by Kim Young March 15, 2017

Make your St. Patrick's Day toast with a slice of this!

Guiness Cake with Bailey's Irish Cream Icing

Talk about having your cake and eating it, too!

What can be more Irish than Guiness beer and Bailey's Irish Cream? And just imagine combining them with chocolate in a deliciously dark cake for a double shot of Irish! The cake recipe comes from Clodaugh's Irish Kitchen: A Fresh Take on Traditional Flavors by popular Irish chef Clodaugh McKenna. 

Serves 10


2 1/4 sticks plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 1/4 cup Guinness 

1 cup unsweetened, Dutch-process cocoa powder

2 large eggs

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons superfine sugar

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

3/4 cup buttermilk

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking power


8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted Irish butter

2 1/2 cups sifted confectioner's sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups cream cheese (not low fat)

4 tablespoons Bailey's Irish Cream


Preheat oven to 325°F. Line the bottom of a 12-inch, round springform pan with parchment paper.

Heat the butter in a a large saucepan over medium heat until melted. Stir in Guinness, then remove from the heat and the stir in cocoa powder.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, vanilla extract and buttermilk and then slowly mix in the Guinness mixture.

Sift together the flour, baking soda and baking powder into a separate large bowl. Using a handheld electric mixer, slowly mix the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and keep beating until all is well combined. 

Transfer the batter to the prepared cake pan and bake in the oven for 45 minutes. Test to make sure the cake is ready by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake — if it comes out clean, the cake is finished baking. Let the cake cool in the pan, then transfer from the pan onto a wire rack.


While the cake is cooling, make the frosting: Using a handheld electric mixer, blend all of the ingredients together until light and fluffy.

Place the cooled cake on a plate and generously spread the frosting on top.

The cake will keep up to a week in an airtight container.


Happy Mardi Gras!

John Besh's Beignets


Other than Mardi Gras beads, what says New Orleans more than freshly baked, sugar-dusted beignets, and especially when they are made from the timeless recipe from New Orleans' favorite son and chef, John Besh?

Recipe from My New Orleans: The Cookbook - 200 of My Favorite Recipies and Stories From My Hometown — by John Besh

Makes 30

Like many delicious treats, this preparation takes a bit of time and planning. you can speed up the process of proofing the dough if you leave the dough covered at room temperature for an hour or so, instead of letting in rest in the refrigerator overnight.


1 cup lukewarm milk, about 110-degrees

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 package dry yeast

4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup melted butter

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

4-6 cups canola oil

1 cup powdered sugar


Pour the warm milk into a large bowl. Mix 1 tablespoon of the granulated sugar, the yeast, and a heaping tablespoon of the flour into the milk, mixing with a whisk until both the sugar and the yeast have dissolved.

Once bubbles have developed on the surface of the milk and it begins to foam, which in the butter, salt, and vanilla. Add the remaining flour and sugar, folding them into the wet ingredients with a large rubber spatula. Knead the dough by hand in the bowl for about 5 minutes, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough for 6-8 hours.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll out on a floured surface to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Cut into 2-inch squares, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and allow the beignets to rise for about an hour.

Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet over high heat until it reaches 350 degrees. Use a candy thermometer to check the temperature. Fry the beignets in small batches in the hot oil, turning the every 30 seconds or so with tongs, until golden brown all over. Use tongs to remove beignets from the oil and drain on paper towels. Put the powdered sugar into a fine-mesh strainer and dust the warm beignets generously with sugar.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!


Rose-infused Lillet Rosé

Death & Co. Modern Classic Cocktails

A rose is a rose is a rose. And what a wonderful cocktail it makes! Especially when combined with the French wine-based aperitif, Lillet Rosé, which is made from Grand Cru Bordeaux grapes and combined with fruit liquers.

This recipe is from the very talented mixology pioneers at New York's highly rated cocktail sanctuary, Death & Co., and it comes from their classic, beautiful, recipe-laden, encyclopedic, must-have book on Everything Cocktails.


4 heaping teaspoons of dried rosebuds (Mountain Rose Herbs is a great source for organic ones!)

1 750-ml bottle of Lillet Rose


In a container, combine the dried rosebuds and the bottle of Lillet Rosé. Stir well. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour and 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a glass of choice.

Nutty Chocolate Barbados Biscuits 

The Violet Bakery Cookbook

Nutty Chocolate Barbados BiscuitsNutty Chocolate Barbados Biscuits

Yummy, bite-size, gluten-free treats for any day of the year, these cookies are kind of like an almond macaroon because they are mostly made up of egg whites and nuts.

