I'm working on some stuff right now for an event I have this weekend. I can't say what it is just yet, but it did remind me of the eclair challenge on season three of Kids Baking Championship. You know, I would never give those kids a challenge dish I wasn't comfortable making myself. So here's my take on this French staple.



Choux Pastry:
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1 cup bread flour
4 extra-large eggs 

Whipped Cream:
4 ounces (1/2 cup) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Seeds from 1 vanilla bean
1 1/2 cups heavy cream 

Chocolate Glaze:
8 ounces chocolate, chopped or discs
5 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
2 tablespoons cocoa powder 

Poured Fondant Glaze:
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/4 cup water

Special equipment: a pastry bag fitted with a large tip (No.808 round or Nos.866, 867 or 868 star); a pastry bag fitted with a medium round tip


For the choux pastry: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a large saucepot over medium-high heat, bring the butter, salt and water to a boil. Using a wooden spoon, add the flour in thirds, stirring it in as fast as possible. Smash any lumps against the side of the pot.

Cook the mixture until the dough forms a ball that pulls away from the sides of the pot, about 2 minutes.

Add the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer and let it sit and cool for 5 minutes. Beat on low for 1 minute to release steam. Add the eggs, one at a time, until the dough is smooth and pipeable yet still holds its shape.

Add the dough to a pastry bag fitted with a large tip. Place 4 tiny dabs of dough in the corners of a large baking sheet, then tack down a piece of parchment on top. Pipe the dough into 5-inch lines about 2 inches apart from each other on the prepared baking sheet. Bake, rotating once halfway through, until deep golden brown and dry in the centers, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool.

For the whipped cream: In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese with the sugar and vanilla seeds until smooth. Add the heavy cream and continue to beat until medium peaks form. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a medium round tip.

For the chocolate glaze: Meanwhile, melt the chocolate over a double boiler. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter until completely melted. Whisk together the corn syrup and cocoa powder in a small bowl, then whisk into the chocolate mixture. Set aside until ready to use, but don't refrigerate.

For the poured fondant glaze: Combine the confectioners' sugar, corn syrup and water in a bowl set over a double boiler. Heat, whisking, until smooth and uniform. Turn the heat off and let sit over the water bath until ready to use. Whisk again right before using.

Insert the tip of the pastry bag with the whipped cream into the ends or bottoms of the eclairs to fill them. Dip filled eclairs into the glazes and place on a rack to set.

Mamo's Apple Strudel Recipe

Mamo's Apple Strudel Recipe

This is my great-grandmother Mamo's apple strudel recipe. It's amazing. When I was taught this by my grandmother, she said "Listen, you don't tell anyone that doesn't have your last name this recipe." We kept the recipe locked away in hopes of selling out to a major corporation. Well, that ship has sailed. Also, why should a major corporation make this in mass quantities? You should make it! At home, with family, the way it was meant to be made.

What was Mamo's secret? Canned pineapple! Your strudel won't taste like pineapple. It amps up the apple flavor. Trust me. Well, not me. Trust Mamo.


  • 10 to 12 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into thin strips
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 large can pineapple, drained and diced
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped nuts
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 pound package phyllo dough
  • Mixture of 1 large freshly ground cinnamon stick, 1/3 cup sugar and 1 cup plain breadcrumbs


  1. As you peel and dice the apples, sprinkle with lemon juice and mix frequently to prevent browning, or toss in iced water with some lemon juice.
  2. Place the apples into a large pot on the stove over medium-high heat. Add the pineapple, sugar, 1 cup water and salt. Cook until the moisture evaporates and consistency of the remaining fruit is thicker than preserves, 30 to 35 minutes. Stir often to prevent burning on the bottom. Cool, then stir in nuts.
  3. Refrigerate the apple filling at least overnight. Filling will last in the refrigerator for up to a week in an airtight container.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  5. In a pot, melt the butter over very low heat. A white foam will form as the top layer. Skim off the foam with a spoon. Once the foam is removed, add the oil. Stir and remove from the heat.
  6. On a sheet of waxed paper, lay out the first layer of phyllo dough. (Dough dries out quickly, so keep other layers not in use covered with a damp cloth over a sheet of waxed paper.) Using a pastry brush, gently brush the butter/oil mixture onto the entire sheet of dough. Sprinkle with the breadcrumb mixture over the entire surface. Repeat for an additional 4 layers so each roll has a total of 5 layers of phyllo dough.
  7. Using a spoon, add a row of the apple filling an inch or two from the bottom of the dough. Do not overstuff or the strudel will burst when baking. Lift the bottom edge of the waxed paper with both hands, each about a third of the way in from the outer edges to support the phyllo as you roll up the dough, jellyroll style. As you roll, fold the sides inwards to form sealed edges as you continue to the end. End with the seam-side down.
  8. Coat a baking pan with the butter/oil mixture and place the first rolled dough onto the pan with the seam facing down. Then brush the roll all over with the butter/oil mixture.
  9. Repeat the steps above until you have filled the cookie pan with the rolls but keep at least a roll's width between each. Keep at least 2 to 3 inches between the rolls on the baking sheet to ensure even browning.
  10. Bake until golden brown, 40 to 45 minutes, depending on your oven. During baking, baste 4 to 5 times with the butter/oil mixture.
  11. Cut into pieces while still hot so the crust won't break.

Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Cake

Coffee is to chocolate as salt is to beef. You're not making a coffee-flavored cake. It just makes the chocolate POP. If you've never tried adding coffee to your chocolate cake recipe, take this recipe out for a spin.

Makes one 2-layer, 9-inch round cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter
  • ½ cup brewed coffee
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
  • 3 extra-large eggs
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Frosting of your choice (I shared my Swiss Buttercream last month on here!)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F and grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.
  2. In a big bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Whisk in the coffee, cocoa powder, and ½ cup water and heat it for a minute, stirring constantly. Pour the melted butter mixture into the flour mixture and whisk until well combined.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla. Add it to the batter and mix until smooth.
  5. Divide the batter between the two cake pans, scraping all the batter from the bowl with a rubber spatula. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool for 15 minutes in the pans and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  6. Frost with the frosting of your choice... like that Swiss Buttercream!

Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake Rachel Ray Image.jpg

Easily the entire bakery’s favorite cake. You probably have some fond memories of a super good, super moist carrot cake growing up, too, right? Have you tried replicating it, but it's just not as moist and delicious as you remember? Chances are your carrot cake recipe is only calling for butter. It's not gonna be that good. Same thing with chocolate cake. So what do you do?

Oil. Lots of oil. That's gonna help get your cake where it needs to be. Another thing to keep an eye on is that batter. You want it to be really shiny. Luckily, you've got your pal Duff here with a wicked carrot cake recipe to impress.

For the cake:

  • 6 extra-large eggs
  • 2¼ cups vegetable or olive oil
  • ¾ cups plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup lightly packed light brown sugar
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 2½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1½ pounds carrots, peeled and finely grated
  • ¾ cup golden raisins (optional)
  • ¾ cup chopped pecans (optional)

For the cream cheese frosting:

  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract


  1. For the cake, preheat the oven to 350˚F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.
  2. With a hand or stand mixer, mix the eggs and oil. Add the sugars and mix well. In a medium bowl, mix the rest of the cake ingredients except the carrots (and raisins and nuts, if using). Add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture and mix well. Add the carrots (and raisins and nuts, if desired) and mix until incorporated.
  3. Divide the batter evenly between the pans, scraping all the batter from the bowl with a rubber spatula. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  4. For the frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine all the ingredients. Whip on low speed for a while. When the sugar is incorporated, turn the mixer speed up and beat until smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl often. (If making ahead, cover and refrigerate; re-whip before using.)
  5. Spread the frosting over each cooled cake layer, then assemble the carrot cake.

Apple Pie

Apple Pie


My first job was at McDonald's, believe it or not. I was good! I could make twelve Big Macs in a minute, no joke. One of my favorite things on the menu was their apple pie. You know what I'm talking about... that delicious flaky crust with the molten hot lava goo filling you'd always burn your tongue on? You won't find another apple pie quite like McDonald's. Problem is, I love reverse-engineering things that you can buy and instead make them at home. This is my take on McDonald's super tasty dessert offering.

For the Filling

  • 6 cups diced apples (use whatever apples you want. I like Fujis. They taste like they have honey in them. Experiment with different apples and find a flavor and a texture that you like)
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 1 stick butter
  • 3 1/3 c apple juice
  • 1/2 c cornstarch
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t nutmeg
  • 1 t cloves
  • t cardamom

For the Streusel

  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 c flour
  • 1 stick butter
  • Vanilla
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of cinnamon

For the Pie Dough

  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • Big pinch of sugar
  • 1 to 1½ sticks (½ to ¾ cup) cold butter, cubed (1 stick will make prettier pie crust, 1½ will make butterier, more delicious pies)
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar (nothing distinct like balsamic, but rice wine or distilled white are totally cool) or lemon juice

Pie Dough Directions

  1. Whisk together salt, sugar and flour.
  2. With your fingers, tear off pieces of the butter and toss them in the flour. Massage the butter into the flour until you have nice big chunks of buttery flour in what looks like sand.
  3. Add half the water, stir in with a wooden spoon. Gently! Add the rest of the ice water and the vinegar and fold with a wooden spoon until the dough forms.
  4. Wrap in plastic wrap and rest in the fridge. Overnight if you can!

