14 Summer Desserts from Willow Bird Baking (plus some from other blogs!)

Check out 14 Refreshing Summer Desserts

by Julie Ruble at

Thanks, Foodie, for sponsoring this post.

Thank you so much for filling out my reader survey! If you haven’t yet, you can still do so here. I’m not surprised at all by how kind and thoughtful your comments were, but I do feel humbled by it. I seriously have the best readers in the world. One of the things I appreciated most was how many of you have made LOTS of recipes from the blog and how many of you love my stories. I can’t adequately put into words how much that means to me, since it’s been my dream since I was little to be a writer. I feel really blessed to share with you here.

Because I’m in total denial about school starting soon (I’m still going to sleep at 3 a.m. every night, so that should be fun to correct), here are some of my very favorite summer desserts from other bloggers (above) and 14 summer desserts from Willow Bird Baking (below). I only picked the absolute BEST EVER summer desserts, so make them ALL. And make them quickly to savor every second of the fading summer (Wahhhh.)


cooking difficulty: easy


cooking difficulty: easy


cooking difficulty: intermediate


cooking difficulty: easy


cooking difficulty: easy


cooking difficulty: easy


cooking difficulty: advanced


cooking difficulty: easy


cooking difficulty: easy


cooking difficulty: easy


cooking difficulty: easy


cooking difficulty: easy


cooking difficulty: intermediate


cooking difficulty: easy

The Big Reveal: Willow Bird Baking Challenge #4 Filled Cupcakes and the Final Challenge!

Willow Bird Baking Challenge is a 5-week series wherein I introduce a new challenge each week. The challenges require you to get creative and innovative in the kitchen. You create your dish, bake it, and send me a photo before the following weekend, when I show off the masterpieces on Willow Bird Baking!

Challenge #5 was to innovate filled cupcakes to represent the season you were currently in. See if you can guess which season the folks below are enjoying!


Paula Made: Lemon Curd Cupcakes with Blueberry Cream Cheese Frosting (see more at her blog, Vintage Kitchen Notes)

Comments:“I’m no cupcake baker. I’m all for bundt and layer cakes. So this was a real challenge. Lemon immediately came to mind, but then what? Fresh blueberries, that are popping up plump and dark, with the first sweetness in them. Not a new flavor combination idea, but the fresh berries in the frosting looks so pretty. I mean, cupcakes have to have some sort of prettiness to them. The cake part has some white chocolate, which really makes them moist and deepens tremendously the flavor of vanilla.”


Dianna Made: Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Caramel-Pear Butter Filling (see more on her blog, The Kitchen Prep)

Comments: “A tender Vanilla Bean Cupcake, filled with a gooey Caramel-Pear Butter center topped with a seductive swirl of Brown Sugar & Cinnamon Frosting.”


Shanna Made: Apple Cider Cupcakes filled with Fuyu Persimmon Curd and frosted with Fuyu Persimmon Swiss Meringue Buttercream (see more at her blog, Pineapple and Coconut)

Comments: “Apple Cider. Persmimmons. Yup just add in pumpkin and thats a trifecta of fall flavors. I love the word trifecta. Yes I am a dork. And these don’t have pumpkin in them. I took a break from pumpkin. For maybe a day.”


Nathan Made: Chocolate Mint Cupcakes

Comments: “Halloween cupcakes! Chocolate cupcakes with buttercream frosting and orange sugar topping. And for a surprise, green mint jelly for filling!”


Ala Made: Cheesecake-Filled Chocolate Cupcakes with Coffee Cinnamon Frosting (see her blog Wallflour Girl)

Comments: “We whipped up a batch of these for one of the guys in our department celebrating his birthday this week. If you like a) the idea of a steaming mug of hot chocolate dipped into your morning wake-up call with a hint of autumnal flair, or b) being awesome, you need to try these cupcakes.”


Heather Made: Boston Creme Pie Cupcakes (see more at her blog Bake Run Live)

Comments: “I made Boston Creme Pie Cupcakes! Sponge cake cupcakes, filled with vanilla pastry cream, then topped with a semi-sweet chocolate glaze! Each cupcake is the perfect portion for a wonderful dessert!”


