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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A Day at the Races:: Kentucky Derby Party

Annette's tips for hosting a Kentucky Derby party cannot be beat, and a Kentucky Derby party wouldn't be complete without a classic cocktail, a Mint Julep. Annette's tips for hosting a Kentucky Derby party cannot be beat, and a Kentucky Derby party wouldn't be complete without a classic cocktail, a Mint Julep.

Hi Everyone! It’s Nicole, Annette’s web-manager here. I don’t know about you, but the Kentucky Derby is my unofficial start to summer. One of my very best college girlfriends is from Lexington, Kentucky, and she instilled a love for the race in us while we were in school.

Even though I’ve only gotten to have one trip to Churchill Downs for the run for the roses, there’s something about the Kentucky Derby that keeps me intrigued year after year. Maybe it’s the beautiful horses or the fabulous fashion…or maybe it’s the the Mint Juleps. Either way, it’s such a quintessential, classic event.

This year, I’m planning to watch the races with friends. Who knows? Maybe we’ll don fun hats and chic sundresses for the occasion, too. I’ve already started thinking about decor, food, and beverages for the day, and of course, I’ve turned to Annette for all of the details.

Annette's tips for hosting a Kentucky Derby party cannot be beat, and a Kentucky Derby party wouldn't be complete without a classic cocktail, a Mint Julep.

Annette’s tips for hosting a Kentucky Derby party cannot be beat. I love her ideas for decor like including vintage horse trophies and ribbons, sprinkling in plastic horses here and there, and making sure roses make an appearance. To plan a party of your own, you can find her full list of tips here.

And a Kentucky Derby party wouldn’t be complete without a classic cocktail, and what’s more appropriate than a Mint Julep? A splash of simple syrup and a whole lot of Bourbon makes for one sinfully sweet sip.

Classic Mint Julep by Becky Stayner
serves 1

You will need:
– Crushed ice
– 2 oz. good Bourbon
– 1 oz. simple syrup
– 6 leaves of fresh mint + fresh mint for garnish

To prepare:

Make the simple syrup by bringing one cup of water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and stir in one cup of sugar till it dissolves. Once it’s chilled, stir in mint leaves to steep overnight (a trick from Annette’s friend, Becky). Put crushed ice, bourbon, and mint leaf simple syrup in a julep cup. Garnish with fresh mint leaves. Don’t crush the leaves! Be gentle…after all, this is a Southern drink.

xo, Nicole

photos by Leslie Graham

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IKEA’s Jassa Collection: A Colorful Bazaar

Ikea's latest collection, the Jassa collection, is fantastic. It's colorful, earthy, and bohemian. With all of its punch, it reminds me of a bazaar. Ikea's latest collection, the Jassa collection, is fantastic. It's colorful, earthy, and bohemian. With all of its punch, it reminds me of a bazaar.

As you all know, Ikea is one of my stylist’s secrets. It’s a great place to find funky, affordable, and chic items for your home and beyond. I’ve even been known to use Ikea items for photoshoots from time to time.

Ikea’s latest collection, the Jassa collection, is fantastic. It’s colorful, earthy, and bohemian. With all of its punch, it reminds me of a bazaar. It just screams outdoor entertaining and summer style.

Ikea's latest collection, the Jassa collection, is fantastic. It's colorful, earthy, and bohemian. With all of its punch, it reminds me of a bazaar. Ikea's latest collection, the Jassa collection, is fantastic. It's colorful, earthy, and bohemian. With all of its punch, it reminds me of a bazaar. Ikea's latest collection, the Jassa collection, is fantastic. It's colorful, earthy, and bohemian. With all of its punch, it reminds me of a bazaar.

The textiles are bold, and the furniture is so fun. It’s just a little bit vintage, but full of modernity. I just love it all.

Toss the oversized pillows on the floor for additional cozy seating, grab a large basket or two to hold blankets or beach towels around the pool, or plan an dinner party around the royal blue splattered serving wear. Most of all, plan some springtime fun!

xx Annette

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Easy DIY Chalkboard Menu Vase

DIY chalkboard menu

October marks the third year my book Picture Perfect Parties (Rizzoli NY) has been on bookshelves. I run into people all the time that tell me they cook from my book regularly, or they threw one of the parties in the book with great success. This makes me extremely happy. To know that I have inspired people to live a better, more stylish life is a gift like no other. I am always humbled and touched with these wonderful personal stories, so thank you to everyone from the bottom of my heart for sharing your experiences with my book.

