Confession: Food52's Resident Dessert Expert Doesn't Like Dessert

We interrupt our regularly scheduled Baking Basics content to bring you the next "Meet Our Contributors" post—Food52's version of show and tell. We're asking some of the voices behind your favorite columns to share a recipe that represents them (and explain why). 

Today, Erin tells us about her home state and shares a recipe that reminds her of its sugar-sweet corn. 

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Tell us about this recipe—what about it makes it you?
With summer nearly in full force, I'm looking forward to making my Honeyed Sweet Corn Cakes. I hail from the magically flat and corn-filled countryside of Kansas. In the summer, the corn is really like candy and I CANNOT GET ENOUGH OF IT. 


These cakes make the most of that natural sweetness, while highlighting it a little bit with honey. I'm a sucker for simple cakes that don't need frosting (which I unabashedly call "snack cakes"). That doesn't stop me from topping these cakes with a dollop of crème fraîche. These also put a stop to the never-ending debate amongst some of my closest friends about sweetened versus savory/unsweetened cornbread. Since it's a cake, the whole argument gets put to bed and everyone just eats happily! 

What is your desert island food (practicalities aside)?
I could live forever on warm, crusty bread, soft, stinky cheese, and juicy, drippingly-ripe stone fruit. Add a bottomless glass of bubbly wine and I would be super happy to be stranded wherever. 

What is your fruit or vegetable spirit animal?
It’s neither fruit nor vegetable, but I adore vanilla beans and think they sum me up. Unassuming at first glance but bursting with a bunch of tiny little tidbits that make things a whole lot better. Or maybe it's just because I buy them in bulk and always smell vaguely like vanilla. Take your pick. 

What's one food you pretend to like but secretly hate? 
Olives! I don't HATE them, but I just don't like them. I try them embarrassingly often—so often my friends may actually think I love olives. I want so badly to get excited when they arrive on the table, sparkly and glistening, but they just don't do it for me. And tapenade...tapenade is like the devil's extra olivey spread. 

Erin playing with her family band (her dad is on the cardboard bass).

What's something that someone wouldn't know about you from reading your column?
Well, for one thing, I don't have much of a sweet tooth! I'm a savory gal all the way and tend to order cheese instead of dessert. But nothing beats the process of baking, so I keep going, generally pawning off the resulting baked goods on anyone who will take them. [Editors' note: THANK YOU, ERIN.]

But the thing many of my kitchen compadres don't know about me is that I play a bunch of instruments. Several of my brothers play, my dad built himself a cardboard upright bass, and my nieces and nephew like to jump in on percussion, so I love playing with the "family band" when I'm home visiting. Since there's usually a decent amount of beer involved, we don't sound half bad (but seriously...we still get excited when we end the song at the same time). 

Erin's Kansas tattoo, left, and her dog Brimley, right.

Tell us about your hometown and share a few snapshots (instagram or otherwise) that represent your world, who you are, and where you live?
I'm incredibly proud to be from the funny little town of Lawrence, Kansas. It's a funky, liberal college town in Kansas' northeast corner, and the people there are a unique blend of laid-back, friendly, and just all around awesome. For most of my life, I lived on the outskirts of town—the country—where there was lots of big sky, wide, open spaces, and the perfect amount of nothing. As a kid, we had chickens and goats; now, my mom and dad fiendishly keep up a large garden that produces garlic year-round, plus lots of fresh fruit and veggies during the prime growing months. 

My home away from home is New York's Hudson Valley, where I lived for seven years and still flee to whenever possible. I love the plethora of farms that grow everything from asparagus to black raspberries to tomatoes to Concord grapes. Plus, it possesses several things Kansas (unfortunately) lacks: mountains, proximity to ocean, and four distinct seasons that last an almost equal length of time. In general, I love quiet places, being outside, and eating things I just washed the dirt off of. 

Honeyed Sweet Corn Cakes

Makes 10 individual cakes

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup polenta (or very coarse yellow cornmeal)
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch salt
4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly
3 tablespoons honey
1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sweet corn kernels
Crème fraîche, for serving
Honey, for serving

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Corn cake photos by Mark Weinberg; all other photos courtesy of Erin McDowell 

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • brothercadfael
  • Melina Hammer
    Melina Hammer
  • drbabs
  • Jenny Xu
    Jenny Xu
  • Linda Corkery
    Linda Corkery
I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, Savory Baking, came out in Fall of 2022 - is full of recipes to translate a love of baking into recipes for breakfast, dinner, and everything in between!


brothercadfael July 16, 2015
I really enjoy your comments and pictures, and have known quite a few people over the years who baked for others but didn't have a sweet tooth. To me, they are not like the bakers I knew who LOVED desserts, and had a secret understanding and passion that drove them to bake, or even recognize great recipes from mediocre ones, in a way different than the rest of us. I would think someone like that would be the resident dessert expert and someone who loves savoury would be the one in charge of that. No disrespect intended that just makes sense to me.
Melina H. June 19, 2015
so delighted to learn more about you! looks like you have a rad family. yay for good homies!!

any favorite places upstate? (and why)
drbabs June 12, 2015
I also love to bake, but rarely eat dessert. I was just explaining this to my husband today. Baking for me is a science project that makes people happy. And you do look great in that picture.
Erin J. June 13, 2015
Yay team dessert makers/not dessert eaters! So glad to know I'm not alone :)
Jenny X. June 12, 2015
Oh my god. I'm from Lawrence, Kansas! I'm here right now! I can't believe I never saw your Kansas tattoo while we were dishwashing D:
Erin J. June 13, 2015
NO WAY! Next time I'm in, we're doing some rocking + chalking, friend.
Linda C. June 12, 2015
Your beautiful little cakes look like Kansas sunflowers!
Erin J. June 13, 2015
I'd never thought of that! What a compliment! Thanks!
Evan June 12, 2015
Reading this makes me miss you even more!
Erin J. June 13, 2015
Lindsay-Jean H. June 12, 2015
I love everything about this, and seconding Kenzi's comment about the photo of you -- so great!
Erin J. June 13, 2015
Thanks Lindsey! I think you still hold queen of the headshot world! Every picture of you is GORG!
Kenzi W. June 12, 2015
This whole article makes me incredibly happy. And I gasped at how beautiful that photo of you is!
Erin J. June 13, 2015
Aw shucks, Thanks Kenzi!