Robyn Made: Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cranberry Curd and Brown Butter Glaze (see more at her blog, Almacucina)

Comments: “I do love how the flavors play off each other; spicy pumpkin, sweet-tart curd and smoky glaze. Especially love the cranberry curd filling. All in all, I’d say I did a decent job! And got myself one step closer to jumping on the cupcake bandwagon.”


LeAndra Made: Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes (see more at her blog, Love & Flour)

Comments: “Yet another challenged cobbled together from previous recipes. I used one of my great-grandmother’s spice cake recipes and filled the cupcakes with a pumpkin cream cheese mixture I once called dip. I topped them off with a ginger cream cheese icing since ginger was the one spice not actually found in the cake.”


Kelly Made: Chocolate cookies stuffed with either: peanut butter and guava jelly, a rum-soaked cherry, strawberry cheesecake, or funfetti cheesecake!

Comments: “While the rest of the country is donning boots and scarves, we are still playing on the beach here in Miami.I tried to combine the two for these cupcakes – lemon cupcakes filled with an apple-ginger curd. I then tried to make them look a little ‘beachy.’ Bear with me, the piping bag is not my friend (yet).”

Shelley C.

Shelley Made: Caramel Apple Cupcakes (see more at her blog, C Mom Cook)

Comments: “Once again, choosing a flavor combination was the hardest part of this challenge. There are so many delicious fall flavors, narrowing it down to something that would make a delicious cupcake was tough. Finally, I chose to make caramel apple cupcakes for the cupcake challenge (and, can I just tell you, I had so many thoughts of cupfakes for this one! Turkey meatloaf cooked in a cupcake pan, cranberry sauce ‘filling’ and mashed potato frosting! Cornbread ‘cupcakes’ with some kind of chili filling/spicy frosting! SO many possibilities!)”


Erin Made: Maple Cream Cheese stuffed Squash cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting (see her blog, Erin’s Exquisite Edibles and Excursions)

Comments: “I wanted to do something for the season like the challenge suggested. Up in New York pumpkin and apples are usually in abundance this time of year, however not this year… apples are sparce but somehow we had a HUGE pile of squash growing in our compost! So due to that I decided to make my cupcakes out of squash instead of pumpkin. These cupcakes turned out so moist and not too sweet, which is good because the frosting made up the majority of the sweetness!”


Natalie Made: Apple Pie Cupcakes (see more at her blog Life Made Simple)

Comments: “Since it’s fall and the husband and I both love pie but baking an entire one is just too much for us, I thought I’d make a cupcake version of an apple pie! Perfect, right?! I started off by using a cinnamon spiced cake, filling it with soft apples and topping it with some vanilla ice cream frosting and a crust crisp. These cupcakes are absolutely to die for!”

Ready for Challenge #5?

Last night, Erin, Trudy, and Kelly jumped on Google Hangout with me to introduce the final challenge, Challenge #5, and here it is!

You can find some cheesecake recipes here to get you started! And here is my video tutorial on cheesecakes. Send a photo and some comments to me at julie ‘at’ willowbirdbaking ‘dot’ com by next weekend. Let’s get baking!

Congratulations to all of the participants of Challenge #4 for their fantastic work!

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Ten Willow Bird Coconut Recipes

You guys have probably noticed that I’ve been a little coconut nutty (coconutty?) lately. I hated coconut as a child, so now that I understand its unadulterated deliciousness, I have to make up for lost time. If you’re trying to catch up as well, here’s a round-up of 10 delicious coconut recipes for you to try.

1. Banana Coconut Cream Cakes
2. Banana Coconut Cream Cupcakes
3. Pumpkin Oat Snack Cake with Broiled Coconut Icing
4. Caramelized Banana Upside-Down Coconut Cake & Coconut Whipped Cream

5. Brownie-Bottom Coconut Chocolate Cream Cake
6. Tres Leches Coconut Cake Trifle
7. Oatmeal Cake with Broiled Coconut Icing
8. Nanaimo Bars

9. Coconut Cream Tart
10. Buttery Coconut & Almond Morning Buns

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Presenting . . . Your Amazing Cupcakes!