One of my favorite decor hacks is this one. I love chalkboard paint and recycling; this project has it all.

This fall centerpiece is definitely an easy fix to get your table in the autumn spirit.  One of the parties in my cookbook, Picture Perfect Parties Rizzoli NY, is all about Sunday Supper. Sunday Supper is a staple at the Josephs; people that gather on Sundays include our family and our friends. The entire point of Sunday Supper is to hangout, enjoy comfort foods, and wrap-up the weekend. So give it a whirl! You’ll love this tradition as much as we do.

This DIY is perfect for Sunday supper, and it would be perfect for Thanksgiving. You will use this great addition to your tablescape again and again.

The step-by-step instructions are simple, and the items needed you probably already have on hand, and if you don’t, are easy to find. I love the texture that chalk adds to the vase. Be sure to add vibrant flowers to really make everything pop.

Have fun creating the menu vase DIY, and don’t stress if it doesn’t turn out perfectly; that’s part of the fun! BTW this is a great craft project to do with the kids, get them involved because they will be so proud when you unveil your table scape to friends. Happy Sunday Supper everyone.

Menu Vase DIY

You will need:
– Painter’s tarp
– 1 (8-inch) terra-cotta pot
– 1 chan chalkboard spray paint
– chalk
– Glass vase, slightly shorter than the terra-cotta pot
– 3 dozen fresh mums, dahlias, or other festive flower

To make:

1. Spread the tarp on a work surface in a well-ventilated space.
2. Spray the terra-cotta pot with the chalkboard paint, using 2 coats to cover, and allowing it to dry between coats.
3. Let the paint dry completely.
4. Write your menu on the pot with chalk.
5. Place a glass vase half-filled with water inside the menu pot.
6. Arrange the flowers in the glass vase and use the menu pot as a centerpiece of your table.

For this and more fun crafts run out and buy my book Picture Perfect Parties Rizzoli NY

Photo Credit: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

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Easy 4th of July Table Ideas

Hi Everyone! It’s Nicole, Annette’s blog manager. I am bringing you today’s post from lovely Seaside, Florida. Every year, my husband’s family ventures to 30A to spend a week at the beach, and we always celebrate the Fourth here and in style.

The Fourth of July happens to be my second favorite holiday (behind Halloween), and I like to decorate our beach rental’s table as best as I can for the event. Since we’re on vacation and away from our own bevy of vases, plates, napkins, and props, we have to improvise a little when it comes to planning a spectacular tablescape for the Fourth. And improvise we do.

Today, I’ve got a round-up of some of my favorite easy Fourth of July table decor ideas from some of my favorite go-to entertaining magazines. Search your own homes (and yards) for festive items you already own. Be sure to think out of the box and keep it simple. A little goes a long way!

Paper straws add just the right amount of pizzazz to your every day drinks. I have a stash of paper straws in my kitchen in just about every color. If you’re feeling extra DIY-ish, add a paper flag or pompom to each one.

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photo by Laurey W. Glenn via Southern Living

A centerpiece doesn’t have to be complicated. Round up bottles and vases in patriotic colors and add punchy red flowers for a bit of pop. Or, head to your own garden and snip a few hydrangeas in white or blue. Hydrangeas are in full bloom right now which is perfect for festive decor!

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photo via Better Homes and Gardens

rope vase centerpiece

rope vase centerpiece

photo by Laurey W. Glenn via Southern Living

Don’t discount found items in your home for a pretty place setting. Your red linens from Christmas do double-duty for holidays like Fourth of July. Pull them out & put them to use. I love the idea of tying flatware together for quick grab and go at a cookout, too.

place setting

place setting

photo by Laurey W. Glenn via Southern Living

Finally, a zhush-up a store bought cake with colorful summertime berries. Blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries take a typical cake from the market from drab to fab in no time. Guests will never know the difference, especially if you put it on a beautiful cake plate ahead of time.

vanilla-cake_gal

Photo by Nicole Hill Gerulat; Styling: One Charming Party via Real Simple

Any other table decor tricks I should know? Share them in the comments, and happy 4th of July!

xo, Nicole

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