“Lemon and cream cheese have long been classic companions in American baking, and this fun-to-assemble, sweet-tart filled coffee cake makes it easy to see why. Showcasing the lively flavors of fresh citrus, the sweet, buttery filling is made with fluffy, fragrant lemon and orange zest. The warm loaf is brushed with a zippy cream cheese icing, whose tangy flavor marries marvelously with the sunny taste of citrus. Enjoy a slice of this pull-apart coffee cake whenever you need a pick-me-up.” –Flo Braker


Lemon Pull-Apart Coffee Cake
Makes one 9-by-5-inch cake; 14 servings

For the pull-apart sweet dough
About 2 3/4 cups (12 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature

For the lemon filling
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
3 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (from 2 to 3 lemons, preferably organic)
1 tablespoons finely grated orange zest, preferably organic
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted

For the cream cheese icing
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup (1 1/4 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon whole milk
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Make the pull-apart sweet dough
1. Mix the dry ingredients: Stir together 2 cups (9 ounces) of the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.

2. Mix the wet ingredients: In a small saucepan, heat the milk and butter over low heat just until the butter is melted. Remove from the heat, add the water, and set aside until warm (120 to 130°F [49 to 54°C]), about 1 minute. Add the vanilla extract.

3. Mix the dry and wet ingredients together: Pour the milk mixture over the flour-yeast mixture and, using a rubber spatula, mix until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. Attach the bowl to the mixer, and fit the mixer with the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, mixing jjust until incorporated after each addition. Stop the mixer, add 1/2 cup (2 1/4 ounces) flour, and resume mixing on low speed until the dough is smooth, 30 to 45 seconds. Add 2 more tablespoons flour and mix on medium speed until the dough is smooth, soft, and slightly sticky, about 45 seconds.

4. Knead the pull-apart dough: Sprinkle a work surface with 1 tablespoon flour and turn the dough onto the flour. Knead gently until the dough is smooth and no longer sticky, about 1 minute, adding an additional 1 to 2 tablespoons flour only if the dough is unworkably sticky. Place the dough in a large bowl, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise in a warm place (about 70°F [21°C]) until doubled in size, 45 to 60 minutes. Press the dough gently with a fingertip. If the indentation remains, the dough is ready for the next step.

Make the lemon filling
5. Make the citrus sugar: While the dough is rising, in a small bowl, mix together the sugar, lemon zest, and orange zest. Set aside. (The sugar draws out moisture from the zests to create a sandy-wet consistency, so don’t be alarmed when you see this.)

Assemble the coffee cake
6. Ready the oven: Adjust the oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Lightly butter a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan.

7. Shape and cut the dough: Gently deflate the dough. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough into a 20-by-12-inch rectangle with a short edge facing you. Using a pastry brush, spread the melted butter generously over the dough. Cut the dough crosswise into 5 strips, each about 12 by 4 inches. (A pizza cutter is helpful here.) Sprinkle 1 1/2 tablespoons of the zest-sugar mixture over 1 of these buttered strips. Top with a second strip and sprinkle it with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the zest-sugar mixture. Repeat with the remaining strips and zest-sugar mixture, ending with a stack of 5 rectangles. Work carefully when adding the crumbly zest filling, or it will fall off when you have to lift the stacked pastry later.

8. Fit the dough into the pan: Slice the stack crosswise through the 5 layers to create 6 equal strips, each about 4 by 2 inches. Fit these layered strips into the prepared loaf pan, cut edges up and side by side. (While there is plenty of space on either side of the 6 strips widthwise in the pan, fitting the strips lengthwise is tight. But that’s fine because the spaces between the dough and the sides of the pan fill in during baking.) Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place (70 °F [21°C]) until puffy and almost doubled in size, 30 to 50 minutes. Press the dough gently with a fingertip. If the indentation remains, the dough is ready for baking.

9. Bake the cake: Bake the coffee cake until the top is golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes.

Make the cream cheese icing
10. Make the lemon icing: In a medium bowl with a rubber spatula, vigorously mix the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in the milk and lemon juice until the mixture is creamy and smooth.

11. Remove the coffee cake from the pan: Tilt and rotate the pan while gently tapping it on a counter to release the cake sides. Invert a wire rack on top of the coffee cake, invert the cake onto the rack, and carefully lift off the pan. Invert another rack on top, invert the cake so it is right side up, and remove the original rack.

