{create} white chocolate-lemon birthday cake

I love birthdays. I happen to think that any day dedicated to you is the best. day. ever. Which of course, I've already waxed poetic about. Yes, I'm the oldest child, why do you ask? 

I also happen to love baking and have always thought cakes were a fun challenge. The problem though, is most occasions don't call for cakes. They might call for pie, or cupcakes, or even brownie, but sometimes an entire cake is a little over kill. So I decided a couple years ago I would bake each of my family members a birthday cake of their choice on their special day. Whatever flavor, whatever frosting, it's all up to them. 

And you guys, it is so much fun. They get to have a tasty homemade cake for their birthday, which they love, and I get to experiment and play and make cake! 

So recently my little younger brother turned THIRTY. Yes, I realize how old this makes me. I don't want to talk about it :). I thought I'd share the recipe for the cake I made him. It was good and presented well. The cake requested he requested was a white cake with lemon filling. 

And this was the final product! White cake with a hint of lemon, lemon curd filling and white chocolate butter cream frosting.  It managed to be light and decadent all in one. Not an easy feat.

A minor point about this recipe. You've probably noticed that the recipes I post here are gluten free. Most are dairy free also. That's because we're a gf/df household. But, if you read my post about Chris' birthday cake, you'll know that my family is not. And, is amazingly wary of the gf baked goods. So my goal is to create such awesome gf recipes that they can't tell the difference. My friends, this isn't one of the those recipes. It isn't gluten free. Chris was out of town for the party, and so I went the complete lazy route. But I was at least assured my brother would love his cake! And, that's important too :).

The sparkly yellow worm-like things on top are (as requested) candied lemons. They are super easy and really tasty.

And, before the recipe, one last note. About these photos ... I am not a fan of camera date stamping. As I mentioned, Chris was out of town the weekend I made this and he happened to grab my camera. What I forgot, was that for some crazy reason Chris loves the date stamp. It's actually one of the reasons we have two cameras :). By the time I noticed it was on, it was too late. The best part though? The date was set for 1/1/2006. I'm glad he's tracking events by the incorrect date :)

White Chocolate Lemon Birthday Cake

White cake:
*adapted from Bakerella's Perfect Party Cake

Makes two 9-inch layers

  • 2 1/4 cups flour, minus 4 tablespoons + 4 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1 stick salted butter, at room temp. If you use unsalted butter, add in 1/2 tsp salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans. Cut out two 9 inch parchment paper circles, butter and line the bottom of each pan. 
  2. Combine flour, baking powder and salt (if using) into small bowl.
  3. Whisk together the milk and eggs whites in a medium bowl.
  4. Put the sugar and lemon zest in your mixing bowl and rub together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and smells delicious. Add the butter and beat at medium speed for 3 minutes, until butter and sugar are very light -- it'll be practically white.
  5. Add in one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed.
  6. Add in half the egg mixture and then half the remaining flour mixture.
  7. Add the remaining milk mixture and then the last of the flour.
  8. Beat the batter for about 2 minutes to fully mix and aerate.
  9. Divide between the two pre-prepped pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes. When finished, the cakes will be spongy to the touch.
  10. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks. After about 5 minutes, run a knife around the sides of the cake and unmold them onto the racks. Peel off paper liner and invert and cool at room temp right side up.

Lemon Curd
*I've actually had this recipe for a couple years and have no idea where I first pulled it. If you recognize it, let me know and I'll cite.
Makes about two cups

  • 8 large egg yolks
  • Finely grated zest from 2 lemons
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 stick (10 tbsp) unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces
  1. Combine yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar in a heavy-bottom saucepan; whisk to combine. Cook over medium high heat, stirring constantly (especially after first -- I have totally scrambled the egg yolks before!) with a wooden spoon until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. It'll be about 8-10 minutes.
  2. Remove saucepan from heat. Add salt and butter, one piece at a time, stirring until smooth. Strain through a fine sieve into a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the curd to prevent nasty skin from forming. 
  3. Refrigerate until chilled and set, at least 1 hour or up to 1 day.

White Chocolate Buttercream
*I've actually had this recipe, also, for a couple years. If you recognize it, let me know and I'll cite.

