Stellina Sweets: Counselor Operates Baking Blog


Photos by Thara Salim

A sumptuous array of baked treats, in all of their chocolatey, gooey and powdered-sugar glory, glimmer enticingly from a computer screen. Images are accompanied by blurbs describing the featured treats. This is the elegant homepage of Stellina Sweets, a blog run by Los Altos counselor Dafna Adler. Every two weeks or so, she adds another recipe  to the blog’s already extensive list.

Four years ago, Adler created Stellina Sweets to further her passion for baking and share it with the world. Her inspiration for the blog’s title stems from an Italian word meaning “little star”.

“It’s used by Italian grandmothers to their grandchildren as an affectionate term, like ‘my little sweet one,’” Adler said. “It’s kind of how I felt about my little baked goods.”

Adler’s journey as a baker started 15 years ago, when she made a cheesecake for a special occasion. Her interest for baking has been rising like dough ever since. After being devoted to the art of cupcakes for some time, Adler graduated to working with more intricate recipes, such as layer cakes and French pastries, and began to perfect her decorating skills.

“I love doing layer cakes,” Adler said. “They’re a lot of work, but I love making them. Right now, I’m into Italian pastries, because I went to Italy over the summer and [I was] learning how to make pastries from different regions in Italy”

Bringing blogging into the mix was a crucial step in Adler’s baking odyssey. She started out blogging about baked goods and recipes through a blogging group started by Baked, a bakery in New York. Every few weeks, members of the group baked recipes from the bakery’s cookbooks and blogged about their experiences with the recipes.

“I thought it would be kind of fun to participate in that, but you have to have a blog,” Adler said. “So at one point, when [Baked was] about to put out a new book, I decided to make a blog so that I could join that group. And then I went from there.”

Being part of this group has allowed Adler to expand her baking repertoire and  attempt recipes that she may not have considered to experiment with individually.

“Participating in the blogging group really pushed me to try things that I’d never made,” Adler said. “I just wanted to try harder and harder things, and kind of make my own variations on stuff, and then I wanted to post more interesting things on the blog. It was sort of a cycle.”adler-pose

The blogging group provided a unique opportunity for Adler as well: the chance to be a recipe tester for the latest Baked cookbook, “Baked Occasions”. She and the group baked through the recipes and provided feedback on the outcomes.

Despite some overlap with the Baked group in terms of blog content, Stellina Sweets is also composed of a generous portion of recipes that Adler has adapted individually.

This aspect of the blog encompasses a developing facet of Adler’s passion for baking: food science. One of her recent quests in baking was the perfection of an Italian apple cake.

“It just wasn’t coming out right,” Adler said. “And I tried a bunch of different recipes….and it still wasn’t quite what I wanted….But I always want to get it right, because I always learn from it. And that was a cool project because I was learning about ratios, like butter to sugar to flour, and how that affects the finished product.”

Trial and error plays a role in Adler’s baking before she presents her final baked goods, as she finds this to be the best learning method.

“I always try to understand what went wrong, so that I can make it better,” Adler said. “I really love [baking]…It’s my creative outlet.”

Another new avenue that Adler has explored with her blog is food photography. Each recipe involves photos that Adler takes herself that augment her written description of her experience baking the featured baked treat.

“Any photographer’s, but [especially] a food photographer’s, nemesis is darkness,” Adler said. “Natural light is the best to make food look nice…That’s another artistic piece for me, I’ve really learned to enjoy photography, and to make things look as pretty as they can.”

Adler has advice for newcomers in the spheres of baking and blogging alike.

“Prepare to have some mistakes, because they will happen. Try to find some good sources…” said Adler. “If you can find some good reliable sources, you’ll have a better chance of working with good materials to start to build skills. Try to use the best ingredients that you can afford, because it makes it makes a big difference….As far as blogging…I would say write what you enjoy.”

The blog features a smorgasbord of recipes that Adler has infused with her personal style. As she does with Baked and its cookbooks, she often adds a unique twist to the recipes, the cherry on top that accentuates her individuality.

“I try to mix it up a little bit, add a garnish, or change an ingredient, make it my own,” Adler said.

But her long-term goal is to devise her own confections for her blog, and to explore food science in a more in-depth fashion as well.

“One of the challenges for me is that I really want to cross the threshold of adapting other people’s recipes to creating my own,” Adler said. “I’d like to be able to develop more of my own original recipes. That’s my long-term goal.”

Adler’s blog is located at