Chocolate Snacky Wacky Cake (Depression Cake)

Chocolate Cake Serving 2

This is NOT your average, common place, every-day, garden-variety cake. Frankly, it’s not normal or even respectable. It doesn’t play by the rules. If you are Merriam-Webster, you might call it bizarro, wacko, crazy, curious, eccentric, far-out, odd, kooky, offbeat, outlandish, peculiar, quirky, screwy, strange, or weird. In other words, this unassuming little snack cake is […]

Mexicano Chocolate Pudding Cake (Hot, Easy & Good)

Serving 2

When it comes to special desserts these days, I’m  into EASY. But I’m not willing to compromise on taste, so it’s got to be EASY and GOOD. And because Valentine’s Day is in two days, it’s also got to be HOT. And seriously, why can’t HOT, EASY, and GOOD go together? There are three components […]

Chinese Good Fortune Cookies

Chinese Good Fortune Cookies

Is there any cookie in the world more magical and enchanting than a Chinese Fortune Cookie? No way. My heart and the corners of my mouth lift every time I am presented with one in a restaurant. How in heaven’s name are they made? And what will my fortune say this time? Of course the fortune […]

Sweet Potato Pie Perfecto Mundo

Sweet Potato Pie Perfecto Mundo

Confession time. I am a late convert to Sweet Potato Pie. Very very late. Because for me, Pumpkin Pie always takes precedent around the holidays. I LOVE Pumpkin Pie. But this year, I noticed a flurry of Pumpkin Pie posts that included candied yams and claims of supreme silkiness. So I tried it, only instead of using a combination […]

Pumpkin Pie, Ginger High, Meringue in Your Eye, Oh My

Pastry Collage

Check out these fabulous and decidedly uncommon pumpkin pies from four Portland, Oregon food stars.

The Best Super Chewy Snickerdoodles Ever

Stack of Super Chewy Snickerdoodles

There’s something about fall–the brisk mornings, heavenly colors, and burning leaves—that make me want to run to the OtherWorldly Kitchen and whip up a batch of fragrant, spicy, crinkle-topped, chewy Snickerdoodles. You know, the super chewy Snickerdoodles of my dreams.

Chocolate, Peanut Butter & Honey Crème Brulee

Chocolate, Peanut Butter & Honey Creme Bruleee

Who doesn’t love Creme Brulee? Or better yet, Chocolate Creme Brulee? And February is all about love and chocolate at LunaCafe. But, there are so many formulas for Chocolate Crème Brulee, I hardly knew where to begin. After some initial testing, I figured that the important thing was to first get the perfect proportion of egg yolks to cream, then the perfect types and amount of chocolate, and finally the perfect process. The romantic flavor pairing was added after I worked out the basic formula.

Chinese Cracker Jacks

Chinese Cracker Jacks

Many moons ago, as director of the Yankee Kitchen Cooking Schools, I had the opportunity to work with the inestimable Barbra Tropp of the China Moon Café in San Francisco. She came to Seattle to teach a series of classes for the school and the first thing she wanted when she arrived was a whirlwind shopping tour of Chinatown.

The Sticky Gingerbread of My Dreams

Gingerbread cake Serving 2

I began this exploration with a question. “What is the difference between sticky and regular gingerbread?” Put another way, “What makes sticky gingerbread, well, sticky?” A couple of rounds of baking later, I had identified the differences. Namely, sticky gingerbread starts with a fluid, molasses-heavy batter, which, if not over baked, creates a beautifully moist cake, which if wrapped and refrigerated for a day or two and then brought back to room temperature, has a dense, chewy, somewhat sticky texture.

Dreamy, Creamy, No-Bake Pumpkin Butter Cheesecake

Dreamy, Creamy, No-Bake Pumpkin Butter Cheesecake

I have developed dozens of cheesecakes over the years. At one point, I even launched a cheesecake company.

But a recent request from a reader made me realize that my focus has been almost exclusively on baked cheesecakes. A quick scan of my files shows only two no-bake cheesecakes. This post is one small and very tasty step toward correcting that omission.

Homemade Vanilla Marshmallows (Angel Kisses)

Homemade Marshmallows on Serving Plate

Okay, I know there are a zillion recipes for homemade marshmallows on the web, each claiming to be the lightest, fluffiest, springiest, tastiest, BEST marshmallows in the entire universe. But I’m giving you a marshmallow post this holiday season anyway for the following reasons.

Marbled Spiced Cranberry & White Chocolate Cheesecake

Slice of Marbled Spiced Cranberry & White Chocolate Cheesecake

I am very for­tu­nate that the newest mem­ber of our fam­ily, Christo­pher Weaver, LOVES cheese­cake. Because I love to cre­ate end­less vari­a­tions, and can’t afford all those calo­ries hang­ing out in the fridge taunt­ing me. Chris is a work­out machine, so he doesn’t worry a fig about calo­ries. If there are a few slices of cheese­cake left after a fam­ily din­ner, he saves me by tak­ing them home.

