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I'm Kendra, and I'm here to help you be a genius about the things that matter and lazy about the things that don't. Welcome to your people.

A Baking Miniseries, Day Eight: My Favorite Dessert Cookbooks

A Baking Miniseries, Day Eight: My Favorite Dessert Cookbooks

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The Internet is great, but nothing beats a stack of beloved cookbooks, especially ones pretty enough to leave on your coffee table. Unfortunately, the bookstore aisles are saturated with options, so to save you time, here are my dessert essentials. (And if you decide to add to your collection, buying through these links is such a kind way for you to support The Lazy Genius Collective and keep it on your screen. My sincerest thanks.)

Category: Ice Cream
Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home

I've had this book for over four years, and it's absolute magic. I've never made so many recipes from one book before. It won a James Beard Award for Best Baking and Dessert Book in 2011, and no award was more deserved. 

These recipes are FANTASTIC. And the best part? THEY DON'T USE EGGS OHMYWORD WHAT IS HAPPENING??? Homemade ice cream was always daunting and borderline annoying because you need to babysit a million egg yolks. No thanks. But Jeni has done the science for you and figured out that cream cheese and cornstarch, handled far less gingerly by the way, can accomplish not just the same thing but better. Ice cream has been my soul since I was eight years old, and these recipes are the best of the best. No question. If you add one book to your collection, make it this one. 

My favorite recipes:
Roasted Strawberry and Buttermilk Ice Cream
Baked Rhubarb Frozen Yogurt
Goat Cheese Ice Cream with Roasted Red Cherries
The Darkest Chocolate Ice Cream in the World (holy mother, y'all)
Honeyed Peanut Ice Cream with Dark Chocolate Freckles
Black Coffee Ice Cream (my favorite ice cream of all time)

Category: Cake
Layered

This book is BEAUTIFUL. It's a hard cover but not what you're used to, more like a children's board book on the outside which makes it fun. It's so unique and lovely, and I find myself flipping through it like a magazine when I want to feel better. 

Every recipe has multiple photos (not common in most baking books), and the chapter divisions are so perfectly accessible: Classic, Chocolate, Casual, Whimsical, Adventurous, and Holiday. Plus there are fantastic instructions on how to actually build and decorate a cake. AND if all of that weren't enough (I sound like I'm selling a Shamwow), she has a chart in the back of the book with suggestions of how to mix and match various cakes, fillings, and frostings. It is SO GOOD.

My favorite recipes:
Boston Cream Pie
Mocha Spice Cake
Chocolate Coconut Cake
Blueberry Pancake Cake

This is the Blood Orange Thyme Cake. I mean seriously? I can't deal.

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Category: Pie
First Prize Pies

Some cookbooks have wackadoodle combinations just for the sake of being weird, but not First Prize Pies. Yes, some of the ideas are weird (I mean, I made a watermelon pie), but somehow they're all just bizarre enough to be fun. There are definitely some classic styles in here, too, so don't be afraid that you'll only be making Carrot Ginger Cream Pie (which is in there by the way). Full of beautiful photos, detailed pie-making instructions, and over a dozen crust options, you'll turn to this one again and again.

My favorite recipes:
Chocolate Lavender Teatime Pie
Toasted Coconut Cream Pie
Nutella Pie
Banana Split Ice Cream Pie
Butterscotch Cream Pie
West Virginia Skillet Pie (essentially an apple pie cooked in a cast iron skillet... yes, please)

Category: Baking With Kids
Joy the Baker Cookbook

Joy's first cookbook is not intended to be a kids' cookbook by any means. I mean, there's a recipe for "Single Lady Pancakes" in there. But the fact that it's pink, it's paperback (more kid-friendly somehow), and filled with simple recipes with the tiniest of twists, it's so fun to cook from when kids are around. My boys love everything that I've made from the book, and I've baked a couple of things with my teenage nieces. Joy presents the recipes in such a warm way that makes you feel like she's in the kitchen with you. If you have a budding baker on your hands, this one is a no-brainer. 

My favorite recipes (and this isn't my complete list):
Oatmeal Raspberry Ginger Scones
Brown Butter Blueberry Muffins
Vegan Pumpkin Pecan Bread (I use my own blend of GF flour in this one, and it's one of the best vegan/GF recipes I've ever tried.)
Kale Spinach Banana Peanut Butter Smoothie
Oatmeal Cookie Pancakes
Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
"Man Bait" Apple Crisp (the best non-pie apple dessert in all the land)
Dark Chocolate and Anise Biscotti (one of my favorite all-time recipes)
Peach Cobbler Muffins (an Adachi kid favorite)

And in case you're wondering, you can't go wrong with any of her books. I have Homemade Decadence which is an embarrassment of over-the-top sugar riches, and her newest cookbook set to release in March is called Over Easy: Sweet and Savory Recipes for Leisurely Days. I didn't think I'd buy it because I'm not really a brunch person, but if we can rename brunch as "leisurely day food," I'm so in.

Category: Homestyle Goodness
Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook

I. Love. This. Book. It's warmly written, full of photos of drool-inducing vintage bakeware, and designed with decidedly retro fonts. It's full of recipes your grandma might make - classic, not super fancy, and delicious. Nothing I've made from this book has been a bust, and every cookbook always has a few. It's an anomaly of classic greatness, and you'll want to make everything. (I almost have.)

My favorite recipes:
Cinnamon Sugar Donut Muffins
Buttermilk Cornmeal Pancakes
Brown Sugar Banana Bread
Blueberry Buckle
Sweet Potato Cupcakes
Strawberry Cupcakes
Ginger Cake Squares
Chocolate Pudding
Lavender Shortbread

Category: Overall
Flour

It's nice to have a book you can turn to for almost any requested recipe. Cinnamon rolls? Check. Chocolate eclairs? Sure! Do you have a good recipe for lemon bars? Absolutely. 

Flour is virtually an encyclopedia of just about any dessert you're looking for. The offspring of a Boston bakery of the same name, this cookbook shares recipes from a majority of the treats the bakery sells, and bakeries generally sell everything classic under the sun. Joanna, the baker, is super smart and offers tons of reasons why certain processes happen the way they do. This book has made me a better baker without question simply from an intellectual standpoint. It's a tractor, not a sports car, but you'll be so glad you have it around. 

My favorite recipes:
Oatmeal Maple Scones
Raspberry Rhubarb Muffins
Apple Snacking Spice Cake
Sticky Sticky Buns (These are famous.)
Double Chocolate Cookies
Chunky Lola Cookies
White Coconut Cake with Coconut Frosting
Bittersweet Chocolate Truffle Tart (100% changed my life.)

So there you go... my favorites. I have more that I love and more being published every day (I need a completely separate budgetary line item for cookbooks), but these leave the shelf far more often than the others. I hope you find something you love.

Which of these were on your radar already? Any you already own? What's on your list of essential dessert cookbooks?

I hope you had fun during this little baking miniseries. And don't forget that tomorrow we find out which Colin you voted as your favorite (my money is on Firth), and you get to vote for our next name contender - Will. There are some surprisingly compelling choices. See you then, guys!

Previous posts in baking miniseries:
Day One - Sifting Flour
Day Two - Softening Butter in the Microwave
Day Three - A Freezer Primer
Day Four - Ingredient Speed Dating
Day Five - Essential Chocolate Cake
Day Six - Blank Canvas Cake
Day Seven - Essential Breakfast Recipes

Who's Our Favorite Will?

Who's Our Favorite Will?

A Baking Miniseries, Day Seven: Essential Breakfast Recipes

A Baking Miniseries, Day Seven: Essential Breakfast Recipes