The Great Nailed It Bake-Off

My roommate, Annie, and I LOVE to binge baking shows. Something about the thrill of watching people create delicious (or sometimes not at all delicious) baked goods satisfies us both to no end. After comparing herself multiple times to the struggling contestants on the Netflix show Nailed It, Annie decided it was time to actually put her skills to the test. Not knowing at all what she was in for, she asked me to create a baking challenge for her to complete in our apartment. Let’s just say I didn’t hold back.

So, after hours of brainstorming and of culinary preparation, last week at 10:30 a.m. we kicked off the Memorial Day “Great Nailed It Bake Off” in our apartment. What follows is a summary of the saga that ensued throughout the day…


Annie surprised herself with how nervous she was, but she suited up for the day nevertheless. Initially hating this apron, she’s grown quite fond of it over the course of  this year. She was ready.

The first task was revealed: Royal Iced Steelers Cookies. She only hesitated for a moment before diving into the kitchen.


Her confidence only grew over the next hour and a half, during which she sped through the challenge, enthusiastically pulling cookies out of the oven and inserting musical interludes. (She created three perfectly tailored playlists specifically for this occasion).

She finished with a hefty five minutes to spare, and it appeared that she actually had indeed “nailed” it. IMG_3589

Unfortunately for Annie, who’d continuously stored her cookies in our freezer between layers of icing, I withheld an important bit of information: royal icing does not set in cold temperatures.


So the cookies didn’t look quite as…perky, a few minutes later. But this didn’t endanger Annie’s spirit. She was proud of her success–and of the job she’d done on our kitchen–and welcomed the next challenge.


That is, until she found out what the next challenge was. Round 2, inspired by The Great British Bake Off’s “Technical” challenges, was an apple galette. Not just any apple galette, but a Warm Apple Galette with Spiced Toffee Drizzle from @thebakefeed.




A galette is essentially a pie without a pie pan: a sheet of pastry folded around a fruit filling and baked. Annie did not know this, nor did she have a picture to help her. Needless to say, her enthusiasm dropped drastically when she discovered the evil I’d unleashed upon her.


A lot less singing and a lot more grunting occurred this round. But, after a frightening mandolin slicing technique that threatened the safety of her fingers, a hilarious over-abundance of apples, a personal rendition of the “fold and pleat” method in the recipe that she called the “hug and squish”, and a cooling technique that involved walking through our apartment with the galette, she presented a final product. (On our personal “gingham altar” in honor of the show)


Despite undercooked pastry and a soggy bottom that would have sent Paul Hollywood into panic, it tasted pretty darn good. Perhaps my favorite part of the round was when she engineered a tool involving a spoon, paper towel, and tape to sop up the leakage (from the 5937397 pounds of apples she’d tried to shove into one circle of pastry). She posed with her invention after finishing the challenge.


Nothing, though, could prepare Annie for what I had in store for the finale. I wanted challenge three to be something dear to her heart, something that would prompt her to muster up all the baking energy she had left left in her. So, for her “Showstopper” challenge, I decided to have Annie create this…


Toothless Cake!! The product of three hours of prep work the day before, I unveiled this cake as the final element of Annie’s day. Her reaction did not disappoint.

She was ecstatic. When the timer began, though, her joy instantly transformed into a focus that was unmatched by the rest of the day. I watched as she silently glided through the kitchen with a laser gaze, fueled by the image of her beloved DreamWorks dragon.

With her intensity, I knew I could look forward to something grand at the end of the day. However, when I came back to the kitchen 2 1/2 hours later for the reveal, I had no idea just how spectacular the creation was that awaited me:


It was ADORABLE. Her cake, that we came to lovely refer to as The Bat, exceeded every expectation I held. It was decided. Annie may have been the only contestant, but she won with this cake.

After confirming that the taste was just as spectacular as the exterior, we wrapped up our baking extravaganza. Six hours of baking behind her, Annie was exhausted, overheated, and dyed a vibrant shade of fuchsia, but so very proud.


We both crashed that night in sugar comas, thoroughly satisfied with the result of our little event–it was an experience we truly will never forget. And we haven’t brought ourselves to throw away the bat just yet; he greets us with those bug eyes every time we enter the dining room.

