Lemon Semifreddo with Strawberry Sauce


The first time I ate a Semifreddo was at Vivoli Gelateria in Florence Italy many years ago.  While the gelato was wonderful, the Semifreddo had a unique texture that was silky, light and completely captivating.   Semifreddo means ” half cold ” and it feels less cold than ice cream or gelato.  Personally I feel that I taste the flavors more intensely because there’s no numbing effect of your tastebuds as there is with colder confections.

Semifreddo consists of a flavored base folded together with Italian Meringue and whipped cream.  The base can consist of a  Crème Anglaise (yolks cooked with milk and sugar), Pâte à Bombe (a base of  yolks beaten with cooked sugar syrup) or a base of puréed fruit.  However, the key component which needs to be included for the best texture is Italian Meringue.

So, as I often do, I tried to find Semifreddo in my hometown to no avail.  Then I began to collect recipes and try them, still without success.  Finally I stumbed upon the answer to my failures in an article authored by Marino Marini titled ” More Perfect than a Parfait”.  According to the article a semifreddo derives its origin from a French Parfait which is a Pâte à Bombe (egg yolks and sugar syrup beaten to a creamy consistency) into which whipped cream is folded. The Semifreddo can be differentiated from a Parfait because it includes Italian Meringue, the missing ingredient in all the recipes that I had tried.  Italian Meringue doesn’t freeze at zero temperature and has a silky mouth feel. Without it, you never get the correct texture.  This history feeds nicely into my narrative that the Italians (me and my ancestors) taught the French (my husband and his ancestors) how to cook, which began when Catarina d’ Medici brought her pastry chefs to France when she married Henri II of France. Clearly the Italians continued to school the French into the early 20th century  when the Italians transformed a very nice desert, the Parfait, into a spectacular dessert, the Semifreddo. Ha!

This is a dessert that you can definitely play with. An easy modification would be to do a raspberry coulis or a blueberry sauce.  Other flavor combinations come to mind: lime Semifreddo with blackberry coulis, passion fruit Semifreddo with mango coulis, orange/Cointreau Semifreddo with candied walnuts or pine nuts and caramel sauce; grapefruit Semifreddo with, well, I leave that up to you.  You can also forgo the daquoise and place the semifreddo directly on the plate or use a thin shortbread cookie, a ginger snap or cookie crumbs.  Try different combinations and make this recipe  yours.

A special thanks to blogger and author Grace Massa Langlois of gracessweetlife.com for inspiring the design of this dessert.  Check out her book and her blog.  Her recipes are well written and trustworthy.


Lemon/Limoncello Semifreddo Dessert Componants

  • Whipped Cream
  • Italian Meringue
  • Pâte à Bombe
  • Strawberry sauce
  • Limoncello bubble sugar

Whipped Cream

  • 238 grams (1 cup) heavy cream
  1. The cream, beaters and bowl should be pre chilled
  2. Whip cream to soft peaks and place in the refrigerator until needed.

Pâte à Bombe 

  • 108 grams (6 large) egg yolks, room temperature
  • 80 grams (1/4 cup) subtle flavored honey (I like Acacia)
  • 80 grams (1/4 cup) glucose
  • 81 grams (1/3 cup) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 45 ml (3 tablespoons) Limoncello {Italian Lemon Liqueur}
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon (use microplane)
  1. Beat honey, glucose, lemon juice, egg yolks and rind in a heat proof bowl.  This forms the top of your Bagno Maria aka Bain Marie.
  2. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water (this the bottom of your Bagno Maria) and wisk mixture with a balloon wisk until the mixture is 138 degrees Fahrenheit at which point the yolks will be pasteurized and the base will be thick and fluffy.  For my Bagno Maria, I use a large glass bowl set over a pot of simmering water. The bowl should be round and fit snugly in the pot.  The walls of the pot should come roughly half way up the sides of the bowl.  Make sure the water does not touch the bowl.  You should be able to simmer about 4″ of water in the pot.
  3. Once off the heat, wisk in Limoncello and strain out the lemon rind.  Let cool in an ice bath (a bowl of ice and cold water in which you put your bowl of flavored base) stirring occasionally.  Cooling it quickly in an ice bath discourages bacteria from developing.

