I wish I could say that 2021 was an improvement from last year, but the truth is, it didn’t feel that way for me. In many ways, it felt harder than the already intensely difficult year before. Why? In my house, it seemed like we faced one disaster after another.
First, there was a historic ice storm that resulted in our car catching on fire and basically exploding action movie-style outside of our brand new house. A few months later, there was an active shooter event right behind my street, in which a gunman barricaded himself with a ton of guns and weapons, leading to a shoot-out between him and the police. Finally, there was YET ANOTHER “once in a lifetime” weather event a few months later: a heat “dome” that resulted in two 116°F days in a row, despite our summer days usually only averaging around 80°F. All of these incidents, of course, happened in the backdrop of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
But still. Despite these traumatic events, I was very lucky to able to continue baking and blogging for Hummingbird High. One of the few pure, unadulterated joys from this year was watching you guys bake and share my recipes. Thank you for supporting my work the way you do—it is such an immense privilege to be apart of your life this way.
Now let’s look at everything we baked together, shall we?
Readers’ Favorite Recipes of 2021
The following recipes are YOUR favorites from the year—that is, the most viewed recipes of mine from 2021.
I made these almond flour brownies in January 2021, when I was experimenting with “alternative baking” vegan and/or gluten free recipes. These almond flour brownies are a triumph—despite being gluten free (they use almond flour instead of all-purpose flour), they have the exact fudgy texture of a conventional brownie!
This was another recipe I made during January 2021 as part of my “alternative baking” challenge. These ube mochi donuts are 100% gluten free and made with mochiko flour, giving them a unique, chewy texture. The recipe was even linked to in a New York Times article about my small batch baking!
I’m honestly surprised this gateau basque made the list! Usually, the most popular baked goods on my blog are limited to easy cookie and bar recipes. But this fancy French dessert is a cross between a cake and a tart, requiring more intermediate level baking skills in the kitchen. The recipe is exclusive to Patreon supporters of Hummingbird High—learn more on my Patreon page!
Your Favorites on Instagram
First of all, thank you so much for you support for @hummingbirdhigh on Instagram! I published 49 posts in 2021, which garnered nearly 89,000 likes from y’all:
I know it seems a little eyeroll-y to keep track of a seemingly superficial metric like likes and comments on social media. But for content creators like me, they matter immensely. Despite Instagram’s ever waning relevance, the majority of my income still comes from it. How? Brands will sponsor me to create an Instagram post highlighting their products. And often times, my negotiating power is dependent on metrics like the likes and comments from y’all. So every time you like and comment one of my pictures on Instagram, you are helping keep this blog financially sustainable. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU.
But on to the fun stuff! Although there’s a ton of overlap between your favorite recipes on my website and my Instagram account, it’s worth calling out a handful of recipes that were more popular on Instagram:
I am SO happy that this recipe for chewy lemon sugar cookies were a fan favorite on Instagram. The recipe brings instant cheer into anybody’s life, yielding bright and sunny lemon sugar cookies with just the right amount of tang and sweetness. I may have to do an Instagram Reel and/or TikTok video of the recipe soon to get myself through the dreariness of the winter months!
Aw yeah! I’ve loved the large batch version of this Texas sheet cake recipe for many years now, but decided to scale it down for a smaller batch version. Because of this recipe, I was interviewed by The New York Times, where Priya Krishna asked me all about my thoughts and feelings for Texas sheet cake. It even made the print edition of the paper—very cool!
For years and years, I’ve been frustrated by the pumpkin chocolate chip cookie recipes I’ve tried online. All were SO. INCREDIBLY. CAKEY. I wanted a pumpkin CCC recipe that was more like a traditional CCC, complete with chewy centers and crisp edges. So I developed one! And according to Instagram, many of you guys LOVED the recipe. Hooray!
Now that I’ve summarized y’alls favorites from the year, let’s talk about ME (lollll 😜). The following recipes are MY favorites from the year.
I’ve been obsessed with burnt basque cheesecake ever since trying it at Urdaneta, one of my favorite Spanish restaurants in Portland a few years ago. This was an especially fun recipe to develop—after trying some of the most popular burnt basque cheesecake recipes online and tasting them side by side, I took the elements that I liked from each recipe to create my own!
