Cinnamon Cayenne Brownies with Cinnamon Buttercream

This might be the perfect spicy sweet treat. First you make rich, fudgy brownies, slightly spiked with a bit of cayenne. Then you add a smooth, cinnamon-tinged buttercream. The finished dessert is chocolatey, spicy and sweet all at once. It’s pretty incredible!

IMG_7222I’ve made other spicy chocolate recipes in the past, but think this one’s my new favorite. There’s a really great depth to the brownie recipe: it’s a satisfying, deep chocolate, and the spices bring out more flavor. The cinnamon buttercream adds yet another layer of flavor, and complements the brownies in a really unique way. I used a pretty thin layer of buttercream compared to the original recipe, and felt good about the frosting/brownie combo. You could also cut the frosting altogether if you’re short on time or watching your decadence–the brownies definitely stand on their own!

Several coworkers declared this recipe their favorite thing I’ve baked. I’ve brought quite a few things into the office over time so…that’s quite the declaration!

Cinnamon Cayenne Brownies with Cinnamon Buttercream

Original recipe: Garnish with Lemon. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary.

Yield: ~25 brownies

Suggested equipment: Mixer optional

Total Time: ~2 hours, including cooling time

Cook Time: 27-32 minutes


For your brownies

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 10 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs

For your frosting

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 16 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp milk or heavy cream (I used milk, it’ll be a little thicker if you use cream)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon


Make your brownies 

  1. Preheat your oven to 325F
  2. Whisk your flour, cinnamon and cayenne in a small bowl
  3. Place the butter, sugar, cocoa and salt in a large microwaveable bowl. Heat in 30 second increments, stirring after each increment. Repeat this process until the butter is fully melted, then put the mixture aside so it can cool a bit
  4. Stir your vanilla and eggs into the cocoa mixture. Your batter should be thick and shiny when you’re done
  5. Add the dry ingredients, and stir again until just mixed
  6. Beat the whole batter vigorously for about 30 seconds
  7. Line a 8×8 pan with parchment, leaving a little hanging over the edges so it’s easier to pull the brownies out later
  8. Pour your batter into the pan
  9. Bake for 27-32 minutes. Mine took the full 32. Stick a toothpick in the middle to check for doneness. Your toothpick should have just a few crumbs sticking to it when these are done
  10. Cool the brownies in the pan for 15 minutes, then lift them out to cool completely before frosting. You don’t want to frost hot brownies–the frosting will just melt all over the place!

Frost your brownies

  1. Put your powdered sugar and butter in a mixer bowl. Beat them for about 2-3 minutes, until it’s totally smooth
  2. Add salt, vanilla, milk or cream and cinnamon. Mix it altogether until the frosting is thick and smooth. Taste the frosting before declaring it done–sometimes I add a little more sugar or salt depending on how things are coming together!
  3. Frost your brownies, then cut them into squares. I found these a little harder to cut than some other brownie recipes, so definitely use a sharp knife!




Olive Oil Chocolate Cake (Dairy-Free)

I’ve never been one to use the word “unfussy” to talk about food. And yet, here we are: let’s talk about this unfussy cake. It’s rich and delicious, but also really simple. It’s great on its own–but also easy to dress up with mix-ins, toppings or ice cream.


I also love that this recipe is dairy-free, because I have several friends who avoid dairy. Olive oil gives the cake a great texture, and also brings out richness from the cocoa. The cake is light, airy and the perfect ending to a dinner with friends.

I opted to use regular flour in this, but the original recipe gives you substitutions if you want to make it gluten-free.

Olive Oil Chocolate Cake (Dairy-Free)

Original recipe: Nigella Lawson. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary.

Yield: One 9-inch cake

Suggested equipment: Mixer; food processor if you need to grind sugar

Total Time: 1.5 hours

Cook Time: 40 minutes


  • 2/3 cup olive oil, plus more to grease the pan
  • 6 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 cup superfine sugar (You can find this at some stores, usually called superfine sugar, baker’s sugar or caster sugar. Alternatively, you can just use your food processor to grind up standard granulated sugar. I followed The Kitchn’s advice, and ground up 1 cup plus 2 tsp of sugar in the food processor for roughly 30 seconds.) 
  • 3 large eggs
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting


