A Rustic Winter Tablescape

A small touch of sparkle can be the perfect addition to a holiday table, and I love the effect of using Mercury glass in contrast to a natural setting like this one.  It has a subtle shimmer that catches the light and compliments the earthy hues and raw materials.  Mercury glass is currently trendy with major retailers as seen here and here and can also be created as a DiY craft project at home, following this tutorial.  Here are some styling tips for creating a similar tablescape:

1. Gather weathered branches and paint white. For a more rustic look, use a flat white spray paint and a gentle 1-2 coats of spray.  To achieve full coverage, you'll be better off painting the branches with a brush and white primer or semi-gloss paint (as the wood tends to suck up the spray paint rather quickly).
2. Set your holiday table. This table is an unfinished wood, and the green patterned runner incorporates a subtle silver, green and blue color palette. Silver chargers add a touch of sophistication.
3. Add your branches and intersperse with Mercury Glass candle holders (found here) and other items. This table uses natural pine cones, but glass ornaments would be perfect for the holidays.
4. A pop of contrasting color like these red pomegranates adds an element of fun and can be used as a placecard (as shown here).

photos + styling © cake. 2011

Dark Chocolate Holiday Bark with Sea Salt and Pistachios

Hello again from Caroline of Coeur De La! The holiday season has me craving long days spent baking with family and friends while drinking hot apple cider with a splash of caramel. Each year I go all out and make several holiday goodies to share with family ... peppermint patty cookies (that have now become a staple), meringues, dark chocolate truffles, peanut butter balls, and dark chocolate peppermint bark. I package the assortment of treats in boxes, tie ribbons around each one, and then happily give them as gifts. They are a hit! However, this year, I wanted to make a holiday bark that was a bit different. Something that was less sweet, but still would have friends and family asking for seconds. About a month ago I was immersed in Whole Living Magazine when I saw a recipe for a holiday bark that was made with dark chocolate, pistachios, and sea salt. Immediately I dog-eared the recipe and decided I had to make it. I love that the bark has only three ingredients, and being that I am a fan of savory desserts, I could not resist making it. The bark itself takes about six minutes to make and cooling takes thirty minutes. Afterwards, you will have the darkest and richest holiday bark that happens to pair incredibly well with a glass of red wine ... pinot noir to be exact.

I decided to package my holiday bark with simple twine as it will be placed in a box with other goodies. I made little tags, tied up the bark, and 1…2…3… I had a holiday bark that is sure to wow any foodie. Happy Holidays!!!! Bisous.

photos © coeur de la

Dark Chocolate Holiday Bark
with sea salt and pistachios
(recipe found in Whole Living) 

-1 package of dark chocolate 70% cacao (I used Scharffen Berger that was 68%)
- 1 cup raw pistachios
- 3-4 pinches of sea salt
- parchment paper
- 8 inch rectangular baking dish

1. Melt your chocolate over low to medium heat for about five minutes, making sure to stir frequently, keeping the chocolate from burning. I found that the Scharffen Berger chocolate melted very well.
2. Pour your melted chocolate into your baking dish that has been lined with parchment paper. The parchment paper allows for you to easily pull away the bark after cooling.
3. Drizzle the melted chocolate with the pistachios. You can go with the amount of your liking. Next sprinkle the bark with sea salt.
4. Place in the refrigerator for cooling for 30 to 40 minutes. Afterwards, do note, warm hands will cause the bark to melt so, eat as soon as possible. For serving, the bark is fine on a cake stand and at room temp, but it is better to keep in a cooler place. For storing: keep in the fridge.
5. Pair with red wine, enjoy the bark on its own, or skip the pistachios all together and go with a dark chocolate drizzled with sea salt.

Mom's Apple Crisp: Lightened Up

Have you noticed a bit of a fruit theme this week?  I wanted a lighter dessert to bring to a few holiday parties and this Apple Crisp has delivered twice already.  It's called Mom's Apple Crisp (not my mom mind you, but whoever she is I'm sure she's a very nice lady) and it's easy as pie.  On second thought, maybe easier.  I know 'healthy' can be a dirty word around the holidays, but believe me- it's so wonderfully delicious, you won't even miss the crust.

photos © cake. 2011
Mom's Apple Crisp

1/2 cup all-purpose flour, plus 2 Tbsp
1/2 cup old fashioned oats (not instant)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pinch salt
3 tablespoons light stick butter, diced
1 teaspoon water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 pinch ground cloves
3 lbs golden delicious apples, peeled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
topping variation: 1/2 cup dried cranberries, raisins or currants

