Make It: Red Velvet Skull Cakes

Every year, I find myself browsing the Williams-Sonoma fall catalog and lusting after their awesome seasonal products. I couldn't pass on this super cool mini skull cake pan this time around — they're the perfect serving size for a party, and can be decorated differently or made with a variety of mixes to create a range of effects!

I used a boxed red velvet mix for the cake, and whipped up a batch of buttercream for piping the details on – this is the recipe I follow. I would also love to try filling the cakes next time – maybe from the bottom – to add a bit to the frosting/cake ratio (in my opinion you can never have too much frosting)! These would also be great as a molten cake with a ganache filling, as seen here. It's like chocolate blood...so cool for Halloween.

I was going for a linework/doodle look, so I used a #3 round piping tip to create fine lines—you could also use a rose tip to create flowers or roses as accents, or tint your frosting with food coloring. Their website also suggests doing a light glaze or just dusting them with confectioner's sugar. Lots of possibilities! I'm definitely going to have a lot of fun with these, beyond Halloween—skulls are always a good idea ;)

Recipe: The Perfect Carrot Cake

Well, another week has begun – I hope you guys had a great Easter! It was so nice to have Friday off, it was a much-needed long weekend and I spent the day tying up loose ends with wedding stuff and working on the new website, which is coming soon! On Easter Sunday we had a little brunch at our house, just the two of us, then visited family for dinner. One of my favorite cakes EVER is carrot cake, so it felt appropriate to bring along for the Easter Bunny feast.

I prefer nuts and raisins in my carrot cake, but I left them out in case those weren't crowd pleasers. The cake was still awesome and didn't feel lacking, so it's just personal preference! I've adapted this from various recipes, and this is what works for me. I hope you try it and enjoy...it's delicious!

THE CAKE:

1 1/2 cups vegetable or canola oil

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup brown sugar

6 eggs

1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour (you can use all-purpose instead, this is just my variation)

1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon

2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

1 lb. finely-grated fresh carrots

1 cup chopped walnuts (optional but YES)

1/2 cup golden raisins (optional but also YES)

THE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:

3 8-oz. packages cream cheese, softened

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

1 Tbsp. clear vanilla extract (regular will yield more ivory frosting)

6 cups powdered sugar

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350°F.  In a large bowl, combine flour and dry ingredients (spices, baking powder, baking soda, salt) and set aside. 

Mix oil, brown sugar and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla slowly and continue mixing. Gradually add the dry ingredients and beat on medium speed until combined. 

Fold carrots into batter with a spatula just until combined, then add in nuts and raisins. Be careful not to over work the batter, just fold until combined.

Grease and flour two 9" cake pans, and pour batter evenly between the two. Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center. Place pans on a wire rack and cool completely – this usually takes a couple hours, so now's the time to make your frosting. Before I frost the cake, though, I like to pop it in the fridge to chill down – a cold cake will be much easier to frost.

TO MAKE THE FROSTING:

In your stand mixer, beat together the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Mix in the vanilla extract. Slowly add the powdered sugar one cup at a time, adding or subtracting based on desired thickness. You can add milk to thin the frosting, or add more powdered sugar to thicken it up.

TO ASSEMBLE THE CAKE:

Carefully run a table knife between the cake and the pan to loosen the cake, then flip the pans upside down to release the cake. Using a sharp serrated bread knife, level off the rounded tops of the cake layers. Place your first layer on the plate or cake stand, followed with a big dollop of frosting in the center. Spread the frosting thickly and evenly across the layer – don't worry about it being perfectly smooth, just try to get it even. Spread from the middle of the layer out to the edges and slightly down the side. 

Add your second layer, centered on top of the first. Repeat the frosting process by starting with a large dollop on the top and work your way down the sides, filling and smoothing with an offset spatula. 

Check out this helpful video with instructions on how to achieve a smooth finish with your frosting. Carrot cake doesn't demand a lot of embellishment with the icing, so I made a few calligraphy flags to jazz up the cake for the holiday.

You can serve the cake right away or pop it in the fridge to cool down and set, which I like to do with cream cheese frosting. You'll want to store your cake in the fridge when you're not devouring it. And that's it! Pure carrot bliss.

Friday Links + Sephora Giveaway Winner

Happy Friday, everyone! Hope you're all staying warm in these arctic temperatures. It's bitter cold outside so we definitely don't have any major plans this weekend (although Cleveland Restaurant Week starts today, so I might be tempted into attending)!

Most importantly, I'd like to announce the results from the Sephora gift card giveaway—the winner is Kayla Kelsey (@kaylaincle)! You'll be receiving an email from me shortly with the details of your prize. And it appears she's also a bride-to-be, so double congrats to you, Kayla!

