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These cookies are a hybrid of rolled sugar cookies and classic thumbprints. Dark chocolate cookie dough is rolled and cut with specially designed thumbprint cookie stamps. After baking they are filled with melted caramel and garnished with flake sea salt.

Dark Chocolate Thumbprints with Salted Caramel

I've made quite a few batches of cookies this season, and this one wins the award for most requested. It's hard to beat the classic flavors of chocolate and caramel together - unless it's caramel and sea salt. And in this case, it's all three together!
Rich devil's food cupcakes are filled with fluffy mint marshmallow creme and then generously topped with mint frosting. A scatter of holiday sprinkles make them festive, and each cupcake is crowned with a single dark chocolate mint creme truffle.


I couldn't let December pass without celebrating one of the most popular flavors of the season! I've always loved mint best when paired with chocolate (evidence of this here and here). These cupcakes are just the right amount of minty without being overpowering, and the flavor reminds me of a Peppermint Patty.
First introduced in 1956, this retro Eggnog Fruit Cocktail Pie is making a comeback! It features a creamy eggnog filling studded with colorful sweetened fruit throughout.


I enjoy reading through vintage cookbooks and discovering new (old!) recipes that might just be serviceable for today's taste buds. But many recipes, particularly from the 1950's, seem to be based on a dare - especially in the congealed salads chapters. I recall a New York Times article covering the Atomic Age saying something about mid century recipes evoking the era’s optimism while encasing it in gelatin and smothering it in mayonnaise. That sounds about right.

The origin of this recipe hails from a 1950's Knox Gelatin advertisement, but it's rather tame compared to other dessert recipes of the time. The pie is not so much encased by gelatin as it is enhanced by it. The recipe formula is very nearly a mousse recipe that you'd find in cookbooks today. The fruit cocktail? Well, it's not exactly an elegant counterpart for mousse. But it is nostalgic, and what better time for nostalgia than the holidays?
A jar of port wine jelly makes a wonderful homespun gift and it's easy to make! The jelly's flavors are nuanced with warm notes of caramel, plum and walnut. It goes well with savory main dishes, but it's also good simply spread on toast.

It's my tradition to make a big batch  of port wine jelly around the Christmas holiday to give as gifts, but I also make it just for me. I enjoy it so much because it goes with everything. You can serve it as a side next to roast turkey, or spoon it over a log of goat cheese for an appetizer. You can use it to top brie en croute, or just enjoy it on some good multi grain toast. It's so versatile!
This festive punch is perfect to serve at holiday get-togethers. Its ruby red color comes from sweet-tart pomegranate juice. Champagne makes it sparkle, or use carbonated apple cider for a non-alcoholic punch.

I've always considered punch to be dessert you can sip, which is why I get really excited to see it served parties. There's something special about all those small punch cups being ladled full of sweet, potent liquid.

This punch is simple with most of the sweet flavors occurring naturally from the fruit juices we've used. It's potent, but not in a hummingbird nectar kind of way (which is how I describe most soda-based, sherbet-topped recipes). It seems more like a bolstering of antioxidants and vitamin C from winter's best fruits. Don't get me wrong - it's not health food, but it's a nice departure from the norm.
These cookies have a generous dose of orange marmalade mixed right into the batter. Cinnamon and clove give them spicy holiday flavor, and a topping of zesty citrus buttercream makes them irresistible!

Drop cookie recipes are especially wonderful for busy holiday bakers, because there's no dough to be rolled out, no stamping out shapes with cutters, and no tedious decorating. There's a certain beauty in their simplicity and they are usually delicious, which is the most important thing a cookie should be!
Buttery sugar cookies get an easy and festive look with melted hard candy “stained glass” windows. They are sure to be the star of your cookie exchange!

It just wouldn't be Christmas without a big batch of sugar cookies (or two, or three!). These were a lot of fun to make, and so pretty we wanted to hang them on our Christmas tree. It's amazing how easy the stained glass effect is to achieve - anyone can do it, and I'll show you how!
Star-shaped gingerbread cookies stacked tall on a platter creates an edible Christmas tree centerpiece for your holiday table. Royal icing acts as the glue that holds the cookies together, while metallic dragees give the tree sparkle.

