carrot and pecan cake

This week, we bring you our 59th bake from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person. This latest recipe from the Layer Cakes and Fancy Desserts chapter is the much-anticipated Carrot and Pecan Cake. We have now made Claire’s Cream Cheese Frosting for three bakes in a row; this time, it was the extra special Brown Butter variation.

Lauren’s Take

I LOVE CARROT CAKE. Ever since I was a kid and my aunt used to make this carrot cake at family dinners, carrot cake has sparked a sense of joy in me. Honestly, I think it might just be that I love cheese and carrot cake has cream cheese frosting typically but hey… nothing wrong with that. I have been looking forward to making this cake and have had to continuously tell myself that I was not allowed to skip ahead and make it multiple times. So when the time finally came, I made it as soon as I could. Unlike most of these bakes where I have a piece or a slice and then give most of it away, I kept this entire cake for myself AND I HAVE NO REGRETS.

My overall thoughts/realizations:

-I used walnuts instead of pecans, but I don’t think you can go wrong either way. Breaking down some of them into bigger chunks allows for a nice crunch in your cake

-Buy pre-shredded carrots and you will be happy you did

-Carrot cake batter is often a lot wetter than other cake batter. Do not let this worry you

-The mix of spices and fresh ginger in this cake smelt SO GOOD coming out of the oven

-Not only is cream cheese frosting amazing on its own, but BROWN BUTTER CREAM CHEESE FROSTING IS THE GREATEST THING IN THE WORLD. I genuinely could eat a whole case of it on its own, but it pairs so, so well with this carrot cake, and they balance each other out

 

 

 

As you can probably tell, I loved this cake and it lived up to the expectations I had for it. The cake is super moist and fluffy and has just the right balance of spices, but this frosting really is the star of the show. I would say that everyone else I shared it with loved it but….you’ll just have to take my word for it since I didn’t have any other taste testers this week 😉 Make this cake and you will not be sorry (but who is ever sorry after making cake really?). 6 STARS!!!

 

Julia’s Take

While there are a very few, if any, types of cakes I would ever turn away, I have never been the world’s biggest carrot cake fan. That said, I have heard nothing but rave reviews about Claire’s recipe since buying the book, and so I was very excited to give it a try and see what all of the hype was about.

When I say it met and exceeded all expectations, I mean it. This cake has the most perfect balance of flavours: warm spices like cinnamon and clove, the freshness of the grated carrot and lemon zest, the punch of the freshly grated ginger, and the earthy, toastiness of the roasted pecans. It is a VERY wet batter, but sets beautifully after baking and cooling and leaves you with a super moist, delicious cake.

I made my cakes the night before, and was a little nervous about putting them in the fridge because, even after cooling, they were SO soft and delicate. Luckily, all went smoothly. I took the cakes out of the fridge the next morning and got started on my Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting and holyyyyyy cow, this is a game-changer of a recipe. I have a new affinity for brown butter anything thanks to Claire, but putting it in cream cheese frosting is just a whole other level of genius. It almost tastes like toffee, and makes for the absolute dreamiest pairing with the carrot cake. I will never make another cream cheese frosting ever again.

Even taste testers of mine who are not normally carrot cake people couldn’t help but be impressed and fall in love with this cake. Make it immediately. 5 very enthusiastic stars from this baker!

Next week, we are bringing the summer vibes with Claire’s Strawberry Cornmeal Layer Cake. See you then!

 

 

confetti cake

We’re back with bake number 58 from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person. This latest recipe from the Layer Cakes & Fancy Desserts chapter of the book was a homemade spin on the classic funfetti boxed cake mix, Claire’s Confetti Cake. Since it uses a reverse creaming method (start with dry ingredients, then add butter, sugar, and end with eggs), you get a slightly denser, crumblier texture. Although we both prefer a fluffier cake, the flavour of this was delicious and nostalgic. Paired with the Cream Cheese Frosting, one of the book’s Foundational Recipes, and speckled with bright rainbow sprinkles, it was an eye-catching and really enjoyable bake. Both of us used our cakes to celebrate some special birthdays: Lauren’s cake was shared in honour of her brother-in-law, and Julia’s was part of a 70th birthday celebration for a family friend!

