Holiday Entertaining: Italian Fruit Cake Recipe

While perusing through my archives, I rediscovered this Italian fruit cake recipe and felt like with the holidays in full swing, I should share it again.

A few years ago, I asked my friend Skye McAlpine to put together a little holiday cheer in the form of a post for my blog, and she delivered in a big way! She put together this absolutely stunning (and delicious) Italian fruit cake recipe. While perusing through my archives, I rediscovered it and felt like with the holidays in full swing, I should share it again.

On Skye’s recommendation, this cake is lovely with a sweet red wine, like Port. If you have a local wine merchant, picking up a Port to finish a holiday dinner party. It’s such a fun ending to a fun evening.

While perusing through my archives, I rediscovered this Italian fruit cake recipe and felt like with the holidays in full swing, I should share it again.
Certosino di Natale: Honey, Pinenut and Almond Fruitcake
Serves: 8-10

For the cake, you will need:

– 40g raisins
– 40g mixed candied peel
– 30ml dry red wine or Marsala
– 320g flour
– 30g cocoa powder
– 2 tsps bicarbonate of soda
– 300g honey
– 40g butter
– 70g sugar
– 1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
– 1 tsp ground cinnamon
– 3 tbsps water
– 60g pinenuts
– 200g blanched almonds
– 60g dark chocolate

For the decoration, you will need:

– 2 (heaped) tbsp apricot jam
– 2 tsp water
– 10-12 slices of glacé orange
– 3 glacé pears
– 10-12 glacé cherries
– handful of blanched almonds

To prepare:

Add the raisins and candied peel to a medium sized bowl and pour in the wine, then leave to soak overnight.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees, grease and line a 25cm cake tin. Sift the flour, cocoa and bicarb into a large mixing bowl and set to one side.

Add the butter to a small saucepan along with the sugar, honey, fennel seeds and cinnamon, then set over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Stir now and then to make sure that nothing burns on the bottom of the pan.

Add the raisins (with all their juices) and pine nuts to the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl, stir well.

Roughly chop the chocolate and the almonds, then add them too. Stir again.

Now pour in the melted butter and honey, and stir until well combined. The batter will be quite stiff, so stir vigorously with a wooden spoon. If needs be, add another splash of red wine.

Pour the cake batter into the tin and bake for 45 mins to 1 hr, until it’s golden on top, and when you press a skewer into the cake, it comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin.

To decorate, spoon the jam into a small saucepan with the water; set over a low to medium heat until the jam becomes syrupy and begins to bubble. Take it off the heat and use a pastry brush to glaze the cake, then lightly press the glacé fruits and nuts on to the top of the cake leaving no gaps. Brush the remaining glaze over the nuts so that it is all shiny.

For those of you that need measurements in cups see the conversion chart here

Photos by: Skye McAlpine

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Get Your Home Holiday Guest Ready

Today I'm sharing a few easy ways to get your home holiday guest ready just in time for guests to arrive. Take note and get excited!

Not only do I like to entertain guests around my table, but I also like to have guests stay at the house. I love having a houseful during holidays.

The secret to entertaining is to always make your guests feel special. Be gracious, be kind, and be caring, and your guests will always feel welcome and at home. Since hosting house guests is an art form, there are some easy tricks that make visitors feel really special.

Today I’m sharing a few easy ways to get your home holiday guest ready just in time for guests to arrive. Take note and get excited!

Tip 1: Make your guest rooms feel glamorous:

Today I'm sharing a few easy ways to get your home holiday guest ready just in time for guests to arrive. Take note and get excited!

  1. Make sure the sheets are soft, well laundered, fresh, crisp, and pretty.
  2. Place flowers, books, and magazines on the side table.
  3. Put out a brand new scented candle, and don’t forget the matches.
  4. Have plenty of pillows and blankets in the closet.
  5. Place a couple of bottles of water in the room.
  6. Make sure you go over how the television works.
  7. Show guests where the temperature controls are, especially if guests are on a different floor from where you are.

Tip 2: Zhush-up the bathroom, too:

Today I'm sharing a few easy ways to get your home holiday guest ready just in time for guests to arrive. Take note and get excited! 101911644.jpg.rendition.largest

  1. Place fresh soap in the shower/bath.
  2. Put out plenty freshly laundered towels – lots of them.
  3. Place some fresh flowers on the counter.
  4. Have a basket filled with extra toothpaste and tooth brushes.
  5. Have a hair dyer on hand.
  6. Go the extra mile and hang a freshly laundered robe for each guest

Tip 3: Have snacks and food available in a self serve station:

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  1. Make your kitchen available for guests to help themselves.
  2. Have plenty of fresh fruit in a large bowl on the counter in the kitchen.
  3. Have a self serve coffee station. I personally love a Nespresso machine in the guest room or kitchen for guests to make themselves a cup in the morning. Don’t forget to add all the necessary accessories like sugar or even chocolate!
  4. Cookies or other small nibbles like nuts are a nice touch.

The most important tip is to check out the guest room and the guest bath before your guests arrive. Make sure you have everything on hand for guests. Once guests depart, don’t forget to replenish. Everything should be full, fresh, and attended to in your guest room. It’s just like running a hotel; the most important things are the details.

