champagne wishes...

Happy New Year! Thank you all for an incredible year... I'm beyond grateful for your love, support and loyalty. Though it's been an eventful and life changing 2010 for me, I can't wait to see what new adventures are on the horizon for 2011.

To help inspire your celebrations this evening, I've created a mini inspiration board honoring a classic New Years tradition-the Champagne Cocktail! Break out that bubbly and mix it up using one of the delightful recipes below.

Best wishes to you all and many happy returns...

 A Champagne Cocktail Countdown

4. The Classic...

Serves 1...
-3 drops bitters
-1 sugar cube
-1 ounce Cognac
-4 ounces chilled Champagne

Drop bitters onto sugar cube; let soak in. Place sugar cube in a Champagne flute. Add Cognac, and top with Champagne.

3. Blackberry Champagne Cocktail...

Serves 4...
-4 blackberries, quartered
-1/4 cup triple sec
-4 sugar cubes
-Angostura bitters as needed
-1 bottle (750ml) Champagne, Prosecco or other dry sparkling white wine, chilled

In a small nonreactive bowl, combine the blackberries and triple sec and let stand for about 15 minutes to let the fruit macerate.
Place 1 sugar cube in each of 4 Champagne flutes and add 1 or 2 dashes of bitters to each one. Spoon 4 pieces of marinated blackberry in each flute. Top with Champagne and serve immediately.

{via the food channel}

2. Pomegranate Champagne Cocktail...

Serves 1...
4 oz champagne
1 oz pomegranate juice
1 teaspoon cassis

Pour chilled champagne into a flute, then add pomegranate juice and cassis.

1. Sparkling Cranberry Rose...

Serves 8-10...
-8 to 10 sugar cubes
-1 to 1-1/4 cups cranberry juice
-1 750-milliliter bottle sparkling rosé wine, champagne, or sparkling white grape juice
- Fresh cranberries

Place one sugar cube in the bottom of 8 to 10 chilled champagne flutes or other tall, narrow glasses. Pour 2 tablespoons cranberry juice into each glass.
Fill each glass with sparkling rose wine or champagne. If desired, place a wooden skewer of fresh cranberries in each glass.

... Happy New Year!

real parties: a kid friendly NYE {& DiY confetti eggs}

Kellie of This Blessed Nest sent in a little party she put together for her family last New Years Eve. With just a few simple decorations and desserts she was able to throw it together in a matter of days. My favorite touch is the carton of festive confetti eggs- any kid would love a chance to crack one open on a sibling or parent! See below for a simple tutorial on how to make them at home yourself...

{images via this blessed nest}

Confetti Eggs How-To:

1. Using the points of a pair of scissors, crack a small hole at the larger end of an egg. Let the egg drain, carefully rinse its interior, and allow it to dry. Use dye to color the eggshell; allow to dry thoroughly.

2. Fashion a funnel from a piece of paper, and fill the egg about halfway with ready-made confetti or with your own homemade version (simply cut up several sheets of tissue paper into tiny squares).

3. Cut a piece of tissue paper slightly larger in size than the egg's hole. Run the glue stick around the edges of the hole and over one side of the paper; seal the hole by pressing the paper firmly over the opening.

tutorial via
martha stewart

a family friendly new years party...

Love this simple, sweet new years spread spotted over at Hello Naomi. If your NYE plans don't include the kids, how about celebrating with a family brunch on New Years Day? Pop by Naomi's blog for more details, vendor info and other great inspiration...

{images via hello naomi}

gift tags galore: free holiday printables round up

Tis the season for generosity! I've been seeing loads of free printable holiday gift tags from designers, so I decided to round them up and pass them on to all of you last minute gift wrappers. Here are my faves...