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 12 ounces white chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  1. In a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed until creamy. Beat in the melted white chocolate. 
  2. Add the confectioners' sugar and vanilla and beat at low speed, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl, until light and fluffy.
Cake assembly:
I'm actually planning a full cake assembly/frosting tutorial next week, because it took me years to figure this out, and I want to share what I've learned. But, if you'd like to try the recipe this weekend, here's the assembly order.
  1. Lay first cake layer on your serving surface.
  2. Add desired amount of lemon curd.
  3. Lay second cake layer on top.
  4. Frost and decorate as desired!

** First two photos via we heart it **


{create} shelf style

On Monday I confessed that I'm really not great at styling. So I gave it a whirl ... why not, right? And, I'm going to walk you through the process. I realize this could go a number of directions, but it's good. Really. Stick with me here. :)

My goal was to take a sorely neglected shelf and create a balanced, well edited collection that incorporates a color scheme and texture.
Here's the before: a very poorly styled shelf in our bedroom. It's SO. Boring! I love all the elements, but clearly I threw them up there in haste and called it done. Lazy? Sometimes.
I started by adding a few elements that I had around the house. I quickly framed a sweet card from the hubs and pulled some rocks, buttons and pine cones into cute jars to add texture and interest. The color scheme evolved from the *art* on the shelf: pinks, corals and neutrals. It didn't feel balanced though.

So moved things around and started creating the *triangle* I noticed in a lot of the photos I shared Monday. To help create the shape, I added the little plant and removed the *M*. Which was actually great because I like the M better in the living room! A little scrap of burlap adds additional texture and interest. It was close, but not quite.
Aaah, yes. That's what I was looking for. Raising the picture added some height to the arrangement that I like. At this point I thought I was done. In fact, I was SURE I was done. But, just to show you how far my OCD extends ...

... this is what the shelf looks like now. Yes, it took moving that one little jar over to the middle to make me completely happy.

The view from my side of the bed. My favorite part? The main artwork holds incredible sentimental value. It makes walking past it every morning such a treat.

For the collage, I purchased a simple inexpensive shadow box frame and added all the design elements of our wedding with one of my favorite photos. I love having these elements on display -- I hated the thought of them sitting in a drawer somewhere!

When I decided I needed something else on the shelf to round out the group, I grabbed this sweet card Chris had given me, taped it onto kraft paper and framed it in a frame I already owned. Super simple! Not only did Chris notice, but he actually beamed. That alone was completely worth it. :)

The lesson I took from this exercise? Styling not only takes practice, but it also takes time. It took longer than I thought it would to get to my final point, but it was worth it because not only do I now notice the shelf and it's contents, but they make me happy.

So, all my creative friends, what sort of art have you made with things around your house? And, does the shelf look happier?


{inspire} room styling

Happy Monday all!

I'd like to start off the week talking about styling. Because styling is fascinating to me. Really. It's a mystery how people can take everyday objects and make them utterly beautiful and inspiring. It's something I would LOVE to learn. I remember when I thought styling looked so easy. Friends I have tried and learned that it is, indeed, not at all easy. I realize now that it looks easy because the people who I look to for inspiration are really just that good.

Here are a few beautifully styled photos from my inspiration folders. Shall we take a look?
There a few reasons I think this photo from Decor8 works. First, the simple color scheme. Red, white, yellow, natural. Repeat. And also, the texture. The texture from the branches and back ground pillow offset the large use of single colors. Finally, the  photo is balanced. This is the part that usually throws me in styling. The branches are on one side of the grouping and are balanced with the pillows and white dish to other side.

Leslie at Creative Mint in a styling genius. Her blog is so fun to peruse. I love this photo and believe it works because again, the simple coloring. I'm seeing a trend here. Blue, light pink, white and natural. I also like the simple elements up front: beautiful light pink flowers in white cups, set off by the blue stripe texture in back. The grouping is arranged from shortest item in the front to tallest in the back, creating depth and balance.

Another beautiful photo from Leslie. This is photos illustrates my previous point beautifully. She has taken an everyday (and usually pretty boring) object - thread - and made it lovely. The white textured cup sets off these pastel threads so well. The texture from the photo underneath the cup ads depth and the colors from the inspiration board, behind, really pull everything together.