12. Ice the cake: Slip a sheet of waxed paper under the rack to catch any drips from the icing. Using a pastry brush, coat the top of the warm cake with the icing to glaze it. (Cover and refrigerate the leftover icing for another use. It will keep for up to 2 days.)

13. Serve the coffee cake warm or at room temperature: To serve, you can pull apart the layers, or you can cut the cake into 1-inch-thick slices on a slight diagonal with a long, serrated knife. If you decide to cut the cake, don’t attempt to cut it until it is almost completely cool.

Adapted from Flo Braker, Baking for All Occasions (Chronicle Books, 2008)


Creamy cheesecakes set on a gossamer base of thin sponge cake (biscuit) and topped with lemon curd are a real favorite for a dinner party, an afternoon tea, or any special event. Make all twelve as there will surely be calls for seconds!

Baby Lemon Cheesecakes
Makes: 12
Baking Time: 25 to 35 minutes

Plan Ahead
Chill the composed cakes at least 2 hours before unmolding.
Make the biscuit
Make one biscuit recipe (recipe below)

8 ounces cream cheese (65° to 70°F)
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1-1/2 cups sour cream
2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1/8 teaspoon salt

Lemon Curd:
Makes: 3/4 cup plus 1-1/2 tablespoons
3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter 65° to 75°F
4-1/2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
and strained (about 4 large lemons)
pinch salt

Special Equipment:
Two silicone muffin pans, each with six cups (about 4 ounces capacity), coated lightly with baking spray with flour and set on a wire rack. (You can also use aluminum muffin pans lined with foil muffin liners.)

One 18 by 9-inch baking pan or roasting pan large enough to fit the wire rack and to serve as a water bath. (If you have a roasting pan and wire rack large enough to fit both pans, you can bake them at the same time. Alternatively, while the first pan is baking, fill the second pan and refrigerate it covered until ready to bake.)

Subrecipe: Biscuit

1/3 cup (or 1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons sifted into the
cup and leveled off) cake flour (or bleached all-purpose flour)
2-1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 large eggs, divided, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1/2 cup superfine sugar plus 1 tablespoon, divided
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cream of tartar

Line the Pans:
Cut out the sponge cake with a biscuit cutter or scissors to conform to the size of the bottoms of the muffin cups. Line each cup with a round of cake.

Make the Filing:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk beater, beat the cream cheese and sugar on medium speed until very smooth, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and yolks, beating until smooth and scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice. Add the lemon juice and salt and beat until incorporated. Beat in the sour cream on low speed just until blended, about 20 seconds.

Fill the Pans:
The easiest way to fill the pans is to pour the batter into a disposable pastry bag, or gallon-size resealable plastic bag, with a small part of one of its corners cut off, and pipe the batter into the cups, filling them almost to the tops (2.2 ounces/63 grams each). Alternatively, scrape the batter into a large measuring cup or pitcher with a spout and pour it in. Set the pan on the wire rack in the larger pan and add very hot water to reach about halfway up the sides of the muffin pan.

Bake the cheesecakes:
Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 160°F/70°C. When the pan is moved, the batter will jiggle like jelly and the top will be set and bounce back when pressed lightly.

Cool the cheesecakes:
Remove the large pan to a wire rack and add a handful of ice cubes to the water to stop the heating. Allow the cheesecakes to cool for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the water is cool enough that you can remove the muffin pans. Cover the pans with plastic wrap, being careful not to allow it to touch the surface of the cheesecakes. Refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour to firm up before topping with the lemon curd. Prepare the lemon curd just before you are ready to pour it on top of the cheesecakes.

Make the Lemon Curd:
Have ready a fine-mesh strainer suspended over a medium bowl. In a small heavy saucepan, whisk the yolks, sugar, and butter until well blended. Whisk in the lemon juice and salt. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a silicone spatula and scraping the sides of the pan as needed, until thickened and resembling hollandaise sauce, which thickly coats the spatula but is still liquid enough to pour. The mixture will change from translucent to opaque and begin to turn a yellow color on the spatula. Don’t allow it to come to the boil or it will curdle. Whenever steam appears, remove the pan briefly from the heat, stirring constantly, to keep the mixture from boiling. When the curd has thickened and will pool thickly when a little is dropped on the surface, pour it at once into the strainer and press it through with the back of the spatula.

