Orange Scones

Years ago Mike and I lived on Capitol Hill, and I took the red line metro from Union Station to work each morning. Amid the morning rush stood Au Bon Pain, bustling with commuters buying coffee and breakfast treats. The pastry display at ABP was a delight for the senses; baskets sat on metal utility shelves holding heaps of buttery croissants, Danish pastries filled with cheese and fruit, blueberry muffins the size of your head, and one of the most delicious treats ever: the orange scone.

While the recipe below is a cream scone variety, I’m positive the ABP orange scone was a butter variety because of its texture. Cream scones are tender and cakey, while butter scones have a crisper outside and a craggy interior. Does craggy seem like an odd adjective for a baked good? Perhaps, but if you’ve ever had a butter scone, you’ll know what I mean: it’s a drier texture, perfect for slathering with jam or lemon curd. Whether you go with the cream variety or the butter variety, orange makes a great scone flavor. I suspect mixing in some miniature chocolate chips in these would be a good idea…maybe next time.


  • 1 1/2 cup (180 grams) flour, measured by the scoop-and-sweep method or by weight (I measured by weight)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Zest of 1/2 small to medium orange
  • 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons heavy cream, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon orange extract
  • About 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 4-5 teaspoons fresh orange juice


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and orange zest. Combine vanilla, orange extract, and 3/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream and drizzle over flour mixture, stirring gently to combine. You want a “shaggy” dough, with no loose flour at the bottom of the bowl, but the dough should not be sticky.

Gently shape the dough into a ball and turn out onto a lightly floured counter top. Press the dough into a circle about 5 1/2 inches wide.

Using a knife or bench scraper, cut the dough into 8 wedges. Transfer to a baking sheet, placing the wedges in a circle with about 1 inch between them. Brush the tops and sides with remaining heavy cream to help them brown.

Bake for 14-16 minutes, until light golden brown on top; I used a cake tester on one scone to make sure the center was baked through. Remove from oven and allow to cool, then combine powdered sugar and enough orange juice to make a medium-consistency drizzle. Pour over scones; allow to set before serving.

Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for 1-2 days.

Nut Bars

Read any article about healthy eating habits and it’ll tell you to keep healthy snacks like almonds not just in your pantry, but with you when you’re on the go or at your desk at work. I aspire to be a healthy snacker, but truth be told most of the nuts I buy for snacks end up in baked goods.

These nut bars, adapted from a recipe I found at Taste of Home, are definitely not in the healthy snack category. I adapted mine to include pecans instead of pistachios, but I suspect any nutty combination would work for these treats. The bar base is far more crumbly than I expected it to be, so I think I need to mix my dough better next time. In any case, they’re delicious. Next time, I might sneak a bit of maple flavoring into the honey/sugar mixture.


For the crust

  • 12 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes
  • 2 1/3 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, at room temperature, lightly beaten

For the topping

  • 1 cup toasted hazelnuts, cooled and chopped
  • 1 cup lightly salted cashews
  • 1 cup lightly salted almonds
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 baking tin with foil and grease it with butter.

In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, then stir in egg. Press into the bottom of the baking tin and bake for 18-20 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool crust completely.

In a medium saucepan, combine honey, brown sugar, and salt over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil and boil without stirring for 2 minutes; remove from heat and stir in butter and heavy cream, then return to the heat for about 1 minute, stirring constantly, until the mixture becomes smooth. Stir in nuts.

Pour over cooled crust and bake for 15-18 minutes, until topping bubbles at the edges. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack completely; lift out of pan and cut into squares; I made small, approximately 1 x 1 squares for more bite-sized treats, but you could cut larger squares if you like. My batch yielded 48 squares.

Chocolate Chip Shortbread Wedges

“Mom, do we have more of that little bread?” asked Alec Sutton, age five. His mom, my dear friend and colleague Anne, had no idea what he meant until she saw him reach for the bag of shortbread I’d given her for Christmas last year. I love this story for many reasons; first, Alec is one of the most adorable and observant kids you’ll ever meet, and second, I love how children’s minds process information. Shortbread and little bread make perfect sense as synonyms when you think about it. Since hearing this story, my shortbread has been referred to as little bread in our circle of friends.

Anne and Alec moved from Pittsburgh to Altoona to be closer to their family, and I sincerely miss working with her. During my visits to the Steel Tower, I’d always sit at the table behind Anne’s cube, and we had many great conversations and funny times. I’m hoping this chocolate chip “little bread” will make a nice housewarming gift for Anne and Alec in their new place. This batch makes 24 wedges, so I sent some to Anne and Alec and some to my nephew Roman as his back-to-school gift. Shortbread ships very well, so it’s easy to send wherever it needs to go.


