Category Archives: Dessert

Mini Mango Bread

After spending the day hiking and exploring Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, a few slices of mango bread in a day pack or back at the lodge with a cup of hot tea would have been a welcome treat! This recipe is adapted from ‘Baking’ by Dorie Greenspan, a cookbook that I would describe as a treasure trove of baking goodies. The recipe is easy to adapt, I added finely chopped crystallized ginger which I love in breads, scones, muffins or cookies. I also like the size of the mini breads, nice for sharing with tea. I loved hiking in the park and went a little crazy taking pictures of ferns in the rain forest, I could start a blog about ferns with all my photos!

Okay, just one more!

Descending through rain forest on the Kilauea Iki trail into the still steaming crater, back out and around the rim of the volcano was amazing, my husband Scott took this photo looking out onto the Kilauea crater.

We also hiked out onto the lava flow which closed the Chain of Craters Road by the ocean and enjoyed incredible views of the windy coast and the cliffs.

The haze in the air is from the volcanic gas, it looks like smog and is dangerous to breathe.

I also saw a Nene bird, an endangered Hawaiian goose, and I think he saw me too!

And for those of you who don’t have Dorie Greenspan’s masterpiece, ‘Baking’, I’ll share my adapted recipe for fresh mango bread.

Ingredients and Directions for Mango Bread

3 large eggs
3/4 cup canola oil
2 & 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon finely chopped crystallized ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup organic light brown sugar
2 cups diced mango, I used 2 large peeled and pitted mangoes
Grated zest of 1/2 lime

Preheat the oven to 350°F

Butter and flour or spray mini bread pans, depending on the size, 6-8 little bread pans.

Whisk the eggs and oil together.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt.
Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and mix together with a wooden spoon. The batter will be thick, more like dough than a batter. Not to worry, stir in the mango, crystallized ginger and zest. Divide the batter up between the mini pans and smooth out the tops with a spatula.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, depending on size of mini pans. The loaves should be browned and a thin knife inserted should come out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes before unmolding the loaves.

Wrapped in plastic the bread should keep for about 4 days at room temperature.

Serves 12-16


Chocolate Peppermint Marble Cake

Inviting a girlfriend who is affectionately known to her friends as the ‘Dessert Queen of the Peninsula’ to spend the weekend with you and wanting to make an impressive dessert for her requires coming up something that is a little out of the ordinary, so I searched to find just the perfect thing and found a recipe for a chocolate mint marble cake. Honestly, how many times could she have been served a cake like this before?

A recipe from ‘All Cakes Considered’ by Melissa Gray, one of the most entertaining cookbooks about baking cakes that you’ll ever read, caught my eye. This cake is called The Naughty Senator Cake, you’ll have to buy the cookbook to read the funny story that goes with it.

I’m not sure if it was the title of the recipe or the green food coloring that caught my attention but this cake stood out from the pack as the one that I wanted to try. The original recipe calls for light rum or rum extract which I didn’t have, and I didn’t want to buy it, so I substituted Frangelico for the rum which gave me an excuse, as if I needed one, to serve this cake with chocolate hazelnut Gelato.

Of course a ‘Dessert Queen’ does not come calling with out some sort of goodies in tow, like maybe black bottom cheesecake cupcakes with a few lime cheesecake cupcakes thrown in, just some old thing she had laying around the house, trying to play it down! Oh well, back to the drawing board but I’m going to share the recipe for this cake anyway, not that my friend asked for it or anything like that. And I know what you’re thinking, forget that old marble cake I’d like to get the recipe for those lime cheesecake cupcakes!

The highlight of making a cake, beating the ingredients into a thick luscious cake pan worthy batter.

Peppermint, never enough peppermint, a wonderful ingredient that I just had to show off in a photograph on my table.

Okay, so this is where I got a little carried away (just a little?) I lack self control when it comes to using food color, I know this about myself but I always seem to find myself in this predicament. The recipe said, just a small amount of the green food coloring, for a ‘natural’ effect, oh well too late now. I should just swear off the stuff.

