Category Archives: desserts

Red Velvet Cake with Fresh Berries

This one is a classic, folks.  I’ve been making this particular red velvet cake for years, although it’d been awhile so I whipped one up this weekend. As I was mixing it together I remembered how easy it is to make, and as the scent of cocoa wafted through the air while it was baking I kicked myself for not making it more often, especially NOW when there is an array of gorgeous berries at the markets.  Continue reading

Healthier, 134-Calorie Cheesecake

Ed note: Hey, welcome to the new, improved, Doppler 12,000 version of Tuna Toast! It’s nice to finally be here, and I’m so glad you’ve joined me. Read more about this blog and other new, exciting (well, to me!) happenings by clicking on the “About Me,” “Catering/Baking” or other tabs.

I know what you’re thinking.  How can healthy cheesecake be any good?  After all, the best thing about a cheesecake is how dense, rich and utterly sinful it tastes. Which is exactly why I tried to create a slightly lighter version- so I could experience the goodness that is cheesecake much more often.  And guess what?  It worked!

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Homemade Pop-Tarts

I’ve baked a lot of cookies, cupcakes, cakes and pastries over the last few years, and the items that seem to get the biggest reaction are things that take people back to their childhood.  When I made a version of Ding Dongs for my former coworkers, you’d have thought I handed out $100 bills- they were damn near in happy tears over the chocolate cupcakes with the little squiggle of white icing on top.  Freshly baked apple pie wins hands down over something fancy from a French patisserie, and these Pop-Tarts may have beaten them all.  I guess nostalgia minus artificial colors and flavors plus home baking = happy people.

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Sticky Toffee Pudding (and some other stuff)

Sticky. Toffee. Pudding. Each word is so appetizing, don’t you think? When you put them together, “sticky toffee pudding” is, in my opinion, quite possibly the most mouth-watering phrase on any dessert menu…and I’m not really a dessert girl. “Sticky toffee pudding” always conjures up sweet, caramelized, ooey-gooey, warm, luscious, moist, decadent, buttery rich goodness and it’s a wonder I’d never had it before I made it the other night for some friends. Strange, isn’t it? Especially since I’d consider myself to be a “brown” dessert type- anything with brown sugar, caramel, toffee, whiskey sauces or maple syrup always grabs me before anything of a chocolate variety. I guess I just don’t see it on menus often and usually find myself staring at some divine version on TV shows like The Best Thing I Ever Ate or Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Go figure.

Well, I’ve popped my sticky toffee pudding cherry, folks- for both eating and making it! A friend of J’s brought over a bag of honey dates, and although that friend meant to take them home to New Jersey, he left them in our fridge, unfortunately for him, but lucky for ME! You see, dates are the key ingredient in sticky toffee pudding, and eyeing the bag of big, fat, plump dates and having a dinner party scheduled were all the reasons I needed to get baking.

After searching under “sticky toffee” on Tastespotting (thereby getting sucked into all the photos of deliciousness for way longer than I had planned!) and promptly settled on this recipe since it was easy and didn’t include “extras” like crystallized ginger or chocolate. I wanted my first sticky toffee pudding experience to be a pure one- no bells and whistles, please! I baked the puddings in individual ramekins and drizzled the sauce (to which I did add a splash of cognac….hey, booze makes everything better, ok?) onto the still warm cakes and tucked them away until dessert time.

Before we could dig into the sweets, we had to have dinner first. I think it came out well, but there were a couple of things I was unhappy about….

Seared scallops with fava beans, fresh corn, brown butter and white wine sauce:

Once again I found myself shucking a bunch of fava beans and asking the veggie gods WHY it’s such a process to get these tiny little green gems onto a plate. I almost always get enticed by fava beans if I see them at the farmer’s market and this time was no different, but after shucking, blanching, cooling and unpeeling them I made a mental note to not do this again for awhile, and since they are no longer in season, I won’t be! The corn was sweet and crisp, and the scallops were HUGE and incredibly sweet, but I was bummed that I just didn’t give them enough time and heat to get a really nice crust going. However, they tasted good and were tender so I guess that’s what matters.