This is a fun Christmas baking project, especially if you have help from an extra elf or two in the kitchen. The cookie recipe makes a large quantity of dough, so there's plenty of rolling, cutting and decorating to be done. Having more than one pair of hands will make the work go faster, and it's a great way to make memories with little ones. At the end you'll have a towering Christmas tree - that you can eat!
Tangy sour cream coffee cake is layered with sugared cranberries and almonds for a true taste of the Christmas season. This recipe makes two 8 inch cakes, one to give and one to keep!


Cranberries have been a common theme on this blog ever since they came into season. First there was Air Fryer Cranberry Baked Brie (which I've made 3 times since), then Champagne Cranberry Sauce, and most recently Cranberry-Oat Crumble Bars. I use them so much in winter months that I've developed a flavor memory. Each time I enjoy them I am reminded of happy times with family and friends around the holidays.

This coffee cake is sure to create some happy memories! Layers of brown sugar-coated cranberries and almonds are baked into a single layer cake. I've developed this recipe for two cakes, so that you can have one to enjoy -and in the spirit of the season- one to give.

Pears are at their peak in fall and winter, and this pie is a wonderful way to make practical use of the harvest. The pear's subtle sweetness is enhanced with ginger and honey, and balanced with a buttery black walnut crumb topping.

December is National Pear Month, so here's a great way to celebrate! This pie holds layers of thinly sliced pears that are sweetened with honey. A touch of ginger brings forth warm holiday flavor, and black walnut streusel gives the pie interesting flavor and crunch.
Rye and pumpernickel slices are toasted until golden and then topped with tangy Gorgonzola cheese spread. Brown sugar-glazed butternut squash gives the crostini a sweet bite, while fried rosemary and walnuts offer crunch. Pomegranate arils add a tart finish and a jeweled appearance for holiday tables.


This weekend's blog posts had an accidental theme: cheesy appetizers! I've really been enjoying cooking up all kinds of small party bites and planning for upcoming holiday events. Everyone who tasted these crostini fell in love with them. The flavors and textures are so varied, yet they harmonize so well. I'm not sure there's ever been more flavor per square inch on a slice of bread!
These bite-size appetizers are loaded with the savory-sweet flavors of Parmesan, bacon, fig and toasted nuts. They make lovely appetizers for holiday cocktail parties, or delicious additions to charcuterie boards.


Each year on Christmas Eve my mother hosts a family get-together with a menu filled strictly with appetizers. I've already decided that these mini cheese balls will be attending the party with me. They are absolutely brimming with flavor that will satisfy both salty and sweet cravings.
Christmas tree-shaped sugar cookies covered with white royal icing get a botanical makeover with edible flower petals. Scottish flowers in hues of blue, purple and orange, create a bright and unexpected color palette for the holidays.


I must have at least 100 Christmas-themed cookie cutters, but I always seem to return to the same shape, a pine tree (1,2). Like a favorite song, it's the kind of thing that suits me just fine on repeat. In the very back of my pantry I found a little jar of"Flowers of Scotland" which are dried petals and herbs for culinary use. One peek at those vivid blue cornflowers convinced me to make rather unconventional Christmas cookies this year. I look at them as a reminder that we can still enjoy colorful blooms in cold, snowy months.
There's nothing cozier than a steaming cup of hot chai on a cold day. This Instant Chai Mix is a super easy, no-cook, no-bake, holiday gift. Simply mix the dry ingredients in a big bowl and funnel into jars.

Winter temperatures arrived early in my neck of the woods, so most evenings we've curled up in front of a fire with our favorite hot beverages. The usual is Earl Grey or hot cider, but this spiced chai has been a welcome departure. It's creamy and delicately spiced - convenient, too!
If you're looking for cookies with plenty of WOW  factor, then you might want to bookmark this recipe. These cookies weigh in at a whopping 7 ounces each, which means they'll garner lots of attention at your next cookie swap or holiday party.


This was my first attempt at making cookies this size, and I was surprised to find it was similar to making any other chocolate chip cookie recipe - except there's MUCH MORE dough to manage. During mixing there were moments when I thought my KitchenAid was going simultaneously overflow and walk itself off the prep table, but once I remembered to lock the mixer head in place during operation, things went smoother.
Red Velvet Cookies and Cream Bars, Peanut Butter Marshmallow Bars, and Salted Dark Chocolate Almond Bars can all be whipped up in a matter of minutes! These recipes makes it possible for even the busiest holiday hosts to offer a variety of delicious cookies to party guests.


