Wedding Cake, Haunted Mansions and Post-Election Naps…

Good Morning and Happy “Hump Day”, everyone!

Listen, I am admittedly pretty tired after watching election coverage last night from the edge of my seat- and being at work (even just for a half day) is not something I’m particularly up for physically, mentally or emotionally right now- but I’m an adult and there’s a lot to do at my office this morning.

I’m just *really* looking forward to catching a nap at home later on this afternoon before I head out for the evening.

I had taken yesterday off from work- just because- and although I now have a lot of missed calls, e-mails, regular mail and general out-of-office maintenance to go over and catch up on- I wanted to share some photos from my longtime friend Stef’s wedding this past weekend.

Stef and I met when I was about 16/17 and we were both working at the same crummy after-school job at a local grocery. I told her a joke I’d heard in one of my classes earlier in the day- just a painfully unfunny, borderline “dad” joke- but she laughed and we became instant friends. That friendship has carried on- through good times and bad- over the course of 16 years. We’re both now in our thirties and are in very different places in our lives than we were back when we’d met- but we’re still just as close as ever.

On Saturday, Stef married her longtime boyfriend, Andy- in a lovely little ceremony in Linwood, Massachusetts. Although neither she or Andy are particularly religious, the church portion of the evening was more for their older family members who had wanted to bear witness to a a more traditional union between the two.

The reception, on the other hand… Well, that was all Stef and Andy. 100%.

Stef had picked out the Asa Waters Mansion in Millbury as her venue. Formerly inhabited by the family behind the Waters & Co. Armory in the mid-to-late 1800s- the house was reportedly a stop on the Underground Railroad and has since been turned into a function hall, community gathering spot, and museum. It’s a beautiful house- more than likely haunted- and very cozy. Although dinner and the dance floor were a bit of a tight squeeze given how old the home is- we had a blast cutting loose and taking a tour of the grounds provided by some of the helpful staff on hand.

Stef’s wedding cake and cupcakes were crafted with love and care by our dear friend Holly- who I’m hiring for any future events I host because everything looked and tasted amazing.

It was so good catching up with old friends, making new ones, dancing and dining and laughing at the same inside jokes the lot of us have been cracking up at for over a decade now. I’m so happy for Stef and Andy and I know they’re going to have a lifetime of happiness ahead of them. I’m so grateful I got to be a part of the celebration.

I’m actually supposed to see Stef, Andy and a couple of friends visiting from out of the country later on today for a while- so I’m pretty excited to recap all the excitement with them and get a look at some of the photos that were snapped throughout the evening.

But, alas- I’ve got work to do, first. Here’s hoping you all have an easy, stress-free Wednesday! Let’s push through to the weekend!

xx

– Ashley –

Desserts: Snickerdoodle Chocolate-Chunk Bundt Cake

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone! It’s a short work week for me, what with the upcoming holiday- so I’ll be tying up some loose ends and staying glued to my desk for the next couple of days so I can return to my office next week and not be completely swamped or overwhelmed. It’s all about prioritizing my tasks and my time properly!

To wrap up my series of Thanksgiving-inspired recipes before this Thursday arrives, I wanted to share one of my favorite dishes for one of my favorite parts of the meal- dessert, of course! This cake, a twist on the classic cookie- incorporates the expected flavors: brown sugar and cinnamon- but adds some chewy, gooey chocolate goodness to make it a rich, decadent finale to the one meal out of the year where it’s okay to be a little gluttonous.

While it may look like a lot of steps- I assure you that this recipe is surprisingly easy to pull off!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 2⅓ cups chocolate chunks, divided
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ⅓ cup heavy cream

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease a 12-cup Bundt pan with nonstick spray.
  2. MAKE THE CAKE: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, light brown sugar and ¾ cup of the granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla extract.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the mixture to the wet ingredients in three additions, mixing until just combined after each and alternating with the buttermilk until both are fully incorporated. Fold in 1⅓ cups of the chocolate chunks.
  5. In a small bowl, stir together the remaining granulated sugar and the cinnamon. Pour half the cake batter into the prepared pan and top with half the cinnamon-sugar. Pour the remaining batter on top and sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon-sugar.
  6. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 60 to 80 minutes. Cool in the pan for 20 minutes and then invert the cake onto a rack and cool completely.
  7. MAKE THE GLAZE: Place the remaining chocolate and cream in a medium-size heat-safe bowl. Microwave in 20-second intervals, stirring in between until the chocolate is melted and smooth.
  8. Pour the chocolate glaze over the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides and set for at least 15 minutes before serving.

This cake is packed full of flavor- chocolate, cinnamon, toasted brown sugar and a pinch of salt to balance everything out- and every bite is absolutely delicious. Served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a hot cup of coffee and you’ve got yourself the perfect way to draw a conclusion to the meal for your family and friends.

