The Shared Chocolate Birthday Cake by Amy Cantu

I'm just going to start with this apology, rather than end with it, (so you know what you're getting into and can just skip to the recipe link at the bottom of the page if you want): I'm sorry, but my eldest son turned five, and I melted into this puddle of sad, emotional mush. On the morning of his birthday, he crawled into bed with me, and I cuddled his no-longer-tiny body as tightly as I could. "Mom, I can't breathe!" "Oh, sorry." "I still can't breathe!" I sighed deeply and loosened my death grip. I ran my fingers through his thick straight hair, (what mine used to feel like before losing half my hair after each pregnancy—a testimony to the many changes and ahem, sacrifices it takes to be a mom.) I intertwined my fingers with his; thank goodness, his hands were still tiny in my adult-sized ones. He's still small, still a child. I inhaled and took in his little boy scent that no bath could ever completely erase—earthy like the dirt he spends all day digging, a little salty from all the endless running around, and sweet, the way that only a child can smell to his mom. Silently, I thought about the first time I held his tiny, fragile body in my arms. I remembered the twisted face he made the first time he tried mashed avocados, how proud I felt the first time he completed a puzzle on his own (boy-genius!), his determination to line up and sort all of his cars by size and color, and most recently, his favorite piece of trivia: Did you know that the longest flight is from Columbia to Singapore?! "Happy birthday, Sweet Pea!" I whispered to keep my voice from cracking. He turned to me with a wide grin and exclaimed, "Today we make cake! Any cake I want! Chocolate with chocolate frosting AND SPRINKLES!" He was standing on the bed now, waving his arms above his head, and shouting. "I want to pick all the things to put on top of it, OK?! And cupcakes too!" My wistful reflection came to an abrupt halt, and I cocked my head to the side, "You want to bake a cake AND cupcakes today?" "Yep! It's my birthday!" I couldn't deny him anything in that moment, and so we did.

Follow us to the recipe:

Chocolate Birthday Cake with Chocolate Frosting (Perfect for a layer cake, cupcakes, or a bit of both!)

The Shared Cookies by Cynthia Raub

One of my nearest and dearest friends is having a baby! YAY! YAYYYYY!! YAAAAAAAAAYY! To celebrate her and her highly anticipated bundle of joy, her sister-in-law, neighbor, and I threw her a BBQ baby shower for her and 80 friends and family. Mama-to-be loves sweets especially a variety of them, so that was an important aspect in planning for the shower. In addition to the sheet cake, Jell-O cups, brownie bites, palmiers, and beautiful fruit platters, we made cookies. There is no better dessert to follow a BBQ than cookies (except maybe popsicles . . . ) and with that many guests, I wanted to make sure we had a variety of sweets to suit everyone's tastes. Amy and I decided to make double batches of our two favorite cookies for the dessert table for this very special occasion.

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Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies

Salted Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies

The Shared Dessert Bars by Cynthia Raub

Have you ever laid in bed, unable to sleep, because you were thinking about rhubarb? It has only happened to me once, and while my husband blissfully dozed into dreamland, I tossed and turned wondering when I was going to be able to eat it. Like many of my mom-stress-fueled restless nights, I reached out to Amy to see if she was awake and thinking about rhubarb, too. Turns out she wasn't thinking about rhubarb, but when I mentioned it, she (like the recipe encyclopedia that she is) recommended I make Smitten Kitchen's Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp bars. The recipe was simple, straight forward and not heinously gluttonous. Perfect! Once we started chatting about dessert bar cravings, Amy came strong with multiple recipes she has been meaning to try including her Coconut Bars and Lime Bars with Pistachio Crust.

I am always weary about making whole servings of desserts because I always seem to eat everything in the pan in a matter of 24 hours. I avoid baking unless I am giving the goods away because of the magical disappearing act baked goods do in my presence. Now you see them on a platter! Now you don't. (Because they're ALL in my gut, and in the back of my mind, and on my conscience as another loss of self control.) But like the good friend that she is, Amy suggested that we swap bars! It was a great idea in theory (sharing, variety, smaller portions), until I did the math: three scrumptious pans of bars for two households. Isn't that more than the one pan in my house that I was fearful of? No time to overthink the math. We were committed. No regrets.

Follow us to the recipes:

Lime Bars with Pistachio Crust

Coconut Bars (Vegan and Gluten-Free)

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp Bars