Italian Meringue (use only half of yield)

  • 100 grams (1/2 cup) superfine sugar
  • 100 grams (1/3 cup) glucose
  • 80 grams (1/3 cup) water
  • 90 grams egg whites ( 3 large), room temperature

I suggest you read my page on Italian Meringue and take a look at the videos. The goal is to slowly pour 240 degree syrup onto egg whites which have been beaten to soft peaks and then to beat the mixture until it is cool.

  1. Clean out the bowl of your stand mixer with vinegar to make sure there’s not a trace of fat in it.  The fat can inhibit development of your egg whites. You can turn the bowl upside down to dry or dry it with a lint free towel. Place egg whites in the bowl.
  2.  Place sugar in a small, long handled pot with a lip, not a spout, and pour the water on top.  Place pot on a low flame and swirl the liquid in the pot until the sugar is dissolved.  Stirring can develop the formation of sugar crystals which is why the liquids should be swirled, not stirred. Once the sugar has dissolved (liquid should be clear) add the glucose and stir until dissolved.  I dissolve the sugar first because I find that when I add the glucose and sugar at the same time it takes the sugar longer to dissolve. Raise heat to high and cook until 230 degrees fahrenheit washing down the sides of the pan with a heat proof rubber basting, brush dipped in cold water, to remove any sugar crystals. You don’t have a lot of syrup so it won’t take that long to come to temperature.
  3. While the sugar syrup is cooking turn on your stand mixer to low (2 on a Kitchenaid).
  4.  When the syrup heats to 235 Fahrenheit, crank up the mixer and beat the egg whites to soft peaks.
  5. When the syrup reaches 140 Fahrenheit, slowly pour a thin stream of syrup over the whites, with the mixer still on high. If the whites are not ready, just pull the sugar syrup off the heat until the whites are ready. Beat until the bowl is cool to the touch.

Make Semifreddo

Using a balloon wisk, fold together the Pâte à Bombe and 1/2 of the Italian meringue that you made (save the other half for something else) Then, fold in whipped cream. Pour in loaf pan or twelve 1/2 cup flex molds.  Chill at least 8 hours before unmolding.


  • 5 egg whites
  • 100 grams superfine sugar (in addition to the tant for tant)
  • 200 grams tant for tant made with blanched, grated almonds.

Tant for tant is 50 per cent nuts and 50 percent granulated sugar. If you can’t find almond flour you can grate your own blanched almonds. I use the medium grating disc on my food processor and then I finish chopping the nuts with the sugar.  This helps keep your mixture from getting oily.  So 200 grams of tant for tant is composed of 100 grams of sugar and 100 grams of almond.

  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees fahrenheit.
  2. Line two cookie sheets with Silpat or parchment paper.
  3. Beat egg whites until soft peaks and gradually add the sugar.  Beat until stiff peaks.
  4. Fold in tant pour tant with a large balloon wisk.
  5. With a number 7 tip pipe out 12 circles of Meringue to fit the size of the bottom of your molds.  Alternatively, spread the meringue in a sheet pan to a thickness of about 1/4″.
  6. Bake for about 40 minutes, changing the position of the trays once.  The dacquoise should be an appealing tan color.
  7. Remove from the oven and immediately cut out your shapes if you used a sheet pan.  Let cool until you can easily pull the dacquoise off the parchment paper.

Strawberry Coulis

  • 2 pints fresh strawberries or unsweetened frozen if fresh are not good.
  • 56 g (1/4 cup) superfine sugar
  • Fresh lemon juice to taste
  1. Puree strawberries, sugar and juice in a cuisinart  and purée.
  2. Then push through a fine mesh sieve or tami (flat sieve).
  3. Chill.