Annie is plotting her revenge on me in the form of a Chopped themed challenge. Stay tuned 🙂

If you’re ever in need of a little spontaneous fun in your household, perhaps consider the possibilities that lie in the kitchen. I promise it WON’T disappoint.

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God…

Ecclesiastes 2:24



April Fool’s Primanti Bros. Sandwich (V)


IMG_1441I did not, in fact, post a meat-filled sandwich on my very vegan blog. This is actually a tiny dessert!

Did you fall for it?? I must say, it was very difficult for me to pull off. Not the actual creation of the “sandwich”–that part went surprisingly well! Oh, no– it was the secret-keeping part that I struggled to handle! The moment I posted that picture, I went into instant panic, excitement, and anticipation:


I feel so rebellious! I’ve never lied on my social media before…

Wow, people believe it. This is exciting.

Ah, geez, I hope no one unfollows me for posting this picture on a vegan Instagram…Maybe I should just take it down.

How will I sleep tonight knowing I’m so close to doing the big reveal??

Yes, I’m ridiculous. Then again, it doesn’t take much to excite me when I’m spending every day in my apartment! I realize that this recipe isn’t exactly on track with my recent “quarantine-friendly” posts, but I hope that it gives you a bit of entertainment, especially those who need it most right now! Looking forward to everyone’s reaction to this and also to the abundance of pranks that will certainly result from everyone’s down time 🙂

He will yet fill your mouth with laughter
    and your lips with shouts of joy.

Job 8:21


April Fool’s Primanti Bros. Sandwich (V)



  • strawberries
  • sweetener (if needed; I used liquid Stevia)


  1. Preheat oven to 140-150°F.
  2. Puree strawberries and sweetener until smooth.
  3. Spread onto a plastic or parchment-lined baking tray.
  4. Bake until desired texture is reached, 6-8 hours.


**Makes 4 mini loaves**


  • 1/2 cup plus 1 TBSP vegan butter
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 TBSP sugar (vegan if desired)
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup “buttermilk” (1 tsp vinegar mixed with enough room temperature almond milk to make 1/2 cup; left to sit at least five minutes)
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp salt


  1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Grease and flour four mini loaf tins.
  2. Cream butter and sugar with paddle attachment of a stand mixer on medium speed.
  3. Mix in corn syrup and vanilla extract.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.
  5. Begin adding the flour mixture and the “buttermilk” to the butter mixture, alternating between each and mixing after each addition until everything is incorporated.
  6. Divide batter between the four pans, and bake until very light golden brown on the outside, about 50-55 minutes.
  7. Allow to cool completely before slicing. If you plan to make the trick sandwich, it’s helpful to freeze the loaves first! Makes for easier cutting, and the cake softens (it will develop a crust when it first cools after baking).



  • banana
  • maple syrup
  • vegan butter


  1. Slice the banana thinly.
  2. Melt a spoonful of oil in a pan over medium-low heat. Add a spoonful of maple syrup.
  3. Remove pan from heat, and place banana slices in pan.
  4. When they’ve caramelized slightly, flip them.
  5. When the other side has cooked, remove from heat.
  6. Slice into thin “fries.” (If you do this, they will be rather difficult to work with, but patience is a virtue :D)


I think you can figure out that one 🙂






Mug Cakes: 14 ingredients, 4 cakes (V)

IMG_1164 (1)Is it just me, or does it feel as though we’ve been home for a month already? It’s only day 10 of this quasi-quarantine, and I almost can’t grasp the idea that my life was proceeding at a normal pace just over a week ago. My heart goes out to all of the people suffering from the virus, those in actual quarantine: I can’t begin to imagine how difficult that is! Regardless of the level of affect you’re feeling from these circumstances, I hope that, if you’re able, you’ll try spending some of the extra hours in your kitchen. In fact, you’ll only need about five minutes for today’s desserts!IMG_1111

I explained last week that I hoped to provide some recipes that wouldn’t require unusual ingredients because I don’t want to provide any temptation to disrupt the social distancing efforts! I knew that this mission would eventually lead me to mug cakes, and I couldn’t hold out for long–today is the day. Not only are these single-serve treats incredibly convenient to make at home; they have been a blast to create! The quantity of wasted ingredients and time often limits the number of trials I can execute in my recipes (usually about three tries max), but these cakes provided opportunity for lots of attempts and tweaks with relatively minimal consequence. It’s a win-win situation for us: I end up with less guilt and more experimental freedom, and you end up receiving recipes that have been thoroughly tweaked until they’re the most delicious they can be!

