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guest post: seasonal strawberry treats


What are you going to make for dessert this holiday season? Every one loves strawberry shortcakes and strawberry parfaits. The red and white colors of the ingredients perfectly match that of classic holiday colors. Try making your strawberry shortcake in a large square and simply cut out small circles the size of a quarter. Place on silver spoons and voila you have a festive sweet treat. You can also layer the ingredients in tall shot glasses and present strawberry parfaits.

{images via elegant affairs}

Strawberry Shortcake Spoons

2 1/2 cup Biscuit Mix
1/2 cup milk
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp butter, melted
1 qt strawberries, cut in wedges, sweetened
Fresh Whipped Cream
Optional: present on asian spoons, decorative dessert spoons, etc.

Mix all ingredients except strawberries and whipped cream until soft dough forms. Spread in ungreased square pan, 8 x 8 x 2 inch or round pan, 8 x 1 1/2 inches. Bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 10 minutes, cut out quarter size rounds. Split each piece horizontally.
Place a few drops of strawberry juice from prepared strawberries in spoon. Top with a strawberry wedge, top with a biscuit round, add a small dollop of whipped cream, and repeat. Top off with a tiny piece of mint.
Top with whipped cream

Strawberry Parfait

4 cups sliced strawberries
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup amaretti cookie crumbs ( like stella doro breakfast treats)
1/2 cup whipped topping ( you should make, but can buy)

Place strawberry slices and sugar in a blender and blend until smooth.
Combine ricotta, cream cheese, powdered sugar, water, and vanilla in a medium bowl; stir well with a whisk.
Spoon 2 tablespoons cookie crumbs into each of the parfait glasses. Top each portion with 2 tablespoons strawberry puree, , and 3 tablespoons ricotta mixture; repeat the layers.

-- Elegant Affairs' President Andrea Correale and her team know how to cater for the world’s most discriminating palates. Elegant Affairs is the exclusive on-site caterer for The Player’s, the historic club in Gramercy Park in New York City, and the Nassau County Museum of Art, a stunning Mansion on the Gold Coast of Long Island. For further information go to


real parties: a hole in one golfing party

It may be a little cold for golf these days, but not for this adorable golf inspired 30th birthday, created by Michele of Crazy for Design. Lots of great touches on this dessert table... pretzel flag sticks, donut hole golf balls, and even some iced 'tee'. Love it. And the cake with the broken club is just too cute!

{images via Crazy for Design}


the advent of december...


I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving break and stuffed themselves heartily! It was wonderful to get some much needed time off work and spend it with my family. And way too easy to get used to... waking up in the dark this morning while everyone was sleeping made me long for another week of freedom. Thank goodness I'm taking a week at Christmas too! I've already started getting in the holiday spirit and will have a few special posts this month, including a joint venture with Cakewalk Baking that I'm super excited to share with you.

Meanwhile, I've been on the hunt for a unique advent calendar. After quite a bit of browsing I came upon this lovely from the Purl Bee. It involves a bit of effort and creativity, but with a beautiful result. The felt is so warm and wintery, and the pouches are just the right size for little gifts {and little fingers}. If you're so inclined to give it a try, there is a great step by step tutorial on their site to help walk you through...

{images via the purl bee}

UPDATE: Jordan from Polka Dot Prints sent me this free DIY advent garland made from paper! Download it for yourself here.

{image by polka dot prints}


keep calm and.... have a happy thanksgiving


As you may have noticed, I'm taking a little Thanksgiving break. I'm enjoying a simple week of down time with family and friends... no work, no blogging (current content aside) and no stress. Today while my daughter was in daycare, I even managed to accomplish a bit of holiday shopping and see the new Harry Potter flick with a girlfriend. I'm now cozied up in fleece pajamas with a mug of apple cider, and generally feeling very thankful. I'll be back next week, but until then...

{image by craftily ever after via oh dee doh}


custom inspiration board: pink & orange polka dots


I was honored to complete this inspiration board for Siew Khee all the way from Singapore! She was looking for ideas for her daughter’s first birthday and had a few ideas to take into consideration. These included the color orange, polka dots, a bubble machine and a catered thai food lunch. Since orange and pink work so well together, I suggested a polka dot party using these colors. The bubbles naturally fit right in with the round theme and Thai food would be beautiful accented with dishes and flowers in these bold colors. Here are the rest of the details...

