Things I Bake

Here is a (possibly) little known fact about me. I once went to culinary school. I dropped out of course, because a plating session in a professional kitchen made me realize I did not ever want to work in a professional kitchen. And I didn't want to be a caterer or personal chef or own my own restaurant so... why was I in culinary school??!?!?

I gained some valuable skills and knowledge though.

I'm pretty good at cooking, but I'm quite an excellent baker. I'm really good at testing recipes. That is, other people's recipes. I didn't get far enough in culinary school to create my own recipes. Instead I adapt. I take a recipe that looks good, from a trusted chef, and adapt it to make it my own... ish. So most of the recipes on this page are not Sarah Jackman originals. I have, however, done the responsible thing and given credit to the chef whose recipe I have adapted, as well as included the link. Just in case you would rather use the original instead of mine..

I'll be adding new recipes to this page periodically, so if you like what I bake, check back often.

Union Jack Cake
June 30th is my British grandparents' wedding anniversary. This year (2012) we had a family reunion on that day because it was a Saturday and it was their 72nd anniversary. In honor of them, I made a Union Jack cake. My grandfather never applied for US citizenship and my grandmother always kept British citizenship, so a Union Jack was appropriate.

The Union Jack wasn't my idea. It was my mother's. She always makes a American flag cake for the Fourth of July and was going to do that when she came up with the Union Jack instead. She let me do it since I was making all the desserts for the family reunion.

The cake is Ina Garten's Chocolate Buttercream Cake and it is so easy and so good. Sometimes "from scratch" cakes are dry and crumbly, but not this one. I should've taken a picture of the cake before I put the whipping cream on it because it was gorgeous.

It's frosted with whipping cream, all natural with no sugar or vanilla or flavors added. We never add flavors to whipping cream around my house, it's just not the way I was raised. Anyway, make the cake and let it cool. A few hours before service, frost it was a thick layer of whipping cream, like 2 pints of heavy cream before whipping.

To make the Union Jack, you need 12-15 large strawberries, 2-3 pints of fresh raspberries, and a lot of blueberries. I used almost an entire Costco container of blueberries for the cake pictured above. It's helpful to have an actual picture of the Union Jack while making this cake. Start with the strawberries and layer them in the center cross. Then add the raspberries in the X that goes through the cross. Then add the blueberries in the 8 different triangles.

It'll be a hit. Especially if you have British blood. Or love England. Or just want to make something really impressive that you don't see everyday.


At the moment, I'm pretty obsessed with Blondies. Maybe it's because I am one... of the hair color variety, not the pastry variety. One day, I decided I wanted to make some Blondies, so I went to my usual recipe source, Food Network, specifically Ina Garten, to find a recipe. And find one I did.

A Blondie is the better looking tasting cousin of the brownie. It's a brown sugar based bar with any variety of accoutrements. I tried walnuts in mine, like Ina's recipe suggests, but I didn't love it. Instead, I add toffee chips and chocolate chips for a Blondie that can't be beat.

(Adapted from Ina Garten's Chocolate Chunk Blondies recipe)

2 sticks butter (if using unsalted butter, add 1/2 tsp salt)
1 c. packed brown sugar (I use light brown sugar)
1/2 c. baker's sugar
2 eggs
2 generous tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 bag Heath Toffee Bits

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 baking dish. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla. Add the flower and baking soda to the wet ingredients until thoroughly combined. Fold in the chocolate chips and toffee bits. Spread dough evenly in the prepared dish and bake for 30 minutes. The blondies will appear underbaked, but take them out anyway. Let cool completely then cut and enjoy.

If you want to double this recipe, use an 11x17 sheet pan. Only add 2 1/2 cups of chocolate chips and bake for 26 minutes.

Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Cookies

Here in Salt Lake City there is a fabulous cookie bakery called RubySnap. They serve the most amazing peanut butter cookie I have ever tasted. It's fluffy and thick and a little creamy in the center. Plus half of it is dipped in milk chocolate so....

I set out to make a peanut butter cookie that was comparable to RubySnap's. I looked all over to find a recipe for a fluffy peanut butter cookie. In a moment of stupidity I thought if you didn't make the fork marks in the cookies they might fluff up. Then I realized I knew better and did a Google search for "Fluffy Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe". Isn't it great the things you can put into a search engine? 

My search led me to a blog called "A Pinch of Yum", a title I'm not entirely sure about to this day, which lead me to another blog called "How Sweet It Is", where the PBC recipe I used is housed. The original recipe called to add chocolate chips, but I decided to take a page out of the RubySnap playbook and dip mine half in chocolate. I don't usually stock milk chocolate, I'm a semi-sweet kind of girl, so I dipped my fluffy cookies in semi-sweet. 

