Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Eight is Great - the favors

Graham's fabulous party continues with the favors... Everyone received their favor bags when they arrived because I wanted them to enjoy the fun at the party. They contained mini custom buttons, finger lights, flashing flower rings, glow bracelets and little lip balms. Funny story: Graham was so excited the morning of the party that he activated all 150 glow bracelets at 6:00am. I didn’t think they would make through the party, so I sent my husband to run out and buy more. Well, they had much longer staying power than I anticipated, so we A LOT glow sticks! Oh well – no one was complaining! I also made confetti poppers inspired by Sharon of Cupcakes & Cutlery. They were so much fun and yes, I will be vacuuming confetti for the rest of my life! It has become a tradition to create a CD of Graham’s favorite music as a parting gift at his parties, so everyone went home as that as well.

I'll wrap it up tomorrow with fun pics from the party!

Concept, styling and baked goods: Cakewalk Baking
Photography: Sherry Heck Photography
Invitations, CD labels, custom buttons, heart stickers: Merry Happy by Cake.
Sugar cookies: Bird Treats

Monday, November 25, 2013

It's the most wonderful time of the year

When Kim of The TomKat Studio asked me to contribute a recipe to her annual gift guide I knew instantly what I wanted to share. I've been making these butter toffee peanuts to accompany a chocolate cake at my day job as pastry chef at Zut! and they have been a huge hit. They make the perfect party favor or hostess gift for the holidays - they're easy to make, they stay fresh for a long time and they are completely addictive. For the recipe (and lots of other amazing goodies), download the 2013 TomKat Holiday Guide.

Best wishes for a peaceful & fun-filled holiday season to all!

Download the printable labels here
The adorable jars are available from the TomKat Studio here.

Eight is Great - the sweets!

Next up from Graham's Disco party - the sweets! As a pastry chef, putting together the dessert table is always a passion for me. Since I knew the kids were going to be inundated with piƱata candy, I tried not to go too overboard. I created a 2 tiered fondant covered fresh strawberry cake, mini vanilla cupcakes, glitter dusted truffle pops and milk chocolate mousse cups. For the first time, I asked another baker to contribute. I am so happy I did! Sarah of Bird Treats created the most exquisite and delicious G & 8 sugar cookies. It was really nice to take one thing off of my plate! I already own a ridiculous number cake stands and platters, but I just had to buy the acrylic risers to complete the modern, clean look.

Still to come... favors & party pics!

Concept, styling and baked goods: Cakewalk Baking
Photography: Sherry Heck Photography
Invitations, CD labels, custom buttons, heart stickers: Merry Happy by Cake.
Sugar cookies: Bird Treats

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Eight is Great - a Modern Disco Party

I am so thrilled to be sharing my son, Graham’s eighth birthday party photos. When we started planning his party the one thing he wanted do “dance, dance, dance!!!”.  I liked the idea of a disco party, but I didn’t want to go with the traditional 70’s look. I was really inspired by this party by Bash Please and hoped to create a fun, but sophisticated and modern look. Working with a small budget, this was definitely a DIY affair. I considered renting a space for the party, but decided to keep it at home to save money & also give me more time to decorate and personalize the space. I purchased silver fringe curtains for a backdrop for the dessert table and also to transform our deck into a dance floor. I used silver fringe, handmade tassel garlands and honeycomb balls to decorate both our dining room (where the dessert table was) & deck. I. I also created a lighted marquee letter “G” for the dance floor. Giant clear balloons filled with metallic glitter – some filled with helium, some not – and a silver eight balloon rounded out the decorations. A helpful note: Command strips & hooks saved the day for this party. They held up all the decorations inside & without damaging any surfaces. They were amazing!

I asked my dear friend, Becca of Cake. to create the invitation and was absolutely thrilled with the results. I knew I wanted the basic color scheme to be hot pink (Graham’s favorite color), mint and silver.  When Becca added the midnight blue background it really gave design the sophisticated look I was going for. We added the caveat “No one over 21 allowed” because with 20 kids coming, there wasn’t going to be room for all the parents on the dance floor.

