Lemon Lavender Cake

This moist lemon lavender cake has culinary lavender baked right in! Perfect for a bridal or baby shower, tea, or light afternoon sweet.


I’ve been a little obsessed with lavender lately. Like, lavender anything. Lavender tea, lavender essential oil, lavender pillow spray, and most definitely this lemon lavender cake.

Lavender foreverrrr!

It all started with a unique cocktail recipe I wanted to serve at my birthday party earlier this month: a blueberry lavender vodka spritzer. Hence, I headed to Amazon to purchase some culinary lavender…which of course arrived in a package large enough to last the rest of my natural life. (The cocktail, by the way, was delicious–not too sweet with an earthy undertone!)

In a strange twist of fate, I’ve also been having trouble sleeping lately AND, for work, was assigned to write an article about pillow sprays for better rest. So *obviously* I was going to have to investigate lavender as a remedy for insomnia. (Results pending…I’ve been trying out ThisWorks pillow spray. I so want it to work, but not bowled over just yet.)

Long story short, it’s a lavender-palooza up in here lately. And what with that giant bag of culinary lavender staring me down from the pantry shelf, I knew a baked good recipe had to been the pipeline. Something with lemon, perhaps? The bright tang of citrus sounded like the perfect foil for lavender’s more subtle, floral flavor.

I found this lemon lavender cake recipe over on Food52. What drew me to it was its simple list of Mediterranean diet-friendly ingredients. (I mean, okay, it has way more sugar than you’d find on a true Med diet, but at least you’ve got Greek yogurt and olive oil going for you here.) Besides calling for culinary lavender, this comes together with familiar baking basics you’re likely to have on hand. And after a quick whizz of the lavender and sugar in the food processor, this recipe is ultra-simple.

Since I’m a frosting-a-holic, I was convinced the cake was going to need frosting, or at least a scoop of vanilla ice cream to add richness, but was floored by how it stands alone as a moist, flavorful dessert. A dusting of powdered sugar is all it needs for finishing off.

With its pretty look and easy slice-ability, I’d say this one would be just right for a bridal or baby shower, afternoon tea, or any time that calls for something light, sweet, and absolutely unique.

Lemon Lavender Cake

This moist lemon lavender cake has culinary lavender baked right in! Perfect for a bridal or baby shower, tea, or light afternoon sweet.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Servings: 12

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 c. white sugar
  • 3/4 tbsp. dried culinary lavender
  • 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c. Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 c. light olive oil
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • powdered sugar, for dusting

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper and spray the sides with non-stick spray.
  • In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the sugar and dried lavender until well mixed and the lavender has broken down.
  • In a large bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a separate small bowl or large measuring cup, mix the eggs, yogurt, and olive oil. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet, stirring to combine. Stir in the lemon zest and juice.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake about 40 minutes, or until the top is golden and springs back when pressed. Cool about 5 minutes, then remove from the springform pan and plate. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Notes

Adapted from Food52.

 

Lime Cheesecake Bars

A cool, creamy lime filling rests atop a thick layer of graham cracker crust in these delicious Lime Cheesecake Bars!


Having lived in Arizona for most of my life–93.5% of my life, to be exact, because I’m a nerd and was just calculated the percentage–I’m no stranger to Mexican food. Like, good Mexican food. None of this Swiss-cheese-on-a-burrito business I sometimes encountered while at college in the Chicago area. Good Mexican food to me means crispy tortilla shells, marinated meats with a zesty mix of the right spices, fresh veggies for the perfect salsa, and a hint of something cool and creamy to balance it all out. Like most Arizonans, I’m basically *always* in the mood for Mexican.

But there’s one perpetual problem I have when serving Mexican food to guests: what to make for dessert. There’s the usual flan or dulce de leche-flavored anything, but I find these can tire out pretty quickly. And as much as I love chocolate cookies or carrot cake, they just aren’t quite right after Mexican. So when my husband’s high school friend group was recently scheduled to join us for an evening of a Mexican dinner and movie night, I needed something appropriate for dessert.

With a bit of tinkering from a handful of other recipes, I was able to create these thick and creamy Lime Cheesecake Bars, which totally fit the bill! I think bright, peppy citrus always goes well with Mexican spices like cumin, chili powder, or oregano, and the combo of and more mellow cream cheese provides a satisfying coda to a spicy meal. I ended up serving these with my Veggie-ful Slow Cooker Chicken (which also feeds a crowd), plus chips and guac (a party prerequisite). Their graham cracker crust is extra thick–because thin lil’ slivers of crust are soooo disappointing–while the filling is the stuff of New York-style cheesecake dreams, but with a generous dose of lime flavor. And like many flavor-melding foods, these bars were even better the next day.

Of course, don’t let me stop you from enjoying Lime Cheesecake Bars with other cuisines (or all by themselves)! They’d be equally at home with Caribbean food, Creole food, or underneath a mountain of whipped cream. But in case you like Mexican…

Don’t miss more these south-of-the-border recipes to serve with Lime Cheesecake Bars!

Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Lime Cheesecake Bars

These bars are cool and creamy on top with a sturdy graham cracker crust. The hint of lime is just right for serving with a spicy dinner.
Servings: 18

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 Tbsp. white sugar
  • 6 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 16 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 16 oz. Greek yogurt-cream cheese blend, softened
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 14-oz. cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 c. fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp. lime zest
  • whipped cream for garnish

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  • In a medium bowl, combine graham crackers, sugar, and melted butter. Press into the bottom of the prepared pan evenly. Bake 10 minutes.
  • In a large bowl, beat all cream cheese until smooth. Add eggs and beat until smooth, then pour in sweetened condensed milk and lime juice and continue beating on low until no lumps remain. Stir or beat in lime zest until incorporated.
  • Pour the cream cheese mixture over the graham cracker crust and smooth. Bake about 25 minutes or until filling is no longer jiggly. Let cool completely before slicing and garnish with whipped cream. Store in the refrigerator.

Notes

A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe

Espresso Sugar Cookies

Espresso Sugar Cookies are light and chewy, loaded with espresso flavor!

Nowhere is the phrase “necessity is the mother of invention” truer than in recipe development. And, for me, at no time is it truer than during Lent. These Espresso Sugar Cookies were born out of a little bit of culinary and spiritual necessity.

Let me explain.

In the 40 days of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving that we Catholics observe this time of year, it’s customary to make sacrifices that unite us with the sufferings of Jesus in some small way. It may sound lame or insignificant, but this year one of my sacrifices is giving up chocolate.

But mannnnn I want chocolate so. bad. every. day. I’ve had a few Reese’s pieces, which technically don’t contain any chocolate, but my husband claims that’s cheating. And hey, maybe having any sweets might be considered cheating, but for me, relinquishing chocolate for six weeks is sacrifice enough. I’m okay continuing to eat other, non-chocolatey dessert foods here and there.

That said, it’s kinda tough to find desserts I actually like that aren’t chocolate. In my efforts to scare up something a little bit like chocolate, but not chocolate, in the last nine days since Ash Wednesday, I thought I might turn to the flavor of coffee. After all, chocolate and coffee often pair together, and according to The Flavor Bible, they’re complementary tastes.

Plus, I happened to have some espresso powder hanging around from when I recently made this totally indulgent, craaaaazzy layer cake for a friend’s husband’s birthday. Why not give espresso powder a spin in non-chocolatey cookies?

Trouble is, almost every baked goods recipe on the internet that uses coffee also calls for chocolate. I mean, mocha is KING in cookies, pies, cakes, cheesecakes, and more. So it was up to me to create my own espresso sugar cookies! I’m so glad I did!

These cookies are chewy and light, with just a hint of crispiness around the edges. They taste like coffee, of course, but not in an overpowering way. They’re the perfect accompaniment to an afternoon or after-dinner cup of joe. Leaving chocolate out of the equation actually allows the espresso flavor to shine through all on its own.

So, believe it or not, I kinda love that these cookies don’t include any chocolate! Who’da thunk?

Espresso Sugar Cookies

Chewy and light, these espresso sugar cookies are perfect with a cup of coffee!
Prep Time15 mins
Servings: 18 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 c. butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 c. white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. espresso powder
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3-4 Tbsp. milk

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease two cookie sheets.
  • In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add vanilla and egg and mix.
  • Mix in flour, espresso powder, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add milk, t tablespoon at a time, and mix until the batter holds together but isn't visibly wet.
  • Drop cookies by the tablespoonful onto the greased cookie sheets. Bake 12-14 minutes or until set. Store in an airtight container.

Notes

A Love Letter to Food original recipe.

 

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

Even if you’re not gluten-free, you’ll love the rich, chocolatey flavor of this Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut Torte. Serve with fresh whipped cream! 

Ready for Christmas yet? I’ll admit, even though it’s only three days away, I’m not exactly prepped for the big day. I still have a couple of gifts to buy and wrap and I’m still not 100% sure of my Christmas dinner menu. What can I say, it’s been a crazy year, right? (If there’s one upside to the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s the fact that we can all point to it as an excuse for just about anything…including not being ready for Christmas. At least that’s the story I’m sticking to.)

Even in the midst of this surreal year, I’m fortunate that my family’s Christmas won’t look too much different from our norm. We’ll celebrate Mass the afternoon of Christmas Eve, where I’ll be singing soprano in the choir (in the parking lot because #socialdistancing). Then we’ll go out to dinner at our favorite seafood restaurant, come home, and snuggle by a fire watching A Muppet Christmas Carol. Singing Muppets never get old.

However you’re celebrating the holidays this year, it’s entirely possible you’ll be eating with folks with food restrictions. (Or perhaps you have some yourself.) Among my own family and friends, I can count dozens of people who don’t eat one thing or another–and the most common no-no seems to be gluten. Fortunately, for those living the GF life, there are plenty of tasty ways to get around gluten, even when it comes to my favorite course of the holiday meal: dessert.