There’s also something quite appealing about single-serving desserts. They’re personal; they come together quickly; you don’t have to share with anyone (maybe my favorite factor); and they eliminate the struggle of self-control that so easily taints indulgence with guilt. Plus, I assume that the idea of baking an entire cake or pie isn’t exactly realistic for those of you stuck at home by yourself for the foreseeable future! There’s simply very little, if anything at all, that one can criticize about adorably tiny, warm, yummy cake. IMG_1154

I’d argue that this concept of single servings is applicable beyond food right now, though. With such chaos ensuing in our world and so much extra time in our schedules to observe that chaos, I find myself consuming news updates and mindless entertainment by the heaping spoonfuls. The magnetism of my phone, of every notification, is something of which I’ve become increasingly cognizant: I don’t know that I’ve gone more than a few minutes without it next to me since this ordeal began.

Perhaps this is something you’ve found yourself experiencing as well–I think the majority of us have been roped in by the incessant online dialogue in some capacity. And while it’s responsible to stay informed about the goings on in society, especially in times such as these, it’s just as responsible to care for yourself by limiting your media consumption. By nature, pandemics are rapidly progressing: things are changing by the hour in every affected city. But will knowing about these changes immediately, each as they occur, really contribute anything to us beyond stress and depression? Not likely. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of bad news right now. This means that it’s entirely possible for us to remain in a steady track of receiving this negative information if we expose ourselves to it. IMG_1175

Please, for your own health, come up for air now and then.

As reckless as it might feel (and I completely sympathize with this feeling), put your phone away for a few hours, even just one. Go outside. Read something that’s not current events. Call your family (without going to speaker so you can still check your phone). Give your complete attention to something that’s not a newsfeed. And know that you can do so without even a bit of guilt. The world will continue on, and you will eventually learn what you missed. Like the saying goes, everything is best in moderation. And it’s the moments we allow ourselves to indulge in the things that this virus hasn’t uprooted–those sweet, single-serve joys– that will eventually see us through it.

Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

Habakkuk 3:17-18


Mug Cakes: 14 Ingredients, 4 cakes (V)



  • 2 TBSP all-purpose flour
  • 3 TBSP cocoa powder
  • 2 TBSP light brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 TBSP applesauce
  • 2 tsp oil (I used extra light olive oil)
  • 2 TBSP almond milk
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla extract
  • a few walnuts, broken into pieces (optional, or you can use another nut)


  1. Mix all dry ingredients together in a mug with a fork.
  2. Mix in wet ingredients.
  3. Mix in walnuts, and sprinkle the last of them on top.
  4. Microwave until cooked through, about 1 minute 30 seconds.



  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 TBSP light brown sugar
  • 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch cloves
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 cup shredded carrot (lightly fill cup, don’t pack it)
  • 3 TBSP almond milk
  • a few walnuts, broken into pieces (optional, or you can use another nut)


  1. Mix together all dry ingredients in a mug with a fork.
  2. Mix in carrots and almond milk.
  3. Mix in walnuts, sprinkling the final pieces on top.
  4. Microwave until cooked through, about 1 minute 30 seconds.



  • 1/2 small banana
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • pinch cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 2 TBSP light brown sugar
  • 2 TBSP almond milk
  • a few walnuts, broken into pieces (optional, or you can use another nut)


  1. Mix together all dry ingredients in a mug with a fork.
  2. Mix in the almond milk.
  3. Mash the banana into the mixture.
  4. Mix in the walnuts, leaving the last bit to sprinkle on the top.
  5. Microwave until cooked through, about 2 minutes.



  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 TBSP light brown sugar
  • 4 TBSP applesauce
  • 1/2 tsp oil (I used extra light olive oil)
  • 2 TBSP almond milk
  • a few walnuts, broken into pieces (optional, or you can use another nut)


  1. Mix together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and 2 TBSP light brown sugar in a mug with a fork.
  2. Mix oil, milk and 3 TBSP applesauce into the dry ingredients.
  3. Mix in walnuts, sprinkling the last bits on top.
  4. Spread the last TBSP of applesauce on top of the mixture.
  5. Sprinkle the last TBSP of light brown sugar on top of the applesauce.
  6. Microwave until cooked through, about 2 minutes.