December is one big month of marathon baking for me. I love my job as a baker and the time it affords me to dive into rather lengthy kitchen projects. But I also remember a time when I had an office job and too little time to bake all the things. I often relied on quick and easy recipes for holiday parties and family gatherings. These recipes were developed with that in mind.

Busy cooks will appreciate these time-saving recipes, and even those who have lots of time to bake will appreciate how delicious these bars are!

If you're into rich chocolate cake wrapped in wintry folklore with a dash of cute, then this cake is for you! It's a delicious confection made with alternating layers of chocolate cake and cheesecake. The yeti's coat is made of blue buttercream studded with white sprinkles, and a happy face is created using fondant decors. Altogether complete, she had so much personality we named her 'Jampa' which is a Tibetan name, loosely translated: kindness, caring.

In a moment of pure cake-decorating silliness, a decision was made to give her pink toenails. YES, she's a yeti with a pedi. Clearly, this cake was an absolute joy to create, and I hope you love it, too!

Each holiday season I make a batch of Rocky Road and each time it's a little bit different. The candy can be endlessly varied with almost most any snacky thing you have on hand. This year's rendition could be my favorite yet. It stands out from previous versions with bourbon-soaked cookies and smoked almonds.

Hello friends, and hello December! This is my favorite month for baking and candy-making, and lately I've been a whirlwind of flour and powdered sugar. I've been whipping up all kinds of new recipes, and I hope you'll find them useful for entertaining and gift-giving this holiday season.

First on my list of goodies - Chocolate Tahini Fudge. If you love chocolate and peanut butter together, then you're probably going to love the combination of chocolate and tahini. Sesame paste gives this candy a refreshing twist and new depth of flavor!

There's something so wonderful about the flavor of tart cranberry in winter months. Is it coincidence that the berries are harvested just in time for holiday baking? I think not! Mother Nature gives us just what we need to wake up sleepy winter taste buds.

These bars hold a tart layer of jammy cranberry between two layers of vanilla-scented oat crust. They would be right at home on any holiday cookie tray, but I often found myself craving them for breakfast with coffee (oats = breakfast, right?).
These items are curated for bakers and confectioners of every stripe. Practical baking basics, creative tools, and special ingredients will make this holiday season sweet for the baker on your gift list!


Practical Baking Basics
CIA 6 Piece Measuring Spoon Set – Perfect stocking-stuffer or tie-on for packages! I have enjoyed this set for years.  My general advice on measuring spoons is to never ever ever, buy plastic spoons with the measurements printed on. They become brittle with repeated washing and will break.
These spicy roasted party nuts are savory-sweet with a coating of brown sugar, sea salt, and chopped fresh rosemary. A dash of ground cayenne pepper makes the flavors zing with just a touch of heat.

I had planned to post this recipe during December but - surprise! It's arrived early. I'm putting together a cheese board for Thanksgiving and decided just last night that these spicy nuts would be a perfect addition. The savory-sweet flavors will pair nicely with most any cheese, and  I can image a big jarful sitting right next to this filo-wrapped cranberry brie.
Rich caramel sauce and diced apples give ordinary monkey bread a fall makeover. It makes a delicious and cozy breakfast for overnight guests.

This sticky ring of cinnamon-sugared sweet dough goes by many names - most famously Monkey Bread - but I've also heard it called puzzle bread, bubble bread, and Hungarian coffee cake. I don't think it matters what you call it, because it's the kind of delectable pull-apart bread that disappears so quickly it barely has a chance to be formally introduced.

This version is a recent favorite. Diced apples are fried in butter and brown sugar (yes!) which creates thick, rich caramel syrup that is drizzled over the dough pieces before baking. The end result is simply irresistible!
Toast-worthy champagne cranberry sauce molded into a ring doubles as table decor for formal Thanksgiving dinners. It's tart and sweet ,which pairs perfectly with savory main dishes.


Cheers to you, friends - with cranberry sauce! Are you ready for Thanksgiving? Our menu is almost set, with just a few minor adjustments to be made. One thing is for certain, we'll have enough food for twice the people attending, which is good for those of us looking forward to leftovers!

