Cape May & Mini Berry Crumble Pies


I stopped for coffee on my way to work this morning and was saddened to see an urn of Pumpkin Spice coffee next to my 100% Columbian brew. I’m not ready to let go of summer and weekly trips to the shore. On one recent trip, I visited a shore town that also clings to the past, Cape May. Located at the southern tip of New Jersey, Cape May is the nation’s oldest seaside resort.

In the early to mid- 18th century, Philadelphians began vacationing in Cape May, some staying at Congress Hall, first constructed as a boarding house in 1816. Reconstructed in 1879, four U.S. Presidents vacationed at Congress Hall, with Benjamin Harrison even making it his official Summer White House.


Still an operating hotel, Congress Hall mixes old with new


and offers a fantastic lunch at the Blue Pig Tavern! It’s the perfect place to take a break from exploring the nearby shops.

Though there’s now a promenade that runs along the beach


and a 157-foot lighthouse to climb,


Cape May retains its historic charm.

With a storied history dating back as far as the early 1600s, the entire city is considered a National Historic Landmark, largely due to the prevalence of Victorian architecture — nearly 600 preserved buildings. In fact, Cape May has the second largest collection of Victorian houses in the United States after San Francisco.


Many of the homes have been converted into Bed & Breakfasts, and one great example of the architecture has been converted into a museum.  The Emlen Physick Estate, a Stick Style 18-room mansion, was designed by Frank Furness.


Photography isn’t allowed on the museum’s guided tours, but I managed to sneak a couple of photos of my favorite rooms in any home:the dining room

house 1

and kitchen.

house 2

The photo above is the baking area of the 1880-era kitchen, which got my wheels turning, thinking of desserts fit for a proper Victorian summertime picnic. (Incidentally, I learned on the tour that such outings would traditionally be held in cemeteries!) I settled on Mini Berry Crumble Pies. Baked from scratch in a cupcake tin, these pies are surprisingly easy to make and a perfect way to use the last berries of the season.


Click Here to Print This Recipe.


For the Filling

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 pound strawberries, sliced
  • 1 pint blueberries
  • 6 ounces blackberries

For the Topping

  • 1/2 tablespoon flour
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

For the Crust

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces and then frozen
  • 6 tablespoons shortening, chilled
  • 8-10 tablespoons ice water


For the Filling

  • In a large bowl, mix all ingredients; set aside.


For the Topping

  • In a medium bowl, mix flour, oats, sugar, salt, and cinnamon.
  • With your hands, work in butter until small clumps form. Mixture will feel like wet sand.


For the Crust

  • Place flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Pulse to combine.
  • Add frozen butter cubes and pulse 5 times until butter looks like corn meal with pea size pieces of butter.
  • Add shortening and pulse 4 times.
  • Place flour mixture in a large bowl; pour half the ice water on top. Mix together until medium-size clumps form. Add the rest of the water and mix until just combined. Use palm to fold and press dough until dough forms one large mass and just comes together. Do not overwork dough.
  • Split dough in two equal portion discs, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate 30 minutes to one day. (One disc will be left over.)


Putting It Together

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Lightly flour pastry mat and roll out dough. Cut small circles and line muffin tin with dough.


  • Fill each cup with berry mixture.
  • Top with crumb topping.
  • Bake 30-40 minutes.
  • Remove to wire rack to cool before serving.



Bonus Post: Champagne Cupcakes with Strawberry Mascarpone Filling

I woke up at 5:15 this morning, too excited to sleep. Today, the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend and the unofficial start of summer on the Jersey Shore, is my favorite day of the year.

When Labor Day passes and beach season ends, I wait all year for summer to come around again. I keep shells, sand from our beach, and a picture of sunset on Barnegat Bay on my desk at work, dreaming of the return of my favorite season.

photo 2-2

I love the sun and warm weather, the sand in my toes and ocean air on my face, seasonal foods, and the connection it brings to my family. No matter where we are or what we’re doing all year long, we reconnect at the shore each summer weekend. Today begins those weekly drives to Long Beach Island, which you might recall from my very first Suitcases & Sweets post is a very special place for me. This year, it feels even more special after a long and destructive offseason.

When Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey last fall, LBI took a hard hit with parts of the island devastated by massive flooding and high winds. While family and friends banded together to share power, water, gas, and food in the northern part of New Jersey, I rode out the storm in Los Angeles, obsessively checking my Twitter feed for news on our beloved island.

It would be close to a month before we were allowed back onto LBI to survey the damage. We were luckier than many and since my parents were already rebuilding our house,

photo 1-1

we were able to incorporate storm cleanup with the work already being done. The new house


is  gorgeous and will be filled with love and cherished by our family for years to come.

This weekend marks the official opening of our new house, along with the reopening of many businesses on the island community. There’s still work to be done on LBI but, as they say around here, we’re stronger than the storm.