Well, color me impressed. One month ago I issued a challenge here on Willow Bird Baking. Because I know how inspiring it can be to create your own dish, I asked you to come up with a fun cupcake combination all your own.

Some of these fantastic bakers were mamas baking with their kids (Sarah let her son, Jonathan, help out) while some of them were kids themselves (Erica’s in 7th grade this year). Some of them went the decadent route — chocolate, peanut butter, and beer, oh dear! — while some of them stayed bright and fruity — summery strawberries, blackberries, and citrus. Across the board, though, the one thing you all have in common is kitchen creativity. You came up with plans for a fantastic dessert for your family and friends, and you made it happen! Now it’s time to show off your handiwork!

Faygie the Fantastic

Faygie Made: Chocolate Cupcakes with Guinness-Chocolate Pudding and Caramel Buttercream
Comments:“I had a lot of fun doing this challenge! It took a while to find a combination that was not only unique, but also complemented each other well. The chocolate cupcake recipe is fantastic. The pudding was also very good, […] and I really thought that the caramel buttercream complemented the chocolate and Guinness really well. Because it is a Swiss meringue buttercream, it’s not too sweet (even with the large amount I piped on). I brought these to a friend’s birthday party and they were a huge hit!” (see more on her blog!)

Just look at those mountains of delicious frosting! These sound so rich and decadent.

LeAndra the Lovely

LeAndra Made: Banana and Choco-Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter(cream) Filling and Marshmallow Buttercream Frosting
Comments:“Thank you for hosting this cupcake challenge. I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone’s creations. I baked banana cupcakes with peanut butter buttercream filling and marshmallow buttercream icing. The baking itself went well, but I was concerned the banana cake and the peanut butter filling were too similar in coloring. So, I mixed some cocoa powder into the remaining batter for chocolate-banana cupcakes.” (see more of her fun cupcakes on her blog!)

Peanut butter, banana, and marshmallow sound like a match made in fluffernutter heaven. Yum!

Erica the Energetic

Erica Made: Yellow Cupcakes with Lemon Filling and Orange Icing
Comments:Erica is my youngest challenge entrant this time around — she just started 7th grade (in my class)! Aren’t these citrusy cupcakes adorable? Way to go, Erica!

Erica came straight out of my cupcake camp this summer and completed the cupcake challenge! So impressive!

Corisa the Creative

Corisa Made: Tandy Kake Cupcakes
Comments: “I made a ‘Tandy Kake’ cupcake, because Tandy Kake is one of my most loved desserts. I enjoy the combination of peanut butter and chocolate a whole lot! I started with a butter cake and filled it with Ina Garten’s peanut butter frosting. Then I topped it off with a simple chocolate frosting! Thanks so much for this opportunity. I’m so excited to see all the fabulous cupcakes!”

It doesn’t get better than peanut butter and chocolate. I want about 5 of these!

Sophia the Sophisticated

Sophia Made: Butterbeer Cupcakes
Comments: Sophia took two of my cooking classes last year — we had so much fun! She says, “I made the Butterbeer cupcakes. They were awesome! I used some techniques that I learned in your class when I made them, so that was great! They tasted a lot like cream soda and butterscotch (surprise!) I had so much fun! I don’t think I would have been able to make them as well if it hadn’t been for your cooking class…so thanks again.” Aww, what a sweet thing to say. Those kids were naturals in the kitchen, though!

I love butterscotch, and these cute cupcakes make me want to drive my broom straight to Harry Potter world in Florida, licking my fingers all the way.

Diana the Daring

Diana Made: Chocolate-Covered Banana Cupcakes
Comments: “I’m sending you my creation, a Chocolate-Covered Banana Cupcake. I was inspired by our trip to King’s Island (an amusement park in Cincinnati, Ohio) this summer. This was a fun challenge. Thanks for putting it together.”