Apply the Lemon Curd:
Transfer the lemon curd to a pitcher or measuring cup with a spout and pour the hot curd evenly over the top of each cake. Use about 1 tablespoon for each. Smooth the curd or make concentric circles, if desired, with a small metal spatula. Cover the pan carefully with plastic wrap, stretching it so that it doesn’t dip down and mar the top of the curd, or cover the pan with a larger pan, such as a disposable aluminum foil pan. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before unmolding.

Unmold the Cakes:
Run a small metal spatula between the sides of the pans and the cakes, pressing firmly against the pans, and with your finger, push up the bottom of the silicone pan. The cheesecake will rise up and out of the pan and can be supported with a small offset metal spatula and then transferred to a serving plate. If using aluminum muffin pans, lift out the cakes by grasping each side of the foil liners. Remove the liners and, if you desire smooth sides, use a small metal spatula run under hot water.

Subrecipe: Biscuit

1/3 cup (or 1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons sifted into the
cup and leveled off) cake flour (or bleached all-purpose flour)
2-1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 large eggs, divided, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1/2 cup superfine sugar plus 1 tablespoon, divided
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cream of tartar

Special Equipment
One 17¼ by 12¼ by 1-inch half-sheet pan, bottom coated lightly with nonstick cooking spray or shortening, lined with a nonstick liner or parchment, and then coated with baking spray with flour.

One 9-inch springform, loose-bottom pan, or a flan ring at least 2½ inches high.

Preheat the Oven
Twenty minutes or more before baking, set an oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 450°F.

Mix the Dry Ingredients
In a small bowl, whisk the flour and cornstarch to combine them well.

Mix the Yolk Mixture
Separate 2 of the eggs, placing the yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk beater. Place the egg whites in a medium bowl, preferably another mixer bowl. To the yolks, add the 2 remaining whole eggs, the additional yolk, and ½ cup of the sugar. Beat on high speed until thick, fluffy, and tripled in volume, about 5 minutes. Lower the speed and beat in the vanilla. (If you have only one stand mixer bowl, scrape the yolk mixture into a large bowl and whisk very thoroughly. Wash and dry the mixer bowl and whisk beater.)

Make the Batter
Sift half the flour mixture over the egg mixture and, using a large balloon whisk, slotted skimmer, or silicone spatula, fold it in gently but rapidly until the flour has disappeared. Repeat with the remaining flour mixture until all traces of the flour have disappeared.

Beat the Egg Whites into a Stiff Meringue
Attach the clean whisk beater. Beat the egg whites on medium-low speed until foamy. With the mixer off, add the cream of tartar. Raise the speed to medium-high and beat until soft peaks form when the beater is raised. Gradually beat in the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form when the beater is raised
slowly. Fold the meringue into the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and, using a small offset spatula, smooth as evenly as possible.

Bake the Cake
Bake for 7 minutes, or until golden brown and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center.

Unmold and Cool the Cake
Unmold the cake at once. (If necessary, loosen the sides with the tip of a sharp knife.) Grasp the long edge of the liner and gently slide the cake onto a flat surface. Allow the cake to cool completely. Remove the liner by flipping the cake over onto a piece of plastic wrap that has been coated lightly with nonstick cooking spray, and reinvert it so that the crust is up. (The top crust needs to be protected as it becomes part of the striped décor, so don’t invert it directly onto the work surface.) If using parchment, you can run a long narrow spatula between it and the bottom of the cake. Leave the cake on the parchment.

Adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum from The Baking Bible (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014)


If you’ve ever played with modeling clay or Play-Doh in kindergarten, you can make these beautiful veggies in a jiffy.