Pasta with shrimp, zucchini and seafood marinara:

I was super pleased with this sauce- I basically took the gorgeous shrimp out of their shells, then fried the shells in a bit of olive oil slow and low, then added a ton of sweet garlic before straining the oil and adding it to crushed San Marzano tomatoes. It needed only a touch of salt and pepper to round it out. After caramelizing some chopped zucchini and searing the shrimp in more olive oil I just added the sauce to the shrimp, then the cooked pasta to the sauce. Unfortunately I overcooked the pasta a few seconds too long, and although it did retain a bit of a bite, I prefer my pasta super AL DENTE. Again, not a “fail” by any means, but in the future I’ll make sure to time my scallop searing/deglazing/plating and pasta cooking/dressing/plating better.

As always, a salad completed our meal (oh, and a baguette, of course!). I don’t know about you, but no supper is complete for us without a salad. We eat one every single night, whether we eat in or out. I guess it’s for health, but it’s mainly because I feel a deep, black hole on my menu if a salad isn’t included.

But back to our sticky toffee pudding, which basically erased any memories of overcooked pasta or under-seared scallops (and any health benefits of a green salad)! It was as rich, moist and sweet as I’d imagined and the hint of cognac in the warm sauce combined magically with the melting vanilla bean ice cream to create one, amazing party for our taste buds. You really live up to your name, Sticky Toffee Pudding.

Where have you had the best sticky toffee pudding?


I love to cook for several reasons. It’s relaxing after a stressful day, it’s fun, it’s one of the few areas in my life where I feel like a Mac instead of a PC. One of the best things about cooking, however, is the reaction you get from people when you feed them. Feeding someone is SO basic, but it’s one of the most gratifying things you can do. If the person really enjoys what you feed them, it’s even better. People usually react positively if whatever you give them tastes good, but I’ve found that the most profound reactions come when you feed someone something that triggers a memory of some kind. Maybe it reminds them of a place they used to live, or a person who once cooked for them, or a time in their lives they felt carefree and happy.

Which brings us to these little cupcakes. They’re familiar to almost anyone who grew up in America. I always think of lunchboxes when I see these, not because they were in MINE, mind you (my parents were more Fig Newton types) but because I’d see them in other kids’ lunchboxes and secretly wished that one day a Hostess cupcake would magically appear in mine. I think these cupcakes and the foil-wrapped Ding Dongs were the most desired among my classmates at St. Luke’s Elementary School; a hot commodity when trading for other popular items like Capri Sun (juice in a pouch?!?! We thought it was so cool).

The easiest way to fill a piping bag is to set it in a glass first so you can scoop the filling into the bag


It’s ok if a little bit of filling peeks out because these are about to take a chocolate bath!

I’d seen these on a few blogs in the past and finally got around to making them today. The recipe is pretty straightforward- there are a few steps in constructing the final product but it’s really easy, and really fun. I especially looked forward to filling the cupcakes. Although many others used the “cone method” of cutting out a cone from the top of each, then filling the cupcake and putting the cone back in, I just shoved the tip of my piping bag into the top of each and squeezed. I think it worked well enough, although next time I will squeeze a little longer so more filing gets into each cupcake. I was afraid if I filled it with too much I’d have a Hostess Bomb on my hands.

I’m looking forward to the reaction I get from coworkers tomorrow- I wonder if a bite of these cupcakes will propel them back to time when life was about kickball, Family Ties and Slip N Slides. I hope so.

I think the logical next project is to try my hand at homemade Fig Newtons! Anyone ever made them?

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Sorry for the lack of posts lately but I’ve been sick as a dog, coughing up a lung or two and generally not feeling very well. I’m finally back at work but I have a feeling this hacking cough is going to hang out with me for awhile. At least my coworker commented that I sound sexy à la Demi Moore, so I guess there’s a silver lining, ha.

Speaking of coworker, I made these cupcakes for one of them for his birthday. The red velvet cupcakes from Doughboys seem to be the popular birthday dessert of choice in my office, so I figured I’d whip some up on my own. I’ve used this red velvet cake recipe for years now- it’s like my Old Faithful and no doubt I’ve posted about it before. It makes a fantastic cake layered with the perfect frosting and berries, and it also makes cute, moist cupcakes that are perfect for giving away.

