Chef Shares 5 Must-Have Ingredients for Dessert Lovers

Chicago-based pastry chef and restauranteur Malika Ameen grew up in a home where the focus was on food made from scratch. Chef Ameen especially enjoys preparing dessert, and says there are five ingredients she always has on hand to give her desserts that extra something special. Ameen was gracious enough to share with Care2 the reasons she always stocks these ingredients.

Chef Malika Ameen’s Top 5 Must-Have Ingredients for Dessert Lovers

1. Candied Citrus

“I love to add this to recipes,” says Ameen. “It brings brightness, freshness and texture, especially to cakes and cookies. Try some mixed in to your basic sugar cookie dough to transform it into something truly special and unique.”

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2. Dried Lavender

“I fell in love with lavender after living in California. The smell reminds me of my trips to beautiful Bug Sur, where the wind carries this hypnotic scent,” says Ameen. “Used sparingly, dried lavender enhances food with a mysterious and distinctive flavor. I love to steep it in cream to pair with berries, a sugar syrup for a tart and refreshing lemonade, or combined with a crunchy sugar to top off cookies or a simple pound cake.”

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3. Ground Cardamom

This aromatic and slightly sweet spice is one of my Ameen’s favorites. “A relative of ginger, cardamom is an antioxidant and aids in digestion. Used commonly in Scandinavian baking, it is great in breads, breakfast pastries, and pairs beautifully with chocolate. Try some in a basic chocolate pudding or folded into a brownie batter.”

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4. Vanilla Sugar

“Infusing used vanilla beans is a great way to get the most out of this expensive and exotic spice.” Ameen suggests keeping vanilla sugar on hand indefinitely by adding pods to your sugar jar and shaking occasionally. “Vanilla sugar adds a beautiful layer of flavor to any sweet treat that requires sugar. It also makes a lovely gift!”

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5. Fleur De Sel

“This ‘flower of salt’ is the ultimate condiment. A few crystals sprinkled over a dessert add a burst of flavor and texture,” say Ameen. “Try a few grains on your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe — I promise you will be addicted!”

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Natalie W.
Natalie W.about a year ago

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Shirley S.
Shirley S.2 years ago

Lavender cookies are very nice.

Suz F.
Suz F.2 years ago


Allen O.
Allen O.2 years ago

The only candied fruit I like is crystalized ginger (I know ginger is not a fruit)

Lisa Zilli
Lisa Zilli2 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Robynne W.
Robynne W.2 years ago

Apparently I have much simpler tastes than most chefs. I have no desire to put candied fruit or citrus into any dessert. Lavender sounds unappetizing - but I could be wrong. Cardamom sounds like a good addition, as does the vanilla sugar. I don't know what the 'flower of salt' would add - I use very little salt.
Guess for me I'll stick with my plain, ordinary desserts that I know and love.

Elena T.
Elena Poensgen2 years ago

Thank you :)

Camilla Vaga
Camilla Vaga2 years ago


Angela Roquemore
Angela Roquemore2 years ago

Lavender is ALSO used in the French herb blend known as "Herbes de Provence."

Fred Hoekstra
Fred Hoekstra2 years ago

Thank you Ann, for Sharing this!