Stella's Crème Fraîche Cake with Raspberry Buttercream

A light and sparkly butter cake for Spring


Today is the first day of Spring and I thought it was perfect timing to share this cake with which I recently fell completely in love. I made it over the weekend to celebrate Stella turning six months (!!!) and it was so festive and pretty I knew it would become a keeper in our household. Make it for Spring, make it for Easter, make it for Sunday dinner or just because you love someone.

Six months. Woosh! I thought time flew by when Jack was that young, but with a toddler keeping me busy at the same time things are going even faster. Stella is the happiest baby I have ever encountered and I’m so lucky she’s part of our tribe. She smiles the moment she opens her eyes and every time I glance at her. She’s curious and wants to have her hands in EVERYTHING. Her favorite person is her brother, by far, and she delights in watching him play, color, “read” to her, and run around wildly. I’m completely smitten with her and when I realized that six month milestone was coming around I decided to celebrate, even if only by myself, with an excessively happy cake. It’s fresh and light and sweet and pink and everything that comes to mind when I think about my little star baby. Stella girl, this cake will always be yours.


I found a recipe for a basic yellow butter cake in my grandmother’s stash. I don’t remember her ever making it but it’s exactly the cake she would have loved to have been served at a frilly spring tea party. It’s a classic, no-fail ratio of ingredients and I decided to swap in crème fraîche for the buttermilk. In my opinion, it has a little more “sparkle” this way. A fully frosted cake felt like overkill so I went with a naked cake flavored with raspberries from the freezer (also much less effort!) and topped it all off with a perfectly pink camellia from our garden, another nod to spring. If you prefer a fully frosted cake (and I wouldn’t blame you!) you can use seedless raspberry jam or lemon curd as the filling between layers and you’ll have plenty of buttercream to frost the outside in a traditional style. Just be sure to pipe a little frosting around the outer rim of each layer as you assemble it to create a “dam” and then fill in with the curd or jam. This will prevent it from squishing out and bleeding into your beautiful buttercream. You can also omit the raspberries entirely from the buttercream and simply color with food coloring, but then it’s not really the same cake, is it?


A few notes about storing:

This butter cake is extremely moist and, when wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, will keep in the freezer for about 30 days or in the refrigerator for about 4-5. It will keep at room temperature for 2. If the cake is completely frosted, you can store it for these same time frames completely assembled. The frosting helps seal in the moisture. Just be sure to place some plastic wrap on the exposed cake as you start to cut into it. If you decide to frost it in the naked style as I have it written here, it will dry out more quickly without the added frosting. If you do not plan to serve right away, I recommend chilling the assembled cake for an hour or two in the fridge to set the buttercream, and then lightly wrapping plastic wrap around the outside.

A few notes about timing your assembly:

First, I will tell you that YouTube and other cake decorating specific blogs will give you far better advice on how to decorate cakes than I can. Use them! As for my own advice, cold cakes are the easiest to work with and result in fewer stray crumbs. I like to cool my cakes completely, cut them into my layers while they are soft, and then wrap them up and put them in the freezer straight away (or the refrigerator if I plan to frost it later that day). When I’m ready to assemble the cake, I make my buttercream and pull the cake out of the fridge as soon as the frosting is done. If I made the cake in advance and it’s in the freezer, I’ll put it in the fridge the morning I make my frosting to thaw out a bit, or put it out on the counter directly from the freezer when I’m starting to make the buttercream. If the cake is completely frozen when you start to frost it, it will cause the buttercream to harden up and it will be more difficult to work with. Buttercream can be made in advance and stored in the fridge for a few days (covered with plastic wrap), but you’ll need to bring it back to room temperature and re-whip it to get it nice and fluffy. I just don’t like to be bothered with that extra step and dirty dishes, but it’s completely doable and may make your life easier if you’re having a party. Wait until just before your party or, better yet, serving, to top with fresh berries or flowers.


Crème Fraîche Cake


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting your pans

  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour

  • 1 tablespoon baking powder

  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 cup whole milk, room temperature

  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for greasing your pans

  • 2 cups sugar

  • 3 whole eggs

  • 2 egg yolks

  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract


  • Preheat your oven to 350F. Lightly grease two 8x2-inch round cake pans with butter and lightly dust with flour. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment paper and set aside.

