Spiked Biscoff Cookie Icebox Cake (only 5 ingredients!)

Spiked Biscoff Cookie Icebox Cake

Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking
Yield: would easily feed 10 people

Icebox cakes are amazing, and spiked icebox cakes are amazinger. With 5 ingredients and 15 minutes of prep, you have a gorgeous, delicious dessert!

4 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup goldschlager (or cinnamon liquor or liquor of your choice)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 packages Lotus Biscoff cookies
caramel sauce for topping (optional; I used store-bought but this is a great from-scratch recipe)

Combine cold cream, goldschlager, and powdered sugar in a chilled mixing bowl and beat to stiff peaks. Taste it to be sure the alcohol/sweetness ratio works for your tastebuds. In a trifle dish, place a layer of Biscoff cookies along the bottom, breaking them to fit as needed. Dollop whipped cream on top and spread it over the cookies to form about 1/4 inch layer of cream. Continue layering cookies and cream until you’re out of cookies, finishing with a layer of cream. Cover the dish and let it chill overnight so the cookies are softened. Heat the caramel sauce and then let it cool a bit so it won’t melt the cream. Drizzle it over top of the trifle and serve.

Flan Tres Leches Cake

Flan Tres Leches Cake

Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking, inspired by and/or adapted from Bake Love Give and All Recipes
Yield: 10-12 servings

If you love flan and/or tres leches cake, you’re in for a treat. This cake has an incredible flavor and an even more fantastic texture. It’s also surprisingly easy to whip up. It’s perfect for Cinco de Mayo, but I hope you’ll make it all year long.

Flan Ingredients:
1 (13.4-ounce) can can dulce de leche (or make your own)
3 eggs
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cake Ingredients:
3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup white sugar
2 1/2 eggs (To get 1/2 egg, break one egg into a bowl and lightly beat it; discard half)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Tres Leches Ingredients:
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
2 cups heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and spray a 10-inch bundt cake pan really well with cooking spray. Pour the dulce de leche evenly over the bottom of the pan and set aside.

Make the flan batter: In a large bowl, mix together the 3 eggs, 1 can sweetened condensed milk, 1 can evaporated milk, and vanilla extract until well combined. Pour this mixture evenly over the dulce de leche layer.

Make the cake batter: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl (if you used a spatula to scrape all your flan batter out of its bowl, just use that one again), cream together the butter and sugar until pale yellow and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes). Add in the 2 1/2 eggs and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract and mix well. Add the dry ingredients slowly, mixing after each addition. Pour batter over the flan layer in the bundt cake pan (it’ll sink in a bit — no worries). Bake for 40-45 minutes or until tester inserted into just the cake comes out with just a few moist crumbs. Pierce the cake several times with a skewer or fork. Let the cake cool.

Drench the cake: Whisk together 1/2 cup whole milk, 1/4 can condensed milk, and 1/4 can evaporated milk. Pour this mixture over the top of the cooled cake. Cover and chill the cake overnight (or at least a couple of hours, I’d say — you want the mixture all to sink into the cake) before loosening with a thin knife or spatula all around the sides. Carefully invert onto a serving plate (caramel and milks will ooze — it’s a saucy dish — so one that has a shallow lip or even a slightly bowl-like platter is ideal). Whip up the heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract to stiff peaks and dollop or pipe it all around the cake. Serve chilled with strawberries.

Brown Butter Pumpkin Cake Cheesecake with Salted Caramel

Um, this is a humble-looking cake.

That’s a polite way of saying, “Look, I know this cake is ugly.” It’s brown cake on a brown cheesecake with some brown caramel drizzled on top. It has holes where I poked it with a toothpick. It’s kinda crooked. Whatever. That’s okay.

I’ve been thinking about ugliness and prettiness a lot lately. I teach 7th graders, and the issue comes up often with them. Sometimes they explicitly address it, but more often, I see girls meticulously adjusting their hair in a window, rolling their shorts up a little shorter than their parents would allow, reapplying perfume and lip gloss in the hallway, making passing comments about the importance of mascara to their friends, and joining in a group gripe session about what shoes they can and cannot wear at school. The pull to be pretty is incredibly strong.