Limoncello bubble sugar

  • 183 g (3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon) superfine sugar
  • 95 ml (1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon) water
  • 2 tablespoons liquid glucose or light corn syrup
  • 30 ml (2 tablespoons) Limoncello {Italian lemon liqueur}
  • 2 drops yellow liquid food colouring
  1. Heat sugar and water until sugar dissolves then add glucose.
  2. Take parchment paper and crumple. Smooth it out on a sheet pan leaving some wrinkles.
  3. Cook sugar to 310 degrees farenheit.
  4. Sprinkle or mist limoncello on to parchment.
  5. Tip sheet pan and pour sugar syrup across the top, letting it run down the pan.
  6.  Let cool and break into shards

Assembling and Plating

  1. Place some sauce on a plate.
  2. Pop the semifreddo out of the molds, place on the daquoise
  3. Place on the plate with an offset spatula.
  4. Garnish with a slice of strawberries and a shard of bubblesugar.


Chickpea Stew



  • For Chickpea Stew
  • 2 cans chickpeas
  • 1 box San Marzano crushed tomatoes (about 28 oz)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seed
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seed
  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Fresh mint chiffonaded (for garnish)
  • For Sweet Potatoes
  • 2 lbs sweet potatoes peeled and cut into even chunks
  • 1 stick butter
  • ½ cup honey
  • About 6 cups water (just enough to cover the potatoes)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Sachet of a few sprigs of fresh thyme, 3 tablespoons whole peppercorn, 1 tablespoon coriander seed
  • For Kale
  • ½ pound kale stem removed
  • ¼ onion diced
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • A few splashes of tabasco
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup water


1. Boil sweet potatoes with honey butter and sachet. ProTip: They’re done when you stick a knife in them and it goes through without effort and the sweet potato doesn’t stick onto the knife. Remove sweet potatoes when done and reserve liquid for later.

2. Cook onions in olive oil, stirring frequently, over medium heat until they just start to caramelize then add garlic and stir for a minute.

3. Add kale and water and cover for 5 minutes. Then add the rest of the ingredients cover and cook on low until kale is tender.

4. Cook onions, cumin seed, and coriander seed in olive oil, stirring frequently, until onions just start to brown then add garlic and stir for a minute.

5. Add the tomato paste and stir for another minute.

6. Add in tomato, ground cumin, paprika, add sugar and cook for 5 minutes.

7. Add in braised kale, ¼ cup of the sweet potato liquid, and chickpeas and stir. Bring to a boil then simmer for 20 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste

8. Serve chickpea-tomato stew with sweet potatoes on top and the chiffonaded mint.


Roasted Orange Juice Chicken


This is one of the simplest chickens I do and one of the best.  It comes from the Cookbook  ” The Scent of Orange Blossoms” authored by Kitty Morse and Danielle Mamane.

I first made this recipe when I was 13 years old for a project comparing Sephardic and Ashkenazy cooking.  I have used it so often since then that the book opens up right to the recipe.

For Chicken

  • 4 lb roasting Chicken
  • 2 cups orange juice
  • 2 cubes chicken bouillon
  • 1 orange
  • Salt and Pepper


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit

2.  Clean the chicken and pat dry then place in a roasting pan.

3.  Salt and pepper the cavity of the chicken.

4.  Mix the orange juice with the bouillon.

5.  Spoon half of the juice mixture over the chicken and into the cavity and put the orange in the cavity.

6.  Roast for 2 hours, basting with remaining juice and pan juices frequently, or until the legs move loosely and freely and the skin is browned.

7.  Take the pan juices from the chicken and reduce them for about 10 minutes. Serve the chicken with a large spoonful of pan juices.




Lemon Poppy Seed Scones


The first recipe a cook masters holds a very special spot in their hearts. For me this spot is reserved for these lemon-lavender poppy seed scones. It was the first recipe I designed and remembered by heart and remains one of my specialties. A few years ago, I was flipping through Baking Illustrated when I saw a recipe for british cream scones. I became inspired and for the next month I spent any free time I had experimenting with scones. I love how scones are a great vessel for an infinite number of combinations. I must have made more than 15 batches of scones during that month ranging from classic plain to bizarre (but still yummy) strawberry with balsamic vinegar glaze. The lemon-lavender poppy seed stood out among the others, combining a classic flavor profile with a little twist. The top of these scones is crisp with a tangy and sweet glaze that has a tantalizing hint of lavender that keeps you coming back for more. The flaky crust is contrasted by a moist, buttery, cloud-like interior with a little bite from the poppy seeds and bright lemon zest studded into the crumb.  These scones are without a doubt one of the best confections I make, and now you can make them too.