So, here it is, the greenness in all it’s glory! This would be a great cake for St. Patrick’s day, with a chaser of Old Bushmills. Feeling a little remorseful I followed the rest of the directions for the cake to a tee.

I poured two-thirds of the now very green batter into the bottom of a well greased cake pan.

I cleaned off the beaters and added the cocoa and sugar mixture to the yellow batter, along with a splash of Frangelico. Beating until smooth, of course.

Using a rubber spatula I poured the chocolate flavored batter over the green batter and smoothed it down.

I layered the rest of the green batter over the chocolate and prepared to go to my favorite step, marbling the batters! Then I came across another test in self control, the recipe calls for cutting through the batters 2 times, no more! Looking at the bright green batter I decided to attempt the 2 rotations around this large Bundt pan, that’s all I’m saying!

And while the cake is baking don’t forget to make the glaze, which will have time to sit and thicken.

It’s nice to have a pot of fresh mint by your back door, it always need a trim and a little sprig of it looks great on the plate with a slice of light textured chocolate minty tasting cake. So, if you want to take the plunge, center a rack, preheat the oven to 350°F and prepare a large, 12 cup Bundt pan or a 10- inch tube pan.

Ingredients and Directions for the cake

2 cups sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 large eggs
3 & 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons peppermint flavoring or extract
1/2 teaspoon green food coloring
2 teaspoons Frangelico

In a small bowl combine 1/2 cup sugar and all the cocoa, set aside.

With a standing mixer, cream the butter at medium speed, gradually adding the 1 & 1/2 cups sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

In a separate bowl, dry whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together.

With the mixer on low speed, add 1 cup of the flour mixture, beat, then add 1/3 cup of the milk and beat again. Repeat until all of the flour mixture and milk are blended into the batter. Beat on medium high speed for 2 to 3 minutes.

Pour half of the batter into a clean medium bowl.

Add the peppermint flavoring and a couple drops of green food coloring to one bowl of the batter, unless you want it bright green then add more!

Pour two- thirds of the now green batter into the bottom of the cake pan. Set aside the rest.

Clean off your mixer beaters, dry and return them to the mixer.

Add the cocoa and sugar mixture to the yellow batter and add the Frangelico. Beat until smooth.

Using your spatula, pour the chocolate flavored batter over the green batter in the cake pan.

Layer the remaining third of the green batter over the chocolate batter. Then Marble by taking a spatula or plastic knife and cutting through the batters. Bring the spatula or knife toward you and then up toward the side of the pan, rotate the pan and repeat. Two rotations, no more.

Bake for 1 hour, when the cake tests done, cool for 15 to 30 minutes and unmold the cake onto a rack. Start checking the cake with a toothpick after 50 minutes for doneness.

For the Glaze

1/3 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons Frangelico

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the sugar, water and Frangelico and stir until smooth. Remove from heat and cool.

If you want more Frangelico flavor, drizzle the cake with the glaze.

Serves 16

Baked Rhubarb with Orange, Clove and Vanilla

Imagine yourself seated on a terrace under a Wisteria in full bloom enjoying an elegant but simply prepared dessert with your friends on one of the warmer evenings of spring. While I was walking yesterday I saw a Wisteria in full bloom over a beautiful terrace in a neighbor’s backyard and I began to think about hosting an annual Wisteria blooming party which of course features great food and wine. I came up with a simple, make ahead dessert idea for this fantasy garden party, just in case you wanted to play golf or take a hike the day of the party you could still serve a great dessert without slaving away in your kitchen. I adapted this recipe from Deborah Madison’s new book, ‘Seasonal Fruit Desserts’. I plan on serving baked rhubarb, something I’ve never tried, with one of my favorites, Laloo’s Vanilla Flake goat’s milk ice cream and cardamom cookies, another one of Deborah Madison’s recipes.

I found beautiful organic rhubarb from Washington at Whole Paycheck in Petaluma today which is my favorite Whole Foods Store so far, I’m hoping I like the new Novato Store, which is supposed to open in 2 days. I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for Petaluma Whole Foods, I used to shop there when it was a Wild Oats market.