Garden Party Cupcakes

Garden Party Cupcakes
Makes 24 cupcakes

2 whole graham crackers
1 stick mint chewing gum
1/4 cup white chocolate melting wafers
6 thin pretzel sticks
1 cup Vanilla Frosting
Green, red, orange and blue gel or paste food color
1 can chocolate frosting
2 cup chocolate cookie crumbs (Nabisco Oreo or Famous Chocolate Wafers)
24 vanilla cupcakes baked in white paper liners
1 cup Corn Flakes
9 green fruit chews (Jolly Rancher)
1 vanilla fruit chew (Tootsie Roll Midgee
4 red fruit chews (Jolly Rancher)
8 orange fruit chews (Starburst)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
20 green M&M’s
Green apple and watermelon AirHeads
2 teaspoons Multicolored chocolate-covered sunflower seeds (see Note)

Seed Packs and Shovels: With a serrated knife, cut graham crackers in half crosswise. Cut two 3/4-in.-long triangles from gum to make shovel blades. Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Put white chocolate melting wafers in a ziptop bag; do not seal. Microwave 10 seconds to soften. Squeeze, return to microwave and repeat until smooth. Press out air and seal.

Snip a small corner from the bag and pipe an outline around each graham cracker. Fill in with more chocolate and spread into a smooth, thin layer to cover cracker. Place on baking sheet and refrigerate until set, about 5 minutes.

Turn each cracker over and pipe a line of melted chocolate down the center of the uncoated side. Place a pretzel stick on top of the line of chocolate, leaving about a 2-in. overhang; refrigerate until set. Cut the remaining 2 pretzel sticks into two 2-in. and two 3/4-in. lengths. Pipe a small dot of melted chocolate on one end of a 2-in. pretzel stick and attach the smaller pretzel piece crosswise to make the shovel handle. Attach the gum shovel blade to the other end of the pretzel with a dot of melted chocolate.

Tint 1/2 cup of the vanilla frosting green, 1 Tbsp red, 2 Tbsp orange and 1/4 cup blue. Spoon each color, including the remaining 1 tablespoon vanilla frosting, into separate ziptop bags, press out excess air and seal. Spoon 1/4 cup chocolate frosting into a ziptop bag, press out the excess air and seal. Snip a tiny corner from each of the bags. Pipe the vegetable names in chocolate frosting and the vegetable shapes in the colored frostings on top of the chocolate-coated side of the graham crackers.

Place chocolate cookie crumbs in a medium bowl. Spread remaining chocolate frosting on cupcakes. Roll tops of cupcakes in crumbs to cover. Arrange in 4 rows of 6 on serving platter.

Lettuce: Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Put cornflakes in a small bowl. Spoon remaining green frosting into a small microwavable bowl. Microwave until smooth, stirring often, 5 to 10 seconds. Pour over cornflakes, toss well to coat, and spread the cornflakes onto baking sheet. Chill to set, about 10 minutes. Cut 2 green fruit chews in half and shape into balls. Place 1 green ball on top of each of 4 cupcakes and arrange 8 to 12 cornflakes around balls to make the leaves. Secure with a dot of green frosting.

Radishes: Cut the vanilla fruit chew into quarters. Roll 1 red fruit chew together with 1 vanilla piece, keeping colors separate, and shape into a ball. Pinch the white end to form the radish root. Place 1 radish on top of each of 4 cupcakes, and add green-frosted cornflakes for leaves.

Carrots: Cut 2 of the orange fruit chews in half; shape each piece into a small carrot. Shape remaining 6 fruit chews into 6 large carrots. Score the sides of carrots with a knife and rub with cinnamon for “dirt.” Use a toothpick to make a small hole in the large end of each carrot. Cut 2 of the green fruit chews into thin strips and roll each strip between fingers to look like carrot tops. Press 4 or 5 strips into the hole in the top of each carrot. Arrange carrots on top of 5 cupcakes.

Peas: Roll out each of the remaining 5 green fruit chews into a 3 x 1-in. oval 1/8-in. thick. Press 4 green M&M’s onto one side of each oval. Fold the other side over to cover the candies slightly. Pinch the ends and place 1 pea pod on top of each of 5 cupcakes. Cut thin strips from AirHeads and arrange around the pea pods as vines.
Insert the pretzel end of each sign into tops of 4 cupcakes. Place at the head of the rows. Insert the shovel blades into frosting of 2 cupcakes; scatter sunflower seeds around shovels. Place in rows with radishes and lettuce.

Note: Chocolate-covered sunflower seeds can be found at Trader Joe’s and the Sweet Factory at most malls, as well as online.

Adapted from the book Hello, Cupcake! by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson. Copyright © 2008 by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

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