Claire Ptak, noted pastry chef, owner of London's popular Violet Bakery, and author of the go-to cookbook of the same name, said she named these "Barbados biscuits" because of the origin of the brown sugar she used the first time she made them. MAKES ABOUT 36 BISCUITS.


3 1/2 ounces dark chocolate — 70% cocoa solids

1 cup plus 1 Tablespoon ground almonds (you also can use ground hazelnuts)

4 1/2 ounces coarsely chopped pecans.

Plus another 1 1/2 ounces of pecans sliced crosswise for the topping

already shelled

3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons dark brown sugar

1 Tablespoon cocoa powder

2 egg whites

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 355°F. Line a large baking sheet (or two small baking sheets) with parchment paper.

In a heatproof bowl, melt the chocolate over a pan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally as it melts. Do not let the bottom of the pan touch the water. Leave the mixture to cool slightly.

Put the nuts, sugar and cocoa into a food processor and process until all are reduced to a fine texture. Add the melted chocolate, the eggs whites and the vanilla extract and mix well.

Then, using an ice-cream scoop, or two dessert spoons, scoop up portions of the cookie dough and place on the lined baking sheet, leaving space between. Flatten them slightly with the underside of a glass or measuring cup., then top each cookie with a slice of pecan or hazelnut. 

Bake for 15 or 20 minutes, or until the biscuits have set and puffed up but are still chewy on the inside. These will keep up to a week in an air-tight container.


Do you like to bake? I love to! And in the back of my mind, I often ponder about what it would be like to have a cozy little bakery filled with really yummy, handcrafted any-time-of-day sweet and savory treats and memory-making aromas. 

Until that day, my kitchen will have to do. I seek inspiration from visiting bakeries — chocolatiers, especially — when we travel, as well as from baking cookbooks, old and new. One of my favorite bakeries is The Violet Bakery in London, owned by American and Chez Panisse alumna Claire Ptak. 

I'll let Alice Waters (chef, founder/owner of Chez Panisse and Café, author and activist for healthy food and the environment and a heroine of mine) share her thoughts about Claire Ptak and The Violet Bakery and wonderful cookbook of the same name:

The Violet Bakery

"One of the things I love most about Claire's palate is her unerring sense of balance. When it comes to sugar in her desserts, the sweetness never overwhelms or cloys. She keeps the flavors up there on this incredible tightrope. And she's able to do that because she is always asking herself the questions that matter: What does the new apple harvest taste like? How does spelt flour compare to buckwheat? Is this batch better than the last one I made? She is always searching for how to do it better the next time, never relying on the crutch of the familiar and the predictable. That kind of self-inquiry separates a good cook from a great one...

...This is a lovely book to fall in to...As you thumb through these wonderful images and recipes, you feel welcomed into Claire's kitchen in the most natural of ways. Her nuanced approach to season and place, sweet and savory, flavor and health, is what makes this book so special: it is about food that is lovingly crafted, always mindful of what is delicious, pure, and satisfying in the truest sense."

Ahhh, yes! Perfect! So, to celebrate Easter — and the beginning of Spring — here is the delish recipe for Lemon Drizzle Loaf from The Violet Bakery Cookbook, and yes, of course, you can get our own copy of the entire book here at Pretty Things & Cool Stuff!


The Violet Bakery Lemon Drizzle Loaf

Photo: Kristin Peters

Lemon Drizzle Loaf

By Claire Ptak, The Violet Bakery / Cookbook

One (10 by 4-inch) loaf cake, which cuts into 8 slices

All our lemons at Violet come from the Amalfi coast of Italy. They are large and sweet and have a very thick and pithy peel.

(OUR NOTE: If you don't happen to live near the Amalfi coast or your local market does not have lemons from there, remember to choose a lemon that's heavy for its size and has a pleasant fragrance. The skin should be bright yellow with no wrinkling. A thinner-skinned lemon will yield more juice, while a thicker-skinned one may be better for zest.)

Ingredients for Sponge (Cake)

1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 1/2 tablespoons milk

1 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pan

1 1/3 cups sugar

Zest of 3 or 4 lemons (save the juice for the lemon drizzle and icing)

3 eggs

Ingredients for Lemon Drizzle

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon water

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Ingredients for Icing

1 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice


  1. Preheat your oven to 355°F . Butter a 10 by 4-inch loaf pan and line the base and sides with parchment paper, extending the paper about 2 inches above the top of the pan.