The slices of baked rhubarb keep their shape which is nice and would also be good served for breakfast with yogurt.


1 & 1/2 pounds rhubarb, about 4 cups sliced
1/2 cup organic light brown sugar
1/2 cup organic cane sugar, more for sprinkling on top
1 orange, juiced and zested
1 2 inch piece of vanilla bean, sliced lengthwise
3 cloves

Preheat the oven to 375°

Rinse the rhubarb, trim the ends and slice into small diagonal pieces. In a large bowl combine the sugars, orange juice, zest and the sliced rhubarb. Transfer the mixture to a gratin dish and bury the cloves and vanilla bean in the rhubarb mixture.

Bake until the rhubarb is tender when pierced with a knife, about 35-40 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool in the baking dish, then cover and refrigerate. I found the rhubarb still a bit tart for my taste so I sprinkled 2 more tablespoons of the cane sugar on top.

Serve with vanilla ice cream and cookies for dessert.

Serves 10-12 in small bowls

Cardamom Icebox Cookies

Simply wonderful versatile icebox cookie recipe from Deborah Madison’s ‘Seasonal Fruit Desserts’ that tastes great with her baked rhubarb recipe. I used the organic ground cardamom seeds from the bulk spices at Whole Foods in Petaluma and that is one aromatic jar of ground cardamom! If you go to the market seriously check it out. I doubled the recipe because I don’t like making small batches of cookies when it’s just as easy to make extra dough and stash it in the freezer for baking off later.


2 sticks unsalted butter
4 tablespoons organic cane sugar
1 cup organic confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 & 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom seeds
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 egg yolks
3 cups all purpose flour
Demerara sugar, optional for coating edge of cookies


Beat the butter, sugars, salt and ground cardamom seeds in the bowl of a stand mixer until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes at medium speed. Add the vanilla and the egg yolks and beat until smooth. Reduce the speed of the mixer and add the flour 1/2 cup at a time until it comes together. Remove the dough with a bowl scraper, place on the counter and cut in half.

Tear off 2 sheets of wax paper about 14 inches long and set aside. Shape the dough into 2 logs about 10 inches long and place one on each sheet of wax paper. Roll up the dough, using your hands to form a longer cylinder. Shape it round or square, square is easy and fun, just use your hands to shape it the way you like.

Freeze the dough until firm, it doesn’t have to be frozen solid, a short time in the freezer is adequate.

Preheat the oven to 350°

Roll the logs in the Demerara sugar, if using, and slice into 1/4 inch thick round or square cookies. Place the cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet or use Silpats. Bake until lightly colored on top and brown on the bottom, about 15 minutes. Let cool on the pan.

Makes about 50 small cookies.

Lemon Buttermilk Rhubarb Bundt Cake

I love the smell and taste of buttermilk, lemon and rhubarb, so imagine my reaction when I saw this recipe in one of my cookbooks, ‘Rustic Fruit Desserts’ by Julie Richardson, who lives in Portland, Oregon, a city where people eat really well! I could barely contain myself when rhubarb began to appear in the market. After making the Irish brown soda bread I had some buttermilk left in the fridge and this recipe just seemed like a perfect way to use it up.

Preheat the oven to 350° and butter a 10 cup bundt pan.


2 & 1/2 cups of all purpose flour, plus 2 tablespoons to sprinkle on sliced rhubarb
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup unsalted butter
1 & 3/4 cups sugar, plus 2 teaspoons to sprinkle on sliced rhubarb
Zest of 1 lemon
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 pound rhubarb, trimmed and thinly sliced, about 3 cups

Lemon Glaze

2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar, I didn’t sift and my glaze had little bumps!
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon soft unsalted butter


1. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl, set aside.

2. Using a stand mixer, cream together the butter, sugar and lemon zest on a medium high speed until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Stir in the lemon extract.

It is important to use good quality pure extracts, this one smells really good!

4. Stir in the flour mixture in three additions alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, don’t forget to scrape down the bowl occasionally. The batter will be thick and scrumptious looking.

