Welcome to another rendition of my Latest Recipe Testing series!
Never have I been in the kitchen so much, so often, and with so many flops. It’s a numbers game. I’m currently testing recipes for right now, for the holiday baking season, and for my cookbook. So, I’m bound to have more recipe disasters, right?
Over the past several years, as the holiday baking season becomes more and more prominent on my website, I’ve learned that I won’t be able to keep up unless I have a stock of content ready to go. My website sees the most website traffic from September through December, and I want to take advantage of the desire for fall and holiday baking! Last year I published about 30 brand-new recipes during that time, and I plan for the same amount of content this year.
I already have 4 done!
So right now, my team and I are balancing recipes for 3 different time frames. It’s been hard to mentally organize when jumping between decorating Valentine’s Day cookies for now, photographing pies for Pie Week later in the year, and developing new recipes for my cookbook, which won’t come out until 2024 or 2025.
We dedicate 1 week per month to each of the 3. That’s the best way I’ve found to compartmentalize all this content!
Bran Muffins That Don’t Taste Like Cardboard
One of the first projects I worked on this year was my recipe for bran muffins. I played around with the amount of wheat bran, flour, and liquid a few times until I reached a nice balance of hearty and soft, without tasting like cardboard. (Always a nice bonus.)
One of the test batches was tasty, but the batter was quite thin and the resulting muffins were squat and greasy. Adding a little more flour bulked up the batter, and the final batch was a success.
Saucy Blueberry Sauce & Lemon Cheesecake
The first photo in this post is my blueberry sauce topping. This one didn’t need too much testing, as I used the swirl from this blueberry swirl cheesecake and topping from this blueberry cream cheese pie as my starting point. I added considerably more water so the sauce is, well, saucy. 😉
I also have a new recipe for lemon cheesecake on my site. For this recipe, I used my key lime cheesecake as the base, and infused the sugar with lemon zest for extra flavor. This was easy to test as well—I love making cheesecake.
The Incredible Shrinking Cake
I developed this chocolate raspberry cake primarily for the raspberry filling, by popular demand. Over the years I’ve received lots of requests for a raspberry cake filling recipe, and now the answer is… yes, I have one!!
I based the chocolate cake batter on this recipe for dark chocolate peanut butter cake, but accidentally used 8-inch pans instead of 9-inch pans. While this usually isn’t a big deal—just need to adjust the bake time—I actually overfilled the 8-inch pans, which did nothing in my favor. The cake layers baked up in the strangest way and looked like brains. Totally unintentional, but maybe I’m onto something for Halloween? LOL.
The cakes rose up, sank down in the centers, and finished with sad crinkle-wrinkle centers. The lesson here is: don’t overfill your cake pans, and use the recommended cake pan size.
Baking does require using your brain (especially when doing the math for cake pan sizes and conversions!), but cakes that look like brains were definitely not what I was going for.
Great news… you can bake a non-brain cake by following my chocolate raspberry cake recipe. 😉
Strawberry Cream-Filled Chocolate Cupcakes
My recipe for chocolate-covered strawberry cupcakes was originally published in 2018. I recently changed the chocolate cupcake batter so it matches my cream-filled chocolate cupcakes. (Which are quite possibly the best cupcakes I’ve ever made, and I stand firm on that.) The updated batter simply bakes up stronger, and holds the strawberry buttercream a little better. They’re deeply chocolatey and extra moist. Like Hostess cupcakes, with a strawberry twist.
If you loved the old version, the batter matched these chocolate cupcakes!
Getting a Head Start on Sally’s Cookie Palooza 2023
I’m really excited to publish a recipe for gingerbread cookie bars later this year. My first batch was supremely flavorful and spiced (just what I wanted!), but the texture was completely off. They were fluffy and cake-like, as if you were eating a heavy square of gingerbread cake:
I had a good feeling about the cookie dough, though. It’s similar to my chewy chocolate chip cookies, and so I decided to reduce the flour and bake the dough in a larger pan. The bars were thinner, which made them flatter and chewier. This is just what I wanted: dense, chewy, moist, spiced, perfect.
That recipe is coming in December. Told you I was getting ahead!
Still on a ginger molasses kick, I decided to bake a batch of these white chocolate chip molasses cookies in hopes to update the photos. Well, I forgot to set the oven timer, took a phone call, forgot they were in the oven, turned the oven off, then 2 hours later preheated the oven for something else.
As my assistant, Beth, and I went to put some bread in the oven, we found a baking sheet of lumpy hockey pucks. The cookies baked as intended, and then continued their oven journey as the oven cooled down, and preheated again. I’m sad to report that they did not survive the whirlwind adventure.
Oven timers… time and time again… prove to be useful. 😉
Q: Have you had a recipe fail lately?
Cookbook Sneak Peek
My next cookbook is well underway, and it’s untitled at the moment! This baking cookbook will be my biggest yet. 100 baking recipes divided among chapters including yeast bread, breakfast, cookies, cakes, quick breads, cupcakes, and more. The book will be mostly new and exclusive recipes to the book, and will also include a handful of the most popular recipes on my website. It will be nice to have them professionally printed in a tangible book!