  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/3 cups flour
  • 1 cup miniature chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Lightly grease two 8-inch round cake pans. Reserve about 2 tablespoons chocolate chips to sprinkle over the top of your dough.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Add flour and beat to combine completely, then stir in chocolate chips.

Divide dough in half and press into the bottoms of the cake pans, using the palm of your hand to create an even surface. Prick all over with a fork, then sprinkle remaining chocolate chips on top. You can skip this step if you like – the chocolate chips do flatten out a bit when you turn the shortbread out of the pans later on.

Bake for 32-35 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. Remove from oven and gently loosen the sides, then allow to cool in the pans for 5 minutes. Gently flip onto a cutting board and slice each round into 12 wedges, then place wedges on a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to about 5 days; if shipping, pack between layers of waxed paper.

M&M Brownies

As a godmother and aunt, care packages are my thing. I love pulling together fun items and pairing them with baked goods, packing them up and sending them to Maryland, North Carolina, California, and the other places where my dear ones live.

For my goddaughter Mo and her little sister Margo, craft projects and art supplies feature heavily in the Aunt Amy care package. Since it’s back to school time, I wanted to send the girls some back-to-school (even-if-school-is-the-kitchen-because-of-coronavirus) treats. These fudgy chocolate brownies, complete with miniature M&Ms, accompanied some fun “paint your own solar system” string lights for the girls last week. They went crazy, apparently, over both the brownies and the string lights. It’s always nice to make people happy.


  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled for about 1 minute
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons brewed coffee (it’s fine to use leftover coffee from the morning)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • About 1/3 cup miniature M&Ms


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8 x 8 baking tin with foil and spray with baking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, combine melted butter, eggs, sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, and coffee and mix well to combine. Whisk in cocoa powder and salt until well blended, then add flour and mix until just combined. Reserve about 1 tablespoon of M&Ms to sprinkle on the top. Pour batter into prepared pan and sprinkle remaining M&Ms on the top.

Bake for about 30-32 minutes, being very careful not to over-bake. Brownies are done when a cake tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs stuck to it. Remove from oven and cool in pan completely before cutting.

Remove from pan and cut into 16 squares. Store in an airtight container at room temperature, or store between layers of waxed paper, well padded, if shipping.

Pumpkin Pecan Bundt Cake

My mom has some dietary restrictions, and she tends to stay away from dairy. Last night Mike and I went to her house for dinner to celebrate my birthday, and I figured baking a dairy-free cake was the least I could do for the woman who gave me life. After all, she’s the one who did all the hard work, right?

Dairy-free baking isn’t always as challenging as it might seem, and there are many recipes out there that don’t require a range of bizarre ingredients to substitute for butter or milk. Most vegetable cakes, like this pumpkin cake, use oil instead of butter. Such cakes are usually fluffier than butter-based cakes, and tend to keep their moisture longer. And if you choose to bake your cake in a Bundt tin, as I did here, there’s no need for a buttercream or cream cheese frosting; you can whip up a simple glaze icing with just powdered sugar and water. I’m happy to report that Genny loved this cake, so it’s one I’ll make again for her in the future.


  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 15 ounces pumpkin puree
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted and cooled
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 4-5 teaspoons water


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease a 10-inch Bundt pan.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and pumpkin pie spice; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together sugar and oil until very well-combined. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing very well after each.

Stir in flour mixture and pumpkin alternatively, stirring until well-combined and smooth. Fold in toasted pecans, then spoon or pour into prepared pan.

Bake for about 45 minutes, then check with a cake tester or toothpick; continue baking for a few minutes at a time, checking frequently, until the cake tester comes out clean. My cake baked for about 50 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool cake in pan for 10 minutes. Flip out onto a wire rack to cool completely before glazing and drizzling.

To make the glaze, in a small bowl, combine powdered sugar and 2 teaspoons water. Continue adding water until glaze reaches a pourable consistency, then pour over cake and allow to drip down the sides.

Store cake at room temperature for 2-3 days. Makes about 12 servings.

Tree Trunk Cake

It’s my 43rd birthday, and as always, I’ve baked my own cake. I love the woods, so I decided to make an orange almond honey cake and decorate it like a tree trunk. It was actually much easier than I expected because my main tool was a small offset spatula, which worked really well for the bark and tree ring details. I did pipe some ferns and mushrooms as well, and I’d intended to make a little hedgehog to sit on the top, but I ran out of frosting. Maybe next time.