This slightly boozy cranberry sauce is tart and delicious with savory fare. It can be served as sauce in a bowl, or if you're looking for a more formal presentation, you can mold it in a decorative pan as I have.
Ancho chile powder gives ordinary pumpkin pie spicy-sweet flavor with just a kiss of heat. Zesty lime whipped cream is tart and cooling, and compliments the pie's peppery flavor.


If you're looking for a new spin on pumpkin pie - and if you love Mexican cuisine - this pie is for you! For those unfamiliar, ancho chiles are poblano peppers (of chile rellano fame) that have been ripened and dried. Peppers that are allowed to ripen from green to deep red are sweeter, which gives them an affinity for all kinds of desserts.

The use of ancho in this pie reveals earthiness without covering any of the pumpkin flavor. It's just different enough to surprise and delight your guests at the end of Thanksgiving dinner.

I'm sharing something a little bit different today, and it's something I love doing - decorating the holiday table! I'll admit that it takes me a while to figure out what I like, so I start thinking about elements for my December table when November arrives. I find that planning this early is a real time-saver during my busiest month! 
Two of the season’s most beloved flavors are combined in one delicious cake! It’s simple to assemble and makes a great alternative to pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving Day dessert.


Pumpkin pie recipes are plentiful on the blogosphere right now, but I'd like to draw your attention to this pumpkin cake for just a moment. It's a rustic beauty that isn't too hard to put together, and it's one of the tastiest pumpkin cakes I've ever made. The batter is loaded with pumpkin puree, which is then poured atop a pool of butter caramel and chopped pecans.

At the end of baking you'll have two caramel upside-down cakes with sugar-crusted edges. The two cakes are layered with freshly whipped cream, which balances the sweetness of the pecan praline topping.
Chai Cupcakes are flavored with a medley of aromatic spices that evoke the essence of fall. Ginger, cardamom, and black pepper notes shine in both the cake and vanilla-chai frosting.


The weather is dipping into cooler temperatures this week, which means I'll be cozying up to my favorite spicy beverage - spoiler alert! It's not a Pumpkin Spice Latte (ha!).

Lately chai lattes are my hot beverage of choice. There's something so comforting, almost healing, about their heady spices. I was inspired to use those same flavors in tender, buttery cupcakes.
Lobster Mac and Cheese Baked in Filo makes an elegant side dish, but it's also hearty enough to serve as a main course! It's an indulgent offering for holidays and special dinner parties.


Lately I've been exploring the savory side of baking and enjoying it immensely! There's a whole new world of things to be wrapped in pie crusts, puffy pastry - or in this case, filo dough. Lobster Mac and Cheese is  a favorite here, so I decided to give it the ol' pastry chef makeover. It's just the thing to switch up the usual Thanksgiving side dishes, so I'm making it for our dinner this year.
Bourbon-Maple Pumpkin Seed Caramels are filled with autumn's best flavors. Dry-roasted pumpkin seeds give them the perfect salty bite!


Of all the caramel recipes I've made over the years, this one ranks high. It could be my new favorite of all time. Maple syrup and bourbon give the caramels complex flavor, and pumpkin seeds deliver just the right amount of salt and crunch.

After passing these out to friends and family, someone asked if they could purchase more!

In the vast and greatly varied world of molasses cakes, this modest-looking bundt cake is perhaps the deepest, darkest, and most intensely flavored of them all. The batter is given a strong dose of blackstap molasses, and it has two types of ginger: ground and freshly grated. To further underscore its depth of flavor, Guinness Extra Stout is added, which is distinctively bitter-sweet, black, and full-bodied. Altogether, these ingredients produce a cake that is dark, sticky and chewy with flavor that booms like a timpani drum!

We enjoy pillowy yeast rolls year-round, but they are an absolute must at our big holiday dinners. I love this recipe because it yields 24 perfect soft dinner rolls with golden tops and a lightly tangy buttermilk flavor. They're also 'rapid rise' which means a higher amount of yeast is used in the dough, so they are quicker to make than most recipes. Instead of babysitting dough all day (or waiting overnight) you'll have cotton-soft yeast rolls in about 1 hour 30 minutes.