These are so gorgeous, and I love that they’re a play off such a classic dessert.

Annie the Artistic

Annie Made: Red Velvet Cupcakes with Chocolate Monograms
Comments: “I love reading your blog for inspiration! Here’s a link to my red velvet cupcake with monograms recipe. It was quite a disaster the first two times — the recipe I had didn’t specify to add the vinegar and baking soda together before putting them in the mixture and, as I’m sure you know, red velvet cupcakes are a little tricky! Anyways, it was an overall success and the knitting ladies loved it.” Way to try, try, try again, Annie! (see more on her blog)

The monograms make these red velvet cupcakes unique and special.

Sarah the Sensational

Sarah Made: Champagne Cupcakes with Strawberry Puree Filling and Strawberry Buttercream
Comments: “I modified this Paula Deen recipe because my husband is crazy and doesn’t like peaches. I made a strawberry version.”

I love all things strawberry, and these cupcakes look like heaven. Look at the cute frosting squiggles!

Susan the Sweet

Susan Made: Blackberry Merlot Cupcakes
Comments: “This is my Blackberry Merlot Cupcake!
It’s a dark chocolate cupcake with blackberry preserve filling and a country buttercream made with a fresh blackberry & Merlot reduction. I came up with it when my niece was trying to decide which vice — chocolate, cake, or wine — to partake in. I decided to come up with a way for her to have all three at once!”
(see more on her website)

These sound so decadent and delicious — what a way to “have your cake and eat it too!

Erin the Elegant

Erin Made: Boston Creme Pie Cupcakes
Comments: “I couldn’t help but join in the fun and bake a cupcake! I’m an avid reader of your site and am always inspired to bake after looking at the delicious food you’ve made. Thanks for the opportunity to create something new! I baked a yummy Boston Creme Pie Cupcake with vanilla cake, vanilla cream filling, and dark chocolate ganache topping. To really make the cupcake shine, I added macaroon coconut as a garnish on top of the ganache.” (see more on her blog)

These came out so cute, and I love the addition of coconut! This is the perfect way to eat Boston creme pie — in adorable single portions.

Cathy and Kevin the Courageous

Erin Made: Bananas Foster Cupcakes
Comments: “We made Bananas Foster cupcakes! We used a banana cake recipe, caramel filling, and a cinnamon-madagascar bourbon vanilla bean cream cheese frosting (long enough for you?) topped with vanilla wafer crumbs and butterscotch caramel sauce. These babies were to die for!! (Not for the faint of heart-if you don’t like rich banana-y goodness these are not for you!) Thanks for a great challenge to make us come up with these goodies; we will be making these again.” (see more on their blog)

All I can say is oh my goodness, yum. I need to try these!

As always, I’ve been totally inspired by you — thank you for plunging in and taking the cupcake challenge! If you didn’t get to join in this time around, don’t worry — there are always more WBB challenges coming up to build your kitchen confidence.

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Fauxstess Cupcakes

I recently saw a letter written by an experienced teacher to his first-year-teacher self, and it reminded me of all the times I’ve thought, “I wish I’d known this when I started teaching.” Tomorrow is my last teacher workday before the students come back on Monday. What better time than the beginning of a new school year to write my own letter to my past self? So here it goes.

Dear Julie of 2006 (or as you’re about to be known, Ms. Ruble!),

It’s the night before the first day of school. I know you’re scared. I would tell you to get a good night’s rest, but to be honest, you’re not going to sleep much tonight. It doesn’t matter, though. Well-rested or not, you’re about to meet around 150 students who will change your life forever.

You’ll meet D, who you’ll admire for his sense of humor and his dance moves, and who will ask you all year when you’re going to let his beloved mother do your hair. You’ll meet L, who will stand up in class and scream in your face, but who needs you to forgive her and love her about as much as she needs air. You’ll meet H and P, who you will never reach. You’ll meet M, who seems impervious but who will shed surprising tears when you speak to her in anger. You’ll meet D, whose artwork will take your breath away.