Lauren’s Take

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Julia’s Take

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coming up next week: the long-anticipated Carrot and Pecan Cake and Browned Butter Cream Cheese Frosting!

classic birthday cake

Our 56th and 57th bakes from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person come to you from the Layer Cakes & Fancy Desserts and Foundational Recipes chapters of the book: the Classic Birthday Cake, topped with the chocolate variation of Claire’s Classic Cream Cheese Frosting. What an excellent way to kick off this next chapter of our baking journey!

Lauren’s Take

WE FINALLY MADE IT TO LAYER CAKES. If you could not tell by my all-caps there, I have been LOOKING FORWARD to this chapter. Despite the finesse and technical ability you need for pies, tarts, cookies…there is something about a layer-cake that screams legit baker to me, even though technically they are usually a lot easier to do. I think I just love the idea of having more room for creativity and decorating. And they just look so impressive. So despite a few panic moments and a HUGE mess in the kitchen (see photo of the great sugar spill of 2022), I was super pleased the whole time I was baking this cake.

My overall thoughts/realizations:

-Pre-cut parchment paper rounds for cake pans is the only way to go. Buy them and you will not be sorry

-Making cake batter is a lot easier than anything else we’ve made so far

-Yellow cake is yellow because it uses a million egg yolks

-Make sure to cover your mixer when mixing the powdered sugar into your frosting

-Cream cheese frosting is indeed always the way to go

-Using a lazy Susan to ice your cake is genius and you will thank yourself for it

-A crumb coat is a game changer

-You can never have too many sprinkles

-People experience JOY when they see a birthday cake, even if it isn’t their birthday

I was so proud of this cake. The cake itself was so light and fluffy and delicious; it tasted like boxed cake, which is a HUGE win. The icing was just the perfect amount of sweet and balanced well with the unsweetened chocolate for a bit more depth of flavour. And then decorating?! It was so fun to try different designs with the icing and then go wild on the sprinkles. I chose a gold motif to make it feel like a New Years Cake and a “Happy Birthday to the World” kind of vibe! So happy birthday! Just for experience and the joy it brought me alone, I would give this cake a 5!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Julia’s Take

As much as I enjoyed all of the different flavours and techniques we were able to try while baking through the Bars & Cookies chapter, and as much as I appreciated the huge freezer store of cookies I was able to accumulate and then use up over the holidays, I have been ready to move on to a new chapter for a while now. While I’m slightly intimidated by the prospect of making some of these fancier desserts (*ahem* croquembouche), I have been really pumped to get in to more creativity with cake decorating.

This classic birthday cake did not disappoint. I had no idea until now that the difference between yellow and white cake is that the first uses primarily egg yolks, while the other uses primarily egg whites. It was amazing to see the rich colour you get from the yolks as the batter comes together. The texture of this cake was perfect— moist, fluffy, and everything you want from a cake.

I am also already in love with the cream cheese frosting in the book. There are a few different variations we’ll get to try over the next few weeks, and this chocolate version was so, so good. Not too sweet, which is key for me when it comes to frosting.

It was SO FUN to put my own personal spin on the final look of this cake. I was really happy with how oven my layers turned out (that’s never been a strong suit of mine…) and playing with the look of the frosting and sprinkles made for the best baking experience. This recipe gets 5-stars for sure!

Check back for our next bake: Confetti Cake!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

peanut butter and concord grape sandwich cookies

Bake number 55 from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person officially closes out the Bars & Cookies chapter. These Peanut Butter and Concord Grape Sandwich Cookies were the last recipe to check off our list before we officially move on to the fourth chapter of the book: Layer Cakes & Fancy Desserts.

Lauren’s Take

Happy New Year to all! As I reflect on 2021 and the challenges it has posed to us all, I am exceedingly grateful to have these bakes to look forward to every week—bakes that continue to challenge me in the culinary arts and introduce me to new flavours and techniques! I am very much  looking forward to a new year filled with layer cakes and fancy desserts! But first, we had to complete the final cookie in the book; the PB& (Concord grape) J sandwich cookies.

My overall thoughts/realizations for this cookie;

-peanut butter and jam is an iconic and always delicious combination

-Claire’s log rolling trick never works for me and always turns into oval shapes rather than a perfect circle and there must be a better method

-If you don’t have a round cutter, use the tip of your pastry bag

-this seems like an almost too long process for a peanut butter cookie

Definitely this cookie is delicious; it has a great balance of sweet and salty from the peanut butter (don’t cheap out and use the good stuff, friends), and the tartness of the Concord grape jam pairs perfectly. But is it leaps and bounds better than your average, back of the peanut butter jar cookie recipe? I would have to say not really. Although the sandwich idea is definitely a nice touch.

