Nigella’s Nutella Birthday Cake

I’m sending a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY shout out to my BFF Laura Vitale today! We have a standing hump day date with the Vitales where we nosh on whatever Laura has filmed for Laura in the Kitchen that day and catch up on our favorite shows (thank god for DVR). With Laura’s birthday falling on a Thursday this year, I decided to turn our Wednesday with the Vitales into a fancy schmancy birthday dinner – and I kept all the details a surprise from Laura until she walked through my front door last night. As far as she knew we were having a normal weeknight dinner. Nothing special. Boy, was she wrong!

Nigella Nutella Cake

I’m working on a full recap of my planning and execution of Laura’s birthday dinner in a post slated for next week, but I wanted to share one very special detail with you while it’s still fresh (both literally and figuratively). Per Laura’s request – while she’s simultaneously testing and shooting very rich Thanksgiving recipes – I kept dinner simple and light, so I wanted to WOW her by baking the perfect birthday cake. This girl doesn’t do baked goods unless they’re from scratch, so I had quite a task ahead of me, and Nutella was my inspiration.

After a quick search I stumbled upon this recipe from Nigella Lawson for Nutella cake. If you follow Laura in the Kitchen you know Nigella is one of Laura’s favorite chefs and Nutella is one of her very favorite sweet treats, so I knew this recipe was a match made in heaven.

Overall, this cake was fairly simple despite one difficult step – making my own hazelnut meal when I couldn’t find it anywhere in my local grocery store. I have to thank my husband Mike for being a trooper and shelling an enormous bag of hazelnuts for me that I ground up in my food processor to make the one cup of hazelnut meal needed for this recipe. Best hubby award? I think so. Pinched fingers and all.

Hazelnut MealThis is a very damp cake. The hazelnut is the only dry ingredient so it was definitely one of the most moist cakes I’ve ever had. Here’s a quick look at the ingredients you’ll need to make it.

Nutella Cake IngredientsLook at that heaping bowl of beautiful hazelnuts. You’d never know it took Mike two separate hour-long sessions to get through all that nut cracking. But it sure was worth it! I texted him the above photo of the hazelnut meal the next day as a, “Hey, look what you helped accomplish!” momentum of gratitude. He certainly keeps me going, that’s for sure.

When all was said and done I arranged the Nutella cake on the vintage ice cream parlor table in my kitchen, complete with a festive pink pumpkin and a Happy Birthday sign. I loved the pumpkin’s homage to fall (since Laura is a November baby, after all) and the fact that its pink color was perfect for the theme of the evening. And my purchase of the pink pumpkin supported breast cancer, so it truly was a win-win.

Nutella Cake Presentation

All of Mike’s hard nut-cracking work wasn’t in vain. This cake was truly the perfect sweet ending to an even sweeter birthday celebration.

Happy Birthday, Laura!

B & L

 

 

DIY Vanity Upgrade

I’m excited to post my first DIY project  – a vanity upgrade that I completed right before our housewarming party back in September. For just $19, I upgraded my beloved vanity to better fit our new space, and I’m in love with the result!

New Navy Vanity

I have a very soft spot in my heart for this desk-turned-vanity that has been with me since college. I purchased it at a thrift store for $35 when I was moving into my first apartment, and I promptly gave it a more personal touch by spray painting the hardware turquoise. Always an overachiever, I decided to also repaint a neat hand-me-down chair with the same turquoise color to give it some extra punch. At the time I loved the combination, but I finally felt like I was growing out of it as I honed my DIY savvy and my decorating sense. I just knew I could do a better job and give it more style.

Old Vanity

The old vanity’s bright turquoise hardware and matching chair that I loved in our old apartment just wasn’t translating well in our new master bedroom. It was feeling very mismatched to me (in an ahhh-what-is-that-eyesore-in-the-corner way, not a cute-vintage-thriftstore-makeover way) and I knew I had to give it an update before our closest family and friends showed up to help us break in our abode the following weekend.

A few months earlier I had pinned this vanity because I loved the look of the huge mirror resting on top. The vanity base reminded me of my desk, and as luck would have it my mom was looking to unload an oversized mirror with an awesome wooden frame. She saw my pin and told me she’d give me the mirror for free (score!) so project DIY-vanity-upgrade was launched!

