In the circles I belong to, I am known as a baker. I bake frequently and somewhat well. I even worked as a baker for a summer. If you invite me to a party or I am expected to give you a gift, there is a not insignificant chance you will receive a baked good. Unfortunately, at the moment, while I currently live off campus and thus have an oven, my oven is shit and my house is very dry. This means all of my baked goods come out either subpar or harden overnight. This reality, wherein I am forced to be a worse-than-usual baker, fills me with rage. To temporarily subside this rage—at the cookies currently sitting in my kitchen that, when made at my parents’ house were delectable and when made here are barely edible—I will share with the general public my staple recipes that have served me well for years.
To begin, these are three baked goods that were likely made by my mother before I was even born, which continue to impress friends and party-goers alike all these years later.
Chocolate quakes, sometimes referred to as crinkle cookies or chocolate cookies with powdered sugar on top, are an often-made cookie but also an often awfully-made cookie. Many recipes lead to overly bitter, overly sweet or overly dry cookies. The recipe I use, originally published in Peggy Cullen’s “Got Milk? The Cookie Cookbook,” and republished on Food.com, does not have these problems. A soft, light, chocolatey cookie that is easy to make in big batches and, so long as you don’t burn it, which can be a bit difficult with chocolate cookies, comes out great every time.
Edit to the recipe: Leave out the nuts; they overcomplicate a perfect cookie.
Wookie cookies, and the entire unofficial “Wookiee Cookies: A Star Wars Cookbook,” are my nostalgia bakes, my family copies are well-worn and stained with decade-old batters. But do not assume my nostalgia clouds my judgment, I made the titular wookie cookies for my roommates a few months ago and they were an absolute hit (even out of my shitty oven). Wookie cookies are chewy, buttery cinnamon chocolate chip cookies. They are super easy to make, full of flavor and are the best-named cookies on this list. You can find the recipe posted online on the Star Wars Holiday Special website.
Everyone thinks that their parent makes the best banana bread and they are simply wrong. My mom makes the best banana bread. Her whole wheat banana bread, courtesy of the New York Cookbook and reposted on the shiningspoon.com, is a marvel. I traditionally detest the taste of whole wheat flour, but this banana bread is the exception. The complexity in flavor is unmatched in any other banana bread I’ve eaten. Add to that a crispy delicious crust and the moist but dense innard, my mom’s recipe for banana bread is better than your mom’s.
Edit to the recipe: It is CRUCIAL that you add one cup of semisweet chocolate chips.
This next section highlights more recipes I stole from my mom because of how fantastic they are, but gone are the days of cookbooks and childhood nostalgia. The following are two cake recipes discovered in recent memory that are equally fantastic to the prior recipes.
It is never too early to start collecting recipes for Passover, and this one is a keeper. Ignoring the title of Easter egg nest cake, nigella.com’s flourless chocolate cake would fit perfectly at any Passover seder. Or at the birthday party of a person with celiac. Or anytime, it’s a great cake. Comparable to the lightest of brownies and with a dark enough chocolate that fruit, whipped cream or ice cream toppings will elevate the cake, but are not necessities. This recipe, if you are not a seasoned baker, involves the perhaps intimidating step of whipping egg whites to soft peaks and gently folding them into the batter. But so long as you are careful about separating your egg whites from the yolks, soft peaks are easier than they seem, and a good thing to know how to make.
Edit to the recipe: For those who don’t hate the taste of coffee, one to two teaspoons of espresso can make this cake even more chocolaty. Also, I, as a non-Easter celebrater, have never made any of the suggested nest decor.
Dairy Queen ice cream cakes have become my go-to birthday cake since my family moved about one-quarter of a mile away from a Dairy Queen because they are fantastic. Unfortunately, Dairy Queen cakes contain traces of various nuts, which my brother is deathly allergic to. To rectify this situation, my mom discovered a recipe that has led to us never buying another Dairy Queen cake (unless of course, we don’t have a full day to freeze, bake and construct an ice cream cake.) The copycat recipe, from Life, Love and Sugar, is exactly what you want out of a Dairy Queen ice cream cake, with just a little extra fance. Two layers of ice cream with Oreo crumble and fudge in the middle, iced with whipped cream frosting. This homemade version makes the fudge a little more bitter, a beautiful counter to the extra sweetness you get from homemade whipped cream. Plus, you can put any ice cream you please on the top and bottom layers.
For this section of recipes, I give all credit to my Pinterest feed.
Soft and chewy chocolate chip cookies are not universally preferred, but they are my preference, and TikToker @rachelsrecipies’s recipe for chocolate chip cookies captures this preference beautifully. There is nothing particularly unique about this recipe, other than the melted as opposed to softened butter, but I adore it. I have probably made these cookies more than anything else on this list. The cookies just capture exactly what I want out of a chocolate chip cookie. Buttery but they don’t taste like butter, chewy and thick but still with a nice outer crust. These are simple, easy and great chocolate chip cookies.
Now these brookies, from Mel’s kitchen cafe, split down the middle with chocolate chip cookie on one side and brownie cookie on the other, are a hands-on, easy-to-mess-up recipe that I would recommend to more experienced bakers and people with a lot of time on their hands. But it is a very fun recipe that, if done well, produces tasty and pretty cookies. I don’t know how a dough that needs to be manhandled as much as this one produces cookies that are not tough or super thin, but it does. These cookies come out beautiful and soft and they stay that way for days if kept in the right container. These cookies are very sweet but basically exactly what you would want from a cookie that looks like these.
There are two recipes in my repertoire that have landed me on the receiving end of endless compliments and even propositions of cash in exchange for making more. These are those two recipes, shared with the public (by me) for the very first time.
A year ago, I visited Italy, and the one thing that stuck with me more than the beautiful architecture and artwork or large amounts of top-tier food I experienced, was the Italian hot chocolate I bought on a whim at a bookstore. Words cannot express the majesty that was this thick-as-pudding hot chocolate. When I returned to the States I set about making my own. After trying a dozen recipes I finally found one that, with a few edits, brought me back to that cafe. From allrecipes, the cioccolata calda, which, I will admit, is not a baked good.
Edit to the recipe: If you want to experience a truly pudding-thick hot chocolate, replace the one-half of a cup of milk with heavy whipping cream and whisk it for double or triple the time recommended. Finally, to finish this stupidly long stupid article, the pièce de résistance, the s’mores cookies, from bakerita.com. These are simply, literally, the best things I know how to make. The recipe yield is 36 cookies. If I bake them, those cookies will barely last four days in my three-person household. My family cannot stop eating them. If I bring them to a party, I will continue getting compliments days after about how good my cookies were. The s’mores cookies are the only recipe you’ll ever need after today. There’s something about the ratio of add-ins to the dough mixed with putting graham crackers crumbs in a pretty standard chocolate chip cookie recipe that just makes these cookies overwhelmingly good. No edits to the recipe needed.