My manuscript deadline is a year away, and then the book will continue in the editing and design phases before heading to print. Thank you in advance for your patience. This is the first time I’ve written such a large manuscript, while simultaneously managing employees, operating a large website, and raising kids!
And trying to find time to rest and recharge so my creative juices continue to flow!
The latest cookbook recipe I tested was a spin on my buttermilk biscuits. Think bacon, spicy honey, cheddar cheese, and chives. My knees actually went weak at the first taste. And you’ll enjoy recipes for soft jalapeño bread, deeply chocolate cheesecake, another recipe for chewy molasses cookies (I’m on a kick!), and you can bet these popular banana muffins will make an appearance. I can’t wait to share more with you! Stay tuned.
Reader Comments & Reviews
Hi, Sally and team!
I love all of the recipes that I have tried on your website and my family and friends always rave how great they taste! I exclusively look for things to try here. The latest thing I baked was your blueberry oatmeal muffins. It’s my morning or after dinner treat and my kids loves them, too!
I was wondering if you guys ever thought about posting a recipe for a Genoise sponge. I am hoping you could create a step by step recipe because I know you’re fantastic at giving directions with key pointers that help your followers have great results.
What a wonderful suggestion, Jennifer! Thank you! I love those blueberry oatmeal muffins. A family favorite, and sometimes I even make them plain. Still so tasty.
My mom used to make pepparkakor cookies. Here in North Carolina we come close with Moravian ginger snaps. The holiday demand is so big that the company often rents storefronts just for November and December. Mom’s recipe is long since lost. I would love to see one from your kitchen. I wish I could skillfully develop a recipe and give it to you for a change!
They sound incredible. Thank you for sharing that story, and if you ever find a recipe you love, send my way! Would love to try.
I can’t wait for your new cookbook! My husband and I love all the recipes we’ve tried and because of your thorough and easy instructions I have been braver than ever at trying new things. Thank you and your staff for all your hard work and great recipes!
Thank you so much!
Thanks so much for sharing this Sally. I love these posts as reading these have helped me to just keep baking when a recipe fail…or disaster…occurs. This has allowed me to take more risks as a baker and enjoy the process. I’m anxiously awaiting adding your fourth cookbook to my kitchen bookshelf!
I’m so glad to read this, and that you’ve become more confident in the kitchen!!
I have to say I love receiving your emails and I have made so many of your recipes to the point I bypass other authors if I see one from Sally if I’m looking online for something special. Sally, you’re the best!
Thank you so much!!
A little envious of your job, but also exhausted just thinking about all the hard work you and your team does for the site and books. I am a much better and happier baker because if the work you all do, and I am grateful. : )
Thank you for telling us of your fails. I think we sometimes forget that our favorite bakers are foolproof perfect and that we’ll never measure up. Yay! You’re human!!! (wink wink)
I want to start bread baking business at my community and around. Can you help me with recipes of bread and low GI bread as well as buns recipes
You can find all of our bread recipes here. Our website has mostly traditional desserts/baking recipes on it. We don’t do a lot of dietary specific recipes and wouldn’t trust ourselves to produce the best quality recipes with those requirements– We recommend searching for a website that can accommodate the restrictions needed. That way you aren’t trying to alter a recipe and can find exactly what you need.
I enjoy heading to one of your new recipes I get very excited. Probably my most favorite is the delicious croissant bread. I’ve made it for my sons and their families and for travelers stopping for a visit. It is loved by all. They can get enough of it. I’ve made so many of your recipes it’s hard to remember until I look at your selections. Thanks again for giving me the opportunity to make and enjoy them.
Can your chocolate chip cookie recipe be changed so that the cookies are tender and crisp and not soft and chewy?
Hi Chris, we’d recommend trying our crispy chocolate chip cookies recipe for those results. Let us know if you try it!
Years ago there was a german chocolate frosting mix in a box. You cooked it up on the stove with butter for the cake.. But I had a recipe that used the dry mix in zucchini bread that was so delicious. I’m not sure how to recreate the dry mix..or what the ingredients were. I know I can add coconut and pecan but something else made it so delicious.. any suggestions?
Love reading about all the testing! I hope you create some more bundt cake recipes! I love your chai bundt cake and would love even more bundt options.
I don’t know how you possibly do it all! But I am grateful!
Fun to see your trials and tribulations! Often bakers are afraid to show the flops! Fun.
I have your other 3 cookbooks and I know the love and attention you put into those, so I know this 4th book will be worth the wait, as you have expanded your repertoire with all the baking challenges you’ve done. Hope you are staying inspired to keep baking up recipes. You have been my go to for at least 10 years now. I think your onto something with that brain cake, with a raspberry icing drizzle? I am trying my hand at muffin tops now. because sometimes, that’s the perfect snack.