Mirror Prep

I started by dragging the mirror and my painting materials (drop cloth, spray paint, cardboard and painter’s tape) out to the backyard where I could safely use the spray paint in a well ventilated area. I washed the frame down to get rid of any dust and dirt so the paint would stick for the long haul. Then, I cut a piece of cardboard to cover the mirror while I let the frame fully dry. When it was taped off leaving just the raw frame exposed, I spray painted the frame in short, quick blasts being careful not to spray the paint on too thick. The key to a smooth finish when spray painting is taking the time to do several thin coats to avoid drips.

Navy Mirror

When the mirror was finished it was time to move onto the bigger part of the project – refinishing my new natural wood stool. After doing some comparison shopping I decided to purchase a $13 stool at Target and refinish it myself to stick to my budget with the housewarming party right around the corner. I chose to purchase a new stool to replace the chair because my vanity sits right outside the doors to both our walk-in closet and our master bath, so I figured a stool would be a little more streamlined in such a busy space.

To refinish the stool, I started by sanding down the polyurethane finish and giving it a thorough wipe down to remove any dust that the sanding left behind. When the stool was fully dry it was ready for paint, and I gave it an all-over coat of crisp white. After letting the first coat dry fully, I applied painter’s tape in even stripes across the top and around the circumference of the stool. I also taped a drop cloth around the legs of the stool to protect my fresh coat of white paint from any navy overspray. I chose to tie the mirror into the stool by painting stripes on top of the stool in the same navy color as the mirror, and I love the way it turned out!

My last step was to repaint all the hardware from the vanity in the same crisp white as the stool. The vanity is actually a cream color and I really like the way the crisp white of the stool and handles contrasts with the vanity’s finish without being too compete-y. When all the painting was finished and dry to the touch I removed the painter’s tape and drop clothes so they wouldn’t stick to the finish. I then let all the pieces cure for 24 hours before putting them back into use. This is a very important step with spray painting to ensure the quality of your final product.

I wanted to choose functional yet beautiful accessories to top the vanity, so I ended up choosing a narrow tan and white tray to hold my foundation and perfume where I can easily grab them. I also added a vintage glass with gold stripes on the left side where I like to keep a fresh cut flower. It cheers me up. Hey, it’s the little things, right? And a vanity is something you’ll be using at least once a day, so it might as well make you happy!

Here’s the end result. What do you think of the before and after? Have you redone a piece of furniture to better fit a new space recently?

Vanity Before & After

Pumpkin Cake Pops

Fall is upon us, and that means an overabundance of pumpkin-flavored fare. I look forward to seasonal ‘pumpkin spice’ flavors all year, and I also grumble a bit when pumpkin gives way to peppermint after Thanksgiving. So, while the calendar still says November, bring on the gourd-y goodness!

Pumpkin Cake Pops

If you follow our vlogs, you’ll know that I made Pumpkin Cake Pops for my friends annual Oktoberfest party this year, and you’ll also be keenly aware of the mental battle I’ve fought each and every time I’ve tried to make these puppies. I’ll be the first to tell you these aren’t easy if you make them the right way. And by that, I mean individually rolling each delicious-yet-devious cake ball – not cheating by using one of those newfangled cake pop pans. But my third time making cake pops truly was the charm. I had two rounds of cake pop making under my belt, and I knew what pitfalls to avoid going into this arduous delicious undertaking.

In the past I’ve made red velvet and chocolate flavored cake pops, but this time I wanted to stay true to the changing seasons and go right for that first punch of pumpkin. After a quick search, I found this recipe for Pumpkin Dream Cake with maple cinnamon cream cheese icing and I was sold (um, hello – with a name like that it didn’t take much convincing). Here’s a quick breakdown of the ingredients you’ll need:

Ingredients

I whipped together the cake and the icing by using the ingredients and measurements from the original recipe from Lemon Sugar. I knew I’d just be crumbling the baked cake into a mixture of cake crumbs and icing to form the cake balls, so I threw the entire amount of cake batter into one 9×13 baking pan rather than dividing it among three 8 inch round baking pans that the recipe calls for.