It's a tradition for our family to have baked brie on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. I always make a bee line straight for it, and there's never a crumb left. The usual recipe is made with ready-made puff pastry, but recently a version wrapped in filo dough piqued my interest. I decided to whip up my own filo-wrapped brie in the Air Fryer, loosely guided by the recipe booklet that came with the machine. The end result? My brie en croute may never see the likes of puff pastry ever again!

Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejui.... okay. I'll stop right there. Just in case. (Ha!)

I wanted to make something seriously fun to celebrate Halloween this year, but I wasn't sure what that would be until just a couple of days ago. It's been years since I've seen the movie Beetlejuice (it was released in 1988!) but I recently had the opportunity to watch it again. Even though it's an older movie, the humor and special effects still hold up today. I loved it as a kid, but I didn't really catch the meaning of some of the quips and innuendo scripted for Beetlejuice - which was a good thing. He's crusty, lewd, duplicitous, moldy and a bit cranky, but SO funny!

Sweet potato is one of my favorite fall flavors for baking, but I feel the ingredient can be overlooked for the other, more celebrated orange vegetable at this time of year. Don't get me wrong, I do love a good pumpkin dessert, but there's something really special about the starchy sweetness of a roasted sweet potato, especially when paired with maple syrup, pecans, and warm spices.

Next Wednesday is Halloween, so I've been baking all kinds spooky things lately! I recently whipped up this ghostly cake for Food Network's website, and it's been one of my favorite projects this season. The process of building the cake was so much fun and it's not difficult to put together. If a two-tier cake seems daunting, the recipe can be baked into a single nine-inch 4 layer cake.

To get started, you'll need to break out the neon food colors for the vivid cake layers!

If you're in need of fun Halloween party fare, then these colorful cupcakes just might be the treat for your ghoulish guests. They are swirled with Halloween hues from top to bottom, and they owe their spooky-cute charm to ghostly parchment wrappers and cupcake toppers.

I was first introduced to air fryers in 2003 when I was filling out my wedding registry at a popular home goods store. Back then it seemed like the market was so inundated with single-purpose gadgets and appliances (Countertop Chicken Rotisserie Oven, anyone?) that I completely dismissed it as yet another space-consuming kitchen product.

Fifteen years later, I'm air frying everything I can get my hands on. I purchased an air fryer just before Christmas 2017 because I wanted to make a few of my favorite fried holiday treats more healthful. Air frying requires little or no oil and makes treats crisp, crunchy and golden brown. After my first batch of air-fried donuts, I was hooked!

Recently while doing some shopping for autumn-themed tablewares, I spotted a set of beautiful white pumpkin place card holders. They were smooth porcelain and flecked with gold, and to me they looked like little confections. Judging their size and shape, I knew just how to make an edible version when I returned home.


If you're looking for a way to fill your holiday table with pumpkin-centric treats, then boy, do I have the goods for you! I recently created a gallery of easy recipes (you might call them hacks) for HGTV.com using canned pumpkin pie filling. The presweetened and spiced filling makes a nice shortcut to delicious fall-themed treats that aren't a lot of work for those donning the chef's hat.

There are sixteen recipes total in the gallery on HGTV's website, but I thought I'd give a little sneak peek of my favorites,  like these Pumpkin Pie Phyllo Bites. They use ready-made phyllo shells so you can whip them up in just minutes!

Autumn offers the best indulgences, and I've given myself full permission to partake of its treasures. So far this includes a daily cup of hot apple cider, marathon granola-eating, and studying all varieties of warmly spiced baked goods as if I were going to be tested on the subject later.

This bundt is a result of that research and I'm not afraid to say it: I'm obsessed with this cake. It is so delightful with a moist pumpkin-spiced interior, a drape of sweet cream cheese glaze, and crunchy sugar-lacquered walnuts.

Today is the kind of chilly autumn day that makes you take stock of your tea cupboard and requires a cozy cinnamon-spiced treat. I'm all for a repeat of these apple-cherry turnovers I made a couple of weeks ago. They are totally scratch-made with firm granny smith apples, dried cherries and an all-butter puffy crust that turns golden as it bakes.

These may look like ordinary cookies, but they are so soft and fluffy I hesitate to call them cookies. They're more like a hybrid of cake and cookie... so would that make them cakies? Is that a thing? It should be!