You’ll meet K, and Julie . . . K will break your heart. Nothing you do will rescue that little boy from his situation. What can I say? This is going to be a tough year. But you can make it one of the most important years of your life.

You don’t lack fervor. I’m not going to tell you to be fervent. You are meticulous. I’m not going to tell you to perfect your classroom management systems. You are fretting about how students will learn science. I’m not going to advise you on unit plans. I’ve been teaching for 3.5 years now and I’m not an expert, but I’m going to tell you the things I wish you’d known.

1. Teach your students to learn. There are so many standards and concepts that you’ll literally try to pack a new topic in every day this year. I know you can drag the kids along at that pace — you’re good at making things happen — but maybe you shouldn’t. You’re trying to cram little bits of application into a full day of lecturing, and that’s not really how they’re going to learn. Put the importance of teaching them every tiny fact about your subject matter into perspective.

Instead, present new information and then find resources, projects, labs, and other experiences that allow them to apply the information themselves. Let them take ownership in their learning and enjoy the process. Give them more time to read and problem-solve together. Let them come up with creative ways to study. They don’t need to remember every step of the rock cycle for the rest of their lives, but they do need to know how to gather and process information.

I know it will take too long. I know you’ll end up not being able to cover everything. But if they come out of your class with the ability to be a curious, driven learner, that’s more important than all the Earth science facts you could give them.

2. Be humble and open to new ideas. This is a lesson you’ve learned, but that you need to continue to wholeheartedly embrace. We all tend to grow up feeling like we have a good handle on how the world works. In a way, deep down, we believe we know everything and can do everything. Teachers especially can develop a superiority complex when they run their classroom well and start to have great ideas. Rather than being a vessel that accepts and pours out in equal measure, they become a faucet, spewing a thick, opaque blanket of know-it-all over their colleagues.

Apart from alienating the people who can be your greatest allies, you miss out on so much when you think you know everything. Remind yourself constantly that some of your most exciting moments in the classroom have come from trying someone else’s ideas, even when they were outside of your comfort zone. Remind yourself that others are competent professionals, too — indeed, when you move on to a different school after this year, you will be surrounded by some of the most intelligent, innovative people you’ve ever met. Remind yourself that it’s okay to ask for help.

Finally, teach your students that they don’t know everything, either. Model humility, and place them in situations that challenge their worldview.

3. Be an advocate for yourself so that you can be an advocate for your students. You’ve been lectured endlessly on being flexible, rolling with the punches, and sucking up the pain. Those things are important sometimes. But what no one’s told you yet, and what you really need to know to survive this year (and I’m not just being dramatic), is this: you are a valuable professional, and you do not have to let people take advantage of you.

You’re the sweet, young, impressionable, flexible new teacher and this year, others will try to steamroll you to further their own interests. Even if they have their students’ needs in mind, it is not okay for them to hurt you and your class. If someone tells you you have to do something unreasonable, say no. If someone tells you you have to do something that hurts your class, say no. If the administration says they won’t assist you, don’t stop insisting. This isn’t a crusade or a mission for which you have to allow yourself to be victimized. It’s your job — and it’s important for you and your students that you are treated professionally.

4. Let yourself fail, and teach your students that failing doesn’t make you a failure. You are a perfectionist, but masterfully handling dozens of unpredictable, unique children is kind of like orchestrating a synchronized swimming team . . . made up of cats. Some lessons and classroom management plans are going to flop. Someone is going to steal the popcorn you brought in as a reward for the students. Someone is going to cut every one of your students’ bean plants in half. You are going to be unnecessarily harsh to a student and regret it.

Show your students that it’s okay to make a mistake by owning your mistakes. Show them that it’s okay to apologize by apologizing to them. Show them that it’s okay to be disappointed in yourself while still loving yourself — that you can pick yourself up and move on.

