Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Layered Birthday Cake

This past Christmas, Santa left a couple of 9" round cake pans for me.  A layered cake has never been my strong suit as you can see from this leaning tower of chocolate.  But I'm no quitter and gave it another shot with Andy's Birthday Cake last week.

First and foremost, my technique is far from perfect.  But the best way to learn is how???  All together now - from our mistakes.  The first trick is to properly butter and dust the cake pans with flour.  Then line the bottoms with parchment paper.  This step will ensure the cake comes out in one piece and help avoid any unattractive kitchen meltdowns. Tip: trace the outside of the pan using a pencil and cut out with scissors.  You'll have the perfect sized parchment paper circle every time.

Once the cakes have finished baking let them cool on a rack for about 10 minutes before removing them from the pans.  If you're incredibly impatient like me, you'll want to frost the cake right away.  Don't Do It!  You'll have a heaping mess of crumbled cake and a gooey frosting mess.  This was my  downfall in my previous layered cake blunder.   Let the cakes cool completely.  Frosting a cake is much easier when it's cooled to room temp.  Even consider allowing it to cool in the fridge over night.  Your cake is sure to be super firm and sturdy... and still yummy. 

Frosting the cake is pretty straight forward.  I use an offset spatula to spread the frosting but a knife or rubber spatula will work just fine.  For a 9" cake, put about 3/4 cup of frosting on top of the first layer.  This will be the delicious layer of frosting in between each layer of the cake.  Be sure to spread the frosting evenly so that the next layer of cake has a level surface to sit on.  Repeat this step for as many layers as you want.  Then put the rest of the frosting in the center of the top layer and begin spreading the frosting outward and down the sides of the cake.

For a smooth finished look, dip the spatula in warm water and lightly run it along all sides and the top of the cake.

Add sprinkles or write a little message on top and you're done!  A homemade layered cake made with love.

What about you guys?  Any major cake blunders in your past?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Birthday Barbecue

We've lived in our house for almost 6 years and it seems that every Spring and Summer we're working on smartening up the back patio.  I consider the space another room in our house since we live in such a warm climate and use it year round.

This year we decided to re-arrange the Pottery Barn Chesapeake sectional sofa to create a more functional seating area.  Here are the before pics from last summer... boooooring.

The new set-up works great for entertaining.  Which brings me to the Birthday Barbecue we hosted for our family to celebrate my husband's b-day last weekend.

We offered some light hors d'oeuvres of nuts, veggies, chips & onion dip before dining el fresco on some BBQ chicken, pasta salad and homemade cornbread.  The pillow covers are from

You can't have a party without some cocktails!  I always set up a "help yourself" bar to help create a casual experience and allow guests to feel at home.

Sunflowers in a mason jar make for such a bright and cheery centerpiece.  They are bold and make quite a statement in an outdoor area to help anchor the space.  The rule of thumb is to work in odd numbers when creating a flower arrangement.  I used 5 sunflowers here and filled in the blank spaces with Yellow Calendula that I picked up at Trader Joe's for around $10.

How cute are these coastal candle lanterns and rustic jute table runner?  Homegoods!  $9.99 each!

These wine barrels are my new babies.  Andy found them on Craig's List for a whopping $60 each.  Here they are being used as tables for the birthday cake and some flowers.  But we have plans for these babies this summer.

I try my hardest to prepare EVERYTHING the day before or morning of any party.  That way I can fully enjoy our friends and family instead of running around like a stressed out lunatic in the kitchen.  It was such a relaxing evening.  The chill summer tunes were cranking on the outdoor speakers, Andy at the grill, the kids playing in the backyard, me... drinking wine.  Great night.

And great cake!  I'll share that with you later this week.

I'm sharing today's post with the Summer Spruce-Up Series and the Outdoor Extravaganza linky parties today!


Monday, May 20, 2013

Homemade Cornbread Muffins

So my man is 34.  He's finally catching up to me!  Well, not quite.  He's not one that is big on being the center of attention.  But he knows his woman loves to throw a party so he agreed to a small family gathering in the backyard for a classic BBQ.  The skies were blue and the weather was just right.   On the menu: Barbecue Chicken - Peas & Pesto Pasta Salad - Spring Salad - Homemade Cornbread Muffins.  It doesn't get more traditional American than that!!!   

These muffins were delish and of course the first to get gobbled up by the little people.  They were the perfect compliment to the sweet BBQ chicken.  Mouth watering good, if I do say so myself! 

What you'll need...
12 servings

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup cornmeal
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 pound unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs, room temperature

How To...

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line 12 muffin tins with paper liners or spray muffin tins with cooking oil.

Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the flour, sugar, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt.

In a separate bowl, combine the milk, melted butter, and eggs.

With mixer on the lowest speed, pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and blend until just combined.  Finish stirring with a spatula to be sure all the ingredients are completely blended.

Spoon batter to the top of each muffin tin.  I like to use a large ice ream scoop so that each muffin is the same size.

