You probably know Busy Philipps for her roles in Freaks and Geeks, Dawson’s Creek and Cougar Town, but it turns out her biggest talent may just be her insane baking skills. We discovered this after the actress spent an afternoon at Williams-Sonoma headquarters, where she and her seven-year-old daughter Birdie made chocolate and pistachio macarons with our test kitchen cooks.
Busy and Birdie started making macarons by sifting flour, almonds and confectioner’s sugar for the cookie base; meanwhile, the actress talked about what piqued her interest in baking. As a young girl, her father got stationed in Hawaii, and she watched her mother, who knew no one on the island but needed a way to pass the time, develop a hobby for baking desserts. It wasn’t long before Busy took an interest, too. “I asked for an Easy Bake Oven, and my mom said, ‘If you want to bake, you can do it in a real oven,'” she recalled. Her mother began passing down all of the family’s dessert recipes, even insisting Busy’s grandmother show her how to make the family recipe for seafoam.
After creating a dry almond-and-flour base, Busy and her daughter beat egg whites with cream of tartar. She told us about how she developed her affinity for making whimsical cakes. “When I was acting in my early twenties, I was super bored in my down time, so I started making cakes,” she explained. It was the early 2000s then, and she spent a lot of time tuning in to watch Charm City Cakes celebrity cake decorator Duff Goldman on Ace of Cakes.
Eventually, Hollywood caught wind of Busy’s cake decorating skills, especially after seeing her cakes on social media (here’s one of Rapunzel in a tower; here’s another of Tiger Woods’ crash scene that she made for actress Jennifer Carpenter’s 30th birthday). “When I was pregnant with Cricket [her second daughter, now 18 months], I was bored again,” she said, as she helped Birdie pipe macaron batter in circles. “So I went to Charm City Cakes West, and [executive chef] Anna Ellison said she would do a class with us.”
Appropriately, Birdie is equally fanatical about spending time in the kitchen, citing American Girl character Grace as her inspiration: “Birdie just early on wanted to be a part of it all.” Indeed, Birdie spent half the time in our test kitchen baking macarons, and another half of the time giving Penguina, her stuffed animal penguin, a tour of the test kitchen.
Busy and her husband, screenwriter Marc Silverstein, make enjoying good food a priority, both in and out of the house. Some of the family’s favorite restaurants in L.A. are Sqirl and Jon & Vinny’s, and she has strong opinions about some of food world’s current obsessions (“I hate ramen. I’m not a fan”). One of Busy and Marc’s favorite things to make at home is a simple red pasta, and the two of them walked us through their favorite tomato sauce recipe, which is below.
Busy and Marc’s Favorite Red Sauce
Season a 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes and simmer for 45 minutes. In a separate saucepan, combine 1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil, 2 stalks of basil, and a couple of cloves of garlic. Simmer until garlic has browned, and let sit half an hour, then add the crushed tomato sauce, straining it through a sieve.
Check out the gallery below for more images of our afternoon with Busy Philipps.