Category Archives: Cake

Every time I do a big cake for someone, I swear I will never do it again – they are not easy to pull together in a home kitchen and bring out the “Monica” in me. But I keep doing them because they make people happy. From wedding to birthday cakes, here I will share them all with you along with the how to’s of cake making and decorating.

Haddon Hall Gingerbread

Today, I am excited to share something very special with you, just in time for Thanksgiving; Haddon Hall Gingerbread.

Haddon Hall Gingerbread is a delightful, dark and distinctive cakelike gingerbread with deep notes of rich molasses and warm spices. It is another of the treasures from my Grandmother Ibby’s recipe box and is a favorite of my mom’s. Not just a favorite fall treat but a favorite childhood memory.  Crisp fall days spent playing outside or afternoons walking home from school, cold nose, tingling fingers. Opening the front door of the big old Victorian house, a deep breath and a spreading smile as she is greeted by the scent of her favorite gingerbread baking in the oven.

I can just picture her standing there in her cotton dress, knit sweater, saddle shoes, dropping her books and inhaling deeply, happy to be home and anticipating that warm gingerbread dolloped with fresh whipped cream.

What a picture of home and comfort. Perfect for this time of year when we nestle in and regain our focus on what is most important. Home. Family. Tradition.

While in our family, this will always be my grandmother’s gingerbread, Haddon Hall Gingerbread does have some pretty interesting roots. And apparently a very interesting effect on men.

Yes, this post started out as a simple and sweet remembrance from my mother’s childhood. A favorite recipe to share for the upcoming holiday season. But as is so often the case, there is more to this story.

The research I have done has yielded some intriguing and even amusing results and several different variations on the recipe; none quite the same as my grandmother’s. From what I’ve read, Haddon Hall Gingerbread originally gained the attention of American housewives in 1933 with a Gold Medal flour ad on the back cover of the November issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

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Photo Credit

And after reading this advertisement, I must say, how could it not?

The ad encourages the lady of the house to buy Gold Medal flour for the “Kitchen Tested, simplest, surest, easiest way to baking success.” And if that wasn’t reason enough to purchase Gold Medal flour, the recipe set included in each bag was certainly an irresistible offer.

“Rich man… poor man… Every man goes for Haddon Hall Gingerbread. An old favorite marvelously transformed by adding cream cheese and lemon sauce. The recipe … with 19 others … is given free inside every size sack of Gold Medal ‘kitchen-tested’ flour.”

Intriguing? Perhaps. But irresistible?

“Amazing Collection brings the never before published secrets of world famous chefs for foods that enchant men including the one for Haddon Hall Gingerbread shown here – The creation of William J. Holmes, Pastry Chef, Chalfonte-Haddon Hall, Atlantic City.”

Hmmmm, man enchanting recipes.

Still not convinced?

“What your husband has to say about this Haddon Hall gingerbread will bring the roses to your cheeks. And you’ll find baking this way a thrilling adventure.”

Rosey blushing cheeks? A thrilling adventure without putting your shoes on and leaving the kitchen? What self respecting gal could resist that promise.

“Get Gold Medal ‘Kitchen Tested’ flour at any grocery store. Each sack contains the recipe for Haddon Hall Gingerbread and 19 other ‘foods that enchant men.’ Try them.”

Now, before you set aside 80 years of progress and attempt to manipulate the man in your life with baked goods, keep in mind the Gold Medal flour sacks no longer contain these bewitching recipes.

Do not dismay! Fortunately for you, I have one of them right here. I’m not sure any of us could handle all 19 anyway but a little bit of a rosey cheeked thrill shouldn’t be too dangerous.

Haddon Hall Gingerbread

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 Cup Butter
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Cup Molasses
  • 2 1/4 Cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ginger
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 Cup boiling water

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.

Cream together the butter and sugar. Blend in the eggs and the molasses.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger and cinnamon.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients alternately with the boiling water, beginning and ending with the dry.

Pour into a greased and floured 8×8 pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes.

My mom remembers my grandmother always serving this with whipped cream but I think a sprinkling of powder sugar is pretty nice too. She also never served it with the cream cheese layer or the lemon sauce and frankly, I can’t imagine it needing either.

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Just before Halloween, I made a batch and packaged some up for friends in a festive treat box. That was before I had done some research and discovered the true power of this recipe. I’m expecting a thank you note any day now.

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So, now we know that this is no ordinary gingerbread but where does the name “Haddon Hall” come from? It could be named for the Chalfonte-Haddon Hall Hotel in Atlantic City where Chef William J. Holmes worked but I imagine it goes back further than that. The Gold Medal flour ad says that with the addition of a cream cheese layer and lemon sauce, Chef Holmes’ creation was an updated version of an “old favorite”.

According to Uncle Phaedrus, Finder of Lost Recipes, “Haddon Hall is a famous old medieval mansion in Derbyshire, England. It’s not too distant from a Derbyshire town named Ashbourne, which is famous for it’s gingerbread. According to Derbyshire tradition, Ashbourne gingerbread was first created by a French prisoner of war, who decided to remain in the town after the Napoleonic wars. His special gingerbread recipe was then handed down through generations of  his descendants.

Gingerbread is a tradition in the area. Gingerbread men were made and sold in country towns at Easter Fairs and Autumn Wakes Weeks. Fashioned in molds, they were decorated with colored hats and scarlet or white sugar buttons. They can still be found for sale today in Ashbourne and the surrounding area.

So, I’m speculating that the Betty Crocker ‘Haddon Hall’ (there is a version of the recipe in the 1965 Betty Crocker cookbook) gingerbread recipe  was likely an Americanized version of the below Ashbourne gingerbread recipe.”

