On Banana Cupcakes and Other Blogs

These are super moist, giant Banana Cupcakes from Joy the Baker: the early years.  Of course, since I’ve only been rocking this blog for a few months, I suppose I should say Joy the Baker: the early months, but it sounds more romantic the other way.  How long do I have to wait to come out with a greatest hits album?

Enough about me.  Today I wanted to tell you about three beautiful blogs that I just discovered.  I spend a great deal of time working in the kitchen and on my blog and when I do venture out to other blogs, I hit up the same ones all the time.  I’ve found my comfort zone.  This week, though, I ventured out into deep cyberspace and came back with some really lovely blogs for you to check out.  Maybe you know these people.  Maybe I’m completely behind the times.  Whatever the case get to know and love these bloggers as I have.

Almost A Chef is a lovely blog with simple yet creative recipes.  Daniel is an untrained food lover, experimenting and really creating some fantastic dishes.  His Baked Pears with Fig in Vanilla Syrup caught my eye.  The photography is charming and he’s got a very readable voice.  He’s a new favorite.

Do you know about Sophie at Mostly Eating?  She’s an English nutritionist that focuses on both healthy and sustainable foods.  I love her photographs and her whole site is just warm and inviting.  I especially liked the article dedicatd solely to rhubard– which yes, makes me a complete dork.

Lastly, Ashley at Artisan Sweets is amazing.  She is my absolute favorite new find.  Ashley was a pastry kid at Spago and now lives in Washington with her husband, two darling sons and her garden.  The photos on her blog are outta sight.  And she has orange scented scones, so now you must go visit.  Her voice is very personal and warm, and I just completely love the work she’s doing.

Double Chocolate Wedding Cake

This cake has Joy the Baker written all over it.  Why?  It’s simple.  It’s chocolate all over.  It has natural elements that lend a hint of color, and quirky chocolate flowers that add a touch of light-hearted fun.  And the cake isn’t perfect- it has stroke marks and rough sides.  Wedding cakes these days are flawless.  Obviously that’s not my style.  I think this cake, even with all of it’s imperfections, is absolutely perfect.  I spent about two days putting this cake together, and by the time I was done, I was absolutely smitten with it.  Big time cake crush.

This cake (on day two I named him Sir Chocolate Monster) was requested for a ten year wedding anniversary and vow renewal.  Ten years!  Something about that struck me…

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Fresh Mango Bread

I have nicknamed this bread Crazy Face Mango Bread.  Why?  Because every time I tell someone what this treat is- Fresh Mango Bread, they make a crazy face.  I don’t even mention that it’s made with whole wheat flour and also has grated apples (and golden raisins… shhhh!).  That might just send them over the top!

I bet you’re making a crazy face right now.  I’m sure you are…  But this bread is great!  Turn that crazy face into action and whip up a loaf for yourself!  With the flavors of ginger and cinnamon, and the surprise pieces of fresh mango, this bread is perfect with tea for breakfast or an afternoon snack.

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Baker’s Day Off- Birthday

In my life, the topic of food is completely inseparable from the topic of family.  I know this connection isn’t unique to me.  I’m sure you can all relate in one way or another.  My family comes together in the kitchen.  It’s like we’re a gang of rebel pirates (yes, pirates) and my dad is the captain.  He’s the sauce man, the dip man, the master biscuit maker and the pie guy.  He’s got it all covered and my sister, mom and I just follow directions.  We all have our jobs and our strengths, and together we take no prisoners in the kitchen.  We are pirates, after all.

The end product is always such a joy.  We laugh over huge pans of cheesy enchiladas, we celebrate with bowls of pasta and homemade marinara sauce, and we sometimes mourn over dense, sweet cakes.  We run the gamut of emotions always together, always in the kitchen.

This Memorial Day weekend we came together in San Francisco.  Yes, I stepped out of my kitchen for a day… and into another, much more rowdy and crowded kitchen.

It was also my birthday and my sister and mom made me the beautiful Hummingbird Cake that you see above.

After the jump, my birthday Sunday, in seven pictures.  Sorry kids, no recipe in this installment, just pretty pictures.

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Ice Cream Cupcakes

I absolutely LOVE Memorial Day weekend. It’s like all the good things in the world come together in one weekend. I look forward to this three day weekend at the start of May. Not only is it my birthday weekend, but it’s also the unofficial start of summer, the start of outdoor grilling and parties with friends, and just all around good times.

If I had a lake anywhere near me, I’d be down at the lake all the time, just so I could say, “I’m going down to the lake!” That feels like an ultra summer thing to say. Lake or no lake, I feel a beautiful summer coming on.