Streusel Directions

  1. With the paddle attachment on a stand mixer or with an electric egg beater, cream together butter, sugar, salt, vanilla, cinnamon.
  2. Add the flour and mix until the streusel looks like chunky wet sand (kinda). If the streusel becomes a dough, add flour until it becomes wet sand.
  3. Store in the fridge, wrapped, for like a week tops or in the freezer indefinitely.

Apple Directions

  1. Peel the apples. Do not put them in water for crying out loud! Cut the apples into slices. Not too thin. Like one centimeter on the obtuse end.
  2. Toss the slices in the sugar and the cinnamon. Melt the butter on the stove in a large sauté pan. If you don't have a big sauté pan, do the apples in batches.
  3. Fry the apples in the butter nice and hot and get some color on them. Set the apples aside in to cool at room temp.

Goo Directions

  1. In a deep saucepot, bring the cider or apple juice to a fast simmer. Reserve 1/2 cup of cider.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, sugar, salt, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon.
  3. Whisk the reserved cider into the dry ingredients and create a thin paste. If the paste is too thick, add water a few drops at a time until it loosens up. Slowly drizzle the the paste into the simmering cider while whisking the cider with a firm hand. When the goo thickens and becomes translucent again, turn off the heat and add 1/2 stick of butter to it, set aside to cool.

To Bake the Pie

  1. Line the pie pan with dough and decorate as you see fit. Do your best! You're putting a lot of effort into this pie. Make it beautiful, too.
  2. Toss the apples and the goo together in whatever ratio you want. You don't have to use all the goo. It's delicious on ice cream. Fill the pie about 4/5 full.
  3. Fill the rest of the pie with streusel. Use a lot of streusel. It's delicious, too.
  4. Bake at 375 in the middle rack until the top gets light golden brown. 20-30 minutes. Then place an empty sheet tray on the top rack and bake for 15 more minutes. If the top starts getting too brown, pull it out and wrap the top in aluminum foil.
  5. This pie will be good for a day or two but don't be silly: this pie should be consumed before it has a chance to cool. 😉

Swiss Buttercream

Swiss Buttercream


Serves enough to ice an 8 – 10 inch layer cake


  • 6 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar (not powdered, it won’t work)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice or white vinegar
  • 4 sticks (1 pound) butter, plus more as needed, softened


  1. Put the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Start the machine on medium-slow speed and whip until the eggs begin to get frothy. Turn the speed to medium.
  2. Slowly add the sugar to the whipping egg whites, dropping the lemon juice in about halfway through the process.
  3. When all the sugar is in, speed up the mixer and whip until stiff peaks form and the meringue is smooth and super shiny.
  4. Turn the speed to medium-low and begin adding the butter. Add it bit by bit so the meringue doesn’t slop over the sides of the bowl. At this point, the meringue will fall and look ruined and broken. It’s not. This is what happens and it’s okay. If the meringue doesn’t fall, add a little extra butter until it does.
  5. Turn the speed back up to medium-high and walk away. Come back in 10 minutes. Does it look like buttercream? No? Walk away and repeat until it does. If it still doesn’t look like buttercream after 30 minutes, add more butter until it does.
  6. Use immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week. Warm and rewhip the buttercream before using it if refrigerated.

This is the official Charm City Cakes buttercream. It’s based on Swiss meringue and provides the correct consistency for icing cakes and decorating. Swiss buttercream is sturdier than a cold French meringue buttercream and much easier to make that a hot Italian meringue buttercream. It’s super versatile and can be flavored and colored however you want it. You can also airbrush it, but lightly, as the high fat content will resist any substantial amount of liquid.

There are a few things to be aware of with any meringue-based buttercream:

  • You can store it at room temperature for 24 hours; more than that and you need to keep it in the fridge.
  • If you’re not using it directly after making it, you always want to rewhip it right before use by beating it in the mixer with the whisk attachment and adding a bit of heat from a kitchen torch until it looks right.
  • If you’re planning on using buttercream that has been kept cold, pull it out of the fridge about 2 hours before you intend to use it, whip and heat it, and then you’re ready to go.
  • Sometimes you’ll see people dip a spatula into hot water before icing a cake. This is wrong. If you heat the buttercream to the correct workable temperature, you won’t need a warm, wet spatula.
  • Swiss buttercream keeps for about a week in the fridge, but it’s always good to just make what you need when using egg product.