Moving Reindeer via
Eat Drink Chic:

Wine Bottles & Pattern Tags via Martha Stewart:

Indie Ornaments via Orange You Lucky:

Page of Pretties via Blush Printables:

Whimsical Woodland via
Camilla Emgman:

Oh, and I almost forgot- there's the tags I created last year. :)

real parties: holiday gift wrap & winter treats


Wrapping holiday gifts can be a boring chore, often amounting to hours spent on the floor in a sprawl of presents, cursing from the paper cuts and somehow always running out of tape (or is that just me?). Now turn that chore into a party, and you've got something much more fun and festive. It's hard to feel frustrated when you're sipping a cup of hot cocoa, sharing supplies and creative wrapping ideas among friends.

Last weekend, myself and Michele of Cakewalk Baking joined forces in a collaborative effort to bring this idea to life. We put a new spin on the dessert table by creating a gift wrap buffet of papers, ribbons, tags and accessories... complete with a paper cake! We chose a fresh winter color palette of blue, green, rose and silver, and I purchased the paper goods from Paper Source to make sure the patterns complimented one another. Embellishments included baking twine, cupcake liner flowers, glitter letters, happy tape, antique keys, small mushrooms, metallic markers and a variety of colorful gift tags.
Michele did all the baking and outdid herself with a gorgeous selection of ginger cookies, fudge, white chocolate peppermint cupcakes, and melt in your mouth butter toffee. Be sure to check out her blog in the next few days for some of these delicious recipes. The cake stands and vintage holiday decorations are all part of her enviable personal collection too.

In addition to the sweet treats, we offered an assortment of seasonal beverages including hot apple cider, cocoa and a delicious champagne cocktail- guaranteed to get anyone in the holiday spirit.

I created the homemade sea salt & rosemary almonds, packaged in glass jars to take home as favors. The wreath on the tag was a free download from

In addition to the sweet treats, we offered an assortment of seasonal beverages including hot apple cider, cocoa and a delicious champagne cocktail- guaranteed to get anyone in the holiday spirit.
I created the homemade sea salt & rosemary almonds, packaged in glass jars to take home as favors. The wreath on the tag was a free download from Nonpareil, and I incorporated my own holiday layout and crafted the tags using a circle cutter. See the full tutorial here.

It was a perfect December afternoon, and aside from an unfortunate shortage of scissors, a good time was had by all. Perhaps more importantly, we all went home with an item checked off that big holiday to-do list!

images © cake. | events + design

DiY tutorial & FREE printables: rosemary & sea salt roasted almonds

Each holiday season I create a small homemade gift that can be given to friends, neighbors and houseguests. Last year I baked a variety of cookies, but when delivering the boxes I discovered that most people were already up to their ears in holiday sweets. So this year I vowed to go with a savory treat instead. I absolutely love Marcona almonds (but they can be a little pricey) so I decided to create my own homemade version: olive oil roasted almonds with rosemary & sea salt. Below is the recipe, along with a tutorial for how to create the jars. I’ve also provided a free printable for the gift tags, so you can try this project out yourself. (Note: the wreath in the design was actually obtained from another free download provided by the fabulous Nonpareil magazine). Hope it gets you in the holiday spirit!

PS: Look for these almonds featured as favors at the holiday gift wrap party I'll be posting later this week.

To make the Almonds:
-5 lbs blanched almonds
-Olive oil
-6-8 sprigs fresh rosemary {stems discarded}
-Coarse sea salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350F
2. In a large bowl, toss almonds in olive oil until well coated.
3. Sprinkle with sea salt and rosemary
4. Spread evenly on baking pans, and bake for about 10 minutes, or until light golden brown in color.
tip: allow almonds to cool completely before filling jars.

For the Jars:
-24 small glad jars with lids {I ordered mine from
specialty bottle}
-Fabric to cover lids
-24 rubberbands
-Gift tags

1. Cut out fabric into squares and cut lengths of ribbon. {Tip: create a sample to find the measurements you like and use that to measure out the rest}.
2. Print and cut out tags using scissors or a circle cutter. Punch hole in top center.
3. Pull rubberband through tag hole and loop through to hold in place.
4. Fasten fabric to jar lids with tagged rubberband.
5. Tie ribbon around rubberband and center with a bow.