  1. Preheat your oven to 325F
  2. Sift your cocoa into a bowl
  3. Whisk in your boiling water until it’s a smooth paste. It will still look a little runny
  4. Whisk in your vanilla, then let the mixture cool for a bit
  5. In a separate bowl, mix your flour, baking soda and salt
  6. Use your mixer to beat the sugar, olive oil and eggs. You should beat them for about 3 minutes until it’s a thickened, yellow-ish cream
  7. Turn the speed down on your mixer, and add in your cocoa with the mixer still running. Stop to scrape as needed
  8. Use a spatula to mix in the flour. When you’re ready to bake, your mix should look dark and liquidy
  9. Grease a 9 inch cake pan (or springform if you have it!) with oil and line it with parchment
  10. Bake 40-45 minutes, until the sides are set but the top still looks a little damp. Use a toothpick to check for doneness–it should be mostly clean with just a few crumbs
  11. Let the cake cool in its tin for 10 minutes
  12. Remove the cake from its pan
  13. Dust with powdered sugar right before serving



Recipe roundup: Valentine’s Day

I loved Valentine’s Day as a kid. It was an excuse to eat lots of candy, wear lots of pink and tell people nice things. What’s not to like?

I wish we did Valentine’s Day mailboxes at work, like we did as kids. Maybe I should make that happen next year. But in the meantime, I’m sitting here daydreaming about pink cupcakes and heart-shaped cookies and all the other lip-smacking Valentine’s Day desserts.

Here’s a roundup of the Valentine’s Day recipes I’m most excited about this year, plus some recipes from my blog that just might do the trick for your V-day needs.


From Jo Cooks

Strawberry Chocolate Chip Scones: Start your day with a dash of red and a bit of sugar. These scones from Jo Cooks sure look scrumptious.

Olive Oil Cupcakes with Berry Buttercream: The base cupcake is an intriguing mix of almond, orange and olive oil. Top that with a mixed berry buttercream, and you have yourself a Valentine’s Day winner. These come from Molly Yeh, so you know they’re good!

Blackberry Lemon Cake: This cake from Natasha’s Kitchen gets its flavor from blackberry frosting and lemon simple syrup. It’s simple, sounds delicious and the blackberries make it a lovely shade of purply pink.


From Bakers Royale

Watercolor Heart Cookies: I saw these gorgeous cookies from Bakers Royale in my Pinterest feed yesterday and can’t stop thinking about them!

Red Velvet Brownies with Cream Cheese Frosting: I love frosted brownies, and this recipe from The Recipe Critic looks delightfully rich.

M&M Cookie Bars: A simple cookie bar recipe, jazzed up with seasonal pink and red M&Ms by No.2 Pencil.

Strawberry Thyme Cake: One last cake option for you, because I can never resist a bit of herbs with my dessert. This combo from The Cake Blog sounds delicious and looks great!

Conversation Heart Cookies: These cookies are so fun, especially because I Am A Food Blog strayed away from traditional V-day colors. As much as I love red and pink, it’s nice to have some other colors in the mix, too!

Recipes on this blog:


Craving more ideas? Check out my Valentine’s Day Pinterest board.

The 2017 Baking Roundup

Every January I write an annual report. I look at what I did, where I went and what I wrote. It’s a nice way to remember the good from the year before, and helps me look at how little moments in time add up.

I carried this tradition over to Sugarsmith a couple of years ago–because baking deserves reflection, too. I keep a detailed list of everything I bake, so it’s pretty easy to figure out patterns from the entire year. Here’s a look at my 2017 in baking:

What I made

I baked 54 times last year, including 51 new recipes (94%). That’s lower than 2016 when I baked 68 times, but still higher than 2015, so I feel good about it!baking report


I covered a nice mix of flavors in 2017. 54% of recipes contained chocolate, but chocolate wasn’t always the dominant flavor. When I took a closer look I found that fruity recipes led the pack, from Lemon Cookies to Lemon Cucumber Cake. I also made a lot of herb-y recipes, like Lavender Cookies and Strawberry Basil Cupcakes. I made way fewer pumpkin recipes than originally planned for the fall, but managed to get three in there! And clearly I didn’t make enough s’mores treats in 2017…though the one I DID make was pretty killer.

Who ate it?

I hosted 6 events in 2017, accounting for 20 recipes (58%). Another 14 recipes went to other people’s birthdays, housewarmings, etc. And the remaining 37% of my baked goods went with me to work. You’re welcome, coworkers!

What did people read?

I published 27 posts to Sugarsmith in 2017. I feel pretty good about that given that I split my time between blogs and also write for work. Of course, I have tons of unfinished drafts just waiting for me to finish them. I also don’t write about every single thing I bake. And I rarely post in chronological order. So even if you eat a lot of my treats…you can never really know what I’ll post next!