This recipe doesn't call for a bunch of peanut butter, though the flavor comes through in the cookies beautifully, and I found the semi-sweet chocolate was too intense for the delicate flavor of these magical cookies. But seriously, these cookies are magical. They have a gorgeous flavor, the insides are soft and creamy, like little pillows of deliciousness. You don't even really need the chocolate. The base cookie is good enough. These are pretty amazing. I wish I was eating one right now. 

Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Cookies
(adapted from this recipe)

8 Tbs. butter
6 Tbs. creamy peanut butter
1 c. brown sugare
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 whole egg 
1 egg yolk
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 bag of milk chocolate chips, melted for dipping

Cute the butter into cubes and melt it with the peanut butter in the microwave. My microwave melts it together in 45 seconds. Let that mixture cool completely. While this mixture cools, preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  

When cooled, mix in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment the peanut butter mixture and the sugars. When combines, add in the whole egg and egg yolk and the vanilla. Mix in the flour and baking soda. Mix until combined. Don't worry if the dough seems a little crumbly. 

Using a small ice cream scoop (1 1/3 or 1 1/4 inch diameter) scoop the dough into ball on a cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes. The edges will be golden but the centers will still be soft. Let the cookies cool completely on a piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil on the countertop. When cooled, melt the chocolate chips with a few tablespoon of milk (this isn't necessary, but it makes the chocolate a little thinner and easier to dip), making sure to add the milk before melting the chocolate. Melt it in the microwave, for 30-40 seconds. Don't let it burn, as chocolate will easily and quickly do in the microwave! Dip half of each cookie in the melted chocolate and place on a piece of parchment paper. Refridgerate until the chocolate has set up and serve at room temperature. 

Makes 20 cookies.

Texas Sheet Cake
This picture does not do this cake justice. It's way more delicious than it looks here.
I once heard that in the South, a dessert isn't a dessert unless it has pecans in it. I decided that's the reason this cake is called Texas Sheet Cake, because of the pecans you sprinkle over the top. I went to Houston once for a student leadership conference, back in my undergrad days, and I couldn't find explanation as to why a chocolate cinnamon cake would be called a Texas Sheet Cake, so I'm going with the opening adage of this section. I'm pretty sure Paula Dean said it, and she's a real Southern gal if ever there was one.

This recipe has been in my fmaily for as long as I can remember. I can picture a family party once, when I was maybe 10 or 11, and my Uncle Dave came to get a piece of the Texas Sheet Cake my mom had brought, and I was really confused as to why because Uncle Dave has diabetes. That was 20 years ago. We're still making Texas Sheet Cake, and Uncle Dave still has diabetes (because it doesn't go away). The TSC responsibilities have fallen to me now, and I know this recipe like the back of my hand. 

It's a good cake, and so easy to make. i can make it, start to finish with the frosting on it, in an hour. That includes dishes. And it's actually better the next day, so long as you keep it well covered. My cousin Emilie says it's her favorite cake, and she's a teenager so that's saying something.

Texas Sheet Cake
2 sticks butter
4 Tbs. good cocoa powder
1 c. warm water
2 c. baker's sugar
2 c. flour
1 heaping tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soad
1 tsp. plus a splash vanilla extract
1/2 c. buttermilk
2 eggs, slightly beaten
For the Frosting:
1 stick butter
6 Tbs. milk
4 Tbs. good cocoa powder
4 c. powdered sugar
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. chopped pecans, chopped

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease am 11x17 sheet pan and set aside.
In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter, cocoa, and water together over medium heat and bring to a boil. Just after it boils, remove from heat and set aside. In a large bowl, stir together the sugar and flout, then add the warm chocolate mixture. Save the pan for making the frosting. Using a rubber spatula, mix together sugar/four mixture and the cocoa mixture until thoroughly combined. Add the cinnamon, baking soda, vanilla, buttermilk, and eggs and mix together. I like to give it a thorough beating, it makes the cake fluffy. Mix/beat by hand until bubble appear. Pout the better into the pan and spread evenly with the rubber spatula. Bake for 20-25 minutes *my oven always takes 20 minutes, so check at 20). The cake is done when a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

While the cake is baking, make the frosting. In the same saucepan you used earlier, melt together the butter, milk, and cocoa and bring to a boil. Just after it boils, remove from heat. Add the powdered sugar to the chocolate mixture. I like to use a handmixer to do this (but only in metal pans. DO NOT do this if you are using a non-stick pan!) because it blends everything nicely and fluffs up the frosting a bit. After the powdered sugar is completely mixed in, stir in the vanilla. Frost the cake while it is still warm, then sprinkle the pecans over the frosting. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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