In the sixth grade, Lisa Ritter prepared Mexican hot chocolate as part of a social studies project. Years later, she wanted to re-create that sweet-spicy sensation in a layer cake, so she developed a cinnamon-flavored sponge cake and subtly spicy buttercream frosting made with ancho chile powder and cayenne pepper. "This recipe makes great cupcakes, too," Ritter says.
For those who may be a little scared to try gluten-free pastries, these little tarts are the perfect place to start. "Whenever I make pastries, I'll often blend unrefined cane sugar in an upright blender to achieve a finer texture–something closer to powdered sugar than super-fine cane sugar," blogger Emma Galloway says. "This helps to evenly distribute it throughout the dough, and you are left with a much nicer texture and look in the end product."
Classic Carrot Cake with Fluffy Cream Cheese Frosting
Carrot cake, that 1970s favorite, has a new audience at luxe restaurants like Manhattan's Le Bernardin. At the Urban Farmer in Portland, Oregon, pastry chef Jodi Elliot prepares the ultimate version: moist and not too sweet.
This outrageous chocolate cake was born from a lucky mistake. Kimberly Sklar, pastry chef at Literati II in Los Angeles, was baking a creme fraiche-spike chocolate cake and, by accident, took the pan out of the oven early. Discovering that the cake was superfudgy, she layered it with dark chocolate and white chocolate ganache, then covered it in dark chocolate frosting.
At Boulud Sud, pastry chef Ghaya Oliveira makes a version of cassata, the ornate Sicilian dessert with layers of sponge cake, sweetened ricotta, candied fruit, dark chocolate and marzipan. The easy recipe here is Grace Parisi's own interpretation.
Grace Parisi's strawberry rhubarb pie recipe is classic and perfectly tart-sweet. The dough can be made with just butter, but swapping in some lard yields an even flakier crust. As for the filling, she has experimented with several thickeners, but cornstarch is her favorite for juicy fruit pies.