Think You Hate Fondant? Think Again.

What comes to mind when you hear the word “fondant?” You know the stuff—it’s a sweet paste you know (and likely hate) that’s used to smoothly cover elaborately decorated cakes. AKA, it’s sugary play-dough. It usually doesn’t add anything pleasant to th…

What comes to mind when you hear the word “fondant?” You know the stuff—it’s a sweet paste you know (and likely hate) that’s used to smoothly cover elaborately decorated cakes. AKA, it’s sugary play-dough. It usually doesn’t add anything pleasant to the eating experience of the otherwise tasty cake hiding underneath it, and in fact is unpleasantly sweet for my taste.

I have used the tip of a fork to gently peel back the layer of fondant just to get to the good stuff at my fair share of weddings. It’s an imperfect solution: You’re left with a hunk of gunk on your plate that feels both unappreciative of the baker who likely worked incredibly hard to decorate it, but also like totally unnecessary food waste. And no matter how carefully you scraped, delicious frosting was sacrificed in the process. If you, too, cannot abide the loss of even one smear of buttercream, you’re probably with me in saying: That fondant is a bit gross.

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How to Turn Practically Any Grain Into a Pie Crust

I first wrote about grain crusts in 2014. Back then, I was actively praising the concept of “easy” pie crusts. This recipe is incredibly easy. It requires less than 5 base ingredients, and no need to get out the rolling pin—it’s pressed into the pie pl…

I first wrote about grain crusts in 2014. Back then, I was actively praising the concept of “easy” pie crusts. This recipe is incredibly easy. It requires less than 5 base ingredients, and no need to get out the rolling pin—it’s pressed into the pie plate.

But it’s more than the ease that keeps me coming back to these crusts over and over again. See, I first created this method back when I lived alone. I would cook large batches of grains, and sometimes I’d use some of these prepped ingredients to make a mini tart or pie crust for myself on the fly. Very quickly, I found that that these kinds of pie crusts are a wonderful way to remix leftovers, and are infinitely adaptable for all kinds of portion sizes and flavor pairing possibilities. They're also a wonderful way to bake a pie using whole grains, including grains that might be naturally gluten-free.

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A Baker’s 7 Secrets for Better Dinner Rolls

I can’t do Thanksgiving without some really good rolls on the table. Since the season is just about upon us, I tackled the concept in the most recent episode of Bake it Up a Notch, diving deep into all things dinner rolls and learning a lot along the w…

I can’t do Thanksgiving without some really good rolls on the table. Since the season is just about upon us, I tackled the concept in the most recent episode of Bake it Up a Notch, diving deep into all things dinner rolls and learning a lot along the way! This year, on top of all of the recipes (and there are many!), I wanted to share all of my favorite tips, tricks, and techniques for baking all kinds of beautiful dinner rolls. So right in time for fall and holiday baking, here are my seven top secrets for perfect dinner rolls, every time.

1. Pick the Right Dough for Crusty vs. Fluffy Results

Dinner rolls can be made from either lean or enriched bread doughs. Enriched doughs are recipes that contain “enrichments” like butter, eggs, milk, and sugar. Examples of enriched doughs include brioche, challah, and Parker House rolls. Lean doughs contain no enrichments—they are just made of flour, water, yeast, and salt. Examples of lean doughs include baguettes, ciabatta, and plain varieties of sourdough. When choosing your ideal roll recipe, remember: If you’re looking for a fluffier roll, opt for an enriched dough. For a crustier roll, choose a lean dough.

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7 Pro-Baker Tips to Make Cake Easier (& More Fun!)

Baking already has a reputation for being very by the book—and this can also unfortunately translate to “complicated” for many folks. In the newest episode of Bake it Up a Notch, I wanted to explore all the wonderful treats you can make without a lot o…

Baking already has a reputation for being very by the book—and this can also unfortunately translate to “complicated” for many folks. In the newest episode of Bake it Up a Notch, I wanted to explore all the wonderful treats you can make without a lot of equipment, mixing in a bowl either by hand, or with a trusty hand mixer. But a few special tricks can take even the simplest recipe to the next level. Here are my tips for making some of the simplest, tastiest bakes.

1. Get to know (& Love) the Blending Method

The blending method is the simplest mixing method in baking. The ingredients are mixed—or blended—until they are combined into a smooth batter. This is the method used for so many cakes, from quick breads and muffins to anything marked a “one bowl” wonder. The key to the blending method is evenly combining the ingredients without over-mixing, which can leave the finished item tough after baking.

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Cheesecake Is The Best Summer Dessert. Here’s Why.

The way to my heart is through all things doughy: bread, pie, and biscuits. But I’ve baked a lot more cheesecakes since meeting my husband, because they are his favorite dessert. The way to his heart is through creamy custards, preferably with a tart h…

The way to my heart is through all things doughy: bread, pie, and biscuits. But I’ve baked a lot more cheesecakes since meeting my husband, because they are his favorite dessert. The way to his heart is through creamy custards, preferably with a tart hint of tang—add a cookie crust, and he’s done for. I’ve been experimenting more with cheesecakes ever since learning this, and along the way I fell in love by proxy. (And since cheesecakes are really custard in a crust—they sound a bit like a pie to me! #teamcheesepie.) In the most recent episode of Bake It Up a Notch, I dived deep into cheesecakes and shared a ton of recipes, as we head into my favorite season to make them. While I bake cheesecakes of all flavors year-round, they truly are a perfect summer dessert. Here are three delicious reasons that may convince you I'm right.

