Boozy Desserts Are Trending So I Jazzed Up My Sunshine Cake

Boozy Desserts Are Trending So I Jazzed Up My Sunshine Cake

I love to hear of new food and drink trends. One of my recent favorites is the concept of specialty cocktails that have exotic ingredients – like muddled basil, citrus infused simple syrup and hot chili garnishes. I especially like the fact that these cocktails decrease the amount of alcohol in each drink, enabling the party-goer to safely indulge. A win win!

And then comes along the new food trend of boozy cakes. Just when we limit the liquor in pre-dinner cocktails, we add liquor to desserts! That pendulum does swing back and forth!

Not to be left out, I decided to experiment with this trend at a recent dinner party. One of my most popular desserts from my book Sunday Best Dishes is my recipe for Sunshine Cake. It’s a lovely, fluffy cake made from a combination of almond flour and finely ground corn meal, flavored with lemon zest and fresh thyme. After the cake is baked, you poke holes in the top. Then you pour lemon infused simple syrup over the cake. The syrup seeps into the cake for a burst of sweetness.

For my boozy version of this cake, I decided to add the citrus flavor of triple sec to the mix. Triple sec is a colorless cordial made from the dried peels of both sweet and tart oranges. My Sunshine cake recipe tops the sweetened cake with a sugary glaze – as you can see in the photo above. I eliminated this, replacing it with berries that I macerated (soaked) in a bit of granulated sugar and a smidge of triple sec. I upped the booziness by adding triple sec to whipped cream and adding this to the dish. But the true boozy aspect of Sunshine cake comes with the triple sec I added to the simple syrup that infuses the baked cake.

The results? Well, the cake topped with berries and whipped cream had the feel of an after-dinner cordial, but I didn’t have to grab the car keys from my guests at the end of the evening!

Tweak My Sunshine Cake Recipe for Boozy Results…

My original recipe for sunshine cake is printed below. If you want to make a boozy version, eliminate the glaze. Add two table spoons of triple sec to the simple syrup after it is cooked and cooled. Whip up some whipped cream, adding 1 tablespoon of triple sec. And finally, soak berries in 1 tablespoon granulated sugar and 2 tablespoons triple sec.

There’s a bit of booze in every bite! Oh, and you can easily add booze to any cake or cornbread recipe that tastes outta this world. In a cornbread recipe that called for a cup of milk, I swapped ¼ amaretto and the rest orange juice. The result was an even tasting buttery, slightly spicy flavor that rocked my cup of coffee, when I cut myself a slice.

Feel free to share your creative culinary whims with me anytime. The only risk you run is me…actually making it!

Sunshine Cake



2 cups almond flour

½ cup yellow cornmeal

1 tablespoon baking powder

Zest of 1 medium lemon, about 2 teaspoons

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

½ teaspoon table salt

4 large eggs

½ cup granulated sugar

¾ cup Crème fraîche or sour cream

½ cup butter, melted, 1 stick

Preheat the oven to 350°. Coat the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with vegetable oil spray.

Whisk together the flour, polenta, baking powder, lemon zest, thyme and salt in a small bowl. Use an electric mixer to combine the eggs and sugar. Stir in the Crème fraîche. Slowly add the butter. Stir in the dry ingredients until just combined. Pour the batter into the pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes.



½ cup granulated sugar

Juice of 1 medium lemon, about 2 tablespoons

Whisk the sugar, lemon juice and ½ cup water in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil and cook until the sugar dissolves, about 2 to 3 minutes. Cool slightly.

Remove the cake from the oven and transfer to a rack,  set over parchment paper. Use a toothpick to poke holes into the cake. Pour the syrup over top. Cool to room temperature. Remove the cake from the pan and transfer to a platter.



½ cup confectioner’s sugar

¼ cup Crème fraîche

Juice of ½ medium lemon, about 1 tablespoon

Whisk together the sugar, crème fraîche and lemon juice until smooth. Spread the glaze over the cake. Garnish with chopped fresh thyme or edible flowers!


A Whimsical Tea Party For Mom…with Grown Up Cake

A Whimsical Tea Party For Mom…with Grown Up Cake


I’ve been watching a lot of Downton Abbey in preparation for this blog post, and what I came away with is the very British idea that there’s no right or wrong here, there’s just afternoon tea. This is an excellent time to mix and match flower patterned china and silverware. Be whimsical when you set a table for Mom! Fill an old watering can with pretty, fresh picked flowers or a seasonal bouquet; garnish cold Italian sodas with fresh mint; set out a photo of the two of you together, propped up with a teddy bear or two. When you load up a tiered platter with goodies, it’s acceptable to use boxed ones or store bought cupcakes, so long as there’s at least one thing on the table that your heart and precious time really went into.


A well-made cake, yummy berry-loaded parfaits in cute glasses, crustless cucumber sandwiches – something like that. Pink lemonade makes a fine beverage in addition to the teas, as well as a bottle of champagne in case Mom wants to indulge. Keep in mind that green teas pair well with starchy breads and black teas are best with fruit cakes and scones.

I went combing through my most delicate pastry recipes and scones, and what I decided should be the premier recipe at my Mother’s Day Tea is a great big cake! And not just any cake…a Meyer lemon olive oil one, which appears in the sweets chapter of my upcoming book Canvas & Cuisine.  It takes me to my own personal happy place: Sorento, Italy. I remember sitting in an orchard there, glass of wine in hand, watching the sun dip in the blue sky, and breathing the air scented with fresh lemons. Meyer lemons are the closet ones I’ve found to remind me of the rich, fragrant lemons grown there. I can’t speak for your Mom’s own happy place, but she can borrow mine on May 13th!


Meyer Lemon Olive Oil Cake

with Thyme

serves a crowd

60 minute cuisine


For Cake

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup pastry flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup natural cane sugar

½ cup olive oil

2 large eggs

Juice of 2 Meyer lemons, about ¼ cup

Zest of 2 Meyer lemons, about 1 tablespoon

2 teaspoons chopped, fresh thyme, plus sprigs for garnish

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

½ cup whole milk

For the glaze:

¾ cup confectioners’ sugar

Juice of 1 medium Meyer lemon, about 2 tablespoons

Preheat the oven to 350°. Coat a 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan with vegetable oil spray. Line the pan with parchment paper and spray again. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.

Use an electric mixer to combine the olive oil, eggs, lemon juice, lemon zest, thyme and vanilla until creamy. Mix in ⅓ of the flour, followed by ⅓ of the milk. Continue until all the flour and milk is incorporated into the batter. Pour the batter into the loaf pan. Bake until a tester comes out clean, about 40 to 50 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and cool completely. Remove the cake from the pan and place onto a serving platter

Place the confectioner’s sugar into a small bowl. Whisk in 2 tablespoons lemon juice until smooth. Pour the glaze over the cake. Garnish the platter with fresh lemon slices and thyme sprigs.