These are not those teenage girls you see in movies, either — those vain, flighty girls who have never seen the inside of a novel. They aren’t stereotypes. These girls are brilliant, fun, athletic, witty, strong, independent. They’re all those great things — and they still feel the pressure. Does my body look like everyone else’s? Do my clothes seem stylish? Do I need to wear makeup? Does my outfit look all right? Even as they’re boldly marching to their own drum, they’re hearing the one that TV shows, movies, magazines, and the millions of sexualized images contained therein beat for them every day. The one that says: “You don’t look quite right. You should buy something to fix the problem.”

(Before we go on, I should warn you that the rest of this post could be triggering to those with eating disorders.)

I’ve never been a man, so I can’t speak for them. But as a woman, I can tell you that there’s a naked, humiliated discomfort that creeps up through your chest sometimes when you look around a room. It’s cold and withering. Suddenly you want to wiggle your pants a little lower, adjust your shirt, slick your tongue across your dry lips, smooth any frizzies in your hair, suck in your tummy, push your shoulders back.

As we get older, we practice resisting the serpentine siren song of self-hatred. We engage in positive self-talk. We tell ourselves that strong is the new skinny. We decide to think of food as fuel, not an emotional tool. We support body-positive advertising campaigns. We stop counting calories or weighing ourselves if those things present a problem. We try to resist fashion trends that perpetuate the cycle of objectification (even though “everyone’s wearing them!” — sigh). We do this for ourselves and for our daughters, hoping that they grow up with a mindset of self-love and a measure of comfort with their own bodies.

But it’s still hard. And from what I remember and what I hear, it can be even harder for adolescents.

I won’t harp on this next point. It’s not some dramatic reveal; it’s my life. It’s a fact about me, just like it’s a fact that I love my dog and would drive miles out of my way for a fountain Coke Zero. It just happens to be a fact I don’t particularly relish discussing. I’ve thought about telling you for months — every time someone asks, “How do you stay fit eating all that cake?” — and now I’m just going to, because there’s no shame in saying what I’m about to say: I’ve struggled with disordered eating since high school. My mindset about food and my body has never been healthy — and there’s a gap between my self-image and my physical reality that causes a lot of emotional distress for me. Lady Gaga just acknowledged this same thing to destroy the shame and stigma attached to the issue, and to blow the issue wide open.

I’ve obviously known about my own issues for years (and addressed it in appropriate ways), but hearing the occasional student discussing calorie counts, hearing about people who have been targeted because of their weight, hearing a student say the really scary F-word, and seeing the body-anxiety people are admitting to on Lady Gaga’s website makes me realize: it’s time to get angry (this article contains some offensive language).

I’m angry that anyone decided they could turn my physical appearance into an emotional game to earn more money. I’m angry that they create illusions to manipulate us (slathering heavy makeup onto rail-thin girls; pouring them into tiny clothing; sexualizing them and emphasizing their body parts as objects for consumption; contorting them into the shapes of inanimate objects; photographing them; airbrushing them into oblivion; and slapping their photos across roadways, shopping malls, televisions, movie screens, magazines, and the internet). I’m angry that they target us — they target older women (aren’t you tired of those wrinkles?), they target fat women (don’t you want to smooth out your body shape?), they target thin women (don’t you want a push-up bra?), they target young women (here are the newest, skinniest skinny jeans), they target moms (when will you get back to your pre-pregnancy jeans?). I’m angry that while we’re telling our 12- and 13-year-old girls how fantastic and smart and capable they are, they’re hearing from dozens of other sources that they’re not good enough.

But anger can be productive. Angry girls can stop buying products made by companies who try to hurt them. They can say, “My body was not created to for the sole purpose of looking sexy for others,” and wear the clothes that make them happy and comfortable. They can decide to focus on the food that fuels them well and the exercise that energizes them, not the number on the scale. They can politely refute peers who try to convince them they should be worrying about clothes, makeup, and being attractive. They can enjoy fashion choices as tools for expression and not for marketing themselves. When they’re angry, they have the strength of their indignation supporting them when they say, “This has gotta stop. This will stop with me!”

