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 Haunting Centerpiece :: Skull Floral Arrangement

 

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halloween floral arrangement

Hi everyone! I’m Nicole, Annette’s blog manager and friend, and I’m back to bring you a haunting centerpiece for your Halloween table: a skull floral arrangement. In case you don’t know, my absolute favorite holiday is Halloween. Last year, I dressed my mantle for the occasion, and this year, I decided to add a little spook to my table.

One of the things I’ve learned from Annette is to always be looking for vessels that can be used for flowers, food, and more. When I stumbled upon this black skull candy jar at Target, my creative wheels started turning. Take the lid off and voila – the perfect vase (I loved this one, too).

Imagine my excitement when I found seasonal fall flowers in bold, jewel tones including ones that look strikingly similar to brains! I think they’re spot-on.

skull floral arrangement

halloween centerpiece

When it comes to flower arranging, I use floral bricks to keep my flowers in place and fresh. Cut them down to size for your vessel, and follow the directions on the packaging. Make sure you allow your bricks to submerge completely in the water on their own (instead of pressing them down). Then, just have fun arranging the colors and mixing in different textures. I think greenery would have really added another dimension to this particular arrangement, so just use what you have – even if it’s from your yard!

Whatever you use, this easy DIY skull floral arrangement centerpiece will certainly add the right amount of eerie fun to your Halloween holiday table. Happy Halloween!

xo, Nicole

photos via: Nicole Letts

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Halloween Mantle

 

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Hi Everyone! It’s Nicole, Annette’s Blog Manager and friend, and I am excited to be guest-posting today about my absolute favorite holiday, Halloween. My birthday is just a mere two days before Halloween, and as such, the holiday has always been one of my most beloved. Plus, what’s not to love about a holiday in which strangers willingly dish you free candy? I definitely can’t complain about that!

Of course Annette knows how much I adore Halloween, so when she suggested I go take a look at the Halloween aisles at Michael’s, I couldn’t say no. I jumped in my car and headed up the road to my local craft store and was able to pull together almost everything seen here for an easy Halloween mantle.

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I wanted to stick with a darker color scheme while incorporating a few creams here and there. The result? A bewitching mantle. Can’t you just picture this scene in a witch’s creepy home? Between the crow and the potion bottles, I can only imagine what the witch in this home is up to. My favorite parts are the creepy fabric which was under $3 and the black faux flowers; they remind me of fingers which is perfectly witchy, indeed. I’d love to hear about some of your favorite ways to decorate for Halloween, and if you have a picture, link to it in the comments!

xo, Nicole

Photos courtesy of: Nicole Letts

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Devilish Dessert: Devil’s Food Cupcakes

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It’s officially October, and everyone has Halloween on the brain. I happen to love Halloween and the combination of orange and black.

Even though Halloween is quickly approaching and there is a temptation to snap up everything spooky, try celebrating a little more subtly, and in a cheeky way starting with my Devil’s Food Cupcakes. Let’s face it: they are yummy any time of year, but why not use Halloween as an excuse right?

Devil’s Food Cake is a great alternative to a basic chocolate cake and happens to be richer. These devil’s food cupcakes are a winning recipe. Kids will love these even more if you spookify them just a little with some cute toppers gummy worms and candy skulls. Use Halloween-inspired cupcake wrappers or place them on a black cake stand lined with parchment for a dose of moodiness without going overboard.

If you’re ready to make it full blown Halloween Blow Out, check out what Design Sponge with them.

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Find this recipe and other fabulous party ideas in my cookbook, Picture Perfect Parties Rizzoli NY.

Devils Food Cup Cakes
Makes 36 cupcakes

You will need: 

For the cupcakes:
– ½ cup water
– 1 cup high quality cocoa powder
– 3 sticks butter softened (1 ½ cups)
– 2 cups sugar
– 4 eggs beaten
– 1 tablespoon vanilla
– ¼ cup canola oil
– 1 cup sour cream
– 3 cups all purpose flour
– 1 teaspoon baking soda
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

For the Chocolate Frosting:
– 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
– 7 tablespoons high quality cocoa
– 1 stick of butter softened
– 6 tablespoons evaporated milk

Cake Preparation:

In the microwave, place water, then place cocoa powder in hot water, set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle blade place butter and sugar combine until creamy. Add eggs one at a time, add vanilla and oil and sour cream add cocoa mixture, beat on medium speed until combined.

In a bowl mix flour and baking soda and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the chocolate mixture on slow speed until combined, and add chocolate chips. Spoon batter into muffin tins, lined with cupcake liners fill liner until ¾ full. Place in the oven for 10-15 minutes until a pick is inserted and comes out clean. Cool and then frost.

Frosting Preparation:

Sift sugar and cocoa together in a bowl set aside. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle, cream butter, add sugar cocoa mixture slowly to the butter alternately with the evaporated milk, until fluffy.

xx, Annette

Photos via Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn & Design Sponge

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