And as if I couldn’t get more excited, I’ve discovered I can make ice cream cupcakes! These little gems are really easy to throw together and you can make them with any flavor combination you can imagine. The only slight downside is that they melt (as ice cream tends to do) when they’re not in the freezer. Melting won’t be too much of an issue because these don’t tend to stick around long. I’ve already eaten 5, and the party isn’t until Sunday.

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It’s Business Time

Alright friends, we have some business to take care of.  Don’t worry!  It won’t be too painful!

It’s almost my birthday and I’ve decided to treat myself to a new cookbook.  I knew you were the people to come to for that sort of thing.  Help me out!  Do you have any cookbook suggestions?  Above is my old school Kraft Cookbook that has an irresistible pound cake recipe.  I’m looking for an awesome, not overly fancy, creative baking book.  You know things that I don’t, so I would LOVE your suggestions!  Leave me a comment and give me an idea of a book to buy.

Next- you’ll have to accept my humble, very humble apologies!  I haven’t yet sent out the cookies to the cookie winners from a few weeks ago.  I could list off excuse upon excuse, but please know that I haven’t forgotten about you!  The stars have not aligned to give me both time to cook and get to the post office with fresh cookies.  Your time will come, and it will be soon!

This week I’m working on a darling Memorial Day dessert.  I think it might be a winner, so look forward to that!  I’m also throwing together a wedding cake for Saturday.  It’s going to be a chocolate monster of a cake.  I’ll share pictures, I promise!

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

I always have the best of intentions when I buy barely yellow bananas at the grocery store.  I have visions of healthy breakfast shakes, peanut butter and banana sandwiches, and healthy mid afternoon snacks.  Without fail the bananas turn brown and speckled.  They start to mush and sink into themselves.  They just become all around unsexy.  They threaten to spread they’re over exposure to the unsuspecting apples and oranges in the same bowl, and we simply can’t tolerate that!

I should just come to terms with the real reason that I buy bananas- so that I can mix them with chocolate and try to pass them off as breakfast.  This Chocolate Chocolate Chip Banana Bread is attempt to do just that-  eat loads of chocolate and say yes!  Yes, I ate a glorious breakfast!

There is satisfaction in that, to be sure!

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Raspberry Almond Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache

Kids between the ages of 3 and 7 are pretty amazing.  They’re little screaming, snotting, jumping, and crashing balls of honesty.  If they don’t like you, you know it.  If they recognize you for the poopoo head that you are, they’re not afraid to tell you- to your face, in ear piercing tones.  They haven’t yet developed the ability to filter their opinion of you.  It’s simultaneously refreshing and completely unsettling.

That’s why, whenever I meet new kids, I come with cupcakes.  Not just cupcakes, but cupcakes with sprinkles.  It works every time.  It’s irresistible.  It’s my dirty little trick.  Walk into their house with cupcakes and a smile on your face, and you’ve got an instant friend.  And when they come and thank you for the cupcake with chocolate all over their face- well, there’s nothing better.

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Mango Lime Sorbet

There is something in the air this time of year. I’m as restless and a 12 year old girl waiting for summer break so she can go hang out at the community pool. Maybe it’s the impending 3 months of relentless, almost suffocating Los Angeles heat. Maybe I just yearn for the carefree days of summer. Maybe I just need a vacation. I’m completely restless these days, and with no real vacation in sight, what’s a girl to do but play with her ice cream maker.

Today I bring you Mango Lime Sorbet. It’s like going on vacation with your spoon. Just like going on vacation- minus those pesky airport lines, and the passports and the exciting new places to see, and delicious new food to eat. Why do all that, really, when you can stay at home and make sorbet…

Pardon me while I wallow in woe. But seriously… someone please take me away.

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Lemon Scented Olive Oil Cookies with Almond Glaze

I’ll admit, I think olive oil is sexy.  Extra Virgin Olive Oil especially, sends me over the moon.  The rich, full and nutty smell, the beautiful translucent green color, and the way the taste coats my mouth.  It’s just gorgeous.  I’ve been known to buy a fresh baguette on the way home from work and simply eat warm bread with plates full of olive oil.  I think I’ve also put the stuff in my hair as a conditioner, and on my hands as a lotion.  But that’s sounding like a whole other blog, so let’s not get into that.