(P.S. Here’s a pretty awesome example of a girl who said just that (strong language).)

* * *

It’s kind of problematic to talk about health, weight, and body image on a blog where I post decadent desserts every week, so I wanted to take a moment to tell you what I think about eating. Not those disordered thoughts that sometimes hold me back, but the wholesome thoughts I trust. My ideal — one that I am spotty about conforming to for lots of reasons — is that you should eat, mostly, to fuel your body with healthy, humanely-produced food. Eating should be about positive provision for yourself, not about negative restrictions. Sweets, however — especially particularly decadent ones like this cake — should be an every-now-and-then treat, one that you refuse to deny yourself, but also one that you don’t let enslave you.

When you’re looking for one of those every-now-and-then treats, this cake is the perfect choice. What it lacks in, ahem, visual appeal, it makes up for tenfold in taste. The brown butter pumpkin cake layer is nutty, spiced, and delicious atop the smooth, sweet pumpkin cheesecake. A gorgeous salted caramel sauce is poured on each slice just before serving.

What is your food philosophy? How do you boost your own self-confidence in the face of all the industries trying to tear it down for profit?

One year ago: Pumpkin Cheesecake Stuffed Snickerdoodles
Two years ago: Blueberry Stuffed French Toast Bowls
Three years ago: Best Ever Cream Cheese Pound Cake with Easy Caramel Frosting and Spiced Apples

Brown Butter Pumpkin Cake Cheesecake with Salted Caramel

Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking, with a pumpkin cake layer adapted from Fine Cooking, salted caramel from Martha Stewart, and a cheesecake adapted from Betty Crocker
Yield: 10-12 servings

Pumpkin cheesecake alone is delicious, and even moreso if it’s settled into a gingersnap crust. But top that cheesecake with a layer of brown butter pumpkin cheesecake (and then drizzle on some salted caramel for good measure) and you have yourself a downright masterpiece. This cake would be perfect for Thanksgiving!

Browned Butter Pumpkin Cake Ingredients:
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
3/8 cup (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch table salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons buttermilk

Pumpkin Cheesecake Ingredients:
3 cups gingersnap cookie crumbs (this was about 45 cookies for me)
1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons butter
pinch of table salt
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons brandy, if desired
1 1/3 cup pumpkin puree
3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs

Salted Caramel Sauce Ingredients:
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 (2 tablespoons) cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/8 cup (2 tablespoons) creme fraiche or sour cream
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of coarse salt

To make browned butter pumpkin cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease one 9-inch cake pans very thoroughly Cut a parchment round to fit in the bottom and then grease that too. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and cook it, swirling occasionally, until it’s golden brown with a nutty aroma, around 4 minutes. Remove it from heat and pour it into a bowl to cool for about 15 minutes.

Whisk or sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and cloves in a small bowl. In a separate, large bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup of pumpkin puree, granulated sugar, brown sugar, egg, and buttermilk until well combined. Use a spatula to stir in the dry ingredients until just combined, and then whisk in the browned butter. Pour batter evenly into prepared cake pans.

Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs, around 28 minutes. Turn the oven down to 325 degrees F to prepare it for the cheesecake. Let cake cool in their pan until mostly cool before turning it out onto wax paper to wrap and freeze. Freeze at least 30 minutes or until firm.

Make the cheesecake crust: Place the gingersnap cookie crumbs and salt in a small bowl. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and cook it, swirling occasionally, until it’s golden brown with a nutty aroma, around 4 minutes. Remove it from heat and pour it over the cookie crumbs. Toss with a fork to moisten all of the crumbs. Press into a thin layer covering the bottom and sides of the springform pan (at least 3 inches up the sides). It’s hard to get the crust up that high, but keep pressing the crumbs up from the bottom with a smooth-sided glass (twisting the glass as you do so, so the crumbs don’t stick) and working them around — you’ll want it that high to hold the cake layer. Patience helps with this step. Bake the crust for about 8 minutes.

