Lemon Lavender Tea Cakes

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Let’s keep this simple.

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No frills. No plates. No pretty napkins.

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No lemon slices leaning on a tea cake. No scattered lavender buds anywhere, except on the wooden spoon you use to stir them into a simple syrup. (Because really, although they look nice, who really enjoys eating the little lavender bits meant for decoration? Baker confession time: I always pick them off…)

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No, not even a mug of tea nearby. Even though these are the most perfect tea cakes I’ve made yet.

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It’s bare bones today. Just lemons, lavender, and a slice of cake. Perfect.

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These little things look like pound cakes, but they are light and moist and bouncy.

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And pouring on a bright, tart simple syrup infused with lemon juice and lavender buds gives the cakes a juicy burst when you take a bite.

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They are also insanely easy. You won’t even need to break out your Kitchenaid. Exactly right for a cold, snowy day in the middle of winter. If you close your eyes while you eat a slice, you might be able to convince yourself that spring is around the corner…

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Tasting Tuesdays: Gingersnaps

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Well, guess what?

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“Winter is here!” … Says the weird, adorable beaky bird guy from Anthropologie.

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Guess what else?

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Winter calls for a sea of warm, spicy, snappy cookies. Like these.

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They’re as fragrant as a candle and will make your whole apartment smell the way winter should smell: dense, nutty, sweet, spicy.

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These are almost like an uber-ginger-butter-cookie. The dough is a lot like a shortbread, although still crisp. Although I had some serious frustrations with the recipe (see below), the flavor is deep and dense and really wonderful. Adjusted below, these are a keeper.

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Thanks as always to the fabulous ladies of Anthropologie: Shannon, Annie, Kim, Tera, and Kim’s talented intern, Katelyn, who created this beautiful display! (Full disclosure: This month’s Tasting Tuesday was totally a Tasting Wednesday. The snow was way too crazy here in Milwaukee to venture far from home on Tuesday!)

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Come join me next month on February 21!

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Mini Brownie Cake with Vanilla Bean Frosting

Happy birthday… to my blog!

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Have you ever made yourself a cake? I’m not talking a sad, I’m-making-only-one-pathetic-but-beautifully-decorated-cupcake-because-I’m-oh-so-depressed-about-my-crazy-friend’s-wedding-and-confused-about-my-hot-Irish-cop-love-interest-ala-Kristin-Wiig-in-Bridesmaids kind of cake.

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I’m talking a smile-on-my-face, accomplishment-celebrating, yes-I-am-a-totally-awesome-person-so-I’m-making-myself-a-cake-and-I-might-just-eat-it-all-by-myself-because-I-deserve-it kind of cake.

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A year ago I decided that I wanted to share my love of baking with more than just my poor coworkers and friends, who were stuck listening to me describe my creations in person. In September, I concocted some pretty cupcakes, valiantly attempted macro-style photos of them with my cell phone camera, and wrote a little missive about lemons and lavender on a super-secret blog that no one knew about.

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Then I kind of forgot about it… Until I made some peppermint brownie cookies. They were so good that forcing my friends to listen to me rave about the combination of dark chocolate and crushed peppermint before they tasted it themselves seemed cruel, so I pulled up my super-secret little blog and wrote a post, complete with fuzzy faux-macro cell phone photography.

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Then, on December 31, almost exactly a year ago, I spent most of the day in my PJ’s and made the most wonderful salty oatmeal cookies for a New Year’s Party. Before I got fancied up, I took pictures of them on my coffee table. And I wrote about it on my super-secret little blog. And I realized I really liked doing this weird thing where I wrote about food on the internet.

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So I took a deep breath, steeled myself for the credit card bill, and invested in a fancy camera as a post-Christmas present (it was totally worth it, for the record).

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For the first few months of the year I baked every weekend (nothing new), took the prettiest pictures I possibly could, and wrote little online love letters to my baking in an attempt to share them with more people than just my Milwaukee friends. And eventually I started a Twitter account for it, and a Facebook page, and got some recipes onto Tastespotting–and all of a sudden people who weren’t my mom or my friends started coming to this little site (hello to you, new internet pals!). And I even started baking for Anthropologie, which is wild and dreamy and so much fun and still feels unreal.

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Weird things happen when you blog. You start collecting mismatched plates and napkins you use for no other purpose than to put cookies on for “food styling.” You start occasionally calling yourself a “blogger” instead of your real-life professional title when introducing yourself. You make yourself blog calling cards–a.k.a. business cards. You buy yourself a Pro account on Flickr because without one, you don’t have enough space every month to upload all the photos you need to. You start looking at the world a little differently–noticing the different qualities of light, wishing you had your camera with you in random places, getting way too involved in Top Chef Just Desserts, and critiquing plating techniques at unsuspecting restaurants.

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And you make yourself tiny little celebratory cakes. Out of fudgey, cakey, dense, chocolatey brownies. With creamy vanilla bean frosting. And you sit on your couch with your flour-loving cats while it snows big fluffy flakes outside, and you have yourself a happy little start to the New Year.

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But the weirdest and most wonderful part of this whole blogging thing is unexpected. Instead of being shuffled to the side, only discussed in comments and Facebook posts and tweets, things start to happen outside of your computer. When you put your dorky hobby out into the internet world, people in the real world actually start to talk to you about it. Your mom texts you when she sees a new post. People you barely know compliment your photography. You start to tell your friends about something you made this weekend, and they politely interrupt you to say, “Yeah, I already saw that on your blog… Did you bring me any?” And people you don’t know call you by the name of your website. As in: “Oh! You’re Chelsea Bakes!” And you just smile and nod and giggle to yourself, because, of course, your name isn’t actually Chelsea Bakes.

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And then you stop your giggling because, well, now it kind of is. And that’s just fine by you. Continue reading