Meet the Chef

Meet the Country’s Most talented Halloween Cake Maker and Award-Winning Culinary Pastry Artist

She won The Food Network Halloween Challenge and is the mother of four lovely children. How does she do it all?

Meet Pastry Chef Lyndsay from Jack Dusty at The Ritz Carlton.

Pastry Chef Lyndsay McDonald

How hard was it to apply and be accepted into the competition?

The application process was fairly simple, a lot of background questions, current job questions and of course, tons of photo submissions of my work.  They are pretty hush-hush about the whole thing so you never know how far you are in the process, how many contestants they are considering or if you will really get selected.  Thousands of people applied so it was a huge honor to get chosen.

  1. Which do you prefer to create. Wedding cakes or ghostly cakes? Ghostly cakes, absolutely without a doubt.  I get to do wedding cakes a lot, so I tend to have a lot more fun with the carved ones.  I’m way too entertained by seeing people grossed out by cake.
  1. Where did you passion and fineness of pastry evolve? I have always grown up around the restaurant industry and loved it from a young age.  I enjoy cooking, but I always enjoyed baking more – more of an outlet for artistic expression – so I focused on that when I went to college.  I’m a Johnson & Wales University Alumni and from there just a crazy, out-of-the box thinker I guess.  I love big projects, the engineering behind it, etc.
  1. If you could have anyone in the world make desserts for you, who would it be?I don’t want desserts.  I spent summers in Wisconsin growing up at my aunt & uncle’s restaurant.  Every morning my great grandmother would be in the restaurant kitchen before I got up making the soup of the day – that was always my breakfast.  I would give anything to have that again.  If I HAVE to choose people, I’m going with Jacques Pepin and Julia Child (yeah, I know not possible NOW) because I still crack up when I watch old episodes of them.
  1. You have a full house at home. What do your kids like the most of what you create in the kitchen? Cheesecake.  They LOVE cheesecake.  When I make one, I have to cut it in little slices and freeze it or they will eat the entire thing in one sitting – totally not kidding!


What better way to celebrate Florida than focusing on our amazing supply of local honey? These macarons are simple and perfectly delicious in every way.  Add a little painted design with food color on the top and you can match any party theme.  Don’t feel like you have to go crazy either, just paint a few and decorate the top of the tray!


Honey Macarons

Macaron Shells

1 ¾ Cups Powdered Sugar
1 Cup Almond Flour
3 Large Egg Whites, Room Temperature
¼ Teaspoon Cream of Tartar
¼ Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Cup Sugar

Optional: 2-3 Drops Food Coloring


  1. Separate three egg whites into a mixer bowl and set aside. They will whip better at room temperature.  Make sure there is absolutely no yolk in them.
  2. Get prepared: Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Prepare a large pastry bag with ¼” round tip. Line two sheet trays with non-stick cooking mats or parchment paper.
  3. In a food processor, blend the powdered sugar and almond flour. Pass through a fine mesh sifter to remove any large pieces.
  4. With a mixer, beat the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt until frothy. Increase the mixer speed and slowly add in the granulated sugar. Beat of medium high speed until egg whites are stiff, but still glossy, about 4-5 minutes.
  5. Add desired food coloring and mix until combined.
  6. Gently fold the dry ingredients into the egg white mixture. Keep mixing until the mixture runs like thick batter.  Be careful it isn’t too thin/watery or too thick.
  7. Carefully spoon the mixture into the prepared pastry bag. If you used parchment to line your baking sheets, dab a little mixture under the corners so they don’t fold up.
  8. Pipe batter into 1” circles, 1” apart on the baking sheets. Tap the sheets on the counter to even out the macarons and release any bubbles.
  9. Allow the macarons to sit at room temperature 20-30 minutes to create a “skin” on top.
  10. Bake one sheet at a time for 16 minutes. Cool completely before removing them from the trays.


Honey Buttercream Filling

8 oz. Butter
3 oz. Cream Cheese
2 oz. Honey
10 oz. Powdered Sugar
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract


  1. Cream butter and cream cheese.
  2. Add powdered sugar.
  3. Add honey and vanilla. Scrape bowl.
  4. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes until light and airy.
  5. Match up two equal size macaron shells and pipe buttercream on one side. Set the other cookie on top to make sandwiches.

Like many of us, I’m totally guilty of over-complicating things!  This is one of my absolute favorite, go-to recipes that is simple, delicious, and can utilize any seasonal fruit.  Not to mention, a little effort in designing the top and you instantly look like a professional pastry chef!  As summer approaches, the mangoes are getting beautifully ripe and will be the perfect compliment to any fruit tart.


