Sometimes when you're stressed you need cake. Just a little 6-inch personal-size cake with flecks of vanilla bean throughout, and possibly surrounded with your favorite guilty pleasure - strawberry pocky.

It helps you forget that you're making a wedding cake and a groom's cake next week.
And the fact that you'll have to transport it in 592 degree weather.
And that somehow you'll have to manage all this while looking fresh-as-a-daisy in your bridesmaid's dress.

Clearly, I needed a cake.

This year has been a blur. A dream. I blinked and found myself here: third day of summer, nearly July. Did I really write a book? I must have. Did I really go to New York and get chatty about it with strangers? Signs point to yes. And there's yet another great thing happening for the book  - which I will reveal very soon.  Right now life seems very surreal and it's moving so quickly!

It'll happen again. I'll blink and we'll be lighting sparklers and watching a night sky filled with fireworks. With that in mind, getting a jump-start on July 4th treats seems like a good idea!

A few weeks ago I was browsing my Facebook feed when something caught my eye. Yuri, who writes Chef Pandita posted a link to a gourmet lollipop shop that sells many unusual flavors - including a Sriracha pop!

Like! I clicked. "I would totally try this!" I commented, to which she replied "You should come up with a recipe and blog about it, why not?!"  I declared her a genius and got out my recipe journal.

For those unfamiliar, Sriracha is a delicious sweet-hot chili sauce that is (in my opinion) highly addictive. I've always thought it could improve the flavor of just about anything, but I wasn't sure how it would translate into candy.

I gave it a try in spite of my doubts. The first batch failed because I used too much sauce. The candy didn't harden properly and when I tasted it my eyes watered. Definitely too much!

I was more conservative the second time around and struck a nice balance between sweet and hot.  It's just hot enough to make your tongue tingle and has the recognizable flavor of the beloved rooster sauce.

I'm sure most of you have seen about a dozen different versions of spaghetti cupcakes before seeing them here on my blog, but I just couldn't resist baking my own version for father's day. You see, my dad loves spaghetti westerns - westerns of any kind, really - and when I saw those bandanna print cupcakes liners it was a done deal. I know he'll love them, but he deserves much more than I could ever repay in cupcakes.

It may sound trite to say he's the best dad ever, but the sentiment fits. He's always been there for me, moving my furniture, fixing broken things, encouraging and counseling me when I need to talk. And even though I'm not his biological daughter, he's never treated me otherwise.

Cheesecake is one of my favorite things about life.  And sometimes I don't want to spend an hour hovering around the oven window, crossing my fingers in hopes that the water bath is working.  I want cheesecake without the fuss.

This recipe is about as close to instant cheesecake gratification as you can get.  I've taken my favorite no-bake cheesecake recipe and adapted it into a fluffy vanilla-bean batter that can be piped into ice cream cones like soft-serve.  It's almost like cheesecake mousse.

These cones are so very easy to make.  If you are short on time and need something cold, creamy and delicious for a summer party - this just might be the ticket!

Last week I purchased the Ladurée Sucré desserts book and I've been totally smitten ever since. One recipe from the "Large Cakes" section caught my eye immediately.  Harmonie.  It is less cake-like and more like a giant pistachio macaron. If I understand correctly, this dessert is usually made in single servings (bigger than a normal macaron and smaller than a cake) however, the author has adapted a 10-inch version for the book.

The macaron recipe was much different than mine, and I was nervous when the text didn't give any visual cues on how the batter should appear when properly folded.  My instinct was to scrap Ladurée's recipe and make my well-practiced one. Then I had a moment of introspection. When did sticking to something comfortable ever result in learning something new or bettering yourself?  Okay then.

I went by the book, and look.  It worked!

I call this version Harmonie Chantilly, because I didn't make the pistachio mousse filling (terrible, I know). With wedding shower preparations and an impending trip,  I simply ran out of time -and steam. I opted for a simple creme Chantilly and I used more than necessary. When has that ever been a bad idea?

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