Growing up, birthday cakes had to be bought at the Korean bakery because the ones from the American grocery store had too much sugar. Getting ice cream on a Saturday night was not a full family affair because my parents never had the craving like my two siblings and I did. I always thought my parents were crazy whenever they would deny dessert at the restaurants in which we dined — but at the end of the meal, it worked in our favor, as we had more to share between the three of us.
However, once in a blue moon, when my parents did indulge in a dessert, it was met with extensive praise. Instead of the typical ‘yummy’ or ‘this is delicious,’ we’d hear the welcoming ‘it’s not too sweet,’ the highest compliment you can receive in the kitchen. So, in honor of that phrase, here are a few desserts I’ve made that my friends and family have graciously classified as ‘not too sweet.’
These donuts were a product of a very sad day. As I write this, I do not remember what happened, but I am extremely grateful for it because the outcome of the night was spectacular. On the left are cinnamon sugar donuts that had my roommates coming back for thirds, and on the right are strawberry shortcake donuts made with a ‘not-too-sweet’ cream complimented with fresh strawberries.
The first time I’ve ever dabbled with making caramel, I almost burned my apartment down. Today, I wouldn’t call myself an expert, but I’m certainly better at it. On the left, for a friendsgiving dinner, I made an upside-down orange cake, elephant ear cookies, and mini apple tarte tatins. On the right is an upside-down lemon cake that I made after I was fixated on making upside-down desserts. My opinion? I like the orange one better.
These cannolis were a crowd favorite when I brought them to work at the Democratic National Committee during my summer internship. They must have left a great impression because I was hired afterward. If you ever need tips for getting jobs, consider making cannolis! However, the caveat to this is that cannolis now weirdly remind me of democracy.
In my book, carbs, fruit and (limited) sugar are components of a successful dessert. I made this banana bread for a Christmas dinner with my friends, and when I took a bite of it, I audibly complimented myself. To this day, I have yet to make another banana bread as delicious as this one because I don’t remember which recipe I used to make it. Not saving the recipe will probably keep its place as the most regretful mistake in my lifetime.
This strawberry cake is the most labor-intensive dessert I’ve made to date. The batter requires two different whipped components mixed together, and the icing makes for a third whipped component. I didn’t have a stand mixer so my roommate and I took turns hand whipping the batter and icing. I think I gained a couple of pounds of muscle that night.
Muffins were the first baked desserts I made when I started my cooking journey. They were easy to make and made for a great grab-and-go breakfast. After a few learning opportunities, I tapped into making different types. On the left are candy cane bark muffins, and on the right are lemon poppy seed, chocolate chip, and blueberry muffins.
In my family, and many other Asian households, words of affirmation come last among the love languages. But that doesn’t mean the love wasn’t there. My parents would cut up fruit for my siblings and me during late nights of studying, make our favorite meals before a big exam or performance, and let us choose where to eat for dinner every weekend. They taught me food can be its own love language — and when you share it with others, that understanding is there.
So when I make a dessert, I always make sure there is enough to go around. Although it wasn’t clear then, I understand now why my parents choose food over words. It’s impossible to explain with text — you’ll have to take a bite of my ‘not too sweet’ upside-down orange cake to understand.