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F Spray a shallow 1-1/2 quart baking dish with nonstick spray.
2. To make the topping, combine the 1/2 cup flour, the oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, (dried fruit if desired), and salt in a medium bowl. With a pastry blender or 2 knives used scissor-fashion, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the water and firmly press mixture to form clumps.
3. To make the filling, mix the granulated sugar, the 2 tablespoons flour, the nutmeg, and cloves in a large bowl. Add the apples and vanilla; mix well. Transfer to the baking dish. Sprinkle the topping over the filling. Bake until the filling is bubbling and the topping is golden, 55 - 60 minutes.
Serve warm or at room temperature.

A Holiday Apple Cider Bar + Printable Freebies


Apple Cider is a staple in our house this time of year… the smell alone makes me dream of warm and cozy places, like nestling by a fire after a day of skiing or opening the first present under the tree on Christmas eve.  Everyone prefers their cider prepared a bit differently, so I decided to put together a complete apple cider bar, to be enjoyed by all whether at a large party or small family gathering. 

To encourage people to get creative, an assortment of cider toppings includes cinnamon sticks, cranberry juice, bourbon and salted caramel sauce.  A variety of fresh apples (Macintosh, Gala, Fuji, Golden Delicious) garnishes the wooden kitchen cart and adds a pop of fresh, seasonal color.  Tip: whether you serve your cider cold in a dispenser or warm from the stove, cut some thin slices of whole apple from the center of the core, and toss them into your cider for garnish.

The recipe for homemade cider is below, along with a link to FREE printable labels, designed by yours truly and available in either round or standard labels.

Happy Holidays! 

 photos © cake. 2011

Download Free Printable Labels HERE 
Homemade Apple Cider

10 apples
quartered 3/4 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground allspice

Place apples in a large stockpot and add enough water cover by at least 2 inches. Stir in sugar, cinnamon, and allspice. Bring to a boil. Boil, uncovered, for 1 hour. Cover pot, reduce heat, and simmer for 2 hours. Strain apple mixture though a fine mesh sieve. Discard solids. Drain cider again though a cheesecloth lined sieve. Refrigerate until cold if desired.

DiY Holiday Centerpiece: Sugared Fruit

Please join me in welcoming our new floral contributor - Kim Foren of Geranium Lake.  You can read all about her stylish floral design on her site or right here.  I'm so excited to have her as part of the CAKE. team... her simple tutorials like the one below are sure to help even black thumbs like me create beautiful arrangements for parties and home decor!

Hello from Kim of Geranium Lake flowers!  This holiday project is one of our favorites for so many reasons… it reminds us of the Sugar Plum Fairies from the Nutcracker ballet, and it is soooo easy.

-Fruit (we used apples, pears, plums, grapes, pomegranates, etc)
-Egg whites (2-3, depending on how much fruit you are sugaring)

Assembly is simple and this could be a fun project with kids too!

Step 1: Paint egg white directly onto the skin of the fruit.

Step 2: Roll in sugar

Step 3: Place on a drying rack until dried.

You can use your “sparkling” fruit in arrangements:

Or, pile them into a large bowl, embellish with a few loose stems (we love roses and gold painted magnolia leaves!) and you’ve got an instant centerpiece!

photos © geranium lake flowers

1st Birthday: It's a Small World After All

Love everything about this Small World party from Linsey of Lux Events.  This first birthday was designed around the classic Disney ride and highlights so many charming little details in pink, purple + gold.  Three cheers for the hand-painted backdrop, gold doilies and international cupcake characters!  Read on for all the details below...

photos © kristine atienza

From Linsey: I just loved working with this theme! The mom chose It's A Small World because they love Disneyland, It was the birthday girl's first ever ride at Disneyland and because they love to travel! I took all of my inspiration for this party from the Small World Castle. I Created geometric shaped cupcake picks that played of the shapes in the castle and were placed into Hero's Baking Co.'s delicious strawberry cupcakes. I used gold dollies for dessert labels to play of the spinning parts of the castle. I hand painted the Small World Castle to use as the backdrop for the dessert bar. To incorporate all the children of the world, I utilized the graphics from the nested graphic shop on ETSY. I printed the children out and made miniature cupcake picks. Hero's sugar cookies on the dessert bar were piped with geometric shapes. There were also circle and triangle cookies that were topped with gold sugar sprinkles. The kids party bags had treasures from around the world. I custom made birthday hats for each of the young party guests. I used a gold stamp pad to stamp the frilly circles on the hats and then trimmed them with tissue festooning. 