I hope you’ll get a chance to make these- just make sure you buy red gel food coloring, available at Sur La Table. The liquid food coloring sold at the grocery store will give you a Pink Velvet cake instead!

Farewell Potluck….

A couple of weeks ago, my coworkers and I had to say goodbye to one of our dear friends as she left us all for the man of her dreams. Of course we all wondered what on earth this guy had that WE don’t have in spades (being the wonderful group of people we are, ya know;). Well, our questions were answered when we finally met the famous guy who swept our dear KB off her feet and saw that he was everything she had talked about and more.

As sad as everyone was, we knew we had to throw KB a proper farewell before she left us for the mountains of Boulder. We planned a potluck at the house and enjoyed various dishes that people brought. A great time was had by all as we sat in the backyard, laughed about the good times and ate everything in sight. There was enough cheese to put us all in a dairy coma, a fantastic fig and marcona almond “cake” to go with the cheeses (tip: Whole Foods sells this but if you live in Los Angeles, buy it at Nicole’s in South Pas- it’s half the price!!), a gnocchi salad, mushroom tart, fruit plate (marking my first time cutting a whole pineapple!), chips, dips and plenty more. Not only was KP (The Boyfriend) a really nice guy but quite the chef as well! His Blue Cheese Coleslaw was delicious, the potato salad w/ capers and olives was a hit and the pasta salad w/ tomatoes and basil was devoured. A man that rock climbs AND knows how to cook? No wonder KB couldn’t wait another minute to be with her guy!

KP’s yummy dishes…..

Gnocchi “salad” once again…..

I suppose part of what makes KB such a sweetie is that she loves sugar, so we had to have something sweet to cap off the night. I made the Red Velvet Cake from Bon Apetite that I’d made many times before- it’s always a winner and I love the fruit with the cream cheese frosting. It’s a great show-stopper, and very easy to make. Just make sure you buy gel food coloring and use the entire container of it to get the cake a nice, deep shade of red. Anyway, we polished that off too as we tried to make the evening last as long as possible before saying our goodbyes.

Cream cheese frosting mixed with fruit……

Finished cake…..

Lovely nighttime photo of cut cake….

Best of luck in Boulder KB and KP! We miss you already;).

The happy couple!!!

Farmer’s Market: Apricot Galette

This is a great time of year to hit a Farmer’s Market as we creep into summer and all of the fruits of the season start showing their glorious colors. This past Sunday we decided to go to the Montrose market for the first time, and were pleasantly surprised at all of the produce and food offerings it presented. Racks of bbq rotisserie chicken sat alongside piles of bing cherries (SO SWEET!) and thick masses of kale while kids took turns taking rides on the miniature ponies.

Almost immediately, I spotted the large mound of fresh apricots on one table and started grabbing. Although I’m not nuts about eating the fruit on its own, I love making desserts with them. Apricot jam is another favorite. Anyway, since they have such a short season, I had to get some before the window closed for another year.

Sugar mixture on tart……..

When I got home, I checked around and found this simple recipe which was perfect since I had a sheet of puff pastry in the freezer and bags of almonds in the pantry. I veered from the recipe slightly and used both pistachios and almonds in the sugar/nut mixture, and used regular granulated sugar instead of confectioner’s since I didn’t have any. I loved that the recipe made the fruit the star and didn’t have a lot of filler.

Ready for the oven…….

The galette was a cinch to put together- blitz some nuts and sugar in the Cuisinart and sprinkle on the puff pastry, place sliced fruit on top of sugar mixture, brush some egg wash around the rim, sprinkle the top with additional sugar and bake. Seriously- you could use any stone fruit in this and it’d be fantastic. In fact, I have over a hundred plums on my tree that will be making an appearance in another version of this when they’re ripe. I brushed the cooled tart with some melted apricot jam to give it a nice shine, and it was done. I think a scoop of some good, vanilla gelato would make it even better!

If you haven’t made it out to a Farmer’s Market lately, check out all of the mouth-watering choices that are available this time of year. To find a market near you, just check out this site.