Mango Mandarin Tart

Tart Shell

6 oz. Unsalted Butter
1 Cup Sugar
2 Eggs
½ Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 ½ Cups All Purpose Flour
½ Teaspoon Salt


  1. Cream the butter and sugar until smooth.
  2. Gradually add the eggs, vanilla and salt. Scrape the bowl and beat for one minute.
  3. Add the flour and mix until just combined.
  4. Shape the dough into a 1” thick disc and refrigerate at least two hours or overnight.
  5. To prepare your tart pan, line it with parchment and spray evenly including all corners.
  6. Roll the dough out with a bit of flour until it is 1/8” thick. Trim so that it is approximately 1 ½” larger than the tart pan on all sides.
  7. Roll the dough up with a rolling pin and carefully unroll it on top of the tart pan. Work the dough evenly into the corners and trim the top edge. Repair and tears with extra dough. Refrigerate an hour before baking.
  8. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the tart shell with parchment paper and fill with baking beans.  Be sure they go all the way to the corners.
  9. Bake until the top edge of the shell begins to get a light golden color, 16-20 minutes. Remove the baking beans and parchment.  Bake another 8-10 minutes or until the base of the shell is cooked through.
  10. Cool completely before filling.


Custard Filling

2 Cups Whole Milk
½ Cup Sugar
4 Egg Yolks
1 ½ oz. Corn Starch
Pinch of Salt
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 oz. Butter.


  1. Place 1 ½ cups of the milk and ¼ cup of the sugar in a 2 quart saucepan and scald.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, corn starch, salt, remaining sugar and remaining milk.
  3. When the milk mixture just begins to bubble, pour 1/3 of it into the egg mixture and whisk quickly. Pour everything back into the saucepan and cook on low, stirring constantly until the custard begins to bubble. Keep stirring and let cook for one minute while boiling.
  4. Remove from the heat. Add the vanilla and butter.  Stir until completely combined.
  5. Refrigerate at least two hours or overnight. Be sure to put plastic wrap directly on top of the custard to prevent it from getting a skin.
  6. Before using, whisk the custard thoroughly or mix it in the food processor to remove lumps.



  1. Carefully remove the cooled tart shell from the pan and peel the parchment paper from the back.
  2. Fill the tart shell nearly to the top with blended custard.
  3. Peel and segment four mandarin oranges. Peel and dice one mango.
  4. Decorate with your choice of design and enjoy!

I love rhurbarb.  I mean, I LOVE rhubarb.  I was born in Wisconsin and it was a staple in markets as well as my mom’s garden during the summer.  Now, here I am years later, and I still get ridiculously excited when I see fresh rhubarb work its way south.  It typically arrives right at the end of our amazing local strawberry season, hence one of my favorite cake recipes shared below, strawberry rhubarb cake.  I honestly wasn’t sure if I wanted to share this recipe, but my boyfriend helped seal that deal – you can thank him later.  I was crazy busy one day so I asked him to pick up some rhubarb at the store.  He said “what’s rhubarb?” At that moment I thought I had completely failed as both a chef and girlfriend.  Fast-forward three days, he fought the kids for pieces of the cake and now knows exactly where to find rhubarb.  I win.

Strawberry Rhubarb Cake

Strawberry Cake

Yield: (2) 9” Round Layer Cakes

2 Cups Diced Strawberries
1 Cup Diced Rhubarb
6 oz. Butter
1 ½ Cups Sugar
½ Cup Milk
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
2 Teaspoons Baking Soda
½ Teaspoon Salt
5 Egg Whites, Large
2 ½ Cups Flour
4 Drops Red Food Color (if desired)


  1. In a small saucepan, combine the diced strawberries and rhubarb. Bring to a simmer and cook on medium heat 8-10 minutes until the fruit is broken down and the mixture has reduced a bit.  Set aside to cool.  When cool, puree completely in a food processor.
  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line desired pans with parchment paper and spray evenly.
  3. In a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar for one minute.
  4. Add the vegetable oil, vanilla and milk. Scrape bowl and beat one minute.
  5. Add the baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  6. Add the fruit puree and gradually add the egg whites. Scrape bowl and beat for two more minutes.
  7. Add the flour and food color if desired.
  8. Pour into baking pans and bake for 40-50 minutes until a tester pick comes out clean.
  9. Cool completely before filling.