  • For Scones
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon table salt
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • For Glaze
  • 1 ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons very soft warm butter
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons dried lavender (optional)


IMG_03051. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Put sugar and lemon zest into a small bowl and rub the zest into the sugar to release the oils.

2. Place flour, baking powder, and salt in large bowl and whisk together

3. Use a pastry blender, or your fingertips and quickly cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few slightly larger butter lumps.

4. Stir in sugar and poppy seeds.

5. Stir in heavy cream with rubber spatula or IMG_0306fork until dough begins to form, about 30 seconds. Then with your hands knead the dough a little in the bowl to pick up some of the dry bits. ProTip: The dough should look dry, crumbly and dense.

6. Transfer dough and all dry, floury bits to countertop and knead dough by hand just until it comes together into a rough ball.

7. Flatten into an even disk 8 inch disk. ProTip: Flatten into a disk in an 8 inch cake pan to make a perfect circle. Using a bench scraper cut into 8 even wedges and place on an ungreased baking sheet.

8. Bake until scone tops are light brown, 12 to 15 minutes.

IMG_03079. While scones are baking, start the glaze. Warm up the lemon juice in the microwave for about 10-20 seconds. Rub the lavender in your hands to release the oil then let it sit in the lemon juice for at least 10 minutes. ProTip: The lemon juice should start looking purple before you use it in the glaze.

10. Put the butter, lemon zest, and powdered sugar in a bowl. Strain out the lavender from the lemon juice.

11. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of the purple lemon juice. Add more lemon juice as necessary until the glaze is thick but pours, about the consistency of ketchup. ProTip: If you want big lavender flavor, add back in 1 tablespoon of the strained lavender to the glaze.

12. Glaze the scones while they are still warm and serve.



Dream Bars (Potbelly)

I had been raving about the Dream Bars at Potbelly’s and finally my mom asked me to bring her one so she could try it.  As per usual, after a few bites of the sugary oatmeal, caramel and chocolate chip confection she said, ” I think we can do better, or at least as good”.  You can decide.

While Potbelly’s Dream Bars are soft, from being wrapped in plastic, ours have several distinct layers: crumbly oatmeal topping, creamy caramel and crunchy shortbread. Mom likes to add toasted walnuts or pecans to hers to cut the sweetness but for me and my  friends, the sweeter the better so I don’t add nuts.

Originally we used the wonderful but pricey Knudsen caramels but many sheet pans of cookies later my mom put her foot down and told me if I wanted to keep on baking sheet pans of cookies for my swim team I’d have  to make my own caramel and so she taught me. One day we’ll update the recipe to reflect our caramel recipe.



  • ½ sheet pan (18” by 13”)
  • Mixing bowls/tools
  • Measuring tools
  • Parchment paper


    • For Crust/Topping:
    • 1 ⅓ cup granulated sugar (about 9 1/2 ounces)
    • 1 teaspoon table salt
    • 32 tablespoons unsalted butter (4 sticks) plus 2 tablespoons, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and softened to cool room temperature ProTip: To soften butter but keep cool, beat it with a rolling pin while in the package before cutting.
    • ½ cup packed light brown sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
    • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (6 ounces)
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • For Filling:
    • 26 ounces good quality caramels
    • ¾ cup heavy whipping cream
    • 8 ounces good quality chocolate chips (Ghirardelli is preferred)