Thank you all for entering and commenting about your skincare routines—I am such a product junkie and loved all of your recommendations. I've had a few questions about daily-use products, so I plan to do a follow-up post on that as well. In the meantime, I rounded up some tasty detox water recipes for anyone who's looking to spice up their water game. Enjoy!

1 | Raspberry Lemon water (Eat Drink Love)

2 | Lime Raspberry Mint water (Sammy and Bella) - I'd love to try this with basil!

3 | Cucumber Lemon Mint water (Sweet and Savory)

4 | Pineapple Sugarcane Spa water (A Spicy Perspective

5 | Cranberry Juice Detox drinks (Bembu)

Friday Links: Sangria Recipe Roundup


When it comes to summer, there are few drinks I like better than sangria. It's the perfect refresher that packs a mean alcoholic punch (well, at least when I make it).

I am a repeat offender when it comes to making peach sangria, so wanted to dig up some other recipes to inspire some interesting combinations. We have a bunch of mint growing in our garden, so I'm anxious to use some up with the apple mint white sangria pictured at #4. I love the idea of mixing in some herbs or veggies, like cucumbers or even sweet peppers, for a twist on this classic. Now that the nights are long and warm, sangria makes for an ideal patio companion. Time to get that pitcher out!

1 | Light and tropical pineapple sangria (Erin's Food Files)
2 | A beautifully styled watermelon sangria bar (A Fabulous Fete)
3 | White peach sangria – love the addition of the grapes (Cooking ala Mel)
4 | Apple mint white sangria (The Clever Carrot)
5 | Another great use of herbs – strawberry rosemary sangria (A Cozy Kitchen)

Recipe: Homemade Oatmeal Creme Pies


Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies appeared many times at the apex of my childhood. Before moms cared about nutrition (or, before MY mom cared about nutrition) I used to get one of these bad boys in my lunch for "dessert" almost every day. And I wonder where my sweet tooth came from...

It's been years since I had one and the craving hit me while grocery shopping this week. I resisted buying a box and instead found this recipe to make my own. These were actually very easy to make and have all of the soft, chewy goodness of the original. I followed the recipe exactly and was sure to slightly underbake the cookies to keep them really soft. Head over to Cooking Classy to find out how to make them yourself!

Do you have a childhood snack you just can't resist?

Friday Links


Between the freezing weather and catching the flu, this week's been a bit of a doozy. I'm looking forward to recharging this weekend and starting fresh next week. I'll have some fun Valentine's DIYs and printables coming up — I can't believe February is around the corner! Enjoy this week's links and have a cozy weekend!

1 | This recipe for make-ahead steel cut oats has been getting me through the morning. (The Kitchn)
2 | True that. (They All Hate Us)
3 | What I wish winter fashion actually looked like...it's zero degree here right now. (Print by Garance Doré)
4 | Love this uber cool side-diamond ring. (Free People)
5 | My second macaron attempt will be these vanilla bean and dulce de leche buttercream ones. It better go well because they sound damn good! (The Culinary Chronicles)

Recipe: Funfetti Birthday Cake Cookies

There are few things I like more than birthdays and cookies. And since my favorite dessert (cookies) usually take a backseat to my other buddy (cake) on birthdays, I was extra thrilled when I could find a way to bring the cookie back to the party.

When I spotted this recipe over on Sally's Baking Addiction I knew it was L-O-V-E. These are perfectly colorful, chocolatey, and packed with cake batter flavor. She has tweaked and tweaked this recipe to make the perfect pillowy-soft cookie, so I'll lay it all out for you so that these babies can get into your mouth ASAP.

I N G R E D I E N T S :

1 1/4 c all-purpose flour

1 1/4 c yellow or white boxed cake mix

1/2 tsp baking soda

1.5 sticks softened butter

1/2 c white sugar

1/2 c brown sugar

1 egg

1.5 tsp vanilla

1/2 c white chocolate chips

1/2 c semi sweet chocolate chips

1/2 c sprinkles

D I R E C T I O N S :

1) Sift flour, cake mix, and baking soda together in large bowl.

2) In a stand mixer (or separate bowl), cream together butter and sugars. Add in egg and vanilla and mix to combine.

3) Slowly add in dry ingredients to mixer; mix only to combine. You don't ever want to over-mix your batter at this point! Use a spatula to fold in the chocolate chips and sprinkles. Let your dough chill for at least an hour before baking.

4) Preheat oven to 350ºF. Roll dough into tall balls (trick from Sally) - this will keep your cookies from spreading too much. Bake for 10-12 minutes - mine took 13 because I use insulated cookie sheets. You'll want the edges to be golden brown but the centers will still look slightly underdone — never fear, they will settle as they cool. This will keep them chewy and soft!

5) Cool and serve with some milk. And maybe a slice of cake.

These are definitely in the running to replace my next birthday cake. Enjoy!