Rhubarb Jam Filling

1 Tablespoon Unsalted Butter
1# Diced Rhubarb
1# Sliced Strawberries
1 Cup Sugar
¼ Cup Corn Starch
4 oz. Water
Pinch of Salt
1 Teaspoon Lemon Juice


  1. Melt the butter in a 2 qt. saucepan.
  2. Add the rhubarb and strawberries. Sautee for one minute.
  3. Add the sugar, stir and cook to boiling. Allow the mixture to bubble on low heat for 2-3 minutes.  Meanwhile, make a slurry of the corn starch, water, salt and lemon juice.
  4. Remove mixture from the heat, quickly stir in the slurry. Return to the heat and cook until thick.  Allow to cook at least one minute until the starch has cooked out.
  5. Cool 3-4 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.


Strawberry Syrup

8 oz. Fresh Diced Strawberries
¼ Cup Sugar
1 Teaspoon Lemon Juice


  1. Mix the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice in a bowl. Allow to sit for two hours until the sugar is dissolved and the juice comes out.
  2. Blend until there are no chunks.


Cream Cheese Icing

1# Cream Cheese
1# Butter
2# Powdered Sugar
2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract


  1. Make sure cream cheese and butter are close to the same consistency. Cream the butter and cream cheese until smooth.
  2. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Scrape Bowl.
  3. Beat on high for 2 minutes until the mixture is bright white and thick. Use immediately.



  1. Even out the top of the layer cakes. Slice each one in half to create four layers.
  2. Evenly spread the strawberry syrup on the cut side of each layer.
  3. Place your bottom layer on the presentation plate. Spread ½ cup of cream cheese icing on it.  Spread ½ cup of rhubarb jam on top.
  4. Repeat step three two more times. Place the last layer of cake on top.
  5. Refrigerate at least two hours. Place the remaining cream cheese icing in the refrigerator as well.
  6. Re-beat the cream cheese icing. Frost cake and decorate as desired.

I’m pretty sure Elvis and I would have gotten along because these peanut butter banana ice cream sandwiches with toasted marshmallow bits and homemade graham crackers always make me soooo happy.  The best part is you can add or take away anything you want in the filling depending on the season.  Feeling decadent? Add some Nutella.  How about bing cherries and chocolate chunks?  Or bourbon caramel and pecans? The possibilities are endless and I can’t get enough.

Peanut Butter Banana Ice Cream Sandwiches

Graham Sandwich Cookies

2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
2 ½ Cups All Purpose Flour
¾ Cup Brown Sugar
Pinch of Salt
½ Teaspoon Cinnamon
1 ½ Teaspoons Baking Soda
6 oz. Cold Butter
¼ Cup Honey
4 oz. Water


  1. Mix the whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and baking soda together.
  2. Cut the cold butter into small pieces and pinch into the dry mixture until pea sized.
  3. Add the honey and water. Mix until a dry dough forms.  If it is too crumbly, add one more ounce of water.
  4. Roll out on a lightly floured surface to 1/8” thick. With a ruler, measure 2” x 4” rectangles and cut. Transfer onto flat cookie sheets lined with parchment.  Re-roll the dough and cut more graham cookies.  You should have 18.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes until cooked through, but still soft.
  6. Cool the cookies completely before building sandwiches.


Ice Cream Filling

2 Cups Mini Marshmallows
½ Gallon Vanilla Ice Cream
½ Cup Peanut Butter, warm
3 Bananas, sliced


  1. Preheat oven to broil. Line a cookie sheet with foil and spray heavily with pan spray. Spread the mini marshmallows on the sheet and toast 1-2 minutes until deep golden brown. Set aside to cool.
  2. Line a ¼ sheet tray with plastic wrap, set aside.
  3. Leave the ice cream out at room temperature until partially soft or mix in a stand mixer for 10 seconds to break it up.
  4. With a spatula, fold the cooled marshmallows into the ice cream.
  5. Place half of the ice cream mixture into the ¼ sheet tray.
  6. Quickly arrange the sliced bananas on the ice cream layer.
  7. Drizzle the slightly warm peanut butter on top of the banana layer.
  8. Spread the remaining ice cream mixture on top.
  9. Re-Freeze 3 hours or overnight.
  10. When frozen solid, flip the ice cream out of the tray using the plastic to pop it out.
  11. Cut evenly into 2” x 4” rectangles.
  12. Assemble the sandwiches using the cooled graham cookies.
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