Download gift tags HERE

{all images copyright birthday girl 2010}

coming soon... holiday gift wrap & winter treats

The party elves are hard at work this season, and I am no exception. I've been working on a wonderful holiday project with Michele from Cakewalk Baking, and it's coming together this weekend. As a little teaser, here's the custom invitation I designed...

Can't wait to share everything with you next week!

{image copyright cakewalk baking & birthday girl}

hot chocolate layer cake with marshmallows

A chocolate cake guaranteed to keep you cozy on a cold winter's day...

{image & recipe via fine cooking}

Hot Chocolate Layer Cake with Homemade Marshmallows

Cake Ingredients
6 oz. (3/4 cup) unsalted butter; more for the pans
13-1/2 oz. (3 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the pans
3/4 cup canola oil
4-1/2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
3 cups granulated sugar
2-1/4 oz. (3/4 cup) natural unsweetened cocoa powder
3 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
2 Tbs. pure vanilla extract
2-1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Frosting Ingredients
2-1/2 cups heavy cream
3 oz. (6 Tbs.) unsalted butter
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped out
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 cups granulated sugar
6 oz. (2 cups) natural unsweetened cocoa powder; more for decorating
1/2 cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup
1/4 tsp. kosher salt

Marshmallow Ingredients
Three 1/4-oz. envelopes unflavored powdered gelatin
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 Tbs. confectioners’ sugar; more as needed

Cake Directions
Position racks in the bottom and top thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Butter three 9x2-inch round cake pans and line each with a parchment round. Butter the parchment, then dust with flour and knock out the excess.

In a 3-quart saucepan, combine the butter, oil, chopped chocolate, and 1 cup water. Heat over medium heat until melted.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, and cocoa powder. Pour the hot chocolate mixture into the sugar mixture and whisk until combined.
Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, then whisk in the buttermilk, vanilla, baking soda, and salt. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans.

Set two pans on the top rack and the third on the lower rack. Stagger the pans on the oven racks so that no pan is directly over another. Bake, swapping and rotating the pans’ positions after 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on racks for 10 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the racks, remove the parchment, and cool completely.

Frosting Directions
In a 4-quart saucepan over low heat, combine the cream, butter, and vanilla bean and seeds and stir until the butter is melted. Remove the vanilla bean and whisk in the chopped chocolate until melted. Whisk in the sugar, cocoa powder, syrup, and salt until smooth—be sure the cocoa powder dissolves completely. Pour into a 9x13-inch pan and freeze until firm, about 2 hours, or refrigerate overnight.

Marshmallow Directions
Pour 3/4 cup cold water into the bowl of a stand mixer. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water. Attach the bowl to the mixer and fit it with the whisk attachment.

Clip a candy thermometer to a 3-quart saucepan; don’t let the tip of the thermometer touch the bottom of the pan. In the saucepan, boil the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 3/4 cup water over medium heat without stirring until it reaches 234°F to 235°F, about 10 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, pour the hot sugar mixture into the gelatin in a slow, thin stream.

Add the vanilla, carefully increase the speed to high, and beat until the mixture has thickened and cooled, about 5 minutes (the bottom of the bowl should be just warm to the touch). Line a 9x13-inch pan with foil, leaving an overhang on 2 sides. Sift 1 Tbs. of the confectioners’ sugar into the bottom of the pan, then pour the marshmallow mixture into the pan and sift another 1 Tbs. confectioners’ sugar on top. Let sit at room temperature until set, at least 2 hours.

