Baking season is here: A treat or two is in order

Blueberries and lemons are a natural match, but this pretty cake also includes zucchini.
Blueberries and lemons are a natural match, but this pretty cake also includes zucchini. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The temperatures are changing. The light is shifting. I’m getting the urge to bake again.

If that describes you, too, here are three recipes that are ideal for the summer-into-fall transition. The pretty (but easy) cake incorporates summer squash and blueberries, which are both still around, and a lemon buttercream frosting. It’s perfect for a weekend party.

I chose the cookie recipe because it uses my favorite cookie ingredients: oatmeal, chocolate chips and dried cherries. But as the writer notes, it’s easy to swap out the cherries for other fruit such as raisins or chopped apricots, and mix up the types of chips. This cookie would be a hit for lunchboxes, after school or for any family gathering.

The raspberry cheesecake bars recipe falls between the other two in baking hierarchy: fancy enough for company but easy enough for a family dessert.

Blueberry zucchini cake with lemon buttercream

Serves 12

The recipe calls for using 8-inch pans, but it would work just as well in 9-inch pans. Be sure to let the cake cool completely before frosting.

Recipe from Amanda Rettke at

For cake:

2 cups finely shredded and drained zucchini

3 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup vegetable oil

3 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 1/4 cups white sugar

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 pint fresh blueberries (reserve a few for garnish)

For lemon buttercream:

1 cup butter, room temperature

3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 lemon, juice and zest of (about 2 tablespoons)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8-inch round cake pans.

Grate a large zucchini (or two small zucchini) and place in a clean dish towel. Squeeze until most of the liquid comes out. You will want to have 2 total cups of shredded zucchini after it has been drained. Set aside.

In a large bowl and using a hand mixer, beat together eggs, oil, vanilla and sugar. Fold in the zucchini.

Slowly add in flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Gently fold in the blueberries. Divide batter evenly between prepared cake pans.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes in preheated oven, or until a knife inserted in the center of a cake comes out clean. (Tester’s layers took about 45 minutes.) Cool 20 minutes in pans, then turn out onto wire racks. Cool completely before frosting.

For lemon buttercream: Combine butter, sugar and salt and beat until well combined. Add lemon juice and vanilla and continue to beat for another 3 to 5 minutes or until creamy. Fold in most of the lemon zest.

Frost between layers and on top and sides of cake. Top with reserved blueberries and lemon zest.

Cherry-chocolate chip oatmeal cookies

Makes about 30

Note: Instead of cherries, you can use cherry-flavored dried cranberries, other dried cranberries, raisins or any moist dried fruit of your choosing.

Recipe from “The Art & Soul of Baking” by Cindy Mushet.

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup (4 ounces) firmly packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon (2 ounces) granulated sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup (5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup (3 1/4 ounces) old-fashioned rolled oats

3/4 cup (3 1/2 ounces) dried sour cherries, see note above

1/2 to 3/4 cup chocolate chips (dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate or a combination)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and position an oven rack in the center of the oven. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium speed until smooth and blended, about 2 minutes. (You can also use a hand mixer in a medium bowl, but it will take a little longer.) Scrape down the bowl with a spatula. Add the egg and vanilla and blend well.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add to the butter mixture all at once. Turn the mixer to the lowest speed and blend slowly, just until there are no more patches of flour. Scrape down the bowl.

Add the oats, cherries and chocolate chips and blend on low just until combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir gently a few times with the spatula to make sure there are no patches of unincorporated flour or butter lurking near the bottom of the bowl.

Use a small ice cream scoop or a spoon to portion tablespoon-size mounds onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time, rotating the sheet halfway through, for 10 to 14 minutes.

(To bake more than one sheet at a time, position oven racks in top and bottom thirds of the oven; put one sheet on each rack. Halfway through the cooking time, switch the sheets’ positions in the oven and rotate them front to back).

Cookies are done when they are golden brown at edges and still a bit pale in the center.

Transfer cookies to a cooling rack and let them cool completely before serving. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 3 to 4 days.

Per serving: 97 calories; 4 g fat; 3 g saturated fat; 15 mg cholesterol; 1 g protein; 14 g carbohydrate; 7 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 40 mg sodium; 13 mg calcium.

Raspberry cheesecake bars

Prep time: 1 hour plus time to cool

Bake time: 25 minutes

Makes 12 bars

Recipe from the Chicago Tribune.


6 ounces fresh raspberries

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest


1/2 cup flour

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted


8 ounces cream cheese, softened

6 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 egg

1 egg yolk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

For swirl, heap berries, sugar and zest in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Cook until berries collapse, about 5 minutes. Press through a medium-mesh sieve; discard seeds. Chill purée.

For crust, measure flour, sugar, butter and salt into the food processor. Pulse to damp clumps. Slide in toasted almonds and pulse a few times.

Dump this crumble into an 8-inch square baking pan lined with parchment paper (leave some overhang) and pat firmly into the bottom. Bake at 350 degrees until tan and fragrant, about 18 minutes. Cool.

For filling, measure all ingredients into the food processor and swirl smooth. Spread over crust.

Pour raspberry purée into stripes over the cheesecake batter. Use a fork to swirl pink into white.

Bake at 350 until wiggly in the center, about 25 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes, then chill in refrigerator.

To serve, grasp parchment and pull cheesecake out of pan. Cut into 12 bars.