  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Very lightly grease bottom of pan with cold butter then put a sheet of parchment paper on the bottom of the pan. ProTip: Leave overhanging “wings” of parchment paper to help lift bars out of pan when done cooking.
  • 2. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with flat beater, mix flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, oats and salt at low speed until combined. With machine on low, add 32 tablespoons butter one piece at a time; then continue mixing on low until mixture resembles damp sand. Sprinkle vanilla extract in and mix well.
  • 3. Measure 2 1/2 cups flour mixture (unpacked) into medium bowl and thoroughly mix in 2 tablespoons of softened butter set aside; distribute remaining flour mixture evenly in bottom of prepared baking pan. Using hands, firmly press mixture into even layer to form bottom crust. ProTip: After pressing mixture onto bottom with hands use the bottom of a measuring cup to press it down to form and even layer. Bake until edges begin to lightly brown, but is not fully cooked, 14 to 18 minutes. ProTip: Set timer to a minute or two before the recipe tells you how long to cook it (in this case set to 12 minutes) so you can make sure nothing burns. Once cooked, let cool until it is cool to the touch, about 20-30 minutes.
  • 4. While crust is baking, begin filling. Put caramels and cream into a medium sized pot and turn onto medium heat. Melt caramel into cream, stirring constantly, until there are no lumps. Let cool until it is about room temperature but still pourable, about 30-40 minutes.
  • 5. Spread filling evenly over crust making sure to bring the caramel to the edge of the pan; sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over caramel. Lump streusel topping into sizes ranging from peas to hazelnuts and spread evenly over filling (do not press streusel into filling). Return pan to oven and bake until topping is deep golden brown and filling is bubbling, 22 to 25 minutes.
  • 6. Cool to room temperature on wire rack, 2 hours; remove from baking pan. Using chef’s knife, cut into squares and serve.
  • 7. These will last 2-3 days in tupperware and freeze very well. ProTip: If you like them soft keep them in tupperware with a piece of bread in the container. If you like them crisp keep them in a tin.


Pear Anise Crostata


Galettes are delicious flaky free form french tarts. This galette dough, published by Alice Waters but which she attributes to Jacque Pepin is easy, delicious and versatile. You can fill the dough with nearly anything you want, sweet or savory, from apples to zucchini. For this particular recipe I’m sharing, I took a journey back into my childhood for inspiration.

This recipe really brings me back to when I was a child. My mom makes a lot of amazing desserts, but there is one in particular that always fills the house with a tantalizing sweet aroma: poached pears. I’m also a little sentimental about the pears because they were the only dessert with fruit I would eat until I was 10. I know poached pears doesn’t seem that exciting, but my mom made them in a unique way. She would poach the pears in a simple syrup with vanilla, lemon, and a hint of star anise and serve it with a homemade chestnut gelato. The 3 bold flavors perfectly blended with the sweet earthy flavor of the pears.  This flavor is what I recreated for my galette filling.



  • For Dough
  • 1 cup (4.5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • Pinch teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons (¾ sticks) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 5 tablespoons ice water
  • For filling and topping Galette
  • 1 tablespoon roasted ground almonds
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/4 cup superfine plus 3 tablespoons of sanding sugar (the larger crystals resist melting and add a nice crunch)
  • 1 tablespoon of pulverized amaretti
  • 10 ounces galette dough, rolled into a 14-inch circle and chilled
  • 1 and 1/2 pounds ripe pears
  • Zest from ½ lemon
  • ½ Vanilla bean scraped
  • 1/8 tsp ground star anise
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • A little apple jelly (optional)


