This time of year, I’m torn.
One one hand… I really hate the commercialization of certain holidays, and how THAT results in stuff like Halloween displays in Menards… in August. Christmas displays in September. It gets earlier and earlier every year. Also, really… The holiday season stresses me out. It means doing my grocery shopping at 5 am, to avoid the crowds and horrible bell-ringer-induced headaches. People body checking each other in order to get the perfect gift or the last box of cocoa on the shelf. Just.. yeah. I digress…
On the other hand, I love giving handmade gifts. There’s something really satisfying about putting the finishing touches on the presentation of your own handiwork, and seeing the joy on the recipients’ face. It’s something personal small-batch, unique, and… not pulled off a shelf at the last minute. You know. Special.
Thing is, a lot of hand made gifts require planning ahead. It does no one any good for me to give Christmas gift ideas in December, when they take 3 months to make. As my friend Karen pointed out yesterday, she always gets a laugh when newspapers publish recipes for making your own corned beef ON St Patty’s Day.
So.. I’m sorry. I know it’s the beginning of September, and I hate thinking “Holiday” this early just as much as anyone. In the interest of helping you give some awesome gifts this year, however, I’m going to write a few blog entries on homemade holiday gifts. Now.
Some will take only a couple weeks to make, others may take a couple months of wait time. Many are ingredient dependent, and best to start NOW. What’s the point of posting a recipe for fresh blueberry liqueur in mid December, for instance? Also, most liqueurs taste better (smoother) with a bit of aging,
So, let’s talk liqueur making.
Liqueur makes an awesome gift, especially when it makes use of seasonally available produce, herbs, etc. On a cold December night, is anything better than getting a whiff or a sip of summers’ bounty?
This recipe was inspired by Fragoli liqueur, a beautiful little libation I was recently introduced to via Twitter. It’s an imported sweet wild strawberry liqueur. Tasty in its own right, but what makes it really special – and pretty – is all of the little wild strawberries floating at the top of each bottle!
As much as we love Fragoli, one of my first thoughts was “Hrm… this would be FABULOUS as a blueberry liqueur!”. And.. here we are. Oh, it’s delicious!
This recipe makes about 6 cups of finished liqueur, perfect to bottle in either 2 750 ml bottles, or 4 375 ml bottles. To bottle it as pictured – “Fragoli-style”:
– The day before bottling, soak a pint of blueberries in vodka overnight. Remove any smashed or mushy blueberries before covering with vodka. Refrigerate.
– Immediately before bottling, strain the blueberries. Carefully add the smaller berries to the clean bottles BEFORE bottling the liqueur.
– Pour liqueur over the berries, leaving only an inch or so of head room. Cap as desired.
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Combining liqueurs with more traditional baking ingredients can yield spectacular results.Try Mango Mojito Upside Down Cake, Candy Apple Flan, Jalapeno Beer Peanut Brittle, Lynchburg Lemonade Cupcakes, Pina Colada Rum Cake, Strawberry Daiquiri Chiffon Pie, and so much more.
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To start off a week straight of cake recipes, I’m proud to share my “Blood Orange Truffle Torte” recipe!
This recipe made its debut in the February issue of Plymouth Magazine, where it was not only featured in a several page spread, it starred on the cover!
This cake has been a favorite offering of Celebration Generation since its creation, and has earned many rave reviews by those who’ve been served it – including the guests of the Goth Wedding that we blogged about a while back!
It’s also one of the many cake recipes featured in Evil Cake Overlord, coming out on April 30th!
Blood Orange Truffle Torte
2 ½ cups Cake flour
1 cup cocoa
2 1/4 cups Sugar
2 Tbsp Baking powder
1 ½ tsp Salt
3 ½ oz Instant vanilla pudding mix
1 ½ cup Water
1 ½ cups Butter, melted
2 Tbsp Pure vanilla extract
Blood Orange Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
Now that it’s mid October, Twitter and the wedding blogs are lighting up with mentions of Halloween weddings. I’d like to take this opportunity to share my favorite Halloween wedding with you.
Now, it’s no secret that I’m being extremely selective about the projects I take on, and the people I’ll work with. Life’s just too short, you know? Aside from that, Halloween is the hardest weekend to get a booking with us, as we’re always booked to do an event in Chicago that weekend – they book us a year in advance. Ansley’s initial email to me was such a stand out, I couldn’t help but be intrigued – and bend over backward to make it work for her! Let me share:
My name is Ansley — I am getting married on October 30th of this year. After scouring the internet in the daunting task of researching wedding cakes, I fell in love with what you do. Everything else I’ve seen looks mundane and unimpressive in comparison to what I’ve viewed on your site. We are an “alternative” couple (I’ll swallow my pride a minute and admit that’s a somewhat politically correct way of calling us “goths”) and have concerns about how that effects our relations with vendors. Everyone we work with seems to assume that our Halloween wedding means skulls, plastic bats and ghosts.