The pumpkin-flavored batter is lightly sweet and chock full of chopped pecans. A drizzle of caramel on top adds just the right amount of sweetness.

Years ago I picked up a 'Best of the Best' cookbook while traveling through Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. It was one of those modest-looking regional cookbooks bound with a plastic comb that might have been compiled by a local church or rotary club. This muffin recipe is a favorite from that book, although I've since lost my copy and fear it has been accidentally donated. Last week I found the recipe on a sheet of paper that I'd typed for my mom, and although it's not pumpkin-spiced or fall-themed, I couldn't wait to share it. The muffins make a nice breakfast at any time of year and they are extremely easy to make.

I remember the recipe's headnote stated the origin was from Sedberry Hotel, a McMinnville Tennessee establishment (and apparently a pretty ritzy one for the place and time) which opened in early 1900. It closed in the 1950's, but thankfully the muffins survived.

Fall and winter holidays are well on the horizon, so I've been exploring savory bites that will make nice appetizers and party food. These little wild mushroom pies fit the season perfectly, and they've checked all the boxes on my requirements list. They're cozy, tasty, and look seriously inviting on a serving tray.

One of my favorite projects at this time of year is to bottle up homemade vanilla extract using vanilla beans and vodka (remember this post?). The beans take a couple of months to steep and are ready just in time for Christmas gifts. However, over the past few years vanilla bean prices have been prohibitively expensive, and so it made my favorite fun and economical holiday gift not so economical. If you're an avid baker, no doubt you've noticed the increase in bean prices and even in store-bought vanilla extracts. There are many reasons for this escalation such as poor weather conditions, low crop yield, and labor-intensive harvesting (read more here). Although some news outlets are reporting relief in sight, we've yet to see it.

This year I decided to bottle lemon extract instead, and for a few good reasons. 1.) I've missed the ritual of it all: bottling, tagging, observing, monitoring, and shaking the bottles over 6-8 weeks time. It's a nice sort of anticipation. 2.) Lemon extract goes in many delicious baked things, especially at Christmastime (see Lemon Sparkler Cookies, for starters). 3.) Lemons are currently affordable in my neck of the woods. 4.) Bright ribbons of lemon rind tint the vodka a sunny color over time, which makes this homespun gift pretty.

Maybe it's the change in weather or maybe it's all the fall baking I'm seeing on social media, but here's a fact: I'm hungry! My appetite is more than healthy these days, and instead of scarfing just anything I've been making an effort to eat something nutritious. Granola has been my go-to snack lately, but if you're not paying special attention at the grocery store, you'll come home with a bag of granola made with high fructose corn syrup. I'm sad to say this happened to me recently.

Lucky for us, homemade granola is super easy to make! I've been SO into this version we whipped up using oats, dried apples, dried white mulberries, quinoa, and pecans. It's warmly spiced and could not be more season-appropriate.

There's no shortage of Black Forest-inspired cakes on this blog (like this chocolate dome and this cake roll), but sharing the classic version - the one that's made in 9-inch round cake pans and covered with whipped cream - somehow never made the cut!

The recipe I'm sharing today is adapted from this website, which also tells the origin story of the cake (a neat read if you have time). It seems the recipe has made its way onto Genius Kitchen with lots of great reviews, so I had to try it for myself!

It's hard to beat a classic, and Cola Sheet Cake is a recipe you're likely well-acquainted with - and almost certainly if you're from the south!

I worked at a hospital years ago, and there was always an autumn bake sale held for charity on the second floor near the cafeteria. I didn't bake much then, so scratch-made treats were extra-special and I'd load up my tote bag with goodies. Each year someone would make Cola Sheet Cake and display neatly cut slices covered with plastic wrap. They'd also affix disposable forks on top for convenience. I always purchased a slice and have fond memories of eating it with a cup of coffee at my desk. Now I make it myself, and it remains a flavor memory that transports me back to old friends and happy times at my previous job.



National Coffee Day is next week on September 29th and since I'm truly passionate about good coffee, I wanted to make something special for the occasion in advance. Cue this Wicked Espresso Cake, a.k.a. any coffee lover's dream come true! It's a towering confection built with six espresso-infused cake layers, filled with coffee crème légère, and frosted with chocolate-espresso French buttercream. Sounds pretty good, yes? Not only is it crazy town delicious, this cake has another purpose!
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