When A Brunette Tries Blondies: A Baking Saga

Birthday Cake Blondies ny times

The saying goes “You win some, you lose some.” right? Welp, this one I lost. My baking saga last week reminded me that most often, failing teaches us more than when we succeed. Embracing defeat as a learning opportunity is a fundamental aspect of personal growth. It’s through setbacks that we gain insights and refine our strategies to move forward.

And so, while this is embarrassing, I decided to publish my baking failure instead of scratching the column. Also, I couldn’t think of anything else to write about.

Just in time for a double-header birthday weekend (my father’s and godson’s) celebration on Lawng Island, the Birthday Cake Blondie recipe from NY Times Cooking lands in my inbox. It reads “You’ll need only the most basic equipment (no fancy blenders or kitchen scales required) and ingredients you probably already have in your pantry.” Easy and cheap resonates, so how can you go wrong?

Blondies- cake

You can go wrong by not following the directions.

I can confidently say I’m a great home chef. I can feel and taste when the ingredients are just right; I don’t need recipes. Baking, however, is all about recipes, directions, and procedures. I have a hard time with that, so I’m working on it, in baking …and in life.

I’m in a hurry so I take the whole pan with me to my sister Natalie’s house for the party. The sheet of sprinkles looks festive – it will be acceptable to present her (ohhh, aww). And I’d cut and plate at her house to save time.

We’re getting the ice cream cake out of the freezer and the fruit on the table. I unveiled the blondies and my sister commented on how pretty they are (check). My other sister Maria is also helping in the kitchen. She sees me struggling with the Birthday Blondies. I whisper, “Maria, I have a problem.” She takes charge. The cookie – or whatever it is – is solid rock. After some trial and error, she takes the whole darn thing out in one piece. At this point, we are crying, laughing out loud bent over the counter.

The cookie saga made for good conversation and troubleshooting. Everyone haphazardly broke a piece of the “cookie” off and taste-tested. The conclusion? I used the wrong size pan, and I should have adjusted the cooking time for that. Also, I didn’t mix in the ingredients as instructed. I never thought that made much of a difference. You know, dry ingredients first…

Live, learn.

Here’s the recipe, follow the directions, and enjoy!

Birthday Cake Blondies:

One 8-inch pan (6 servings)
Butter, for greasing the pan
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon fine salt
1 cup lightly packed light or dark brown sugar
½  unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup sprinkles, plus more for the top


  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees with the rack in the center. Rub a pat of butter all over an 8-inch square baking pan.
  1. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.
  1. With a flexible spatula, stir the brown sugar and butter in a large bowl until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla, and stir vigorously until smooth again. Add the flour mixture and stir gently just until no floury streaks remain, then stir in sprinkles.
  1. Spread the batter in the buttered pan into an even layer. Scatter more sprinkles all over the top.
  1. Bake until golden brown and starting to pull away from the edges of the pan, about 25 minutes. Cool completely in the pan on a rack. Cut into squares. Keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days at room temperature and 3 months in the freezer.

Experiment with sprinkle colors and shapes to tailor for the occasion. Pastels are perfect for Easter Sunday!

Birthday Cake Blondies nytimes


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