Make the cheesecake: In a small bowl, mix the flour, pumpkin pie spice, brandy, and pumpkin and set this aside. In the bowl of a mixer, mix cream cheese, brown sugar, and regular sugar until well blended and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing between each, and continue mixing until combined. Add the pumpkin mixture and continue mixing until combined. Pour mixture into prepared crust and smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 25 minutes or until center of cake is almost set. The top may crack, but it doesn’t particularly matter, since you’ll be covering it anyway. When it’s ready, turn the oven off and leave the door open at least 4 inches. Let the cheesecake sit in the oven for 30 minutes. Place the cheesecake on a wire rack to fully cool. When almost cool, place it in refrigerator to chill.

Make caramel sauce: Prepare an ice-water bath. Heat sugar and water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until mixture boils and sugar dissolves, washing down sides of pan often with a wet pastry brush to prevent crystals from forming. Reduce heat to medium, and cook until sugar turns dark amber (about 345 degrees on a candy thermometer), 5 to 7 minutes more. Immediately remove from heat, and carefully whisk in 1/2 cup cream. Return to medium heat, and cook until sugar melts completely and mixture boils.

Remove from heat, and pour into a bowl set in ice-water bath. Let caramel cool, stirring often, for 10 minutes. Stir in creme fraiche, vanilla, and salt. Cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to use it.

Assemble the cake: Smear a layer of caramel sauce on top of the cheesecake and carefully place your pumpkin cake layer on top. Pour the rest of the salted caramel on top of the cake layer. Chill for at least 3 hours before serving. Top with toasted pecans.

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Gooey Chocolate Skillet Cake Ice Cream Sundae

Gooey Chocolate Skillet Cake Ice Cream Sundae

Gooey Chocolate Skillet Cake Ice Cream Sundae

The only time I’ve lived away from my hometown was during my sophomore year in college when I moved to Beaufort, a small town on the coast of North Carolina. I lived there for a few months before traveling for a month down the Eastern seaboard to study marine zoogeography. That semester changed my life, and I’ve continued to process the memories over the years. Periodically I’ll share stories here on Willow Bird Baking from that time.

In a week’s time we would be sitting in the hot black night, lit by a strand of round bulbs on a bustling restaurant patio in Key West. Having not glanced in a mirror even once for days, I would be unaware of my white blonde hair, my dark sienna face. I would be blissfully aware, though, of the cool soda bathing my tongue in the heat. My first taste of sweet potato fries. The rolling beat of the reggae pouring from a club somewhere down the street.

That was in a week’s time. Right now, though, all I could see was the long 8 miles we were about to paddle to Camp Lulu Key in the Everglades.

Gooey Chocolate Skillet Cake Ice Cream Sundae

I climbed in the canoe quickly, trying to look like I had an ounce of a clue. Blair, not fooled for a moment, showed me how to move my oar and tugged at my lifejacket buckles to test their security. The rest of the group lumbered into our 8-seat canoe and we were off.

My eyes constantly skimmed the surface of the water, waiting to catch sight of the crocodile I felt sure must be following our canoe Tick-Tock style. The occasional tour boat would throw up a wake and I’d brace for the impact of the waves, frantically hoping not to end up in the mouth of said crocodile.

Gooey Chocolate Skillet Cake Ice Cream Sundae

Finally we arrived on the island — not that it was much of a relief. This was our Thanksgiving Break, but turkey was nowhere in sight. Instead, we were spending four days on this obscure island in the Everglades with no electricity, no running water, and some very skinny, solicitous raccoons. The boys were ecstatic. I was less enthused.

There wasn’t a comfortable spot on the entire island. The sun was oppressive, so we tried to retreat to the woods only to find ourselves covered in noseeums, or biting gnats. We tried to hide in our tents only to find they’d turned into ovens in the sunlight. Finally, we settled into the only tolerable routine we could find: spending a half hour or so in the Gulf until we were pruny, followed by a half hour or so in the sun until we were baked. We repeated this cycle incessantly for four days until we’d been bleached out like cow skulls in a Clint Eastwood movie.