So today we’re celebrating hope, resilience, summer and, the most important thing of all, family with Champagne Cupcakes!


Click Here to Print This Recipe.


For the Cupcakes

  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup champagne
  • 1/2 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Filling

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup champagne
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped strawberries

For the Frosting

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons champagne


    For the Cupcakes

    • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tins with liners.
    • In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
    • In a small bowl, whisk sour cream and champagne; set aside.
    • In a large bowl, beat sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla.
    • Alternate adding flour and champagne mixture to the large bowl, beginning and ending with flour.


    • Fill cupcake liners 1/2-3/4 full with batter.
    • Bake approximately 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove to wire rack to cool completely.


    For the Filling

    • Combine all ingredients, except strawberries, in a medium bowl and beat with a mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. Stir in strawberries with a spatula.


    For the Frosting

    • In a large bowl, beat powdered sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla and champagne. Pipe or spread onto cupcakes.



    (Cupcake and frosting recipes from; Filling inspired by Food Network’s Strawberry Napoleons with Prosecco Cream.)


    Wyckoff’s Farm & Peppermint Hot Chocolate Brownies

    Rows of Trees

    My family has all sorts of fun holiday traditions. I’ve shared apple and pumpkin picking and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, but now that Christmas is approaching, it’s time for December holiday traditions, and last weekend had two of my favorites!

    Since I was in high school, my brother and I have gone to a Dave Matthews Band concert each December. Though I’ve only heard them play “The Christmas Song” once, it doesn’t feel like the holiday season without going to a show. Last Saturday night, we went to the Izod Center in New Jersey for a great concert, hearing new songs as well as old favorites.


    It was a late night, but I couldn’t wait to wake up Sunday morning for our annual trip to the Christmas tree farm!

    Because I live in a condo and travel often, this is my tree,

    Charlie Brown Tree

    but I’m a traditionalist at heart and love that my parents have always cut one down, rather than putting up an artificial one. I have great memories of getting lost in the rows of trees with my brother and our family friends,

    running around, playing tag, or tossing a football while our parents found the perfect tree, so I couldn’t wait to drive the hour to the farm.
    Wycoff Sign

    It may have been a bit foggy that morning, but it was a great day to find a tree. There was still some snow on the ground from a recent storm,

    Tree with Snow

    making it all the more picturesque and festive.

    First, we grabbed a saw

    Sawsand started our search — no easy task!

    Each person walks around shouting, “What about this one?” Replies like “Too fat!” “There’s a hole!” “Too scraggly at the top!” are common. Too short? Too tall? We measure the way we always have, arms extended to compare to our own height and the relative height of the living room ceiling.


    When we find a strong contender, we place a glove on the top to mark the possible tree while taking a last minute look around to make sure we’ve made the right choice.

    Marking Tree

    Next, it’s time to cut the tree down. Many years of practice have taught us that the appropriate technique is one person sawing and one person holding the tree.

    Cutting Tree

    Then, we carry it to the baler.

    Carrying Tree

    The tree goes in

    Baler and comes out

    Wrapped Treeready for the top of the car and the trip home to be decorated!

    Even though living out of state means that I typically don’t get to help my family trim the tree, I wouldn’t miss our visit to Wyckoff’s Farm.  Since they’re already getting ready for us,
    Still GrowingI’ll be sure to mark my calendar to return next year. One of the things I’ll be looking forward to again is that when it’s time to pay for the tree, Wyckoff’s always has hot chocolate and a bucket filled with candy canes. It’s the perfect sweet treat to end a fun outing. To take the experience back to Philadelphia with me, I decided to bake Peppermint Hot Chocolate Brownies.

    I found a recipe for Hot Chocolate Brownies and made modifications until the taste brought me back to the tree farm!

    Peppermint Hot Chocolate Brownies

    Click Here to Print this Recipe.


    • 3/4 cups flour
    • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • 1 egg
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
    • 3/4 cup milk chocolate chips, divided
    • 3/4 cup miniature marshmallows
    • 1/2 cup chopped soft peppermints


    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8×8-inch baking dish with foil; coat file with nonstick cooking spray.


    • In a medium bowl, whisk to combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
    • In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk melted butter, sugar, and egg on low speed until combined. Add vanilla and peppermint extracts and whisk on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.


    • Whisk in dry ingredients until just combined.
    • Using a rubber spatula, fold in 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips. Transfer batter to foil-lined baking dish. Bake until set, approximately 20 minutes.


    • Remove from oven and top with 1/4 cup milk chocolate chips, 3/4 cup marshmallows, and 1/2 cup soft peppermints. Bake another 2 minutes to soften marshmallows and chocolate chips.


    • Remove from oven and immediately use offset spatula to push toppings into brownies, flattening slightly. Cool in baking dish.


    %d bloggers like this: