Handmade Charlotte & The Great Pumpkin Layer Cake

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As many of you know, I love a great fall party. When I asked creative guru Rachel Faucett of Handmade Charlotte if I could document her fall themed soiree for Atlanta Magazine’s HOME, she quickly said of course, and we were off and running. Creating a fall party can be fun and mostly easy peasy. Here is one of my favorite recipes from the party:

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The Great Pumpkin Layer Cake
Serves 12

For the cake, you will need: 

– 3 cups all-purpose flour
– 2 teaspoons baking powder
– 1 teaspoon baking soda
– 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
– 2 teaspoons ground ginger
– 1 3/4 teaspoons ground allspice
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
– 1 1/2 cups sugar
– 1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
– 1 cup canola oil
– 4 large eggs
– 1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
– 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
– 1 tablespoon grated orange peel

Note: 2 fluted bundt pans.

To prepare the cake:

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch-diameter bundt pans; Butter and dust pans with flour. Sift 3 cups flour and next 7 ingredients into medium bowl. In the bowl of a standing mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat both sugars and oil until combined (mixture will look grainy). Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until well blended after each addition. Add pumpkin, vanilla, and orange peel; beat until well blended. Add flour mixture; beat just until incorporatedDivide batter between prepared pans. Smooth tops.

Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool cakes completely in pans on rack. Run knife around cakes to loosen. Invert cakes onto racks, then turn cakes over on to a platter.

For the frosting, you will need:

– 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
– 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
– 1 tablespoon dark rum
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla paste
– 4 1/2 cups powdered sugar

To prepare the frosting: 

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until smooth. Beat in dark rum and vanilla. Add powdered sugar in 3 additions, beating just until frosting is smooth after each addition (do not overbeat or frosting may become too soft to spread).

For the chocolate icing, you will need:

– 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
– ½ cup cream

To prepare the chocolate icing:

In a small sauce pan heat chips and cream whisk until smooth.

To assemble the cake: 

Place 1 pumpkin cake layer, rounded side down, on platter. Spread the of cream cheese frosting over top of cake to edges. Top with second pumpkin half. Drizzle with Chocolate icing using a fork in a zig zag splatter pattern.

  • Note – Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome and refrigerate. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving.

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For the full feature Atlanta Magazine’s HOME  is on newstands now.

Photos: Raftermen

 

 

 

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Melissa’s Tearoom and Cakes Sarzana, Italy

As you know from my last post, I am in love with the little right down the road from us town, Sarzana, Italy, and Melissa's Tearoom and Cakes is a gem. FullSizeRender 3

Ciao! As you know from my last post, I am in love with the little town right down the road from us town, Sarzana, Italy.  My sweet friend from Berlin, Heike, told me that I needed to check out this cute tearoom, Melissa’s Tearoom and Cakes, while I was there, and mostly I needed to follow her on Instagram, as she was a German sweets sensation. As I have said before, Sarzana is a treasure trove of hip and yummy places.

Melissa’s Tearoom and Cakes is on the main drag, and you cannot miss it. It’s the store front with the charming, super cozy hunter green facade, sparkly crystal lighting, and pistachio colored cafe tables and chairs in front. Inside the deep rich hunter green walls set off the glittery silver teapots on the back wall and draw you right in. Cake stands hold several freshly baked cakes, and cupcakes are displayed like delicious jewels in a vintage glass case. In Italy, there has been a invasion of cupcakes which to me is a revelation since Italians tend to like drier, less sweet pastries and proudly defend their territory as far as pasticcerias are concerned. But I like the fact that Italians are widening their horizons. Check out Melissa’s facebook page, and definitely follow her on Instagram as her feed is pretty yummy.

Don’t worry, there are still plenty of fantastic pasticcerias in Sarzana to choose from, but I love Melissa’s balls to the walls concept of tea and cakes in a espresso and biscotti driven market.

If you’re in the hood, stop by for a visual treat. Of course, it’s a treat for your mouth, too. Like I’ve said before, go off the beaten path and explore outside your comfort zone. You never know what you’ll find…maybe even a cupcake! xx

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The Testament of Testaroli

During our 3rd workshop here in Italy at La Fortezza, the emphasis of the workshop was on cooking local. I was thrilled to be able to introduce our attendees and our instructor Sif to one of the most original and authentic dishes in our region. Lunigiana is a mystery to most tourists visiting the region, but the truth is that most Italians are not familiar with the region either. Folks here are extremely proud of the area, and that includes the local products and cuisine. We have loads of products with chestnuts, bread honey, faro, China Amaro, and apple cider.

My dear new friend Giovanna Zurlo of Azienda Agricola di là dall’ Acqua  invited us to an event she was hosting demonstrating the method of how testarolo is prepared.