Come back tomorrow for the sweets & treats!
Concept, styling and baked goods: Cakewalk Baking
Photography: Sherry Heck Photography
Invitations, CD labels, custom buttons, heart stickers: Merry Happy by Cake.

Sugar cookies: Bird Treats

Silver curtains, fringe, confetti: Shindigz 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Pumpkin, how I love thee

With the abundance of amazing summer fruit, I find it easy to avoid the cans of pumpkin puree in the pantry. But as peaches and plums start disappearing and the first chilly mornings arrive, I'm ready to make just about anything with pumpkin. Facing a serious craving, but with limited time and a sick kiddo in need of cheering, I needed a quick fix. These muffins are simple to make (no machinery needed!), super delicious and definitely pack a pumpkin punch.

Note: I use half whole wheat flour to give them a little more nutritional value, but you could easily use all AP. Also feel free to swap the chocolate chips with nuts or dried fruit.

Pumpkin chocolate chip muffins
1 1/2 cups AP flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
2 1/2 cups sugar 
2 cups pumpkin puree (1lb 3 oz)
4 large eggs
2/3 cup canola oil
2 cup mini chocolate chips

Sift the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Combine the sugar, puree, eggs and oil together and mix until well combined (either with a mixer or by hand). Add the dry ingredients and then the chocolate chips. Scoop into muffin tins, about 3/4 full. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes

Monday, September 30, 2013

Gourmet French Macarons - what's not to love?

Hello, long lost friends! I'm coming out of blog hiding today for a great reason - to help spread the word about Mindy Cone's fabulous new book, Gourmet French Macarons. I have been a fan of her blog, Creative Juice for a long time and had the pleasure of meeting her at Alt SF this summer.  Let me tell you, this is a subject that she is passionate about.  Mindy developed (and photographed!) over 75 unique and creative designs for the book that are perfect for any holiday or season. I'm especially excited about all of the Halloween designs - Frankenstein, pumpkins and ghosts, oh my! When you purchase the book it comes with a CD that has printable templates to make piping circles or unique shapes so much easier. Though making macarons can be daunting, Mindy's recipes, techniques and templates make it simple.

Apple Macarons
Frankenstein Macarons
Chocolate with Chocolate filling
 Chocolate macarons are my absolute favorite. Mindy has been kind enough to share this recipe and it is on my baking agenda for the week. 
Chocolate French Macarons with chocolate ganache filling

Free 1.5 in circle template download for this recipe here:

Chocolate French Macarons

100g of egg whites aged at room temperature

Pinch of Cream of tartar

35g of superfine sugar

110g of Almond flour

200g of Powdered Sugar

10g cocoa powder 

1. Measure out all ingredients using a gram scale

2. Prepare the baking sheets by lining them with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Slide a printed 1 ½ inch template sheet underneath and set aside. Prepare piping bag to be filled and set aside.

3. Sift powdered sugar, almond mixture, and cocoa powder together two or three times through a sieve and set aside.

4. Place the egg whites in a large bowl or in stand mixer with wire whisk attachment. Whisk on low until egg whites become foamy. Add the pinch of cream of tartar. Continue to whisk until soft peaks form. Slowly add in the superfine sugar. Once all of the sugar is incorporated, scrape down the sides with a spatula.

5. Turn your mixer on medium-high and continue to whisk until you reach a stiff meringue. If adding liquid or gel food dye, do so toward the end of whisking.

6. Sift 1/3 of the almond flour, powdered sugar, and cocoa powder mixture through the sieve and into the meringue. Fold the dry mixture into the meringue. Repeat with the remaining mixture. Once all of the dry ingredients are incorporated, the batter will be thick and have a dull shine. Continue to fold. As you do so, the batter will loosen. Stop folding when the batter has a glossy sheen, a “lava-like” consistency, and falls in a ribbon like manner off the spatula.