Happy Holidays and enjoy of all your house guests!

Photos from Better Homes and Gardens

Styled by me, Photography Rob Brinson, Edmund Barr

Kitchen Photo from Coin Cafe Pour La Masion

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Limoncello Party Punch, a Festive Sangria

This Limoncello Sangria is zippy, festive, and most of all, fun. Prepare the punch ahead of time, pour it in a gorgeous pitcher and set it in the bar.

The holiday season typically means loads of soirees, parties, and swaps, and I for one, love it. There are so many festive gatherings to attend and of course, to host.

One of the best things you can do as a hostess is prepare a signature cocktail. It gets everyone talking. Plus, it’s a stress free way to host, especially if you serve a punch like this one. This Limoncello Sangria is zippy, festive, and most of all, fun. Prepare the punch ahead of time, pour it in a gorgeous pitcher and set it in a designated bar area complete with coupes and fun holiday napkins.

This cocktail, along with many others, is available in my book, Picture Perfect Parties Rizzoli NY. Grab a copy here or add it to your Christmas wish list! While you’re there, don’t forget to pre-order my next book, Cocktail Italiano. It would make the perfect gift for any cocktail connoisseurs. Cin cin!

Limoncello Party Punch (aka. Festive Sangria)
Serves 8

You will need:

– 2 cups of Limoncello
– 1 pint of sliced strawberries hulled and sliced
– 1 small blood orange thinly sliced and quartered
– 1 cup seedless white grapes, halved
– 8 cups Sauvignon Blanc
– 3.5 cups club soda

To prepare:

In a pitcher, macerate the fruit in the limoncello overnight in the refrigerator.

Pour the wine and club soda into the fruit-filled pitcher and serve in champagne coupes.

Happy holidays, and cheers to a happy & healthy 2018!

Photo Credit: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

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Olive Oil Cake, from All About Olives Workshop in Italy

As you might remember our November workshop All About Olives” was literally all about olives. Since then, I have been searching for the perfect olive oil cake recipe. At the olive press, we all tasted fresh press and they also served us the most delicious olive oil cake which they informed us is something that Italians serve their children,since it’s a mild and sweet soft cake. Children and adults alike will love this cake. I tested a few versions, but this one was the winner.

Olive Oil Cake
Serves 12

You will need:
2 large eggs, room temperature
– 1  cup sugar
– 1 cup whole milk
– 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
– 1 teaspoon vanilla
– 1 tablespoon lemon zest
– 2 cups all-purpose flour
– 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
– 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
– 1 teaspoon fine salt
*1/2 teaspoon flour and 1 teaspoon butter, to butter then flour the pan
*1 teaspoon powdered sugar for dusting

To Prepare: 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 10” spring-form ring pan.

Lightly beat eggs with a paddle attachment in standing mixer on high for 1 minute until frothy. Add sugar beat until fluffy, and add milk, add olive oil, lemon zest and vanilla. Mix for 1 minute until well blended. Mix in the flour, baking soda and baking powder and salt until well blended and smooth.

Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan. Bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour. Place on a rack to cool upside down. Remove spring pan. About 5 minutes into cooling the cake will drop, let cool. Invert on to a cake plate and dust with powdered sugar.

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2017 Holiday Gift Guide

'Tis the season for giving! I always have so much fun rounding up gifts for you, and this year my 2017 holiday gift guide is no different.

‘Tis the season for giving! I always have so much fun rounding up gifts for you, and this year my 2017 holiday gift guide is no different. Below, you’ll find some of my favorite prezzies for everyone on your list, no matter what your budget might be.

It should be no surprise that among my favorite gifts this year is an Italian workshop. It goes without saying that a trip to Italy for one of my workshops would make a fabulous gift, right? If you know of someone who’s itching to travel, nudge them in the right direction with an AJS Workshop gift card. I’d love to have them come along on next summer’s adventure!

Gift Guide 2017:

Get Happy Organic Body Wash: With scents like geranium and peppermint in this body wash, it would make any receiver happy!

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Furla Bubble Keyring: Fluffy, feathery, and fabulous, this keyring is bound to put a smile on anyone’s face. It would make a fun stocking stuffer, too!

Dr. Jart Bright Lover Rubber Mask: These masks are not only fun to try, but they work well, too. As you know, I love a mask, and this one is one of my favorites.

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All-Clad Gourmet Slow Cooker: Slow cookers are great to have on-hand in the winter for soups, stews, and other yummy recipes. Add this one to a friend’s repertoire to keep their kitchen chic.

Martha Stewart’s Slow Cooker Cookbook: Of course no slow cooker gift is complete without a slow cooker cookbook, and Martha’s is recipe gold.

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Salt & Pepper Grinders: Any home chef will love a set of sleek, streamlined salt and pepper grinders. I love the idea of pairing these with your favorite specialty salt for a gift that wows.

Star-dusted Passport Holder: Every jet-setter needs a passport holder. Pair this one with a gift card to one of our workshops for an unforgettable gift.

If you need more ideas for great gifts, especially for the guys in your life, check out Men’s Health and Esquire. Their gift guides were so good, I couldn’t top them, so I wanted to share them with you.

Happy holidays!

xx Annette

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