Here are a list of things I think are severely underrated: 1) bundt cakes, 2) banana desserts and baked goods beyond banana bread. Which is why I truly, really loved this banana bundt cake recipe! It’s basically just banana bread, but in a fancier shape and with a delicious glaze. Y’all are sleeping on this recipe.
Last year, one of my favorite recipes I baked were these neapolitan cookies from my friend Sarah’s cookbook. I wanted to put a seasonal spin on such a fun recipe, and ended up with these fall flavored pumpkin neapolitan cookies. Yesssss!
My Favorite Updated Recipes of 2021
This year, I made a conscious effort to go through the Hummingbird High archives and update old favorites of mine. I really enjoyed the process! As a food blogger, it can be easy to get caught up in the grind of constantly pushing out new recipes, content, and ideas. Doing so makes me forget that my blog is actually already full of delicious recipes to choose from.
I’ve been picking out my favorites and updating their blog posts to make them more functional for you guys. These are my favorites from the favorites I updated this year:
As part of my “alternative baking” month in January 2021, I updated this recipe for vegan tahini chocolate chip cookies. The recipe is based on the vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe from my cookbook, Weeknight Baking, and frequently gets lauded as one of the best vegan CCC recipes on the internet. Why? Their texture and flavor is exactly that of a cookie loaded with butter and eggs.
I first made this epic chocolate chip cake (complete with passion fruit curd and coffee frosting!) in 2013, back when I was baking through the famous Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook. I decided to revisit the recipe for my 34th birthday this year, updating the recipe with new photos (including step-by-step ones for its trickier steps). Definitely check it out!
Okay, I technically updated this 2013 recipe at the end of 2020, but I felt like it got lost in the holiday shuffle. It’s so good that I want to highlight it again this year. This is a 6 inch cheesecake recipe from San Francisco’s Miette Bakery. It’s perfect for the folks who want a small batch version of an epic, classic dessert!
Other 2021 Highlights
Because of what feels like a never-ending pandemic, I initially struggled to come up with the highlights of this year—especially considering that past year’s highlights have included travel, moving between cities, and more. Similar to last year, 2021 doesn’t seem as vibrant and notable when compared to other years. Still, there were some major moves worth highlighting:
I got vaccinated against COVID-19 in late April. Doing so was REVELATORY. Back then, it felt like the beginning of the end of the pandemic. I read the post I wrote about it now and smile at how optimistic and hopeful I was.
Because sadly, none of my optimistic plans came into fruition because of variants like Delta and Omicron: I never did throw that house party I promised, I never went on any trips abroad. But I did throw a handful of small barbecues with close friends, and did manage to sneak in a trip to Seattle and New Orleans this year. Oh well. Maybe next year’s the year.
Erlend and I finally pulled the trigger on something we’ve been talking about for years and years: getting a dog! Biscuit, an American staffy-husky-cattle dog mix, arrived on our doorstep in the summer of 2021. He’s a rescue from Texas, and is a bundle of unrelentless energy and goofs.
Man, where did all that time go? Because this November, I looked up and realized I’d been blogging at Hummingbird High for TEN YEARS. I baked an epic chocolate birthday cake and looked back on all my years of blogging in an old school style blog post. Definitely check it out if you’re interested in seeing how the blog world has evolved since 2011, and where I think things are heading.
I was featured in the New York Times TWICE!
In February of this year, the New York Times wrote a fun piece about small batch baking. Famed food writer Erin McDowell interviewed me and my friend Mike of Mike Bakes NYC about our small batch baking recipes. The newspaper also featured my recipe for small batch blueberry muffins on their Cooking website.
Later this year, another famed food writer, Priya Krishna, reached out to interview me about my small batch Texas sheet cake recipe. They sent a photographer to my home to shoot me baking my recipe, and the interview even made the print edition of the New York Times. Super fun!
Okay, that’s all for now, folks! I’ll see y’all in January. In the meantime, if you’re curious about other popular recipes and highlights from previous years, check out the year-in-review archives:
Have a wonderful New Year!