There are kids who make a mistake and add it to a list in their brains called, “Reasons I Don’t Deserve to be Loved.” Show them that there’s nothing they can do to make themselves failures as long as they keep moving forward. Tell them to expect “excellence, not perfection,” as one of my coworkers said in a meeting today, and to forgive themselves when they miss the mark.

5. Most importantly, Julie, love your students. I know you think you understand how crucial this is, but you will lose sight of it. You will immerse yourself in creating classroom structure, creating lessons, developing systems. You will prioritize academic achievement without realizing that having a loving, secure environment is the bedrock on which achievement is built.

Your students may not remember the different kinds of earthquake faults, but they’ll remember that they had a 6th grade teacher who loved them. They’ll remember that even when they misbehaved, there was someone in their lives who would not give up on them. They will be changed by the fact that you listened to their ideas and treated them like valuable human beings. Stop and let yourself interact with them in a personal way that lets them know you care about them.

That’s all for now — no words of wisdom on how to organize your files or balance housework and schoolwork, because you’ll figure all of that out. You’re going to be great. And even when you’re not, you’re going to change lives and be changed. Thank God for a job where you can say that!

Love and #2 pencils,
Ms. Ruble of 2011

Fauxstess Cupcakes

Recipe by: Adapted from Annie’s Eats and Hershey’s
Yields: about 15 cupcakes

These “Fauxstess” Cupcakes are homemade knock-offs of the Hostess Cupcakes that might’ve shown up in your lunch boxes during your childhood. They were adorable additions to my elementary school throwback picnic. The tender chocolate cake is filled with a marshmallowy cream and topped with rich ganache. Apart from being cute, these things are seriously easy to make and seriously delicious!

Cupcake Ingredients:
1 cups sugar
7/8 cup all-purpose flour
3/8 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup boiling water

Filling Ingredients:
9 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
2 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 1/8 cup Marshmallow Fluff
2 tablespoons plus 1 3/4 teaspoon heavy cream

Ganache Ingredients:
3/4 cups heavy cream
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips (I love Ghirardelli’s 60% cacao chips)
5 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

Make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two muffin pans with cupcake liners. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Beat this mixture medium speed for 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (this will make the batter thin). Fill each well about 2/3 full of batter (be careful to not to overfill them — these cupcakes always bake up a little wonky for me, and if you overfill them, they can overflow the pan). Bake 20 to 25 minutes (I check them early and often, starting around the 15 minute mark) or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out with just a few moist crumbs. Cool completely.

Make the filling: Beat the butter, confectioners’ sugar, marshmallow fluff and 2 1/4 tablespoons (I eyeballed this measurement) of the heavy cream together until fluffy. Transfer all but 3/4 cup of this mixture into a pastry bag with a narrow tip. Add the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoon of cream to the remaining 3/4 cup of the mixture and beat until smooth. Cover this and save it for decorating the top of the cupcakes later.

Make the ganache: Place the chocolate in a medium bowl. Bring the cream to a simmer in a medium saucepan (or heat it for a couple of minutes in the microwave, keeping a watch that it doesn’t boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let stand 1-2 minutes. Whisk in small circles until a smooth ganache forms.

Assemble the cupcakes: Insert the tip of the pastry bag full of cream into the bottom of each cupcake and gently squeeze cream out into the cake. It’s hard to tell how much to squeeze and for how long, but I tried to squeeze as much as possible without bursting the cupcake, and to the point where a small bead of the cream poked out of the bottom when I removed the pastry tip (I then scraped off the excess). Dip the top of each cupcake into the ganache (or, if they don’t rise above the cupcake paper, you can gently spoon the ganache on and spread it with the back of a spoon). Grab the reserved filling mixture with the extra cream and use a pastry bag with a small tip (or a plastic zip bag with a small corner cut off) to pipe curls across the top of each cupcake. Refrigerate the cupcakes to set the frosting. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

P.S. Are you thinking up your own filled cupcake for the Willow Bird Baking Cupcake Challenge? Bake your creation and email photos to juruble ‘at’ by Wednesday, September 7, 2011. I’ll feature your cupcake on WBB! Find more details and some cupcake inspiration here.

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