Gooey Chocolate Skillet Cake Ice Cream Sundae

There were also the raccoons. The pitiful little things were hungry and thirsty, but we weren’t allowed to disrupt the ecosystem of the island by feeding them. We’d wake up each morning to the whispers of little raccoon tongues across the outside of our tents: they were licking the condensation up as fast as they could. More than once I considered “dropping” a quesadilla or two into the bushes, ecosystem be darned.

Then there were the bathrooms, or lack thereof. I’m not generally shy, but when it comes to announcing to a group of my peers that I have to pee, so would they please avoid this certain shrubbery, thanks very much . . . well, it was a bit much for me.

Gooey Chocolate Skillet Cake Ice Cream SundaeGooey Chocolate Skillet Cake Ice Cream Sundae
Step 1: Eat some cake.

Every mealtime we battled the insects for our meal. Dinner was eaten in darkness, so there’s no telling how many gnats were ingested with our food. I just tried to shovel in each bite without thinking about the added “protein.” Even the dishes disgusted me, though, since we washed them ourselves with few supplies. Every bowl and fork I ate from felt gritty and germy to my overanxious imagination.

Finally, there was no naturally occurring fresh water and there certainly weren’t any faucets. We brushed our teeth with water bottles, washed dishes with water bottles, drank water from our water bottles. My OCD was on overdrive as I tried to ensure no sand or bugs got into my precious water. One night, consumed with frustration after trying to brush my teeth, I threw my water bottle down into the swash of waves on the shore. I was feeling very sorry for myself and cried a little under the cover of complete darkness. Darkness so complete, actually, that once I managed to look up, I realized that I’d never seen so many stars.

Gooey Chocolate Skillet Cake Ice Cream Sundae
Step 2: Stick some ice cream in that cake.

I called out and my friends joined me. Craning our necks, we saw what the sky was like with no light pollution whatsoever. It was awesome. Not like the pie you ate last night was awesome or like your new skirt is awesome. It was truly AWE-some.

A satellite sliced through the air hundreds of miles above us. After a night of joking, complaining, and storytelling, we were all suddenly silent.

Gooey Chocolate Skillet Cake Ice Cream Sundae
Step 3: Put some caramel on that cake.

Now I think back on Camp Lulu Key as one of my favorite memories. The stars are part of it, certainly (I still stand and stare up at them every night when I take Byrd out, hoping to catch a glimpse of the quieter ones in the breaches).

But maybe even more than that, the memory of discomfort is something I treasure. The inconveniences were small, but they were significant obstacles for me then. They forced me to grow, to settle, and to flex; they started building patience in me that God is still working on today.

Gooey Chocolate Skillet Cake Ice Cream Sundae
Step 4: Eat more cake.

When I compare my current self to my Camp Lulu Key self, I’m pleased to say that I’ve grown and mellowed since then. I can deal with a little dirt and grit. And as for keeping my dishes pristine, well, sometimes it’s nicer to forgo dishes altogether.

After my lovely experience eating Pumpkin Skillet Cake with Mike straight out of my cast iron skillet, I wanted a repeat performance. My birthday this past weekend was the perfect chance to indulge in a warm, gooey skillet cake sundae — chocolate this time, and with heaps of vanilla bean ice cream and a drizzle of hot caramel sauce.

I received many thoughtful birthday gifts (including a hand-baked cake from two of my students — how sweet is that?), but one of my favorite gifts was scooping forkfuls of cake out of a skillet with Mike, pausing only to take pictures of our escapades or for a giant gulp of milk.

Gooey Chocolate Skillet Cake Ice Cream Sundae
Step 5: Make a gratuitous animated gif to illustrate deliciousness of cake.

Have you had an experience that changed you for the better?