Assemble the cake
Remove the frosting from the freezer or refrigerator. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes to soften. Change to a whisk attachment and beat at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Put a cake layer on a flat serving platter or a cake stand lined with strips of waxed paper to keep it clean while icing. Top the layer with 1-1/2 cups of the frosting, spreading it evenly with an offset spatula to the cake’s edge. Repeat with another cake layer and 1-1/2 cups frosting. Top with the last cake layer.

Put 1-1/2 cups of the frosting in a small bowl. With an offset spatula, spread this frosting in a thin layer over the top and sides of the cake. Refrigerate the cake until the frosting firms enough to seal in the crumbs, 20 to 30 minutes.

Spread the remaining frosting in a smooth layer over the top and sides of the cake. If necessary, you can rewhip the remaining frosting to loosen and lighten it. Remove the waxed paper strips.

Use the foil overhang to lift the marshmallow from the pan. Using a knife that has been dipped in cold water, cut along the edge of the marshmallow to release it from the foil. Transfer to a cutting board and remove the foil. Put the remaining 1 cup confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl. Cut the marshmallow into cubes of different sizes, from 1/4 to 3/4 inch (you will need to continue to dip the knife in cold water as you cut the marshmallows). The marshmallows will be very sticky—dip the cut edges in the confectioners’ sugar to make them easier to handle. As you work, toss a few cubes at a time in the sugar to coat, then shake in a strainer to remove the excess. Mound the marshmallows on top of the cake (you’ll need only a third to half of them). Sift some cocoa powder over the marshmallows.

Make ahead tips: You can bake, cool, wrap, and store the cake layers at room temperature for up to 1 day or freeze for up to 1 month. You can refrigerate the frosting for up to 3 days. The assembled cake can be refrigerated for up to 4 hours (return to room temperature before serving). Wrapped well, leftover marshmallows keep at room temperature for up to 1 month.

holiday party: tis the season

Melanie of Inspired Events sent me this festive photoshoot she created for the holiday season. She wanted to create inspiration for a DiY design using simple flowers, table settings and decor. Here's how she put together the party in her own words:

I went to the flower market and purchased the orchid plants and the mirrored containers. The wall decor are ornaments from my personalChristmas tree stash. Anyone can use special ornaments that are family passed down or mistletoe or fresh greens from the outdoors! The candy cane martini's were made with rum, peppermint schnapps and a splash of grenadine.

On the dessert table, the apothecary jars came from a local Home Goods/Marshalls and TJ Maxx home section where I also got the cake stands and glass pedestal. All were reasonably priced and can be reused later in the home. Whether it's in your house and you change it by season filling it with nature from outdoors (pine cones, holly berries, greens for the winter, sand and shells from a walk on the beach for the summer) or it's taken out when entertaining at the house, these jars and stands are very versatile. I baked the candy cane brownies, marshmallow lollipops, white chocolate pretzels rolled in candy cane and German chocolate fudge. The candy (peppermint starlight mints, cherry rings, gummy bears, salt water taffy, and red licorice) all were ordered off Candy Warehouse where you can search candies by holiday, theme or color. The little holiday penguins were purchased at LA Burdick's, a great place for decorative chocolate favors. Made of hand-piped dark chocolate and lemon ganache, the penguins were something I thought would be perfect to have as favors. The details do not go unnoticed including almond wings and are dressed in dark chocolate, accented with white.

As a bonus, here is Melanie's recipe for the Candy Cane martini- a festive & fabulous idea!

Candy Cane Martini
-3 fluid ounces rum
-2 fluid ounces peppermint schnapps
-1/2 fluid ounce grenadine syrup
-1 small candy cane

holiday party: a snowman shindig

Amanda of Shindig Parties created all the printables for this adorable snowman themed party, and has a custom design for winter birthdays too! I love the combo of bright polka dots and stripes, especially when incorporated into the place settings, ribbons and wallpaper. The donut hole snowman faces and cotton ball garlands are really clever too. It's a perfect option for a children's holiday celebration, and ps for the girls... the printables also come in pink.

{images by shindig parties}