Overall, not too complicated and a delicious, but not mind-blowing result. 4 stars 🙂

Julia’s Take

Who doesn’t love a peanut butter and jam sandwich? It is classic nostalgic and a flavour combination that screams childhood and comfort food. I was really excited to see Claire’s spin on the classic PB cookie, and thought it was so creative of her to take this concept of a peanut butter and jam sandwich and turn it in to a cookie!

I also am a huge fan of grape jam; in my opinion, maybe other than raspberry, it is the superior of all jams. I had some leftover concord grapes in my freezer from when we made the Apple and Concord Grape Crumble Pie a few months back, so I was able to make the concord grape jam from scratch using the recipe in the book. Concord grapes have such an incredible flavour, and the jam turned out great, but overall I’d say it’s not really worth the effort. If you’re making a huge batch of jam, then fine– but just for a cookie recipe, I’d recommend going out and buying the premade stuff and saving yourself the time.

The cookie recipe in general was a bit finnicky and more time-consuming than it needed to be. The texture and flavour was amazing in the end, as always, but I wasn’t convinced by the end that every step was worth it. I would also probably use a circle cookie cutter to shape things next time, because I cannot for the life of me get the log method to work.

All that said, the people I shared these cookies with raved about them. It’s a 4-star bake for me.

Coming up next: we venture in to the Layer Cakes & Fancy Desserts chapter, starting with Claire’s Classic Birthday Cake. We’re nervous and excited for the recipes to come. Wish us luck!

earl grey and apricot hamantaschen

Our 54th bake from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person is another recipe from the Bars & Cookies chapter, the Earl Grey and Apricot Hamantaschen. Neither of us had heard of hamantaschen before, but learned they are a cookie traditionally made for the Jewish holiday, Purim. Claire’s take on the classic recipe adds cream cheese to the cookie dough, which makes for a much more tender result. The flavour was unbelievable: a soft and flaky cookie with a hit of lemon zest, tartness and subtle sweetness from the homemade apricot filling, and the special twist of earl grey tea, which is seeped with the apricots to add a new flavour dimension.

Lauren’s Take

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Julia’s Take

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

fruitcake

Our 53rd bake from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person was a two-month long process: Fruitcake! We skipped ahead to this recipe from the Layer Cakes & Fancy Desserts chapter because we wanted to have it ready for the holidays. The actual bake itself took place in the fall, after which we spent 8 weeks feeding our fruitcakes two tablespoons of brandy or Grand Marnier to preserve them. Once ready, they are covered in raspberry jam, marzipan, and royal icing. We’re not sure the time and effort paid off in terms of taste, but we’re glad to have had this unique experience!

Lauren’s Take

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Julia’s Take

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

thrice-baked rye cookies

Bake number 52 from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person was these super unique and super delicious Thrice-Baked Rye Cookies. This latest recipe from the Bars & Cookies chapter included cooked egg yolks in the dough (yup!) and involved a three-step baking process, hence the name: one – bake the AP and rye flours for a toasted flavour; two – bake the combined cookie dough as a slab; three – cut into little diamonds and bake again for extra crisp.

Lauren’s Take

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Julia’s Take

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

spiced persimmon loaf

Hi everyone! While we’ve stayed active on our Instagram page, we’ve fallen a bit behind on our longer blog posts. Now that the holidays are over, we finally have some time to catch up and post about our most recent bakes, beginning with bake number 51, which took us back to the Loaf Cakes & Single Layer Cakes chapter of Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person. We were waiting on a key ingredient to be in season, and at long last bring you the Spiced Persimmon Loaf.

Lauren’s Take

 

 

Julia’s Take

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

minty lime bars

Hello friends! We have made it to our 50th bake from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person—can you believe it?! We are just a couple of bakes away from hitting the halfway point of this project, which is truly mind-blowing. This week, we bring you another recipe from the Bars & Cookies chapter, the Minty Lime Bars.

