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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September is Sagra Season

What the heck is a "sagra"? A sagra is a local festival, mostly held in villages, all over the Italian countryside. Join me as I share my sagra experiences!

What the heck is a “sagra“? A sagra is a local festival, mostly held in villages, all over the Italian countryside. It’s something that I really had no experience with since we lived in a seaside town for so many years. I vaguely knew what it was from visiting friends in the countryside, but I had never attended one. This year, as you know, we moved to the countryside, and there are sagre (sagre, plural) everywhere. Usually tied in someway to food, apples, polenta, truffles, boars…you get the picture. The village gathers in the main square (in most cases) or even a field or the streets. Since it’s hosted by the village for the surrounding area, everyone turns out. Sometimes there are food trucks or food vendors, and usually there’s an open fire somewhere where a local specialty is being cooked by your neighbors, or yummy things are being fried or grilled. There are lots of families and of course family activities like jumpy houses.

What the heck is a "sagra"? A sagra is a local festival, mostly held in villages, all over the Italian countryside. Join me as I share my sagra experiences!

It’s a great way to raise money for the community. Communities here are a very tight knit group. Plus everyone can come together and celebrate the season. Needless to say, it’s a great place to people watch, catch-up with folks in the neighborhood, eat great food, and drink local wine. Most likely these festivals originated from old country fairs or harvest celebrations. It’s easy to attend a sagra because everyone is welcome. Look for signs along the road near villages, the theme (most often food related) will be on the poster along with the dates. They are usually held on the weekends, and keep in mind these are nighttime events usually starting at about 8:00 pm.

Most sagre are set up the same: you buy a food and drink ticket, and then they bring your order to your table. The way it works most often is they either give you a number for your table, or they come pick up your ticket, retrieve the order, and bring it to you. Knowing the ropes is super helpful. Next time you’re in Italy and nearing a village, look for the posters. You can’t go wrong or more authentic.

We are attending several this fall; I am seriously thinking this might just be my next cookbook.

Sagre of Italy…xx

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Announcing our First Italian Fall Workshop: All About Olives

The premiere olive-centric workshop includes elements of the classic workshop we have offered over the years, but with a unique twist: it’s all about olives!

I am super excited to tell you about our first ever fall workshop in Italy. As always, it will focus on food photography, styling and all things Italian.

We’ve had an amazing summer here at our new location in Northern Tuscany in a region called Lungiana. Our attendees have enjoyed an authentic Italian experience here in the Tuscan countryside all summer long.

I cannot wait to see what this fall has in store!

Here’s what you need to know:

This premiere olive-centric workshop includes elements of the classic workshop we have offered over the years, but with a unique twist: it’s all about olives! The workshop takes place during olive harvest season. The AJ style team photographer Emily Followill will be your photography instructor. Emily will teach you the basics of your camera and for more advanced photographers, you can dig into technical one-on-ones with Emily.

I will be teaching styling in the kitchen and in the studio, with special guest, acclaimed chef Alisa Barry of Bella Cucina who will be in the kitchen teaching cooking lessons. If you have a passion for all things Italian, including Italian food, this workshop is for you. We are a match made in olive oil heaven. If you’re obsessed with olives and olive oil, this is your time to make the commitment and come cook, style and photograph with them.

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Here’s what you’ll be doing for 4 days of olive oil fun: You will partake in foodie excursions. We will visit an organic olive grove and harvest olives. The group will observe and photograph while the olives are pressed and will have the opportunity to taste fresh press olive oil. You’ll enjoy a picnic in the olive groves. Alisa will be teaching cooking lessons with local olive oil including both savory and sweet recipes. Fall is a beautiful time of year to enjoy the seasonal bounty like olives, truffles, persimmons, and even wine tasting.

You’ll have a free day to explore even more of Italy which includes your choice of fall food festival excursions. Post-production lessons in work flow will be offered in the onsite photo studio for those interested.

$2850.00 for shared rooms, $3,275.00 for single rooms

Fee includes breakfast, all lunches (excluding your free day), some dinners, all instruction, and group excursions. Accommodations are also included. Airfare is not included and is the responsibility of the student.

We are selling out fast already, so book your trip now. We look forward to welcoming you to La Fortezza and sharing delicious food, adventures, and drinking the wine from our vineyard.

Reserve your spot!

xx Annette

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Oh, and we have a vineyard…Lunigiana, Italy

our wine

I’ve been known to bury the lede as they say…when we bought La Fortezza, I was so enamored with the house/fortress that I forgot about the property itself. So, here it is: we have a vineyard. It’s 5 acres on the upper edge of the property. Obviously Frank and I know nothing about making wine. Hell, Frank does not ever drink the stuff (he’s a beer guy).

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The vineyard was in bad shape about 5 years ago. The brothers that owned the property were approached by a local winemaker, Manolo (I know perfect name, right?). He was in the process of setting up his wine business. He’s a former teacher, and he and his family wanted to launch their own label. It’s not uncommon here to work many smaller vineyards to produce a label, and that is exactly how he works. You need a ton of acres to produce wine, so working 10 smaller vineyards in the region makes perfect sense. It’s a win win for us, too because we have no interest in working the land, not to mention we don’t have a stitch of knowledge. It is the perfect accidental hobby. No sweat…just vino delivered once a month. He pays rent in wine, and we will take it. For now, it’s the perfect arrangement. We feel very lucky. Manolo was an unknown perk.

Manolo has vineyards all around the area. He and his family cultivate, rent vineyards, and make both red and white wines, although this year he will put up a batch of Rose just for the Joseph label. It’s a win win because he came with the house as part of the deal. Now I am busting at the seams with wine. Some of you have asked if you can purchase our wine. Since this is something new for us, right now it’s our own private stock. However who knows?! Down the road, we may become a wine brand, but for now our workshop attendees and guests will enjoy the fruits of the land at every meal. So if you want to partake, you may just need to join us here for a workshop or retreat in the fall or later next year.

Levi and Frank and Syd in the vineyard

In the meantime our son Levi, a recent business school graduate, has a keen interest in developing our wine label, so who knows? It may become the new family business. It’s all about generations in Italy after all…

I would like to thank my dear friend Penny for the cool label design. We love it. xx

We have a vineyard! I am still pinching myself… cin cin xx

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Tomato Basil Soup Recipe: An Easy Winter Meal

Chilly winter months are the perfect time to whip-up a batch of tomato basil soup. This tomato basil soup pairs well with a grilled cheese, too.

At last weekend’s L.A. style+photo workshop, I whipped up a quick batch of this cream of tomato basil soup for our attendees. They were able to capture the cooking process and style their bowls, too. After all, the best part of a food photoshoot is actually eating the food.

This tomato basil soup pairs wonderfully with a grilled cheese. At the workshop we made grilled cheeses with fig and prosciutto, but any sort of grilled cheese would be perfect. Use whatever is in your fridge and embrace an opportunity to be creative with it! There’s no such thing as a bad grilled cheese.

I love soup during chilly months, and since according to the groundhog, there is still a lot of winter ahead of us, store this recipe in your arsenal to pull out when you need a quick and easy lunch or dinner.

Cream of Tomato Basil Soup
Serves 8
You will need:
– 1/2 medium onion sliced thin
– 3 tablespoons butter
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 teaspoon salt
 – 1/2 teaspoon pepper
– 2  28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
– 4 cups vegetable stock
– 1 cup heavy cream
– 1 cup fresh basil chopped
To prepare:
In a large stock pot, heat butter and oil, add onions, salt and pepper.
Sauté until onions are lightly caramelized. Add tomatoes, vegetable stock, cream and basil. Simmer for 45 minutes. Garnish with basil. Serve warm.
Note: The soup may be made creamy by placing it in a blender or using a hand blender if desired. I personally like it a little chunky.
Enjoy!
xx, Annette
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