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Alex Guarnaschelli's Recipe Inspiration

POPSUGAR / paid for by / Paco Rabanne

Looking for the sweetest Mother's Day gift for Mom? We've partnered with Paco Rabanne Olympéa to show you how to take gifting back to the basics.

Who are our mothers? They're our closest caretakers, fiercest confidants, and very best friends. Older and wiser, no doubt, but our mirror images with qualities that we spend our entire lives trying to embody. For some, those enviable traits may be an unwavering compassion for animals or a natural ability to make an impact through words. But for professional chef Alex Guarnaschelli, her admiration for her mom started in the kitchen.

"I have memories of my mother pulling cakes out of the oven and the smell that would fill the house," Alex told POPSUGAR. As a cookbook editor, her mother, Maria, spent her days doing what most in her field don't: trying the recipes for herself. Between these experimental creations and the desserts her dad insisted were the doctor's orders, an endless stream of delicious baked goods not only shaped Alex's flavor palette, but her entire childhood. Up ahead, Alex is sharing how her mother's strength has influenced her career and inspired her recipes. And though Mother's Day has passed, she shares how to craft a delicious gift you can give to her any time.

Channel your mother's unique sensibilities

When you're setting out to craft the perfect recipe for your mom, use her most memorable qualities that set her apart to guide you. Apart from honesty, Alex cited her mother's incredible will, which saved her from getting fired from an early job. "She just does not ever take no for an answer. When she finds something and she thinks this is the way it should be, she just persists," Alex said, "and the end result is such a high level of quality." Whatever recipe you decide to craft, be sure it's one that you're proud of.

Use her favorite flavors

One of the first things Alex remembers baking with her mom is a crème brulée filled with fresh vanilla bean. "The thing about vanilla is it's an incredible flavor on its own, but it also plays nice with other flavors that are, say, peppery or chocolaty," Alex said. With her mom's own expert recipes in mind, Alex said that vanilla tops everything. "When you put vanilla in a context where it stands alone, I don't know if there's anything more delicious to me."

Heighten your senses and find inspiration everywhere

In a bustling city like New York, inspiration is around every corner. "It definitely comes a lot from where I eat," Alex said, "[and] it's not just a scoop of caviar on toast somewhere fancy that leads to inspiration. I really gather it from all sorts of places." One thing she emphasizes in particular is surrounding yourself with rich smells that she believes are so closely related to taste. Green markets are one of her favorite places to peruse in her free time, but Alex said that anywhere can spark something on a whim. "I can walk through the lobby at a department store and smell all the perfumes that can inspire me."

Image Source: Shutterstock

Alex's winning recipe

For a gift she can give whenever she wants to tell her Mom she's thinking of her, Alex is opting for a recipe that brings back childhood memories and uses the ingredients they both love. In this case, that's a simple vanilla cake infused with orange syrup. Here's what you'll need to make your own:

  • A simple vanilla cake, like this
  • Orange liqueur
  • Orange flower water
  • Honey

To assemble: Bring liqueur, flower water, and honey to a simmer, and pour over the cake. Let it seep in, cover with a layer of frosting, and enjoy.

So if you're looking for the best gift to celebrate the most important woman in your life whenever the occasion strikes, think about the things she'll love the most. Like Alex, you just may find inspiration in the things that will always bind you together.

More From Paco Rabanne


Make mom feel extra special with the gift of Paco Rabanne Olympéa; a deep amber perfume with a salty-vanilla fused scent. Sounds just as divine as the cake recipe, right?

Image Source: Image Courtesy of Alex Guarnaschelli