Lauren’s Take

These were quite easy to make, had really good flavours. They could have used more mint but were really tart from the lime, sometimes maybe a little too much. 4 stars!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Julia’s Take

I have to admit, I was a little apprehensive going into this bake. I love anything citrus, and lime is one of my favourite flavours, but 1) it’s almost Christmas and this bake just doesn’t seem to be the vibe, 2) I’d heard from several fellow bakers that the curd topping was almost impossible to get set properly, 3) I’d also heard the mint part of this bake (found in the shortbread base) was a bit lackluster. So overall, the bar was pretty low.

Luckily, I was so pleasantly surprised with how these turned out! The process was relatively simple and very different from the other bakes in this chapter so far, which was fun. The whole thing starts with the shortbread base. You start by zesting 4 limes and blending with granulated sugar until fragrant (this smelled amazing!). Then flour, baking powder, and a pinch of salt are mixed in, along with the chopped mint, before finally adding slices of cold butter and mixing with your hands until the whole thing is well combined and sticks together.

Since I’d read that the lime really overpowers the mint in this recipe, and really wanting the mint flavour to come through, I went heavy on this ingredient and probably doubled the amount that the book called for. Spoiler alert: this was a good call. The mint was still very subtle but definitely came through nicely!

The shortbread mixture is spread into the baking pan and then bakes for about 25 minutes until browned. While this cooled, I prepped my curd. This comes together with a blend of freshly squeezed lime juice, fresh lemon juice (about ¾ cup of the lime and ¼ cup of the lemon), 4 egg yolks and one whole egg, granulated sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Whisking the various components of the curd, gradually heating, and watching it thicken was super satisfying.

The hot curd gets poured over the cooled shortbread, and then the whole thing goes back in the oven for about 35 minutes. I gave it the full bake time and found that this achieved the puffed up edges that Claire says to look for, with just a slight wobble in the center. I veered on less wobble vs. more given all of the reported issues with setting. They looked fairly firm coming out of the oven, and once they’d fully cooled at room temp and sat in the fridge overnight, they were perfect!

I sliced them up the next morning and did a few drop-offs to my neighbours. These were SUPER tart and fresh. I loved how the lime and mint flavours played with each other, and the texture combination of the crispy, buttery shortbread and the smooth curd was fantastic. I will definitely make these again this summer, maybe served with a side of tequila! This was a 4.5 star bake for me!

Next week, we’ll be heading back to the Loaf Cakes and Single Layer Cakes chapter and finally baking the Spiced Persimmon Loaf. See you then!

oat and pecan brittle cookies

Welcome back, fellow Dessert People! This week, we’re bringing you another stellar bake from the Bars & Cookies chapter of Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person, and one that has been praised as one of the best recipes in the whole book—the Oat and Pecan Brittle Cookies, back number 49!

Lauren’s Take

Hello all! Christmas music has started on the radio this week, so I am a HAPPY camper. I hope the world is treating you all well.

I remember the video for this bake was one of the first ones I saw and watched when Claire started releasing her Dessert Person videos on YouTube and I had a few main thoughts…

1. There is brown butter in this, it must be amazing

2. Wow this looks like quite a proces

3. Wow that looks like a lot of dishes

I am happy to report that after making these cookies, I can confirm all of the above. They are finicky, involve many steps, but damn, are they worth it.

In terms of ingredients, these cookies include most things you’d already have in your house: LOTS of butter (which has become a staple of each grocery store trip for me these days), flour, old fashioned oats, white and brown sugar, eggs, baking soda, and pecans. Nothing too fancy.

The cookies involve a series of steps that individually don’t take that long; the most time-consuming piece is the time needed to chill the dough. The first step is to make the pecan brittle. You do this by toasting the chopped pecans, and then make a caramel-like mixture by heating sugar, butter, and water. Once the caramel is that pretty colour, you remove from heat and stir in the toasted pecans. Honestly, nothing smells better than toasted nuts but then you add them in caramel?! I mean, c’mon. Then, quickly, you add in the baking soda and salt to create a foaming action for your brittle. I must say, I was pretty excited for this but nothing happened? It didn’t foam or grow or anything. I’m not sure if my baking soda is just old and doesn’t have the same oomph it used to? Anyways, I then spread out the brittle quickly on a piece of parchment paper. In Claire’s video, it appeared that the brittle was wet and hardening quickly, but mine was already hard and brittle, so who knows. I tasted a piece and it was delicious so I decided to just go with it anyways. I let it chill for 10 minutes and then chopped the brittle into small pieces and put aside.

