Happy November and a Sea Salt Dulche de Leche Chocolate Cake

Hello November! Here is a gorgeous cake to kick off a month of giving thanks.

I initially came across this cake when my friend made it for her husbands birthday. My recipe was adapted from a hazelnut brittle version that she had made. I decided not to add the hazelnut brittle because 1) my family isn’t into nuts on their cakes and 2) I had the hardest time finding hazelnuts at my local grocery store and 3) it was a little too time consuming for me.

I was fairly pleased with the results. Not only does it look absolutely stunning but it was quite delicious and decadent. I sprinkled a little bit of the Maldon salt that my sister gifted me the last time she was here. I’ve been saving it for a special occasion and this was it!

Cake recipe adapted from One Girl Cookies

For Cake:

1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon table salt
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare a 10-inch round cake pan by greasing it with cooking spray and then lining the bottom with parchment paper.
To make the cake, pour the hot coffee into a medium bowl and stir in the cocoa powder until it dissolves. Stir in the brown sugar, followed by the yogurt and the vanilla. Stir thoroughly to ensure that all of the ingredients are incorporated.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until light-yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs and mix for 2 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer running on low speed, mix in a third of the flour mixture and half of the coffee mixture. Scrape down the bowl. Add another third of the flour mixture and all the remaining coffee mixture. Remove the bowl from the mixer and, using a rubber spatula, fold in the remaining flour mixture until all of the ingredients are fully incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan.
Bake for 25 minutes. Rotate the pan in the oven and bake for 20 more minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove the pan from the oven and let the cake cool in the pan for 20 minutes. Then turn the cake out onto a clean plate, remove the parchment, and turn the cake back over onto a wire rack. Let the cake cool completely.

Frosting Recipe adapted from Portuguese Girl Cooks

For Frosting:

1/2 cup (4 oz/ 1 stick), unsalted butter at room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
8 ounces cream cheese, cold and cut into 10 pieces
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
6 tablespoons dulce de leche, homemade or store-bought
pinch of salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and powdered sugar on medium speed (start off slowly), until combined and a thick paste is formed, about 5 minutes. Beat in the cream cheese, 1 piece at a time over medium speed until combined. Add in the vanilla and beat to combine. Add in the dulce de leche and salt, and beat on low speed until combined. Refrigerate if not using immediately.

As you can see I converted it into a two layer cake and used the dulche de leche in between the layers. It was the perfect touch! The cake recipe will make enough to divide the batter into two 9″ pans. You’ll just have two shorter layers. The frosting was more than enough to cover the entire cake. I wanted a more rustic look though and opted not to frost the entire cake.

Happy Baking!

Tulip Festival

Have you ever seen fields and fields and fields of tulips? Sounds amazing doesn’t it? Well,  just an hour and a half from Seattle is the Skagit Valley and every year from April 1st -30th hundreds of thousands of people flock to this tourist destination. It’s kind of a Hello to Spring!

Although I’ve been to this festival many times, it still takes my breath away.

The festival has over 150 varieties on display! I didn’t even know so many existed!

The double touch.

They remind of peonies.

Seeing the beautiful gardens has really inspired me to be out in my own garden…..well, maybe.

Hello Spring Cake

The first day of Spring here in Seattle was presented with gusty winds, rain, sleet and sunshine. Oh Hello Spring in Seattle! However, Spring’s arrival made me smile and so I decided to honor its presence with a pink ombre cake.

Doesn’t that scream Hello Spring!

Start with your favorite cake. Make sure to lay down a piece of parchment paper on top of your cake stand before frosting your crumb layer. This makes for very easy clean up.

Once your crumb layer is on, add a light layer of frosting and then remove your parchment paper.

Begin piping your cake starting at the rim. I’m using a open star tip. The $8.00 cake decorating kit I purchased was from Target.  Making little rosettes go counter clockwise around the cake. In order to get the ombre look, use a small drop of food coloring and mix it gently. You’ll want the bag of frosting to have some marbling.

Continue your rosettes going counter clock wise until you end your last rosette on the center of the cake.

Now begin piping the side. This was a two layer 9″ cake. I did two layers of rosettes up the side.

 What I  love most about this cake is that the rosettes are not entirely perfect on their own but with the whole cake decked out, it looks absolutely gorgeous!

Happy Spring!

Bonjour Paris: Part Un

Our Parisian Holiday began with a short one hour flight from Bristol. It amazes me how inexpensive it is to travel within Europe. It makes me want to be a squatter in my sister’s home for a year.