Top Posts on Sugarsmith for 2017

Clearly you guys like gooey butter cake and salty/sweet combos. Noted for 2018!

Favorites That Didn’t Crack the Top 5

Best *New* Things I ate in 2017

As always, thanks for reading–I’ll be back with new recipes soon!


Wassail Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Orange Glaze

I really hate wasting specialty ingredients. Whenever I buy something special for one recipe, I try to find other recipes that’ll use it up. Sometimes that’s easy: leftover rosemary goes into cookies, or leftover molasses becomes Gingerbread Waffles.

But sometimes…it’s a little trickier. Enter wassail. Wassail is a mulling spice blend that’s most commonly used for mulled cider, spiced wines and other wintry drinks. It makes drinks seem extra cozy and special in colder months, and it’s probably responsible for your favorite winter drink.


Once you’re done making drinks, though, it’s not really clear how to use up the rest of your mulling spices. I spent a good amount of time looking for a recipe that used wassail as an ingredient. I literally only found this one recipe, for the cookies you see here today.  I didn’t know what to expect…but man, are these good cookies! Melanie of Melanie Makes definitely cracked the wassail baking situation. She figured out that wassail would be a great flavor complement to orange, chocolate and even Blue Moon beer. These cookies may sound complicated, but the final flavor profile is pretty incredible. The cookies have a slightly malted taste, generous bites of chocolate, and a fruity, fresh finish from the glaze.

So after you go caroling this year and sip up your cider…why not use leftover wassail for some cookies? I promise you’ll be glad you tried it. I left some cookies unglazed out of curiosity, but definitely recommend adding the glaze if you can snag some oranges. It adds a nice layer of flavor!

Wassail Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Orange Glaze

Original recipe: Melanie Makes. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary. 

Yield: ~36 cookies

Suggested equipment: Mixer

Total Time: ~1.5 hours

Cook Time: 12 minutes


For the cookies

  • 12 oz Blue Moon beer
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp wassail (I used this blend from Rodelle but you can sub in another brand)
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet)

For the glaze 

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons orange juice


Make your cookies

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 375F
  2. Put your beer in a small saucepan, and turn it up to medium-high heat. Cook the beer until it’s reduced–you want 1/4 of a cup left. It might be sort of hard to tell the quantities, so you can always pour in more beer than the recipe calls for and just measure out 1/4 cup when it’s reduced a bit
  3. Use your mixer to cream the shortening, brown sugar and granulated sugar
  4. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat until fluffy
  5. Pour in the beer, and mix until the ingredients are combined
  6. Add your wassail, flour, salt and baking soda. Mix to combine, but don’t overmix
  7. Stir in your chocolate
  8. Scoop balls of dough onto lined baking sheets
  9. Bake for 10-12 minutes. They should start to firm up a bit, but still be a bit soft in the centers
  10.  Let the cookies cool on the sheets for a few minutes, then move them to a rack to finish cooling

Glaze your cookies 

  1. Once the cookies are totally cool, whip up your glaze!
  2. Whisk your powdered sugar and orange juice until they’re combined and smooth. The glaze will be white and a bit sticky looking when it’s ready
  3. Drizzle glaze over the cooled cookies. Let the glaze set before you package up or transport the cookies

Lemon Crinkle Cookies

Last weekend I co-hosted my annual cookie swap with my friend Mimi. I always go a bit overboard. I know the whole point is to share and trade cookies. And yet…I inevitably make way more cookies than I should. This year, I made four different kinds. Necessary? No way. But satisfying? Heck yes.

These Lemon Crinkle Cookies made it onto my baking list because they’re dairy free.  I have a couple friends who can’t eat dairy, so I always try to include a dairy free recipe at my parties. I liked that these cookies used olive oil instead of butter, and expected that the lemon-olive oil combo would be a great flavor profile.


Honestly, these cookies were even better than I expected. They’re slightly tart, slightly sweet, and have a soft, pillowy texture. You roll them in both granulated sugar and powdered sugar for that crinkle top. They’re a truly great cookie–and they went real fast at the swap. I wish I’d made a double batch! The original recipe comes from an olive oil brand and calls for flavored oil, but I swapped in a standard light olive oil instead.

IMG_6817Make sure to allow a couple hours for the dough to chill. Mine was pretty easy to deal with until the final few cookies, because the dough started to hit room temp again and got a little messier to work with. You could always split the dough in two, and keep half in the fridge until you’re really ready for it.

