Shower Desserts: Lemon Bars & Brownies

Lemon Bars

Last week, for about point five seconds, I entertained the idea of making petits fours for a baby shower. I’m so glad I came to my senses. In fact I’m so glad I tossed out all of my  grand ideas: stork-shaped frosted cookies, a baby-buggy cake, mini baby brownie pops.

Instead, I made one batch of my favorite brownie recipe and one batch of lemon bars, a recipe I have been making for years, (one that surely will be used at Olalie Cafe … you can’t have a café and not offer lemon bars, right?)

What can I say, with a dessert platter filled with these super lemony and fudgy brownie bites, nobody missed the precious pastelly pastries previously prancing around my head. I would wager in fact that this duo of desserts in any social situation would satisfy nearly all sweet tooths (teeth?). 

For fun, I made some red velvet cupcakes, too, always a hit, but truthfully not as much a crowd pleaser as the lemon bars and brownies. And what could be easier? Nothing. Tis the season for showers … food for thought for keeping it simple. 


Clockwise: Unbaked crust, baked crust, baked bars, finished bars:
lemon bar evolution

All-time favorite brownies:

Red Velvets:
Red Velvets

Lemon Bars

Yield = a lot

½ lb. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup powdered sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
pinch salt

2 cups sugar
4 eggs
7 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ cup lemon zest
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ cup all-purpose flour
pinch salt

powdered sugar for dusting

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

2. Beat butter till fluffy. Beat in the powdered sugar. Beat in the flour one cup at a time. Add a pinch of salt. Press the dough into the bottom of a 13x9x2-inch pan. Bake crust till golden, about 20 to 25 minutes.

3. Beat sugar with eggs until blended. Add lemon juice and zest, baking powder, flour and salt, and beat until blended. Pour filling over hot crust. Bake until the filling is set in center and begins to brown on top, about 20 minutes.

Rich Fudgy Brownies

Yield = 16 (2-inch) brownies
Note: If you have a scale, I highly recommend using it. I use my Salter digital scale when I make these and they come out perfectly every time.

8 oz. (1 cup) unsalted butter; plus more for the pan
15¼ oz. (2 cups) granulated sugar
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
2½ oz (¾ cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
3 oz (2/3 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour; plus more for the pan
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. table salt

1. Preheat oven to 350°F and position rack in the center of the oven. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan.

2. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the sugar and whisk until well combined. Add the beaten eggs and vanilla and whisk until well blended. In a large separate bowl whisk together the cocoa, flour, baking powder and salt. Transfer butter mixture to bowl with flour and stir with spatula or wooden spoon until batter is smooth.

3. Spread into prepared pan and bake for approximately 37-40 minutes. Insert a pairing knife or steak knife straight into center. If it comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs, the brownies are done. Let cool completely in pan on rack.

Red Velvet Cupcakes


2¼ cups (9¾ oz) sifted flour (sifted, then measured)
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoon red food coloring (2 1-oz bottles)
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ cups sugar
1½ sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs

8 oz cream cheese, softened
8 oz butter, softened
1 teapoon vanilla extract
2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place liners in 12-cup cupcake pan.

2. Sift sifted flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into medium bowl. Whisk buttermilk, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla in small bowl to blend.

3. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until well blended. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until well blended after each addition. Beat in dry ingredients in 4 additions alternately with buttermilk mixture in 3 additions.
4. Spoon batter into cupcake liners only 2/3 or ¾ of the way full—don’t be tempted to fill them higher: they’ll bake into mushroom caps instead of nice rounded domes, and if they are filled too high, there will not be enough batter for the 24 cupcakes. Bake cakes until inserted toothpick comes out clean, about 23-26 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pan onto racks; bake remaining cupcakes; cool all completely before frosting.

Frosting: Beat butter, cream cheese and vanilla until smooth and combined. Add the confectioners’ sugar and beat until smooth.

work space

brownies and milk


  1. says

    Looks divine! Especially the lemon bars…nice and light amidst cold weather blues…. Those red cupcakes though are shockingly red! You could probably halve the red food coloring and still stain utensils, clothes and your hands!

  2. Melanie says

    Ali – if only you had been the caterer at the three (!!!) baby showers I’ve attended this month. All these treats look delish. Congrats on the new baby yourself!

  3. says

    Great photos! I love how vibrant the colours are, makes me want to ravage all at the same time! haha. such a nice set of yummy treats!

  4. says

    you must have incredible lighting in your kitchen. true or is that helped along? some day i dream of being able to see without the horrid apartment fluorescents [aka get a house!]… all looks fabulous by you.



  5. says

    I love how well-lit your kitchen is :) (mine is in the sixth circle of hell.) Yeah, I’d much rather have all these than edible decorations 😛 Very nice!

  6. says

    1–as much as i would enjoy seeing stork-shaped cookies, i’d much rather eat brownies.
    2–your pictures are outstanding.
    3–so a lot of lemon bars come out of this recipe, eh? how very exact of you. :)
    4–your salt cellar rocks.

  7. says

    Lol, your kitchen looks like mine when I cook. Usually the cooking photos show pristine countertops with nary a straw crumb or spill. The lemon bars look wonderful and I love those fine cooking brownies too!

  8. says

    I love lemon bars but no one in my family will eat them. And I can relate to the counters too. I was recipe testing yestereday and destroyed my kitchen. I love your salt cellar though. So cute.

  9. says

    I do not know how to do dishes.But i am a really delicious-lover. I have seen a lot of cooking tools from the picture which i feel it is not easy to make.

  10. Marcie says

    Ahhh! My wedding shower is in April… is it appropriate to give the people organizing it a link to this post? Maybe I’ll just make them myself, baking is too fun to pass along to other people. P.S. my mom makes a version of lemon bars that have a lot of pecans (and butter) in the crust- soooo good :)

    Love seeing these posts- thanks for brightening the inside of a rainy DC office building :)

  11. Vicki says

    I made the lemon bars for a dinner party last night and served them with fresh blueberries on the side. They were a hit. Everyone loved them…so delicious!!! These should definitely go on your cafe menu! Merry Christmas!

  12. Danielle says

    I came across your blog a few weeks ago and have had these lemon bars sitting in my bookmarks ever since… they were a delicious addition to my three-day weekend :) Beautiful pictures and tasty treats, thanks for sharing!

  13. Dariana says

    Have u got a nice waffle recipe…trust yor opinion and loving what u do…brilliant…greetings from London xxx


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