Once the cake is baked, let it cool completely before you dig in with your hands. Then follow the following steps to assemble your pops:

  1. When it’s fully cooled, crumble the cake into a large mixing bowl in uniform crumbs.
  2. Add a small amount of the frosting (about 1/2 cup) to the cake crumbs and combine with the paddle attachment of your mixer until you get a smooth texture and all the icing is combined. Cake Crumbs
  3. Roll the cake and icing mixture into uniform cake balls roughly one inch in diameter. I recommend lining a cookie sheet with parchment paper and placing the cake balls in rows as you form them. This step will take you a while as the recipe yields about 90 cake balls.
  4. When your cake balls are complete it’s time to let them chill before securing the lollipop sticks into them with melted chocolate. Some tutorials I’ve read have suggested refrigerating or even freezing the cake balls at this step to harden them a bit. I recommend sticking them in the fridge for no more than 10-15 minutes.
  5. Melt your chocolate candy melts in the microwave ON THE DEFROST SETTING! I can’t stress this enough. It may sound silly, but getting the candy melts to melt without overheating, or worse, burning, is one of the hardest steps for me every. Single. Time. When making this batch of pumpkin cake pops I finally got this step down to a science (god, I hope). I popped the candy melts in the microwave on defrost for about 15-30 seconds before giving them a stir. About 15 seconds more and they were melted. These little buggers are tricky because they don’t seem to be melted at first, but overheating them causes the melts to harden into one big chocolate-ty glob. #fail. Be sure to give them a good stir and they should melt into the perfect texture after 30-45 seconds on the defrost setting in the microwave.
  6. Melted chocolate in hand, take a lollipop stick and dip the end in about 1/2 inch. Then carefully insert the lollipop stick into the cake ball. It’s important to be gentle with this step to avoid cracking. If your cake balls got too cold in the refrigerator they’ll crack very easily, so if you start out and you have one after another cracking, give them a few minutes to warm up before proceeding.
  7. When all the lollipop sticks are securely in place, it’s time to dip the entire cake pop into the melted chocolate to achieve that glorious hard candy shell. I sometimes use a spoon to make sure the candy covers the entire cake pop all the way down to the lollipop stick – just to make sure it’s extra secure. Hold the cake pop over the bowl for a few seconds to let it harden before moving on to the next.
  8. Repeat the dipping step for all of your cake pops, and then let them dry until the candy shell is completely hardened.

There’s several ways to display cake pops, but leaving them upside down with the stick pointing up has proven to be the easiest way to let them dry and transport them to a party. If you’re cake pops are staying put at home you can experiment with ways to invert them vertically by using a cake pop holder, floral foam or even a pumpkin. Hey, I’ve done it!

As I said before, this recipe yielded 90 cake pops, so you better believe my neighbors were the lucky recipients of a few Pumpkin Cake Pops that weekend, too. Here’s how I wrapped them in small batches as a gift:

IMG_0065

I also made the Pumpkin Dream Cake recipe as cupcakes with the leftover maple cinnamon cream cheese frosting about a week later – and they were DIVINE! My husband even said they were quite possibly the best cupcakes he’d ever had. Though he was probably just trying to butter me up, I’m going with it! Best cupcakes ever, for the win!

Here’s the full recipe for Pumpkin Dream Cake that you can pair with my instructions above to make Pumpkin Cake Pops for your next get together this fall. You can also see me tackle my batch of cake pops step-by-step in this vlog. Enjoy!

Hi! I’m Brie.

It’s nice to meet you by way of this blog post. As the name of my little corner of the internet suggests – this blog is about my life. Why did I choose such a broad topic? Because I want to share so many aspects of my life with you. I had trouble pinning down a ‘theme’ for my blog, but I knew I wanted to write.

Brie Apple Picking

I’ve always loved expressing myself through writing. I’m one of those weird people who pours themselves into writing, closes the document or hits send on an email, and then promptly reopens it just to reread what I wrote. It gives me a thrill. Very weird, I know – but it makes me tick.

Why is the title of my blog in French? Because it rhymes (nice!), and because I happened to take French in school from grades 6 through 12. I got all the way to honors French 5 (whoa!) …and I don’t remember a lick of it – except for little phrases like the one in the title of my blog. But I have fond memories of learning French, so it’s sort of an homage to all the little pieces of the puzzle that make up my life, like learning French in a tiny little high school in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

I’ve been wanting to start a blog for quite a while now. My friends and family have nudged me to start it for just as long, but I’m a firm believer in listening to my intuition. And my gut said, “you’ll know when you’re ready.” As you may guess, my gut recently followed up with, “I’m ready,” and here we both are. Me, writing, nervous to share my passion with whoever’s interested enough to read my scribbles, and you, the interested party, who I have unending gratitude for because you’ve decided to read what I have to say. Thank you for that. I appreciate it.

Through this blog I’m hoping to share things I’m truly passionate about. I’m no Martha Stewart or Julia Child, but I love trying my hand at crafting and cooking just the same. Check back to see what kind of DIY adventure I’ve gotten myself into. I’ll be sure to share the good, and even some of the ugly. There’s a lot to be said for ‘course correcting.’