I made this gluten-free flourless chocolate hazelnut cake back at Thanksgiving for my GF sister-in-law–and, who am I kidding, for myself because it’s DELISH. It was definitely a hit among all the eaters gathered at my husband’s family’s holiday dinner. With 12 ounces of bittersweet chocolate, it’s super dense and rich, meaning a little bit goes a long way. I also love that it’s flavored with liqueur (chocolate liqueur or hazelnut, like Frangelico, does the job). Fresh whipped cream on the side is optional, but I’d say more or less necessary, as its fluffiness helps cut the cake’s rich texture.


Regardless of your food allergy or sensitivity status, this dessert is sure to please. Hazelnuts are, in my opinion, a totally underrated nut with plenty of fiber, magnesium, and vitamin B-6, plus a little iron. (And, yeah, ok, quite a bit of fat…but at least it’s mostly the healthy monounsaturated kind!) Besides, they’re always an excellent flavor match with chocolate. Check out their full nutrition facts here.

Wishing you a very merry Christmas filled with delicious food! Tell me if you make this Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut Cake as a last-minute dessert!

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

This gluten-free dessert is nutty, chocolatey, and super rich! Serve with fresh whipped cream.

Ingredients

  • 12 oz. 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate, chopped or chocolate chips
  • 3/4 c. butter, cut into chunks
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 c. packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. hazelnut or chocolate liqueur
  • 1 c. hazelnuts, ground in the food processor
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • Optional: Fresh whipped cream, for topping

Instructions

  • Preheat to 350°F. Spray a 9-inch-diameter springform pan with cooking spray, then line bottom with a parchment paper round. Wrap the outside of pan tightly with 2 layers of heavy-duty foil.
  • Combine chocolate and butter in a medium metal bowl or double boiler. Bring a small saucepan of water to a simmer and place the bowl on top. Whisk until the mixture is melted. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, brown sugar, chocolate or hazelnut liqueur. Whisk in the chocolate mixture until smooth, then stir in ground hazelnuts and salt.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan. Fill a roasting pan halfway with boiling water and carefully place the pan in the center (so that water reaches about halfway up the sides of the springform pan). Tent the top of the springform pan loosely with foil and bake about 90 minutes. The top will still look shiny but should be dry to the touch.
  • Remove the springform pan from the roasting pan and cool. Refrigerate about 3 hours before serving, then enjoy with fresh whipped cream!

Notes

Adapted from Epicurious.

Cashew Butter Oatmeal Cookies

Cashew butter puts a unique spin on the expected in these chewy Cashew Butter Oatmeal Cookies.

Not too long ago, I received an assignment from one of the publications I write for about the nutrition of cashew butter. Having limited experience with this particular nut butter, I was basically starting at square one. I’m your typical American when it comes to nut butters–as in, peanut butter is my gold standard. When our family lived in Germany a few years ago, the lack of this grocery staple in stores led to much weeping and gnashing of teeth (until my mom arrived from the States bearing some precious PB).

Doing a bit of research for my article led to some interesting revelations about cashew butter. Even though it has a teeny bit more calories than peanut butter, its fats are 80% unsaturated (aka the healthy kind). Plus–how weird is this?–certain antioxidant compounds in cashews have been associated with improved vision and eye health. You can read my full article with all cashew butter’s health benefits here.

Coincidentally, I happened to receive a few samples of cashew butter shortly after writing my article. One of which was this intriguing salted caramel variety.


Up until now, I’ve been noshing it slathered on graham crackers and as a dip for green apples. (Not sure if it’s giving me superhuman vision yet, but it sure is tasty.) With its creamy texture and comparable flavor to peanut butter, I figured I could put it to work in some of the other vehicles I’d normally use PB for…like cookies!


These Cashew Butter Oatmeal Cookies are a twist on the usual peanut butter oatmeal cookies. They’ve got the craveable crispy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside you know and love in the best peanut butter oatmeal cookies, with a slightly different taste. I especially enjoyed the hint of salted caramel in the variety I used, but you can easily use any kind of cashew butter here.

I guess I’ve come full circle on my cashew butter journey. Now that I know a bit more about it and have used it in several ways, I’m all aboard on the nut train. And I’m pretty sure if you try these cookies, you will be, too.

Print Recipe
1 from 1 vote

Cashew Butter Oatmeal Cookies

Put a unique spin on the usual oatmeal cookies with cashew butter! These cookies have the crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside texture you crave.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time12 mins
Servings: 2 dozen

Ingredients

  • 1/2 c. butter, softened
  • 1/2 c. cashew butter
  • 1/3 c. brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. white sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 c. old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • generous 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
  • In a large bowl, combine butter, cashew butter, brown sugar, white sugar, vanilla, and egg. Blend with a hand mixer until well mixed, 1-2 minutes.
  • Add oats, flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Mix by hand until combined.
  • Form into balls and drop onto greased baking sheet. Bake about 12 minutes until tops of cookies are set. Cool 10 minutes and store in an airtight container.

Notes