Love seeing your works in progress! Looking forward to your newest cookbook! You are amazing!
I have learned that I should not listen to audio books while baking. For the second time, I forgot to add the sugar to the batter. I thought the cake tops looked a little funny when I pulled them out of the oven. ♀️
yay New cookbook! Please include a Baileys recipe
I’m hoping you’ll create some recipes that use persimmons.
Thank you so much for this, Sally! Question about filling cake pans – how much SHOULD we fill them? I am pretty sure that I overfill all the time; you mean to tell me that the brains pattern is NOT something to strive for? – Maria, Imapampchef
PS – I just made your sandwich bread, it was AMAZING!!
It would be great to have more gluten free options in cakes, cupcakes…)) Thanks!
Thank you for the suggestion! Here are all of my gluten free recipes if you ever want to browse.
When the baking bug strikes, your site is the only place I go to search for inspiration. This winter, I’ve been skiing a lot. I love the ‘Lifty’s’ who are mostly young people having to stand outside in the cold all day to keep the lifts running in exchange for season passes. They are always cheerful. I like to make massive batches of goodies for them and deliver to each chair as I traverse the mountain. The 1st year I started doing this, I’d made multiple loaves of banana bread. As it turned out, my skicoat & pants were bright, grass green with a banana yellow helmet, gloves and boots. I garnered the nickname ‘The Green Banana’ and I love it. They look forward to your recipes every year now. Their favorite this year were the oreo cookie truffles, which I made in dark chocolate and mint. Thanks so much for making such a great variety of fail-safe recipes! I’m often asked for the recipes and always refer to your site.
So exciting!! Can’t wait for your cookbook! I’ve been waiting years for a chocolate cheesecake recipe from you – you’re the only one I trust with baking recipes!
I am a Gluten Free Cottage Baker, I use many of your recipes as a guide and tweak them a bit to make the perfect Gluten Free product to sell to my customers. I look forward to your emails to see what your baking each month as an inspiration to help me create something new to pass along. Thank you for being my inspiration and online “baking Mentor”.
Thanks for all your hard work Sally-it is very much appreciated. Just like the previous comment, I never test run any of your recipes before I make them-I always know you did the work for me. Looking forward to some new recipes and cherishing all your other ones. Thank you again for all your hard work-I can only imagine how busy you are!
Janine, thank you so much!! I am so flattered and happy to read this, and grateful for so many bakers who bake and trust my recipes!
Congratulations on your new book Sally!! It’s great to hear how much success you’re having and seeing all the content you produce! I have been using many of your recipes for years, and your website has become my go-to for whenever I want to bake something delicious! Today was the first time I read about your test recipes, and I am so impressed! I loved reading about your testing processes and learning of what else you have in store for us. With that I must say Thank You for all your hard work in creating your recipes, and I very much look forward to seeing your new holiday recipes and your new cookbook!
Thank you so much, Chanel! I think some of my best recipes will be in this book. We are having so much fun testing.
Those gingerbread cookie bars look so good! Waiting until December is going to be hard.
Worth the wait!!
Love it! I’m so excited for your new cookbook to come out. I’ve been following for a long time and it’s so cool to see your success over the years! Congrats Sally I have become obsessed with spicy honey, and those savoury biscuits sound amazing. Missing your coffee break posts lots but this was a welcome surprise in my inbox this morning!
Thanks Stephanie!! Appreciate that!! I will be sharing a lot of behind-the-scenes this year, especially as I start to photograph for the book. 🙂
Sally, do you already have a deadline when you will start photographing for your book? I will keep my eyes peeled regardless.
I love these posts as well, thanks for sharing!
Once I found your website and attempted baking your recipe (can’t remember what it was) I use your website exclusively for baking. I don’t even test recipes out before I have company because I know 1. That it will turn out as I hoped (thanks to all your helpful tips etc.) and 2. Nothing is overly sweet as many recipes for baked goods are. I have learned so much from everything you put in to your recipes. Thank you for all your hard work. I don’t normally buy cookbooks but I am anxiously awaiting yours. I can be a better baker with your help!
Dawn, this comment is SO thoughtful and sweet. Thank you so much. I appreciate that you love, trust, and use my recipes!! I wish my cookbook was done already, but I still have a long way to go. It’s been really fun dreaming up new recipes for it.
My latest fail was the whipped frosting for the citrus cake! I didn’t whip it long enough and it turned into a soft lemon mousse. I also cannot get a yellow cake to turn out without sinking terribly in the middle. Lol!
Whipped frosting can be tricky for sure. Sinking cakes could be due to over-mixing, not enough flour/dry ingredients, or even too much baking powder/soda.
While you’re creating….I have searched high and low for a thin snappy crispy spicy gingersnap….just saying! Srsly thought Inam SO excited to give your new recipes a whirl. Your recipes NEVER disappoint.
Thank you so, so much. This is my favorite crisp molasses cookie! Definitely a bit snappy. 😉