Fair warning: this cake is in no way, shape, or form low calorie, low fat, or remotely healthy. All told, the cake and its frosting include six eggs and five sticks of butter. Granted, I’m not eating the entire cake myself, but if you’re the dieting type, I’d say this may not be the treat for you.


For the cake

  • 1 1/2 cups (2 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 4 tablespoons milk
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Zest of 1 1/2 oranges

For the frosting

  • 1 1/2 (2 1/2 sticks) cups butter, softened
  • 5 – 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 – 4 tablespoons honey, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract


Preheat oven to 320 degrees. Lightly grease two deep, 7-inch round cake tins and line the bases with parchment paper.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and light brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add honey and blend to combine, then add eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping the sides of the bowl between each addition. Add self-rising flour and almond flour, then milk, vanilla extract, and almond extract, and beat to combine until you have a smooth batter.

Pour batter into prepared tins and bake for 40-45 minutes, until well risen and the top of the cake springs back when lightly pressed with your finger.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack and cool completely.

To make the frosting, beat butter on medium speed for 1-2 minutes. Add 5 cups powdered sugar and beat on low speed until the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter. Add honey and extracts and beat to combine, then add enough additional powdered sugar to make a medium-stiff consistency frosting.

To decorate: Divide frosting into one larger portion and two smaller portions. Tint largest portion dark brown and cover the sides of the cake with it, then use a small offset spatula to pull frosting upward to make bark ridges, reserving a small amount to swirl into the top of the cake. Tint one of the smaller portions light brown and frost top, using your spatula to make tree rings. Add small portions of darker brown and swirl to accent the rings. Reserve remaining light brown for mushrooms.

To make the ferns, tint one portion of frosting moss green. Fit a piping bag with a plain tip and pipe stems, the switch to a leaf tip and pipe leaf shapes. Tint remaining frosting darker for a second color and repeat.

To make the mushrooms, fit a piping bag with a petal tip and fill with remaining light brown frosting. Pipe stacked horizontal ribbon-like rows on waxed paper squares on a flower nail and chill for about 5 minutes, then press into the sides of the cake. Add a few leaves of fern-like foliage onto the tops.

Store cake at room temperature; makes about 12 servings.

Rocky Road Bars

Rocky road ice cream has been around since 1929, when enterprising ice cream maker William Dreyer decided to toss some walnuts and marshmallows into chocolate ice cream. His partner, candy maker Joseph Edy, had done something similar with a chocolate candy bar and Mr. Dreyer thought the idea would be a good one for ice cream as well.

The original recipe was one of the first ice cream flavors to mix these types of ingredients together, and as always, I’m amazed at how people once looked at various component parts and put them together into something absolutely delicious. The recipe below is adapted from one I found at King Arthur Baking Company; I decided to add some chopped almonds and drizzled chocolate to the top of the bars because they looked a bit plain at first. It helps to chill the bars just after drizzling them with the melted chocolate so it sets, making the bars much easier to cut.


  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 2/3 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 3 1/2 cups chocolate chips, divided
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons roasted salted whole almonds, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking tin.

Cream together butter, sugars, baking powder, salt, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined. Add flour and cocoa powder and beat on low speed to incorporate; stir in 2 cups chocolate chips and 1 cup almonds.

Spread batter in the pan; I used an offset spatula to create an even layer. Bake for 15 minutes, until sides are set and middle is still soft. Sprinkle with miniature marshmallows and 1 cup of the chocolate chips. Bake for another 4 minutes, until marshmallows are just beginning to brown.

Cool completely, then melt remaining 1/2 cup chocolate chips. Drizzle over bars, then sprinkle remaining almonds over the top. Chill briefly to set chocolate, then cut into squares; store at room temperature.

Makes 24.

Mocha Chip Brownies

Mike’s coworkers seem to like coffee and chocolate, so this week I decided to bake another mocha-themed treat. These brownies are adapted from a recipe I found at King Arthur Baking Company, which recently re-branded from King Arthur Flour. King Arthur has been a great guide for me in my baking; I’ve mentioned their Cookie Companion many times on this blog. Their recipes tend to turn out very well, and I imagine they have an extensive test kitchen, not unlike Better Homes & Gardens. Test Kitchen Baker is my dream career, and I like to think I’m on my way with how much adaptation goes on in my kitchen.

This recipe is a spin-off of King Arthur’s toffee coffee brownies. Instead of topping my icing with toffee chips, I chose to go with miniature chocolate chips instead. There are also chocolate chips in the brownies themselves, so that seemed like a good idea.