  • In a large bowl, sift together both flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk thoroughly to make sure everything is fully incorporated and set aside.

  • In a separate bowl or large measuring cup, combine the milk and crème fraîche.

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar and continue mixing on medium-high until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs and egg yolks one at a time, mixing and scraping down after each addition to incorporate.

  • With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with the milk mixture, and beginning and ending with the flour. Stop to scrape down the bowl after each addition. You can stop before the final flour addition and mix that in by hand to avoid overworking the batter.

  • Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and place in the middle of the oven. Bake until lightly golden brown on top and a cake tester comes out clean when inserted in the middle, about 30-35 minutes. You may also want to carefully rotate the cakes about halfway to ensure even cooking. Allow to cool in the pan about 20 minutes and then gently turn the cakes out onto a wire rack to finish cooling completely.

Raspberry Buttercream (adapted from Vintage Cakes)


  • 6 to 10 ounces raspberries (you can use frozen raspberries, just be sure to thaw first)

  • 6 egg whites

  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

  • 2 cups unsalted butter cut into approximately 1-inch cubes, room temperature

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


  • Over a bowl, mash the raspberries through a fine-mesh strainer to catch all of the seeds. Set the collected purée and juices aside and toss the seeds.

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the egg whites and sugar. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Whisking constantly to avoid cooking the eggs, gently heat the mixture until very hot to the touch, the sugar is dissolved, and the mixture is smooth and fluid.

  • Remove the egg mixture from heat and place the bowl onto the stand mixer. Use the whisk attachment and beat on medium-high speed until the whites are stiff and glossy and will hold a stiff peak when you lift the whisk out of the mixture. The bowl should also be cool to the touch - continue mixing on low speed for another minute or two if it is not.

  • Switch your speed back to medium-high and begin adding the butter a piece at a time, mixing well after each addition and stopping frequently to scrape down the bowl. The buttercream will inevitably look curdled at some point. Continue adding your butter, have faith, keep mixing and eventually it will smooth out again.

  • When all of the butter has been added and the buttercream is fluffy and smooth and creamy, you can add your salt and raspberry purée. Start with about half of the raspberries and work your way up until you have the desired level of flavor and color.

To Assemble the Cake:

  • Using a serrated knife, slice each layer in half horizontally. You should also even up the tops of your cakes if they are at all domed. Wrap tightly in a double layer of plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for about an hour. This will make your cake easier to work with and you’ll have fewer crumbs.

  • When you’re ready to assemble, use a dab of frosting to affix one layer to an 8-inch cardboard cake round. Use about 3/4 of a cup of buttercream and, using a large offset spatula, spread evenly onto the top of the layer. Place another layer on top and repeat, alternating buttercream and cake, until all four layers are assembled. Now is the time to see if everything is standing even and, with clean hands, gently adjust until your cake is straight.

  • Pile the rest of your buttercream on the top of the cake and smooth it across the top and start to work your way evenly down the sides, stopping every so often to scrape excess buttercream from your spatula back into your bowl. If you pick up any crumbs on your spatula, wipe that into a separate container and save it (for spreading on graham crackers!). You can clean up the sides using a clean offset spatula, a frosting smoother, or a bench scraper.

  • Top with fresh berries, flowers, or sprinkles and serve with a very cold glass of milk. Enjoy!


Seedy Olive Oil Granola

A nut-free, lightened up version of good old granola.


Happy Friday! I’m hopping on for a quick moment to share the recipe for this seedy granola. Recently I started making an effort to feed myself. This is not to be confused with eating, which involves little more than shoving whatever food is within arm’s distance into one’s mouth. If you’re a parent, or maybe you have a demanding job, you understand the distinction.