  2. First make the sponge (cake). In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar well, though you don’t want as fluffy a mixture as you would for a layer cake. Zest the lemons into the butter mixture and mix thoroughly. Beat in the eggs one at a time, making sure each one is thoroughly mixed in before adding the next.

  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix half of this into the creamed butter mixture, scraping down the sides, until barely combined.

  4. While the mixer is still going, beat in all the milk. Then add the remaining flour and mix until just combined. Scrape the bowl and give it one last mix.

  5. Scoop the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top with an icing spatula or rubber spatula.

  6. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the top of the cake is springy and an inserted skewer comes out clean.

  7. To make the lemon drizzle, combine the sugar, water, and lemon juice in a small pan and heat just until the sugar is melted. Do not let this boil, or the fresh flavor will be lost.

  8. Use a skewer to poke holes evenly throughout the baked loaf. Pour the lemon drizzle over the loaf and let it soak in while you make the icing.

  9. In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice until smooth.

  10. To remove the loaf cake from the pan, run a small paring knife along the inside of the pan, then tilt the pan on its side and coax the loaf out, using the parchment paper as a handle. Peel off the paper and turn the loaf upright on your cooling rack or worktop. Drizzle the icing over the loaf and let it drip down the sides. Use a spatula to lift the loaf onto a serving dish. This keeps well for up to 3 days in an airtight container.

Reprinted with permission from The Violet Bakery Cookbook by Claire Ptak, copyright © 2015, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photograph copyright © 2015 by Kristin Perers.

Valentine's Day Truffles

Lord Bergamot Tea-Infused Chocolate Truffles

(Think Earl Grey tea, but with a superior flavor. Yields 100 truffles)


24 ounces bittersweet chocolate — preferably Valrhona Manjari 64% (not too bitter and not too sweet, perfect!) — finely chopped

8 ounces milk chocolate — preferably Valrhona 42% — finely chopped

2 2/3 cups heavy cream (not ultra-pasteurized)

6 ounces of Smith Tea Lord Bergamot Blend 55 Loose Leaf Tea , plus a little extra to decorate truffles. (You can substitute an Earl Grey tea, but the flavor will not match that of the Lord Bergamot!)

11 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

2 cups cocoa powder (not Dutch processed), preferable Valrhona, for rolling truffles in


1. Line a 13-by-9 1/2-inch rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap; set aside

Smith Tea Lord Bergamot Tea-Infused Chocolat Truffles2. In a heatproof bowl, set over simmering water (don't let bowl touch water), melt 8   ounces bittersweet chocolate and milk chocolate together until it reaches 120 degrees.

3. Place cream in a small saucepan over medium heat; heat until cream just comes to a boil. Place loose tea in a medium, stainless steel bowl. Pour cream over tea and let steep for 10 minutes. Strain the cream mixture through 4 layers of cheesecloth.

4. Remove chocolate mixture from heat and add 1 1/3 cups cream mixture, reserving remaining cream for another use. Using a heatproof spatula, mix together, starting from the center of the saucepan and working your way to the outer edges until mixture is emulsified.

Add butter and and mix with an immersion blender until well combined. Pour mixture into prepared baking sheet, evenly spreading mixture with an offset spatula; cover with plastic wrap, pressing down gently on chocolate mixture to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate at least 2 hours, and up to overnight.

5. Line the back of another 13-by-91/2-inch baking sheet with parchment paper. Uncover chocolate and invert onto parchment paper; remove second piece of plastic wrap. Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, and a ruler as a guide, cut chocolate into 1-inch squares.

6. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Roll each square of chocolate between your hands to form a smooth ball. Transfer chocolate balls to baking sheet; refrigerate for 1 hour.

7. Melt remaining 16 ounces of bittersweet chocolate in a heatproof bowl, set over (but not touching) simmering water. Place cocoa powder in a shallow dish. Place some of the melted chocolate in the palm of your hand and roll a chocolate ball in the melted chocolate to coat, then roll in cocoa powder. Sprinkle some of the extra Lord Bergamot loose tea on top of truffle and press in gently.

Repeat process with remaining chocolate balls. Transfer truffles to an airtight container, stacking truffles no more than 2 to 3 inches high, and refrigerate up to 2 weeks. Bring truffles to room temperature just before serving. ENJOY!

Recipe inspiration from Smith Tea and Charles Chocolates 



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