What’s Testaroli? Wikipedia describes Testaroli as, sometimes referred to as testarolo, it is a type of pasta or bread in Italian cuisine that is prepared using water, flour and salt, which is sliced into triangular shapes. A common dish in the Lunigiana region and historical territory of Italy, it is an ancient pasta originating from the Etruscan civilization of Italy. Testaroli has been described as “the earliest recorded pasta.” It is also a native dish of the southern Liguria and northern Tuscany regions of Italy.

Testaroli is prepared from a batter that is cooked on a hot flat surface, after which it may be consumed. It is traditionally cooked on a testo, a flat terra cotta or cast iron cooking surface from which the food’s name is derived. It is sometimes cooked further in boiling water and then served. Testaroli is sometimes referred to as a bread, similar to focaccia in composition, and is sometimes referred to as a crêpe. It may be dressed with pesto sauce or other ingredients such as olive oil, Pecorino cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and garlic. Falsi testaroli al ragu is a similar dish prepared using sliced pasta dough and a ragù sauce.

All I know is that the demonstration was amazing. Over an open fire, the pan is heated and then the crepe-like batter is ladled into the white hot pan. It cooks in minutes and then is served with charcuterie. The alternate version of preparation is that the crepe is cut into bite size squares or triangles and boiled briefly about 30 seconds and served with pesto or ragu, like pasta.

We all enjoyed a dinner together under the stars of local goat cheese and focaccia then the testaroli with pesto and local wine. Sharing this local cuisine and talking about the local products with our workshop instructor and attendees was truly magical and exactly what we wanted to accomplish. Eating local is the way of life here, and it’s my goal to share this region with all our attendees one dish at a time.

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The Chestnut Flour of Lunigiana, Italy

As you all know by now, I am in Italy for the summer renovating our home here, a 12th century defensive tower (a fortress) that has a vineyard. As I work on the daily tasks of making this a spectacular setting for our family and for our workshops and retreats, I love to discover local artisans and craftsmen and of course small organic food producers. With the help of my lovely friends here, a secret world has opened up to me. I am meeting so many amazing people, and I am so thrilled to be living in such an authentic and undiscovered place as the Lunigiana.

Saturday, along with my son’s girlfriend Sydney, we visited a local bread maker. Fabio Bertolucci is revitalizing Lunigiana’s ancient bread making; he uses chestnut flour. The Lunigiana is filled with chestnut trees, and in ancient times bread makers discovered that the roasted and dried chestnuts could be turned into a useful and nutritional flour for bread making. Sydney is a Nutrition major at University of Texas, studying to be a registered dietitian, so this outing was of particular interest to her. She’s about to take part in a nutrition studies program in Sicily for six weeks (yes, I am jealous). Watching Fabio was exciting and interesting for us both.

High above the mountains in a tiny village, Fabio has his lovely little bakery. He makes about 100 loafs every other day and distributes them himself to local groceries and bakeries. He’s on a mission to bring back this local delicacy. The bread is called, Marocca, and it is made by mixing finely sieved chestnut flour, wheat flour and boiled and mashed potatoes with extra-virgin olive oil, yeast, a piece of sourdough starter and water. The dough is formed into a round loaf, about 20 centimeters in diameter, which is left to rise for over an hour before being baked in a wood-burning oven.

Fabio Bertolucci is revitalizing Lunigiana's ancient bread making; he uses chestnut flour. In ancient times bread makers used chestnuts for flour.

Fabio is a thoughtful and quiet man; he pulls every loaf of bread from the oven himself. He prefers to work alone. It’s a solitary existence, and life of purpose and exquisite simplicity. As he handed me a hot loaf wrapped in a brown paper bag, gratefully I took it in anticipation of sinking my teeth into a warm slice slathered with local butter and chestnut honey from the bees down the road.

Fabio Bertolucci is revitalizing Lunigiana's ancient bread making; he uses chestnut flour. In ancient times bread makers used chestnuts for flour.

This is as local as it gets, and the very reason I have chosen to live here in the Italian countryside half the year. What could be better than breaking scrumptious sweet bread with friends and family?

Thank you, Fabio for welcoming us. For those of your joining our workshops and retreats, you can be sure a warm loaf is in your future.

xx Annette

Il Forno in Canoara di Fabio Bertolucci
Casola in Lunigiana (Ms)
Via Villa di Regnano, 99 a
tel. +39 +39 0585 983017-347 2354711
lamaroccadicasola@email.it|

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Strawberry Crostata, Moving-In Day, and More: It’s the Top 4

On the blog this month, there have been a few recipes, many peeks into the renovation, and a some notes about life in Italy. Enjoy the top 4 from May

May, you’ve been good to me. Despite a few bumps (did I mention we had field mice?), I’ve had a great month in Italy getting settled and preparing for workshop students.

On the blog this month, there have been a few pretty fabulous recipes, many peeks into the renovation, and a few notes about life in Italy. If you missed any of these fun posts, I’ve rounded up my favorites for you below. Enjoy the top 4 from May:

Top 4 from May

Strawberry Crostata with Balsamic Roasted Strawberries and Mascarpone Ice cream 

Moving-In Day

A Word about Flour

Cauliflower Tacos

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