In order to accomplish this, I had to first realize that feeding yourself during the day is not selfish. I discovered what most seasoned parents already know, and that is that you’re no good to anyone if you’re tired and cranky and hungry. I also returned to a much simpler way of cooking that sometimes just amounts to having a few good components in the fridge or pantry to throw together for quick meals. A nice tuna salad, fresh bread for sandwiches, washed salad greens, avocados, fruit in the freezer for smoothies… it doesn’t have to be fancy. Sometimes food just needs to be functional.

This granola is a good example of a staple you can keep around to elevate some of your more “just functional” meals. It’s nut free so a good option for families with allergies, and the only fat (aside from the seeds) is some olive oil. It’s also much lower in sugar than your standard store-bought granola. I happen to like the flavor of brown sugar and maple syrup together, but if you’re avoiding refined sugar feel free to use all maple syrup (for a total of 1/2 cup) or coconut sugar might be nice. Sugar is what creates those great clumps we all love, so admittedly this is a little less clumpy. You can bump the sugar content up by another quarter cup or so if you like. Also feel free to add in dried fruit like diced apricots, golden raisins, or toasted coconut. I didn’t just so I could keep it more versatile, but I’ll add them in with each serving. Add these items in at the very end, after the granola is cooled, and know that it will go stale a little faster because of the moisture in the fruit.

A few crunchy ways I like to use my granola:

  • the standard yogurt and fruit bowl

  • with milk of your choice, like a cereal

  • on top of a salad (pictured here with mixed greens, ricotta, strawberries, olive oil and fig balsamic vinegar)

  • as a garnish to creamy soups

  • baked into cookies or sprinkled on top of bar cookies

  • sprinkled over toast and ricotta

  • with fruit and a swipe of crème fraîche

  • over ice cream

If your kids are old enough to be eating small seeds, try making this with them. It’s a fun way to introduce them to cooking. Let them choose the mix of seeds that you use (or nuts if you prefer). I like a ratio of 4 cups of oats to about 2 1/2 cups of seeds or nuts. They can mix the whole thing with their hands.



Makes about 6 cups


  • 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds

  • 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

  • 1 cup raw sunflower seeds

  • 2 tablespoons poppyseeds

  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds

  • 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/2 cup olive oil

  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup


  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Spread the pumpkin seeds out on one sheet and place in the preheated oven until lightly toasted and fragrant, about 7 minutes.

  2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, seeds (including toasted pumpkin seeds), brown sugar, and salt and stir to combine. Drizzle in the olive oil and maple syrup and mix until well incorporated (don’t forget the smaller seeds, which like to hang out at the bottom)

  3. Spread the granola mix across the two sheet pans (you’ll reuse the one that you used for the pumpkin seeds) and place in the oven for 30-40 minutes until golden brown and toasted, checking to stir every 10 minutes or so.

  4. When the granola is done, remove from the oven and allow to cool completely, undisturbed. You don’t want to mix the granola up at this point because it will clump together as it cools and the sugar and maple syrup harden up. Store in airtight containers for several weeks.


Easy and even a little wholesome, these pancakes are perfect for relaxed weekends.

Heyo, look at that. It’s been over a year since I’ve been here! Since Jackson was born, this space has sat largely unused. There have been fewer elaborate meals and long leisurely mornings folding pastry dough. There have been a lot more freezer dinners and takeout boxes and the mornings are spent deciding between a shower or ten minutes of folding laundry before Nate leaves for work and all hell breaks loose.

There have also been pancakes. Lots and lots of pancakes. It’s Jack’s most requested meal, and since Stella came along I’ve been trying to find little ways to make him feel special. Making them on the weekend ensures we all sit down at the table for a few minutes together, and I save the leftovers to toast off for Jack the next day or two. These are fluffy and delicious and easy to throw together when you’re half asleep. I sneak in a little whole wheat flour. If your family is finicky about that you can use all white flour, or King Arthur Flour makes a great blend called “White Whole Wheat”, which is a bit milder tasting and a great option for kids. Experiment with what ratio you like - my mom makes these for Jack with only 1/3 a cup of whole wheat and 2/3 cup white and I suspect it’s one reason he has become her little shadow.


Makes 12-16 pancakes


  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

  • 1 1/2 cup buttermilk

  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted, plus more for greasing if you’re using a pan or skillet

  • pure maple syrup, crème fraîche, berries or bananas, for seving


  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside.

