Bourbon French Toast


Living in a small town in the Midwest can be difficult sometimes, especially when you are looking for specialty foods. However being in a college town of about 150,000 you can get lucky sometimes. I found Chinese 5 spice powder on my first try.  Tahini paste was a different story. The first time I ever tried to find it at the regular grocery store was definitely a learning experience. After 30 minutes of wandering the “international aisle” I finally gathered the courage to ask an employee. He looked at me with a bewildered expression and went to go “find the manager” who never showed up. I learned a valuable lesson that day, #1. Always know exactly what it is that you are looking for (I had never seen Tahini paste and had no idea what it looked like). #2. Specialty stores can be your best friend (I found a small business that had an entire isle devoted to tahini). I have wanted to make French toast with Challah bread since I saw a recipe for it about 5 years ago. I went to every “bakery”* in this town and couldn’t find a single loaf until this Saturday at the farmers market. They had just unloaded the beautiful braided loaves and it took all my self control not to buy every one they had (Okay, Nick helped restrain me a little bit).

*I put bakery in quotations because most of the so-called bakeries in this town import their bread as apposed to baking it themselves. Welcome to Champaign, IL.

Long weekends call for something a little more decadent. So I knew this was the perfect time for my French toast to make its big debut. When I want a dessert or baked good to be a little more special I turn my “Baked” cookbooks, written by the owners of the Baked Bakery in Brooklyn. I own both of their cookbooks and am constantly inspired by both the beautiful photographs and the love and passion that permeates each recipe. A quick search through their second book “Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented” and I found a recipe for their version of French toast. I opted to add bourbon (because doesn’t it make everything better?) and it was a big hit. The bread soaked up the custard mixture and the bourbon infused everything with its smoky caramel-vanilla notes. Turns out it was worth the wait.


Bourbon French Toast

Adapted from Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

  • 1 loaf Challah Bread (a day or two old is best)
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 cup half and half
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 generous tablespoon bourbon (optional)

Generously butter the sides and bottom of a 9 x 13 inch glass pan. Slice the loaf into 1-2 inch slices (I will slice mine a little thicker next time) and arrange bread in an overlapping pattern. In a large bowl add eggs, half and half, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and bourbon (if using). Whisk until combined. Pour the mixture over the bread. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight. Preheat the oven to 350. Using your fingers, flip each slice to ensure even coverage. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes (you may need to cover with foil for the last 5 to 10 minutes if they are browning too quickly) or until the bread is golden and the mixture puffs up.




Can I share something with you? I’m a little nervous. This is my first post and it officially marks my foray into the blogging world. I’ve had this blog floating around in my head for a while but I wasn’t sure if I would have anything productive to offer the blogging community (I’m still not sure, if you want me to be completely honest). But food and family are my two biggest passions and I decided that, ready or not I was going to do this because it makes me happy. So. Here we go.

I guess now would be a good time for introductions. I’m a twenty something (26 if you want to get specific) working the typical 8-5 job in the corporate world. When I’m not working, most of my time is split between eating and spending time with my giant family (yes we include our dogs as family). So I thought I would make a little place to document my two loves and have something to refer to when my great-grandchildren want to know what I was doing when I was a twenty something, you know, back in the 2010’s. 🙂

As this is our first time together I don’t want to bore you with too many details, so, let’s talk about food shall we?

This first post is a celebration of sorts, so what better way to celebrate than with cake? Since honesty seems to be the theme of today’s post let me share another secret with you. Up until a few days ago, I despised confetti cake. Man that feels good to get out. But seriously, the box confetti cake (not to be confused with boxed yellow cake, because that is delicious) has never appealed to me. I tried it when I was 7 years old and still remember the dry, artificial, crumbly taste it left it my mouth. I refused to eat it ever again and never looked back. Until I saw this. Have you ever seen a more tempting picture? No? Me neither. I knew I had to make this cake, even though it called for vegetable shortening (something I try to avoid due to the copious amounts of cake I consume).

With the help of my best friend Alexis I made a two-layer cake, took out the almond, and opted for more vanilla. I also used brown sugar buttercream (adapted from Joy the Baker) to increase the sugar content of my cake. Friends, I am in love with this cake. I want to make it every day and eat it for breakfast. I love it so much that I am not going to waste any more of your time with words. Print this recipe out, find some shoes, and run to the store for some shortening.


Celebratory Confetti Cake with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

Slightly adapted from

(makes two 9 inch round cakes)

  • 4 egg whites from large eggs
  • 1 cup milk divided
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 ½ cups white sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft
  • 8 tablespoons non-hydrogenated shortening
  • 1/3 cup multi-colored jimmies (or one full container)

Heat the oven to 350 F. Lightly grease two 9-inch round cake pans. In a small bowl mix the egg whites, ¼ cup milk, and vanilla extract. Set aside.

Sift the cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Mix for 30 seconds or until well combined. Add the butter and shortening and mix for another 30 seconds- 1 minute. Pour the remaining ¾ cup milk and continue mixing on medium speed for about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Gradually pour in the egg white mixture, mixing for 30 seconds after each addition. Mix for one more minute. Gently fold in the jimmies.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans, bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove from oven and place the pans on a baking rack to cool. Then turn the pans onto a cooling rack. Let cool completely before icing.


Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from Joy the Baker

1 ½ cups unsalted butter, softened

8 oz cream cheese, softened

½ cup light brown sugar, packed

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2-3 tablespoons heavy cream

2-3 cups powdered sugar depending on desired consistency

Cream the butter and cream cheese together in an electric mixer (be sure that the two are at room temperature to keep your frosting from getting lumpy). Add the brown sugar and vanilla and beat for about 2 minutes. Turn the mixer to low speed and add the powdered sugar one cup at a time.  Alternate with the heavy cream until you reach your desired consistency.