  1. Combine the 4.5 ounces of flour, 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, and pinch of salt in a large mixing bowl.
  1. Cut in 4 tablespoons of the butter with a pastry blender, mixing until the dough resembles coarse cornmeal. Cut in the remaining 8 tablespoons of butter until the biggest pieces are the size of chickpeas.
  2. Dribble 3.5 tablespoons of ice water into the flour mixture, tossing lightly with one hand and mixing between additions, until the dough just holds together. Do squeeze the dough, or it will toughen. Keep tossing the mixture until it starts to pull together; it will look rather ropy, with some dry patches. If it looks like the dry patches outnumber the ropy parts, add another tablespoon of water and toss until it comes together. Form into a ball then press into a flat disk, about 1/2″ thick and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling out. The dough will keep in the freezer for a few weeks.
  1. When you are ready to roll out the dough, take from the refrigerator. Let it soften slightly so that it is malleable but still cold. Unwrap the dough and press the edges of the disk so that there are no cracks. Rub some flour into a silicone mat and roll out the disk into a 14-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. If at any time the dough becomes to soft and starts to stick, pick up the mat, place it on a sheet pan and pop it into the freezer for a minute. Brush off excess flour with a soft bench brush or pastry brush.  Transfer the dough to a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate at least 1/2 hour before using. Rolled-out dough may be frozen and used the next day.IMG_0143Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place a pizza stone, if you have one, on a lower rack so it heats up with the oven.
  1. Toss the ground almonds, flour, 1 tablespoon of the sugar, and pulverized amaretti together.
  1. Remove the prerolled dough from the refrigerator or freezer. Sprinkle the almond-amaretti powder evenly over the pastry, leaving a 1 and 1/2-inch border uncoated.
  1. Peel, remove the stem from the pears and sprinkle a little lemon juice on them. Using a mandolin, cut pears into ¼ inch slices lengthwise. Remove core with a round cookie cutter.  So, what you will have is pear shaped slices with the core removed.IMG_0145Arrange the fruit in concentric circles on the dough, so that the edge of the second pear slice covers the cut out whole in the first one, making a single layer of snugly touching pieces, leaving the border bare.
  1. Mix ¼ cup of sugar with the lemon zest, vanilla, and star anise. Sprinkle sugar mixture evenly over the fruit.
  2. While rotating the tart, fold the border of exposed dough up and over itself at regular intervals, creating a thin rustic looking border. Brush the border with melted butter, and sprinkle it with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar.
  3. Bake in the lower third of the oven on the preheated pizza stone for about 45 to 50 minutes, until the crust is well browned and its edges are slightly caramelized. As soon as the galette is out of the oven, use a large metal spatula to slide it onto a cooling rack, to keep it from getting soggy. Let cool for 20 minutes. If you want to glaze the tart, brush the fruit lightly with a little warmed apple jelly. Serve warm, with vanilla ice cream or Creme Fraiche.


This recipe can be done with any number of fruits. In Late August and early Septembe, it’s always Fig Fest at my house. We all love the look of figs and their subtle earthy flavor. Mom makes Fig/Earl Gray preserves, fig tarts, fig cookies and figs stuffed with gorgonzola and walnuts. For the fig tart simply omit the sugar for the filling and use 1/4 cup fig preserves instead.


Berries release a lot of juice so we usually mix them with a stone fruit but let your imagination be your guide. Nectarines with a handful of blackberries are a nice combo.


Apricots with a drizzle of honey is also nice. Italian prune plums (Stanley plums) are wonderful. Mix 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of star anise and the inside of one vanilla bean to the 1/4 cup of sugar.


Sour cherries are very juicy and require some special handling. We pit them, put them in an oven safe dish with a bit of Kirsh and bakes at 350 for about 5 minutes until they release some juice. Take the juice and boil it down until it’s syrupy. Let the cherries come to room temperature toss the berries with the reduced juice and proceed with the rest of the recipe.

Best Red Velvet Cake

10372774_10204552244420897_9083352211704006813_nI’ve always been a person with a major sweet tooth. Whenever someone asked me what my favorite food was I would always reply with my favorite dessert of the time (usually ice cream). However, I really wasn’t much of a cake guy. I thought chocolate cake was too dense and rich, and vanilla was too dry and bland. I was the kid at birthday parties who ate more than their share of pizza, and then didn’t eat any cake. Every year for my own birthday, my mom tried a new version of cake that she hoped I would like. One year it was vanilla buttercream, the next marble cake, the next devil’s food cake. Each year, to her dismay, I took a bite, smiled, told her it was pretty good, then took a second bite and said I was done. Then, when I was 10 I fell head over heels in love with a cake. It was just any cake though, it was ruby red velvet cake with luscious fluffy cream cheese frosting.