Another beautiful photo from Decor8. The shades of green and the varying degrees of height are what I immediately notice in this photo. I also like that the main elements -- the lamp, plant and paper roll -- are arranged in a triangle, with the smaller items filling out the space and adding texture.

And finally, Lauren, from Pure Style Home, is another stylist whose photos I could look at for hours. What I love most about her style is how carefully she edits. A few books and a single bulb to add height? Perfect. Notice that everything here is in a varying shade of green. I think that really helps tie the arrangement together.

There is also a styling group on flickr that is loaded with beautifully styled rooms, corners and furniture. Check it out when you have a chance. Or maybe you have a photo(s) there?

What are some tips you have for styling your belongings? Do any of you struggle with this like I do? I would love to hear!


{create} simple stenciled table runner

Looking for a fun weekend project? How about creating your own stenciled table runner?

This is a great project because you can actually finish in a weekend. I love projects that don't have to sit and stare at me, unfinished, during the week.

Stenciled  Table Runner

  • Burlap fabric (quantity depends on size of table runner)
  • Contrasting thread
  • Stencils
  • Stencil paint (see below)
  • Foam brush
  • Iron


1. Sew your table runner(s). I don't have photos of this, but it really is super simple. Based on your table, decide how wide and long you'd like your runner. I like my runner to just barely, if at all, hit people at their legs when they're seated. You don't want your fabric pooling on guests legs!  

2. Add 1/2 inch per side to your final measurement for your seam allowance. Measure out your fabric and cut to size.
3. For this runner I went for really simple sewing, which for me means no complex corners! Start with your long side. Fold each side in half and inch and press with a hot iron. Trust me, this step will save your sanity. Sew the length of your fabric, on both sides, with a simple straight stitch to secure in place. Then, fold your short sides in half an inch and press with a hot iron. Sew both sides.

4. It's time to stencil! Choose your words. Have fun it: funny, witty, sweet. There are many directions you can take this project. Since I was making three runners, I went with: eat. good. food.

5. Lay out your stencils exactly as you'd like them on your fabric. Since my words were going in the middle of the fabric, I took the runner to my table and made sure the stencil location made sense for the end result. 

6. Put your fabric on a paper bag, or surface you don't mind getting dirty. Your paint could bleed. Then grab your paint.

7. I found this paint: Stencil Magic Paint Creme at the craft store. At first I was a little hesitant. When I opened the container I actually thought it was all dried up and I needed to take it back. Turns out, it almost has a grease-like consistency, which works great for stencils because it won't run.

I recommend a foam brush, especially with this paint. It was easier to dab the paint onto the stencil than to brush. 

8. Dab your paint onto the stencil. Make sure to hold the stencil very still to avoid smudging. It'll go on in light layers. Keep layering until you have the paint coverage you're looking for. Especially with the burlap, it took a little more paint than I thought it would to get the color as bold as I wanted.

9. Once you feel like you have good paint coverage, carefully remove the stencil. Pull it straight up off the fabric so, again, you don't risk smudging. 

10. Move onto your next letters, repeating the above steps.

11. Once you're done, stand back and admire your handy work. And of course the most important step? Plan a special dinner so you can promptly put your new table runner(s) to good use!

Please let me know if anything is unclear, or if you have questions. And, if you do make these, let me know. I'd love to see the results! :)

Have a fantastic weekend friends!


boston: the details

I have one more Boston post to share with you today. I've tried to spread them out so you don't get too bored. You haven't read the previous posts yet? They're here and here

You know how it's easy to get attached to someone when you know them really well? It's because you've come to know all gritty details that makes them unique. And really, I think it goes without saying,  for someone special, it's these details that make them beautiful. 

I've lived in Boston. I know the big picture. But it's the little details that I really miss. They are different details than Portland. Not better, but so special to me. So on this trip I set about capturing all the details to take home with me. 

And so many interesting details in Boston there are. Probably because it's old historic. But I love that with detail comes rich texture and depth that so many other cities are lacking.

The brick juxtaposed with wrought iron. Love.