Since we didn’t arrive in Paris til later in the evening our first priority was to check into our hotel and find a great place for dinner. We stayed in the 9th arrondisement, near Montmartre. It was not centrally located but was perfect since I wanted to immerse myself in Parisian local life.

(Stairs of Montmartre)

(Sacre Couer)

(garment district just below Sacre Couer)

Do make sure to grab a map from the Hotel concierge or better yet, purchase a map with all the streets of Paris. It is very easy to find yourself lost with all the streets looking very similar. This was the case for us walking back to our hotel from Sacre Couer. However, getting yourself intentionally lost in Paris is not such a bad thing.

(Charcuterie)

(Velib: rent a bike and experience Paris like a local)

(Rue Montorgueil)

(look but don’t touch!)

(Cathedrale Notre Dame de Paris)

(Seine River)

(Louvre)

(Inside the Louvre)

(Winged Victory of Samothrace)

(Eiffel Tower)

(View from the top of the Eiffel Tower)

(Quintessential Europe)

(Oh the food!)

(did I mention the food?!)

(just in case I didn’t mention the food, here’s another photo)

Must eat at Restaurants:

Bistro Poulbot Great local restaurant in Montmartre. We had lunch here and  perhaps it was the company, but it was one of the best meals of my life!

Angelina’s You must have the chocolate chaud! This is the yummiest stick to your teeth hot chocolate that is to die for! Coco Chanel and Audrey Hepburn were once staples at this historic tea salon.

Cafe L’ami Jean Located near the Eiffel Tower, a meal here can be life changing. I dined on foie gras with albalone as a first and foie gras with quail as a main. For dessert, go with the famed rice pudding. Served in a humongous bowl and can probably feed a family of 8, the caramel sauce and candied hazelnuts was the icing on top!

La Grappe D’Orgueil Make sure to plan your lunch accordingly while shopping at the pedestrian friendly Rue Montorgueil. Do have the french onion soup and save room for dessert.

Cafe Constant Unbeknownst to us, we came on grand re-opening night and finally had dinner here at 10PM. Small and intimate but ultimately worth the wait. See above photo of scallops for proof.

Les Buffets de la Tour Eiffel Want to know where in the world the best hot dog is located? At the base of the Eiffel Tower. Make sure to wash it down with a chantilly chocolat chaud (hot chocolate with whipped cream). Yeah I know, it doesn’t sound like a great combination but when you’ve waited in line for 60 minutes in 30 degree weather you’ll change your tune.

Wow, after reviewing all these photos and going through my journal I’m ready for my next trip!

Do check back with more tips on how to navigate your way around Paris, fit in like a local, and my top 10 things to do!

Au revoir! Merci!

Practical Paris

I don’t know about you, but when it comes to packing for any excursion, I’m terrible. I either over pack or under pack and inevitable forget something. For Paris, I went on the conservative route. I wanted to pack lightly so that I can bring back lots of chocolate…er souvenirs! Here’s a snap shot of my Parisian street wear.

As you can see, black is my favorite color. The great news? It works in Paris! Here’s what I lived in:

1. Black Wool Coat. The temperature ranged anywhere from 30-40 degrees while we were there. I’m so glad I brought my winter coat!

2. Infinity Scarf. Not only is a scarf a staple in Paris but this one was practical and kept me warm!

3. Skinny Jeans. I’m currently living in these 24/7.

4. Flats. These flats were great as we were walking around Paris. They can also add that tiny touch of dress up for dinner.

5. Ankle Boots. When the flats needed a break, these ankle boots were not only comfortable, they’re also waterproof! They came in handy when it snowed.

6. Tote. I love this tote. It’s no longer available but you can find a similar version here. It’s large enough to carry everything from my camera to maps to even patisseries!

7. Camera. I can’t leave home without it. This is my workhorse and the one thing I love about this is the flexibility it provides.

8. Wrap. I love my wrap. If I knew I wouldn’t be judged, I’d wear it everyday.

A few things to know when packing for Paris: (1) If you want to fit in like a local, dress like a local. Leave the yoga pants and white tennis shoes at home. (2) Bring a tote with a zipper. Paris is notorious for pick pocketing and the more secure your valuables are, the more enjoyable your trip will be. (3) Check the weather forecast before packing. I know this is a no brainer, but just as much as you want to be stylish you also want to be comfortable. If I hadn’t had my wool socks, waterproof boots, scarf, gloves and wool coat, I would have been miserable! (4) Bring comfortable shoes. We literally walked anywhere from 2-6 miles daily. This can make or break your trip. (5) When in doubt just pack 4 pairs of jeans and 4 black long sleeve shirts. Remember you’re in Paris, turn any which direction and the best boutiques are at your fingertips!