7. Transfer the batter into a large pastry bag fitted with a round tip and pipe 1½ inch rounds on the parchment paper following the template.

8. When all of the rounds are piped on the parchment, rap the sheet pans evenly on work surface a few times. Remove templates from below your parchment paper carefully. Let the batter rest at room temperature for 20-40 minutes.

9. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Reduce temperature to 300 degrees and bake one sheet at a time for 12 minutes rotating the pan half way through.

10.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.

11.  Match up similar size shells into pairs and sandwich with filling.


About 4 dozen 1.5 in shells (two dozen sandwiched macaron cookies)

Chocolate Ganache Filling

100 g (3.5 oz) chocolate*

1½ Tbsp. heavy cream

Place chocolate in a heat proof bowl.

Boil cream and pour over chocolate.

Stir until all the chocolate has melted and texture is smooth**

When warm, pipe onto macaron shells.

*I prefer to use the mini chocolate chips when possible to speed up the process.

** If the cream is not able to melt all the chocolate, place bowl in microwave. Heat for 20 seconds on low power. Remove and stir. Repeat until chocolate is fully melted.

Watch this adorable video to learn more about Mindy and how her passion for macarons developed:

Gourmet French Macarons from TK Productions on Vimeo.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

"Epic" Blondies

(the finished product, cut when they were still warm - we just couldn't wait)

  • I read somewhere recently that blondies are the new brownie. I think - or was it just another wacky dream (last night I had a washi tape nightmare)? True or not, it got me thinking and baking. Most blondie recipes I've tried have been dry and a bit blah. I found this Martha recipe and tweaked it a bit to bump up the excitement factor-adding white & dark chocolate chips and my favorite secret ingredient, Maldon salt.
  • I will not often say this, but friends, you must make this recipe. You will not be sorry. Well, you may be sorry because you will try one little nibble and then another and then another.  An adorable hostess at work called them "epic" and even though I am way too old to be throwing such terms around, the name stuck. So here you have it...
  • "Epic" Blondies  
  • Ingredients:
  • 2 1/2 sticks (10oz) unsalted butter
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Maldon or other sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • 2 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped toasted walnuts (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper with sides overlapping; spray parchment paper again.
  2. In a saucepan over medium heat, cook the butter until it turns golden brown; remove from heat, strain, and let cool. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine browned butter and both sugars; stir with a wooden spoon until combined. Attach bowl to mixer; add eggs. Using the paddle attachment, beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add vanilla, and beat to combine. Add flour mixture, chocolate chips and walnuts (if adding). Mix until thoroughly combined, and pour into prepared pan and spread out as evenly as possible. Sprinkle the top with a pinch of Maldon salt.
  4. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes (this will really depend on your oven, so start checking after 25 minutes, do not overbake). Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Use the overlapping sides of parchment to remove blondies from the pan.
 (Ready to go in the oven. See those flakey sprinkles of salt? Heaven!)

The Theatre of Dreams

This post is long, long overdue, but here it goes anyway...

If you've spent anytime reading this blog, it will come as no surprise that I have a little obsession with all things glittery. Before the holidays, I had distinct pleasure of meeting Wendy Addison, the queen of sparkle, and visiting her charming studio, Theatre of Dreams. If you don't know Wendy by name, I'm sure that you have seen her beautiful work at BHLDN, West Elm, Tinsel Trading and countless other stores. I have been collecting her Christmas ornaments for years and in fact my husband & I picked out one of her silver stars for the top of our Christmas tree the first year we were married. Wendy is as charming and lovely as the art she creates and it was truly an honor to meet her. If you happen to be in the tiny, tiny town of Port Costa, you should definitely pay a visit to her studio. 

Learn more about Wendy from this wonderful Martha Stewart video.
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