Party Ideas
Colors: hot pink & sherbet orange
Setting: an indoor party at home for about 30 adults & children.
Invitations: consider
this invite from hicks paper goods and line envelopes with polka dot paper and use a round sticker on the back to seal.
Decorations: fill the room with all varieties of round objects... oversized balloons, circle banners, round paper lanterns, etc. there are lots of polka dot party supplies on the market, so use a few accents like dot cups and napkins, and create your own paper chargers with a circle cutter. bright round flowers would be beautiful as centerpieces such as mums, dahlias and poppies.
Food: serve thai food in colorful bowls and add round labels highlighting the name of each dish. for dessert, consider birthday cake & cupcakes with fondant polka dots, circular sugar cookies with colorful icing- or see image for a clever milkshake with marshmallow dots from sweet paul. to drink, offer pink lemonade with circular slices of lemon and orange as garnish.
Favors: a treat bag filled with a variety of dot shaped candy (ie: paper dots, gumdrops, malt balls, lollipops, m&ms etc.) along with a small bottle of bubbles.
Activity: create bubbles from the bubble machine & have kids make their own bubble wands out of pipe cleaners.

Photo Credits
Row 1: bubbles via
the party dress, marshmallow shake via sweet paul; cake via the red bird life
Row 2: cookies via
the red bird life; balloons via martha stewart; gifts via ideas in blume
Row 3: envelope via
the sweetest occasion; flowers via hostess blog; partyware via the celebration shoppe
Row 4: dot candy via
flickr; lollipops via martha stewart, malt balls via nicole parker


sweet potato bourbon bundt cake


Guess who's coming to dinner? Me and this yummy bundt cake! My friends are getting together on Saturday for a pre-thanksgiving dinner. It's a tradition we started last year as a fun way to try out new recipes and make dishes not approved for our traditional family celebrations. As I mentioned last week, I've been looking for an interesting cake recipe, and I decided this one fits the bill perfectly... it sounds mouthwateringly delicious, and I'm a fan of anything with a bit of southern flair. Can't wait to try it out!

{image & recipe via martha stewart}

Sweet-Potato Bourbon Bundt Cake

1 1/2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
2 large eggs
1 cup cooked sweet potato
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup bourbon or apple juice
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
3/4 teaspoon salt
Nonstick cooking spray with flour
3 tablespoons chopped pecans
**Bourbon Syrup

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together brown sugar, butter, and eggs until very light and fluffy. Add sweet potato and vanilla; beat to combine. Add flour, milk, bourbon, baking powder, pie spice, and salt; mix until just incorporated. Lightly spray a 10 or 12 cup Bundt pan with cooking spray. Sprinkle bottom and up sides of the pan with pecans. Pour in cake batter.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely on wire rack. Brush cake with bourbon syrup. Serve cake slices with any remaining syrup.

**Bourbon Syrup
Makes enough for one 10- to 12-cup Bundt cake

1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons bourbon

In a small saucepan, bring sugar and 1/2 cup water to a boil. Cook 5 minutes. Add butter, vanilla, and bourbon. Cook until syrupy, about 5 minutes.


Rock Climbing & Colorful Cupcakes


A friend of mine hosted a rock climbing party for her daughter last weekend so I got to help with the details... including baking 3 dozen of these fun brightly colored rock candy cupcakes. I used basic yellow cake and chocolate cake recipes, both with cream cheese frosting, and decorated with cake cups & sprinkles from the layer cake shop as well as large chunks of rock candy. The lighting wasn't the best for photography in my kitchen, but the first 2 shots are after baking. The rest of the photos are from the party itself, including rock embellished invites, rock candy favors and a few of guests making their climb up the rock wall...

{images ©birthday girl 2010}


when life hands you lemons...


Make a lemon dessert table! I'm having an insane week- truly chaotic, but this pretty lemon table from Mrs. A in the Cove made my spirits a little less sour...