One Year Ago: Banana Coconut Cream Cupcakes
Two Years Ago: Coffee Cookie Dough Fudge Cheesecake

5 from 1 reviews
Gooey Chocolate Skillet Cake Ice Cream Sundae
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This Gooey Chocolate Skillet Cake Ice Cream Sundae was my birthday cake and I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed it! It’s chocolatey and indulgent without being too rich. Eating the hot frosted cake with vanilla bean ice cream and caramel sauce straight out of the skillet has to be one of the most rewarding sensory experiences in the world. And it’s so easy! It’s really a must-make.
Serves: 6-8
Cake Ingredients:
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup sugar
  • dash salt
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Frosting Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa
  • 3-4 tablespoons milk (as needed for consistency)
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • ice cream (for serving)
  • caramel sauce (for serving; this one is delicious!)
  • whipped cream (for serving)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, sugar, and salt together and set aside.
  2. In a 10-inch cast iron skillet, bring the butter, vegetable oil, cocoa powder, and water to a boil. Remove it from the heat and whisk in the dry ingredients well. Mix in the buttermilk, egg, and vanilla. Bake the skillet cake at 350 degrees F for about 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with just a few moist crumbs.
  3. While the cake starts to cool, make the frosting. In a medium saucepan, bring the butter, cocoa, and milk to a boil. Remove them from heat and add the icing sugar, nuts, and vanilla. Stir to combine. Pour over the warm cake, spread with a spatula, and serve with vanilla bean ice cream, caramel sauce, and whipped cream.


Caramelized Banana Upside-Down Coconut Cake & Coconut Whipped Cream

I don’t remember the first spice I ever purchased with my own money, but I’m betting it was a packet of McCormick® chili seasoning. And I’m betting it was during my senior year of college. I lived in a cozy apartment above my professor’s garage. It was furnished with a blue couch from Goodwill that was missing its back legs, a twin bed, a sturdy desk, a dresser, and a couple of plants I was doing my best to keep alive.

There wasn’t a kitchen, but there was a fridge downstairs in the garage and a microwave in my room. Mike assembled an electric skillet for me (he likes to say, “remember that skillet I built you?”) as well. My makeshift “kitchen” wasn’t much, but since I’d left the comfort (and cost) of a meal plan behind the previous year, it would have to do.

Many of my meals were hot dogs and quesadillas, usually devoured with lots of salsa while watching The Cosby Show, or People’s Court. But I did call my mom and ask her to send over her chili recipe — the one we ate with peanut butter maple syrup sandwiches when I was little.

Heading to the grocery store to buy the chili ingredients was the beginning of a new adventure for me. In those days, the aisles and ingredients were unfamiliar, and I ambled to and fro searching for each item. Each line of the recipe flooded my head with new questions: Where are the canned tomatoes? Do I buy dry beans or canned? Where is the spice aisle? How lean do I want my ground beef? Wait, do I own a spoon?

I do remember my mom specifying that she used McCormick’s chili seasoning though. And I remember sprinkling the packet on my ground beef just as she’d instructed. And finally, I remember the utter satisfaction of sitting down with a bowl full of cheesy, sour creamy, spicy chili (and watching A Different World, no doubt) that I’d made myself.

McCormick is definitely a part of my earliest cooking memories, and it claims a huge chunk of my spice rack (or really, spice shoe organizer) today. Far from being stuck in the past, though, the company released the McCormick Flavor Forecast 2012 on Tuesday.

This report, compiled by chefs, sensory scientists, trend trackers, marketing experts, and food technologists, highlights up-and-coming flavor trends around the world. It’s used both to guide the company’s product development as well as to inspire home cooks with new flavor combinations.

While McCormick has been producing a Flavor Forecast since 2000, this year’s report is the first to be global in scope. It’s organized into six trends: Honoring Roots, Quest for the Ultimate, Veggies in Vogue, Simplicity Shines, Flavorful Swaps, and No Boundaries. Each trend includes two innovative spice and ingredient combinations to spark your culinary creativity.

One of the flavor combinations that sounded particularly tempting to me was ginger and coconut. I decided to use this simple pair to create an indulgent Caramelized Banana Upside-Down Coconut Cake. Upside-down cakes are both simple to create and delicious. You’ll love this comforting, nostalgic dessert even more with a few modern twists: the bold zing of ginger in the caramelized banana topping, a moist coconut cake in the place of a regular yellow cake, and a big dollop of coconut whipped cream on top. I added a generous sprinkle of toasted coconut for extra texture and flavor. In short, it was insane. I can’t wait for you to taste this thing!

