For years, I steered as far away from wedding baking, as I possibly could.😬 On rare occasions, I would hesitantly accept requests from friends to bake a special dessert for a wedding but it didn't happen very often.👰🏽♀️ Honestly, just the thought of baking a wedding cake, a grooms cake, a cupcake or pie display or even putting together a tray of wedding favor cookies would send me into a cold sweat. 😅
I recognize that I put this unnecessary pressure on myself but, wedding baking was a hurdle that took me a long time to get over. Maybe it was the realization that everything that I make for a wedding will be photographed and examined by a larger than usual audience that caused my anxiety. 🎂😅 Or maybe it was the significance of the occasion that added to my baking stress level. Whatever the reason, it took some serious prodding for me to start taking wedding orders in my business.
After some super stressful and downright scary, larger than life, wedding cake experiences and a few cake deliveries that ended tragically, I finally realized that I needed to put some limits on the cakes that I make for weddings. Turns out - downsized, simply decorated wedding cakes are super popular right now anyway. 🎂 I'm actually really starting to enjoy this part of my job. 💁🏻♀️
Traditionally, tiramisu is Italian ladyfingers, soaked in espresso, layered with creamy, mascarpone cheese filling and dusted with the most decadent cocoa powder available. It's one of my all time favorite desserts. Simple, light, creamy and sweet.
Translating a classic tiramisu dessert to cake wasn't without it's complications. After some extensive trial and error - I finally landed on a delicious tiramisu inspired cake that - in my opinion - is out of this world good. A yellow sponge cake, brushed with an espresso simple syrup and filled with the signature mascarpone filling that everyone loves.
3 3/4 cups cake flour , plus extra for dusting pans
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 3/4 cups sugar
15 Tablespoons butter , melted and cooled slightly
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
4 1/2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
3 teaspoons vanilla
9 large egg yolks , room temperature
5 large egg whites , room temperature
Espresso Simple Syrup
3/4 cup hot brewed espresso coffee or very strong coffee
2 Tablespoons Grand Marnier
2 Tablespoons powdered sugar
1 cup full-fat mascarpone
2 ½ cups buttercream
½ cup strong brewed coffee - espresso preferred, chilled
Bake cakes 30 minutes at 350.
Cool on wire racks.
Assemble cake with espresso mascarpone cheese buttercream between layers and on sides and top. I decorated these cakes with a sprinkling of cocoa powder and few simple blackberries.
I did a little travelling last week, to visit these sweet souls.
Phone calls and text messages are great for keeping in touch but every few months - I just need to put my arms around these people and hug their necks. For those of you who don't already know - these are my parents, my kiddos and my "grand dog". 😁
Days spent with my family are sweet and I certainly don't take them for granted. Especially the family that I don't get to see very often because we live far apart. When we do get the chance to spend time together, we celebrate in the way that all Italian families do: with lots of amazing food and great wine. We tend to hang out together in the kitchen - it's just what we do.👩🏻🍳 There's never any shortage of family cooking sessions during my visits.
Last week, we celebrated two birthdays during my visit. So you know that I did some baking while I was there including this batch of birthday cornmeal cookies with honey buttercream. (Check back on the blog next week for this scrumptious recipe.😋 )
I did a little bit of baking but a whole lot of eating while I was on vacation.😅 Isn't that what vacation is all about?🤪 Now that I'm home though, it's time to get back to healthy eating -- in more reasonable amounts.🤣 Cue the lean chicken recipes with whole grains.
Herb Marinated Chicken with Bulgur
2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 bone in chicken thighs
1/2 cup bulgur
3 ounces cherry tomatoes
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Drizzle 3 T. sauce over bulgur. Fold tomatoes and parsley into bulgur. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve chicken with bulgur and extra pan sauce.
Most embarrassing thing that I've said to a waiter: "Those are the biggest mussels, I've ever seen."💪🏻😂 Meanwhile, my husband, who is sitting directly across the table from me, starts flexing like there's no tomorrow.🤦🏻♀️ Despite what my family thought, I wasn't actually trying comment on the masculinity of the wait staff, I was trying to compliment my entree.😅
FYI: My husband has reminded me of this embarrassing moment every single time I've eaten mussels since that fateful day. It's been 3 years and I eat a lot of mussels.🤣 I have a pretty predictable restaurant order if mussels are on a restaurant menu. For me, it just doesn't get better than a batch of tender, steamed mussels in a buttery, garlicky, white wine sauce.
The best mussels I've ever tasted were in Ireland. Did you know that mussel farms are quite prevalent in Ireland? I didn't know it --- until I visited.🇮🇪 We actually didn't visit the country during the mussel harvest season but the mussels that we ordered at the pubs were some of the most tender and flavorful that I've ever eaten. #irishpubmussels #stillnotthebiggestmussels
In my opinion, simple mussels recipes are best. Letting the mussels take center stage. And since we don't live in Ireland - or near a fresh body of water - I buy my mussels in the freezer section. They're actually pretty tasty - just remember to give them some air while they defrost and don't immaculate your husband by commenting on the size of the mussels. 🤣
French Mussels in White Wine Sauce
2 pounds mussels, scrubbed clean
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 Tablespoons butter
1 minced shallot
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons flour
1/4 cup minced parsley
Transfer mussels to a bowl using tongs. Pour cooking liquid into a measuring cup.
Pour sauce over mussels to serve.
Welcome flies. I don't usually make a habit of welcoming flying insects into my home but this Spring - I'm making an exception.🪰 I'm opening up all of my doors and encouraging every winged creature to join me inside my house. It's not because I've developed a new fondness for flies - I just need their services right now.
You see, my lemon tree is flowering.🍋 It's actually covered in the most delicate little, powerfully fragrant blooms ... and I'm thrilled about it!🌼 Here's the problem - my lemon tree currently resides in the corner of my bedroom where it's been thriving during the cooler months of the year.
The issue is that these beautiful blooms need to be pollinated and it's still to cold to take my tree outside into the fresh air so the bees and the flies and pollinate it. Last Spring I tried to pollinate my tree with a q-tip --- and it produced no fruit. 😒 (I blame myself) I guess I just can't do the job as well as an insect.
So this week, I'm inviting in all of the flying insects in. I just hope that they realize that their welcome here is on a very limited and temporary basis.😂 Putting up with a few flies inside the house will be worth it if my lemon tree bears fruit in a few months. (I'll keep you posted on that.) I love growing lemons but it certainly isn't without it's challenges.🙃
It may be too soon to take my lemon tree outside but I couldn't resist the urge to plant a small, early Spring herb pot.🪴 I'll have to move it inside to protect the tender plants from a late frost but the extra effort will be worth it to have fresh herbs at my fingertips.
Now, jump ahead in time with me, to November 2023. The lemons on my tree are abundant and perfectly ripe and my garden is bursting with fragrant basil. 😋 Just thinking about it has me all excited about lemon and herb recipes like this Braised Chicken and Thigh recipe. There's something special about using the lemons that I grow myself. I'm very picky about the recipes that I choose to use them in but I this is one that I'll be remaking again this winter with one of my very own lemons.
Braised Chicken Thighs with Lemon and Basil
4 chicken thighs
3/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 Tablespoon oil
1 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon coriander
3/4 cup chicken broth
zest from 1 lemon
juice from 1 lemon
1 teaspoon water
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed
1 Tablespoon butter
6 fresh basil leaves, torn
Season with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over chicken. Sprinkle with basil. Serve.
Back when I was pregnant and we were choosing names for our children, I would say potential names, out loud, over and over again, trying to imagine myself saying it to a baby.👶🏻 Meanwhile, while I was spending months studying baby name linguistics, my husband, took it upon himself to identify every potential nickname for each name that I suggested. I'm not sure if he thought that strangers would instinctively call our son, Carter the farter, or if he thought he might actually live into the reality of the nickname. 😅💨 I was focused on finding a name that was beautiful and meaningful, and their dad's primary concern was that their name didn't rhyme with a body part or function. #sorryhairylarry
Names are important. People names and recipe names. The working title for this recipe was apple, sweet potato, cranberry, burrata salad with pomegranate, white balsamic vinaigrette and sugared nuts. Too much? 😅 I thought about shortened versions but I felt like every ingredient was equally important and I couldn't bring myself to leave any of them out.😂 At the end of the day, I decided to leave the ALL out the ingredient words and replace them with harvest and winter to describe this amazing salad. I'm still not sure that it accurately describes the complex flavors and textures in this delicious salad but it's the best that I could come up with. Please feel free to send me all of your recipe name ideas. Clearly - I need help.
Harvest Winter Salad
1/2 cup raw walnuts
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
flaky sea salt
3-4 cups spring greens
1 apple, sliced thin
1 sweet potato
1/2 cup dried cranberries
8 ounces fresh burrata cheese torn
1/4 cup 100% pomegranate juice
1/4 cup cranberry pear white balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
salt + pepper to taste
Sprinkle with candied nuts.
Just before serving, tear burrata into pieces and arrange over salad.
Drizzle salad with dressing.
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