Bristol Cheers

The first leg of my Whirlwind Holiday was spent at my sisters home in Bristol. Actually she lives in this cute little town called Chew Magna. It’s mainly farmland and is so quaint and lovely.

She has a charming farmhouse with a contemporary interior, the perfect combination.

This is the view from her front door. This would never get old in my book. I’m sure spring and summer here is absolutely gorgeous.

Our first stop was the City of Bath.

It is a World Heritage Site and is worth the visit. We took a little tour of The Great Bath at the Roman Baths and I even drank some of the water from the spring!

The River Avon runs through the city center, where we took a lovely stroll.

The following day we HAD to make a stop at Stonehenge. Confession: my sister actually made me choose between Stonehenge and Highclere Castle. For those of you not familiar with Highclere, it’s the setting for the popular Downton Abbey. Since Highclere was not open to tourists this time of the year, we defaulted to Stonehenge.

To be honest, Stonehenge was not as impressive as I had imagined it to be. Perhaps my views were a little askewed by Clark Griswold.

Here we are, a little cold but having a blast!

If you are ever in Chew Magna, do make sure to dine at The Pony and Trap. It’s a Michelin Star restaurant that has a casual feel. We ate here for dinner and then lunch the following day!

This was the beginning to my week long culinary adventure and Whirlwind Holiday! Our next stop Paris!

Happy Weekend

I don’t know about you but I’m ready for Spring. Last week when my sister and I were walking through Paris, it was 30 degrees and snowing. I thought my toes were going to fall off.

It was a lovely surprise when I spotted this sign of Spring in London…

Happy Weekend and here’s to counting down the days til Spring!

Holiday

Bonjour! Cheers! Hello! Wow, these last few weeks  have been a whirlwind!

Here are a few photos from my Bristol, Paris, and London Holiday. I’ll be posting more details later and give you some tips on the all three cities! But for now, I’ll let the photos do the talking!

Roman Baths in the City of Bath (just SE of Bristol)

The Grand Pump Room (Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey)

Stonehenge

The Louvre

The Eiffel Tower from inside the Louvre

Cafe near Sacre Coeur

Flower Shop in La Madeleine District

Jardin des Tuileries

Tower Bridge

London Eye

Victoria and Albert Museum

Orla Kiely’s London flagship shop

Lunar New Year

Happy Lunar New Year! The official New Year  is on Sunday, February 10th, and this year we are celebrating the Snake. Year of the Snake will represent progress and attention to detail, which means you will need focus and discipline in order to set out to achieve what you want to create.

Here’s how I’m prepping our home for our gathering.

These little red envelopes (containing money) represent good luck and are given to all the children in the family.

If you plan on your own little dinner party, here are some ideas for your table setting. Incorporating the colors yellow, red, and orange will provide for a very festive ambiance. As a matter of fact, oranges and tangerines are often used as gifts. Why not present your guests with a gift at their dinner plate?

Keeping it simple and clean will allow for your meal to shine. I’ll show you what to serve for a Lunar New Year Brunch next week!

Perfection

Perfection: the sate or quality of being or becoming perfect.
I’ve been having a tough time with this word lately. During this past Holiday, I had a conversation with my sister about this blog, specifically whether or not I was going to continue with it. She said something that I took as a back handed compliment. She said it was perfect and everyone loves to see how beautiful your life is. Well I took this as almost an insult. It’s never my intention to show off my life as being beautiful and perfect. As a matter of fact, sometimes I feel like my life is a complete and utter chaos. It’s true, we do have a lot of fun and I take snap shots of those times. But that’s just it. They’re snap shots. Edited versions of a perfect life. What’s not shown is the dog poop on the floor during a Holiday party or one of my boys in tears because I made a promise I couldn’t keep.
So here’s my confession: My life is not perfect. Very far from it. If anything I hope this blog provides you with the inspiration to enjoy and love all those moments in your life. Perfect or not.
I’ve also been thinking about my goals for this blog. I’ve narrowed it down to focusing more on at home entertaining, meaning I’ll provide tips on table styling, atmosphere, food styling, and entertaining planning. Hopefully, these ideas will inspire you. For now, I’ll leave you with this quote which I find so true: “In the grand scheme of things, it’s our imperfections that make us perfect.”