5. Toss the rhubarb in a bowl with the flour and sugar. Fold about 3/4 of the rhubarb in the batter and save the rest to sprinkle on top.

I love this picture because the sprinkled rhubarb looks so pretty on top of the cake which will eventually be the bottom of the cake. I also like how it shows the baked cake pulling away from the sides of the pan.

6. Bake the cake for around 60 minutes, rotating the pan half way through. Cool the cake in the pan for about 30 minutes before inverting and removing from the pan.

7. Make the glaze by whisking the sugar, lemon juice and soft butter together. The mixture should be thick or it will run right off the cake and puddle around the bottom, like mine did!
The recipe says to whisk in more sugar to make it thick, I think the glaze needs to stand for awhile and thicken up before spreading over the cake. The glaze should be put on the cake as soon as you remove it from the pan.

This cake, covered with a cake cover or plastic wrap will keep on the counter for 3-4 days.

Port Ganache Glazed Brownies with Dried Cherries

I found this recipe at Fine awhile back and put it in my file of recipes to try. We enjoy port after dinner and so do our friends, thankfully after a dinner party just enough port was left in the bottle to make this recipe! I made one change to the original recipe by using bittersweet chocolate instead of semisweet for the port-ganache topping. Our friend, Elias, who is the winemaker at Shafer will be surprised that not only did I put his port in the brownies but that I also ‘reduced’ it for the ganache topping.

This recipe yields 16 brownies

For the port soaked cherries:

1/2 cup dried cherries, very coarsely chopped
1/3 cup port

For the brownies:

1 cup unsalted butter
2/3 all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup unsweetened dutch process cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

For the port-ganache topping:

1/2 cup port
1/2 cup heavy cream
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (about 1 cup)

Soak the cherries:

In a small saucepan, bring the cherries and the port to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

Make the brownies:

Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter and flour a 9″ square metal pan.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat.
Stir in the sugar, followed by all four of the eggs and the vanilla. Stir in the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt (I mix all these together before I stir them into the butter, egg, sugar mixture),
starting slowly to keep the ingredients from flying out of the pan and stiring more vigorously as you go. Stir until the batter is smooth, about 1 minute. Add the port soaked cherries.

Pour the batter into the pan, spreading it out to evenly fill the pan. Bake for about 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out with a few moist crumbs. Cool the brownies on a rack.

Make the topping:

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the port to a boil. Boil until the port is reduced to 2 tablespoons, 3-6 minutes. Pour it into a small bowl. Thoroughly rinse the pan. Bring the heavy cream to boil in the pan over medium high heat, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the chopped chocolate and reduced port until mixture is smooth and the chocolate is melted.

Pour the ganache into a bowl and let it cool to room temperature, give it an occasional stir. When it’s cool, spread it evenly over the cooled brownies. Let the ganache set, it takes about an hour, before you cut into squares.

Keep the brownies at room temperature, well wrapped.

Roasted Pears with Caramel Sauce

The first time I saw pears roasted in the oven this way was in France at L’Esperance, a three star restaurant in Vézelay. The pastry chefs basted the roasting pears with caramelizing sugar and butter until they turned the most beautiful color. With the addition of some heavy cream you can make a wonderful sauce right in the roasting pan. I used Anjou pears but Bartlett pears would also be good.

4 Anjou or Bartlett pears, soft, not overly ripe
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream

Heat the oven to 375°. Peel, cut a small slice off the bottom(so pear can stand straight up) and core the pears. Use a small melon baller, it takes about 3 scoops to remove the stems and seeds.

Place the pears in an 8″ ovenproof skillet. Sprinkle with sugar and dot with the butter. Roast the pears, basting them about every 10 minutes, until they become soft and caramel colored. This takes about 1 hour and 20-30 minutes, I turn the oven down to 350° around half way through the process. The fruit juices and sugar will caramelize in the pan.

Transfer the pears to a plate and set the skillet on the stove over medium-high heat. Add the cream and stir until the caramel in the pan forms a smooth sauce.