middle. Let it cool completely before serving.

5. Serve with extra powdered sugar dusted on top.


If you try this recipe, leave a comment!

Thank you to Dessert for Two for this recipe!