Decidedly Different Cranberry, Walnut & Currant Tart

Decidedly Different Cranberry, Walnut & Currant Tart

Every fall about this time, I am sitting cross-legged on the flour, surrounded by stacks of dessert cookbooks and culinary magazines. I’m looking for a cranberry tart for Thanksgiving. A UNIQUE, MEMORABLE, WOW-INDUCING tart worthy of the most spectacular meal of the year. And I’m willing (okay, eager) to try (okay, eat) several cranberry tart contenders before making the final cut.

Sweet Corn & Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Sweet Corn & Vanilla Bean Ice Cream with Spiced Caramel Apple Sauce & Gingersnap Crumble

Never heard of sweet corn ice cream? Well then, you’re in for an ice cream flavor revelation. As my collection of American Southwest and Mexican cookbooks grew over the years, I occasionally encountered this “oddity” in one or another of the dessert chapters. Finally, I searched the web and lo and behold, the word is out.

Spiced Caramel Apple Sauce

Spiced Caramel Apple Sauce

You know the flavor contrast you get when you bite into a perfect caramel apple—first rich, creamy, sweet caramel, and then bracingly tart, juicy apple? Add half a dozen spices and that’s what this caramel sauce tastes like. At first, you think, “Oh yeah, luxuriously rich, wonderfully spiced caramel,” and then POW, the acidity of the reduced apple cider kicks in and your mouth goes, “Hey, whoa, what’s happening here?” I love this double-punch effect.

Blackberry Lime Syrup with Star Anise

Blackberry Lime Syrup with Star Anise Over Lemon Sorbet

This sweet-tart sauce is the essence of late summer. It transports me back to the country roads and beaches of Vashon Island, where I spent so many Septembers foraging for blackberries, baking for hours in the wilting sun, trying to get enough ripe berries for JUST ONE PIE.

Ginger-Lime Peach & Blueberry Crisp with Toasted Hazelnut Streusel

Ginger-Lime Peach & Blueberry Crisp with Toasted Hazelnut Streusel

Northwest farmers markets were overflowing with fresh peaches this past weekend. And the selection is just beginning.

So far, I’ve seen Red Rose, Suncrest, Angelus, August Lady, Blushing Star, Snow Giant, Hale, Red Gold, Regina, September Snow, Summer Lady, and Yukon varieties. There are so many choices that making a decision is difficult. I sampled peaches at the Portland Farmers Market on Saturday and then again at the Hillsdale Farmers Market on Sunday.

Ultimate Salted Caramel Pudding (with Butterscotch Pudding Variation)

Ultimate Salted Caramel Pudding with Caramel Sauce, Whipped Cream & Cocoa Nibs

This post began as a response to repeated requests from a tenacious reader for The Best Ever Butterscotch Pudding (her words). She was impressed with Ultimate Vanilla Pudding (Perfect Stovetop Custard) and Ultimate Chocolate Pudding and wanted the same perfect results with a butterscotch flavor. She had tried a few recipes on the web but was disappointed in the results.

Warm-Spiced Molten Chocolate Cake

Closeup of Warm-Spiced Molten Chocolate Cake

I know, I know! Molten Chocolate Cake, or Lava Cake, as it is sometimes called, is so YESTERDAY. I am almost perturbed today when I see one on a dessert menu.

I mean, really, can’t the pastry chef think of SOMETHING ELSE? Haven’t we moved beyond warm, fragrant, oozing, fudgy chocolate soufflé cakes and their requisite ice cream accompaniments?

Spicy Chocolate, Banana & Fresh Ginger Tea Loaf

Close Up of Spicy Chocolate, Banana & Fresh Ginger Tea Loaf

It’s All Chocolate! All Month! in the LunaCafe OtherWorldly Kitchen. As usual during the Month of Love, I am covered in chocolate: milk chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, white chocolate, and unsweetened cocoa powder. All in an effort to come up with the most delectable, memorable Valentine’s Day dessert ever.

Mexicano Chocolate Ebelskivers (Aebleskivers)

Mexicano Chocolate Ebelskivers

The first time I bit into the airy pillow of dough known as ebelskiver (pronounced ay bil skee ver), I could not quite categorize it. Was it donut, beignet, popover? Or something else entirely? The only thing I knew for sure was that I loved them—whatever they were.

Holiday Gifts from the LunaCafe Kitchen

Burnt Caramel & Lemon Chevre Brownies

Christmas is the season of giving, and no gift is more welcome than something personal from your own kitchen. Pack your creation in a pretty holiday tin, canister, or gift jar, and you’re ready to make merry. The following are some of my favorite holiday treats, all perfect for giving.