For the brownies

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups Dutch process cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

For the icing

  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder
  • 1 tablespoon hot water
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 – 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking tin and sprinkle the bottom with sugar; this is my tip for a slightly crunchy bottom crust that adds a nice texture to otherwise soft treats like brownies.

In a large pot, melt butter over low heat. Stir in sugar and continue heating for another minute while stirring, until the mixture is just hot. Remove from heat and stir in cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, and espresso powder, then whisk in eggs and vanilla extract. Stir in flour, then chocolate chips. Spread evenly in prepared pan.

Bake for 28-30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before icing.

To make icing, place espresso powder and hot water in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Add powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon heavy cream, stirring until smooth. Add 1-2 more tablespoons of cream to reach a spreadable consistency of icing. Spread over cooled brownies, then sprinkle with chocolate chips. Allow icing to set before cutting into squares. Makes 24.

Orange Crisps

Some treats happen by accident, like these orange crisps. I meant to make an orange cream version of my vanilla bean sandwich cookies, but I slightly over-baked the cookies themselves. They turned out too thin and crispy to sandwich, but that’s actually okay – they taste delicious, so they can stand on their own.

Very crispy on the edges, but also slightly chewy on the inside, these cookies have a great texture and wonderful orange flavor. Mike decided he’s keeping them for himself, rather than taking them to work. Don’t feel bad for his coworkers, though – I’m going to bake something else this afternoon for them. Likely something else involving orange zest, now that I have a semi-bald orange in my refrigerator.


  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 10 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange extract
  • About 1 teaspoon orange zest (1/3 of the orange)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and kosher salt; set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Add egg, vanilla extract, orange extract, and orange zest and beat on medium speed until smooth.

With the mixer running on low, gradually add flour mixture.

Using a 1-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of dough onto prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart – they spread quite a bit.

Bake for 8-12 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, until tops are very light golden and just set.

Cool on baking sheets for 2-3 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-4 days.

Makes 40.

Cappuccino Bars

We’re going to file these in the “looks ridiculous, tastes amazing” category of Amy Bakes in the ‘Burgh. Because holy cow, they look ridiculous. I mean, total amateur, what-was-she-thinking ridiculous. Fortunately they taste absolutely amazing. Almost like a tiramisu and a cappuccino got together and decided to make a whole new dessert.

Here’s what happened with this recipe, adapted from the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion: my first layer wasn’t exactly even. So my second layer turned out wonky, and instead of covering it with glaze as recommended, I covered it with a thicker icing and tried to make a sort of fancy feathering thing happen, kind of like those patterns you see on actual cappuccinos. Oh, boy, what a disaster. I was almost too embarrassed to have Mike take them to work, but I figured something that tasted this delicious should absolutely get its chance to be enjoyed. I already have several ideas for next time, because you can bet I’ll make these again…and they won’t look like a train wreck.


First Layer

  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup instant coffee crystals

Second Layer

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Icing Layers

  • 3 cups powdered sugar, divided into one 2-cup portion and one 1-cup portion
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup heavy cream


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a 9 x 13 baking tin with baking spray.

In a small bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking powder; set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until fluffy, then add eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl well after each. Beat in the vanilla and coffee crystals, then add flour mixture and stir to completely combine.

Drop dollops of batter into the prepared baking tin and use a small offset spatula to spread it into an even layer; batter will be fairly thick. Bake for 15 minutes, until top is set; this means the sides have just started to pull away from the pan, and if you touch the center gently, your fingerprint will remain but will not break the surface of the crust.

Cool for 15 minutes while you prepare the filling. In a large measuring cup, combine sugar and flour; in a separate measuring cup, combine eggs, heavy cream, and vanilla. Add heavy cream mixture to sugar mixture and stir to combine completely, until smooth. Pour over crust and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the center is set.

Remove from oven and cool on a rack for 1 hour, then chill until completely set. Once set, make your first layer of icing; in a medium bowl, combine 2 cups powdered sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add heavy cream 1 tablespoon at a time, until you reach a spreadable consistency that’s still slightly firm. Spread on bars, smoothing as much as possible.

In another bowl, place remaining 1 cup powdered sugar and add heavy cream, 1 teaspoon at a time, to reach a firm pipable consistency (mine needed about 2 1/2 teaspoons). Place in a piping bag and pipe lines across the bars; gently drag a toothpick through the lines to create feathering. Allow feathered icing to set before cutting, then cut into 30 squares.

Note: these bars cut easily, but my icing layer pulled away from my second layer a bit (contributing to the “looks ridiculous” situation). Next time, I might chill them for just a short time before cutting.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 1-2 days or in the fridge for 2-3 days.