Event Design: Linsey of Lux Events and Design
Baked Goods: Hero's Baking Company
Small World Printables: Nested

Red Velvet Re-visited

Hello from Caroline of Coeur De La! When it comes to celebrating birthdays I am a firm believer in paying attention to the smallest of details. It's the little things that make the sweetest impact. My sister celebrated her 26th birthday recently and I wanted to give her a gift that could be enjoyed by everyone. When it comes to cupcakes, there is one cupcake that my sister absolutely loves ... a red velvet cupcake with a sweet cream cheese frosting. And, it just so happens that one of my sister's favorite wines is Cupcake's Red Velvet. Have you tried it? The wine is sweet, delicious, and the perfect wine for a girls night in...

Playing with the Red Velvet Theme I packaged the cupcakes in a red pastry box. When my sister saw her present she could not help but smile from ear to ear. And I could not help but smile as well, as I knew I would be enjoying a cupcake and a glass of wine with her.  So, when it comes to celebrating birthdays and giving gifts, I feel that gifts from the heart are always the most appreciated.

Tips for making Cupcakes that will wow anyone:
1. Frost your cupcakes like a pro and buy a pastry bag with tips included (you can find a great selection at Sur La Table)
2. Find cute cupcake liners, as the smallest touches are always noticed
3. Package your cupcakes in a cute pastry box (I found my red box at Cost Plus World Market)
4. Play with a theme ... for me I chose Red Velvet
5. Find a recipe that is tried and true (my red velvet cupcake recipe was adapted from Paula Deen)

 photos © coeur de la

Happy Cupcake Making!!  - Bisous. Caroline
Red Velvet Cupcakes
adapted from Paula Deen

These cupcakes are incredibly moist, delicious, and paired with a sweet cream cheese frosting they are irresistibly good. You can garnish your cupcakes with walnuts, raspberries, or shaved coconut for a sweet finish.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1/2 cup of buttermilk room temperature (I cut the original amount in half)
2 large eggs at room temperature
3-4 tablespoons red food coloring (when using the amount from the original recipe my cupcakes came out pink ... so make sure your batter pops with color. For an alternative to red food coloring you can use beet juice ... 2-3 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line your cupcake tin with your designated liners.

In a medium sized bowl mix flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In a larger bowl, whisk together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla with an electric hand mixer. Slowly add the dry ingredients to your wet ingredients. I do this in small increments so the batter will not get too lumpy.
Divide the batter evenly into the 12 cupcake liners. I try to be as precise as possible so the finished cupcakes will all be an even height. Fill each 2/3 full. Wipe up any of the batter that you spill on your cupcake pan.  Place in oven and bake for 18 minutes. Again, all ovens differ and I originally baked mine for 22 minutes but they came out of the oven incredibly dry. 18 minutes turned out to be just right. Remove from the oven and let cool before frosting. 

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 package of cream cheese (softened)
1 teaspoon of lemon juice (I put lemon juice in everything)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-3 cups confectioners' sugar (I personally like my cream cheese frosting to teeter on not being too sweet)

In a medium sized bowl use an electric mixer to mix together the softened cream cheese, the vanilla extract, and lemon juice. Slowly, I like to add the confectioners sugar. I do this in small increments as I like to taste as I go. You can adjust sweetness this way adding less if you like your frosting less sweet or adding more if you like your frosting sweet. Mix until frosting is smooth. When finished fill your pastry bag with you favorite pastry tip and get to frosting.

A Rainy Day Rainbow Party

A rainy day in Rome didn't stop the colors from shining through on Camilla's 8th birthday.  This vibrant redhead was resolute on a rainbow party, so she and her mother pulled it off at the park, in spite of the inclement weather.  The decorations and sweets were kept homemade and simple... Camilla even painted the crayon rainbow that decorates party invitations herself.  Outdoor party games like a traditional sack race kept guests laughing and entertained... clearly the rain couldn't put a damper on this charming little birthday.

photos © fibre di luce

Event Designer: Fairy Tale Wedding Planner
Invitations: Fibre di Luce
Cake: La Mucca Sbronza