1. Cheesecake Is Served Chilled.

One of my favorite things about cheesecakes is that they are usually served cold. This alone makes them ideal for summer—what’s better than something chilled and sweet when it’s hot outside? (I’ve also heard of folks who enjoy eating frozen cheesecakes without letting them thaw, for an extra-cold twist.) This also speaks to me as a lover of make-ahead options. It’s a dessert that can be made whenever you have time to bake, then enjoyed for many days to follow (assuming it lasts that long). Since it can be made ahead, it’s also perfect to take with you—maybe pack some slices for a summer picnic or try some easy-to-serve cheesecake bars or mini cheesecakes to bring to a barbecue. It’s refreshing, it’s a crowd-pleaser, it’s the definition of creamy and delicious.

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Erin McDowell’s 8 Best Cupcake Recipes for an Extra-Special, Extra-Fun Dessert

Cupcakes are a constant for me, not a baking trend. As someone who bakes a lot, I never tire of making them – they’re easy to make, and I always get excited about eating them. They are also a lot of fun to dress up, get creative with, and make extra sp…

Cupcakes are a constant for me, not a baking trend. As someone who bakes a lot, I never tire of making them - they’re easy to make, and I always get excited about eating them. They are also a lot of fun to dress up, get creative with, and make extra special. I find that I’m not alone in my love for cupcakes, too— I have elicited my fair share of gasps and smiles walking into a room carrying a colorful box of cupcakes. (Seriously - move over bouquet of flowers—give me a box o’ cupcakes.) And if cupcakes are meant to be baked, gifted, and/or eaten by the dozen, I’m coming in hot with a bunch of recipes to keep you in tiny cakes for all occasions. My newest episode of Bake it Up a Notch dives deep into all things cupcakes—from super simple to over-the-top, I’ve got your cupcake to-bake list covered.

1. Basic Vanilla & Chocolate Cupcakes

These are my go-to cupcakes: an easy base recipe that can be made in vanilla or chocolate. These rise a “just-right” amount, to get a beautiful little cakey dome with a super moist crumb that’s a perfect match for any frosting or other finishes you can dream up! Be sure to check out this article I wrote back in 2015 about cupcakes, too—it has lots of ideas and techniques for making your best, plus creative ideas for making them look super beautiful, too. What’s that? Super in-depth coverage on cupcakes from me over five years ago on this same site? Just a perfect example of the cupcake constant.

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6 Macaron Recipes for the Perfect Parisian Treat

Macarons, the incredibly beautiful Parisian cookie, are perhaps equally known for their impossibly smooth surface, delicate raised “foot,” and irresistibly chewy texture. As a baker, I see macarons as a bit of a rite of passage. Learning to execute the…

Macarons, the incredibly beautiful Parisian cookie, are perhaps equally known for their impossibly smooth surface, delicate raised “foot,” and irresistibly chewy texture. As a baker, I see macarons as a bit of a rite of passage. Learning to execute these fluttery friends is a great test of a variety of baking skills: whipping a meringue, piping the perfect round, and getting the bake just right. But I also see them as an incredible opportunity to get creative. At their core, macarons are a simple cookie with a fairly short ingredient list: just almond flour, egg whites, and sugar. And since they are made with almond flour, they are naturally gluten-free. Best of all, the short ingredient list means that the cookie itself is neutral in flavor—meaning you can easily add a variety of different fillings and finishes to take your macarons to the next level.

In my newest episode of Bake it Up A Notch, I try to show off some of the many incredible things this cookie can do. While lots of macaron recipes play with adding different colors and filings, I want to encourage home bakers to also experiment with an array of sizes, presentations, and finishes, too! From the classic mini sandwich cookies to giant macarons decorated with royal icing, to a towering, sliceable layer “cake,” there’s a whole lot of ways to embark on your own macaron adventure. Here are the recipes to get you started.

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How to Master Pâte à Choux (For Éclairs, Gougeres & Cute Little Cream Puffs)

This original article was written to detail the process of specifically making crullers, a fried pâte à choux based pastry. For the February episode of Bake it Up a Notch, we took a deep dive into all things pâte à choux, and …

This original article was written to detail the process of specifically making crullers, a fried pâte à choux based pastry. For the February episode of Bake it Up a Notch, we took a deep dive into all things pâte à choux, and I wanted to update the article to discuss the broader scope of this process—one of my favorite pastry building blocks and baking standbys.

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16 of Our Most Legendary Pizza Recipes

Bake It Up a Notch is a column by Resident Baking BFF Erin Jeanne McDowell. Each month, she’ll help take our baking game to the next level, teaching us all the need-to-know tips and techniques and showing us all the mistakes we might make along the way…

Bake It Up a Notch is a column by Resident Baking BFF Erin Jeanne McDowell. Each month, she'll help take our baking game to the next level, teaching us all the need-to-know tips and techniques and showing us all the mistakes we might make along the way. Today, a deep-dive into deep-dish pizza—and other cheesy pies Erin loves.


It’s no secret that I love my home state, and I’m one of the few family members who’s drifted outside a 50 mile radius of our family homestead in Kansas. I’ve grown fairly used to living so far from my family, but that’s only thanks to multiple visits each year. Even so, I spend a significant part of every year searching for cures for homesickness. The only one I’ve ever found with any real power, is to head to the kitchen, and make some of my mom’s food. It rarely tastes as good as when she makes it—but there’s true comfort to be found in the familiar smells and tastes of my childhood.

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