Sidenote: I love signs. I think there are so many clever, unique signs in the world. I end up taking random pics of signs all. the. time. The best part? Chris has started taking them now too! :)

Original log from a really old ship. 
Next sidenote: I'm really not all that into history. So, I spent our time at a historic nautical museum drooling over all the cool-to-me details. Like this handwriting from sometime in the 1700's.

An entire store window display made from ... antique sewing machines! It was huge too. I seriously couldn't take my eyes off the display. We walked by a couple times and I finally had to take a picture.

Love the detail to this wrought iron. Would it make a great fabric?

Sparklies at the barking crab!

Thanks for hanging in there and letting me gush about our trip! I had fun sharing :).

Come back friday for the table runner how-to. It's a fun and easy weekend project!


table runner: eat. good. food.

I got a little crafty recently and wanted to share the result. I snuck in a sneak peek last week, but here are the details.

See, last year we found an orphaned farm table in our neighborhood. It was sitting at the curb with a huge pile of trash.A leg was missing, but other than that was perfect in a rustic-farm-table-type-of -way. And it is long. So long, in fact, that it wouldn't fit in any room of our house. Perfect for summer outdoor dinner parties. So we snagged it for the back porch. Chris fixed the leg and tightened the whole thing up. I stripped and refinished it. And now it's just patiently waiting for us to finish the porch :).

In the last couple weeks I've been playing around with my fabric stash. I've been feeling crafty and loving sewing, but I made it my goal to sew only with what I have. I really just need the practice and it's forced to get really creative in some situations! One weekend I was looking at a huge pile of burlap when I remember the sneak peek of Emersonmade's house on Design Sponge. I loved this table runner. So I thought I'd give it a try.

But this thing is, this table is so, so long. Did I already mention that? I didn't want one table runner. I wanted three that served as placemats. Organized as such:

I sewed up three simple table runners. When it came to lettering though, I was a little stumped. I didn't have actual stencils (and couldn't find any - weird, right?), but I have pretty cool handwriting so I tried free-handing it. I can't believe I'm going to show you a picture of this. I knew the minute I finished the first one that I hated it. So I kept going and did all three. Yeah, I know, brilliant. 

Clearly my handwriting did not translate here. They actually hung out in our living room, all three laid out in a row, for a week while I tried to convince myself that *they'd do*. But in reality I never use things that I don't love. And I didn't want to make these just to have them sit in a drawer, or end up as more scrap fabric. So I tore out the middle section and resewed. I said I needed the practice, right?

Then I tried different ways to treat the type. My handwriting comes across a little better here, but this still wasn't the look I was going for. I went on a mad search for stencils and I'm so glad I did.

Exactly the look I wanted in the beginning. And, it only took about three weeks to get there! 

They say eat. good. food. I love that I can play with them when I only need two: eat food. good food. eat good., etc. The success for me is that I actually really do love them. I even pulled them out for a little gathering we hosted on Friday.

I'll have a tutorial later this week for making them. After all that I feel like a table runner pro :).


boston: barking crab

One of the highlights of our Boston trip? Dinner at the Barking Crab.

A friend introduced me to this restaurant when I lived there (okay ... it was a first date. blushing.) and it is completely amazing. And first date worthy :). I have taken all my friends and family that visited me back east and it's one of the first places I recommend. You know, to people who like seafood. :) So of course it was on the agenda for this trip.

I love the atmosphere here almost as much as the food. The restaurant is in a big tent on the river. There are tons of sparkly lights and picnic tables. It's such a laid-back vibe.

And of course, accompanying your meal is this amazing view of the city!

I'm not going to lie. Chris was a little hesitant at first. 

I think it was because this ROCK was our utensil for the evening :).

But we found a lovely bottle of wine to split. At every restaurant we visited, we ended up ordering northwest wines. This one claims Washington, but is bottled in Oregon. We're Oregon elitists ;).

Once we had wine and his meal, he was all smiles. Chris tried King Crab and I had my default Dungeoness. Yum!

Um yeah. Me too :)

I love having amazing nights like this to remember with this wonderful guy. It was our last night our east and it was the PERFECT end to this fun trip.