Rip Van Sprinkle

Over the past several years I’ve developed a tendency toward over-organization (and have even tip-toed into the territory of pleasantly neurotic). When I can’t sleep (a problem Rip Van Winkle never had), I relax by unfolding stacks of t-shirts just so I can refold them. I make to-do lists that include “make to-do list” as the first item. And this afternoon, in a surge of Christmas cheer, I divided a container of multi-colored sprinkles one by one to extract the reds and greens. And though that is definitely forty minutes of my life I’ll never get back, the result was a perfect addition to this Christmassy dessert!


Gingerbread Terrines

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temp

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 cup molasses

1 egg, room temp

1/2 cup applesauce

1 tbsp. Cognac

1/2 tbsp. vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. cinnamon

2 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. cloves

1 tsp. salt

1 cup hot water


  1. Cream butter and sugar in standing mixer until light and fluffy.
  2. Gradually add in molasses, egg, applesauce, Cognac, vanilla extract.
  3. Sift flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt into the standing mixture.
  4. Finish by gradually adding hot water and mixing on low speed until smooth.
  5. Bake in lined muffin tin 350 degree oven for about 25-30 minutes OR in a cake pan for a bit longer (until toothpick comes out clean).

 Cognac Cream Cheese Icing

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp

8 oz. cream cheese, room temp

1 oz. Cognac

2 cups powdered sugar (or more, as needed for thickness)

Pinch of salt


  1. Beat butter, cream cheese, Cognac, and salt until smooth. Gradually add in powdered sugar and beat until smooth and thick.
  2. Pipe onto cooled terrines or cupcakes and garnish with Christmas sprinkles!

Enjoy gingerbread terrines and Cognac cream cheese icing with Washinton Irving’s Rip Van Winkle, and check in at for future recipes and book reviews!


The Adventures of Tom Soya

If you live with roommates, family members, or a significant other, the likelihood is that someone in your living space has a food allergy or a very specific dietary regimen. As a result, the fridge is filled with a hodgepodge of remedies and substitutes. You never know what you’ll accidentally pour onto your cereal (or into your cupcake batter).

I share a fridge with six other people: they make up a wonderful French family who has given me a room in West London in exchange for nannying the four children. Like the playful Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, these energetic and ever-growing kids need strong bones to stand up to the endless adventures. However, one of the children has an allergy to most dairy products. And so, next to the semi-skimmed milk is a quart of soya and a pint of oat something or other. When I am in the mood to bake, sometimes I grab whichever dairy product I see first – thus resulting in the occasionally – if accidentally – delicious cupcake recipe!


Soya Carrot Cupcakes:

1/2 cup butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 1/4 cup flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp cinnamon

2 eggs

1/4 cup soy milk

2 carrots, grated


1. Beat butter, sugar, and vanilla extract together for about five minutes (until creamy and a bit fluffed up).

2. Add soy milk and eggs one at a time, whisking mixture until smooth.

3. Sift in flour and baking soda and combine until smooth. Fold in carrots.

4. In greased or lined muffin tins, bake cupcakes at 350 degrees for about fifteen minutes (until knife comes out clean). Allow cupcakes to cool before decorating with frosting.


1/2 cup cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 cup butter, room temperature

2 cups icing sugar

Pinch of salt


1. Using an electric mixer, combine cream cheese, butter, and salt. Incorporate the icing sugar in three separate batches until completely incorporated.

2. Pipe frosting onto carrot cupcakes and garnish with walnuts.

Enjoy soy carrot cupcakes with Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and check in at for future recipes and book reviews!