Lemon Crinkle Cookies

Original recipe: Colavita. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary.

Yield: ~24 cookies

Total Time: ~2.5 hours

Cook Time: 10 minutes


For the dough 

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt (you can use regular salt too)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup light olive oil
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the topping 

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar


Make your dough 

  1. Whisk your flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk your eggs, 1 cup of granulated sugar, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla
  3. Add the flour mixture in spurts, mixing the dough with a spatula until it’s fully combined
  4. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill for at least a couple hours

Bake your cookies

  1. Heat your oven to 350F and line cookie trays with parchment paper
  2. Put granulated sugar in one bowl, and powdered sugar in another
  3. Roll dough into tablespoon-sized balls. Dip each ball in the granulated sugar, pressing to coat. Then roll the ball in the powdered sugar
  4. Place your dough balls on the cookie tray, leaving space between the balls so the cookies can spread as they bake
  5. Bake for 5 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake for another 5-7 minutes. Mine took 10 minutes to bake through
  6. Cookies are done when they’re cracked on top and a nice puffy shape
  7. Let cookies cool on the tray for a few minutes, then move them to a rack to finish cooling

Lavender White Chocolate Chip Cookies

When you think about New Mexican cuisine, lavender probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. The state is better known for its chile laden cuisine.


And yet, on my recent trip to New Mexico, lavender played a crucial supporting role. Our whole trip was fabulous, from the art galleries of Santa Fe to the beautiful vistas of Taos and gypsum sand dunes down south. But one of my most treasured memories comes from our very first night of vacation, which we spent at a lavender farm called Los Poblanos.

Los Poblanos is on 25 acres of land just outside Albuquerque. It’s surrounded by gorgeous lavender fields, vegetable gardens and tons of beautiful foliage. Our room in the “Field” section looked out to growing lavender, fall leaves and beautiful mountains in the distance.

We were lucky to stumble on this place. Fittingly, I found it because of its reputation for amazing cuisine. I stumbled on their restaurant’s page first, then decided to book the night at their hotel, too. It was completely, totally worth it. Both our dinner and breakfast were fresh, flavorful, memorable meals. And of course, they make sure to work lavender into their menu. At dinner alone, I had a lavender margarita and lavender peach gelato!

IMG_4453My mind has been on lavender since that stay and I’ve been dreaming of these Lavender White Chocolate Chip Cookies. This is definitely one of my favorite recipes I’ve made in 2017. Lavender adds a floral hint to the dough, subtle but distinct. It pairs really well with white chocolate, and the sea salt on top is the perfect finishing touch.

Someday, I hope to make it back to Los Poblanos. Until then, I’ll just have to content myself with a plate of these cookies, and beautiful memories.

Lavender White Chocolate Cookies

Original recipe: Spache the Spatula. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary.

Yield: ~24 cookies

Suggested equipment: Food processor

Total Time: ~45 min

Cook Time: ~12 min


  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp culinary lavender (I bought mine at World Market)
  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temp
  • 6 tbsp vegetable shortening
  • 1 large egg at room temp
  • 1 extra large egg yolk, at room temp
  • 1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips or chunks
  • Sea salt to sprinkle on top


  1. Grab a small bowl, then combine the flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt. Set that bowl aside
  2. Throw your sugar and lavender in your food processor. Process the mix for about 10-20 seconds to chop the lavender into really small pieces. Sugary “smoke” will start coming up out of the top of your processor as you grind the mixture together—totally normal!
  3. Use an electric mixer to beat the butter, shortening and sugar-lavender mix on medium-high for about 3 minutes
  4. Add the egg and egg yolk, then beat for another 3 minutes, or until the mixture is fluffy
  5. Add your flour mixture, and beat on low until it’s all combined
  6. Stir in your chocolate by hand
  7. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper
  8. Scoop dough onto the sheets, about an inch apart
  9. Preheat your oven to 375F. While it’s preheating, throw your cookie sheets in the freezer so the dough can firm up a bit
  10. Once the oven is ready, start baking sheets of cookies! Bake about 11-13 minutes (mine took 12). They’ll look a little undone, but will set as they cool
  11. Throw the cookie sheets on a cooling rack, and immediately sprinkle them with sea salt
  12. Cool the cookies on their sheets for about 10 minutes, then move the cookies straight to a rack to finish cooling