{images via mrs. a in the cove}


paper monday: pretty wrapping paper picks


I'm contemplating inviting some friends over for a gift wrapping get-together a few weeks before the holidays. This necessitates buying a large variety of luxurious wrapping papers and ribbons, so at the moment it's sounding like the best idea ever. When I splurge on paper, I try to be on the lookout for colors and patterns that can be re-purposed for multiple occasions. I'm trending towards blues, greens and yellows this season, so I've picked out these three pairings as my top contenders. They each have their own personality, which makes it so very hard to choose... I just may have to buy them all.

{images via: 1. whimsy press 2+3. purl soho 4. paper source }


Graham's County Fair Birthday


I've been beyond excited to show off this County Fair party from Michele of Cakewalk Baking, and the moment has finally arrived! This one brings me special joy because I designed the invitations and CD favors, and was on hand for the big day to help out and take pictures alongside Michele and photographer Sherry Heck.

I can't say enough good things about this party. Believe it or not, it was pouring down rain outside, but in the end that only served to enhance the rustic moodiness of the day. Michele is a professional baker, so she created all of the gorgeous (and oh so yummy) cakes and treats on the dessert table herself... not to mention hand crafting the tags, prize ribbons, onsies for the babies and even sewing the bunting above the table from a vintage tablecloth. She also made sure everyone was well entertained playing carnival games, eating popcorn & corndogs and decorating cookies. Frankly, she's a party planning genius... I can't wait to collaborate with her on some future projects!

photos by sherry heck 


chocolate hazelnut meringue cake


Try this elegant confection for your next birthday fete...

{images & recipe via tartelette}

Chocolate and Hazelnut Meringue Cake
adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes one 9-inch cake
-Get the best quality bittersweet chocolate you can find as it is the star of the recipe. (Guittard, Callebaut, Valrhona, El Rey, Scharffen Berger, etc...)
- To toast the hazelnuts, preheat oven to 350F and spread the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown.
- To skin the nuts without driving yourself crazy, place them in a mesh bag (like a recycled orange or lemon bag) and rub the nuts between your hand over the sink. The skins will fall and only the "naked" nuts will remain in your bag.
- The cake at room temperature is excellent but served really cold, it becomes even
fudgier and the meringue gives slightly under your tooth like a soft pavlova.

For the cake:
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for pan
3/4 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
6 large whole eggs, separated
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 1/2 tablespoons espresso (or vanilla)
1 1/2 tablespoons rum (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the meringue:
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped (1 cup)
1 cup hazelnuts (about 4 ounces), toasted and skinned (see notes)and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon cornstarch
4 large egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
Prepare the cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-3-inch springform pan. Line bottom with parchment paper. Butter parchment and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the butter and brown sugar until pale and smooth at medium speed, about 3 minutes. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping the bottom and sides of your bowl if necessary. Add the melted chocolate, espresso (or vanilla), rum, if using, and salt. Beat until combined. Transfer to a clean bowl and wash your mixing bowl thoroughly.
In a clean mixer bowl fitted the whisk attachment, beat the 6 egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. Fold one-third of the egg whites into chocolate mixture. Fold in remaining egg whites and pour batter into prepared pan, and bake 25 minutes.

Prepare the meringue:
Combine the chopped chocolate, nuts and cornstarch in a small bowl, and set aside. Place remaining 4 egg whites in a clean mixer bowl fitted with the whisk attachment, beat on high speed until frothy. With the mixer running, slowly add the sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form, about 8 minutes. Fold in hazelnut mixture.

Assemble and Finish:
Remove cake from oven. Using a large offset spatula, spread meringue mixture on top of cake using as little strokes as possible not to deflate the meringue, and return to oven. Bake until meringue is lightly browned and crisp, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack; let stand 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen, and release sides of pan. Let cool, about 30 minutes, before slicing and serving.


real parties: little red buttons


Chiara sent me this sweet little red button party all the way from Italy. She choose the theme for her niece Dieltta’s 2nd birthday because ‘bottoni’ (buttons) was one of her very first words. She crafted her own embroidery pieces to create the invitations and table signs, and created an array of paper fans detailed with red buttons to line the wall and top the snacks. The hand stamped cookies are gorgeous, as are the cupcakes and oversized fabric wrapped candy favors.

{images via lefrufrublog}