Dec 28, 2010

Cupcaketrees, by Cindie Flannigan

 I recently made a cupcake tree for friends of mine (Stuart and Nicole: you know who you are) who just tied the knot. The whole project came out so nicely that I thought I’d share it with you. You can alter any or all parts of this to make it look and taste anyway you like.

Check out the details at

This makes a tree with 36 cupcakes and an 6-inch 2-layer cake. You can replace the layer cake with 6 cupcakes if you’d like. I suggest placing a small, short glass in the center and filling it with a short arrangement of flowers.

This cupcake tree came with 5 layers, one of which I didn’t use. You can fit another 2 dozen cupcakes on the bottom disk.

What you’ll need:
1 Mini Round Cupcake Tree, decorated
1 pound large flake unsweetened coconut

1 recipe Coconut Buttercream Frosting (recipe below)
2 (6-inch) cake layers
1n (8-inch) cardboard cake round
36 cupcakes in decorative liners
Flowers for decorating

Decorate cupcake tree:
You can personalize your cupcake tree anyway you like: contact or other decorative paper, or spray paint, ribbon, stickers. I spray painted mine silver, giving it a week to dry (and for the spray paint smell to dissipate), then wrapped thin ribbon around exposed edges and secured with pearl-tipped corsage pins. I used most of 1 can of spray paint , 9 yards of ribbon, and 1 50-count package corsage pins.

Toast coconut:
I decided to toast my coconut because I wanted that golden color. To toast: preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Spread coconut over two baking sheets and bake until lightly golden, keeping an eye on it so it doesn’t burn. Remove from heat and slide off onto paper towels to cool.

Make frosting:
This frosting is Do It For Less! Weddings (but of course) Vanilla Buttercream. I replaced the vanilla extract with coconut extract. This frosting will keep for months if frozen in an airtight container.  Bonus.

1 pound unsalted butter, softened
1 cup shortening
1/2 tablespoon coconut extract
8 cups powdered sugar, or more if needed
1/4 cup whole milk, more or less as needed

Place butter and shortening in the large bowl of an electric mixer and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in coconut extract. Beat in powdered sugar, a cup at a time, until frosting is very smooth and thick and somewhat stiff. Beat in milk, a tablespoon at a time until frosting is soft and fluffy but firm enough to hold its shape. Keep covered until ready to use.

Assemble cake:
I made chocolate cake but you can make any flavor you like. To save time, Trader Joe’s carries an excellent cake mix. Place one 6-inch cake layer on 8-inch cake round. Thickly frost top of cake layer and cover with remaining layer. Frost top and sides of cake. Press toasted coconut into sides. Set aside.

Assemble cupcakes:
My cupcakes were also chocolate but you can save time by purchasing already make cupcakes. Thickly frost the tops of cupcakes then press toasted coconut into frosting. Set aside.

To assemble tree:
Put tree together according to package directions. Place cake on top. Place cupcakes on lower layers. Decorate cake and spaces around cupcakes and under cupcake tree with flowers. I used 3 bunches of orange tulips which I gave a tropical look to by folding the petals inside out.

Photo by Paul Chepikian
 Let us know how your cupcaketrees manifest themselves!

Dec 23, 2010

Hot Crab Dip

Photo Source

Start your holidays off right with this cheesy, creamy dip.  Because ingesting 1,000 calories before the soup course is what Christmas is all about, right? xo

Hot Crab Dip

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Use 8-inch baking dish, greased

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup minced onion
1/4 cup finely sliced green onion
10 oz lump crabmeat
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp hot pepper sauce
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp seafood seasoning (optional)

In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs, butter and salt until crumbly.  Set aside.

In another bowl, combine onion, green onion, crabmeat, cream cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, hot pepper sauce, garlic powder and seafood seasoning.  Spoon into prepared baking dish and sprinkle with bread crumb mixture.

Bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until top is golden.

Variation:  Make with chopped cooked shrimp or drained white tuna instead of crab.

Recipe courtesy of The Entertaining Encyclopedia

Dec 16, 2010

Christmas Sugar Cookies!

 Blog Mistress Soon-To-Be Mama Mandy spent a rainy afternoon baking Christmas cookies. At almost nine months pregnant, cheffing is not in the cards for her, and neither is assembling baby furniture. Because she cannot sit still, and can only wash baby clothes and sterilize bottles for so long, she was inspired by The Entertaining Encyclopedia's Butter Cookie recipe and decided to whip up a batch and decorate with lots and lots of Royal Icing (she likes a little bit of cookie with her frosting).

Butter Cookies

Makes 24 cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 egg
1 1/2 tbsp grated lemon zest
1 tbsp vanilla extract

In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixture, cream sugar and butter until light and fluffy, about five minutes.  Beat in egg, lemon zest, and vanilla.  Beat in flour mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, until fully incorporated.

Form dough into a log about 2 inches thick and roll tightly in waxed paper.  Refrigerate for at least one hour, until dough is chilled through, or for up to two days.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Unwrap cookie dough and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices.  Place two inches apart on prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges.  Transfer cookies to wire racks and let cool to room temperature.

Mandy used this royal icing recipe. She likey.

Dec 13, 2010

Dec 9, 2010

HGTV Is Giving Away Perfect Table Settings!

Just two of the MYRIAD of napkin folds at your disposal in our book was kind enough to showcase Perfect Table Settings on their blog.  Check out the article and enter the giveaway here!

Dec 8, 2010

Décor Tips for Easy, Elegant Holiday Entertaining

In this economy, most of us are not planning to fly to New York to shop for gifts or spend $150 per person for a holiday meal on the town.  However, we all still have much to celebrate and yearn to gather and have community during this festive time of year.  I am here to help empower you to entertain at home, using much of what you already have to create a beautiful, yet budget conscious holiday party!

Declutter.  Removing extraneous items (textbooks, piles of mail, etc.) is the first step in decorating your space.  Also rethink any collection that cover a surface such a console table or mantle.  Leaving just a few pieces allows the eye to focus on their beauty, rather than just seeing a mass number of tchotchkes.  Maximum surface space is also much needed for serving food and drinks.

Love your fireplace?  Make it a focal point with a mini tree or series of eye-catching decorations.  When you have a fire going during the party, the light will reflect off of the décor you place around it, creating a stunning look that shows off one of your homes best assets.

If you have a small space, try decorating a part of your home that you treasure.  I love to decorate my chandelier, which is in my smallish dining room.  This leaves the table and the surrounding room area free for guests, chairs, and food.  In the evening, and during a holiday dinner party, guests have a lovely piece to gaze at during their meal that takes up zero space.

Want to display ornaments but don’t want the hassle of decorating an entire tree?  Skip the tree and fill a large vase, or series of vases, with your favorite gems.  This will brighten any corner of your home and add a festive flair.  I like to put them near candles or twinkle lights to maximize their sparkle.

Color Your World.  Pairing complimentary colors (those that are opposites on a color wheel) is a surefire way to make a bold statement.  If your home has a more neutral palate, you are free to use lots of holiday color (i.e. red and green for Christmas or silver and blue for Hanukkah).  However, if your home is already abundantly colored, think about decorating in neutrals or with one or two monochromatic colors.  Silver and gold with white twinkle lights and candles is elegant choice for any color palate.

Dec 6, 2010

Project Foodie 2010 Cookbook Gift Guide

We were fortunate enough to have Perfect Table Settings be one of twelve foodie books selected for this list.  What we love about these particular selections is the range they provide; from a Diego and Dora cookbook for little ones, to how to repair a kitchen disaster, to the history of salt.  There is a great offering for every food lover on your holiday gift list.

Check it out!