Spicy Pumpkin Butter Gingerbread Beignets

Pumpkin Butter Gingerbread Beignets

This concept should have been a cinch. After all, I developed White Chocolate, Cardamom & Coconut Beignet and they’re wonderful—ethereally light, tender, moist, and beautifully flavored.

But I made a classic mistake at the onset. I tried to pattern the new beignets after the earlier success. And that, my friends, was a disaster. I threw batch after batch of beignets in the trash after just one taste.

Something different went wrong with each batch: too dry, too wet, not sweet enough, not pumpkin enough, not spicy enough, and finally, just okay but nothing special. I almost gave up. Where was I going wrong?

Lime & Vanilla Scented Rhubarb Clafouti

Lime & Vanilla Scented Rhubarb Clafouti

Clafouti (pronounced klah-foo-tee), a simple French custard-cake, is the perfect foil for the fresh fruit and berries of summer. Formulas vary wildly from one end of the spectrum (custard) to the other (cake). I love trying them all, and I’ve shared two of them with you already. What I am sharing with you today is a chewy, cake-style clafouti with a sweet-tart topping of lime and vanilla-scented fresh rhubarb.

Rhubarb Rose Petal Caramel Syrup + 4 Variations

Fresh Rhubarb Roundup: Rhubarb Rose Petal Caramel Syrup

One of the easiest and most effective ways to elevate a simple dessert to epicurean heights is to add a brightly colored, brightly flavored dessert syrup. You can serve a dessert syrup over ice cream or gelato, alongside panna cotta or baked custard, with tea cakes, or as the key flavoring of an Italian soda, lemonade, or limeade (recipe below).

Mastering Panna Cotta – with Six Variations

Fresh Chevre Panna Cotta with Rhubarb Sauce, Basil Syrup, and Almond Praline_Closeup

To my palate, this is the perfect Panna Cotta. It is lightly set and lightly sweetened with a good balance between fat and lean dairy ingredients.

To develop this master recipe for panna cotta, I created a recipe grid that compares key ingredients across examples from 20+ respected cooks. As you might imagine, the key proportion of gelatin to total amount of liquid is all over the place in these examples. You should not be overtly aware that there is gelatin in this dessert when you are eating it. That aspect should be quite subtle.

This article includes tips & tricks for creating the most wonderul Panna Cotta imaginable, plus six inspired variations.

Heavenly Almond Yogurt Cake with Fresh Strawberries, Strawberry Caramel Sauce & Basil Sauce

Almond Yogurt Olive Oil Cake with Fresh Strawberries, Fresh Basil Syrup & Cream Cheese Crema

When I happened upon the inspiration for this cake (Gourmet Traveler Magazine, Yoghurt & Almond Cake with Orange-Caramel Peaches & Vanilla Yoghurt), I puzzled over the ingredient proportions and procedure. Was there enough fat to produce a moist cake? Was there enough flour to produce a cake that could carry its own weight? Was the egg proportion too high?

Spiced Green Apple Lemon Clafouti

Spiced Green Apple Lemon Clafouti, Serving on Plate

I ran into an interesting clafouti (pronounced klah-foo-tee) formula in an old magazine in a box in the garage recently and almost dismissed it because there can be no better clafouti than Fresh Apricot Ginger Peasant Cake.

As you may recall from that post, clafouti, an earthy cake from the region of Limousin in France, is comprised of a layer of cake-custard, topped with a layer of juicy fruit. The result can be rather more like cake or rather more like custard, depending on the proportions in the batter.

Ultimate Vanilla Pudding (Perfect Stove-Top Custard)

Ultimate Vanilla Pudding with Coconut Crumble & Whipped Cream

I intended to do a quick pudding post but, well, one thing led to another, and now I’ve done a mountain of research instead. The exploration began with a simple hankering for Caramel Pudding. I grabbed a standard formula from somewhere, went straight to the kitchen, and whipped it up in less than 10 minutes.

The only problem was that the end result had hardly any caramel flavor, even though I started with burnt sugar, and the texture was a little lumpy after chilling. In other words, not the perfect pudding I’m going to pass on to YOU.

Torta della Nonna for My Darling Lily

Miss Lillian Mary Ellen (Lily)

I was pondering how to introduce the newest member of our family to you, dear readers, when my fabuloso sister-in-law, Mary-beth, suggested tying in Torta della Nonna, which truthfully, I knew nothing about. She fell in love with this simple and rich Italian tart in Italy, during a 5-day cooking course, at the beautiful Capezzana Wine and Culinary Center. Mary-beth says she ate a small slice of this tart every day during that stay and wishes she could continue that ritual indefinitely. This is her kind of tart. Let it be known that Mary-beth, former cooking instructor and continuing culinary maven is no slouch in the kitchen. If she says this cake is to die for, I believe it. And I must try it.

However, still unable to utter the “G” word without grimacing, I have been more preoccupied with what my darling granddaughter is going to call me than with announcing to the world that she has, at long last, ARRIVED. Even if that announcement involves a wonderful tart.