Summertime, and the livin’ is easy…Ella Fitzgerald


Today is the first day of summer, and here in Northern Nevada, we can feel it.  100 degrees in the shade and it will only get hotter as the days go by.

The heat doesn’t make me really want to bake, but I couldn’t fight the urge to welcome Summer with my Summer Squash/Chai Cupcakes.

A few years ago, we had a bumper crop of summer squash from our garden, and I was wracking my brain for new recipes to use it all.

Now most people have had chocolate zucchini cake and zucchini bread, but there aren’t a lot of bakery items made with summer squash.  But, this thin skinned, lightly flavored cruciferous vegetable lends itself to some very yummy desserts.

The first time I made Summer Squash cupcakes, I just adapted my basic cupcake recipe, and the result was good, but not great.  I knew it could be so much better.  So I went back to my recipes to see how to make it great.

I knew I needed to kick up the flavor a bit because the squash itself is such a not-imposing flavor.  I tried using cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice (both individually and together in different combinations).  Still not what I was wanting.

So I started thinking of exotic spices/flavors, and immediately hit upon Chai spice.  The amazing combination of cardamom, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and black pepper is the perfect compliment to the slightly sweet vegetable.

After more testing, I had a summer squash/chai cupcake that I liked, but didn’t love.  It was a good dense cake with a nice crumb, but just not the over the top moist cake that I was wanting.

So, I went through my other cake recipes and decided to see if my carrot cake recipe would adapt to this cake.  And guess what…it did.  Beautifully.  So with a couple of tweaks, I was able to create what has become one of my favorite cupcakes.

The thing that makes this cake recipe different from my others, is that I use oil instead of butter.  I am a “butter makes everything better” kind of girl, so having a recipe that doesn’t have butter is a rarity.  Also, this recipe is mixed in a single bowl, no mixer needed.


I leave the skin on the squash, it is not fibrous, so no need to peel.  Just cut off the ends and grate 454 grams and set aside.

Combine 440 grams sugar, 320 grams all-purpose flour, 10 grams baking soda, 5 grams salt,  15 grams chai spice mix in a large mixing bowl.  Add 4 beaten eggs, 240 ml vegetable oil and 240 grams of crushed pineapple.  Stir to combine.  Add shredded squash and mix until just combined.

Use a portion scoop to scoop into lined cupcake pans and bake @350 for 16-18 minutes until tester comes out clean.


Once the cupcakes are cool, ice them with your preference of frostings.  I prefer cream cheese icing, but if you prefer a simple buttercream, that works too.


The shredded squash blends well into the cake and makes this cupcake amazingly moist and the chai compliments the light flavor of the vegetable.

Enjoy and stay cool .




Wimpy Kids and Waves

The process of closing Lavender Box, my brick and mortar bakery, and switching back to a cottage bakery has been, in all reality, very smooth; in the practical sense anyway.   I am, however, discovering that my psyche is having a bit more trouble grasping the concept.

For one thing, I am not up at the ass butt crack of dawn everyday.  Some days I actually get to sleep until 5am, woohoo.

The other major adjustment I am having to make is that I can take my time; I don’t have to have 4 different pastries, croissants, kouign amann and at least 2 cookie flavors baked and in the cases by 6:30am.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved it…Every minute of it.  And the satisfaction I got from seeing a customer’s reaction to a flaky pastry made it all worth it.

But being at home now, without the hectic pace of running a made-from-scratch, every thing fresh, every day  bakery with only myself and (the ever amazing) #1 daughter, I have come to realize the value of time.  Time to dedicate to the tiniest of details, without worry that something, or someone, will walk through door and take away my focus.  Time to set a work timeline and be able to adhere to it.  Time to not have to rush to get the finishing touches on a cake.  Time.

Now don’t get me wrong, I put every bit of myself into each and every thing I make; the simplest cookie or a 4 tier wedding cake with a ton of gum paste flowers, there is no difference in the dedication I put into each.  But knowing that I have the time to dedicate to each task individually makes me a lot less crazy.

It is that time that made the 2 cakes I did this weekend seem almost easy.  I was able to plan each step of each tier, and actually execute according to that plan.  I even had each one ready to deliver with time to spare.

Cake #1 was for a “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”birthday party.  There was some stress involved because I got the referral from another decorator who was unable to take the job.  No pressure there right?  Now I am somewhat familiar with the book series by Jeff Kinney, but let’s face it, my baby is 25 now, so I am a bit out of the loop.  The only kids books I have in my house now are the vintage Dr. Seuss and Peanuts books that hold a place of honor in the book case.  But with a lot of planning and preparation, I was able to get this beauty made, decorated and delivered for a very happy 7 year old.


And another angle, just because I canimg_1262-2

Cake #2 was a customer from the bakery whose little one was turning 4 and LOOOVES Disney’s Moana.  While #3 daughter has been dying to see Moana, we haven’t had the time, so I was flying blind here.  Miss Lennie Lou (birthday girl) had the figurines (thank goodness, ’cause sculpting figurines is still a dicey proposition for me), so should be simple enough right?  Oh, but no fondant for 4 year olds because they are picky about their cake.

Let me see now, have to put together a Hawaiian themed cake with waves and sand and flowers (oh my), and make it out of butter cream.  Okay, confession time, the flowers and sea shells and turtles are fondant, but the waves are chocolate and buttercream.  I was feeling so good about my timeline for this cake, I decided to make the little pig Pua from fondant, just because.  img_2255-2

Well all in all, I think it turned out pretty good.  I know, I know we have a pretty good lean here, but Lennie Lou’s Mom was very pleased.

There is always room for improvement, always something that could be better, and I don’t delude myself into thinking that I am any where near a cake artist.  I am simply someone who loves to be in the kitchen.  I love to bake and I love to see people smile when the idea for a cake becomes reality.

And for me, that is when time stands still.