Enjoy your day, everyone!

xx

– Ashley –

Fall Foodie: Candy Corn Cake

Alright, let’s just get this out of the way- candy corn is actually really gross, you guys.

I don’t know anyone who willingly eats it and it’s always the last ditch resort for those who didn’t buy their candy for Trick-or-Treaters in enough time and just grabbed whatever was left at the store. Even “fresh” candy corn tastes/feels stale- and there’s no way it doesn’t cause permanent damage to your teeth. It’s just a flavorless, chewy nightmare.

BUT the colors are nice- and are quite appropriate for the Fall- so I decided to make a lemon, orange & vanilla bean layered cake inspired by the white, orange and yellow trio that comprise this triangular crime against humanity and decent candy-lovers everywhere. The taste of the cake was considerably better than the candy itself- and it’s pretty easy to whip up if you have a little bit of extra time and a couple of round baking pans to play with!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 3 boxed cake mixes (1 vanilla, 1 orange and 1 lemon. I used Duncan Hines Signature mixes!)
  • 3 cups of water
  • 9 large eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 containers of your choice of frosting (I used a white buttercream for the one pictured above.)
  • One small bag of candy corn and decorative toppings of your choice. Don’t worry- the candy corn is more than likely going to go in the trash when it’s all said and done.

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 350°F for metal and glass pans (325°F for dark or coated pans)
  2. Grease sides and bottoms of pan(s) and flour lightly.
  3. Working box by box- blend the cake mix, 1 cup water, 3 large eggs, and ⅓ cup vegetable oil in a large bowl until mixture is completely moistened.
  4. From there, beat the mixture at a medium speed for approximately 2-3 minutes.
  5. Pour the batter in your pan.
  6. Repeat the process with the remaining two boxes of cake mix- using the same amount of water, eggs and vegetable oil- until all of your batter is smoothly mixed and poured evenly into their separate/respective pans.
  7. Bake the pans in the center of your oven for approximately 22-27 minutes. Be sure your cake layers are cooked through evenly by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake and checking that it comes out clean.
  8. Cool your cakes on a pan/wire rack for about 15 minutes before removing them from their pans.
  9. Your cakes should be layered with vanilla on top, orange in the center, and lemon on the bottom. Be sure to frost each layer before stacking them on top of one another to get them to stick together and not slide around!
  10. Frost your stacked cake and decorate with sprinkles and candy corn.
  11. Take as many photos as needed.
  12. Pick off the candy corn and promptly throw it in the garbage. From there- enjoy the rest of your cake!

While I typically enjoy more citrus-flavored desserts in the Summertime- this was an excellent and festive treat to bake now that Halloween is right around the corner. The vanilla and the orange/lemon zest really paired well together!

I’m actually whipping up a batch of cupcakes using this same recipe (just a different type of pan, of course!) to bring to my company’s Halloween party next week. I’m hoping they are just as big of a hit as this cake was for my friends!

xx

– Ashley –

Summer Treats: Grilled Angel Food Cake with Blueberry Sauce

Keeping up with my theme of Summer-appropriate and grill-friendly recipes– I shifted today’s concoction from pineapples and ice cream to cake and blueberries, instead!

I love angel food cake. It’s light, fluffy, and has a hint of sweetness to it that makes it the perfect “any occasion” dessert- but it can also go from blissful to bland after a while if it’s not paired with something more flavorful- so combining it with a homemade blueberry-lemon sauce and a big dollop of freshly whipped cream sounded pretty incredible after dinner on a humid evening earlier this week.

This recipe requires minimal ingredients and takes nearly no time at all to prepare when done correctly- so if you’re in a pinch for something sweet and a little tart to serve as a post-meal treat before the Summer ends- this one will definitely come in handy!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 1 angel food cake (store-bought or homemade)
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1½ cups heavy cream
  • ⅓ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Preheat a grill or grill pan. Slice the angel food cake into 8 even wedges.
  2. Lightly grease the grates of the grill and cook the angel food cake until grill marks appear, about 2 minutes per side. Set aside.
  3. In a medium pot, combine the blueberries, lemon zest, lemon juice and granulated sugar. Heat the mixture over medium-low heat until the blueberries break down and the mixture is saucy, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool slightly.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream and confectioners’ sugar to medium peaks. Add the vanilla extract and mix to combine.
  5. Serve cake with the whipped cream and a drizzle of the blueberry sauce.

I had one slice of this and had to physically force myself not to eat about four more- it was that good. The blueberry-lemon sauce is fantastic- so much that I plan on using some that was leftover on top of a stack of waffles or pancakes tomorrow morning before I head to work- and the whipped cream had just enough of a vanilla kick to it to liven up the angel food cake when it was all scooped up together.

While no dessert is particularly “healthy”, I didn’t feel overly full or gross after I ate this. It was just the right amount of cake and toppings to keep me feeling satisfied and not sluggish- and I can’t wait to make it again!

xx

– Ashley –