Lemon Scented Olive Oil Cookies with Almond Glaze.   Sounds like there’s a lot going on in one humble cookie, right?   It’s amazing how the flavors and sweetness meld together to create a unique, yet strangely familiar taste treat.  These essentially taste like a darling lemon sugar cookie, but with a slight (sexy) hint of olive oil.  I tested these on unsuspecting, but die hard cookie fans, and they couldn’t put their finger on the olive oil without me pointing it out.  The verdict-  two thumbs up.


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Gingerbread Pancakes with Homemade Pancake Syrup

Am I starting to bore you?  Here I am with another pancake post.  I would almost feel bad about posting so many delicious pancake treats, but I can’t help myself.  I’m serious.  I’ll look you straight in the eye and tell you that I really just can’t help myself.  I must make pancakes about once a week.  I have them for dinner.  I wake up early and make them for breakfast.  And, because we’re all friends I’ll admit this, I freeze old pancakes and take them to work and reheat them in the toaster for lunch.  So you see, I have a serious pancake obsession!

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Living the Good Life- with Grits

I know this is a bit of a departure for me. But seriously- check out these grits with grilled sweet corn, grilled onions, jalapeno peppers and sharp cheddar cheese.  Amazingly delicious!

Grits are a corn based, sometimes breakfast, sometimes dinner, always delicious cereal type food.  Is that clear?  Grits are similar to something like polenta, which is another corn product.  Essentially grits are coarsely ground corn.  They’re popular in the Southern United States, where they know how to do them up right with butter, cheese and bacon.  Bless them for they’re fantastic use of fat.  Seriously.

My grits were cooked in water and salt, then graced with a generous pat of butter.  I grilled up some fresh sweet corn, onions and jalapeno pepper until they were nice a browned then layered that on top of the cooked grits.  The whole dish was topped with a handful of grated sharp cheddar.  I had a tub of sour cream ready too, just in case I needed an extra dollop of richness…. but I decided to be reasonable and skipped the sour cream.

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Zucchini Sweet Potato Bread

Did you know that they sell quick bread box mixes in grocery stores!?  I think that’s so strange.  Fake flour, loads of sugar, and ultra dehydrated blueberries in a box to be mixed with water and eggs.  This concerns me… deeply.  Exactly how quick does a quick bread have to be to make it in this world?

I think homemade quick breads are dreamy.  With enough creativity and guts, you can throw just about anything into a quick bread and call it delicious.  This go around I tried zucchini and sweet potato.  The combination produced a full and unique flavor:  not too heavy on the zucchini or sweet potato flavors.  And of course, because I’m me, I also loaded the bread with spices, nuts and cranberries.  You can modify if to your taste, I make room for that in the recipe.  Because, yes, I care.

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Vanilla Strawberry Ice Cream Treat and Cookie Giveaway Winners

Thanks to all of you for the kind words in my cookie giveaway.  I’m so glad I could lure some of you silent readers out into the commenting world with the chance at free cookies!

And the winners of fresh baked, express mail, Red Velvet Black and White Cookies are:

Megan of Meganscooking

Jennifer who is pregnant and probably really needs some black and whites

Tara who’s sister is a wiz at apron making

and Whitney in Chicago.  Good luck on your big test!!

I’ll be baking this week and ship those cookies off to you all soon.  And don’t fret, there are more yummy giveaways coming soon.  I just can’t help myself!

 What’s the strawberry treat above?  It’s a simple and surprisingly delicious dessert.  A bowl of quality vanilla ice cream, topped with sliced strawberries and drizzled with good aged balsamic vinegar.  I know it sounds a little crazy, but it’s a pretty incredible, fresh, perfect for summer dessert.  Go out on a limb and try this one.  Do it for me.

Thank You! Want a Cookie?

Please allow me to take a break from the usual photo and recipe post to tell you all how fabulous you are!

I only started Joy the Baker about 5 months ago.  In those short months, I have connected with fellow food lovers from around the world.  The response has been truly heart warming.  The praise, support and inspiration has really changed my life.

Thank you!  Thank you for visiting so loyally.  Thank you for reading, drooling and commenting.  Thank you for trying my recipes and telling me about your successes and oopsies.  Thank you for all of the laughs and inspiration that you have unknowingly provided me.

The only real way to say thank you is with cookies.  These Red Velvet Black and White Cookies have gone off the charts in their popularity on this site.  So, three lucky Joy the Baker readers will find these little beauties in their mail boxes- a thank you from me to you!  All you have to do is a leave a comment on this post, and I’ll pick at least three random names, ship them off, and you’ll enjoy cookies!  Go on, leave me a comment.  Tell me something good.

Thanks again for all of your support!  It means so much to me!