In the meantime, I’d love for you to join in the conversation: which of McCormick’s flavor combinations could you see yourself using? What are some ideas for recipes you want to create? Get inspired!

Caramelized Banana Upside-Down Coconut Cake With Coconut Whipped Cream

Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking, with coconut whipped cream adapted from Nutty Kitchen
Yield: 10 pieces

This thing is downright celestial. Upside-down cakes are easy to create, but come out so beautiful and delicious. This one uses a sweet, tender coconut cake in the place of a yellow cake, and adds the bold zing of ginger to the caramelized banana topping. Enjoy it with a cloud of cool coconut whipped cream (one of my new favorite things!) and some crunchy toasted coconut.

Topping Ingredients:
3/4 stick unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
4 large just-ripe bananas, cut on a diagonal into 1/2-inch slices (you might want to have an extra banana or two on hand just in case your bananas are skinnier or something weird)
1 teaspoon McCormick ginger
1 teaspoon finely chopped McCormick crystallized ginger
pinch salt

Cake Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup Thai Kitchen coconut milk
1 teaspoon McCormick vanilla
1 egg

Coconut Whipped Cream Ingredients:
2 cans Thai Kitchen coconut milk (refrigerated overnight)
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon McCormick vanilla
flaked coconut for toasting and topping

NOTE: This recipe is designed for a 10-inch cast iron skillet, but it can also be made in a 10-inch cake pan or a 12-inch cast iron skillet. To make it in a cake pan, prepare the topping in a separate saucepan first, add it to your cake pan, and then continue with the recipe as usual. If you make it in a 12-inch skillet, it’ll produce a thinner cake, may require an extra banana or two, and may take about 5 minutes less to bake. Because cast iron can vary, no matter what size you use, be sure to check the cake’s doneness early and often, starting around 20 minutes, with a toothpick inserted into various spots.

Toast coconut flakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread flakes out on baking sheet. Bake for a few minutes, stirring every minute or so, until the coconut is lightly browned (watch it like a hawk). Transfer to a plate to let cool.

Make cake: In a 10-inch skillet (see note above about using different pan sizes), melt the butter over medium-high heat. Stir in the brown sugar, ground ginger, crystallized ginger, and salt and simmer for 4 minutes (or until the mixture is bubbly and caramelized), whisking constantly. Be careful — hot sugar is no joke! After 4 minutes, remove the mixture from heat and add the bananas as close together as possible, fitting as many in as you can.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the oil and coconut milk and whisk like a crazy person for 1 minute. Add the egg and vanilla and whisk it in well. Pour the batter over the banana mixture, evening it out with a spatula.

Bake 25-30 minutes or until it’s lightly brown on top and a toothpick inserted in various parts of the cake comes out with just a few moist crumbs. Let cool in the pan for exactly 5 minutes (any more and it will harden in the pan, and less and it might fall apart) before running a knife around the edge of it and carefully (use oven mitts! hold both sides of the skillet, holding the plate on with the heels of your hands! enlist a spotter! did I mention that hot sugar is no joke?) invert it onto a large serving platter.

Make coconut whipped cream: Using a spoon, remove the cold coconut solids from each can of coconut milk (save the coconut water for other uses). Place it in a chilled bowl with vanilla and powdered sugar. Whisk like the dickens with a chilled beater until it has a whipped cream-like consistency (this probably took over 10 minutes with my electric mixer, but it’s worth it). Serve cake warm with a big dollop of cold coconut whipped cream and a sprinkle of toasted coconut.

You don’t see many product reviews on Willow Bird Baking, because I’m choosy with how I share this space. My choosiness reflects my own ideals for Willow Bird in addition to my respect for the community we have here. When I get the opportunity to work with a company I genuinely love and use in my own kitchen, though, I’m always thrilled to share. McCormick is just such a company, and I’m excited to share their forecast of upcoming flavor trends.

Disclosure: McCormick sent me a Flavor Forecast Immersion Kit of ingredients, and compensated me for other ingredients and for my time and creative energy. I value my readers such that all opinions expressed on Willow Bird are always my own.

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