My mom was at her friend Patty’s house (who now owns a cupcake store in Chicago) and whenever she goes out I always ask my mom to bring me something home. On this particular day she brought me a slice of red velvet cake. Looking back, it comes as no surprise that the first cake I ever liked came from Patty’s house because all good things come from her house like my first video games or tickets to Cirque du Soleil. Even though I didn’t like cake, I liked trying new things and the cake’s red crumb contrasted by snow white frosting was hypnotizing so I had to have some. After that first bit I sighed and my body melted as I entered cake nirvana for the first time. It was moist and delicate and the frosting was fluffy and just a little bit tangy. I found my perfect cake and every year since then, my mom has made me red velvet cake for my birthday.

There is a lot of confusion people have when it comes to red velvet cake. Many people think it is just a chocolate cake that’s dyed red, which is far from the truth. Traditionally a southern cake, it has it’s own unique flavor. There’s some cocoa powder in it, but also vanilla. The unique flavor can’t really be described in any other way than yummy and unique. The tangy cream cheese frosting that is a must for the cake perfectly complements the moist and flavorful cake. While my mom is the one who makes me the cake for my birthday, I make red velvet cake and cupcakes as often as I can. I’ll find any excuse to whip up a batch of red velvet bliss.



  • For Cake
  • 2 ¼ cups (11 ¼ ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • 1cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons natural cocoa powder (NOT DUTCH PROCESSED)
  • 2 tablespoons (1 ounce bottle) red food coloring
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 ½ cups (10 ½ ounces) granulated sugar
  • For Frosting
  • 16 (2 sticks) tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 cups (16 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
  • 16 ounces cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces, softened
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • pinch salt


1. For the cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans and put a round of parchment on the bottom. ProTip: Use a slurry of 1:1 butter to flour to grease cake pans to ensure there is no sticking.

2. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl.

3. Whisk buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla, and eggs in large measuring cup. ProTip: Make sure your wet ingredients are all at room temperature to allow for better mixing and no clumps.

4. Mix cocoa with food coloring in small bowl until a smooth paste forms.image2

5. With electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and sugar together until fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping down bowl as necessary.

6. Add one-third of flour mixture and beat on medium-low speed until just incorporated, about 30 seconds. Add half of buttermilk mixture and beat on low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape down bowl as necessary and repeat with half of remaining flour mixture, remaining buttermilk mixture, and finally remaining flour mixture.

7. Scrape down bowl, add cocoa mixture, and beat on medium speed until completely incorporated, about 30 seconds. Using rubber spatula, give batter final stir. ProTip: Once all the cocoa mixture has been incorporated mix as little as possible so you don’t end up a tough cake.

8. Scrape into prepared pans and bake about 25 minutes. ProTip: To check doneness insert a toothpick into the center and if it comes out clean then the cakes are ready, if there is mush or lots of crumbs then they need to continue cooking. Cool cakes in pans 10 minutes then turn out onto rack to cool completely, at least 30 minutes.

9. For the frosting: With electric mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes.

10. Add cream cheese, one piece at a time, and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Beat in vanilla and salt. Refrigerate until ready to use.

11. When cakes are cooled, spread about 2 cups frosting on one cake layer. Top with second cake layer and spread top and sides of cake with remaining frosting. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 3 days.


For Cupcakes: Follow instructions for making the cake above for making the cake and frosting. Cook in ½ cup cupcake tins lined with extra tall paper cupcake liners that have been filled with a 2 ounce scoop. Cook for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Pipe on frosting onto cooled cupcakes. (Link to buy special liners: https://www.etsy.com/listing/179965695/200-chocolate-brown-greaseproof-taller?ref=shop_home_active_1)


For Sheetcake: Follow instructions for the cake and frosting above multiplying all ingredient proportions by 3/4. Cook in a 2 inch high 9 inch by 13 inch straight sided aluminum pan for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool then frost on the top and cut into squares.

                                                                                                                                   image1Recipe derived from Cook’s Illustrated