Bake for 30 minutes, until the tops start to brown.  Test with a toothpick - if it comes out clean the muffins are done.

Cool and remove from pan.

Click here for printable recipe

Be sure to check back this week for the yummy cake I baked for the Birthday Boy and how I decorated the back patio!

Sharing with these fab blogs...

Friday, May 17, 2013

Coo-Coo for Cookbooks!

Did everyone have a wonderful Mother's Day?!  I can hardly believe almost a week has already past.  The boys and I crashed Andy's business trip in Santa Barbara this week.  We had the best time and you know time always flies when you're having fun.

Today I'm sharing some of the super sweet and thoughtful Mother's Day gifts I received from my family.  Barefoot Contessa Cookbooks - The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, Parties and Family Style.  I literally read each of these like a novel in one sitting.  There are so many amazing recipes and entertaining tips not to mention the incredible food photography - OBSESSED! I suspiciously suspect the hubs was hoping to benefit from a gift like this.  He's such a great taste tester.

Are you aware of the HAPPY CHIC collection by Jonathan Adler available at JC Penney? I heart everything in the collection.  Especially these Apple Bookends.  How perfect are these for cookbooks in the Kitchen??

Our kitchen was looking a little sterile so having my cookbooks displayed on the counter adds  decoration to the countertops and easy access to my fav recipes.  Decor meets both form and function!  High Fives all around, Ladies! 

Here are a couple pics from our Santa Barbara trip.  I made the rookie blogger mistake of forgetting the camera up in the room every time we went out.  Wooopsies.  Thank God for iPhones.  I'll be sure to take better pics next time since I think we're going to make it a habit of tagging along whenever there's a business trip to SB!

We spent the majority of our days swimming in the wading pool at the hotel.

Andy's birthday is tomorrow and we're hosting a little BBQ in the backyard.  Everything on the menu is sure to come from my new Barefoot cookbooks.  I'll be sure to share next week.  Have a great weekend!


Friday, May 10, 2013

Hanging Mason Jars

I should buy stock in Mason Jars.  All different shapes and sizes are literally stock piled in our garage.  They're so versatile... and cheap!  You can pretty much find them at any hardware store sold in packs of 12 for around $10.  We use them in the kitchen for storing cut up fruit and leftover marinara sauce, we also use the 8 oz size as drinking glasses for water, milk, beer and wine.  We use the pint size jars outside as candle lanterns to light the patio and porch.  They're also great for storing leftover paint in the garage.  I could go on and on.  But today, I'm using a large pint size mason jar to hang some flowers in the guest bedroom.

You don't need major skills to make a hanging mason jar.  All you need is a jar and some wire.  For this project I used some rustic wire from the craft store.  It's easy to bend into all kinds of shapes and strong enough to support a relatively heavy item.

First, cut about 2 feet of wire.  Fold it in half and twist it making a little loop.  Then wrap it around the bottom lip of the mason jar.  Twist the wire around so that it fits nice tightly around the mason jar.

You can keep twisting or trim it like I did here.  Lastly, bring the wire around to make the hanging part and pull it through the original loop you made.  Twist it tight around the loop.

It doesn't get much easier than that!

Hope all you moms out there have a fantastic and relaxing Mother's Day!

Sharing with these fab blogs...

Monday, May 6, 2013

homemade cranberry granola bars

Granola bars are definitely a staple snack in this house.  Clif Bars, Kind Bars, and Fiberful Oats & PB Bars are always on the weekly Trader Joe's grocery list.  They are so easy to throw in my bag for an on-the-go snack, perfect for a quick breakfast or an afternoon treat to hold us over till dinner.  Andy loves them. The twins love them.  And I love them.  Win. Win.... Win.  Apparently, I didn't toss enough in the cart last week because we ran out!  There's no better time than the present to try my hand at some homemade granola bars!

Almost everything was already in the pantry for The Barefoot Contessa's recipe - everything but the dried apricots and dates.  

FYI, I'm obsessed with this Coconut Oil Spray from TJ's.  I've officially replaced PAM with it.

The bars were perfectly sweet with just dried cranberries.  But maybe next time, a little drizzle of melted dark chocolate over the top will turn up the volume on these tasty treats.  This lady needs her daily chocolate intake.

Yes, it's probably easier to simply go buy a box of granola bars but there's just something about making something from scratch and knowing all the ingredients that go into your food that makes it that much more... well, special.  Defs making these gems again.

You can find the full recipe here.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

April Showers bring May flowers

April showers...

... bring May flowers!!

I know it's May when the Iceberg Roses in our front yard come out to play.  They are in full bloom this week and they smell & look beautiful!

This window box gets hit with a ton of hot afternoon sun.  Every season I plant something different and at the end of every season the flowers look like little burnt croutons (#greenthumbfail, #alwaysforgettowaterflowers).  I'm hoping for the best this Summer with these adorable Daisies.  According to the staff at the local nursery, they should be able to handle the hot California sun.

Are your flowers in bloom yet?

© A Lo and Behold Life. All rights reserved.
Blogger Templates by pipdig