  2. In a large bowl, combine the egg and buttermilk. Whisk in the melted butter. Add the dry ingredients and stir just to combine. Your batter will still look a little lumpy.

  3. If using an electric griddle (my choice for easy cleanup!), heat to about 350ºF. If using a skillet, drop a little butter in the middle and heat over medium until it sizzles. Drop your pancakes by a quarter cup or so and allow to cook until you stop seeing bubbles appear on the top and you can easily slide a spatula underneath. Flip to cook through, which should only take 30 seconds to a minute at this point.

  4. Serve them hot. You can let people add the garnishes on their own, but for Jack I like to give him a tiny bowl of syrup on the side and he dips the pancakes into it. I keep everyone busy at the table with coffee and cocoa (and occasionally cartoons) while I’m flipping cakes.

adapted from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook


These candies are a concentrated burst of rich apple cider and cinnamon. Top with flakey salt to balance the sweetness of the caramel


I'm popping in for a minute to share this recipe for salty apply cider caramels. They're perfect if you're in need of last minute gifts or just looking for a special addition to your dessert table. I seem to make a batch every week weeks from October until now, keeping them in the fridge and taking a few along here and there for hostess gifts or setting a couple out after dinner.

Speaking of gifts, I recently stumbled on this article which I think is a worthwhile read for any parent. It outlines a study that supports the idea that kids are more creative and develop a better attention span when they have fewer toys. I don't want to sound like the Grinch here, but I do think it's a good thing to keep in mind during the holidays when there is so much pressure to spend, spend, spend. Since becoming parents, Nate and I have tried to take a more minimalist approach to what we buy and keep in our home and we're all a lot happier for it. Consider it before you drive yourself nuts trying to get in that last minute shopping run this weekend. 

But back to the caramels. They start with a quart of fresh apple cider, which gets reduced down into a thick syrup. Your house will smell divine. You might want to get an extra quart just for drinking, because the scent will be hard to resist. You'll need to use some corn syrup. I've tried many versions of the recipe with other substitutes, but it's pretty difficult to get *just right* without it so for the sake of everyone having successful caramels, let's just stick with the real deal. You'll also need to get your hands on a candy thermometer. You can probably pick one up at any local kitchen store or even a hardware store. I really love this Taylor version, which is super versatile and also has a handy scan function. 

Salty Apple Cider Caramels

1 quart fresh apple cider
1 cup light corn syrup
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
flakey sea salt

In a large, heavy bottom pot (I use my Le Creuset Dutch oven) bring the apple cider to a rolling boil. Reduce to a very low simmer and continue to cook, uncovered, until the cider is reduced to a thick syrup. Because the cider will be more viscous while hot, you may want to test by putting a small amount on a spoon and allowing to come to room temperature. It should be about the consistency of maple syrup. This process takes me about 90 minutes on my stovetop. 

Add the corn syrup, cream, sugar, and butter and bring to a rolling boil, stirring to combine the ingredients and dissolve the sugar. Try to avoid splashing too much of the granules of sugar onto the sides of the pot, or they won't become fully emulsified. Reduce to medium heat and continue to cook without stirring until your candy thermometer reads 250F. You can take it a bit further to 252F if you want a harder caramel, or 248F for a softer caramel. While the caramel is cooking, line an 8x8" baking pan with a parchment paper sling and lightly grease with butter or non-stick spray. 

When the caramel reaches your desired temperature, remove from heat and stir in the salt and cinnamon. Pour into the prepared pan. Allow to come to room temperature and sprinkle with the sea salt flakes. The salt may still dissolve into the caramel, but you'll taste it. 

I like to refrigerate my caramels for about 24 hours before I slice them. When you're ready to cut, use the parchment sling to lift the entire block of caramel onto a cutting board. Let stand for 10-15 minutes, and then use a ruler and a very sharp knife to cut into 1" squares. Wrap in squares of waxed paper. I like to store mine in the fridge for a few weeks, removing them an hour or so before serving, but they will keep at room temperature for about two weeks. 

Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Peppermint and Cocoa Sheet Cake

A Christmas spin on Texas sheet cake, this cake is full of cocoa and mint and can be made days in advance. It's perfect for a crowd. 


Jack has not slept the last several nights, and consequently most of our holiday plans have gone right out the window. There were loaves of freshly baked gingerbread to be delivered to friends and neighbors, homemade marshmallows to go to the cousins, and sugar cookies galore. I had dreams of strolling along College Avenue and staring into the twinkly windows of our favorite shops while sipping cocoa. But, as tired as we are, most nights I've been happy to get dinner on the table and maybe sneak in a shower. Maybe. 

Most of my real parenting challenges over the past fifteen months have all stemmed from the same problem - trying to do too much. Being mindful of this is a constant practice, and most often the person I find it hardest to say "no" to is myself. The holidays, with all of their traditions, seem to bring this issue into focus. I find myself wondering what it means if I skip something rather than thinking about what I really feel up to doing. Is it really Christmas if I don't have eight different cookies for our cookie plate? Did I make it to enough holiday parties? It sounds ridiculous to say it out loud, but we get caught up in the pressures of making everything perfect and it's easy to overestimate what we actually want to do.  


In an effort to enjoy the season as much as we can, despite the sleepless nights and an impossibly energetic toddler, Nate and I have been taking it one day at a time. We don't make too many plans in advance, and we end up automatically deleting a few things from our "to do" lists before we even try. If we feel like driving around to look at lights one evening, we'll go, and if I feel like making the cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning, I will. There are always movies and plenty of cocoa for evenings at home and bacon and eggs in the fridge for a backup breakfast. 

In the spirit of simplification, there is this cake. There's something very comforting about sheet cake. It makes no glamorous pretensions, and its main purpose in life is to serve a crowd. It's made for gathering and enjoying together. In the age of Instagram and overly styled desserts, I find that people always are a bit surprised and delighted when you pull out a sheet cake. This one is full of chocolate and mint and a cocoa fudge frosting. As a new parent, I love that it can be made a few days in advance, so you can throw it together whenever you find yourself with a few extra minutes. It's festive enough for dessert, but, not being overly sweet, it's also perfect for that afternoon cup of coffee or sharing at the office for a midmorning snack. Nate's coworkers are currently enjoying this one. Oh, and because I didn't feel like getting out the camera, I have my iPhone to thank for these photos. Simplify!


PEPPERMINT SHEET CAKE/ makes one 18x13" sheet cake, enough to feed a crowd

For the Cake
1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup unsweetened natural cocoa
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup coffee
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure peppermint extract

For the Frosting
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa
1/3 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
3/4 cup crushed peppermint candies (I used about 20 of the miniature candy canes)

Center an oven rack and preheat to 350F. Grease a standard half sheet pan (18x13") and line with parchment paper. 

To make the cake, melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Whisk in the cocoa until fully incorporated, followed by the oil and coffee. Bring to a rolling boil fro 30 seconds, and then remove from heat and set aside to cool. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream, and both extracts. Pour the cocoa mixture into the bowl and stir until just combined. Add the egg mixture, and use a spatula to fold the ingredients into the batter. Pour the batter into the greased pan and bake for approximately 30 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. 

While the cake is baking, make the frosting. Melt the butter in a large saucepan and whisk in the cocoa. Bring to a rolling boil for 30 seconds, remove from heat, and add the milk and vanilla. Whisk to combine. Off heat, add the confectioners' sugar, one cup at a time. Do not skip the step of sifting the confectioners' sugar. It's way easier to sift it than to try to work out the lumps in the frosting. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, smooth the frosting evenly over the cake and set somewhere to cool, undisturbed, Moving the cake around while the frosting is setting will cause ripples and cracks in the top. After 5-10 minutes, you can sprinkle the crushed peppermint on top (the heat from the cake may cause the colors in the candy to run if you don't wait a few minutes). 

Allow to cool completely before cutting into squares. If you plan to make this in advance, wait until the day of serving to add the crushed peppermint. 

Adapted from Julie Richardson's Vintage Cakes