Next step was to make the cookie dough. First, you brown half of the butter and put the other half in the bowl on the stand mixer. Once the butter is browned, you pour it over the other butter, and let it sit until room temperature (I waited about 30 minutes for this). In the meantime, I mixed my dry ingredients which has to be done in a food processor to ground the oats. My mini food processor barely hung on to get everything done in one go (I really need an adult sized one, you listening Santa?). You pulse the flour, salt, baking soda, half of your pecan brittle, and a cup of oats until it makes a finely ground mixture.

Next, you add your white and brown sugars to butter and beat until smooth. I have noticed that in many cookie recipes, Claire does a combo of white and brown sugar; I think it just adds a lot more depth to the flavour. Then you add in your eggs and vanilla, and finally your dry ingredients until everything is well combined. To your dough, you add the reserved pecan brittle and oats.

Once the dough is done, you scoop out roughly 2oz mounds and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and then chill in the fridge. I chilled overnight, so they were in there for about 24 hours in total. I was able to get 18 cookies from the dough. After the chilling phase was complete, you FINALLY get to bake them. These cookies grow so make sure you give them lots of space (Claire recommends 6 cookies per sheet, but honestly I would’ve done less). I decided to only bake 12 and I put the other 6 mounds into a freezer bag to save for later!

The cookies don’t take long to bake, about 18 minutes or so for me. But the SMELL that comes from the oven while baking is something else…it smelt so butterscotch-y I couldn’t wait to taste. They are done once they are a dark golden brown along the outsides but still kind of gooey in the middle. The cookies are left to cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes before transferred to a wire rack.

As I mentioned, these cookies really expand in the oven, and with all the brittle and oats inside, get a really cool ruffled look along the top. They are so inviting both in terms of look and smell. They hit the perfect balance between crispy and chewy. The toffee flavour from the brittle is excellent and the brown butter adds some savoury aspect too. Honestly, it is a perfectly balanced cookie and you aren’t left searching for any other flavour. Just be prepared to have a mound of dishes in your sink when you’re done. This cookie is excellent and very much deserving of 5 Stars!

Julia’s Take

Another week, another cookie recipe and considering what a “meh” start this chapter had, these last few bakes have been absolutely stellar! There are so many cookie recipes that I’ll be making again and again once this project is over, and these Oat and Pecan Brittle Cookies are on that list!

This process is not for the faint of heart. There were so many steps involved but, let me tell you, each one was absolutely worth the time and effort. Step one: toast the pecans. Step two: make a caramel. Step three: combine the toasted nuts and the caramel to create a brittle. Mine firmed up with away and was super clumpy/not spreadable like Claire’s seemed to be, but nevertheless it tasted absolutely delicious. Would definitely make just this on its down as a special treat!

After the brittle stage came the butter stage. Half of the butter that the recipe calls for is browned (Claire’s favourite thing and now mine) and the other half goes into the bowl of the stand mixer. Once my butter was browned, it was poured over the rest of the butter and then the whole mixture was left to cool and re-solidify. This is the second time Claire has called for this particular butter process, and the book says it takes about 30 minutes, but in my experience it takes at least an hour, likely longer, for the butter to come anywhere near solid form again while cooling.

While my butter cooled, I got started on the dry blend. This was a mixture of AP flour, whole oats, salt, baking powder, and half of the pecan brittle. It all gets blitzed up in the food processer (yes, that’s right—there is toffee brittle mixed right into the batter itself. Genius.).

After I had my dry ingredients ready to go, I went back to my stand mixer and added brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs, and vanilla to the butter mixture. Once this was all combined, the dry ingredients were added in. Last but not least, some additional oats and the rest of the brittle, cut into little chunks, were gently folded in to the batter.

You would think after ALL this, your cookie would be ready to bake but, alas, they are not. The batter is portioned out in quarter cup size-ish scoops, and then left in the fridge to cool for about 24 hours. This stage is supposed to contribute to the overall texture and chewiness of the cookies; it’s the same process we used for the Chocolate Chip Cookies and, can confirm, it makes a big difference!

The next day, I took my cookie scoops out of the fridge, arranged them onto baking sheets, and baked my cookies. The house smelled absolutely unreal—toasty and butterscotchy and delicious. These cookies were NEXT. LEVEL. Everyone I shared them with raved about them, and they did not last long. I’ll be baking up another batch ASAP. 5 stars from me for sure!

Next week: Minty Lime Bars!