Not so– we are classy and elegant, not campy. What I’ve seen on your website surely demonstrates not only your talent but that you understand that even “odd” is still art. I’d love to set up some sort of consultation with you, though I’m not sure how it is done as I’m new to this whole wedding thing and all of the chaos it entails!
Thank you for your time,
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how it’s done. Polite, coherent, complimentary, eloquent, AND expressing a desire for something different? I was in love with this wedding – and clients! – before I met them!
The wedding was to be “Simple, elegant and most importantly, black”, taking the bulk of its visual inspiration from the Nine Inch Nails music video for “The Perfect Drug”. The wedding and reception were held at the The James J. Hill Reference Library in Downtown Saint Paul… an absolutely gorgeous, unique venue.
If this is starting to sound familiar at all, you may have seen our blog entry about the cake she ordered, “Glam Goth Wedding Cake“. If you haven’t – or want a refresher – be sure to click that link to view her cake photos!
James J. Hill reference Library, during setup.
Anyway, long story short, we juggled to make the logistics work out, and Ansley was a dream to work with. Absolutely one of my favorite brides ever! The cake was delivered, and I anxiously awaited photos of the event. I swear, nothing could have prepared me for the finished product! Ansley looked absolutely amazing in gorgeous black and blue gown, the black candelabra were a perfect compliment to the super high ceilings in the library… sigh. Must have been the perfect wedding to attend! Let me share the photos, courtesy of the bride, groom, their guests, and photographer – M. Doucet:
As always.. I LOVE when brides go their own way with their weddings. This was just amazing, and I’m sure her guests will be talking about the experience for years to come! Also, I’m sure her vendors will be, as well! Love it!
So, it’s officially fall! All over Twitter and the blogosphere, people are talking about getting back to baking. It’s always fun to see what everyone’s up to. However, as someone who bakes year round, fall means something else to me, culinarily speaking – it means CANDY MAKING season.
Sure, it’s easy to make candy year round.. I just don’t, really. In the fall, you not only have the pretty colors and crisp air to inspire you.. you have references to Halloween – some subtle, many not! – all around you. Fall is when we here at Celebration Generation start looking forward to our annual Halloween trip out east, and plan trips to pick apples. Mmm freshly picked apples. Mmm freshly picked apples, dipped in molten, flavored sugar. Yum. Have you tried making candy apples at home? If not, click that link – our recipe is easy and tasty!
Well, I went on a candy making binge this past weekend, and will be sharing the recipes with you over the next few days. 3 different styles of fudge, plus one toffee… all flavored with blood orange essential oil, and crammed with sweetened, dried cranberries!
Blood orange essential oil is my favorite flavoring, by far. It’s the oil pressed from the peels of blood orange rind – not an alcohol infusion, such as vanilla extract. It’s sunny, it’s potent.. and it’s pure awesomeness. Yes!
If you don’t have blood orange essential oil on hand, I highly recommend ordering some online. A quick Google search yields a ton of results for ordering online. I now order bulk from a wholesaler, but when I first played around with it, I ordered small bottles from Anabell’s Escentials on Ebay. Good stuff!
Anyway, let’s get started!
Well, Halloween is just around the corner, so now’s a great time to post our recipe for decorated sugar cookies!
These are great to serve guests at your halloween party, or as a weekend activity for kids, or even to hand out to your favorite Treat or Treaters. Very easy to make, and can be a lot of fun!
2 cups butter, softened
2 1/3 cups granulated sugar
4 egg yolks – Reserve egg whites for icing!
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract*
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
7 cups all purpose flour
4 egg whites
1 Tbsp lemon juice
4-6 cups powdered/confectioner’s sugar
In a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until smooth and fluffy. Add in eggs and egg whites, a little at a time, beating well between each addition. Add vanilla extract, and mix until well incorporated and smooth.
Mix remaining 3 ingredients together, carefully stir into wet ingredients until fully incorporated.
Wrap dough in plastic film, chill for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F, grease cookie sheets.
On a floured counter, roll cookie dough out to about 1/4″ thick (can be up to 1/2″ thick if you prefer a thicker cookie). Use cookie cutters to cut out whatever shapes you’d like, place cookies 2″ apart on greased cookie sheets.
Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes, or until bottoms look lightly golden. Allow cookies to cool on cookie sheets for at least 5 minutes before moving. Cookies need to cool completely before decorating.
In clean stand mixer, whip egg whites until foamy. Add lemon juice, whip for another minute. Slowly add powdered sugar until cookie icing reaches desired consistency. You will want a thicker frosting for piping details and borders. If you’re wanting to “flow” the icing within piped borders, icing can be thinned with a little lemon juice or water.
* 2 tsp Anise extract can be substituted for a fun variation. I especially like using anise (black licorice flavor) for doing cookies that will be shaped/decorated like black cats or bats.