More about Haddon Hall.

Perhaps that “old favorite” does have its roots in the accounting above and in Ashbourne Gingerbread and the Haddon Hall of Derbyshire; I’d like to think so. But I could find nothing to confirm the origin with certainty so, it remains a food mystery. Which kind of makes this recipe all the more intriguing.

Regardless of the origin and the mystery, the romantic Madison Avenue promises of 1933, or if this is an exact duplicate of the recipe from that magical little booklet in the flour sack or was again altered by my grandmother, this recipe is special.

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So break out the mixer, pans and measuring cups (if you dare) and be ready for your kitchen to be filled with the scent of fall and family and home.

Anything else is your business.

Enjoy!

If you are looking for some great recipes for your Thanksgiving Dinner, here are a few of my favorite sides and Thanksgiving Traditions, originally posted last fall.

This Thanksgiving,  I hope you have a beautiful day filled with the people you love and a grateful heart brimming with joy for all that makes you thankful. As for me, I am so thankful for the incredible friends, readers and blogging community that stick with me and make writing Welcome Company such a joy!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Assemble the Minions! We’re Celebrating “Despicable Me” Style!

We recently celebrated my “baby’s” 6th Birthday.

Yes, my littlest love is now 6 and no, I have no idea where the time has gone.

He is one funny kid, this one – all three stooges in one little body as we like to say. He has an exuberance for life that takes my breath away. Usually because I am constantly running after him in 100 different directions at once. And such a sweet and fun loving spirit. Planning his parties is always a joy!

For the longest time he wanted this birthday party to have a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme and I had gone to sleep many nights with ideas and thoughts of turning giant crime stopping, smack talking martial artist turtles and their rodent sensei into a party.

And then we saw Despicable Me 2 this summer and, as it so often is with kids, everything changed. After that, I went to sleep with ideas and thoughts of turning a Ukrainian (I’m guessing) accented super villain, three sassy little girls and the most ridiculously adorable little yellow minions into a party.

In the end, it was really the minions who stole the show, as it is in the movies. Nathan LOVES the minions and belly laughed so hard at their antics that he had the entire theater laughing along with him. It is one of the things I love most about this kid, his exuberance.

You’re invited now to come on in and see how we celebrated this incredible little person … Despicable Me Style!

The Invitation

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In my last party post, A Duck Dynasty Birthday Bash, I told you that I love to design my own invitations. Images from the internet make it easy and fun to customize your own invite in whatever theme you’ve chosen.

If you would like to use my invitation, you will find the printable here … Minion Birthday Party Invitation Printable. You can easily go into the text boxes and customize the invitation for your party. I printed my invitations on plain white card stock.

Welcome to the party …

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The Party “Welcome Sign” on the front door, if you can call all of Gru’s rules welcoming, is a fun way to greet guests and let them know they are at the right place.

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I printed up the images on white cardstock, mounted them on poster board and then attached them together with paperclips that I had bent and twisted into submission.

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I also had a couple of friendly minions welcoming guests through the windows.

Printables …

Minion Door Hanger

Gru’s Rules

Waving Minion

Window Minions

The Favors

I kept the party favors pretty simple. Disposable cake decorating bags make great gift and favor bags (they are also great for hot chocolate treats – I’ll share that fun project with you as we get closer to the holidays).

I just filled the bags with a little candy and then topped each one off with a Minion and tied the tops with ribbon.

The Minion Figures were purchased through Amazon; Option 1Option 2.

Gru made a “Freeze Ray” for each child, just like his. Well, almost like his. The didn’t actually have the capability to freeze anyone, which was probably for the best. But they did squirt water, which is something.

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The “Freeze Ray” Printable can be found here – Despicable Me Party Signs.

The Food

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Despicable Me 2 Spoiler Alert! Eduardo Perez comes off as a friendly restaurant proprietor known for his famous but very secret salsa. BUT could he actually be the despicable villain El Macho; long thought dead? Hmmmmm …

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Whomever he truly is, he inspired the “Taste of Mexico” menu for our party!

  • Blue and Yellow Corn Chips
  • Salsa (of course), Sour Cream and Guacamole
  • Queso Cheese Dip (just Velveeta and Rotel Tomatoes melted in the crock pot).
  • Taquitos and Quesadillas (served on the white platters shown above).
  • And grapes and watermelon wedges – always a kid favorite!

An easy but festive, kid friendly menu!

El Macho and Salsa & Salsa Sign Printables.

Party-Beverage-Station

The drink station included water, lemonade and iced tea for the parents. I love to put orange slices in my iced tea and a few lemon slices always jazz up a pitcher or container of lemonade!

Now for the best part … cake!

The Minion Cupcakes

Floating all over Pinterest is this great idea for turning Twinkies into Minions. It couldn’t have been simpler. Make your favorite cupcakes (I made vanilla cupcakes and chocolate cupcakes) and frost them with blue butter cream. I put the frosting in a pastry bag, snip off the end and swirl it on. Cut the Twinkies in half and with ready made frosting tubes, put on the eyes (Wilton now makes candy eyes that you can find at the grocery store) add different funny expressions and hair and then place a Twinkie Minion atop each cupcake. I had a few more cupcakes than Twinkie Minions so I frosted those yellow and sprinkled them with blue sugar for a little variety.

Minion-Cupcakes-8For the cake topper, I added text to an image from the internet, printed it out on white cardstock and the mounted it on yellow cardstock. I taped two of the yellow striped drinking straws to the back and stuck it into the cupcakes.

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A few candles and the Minion Fireman (“be-doh, be-doh, be-doh”) to keep everything in line and the cupcake tower was complete.

Yes I had far to much fun coming up with Minion hairstyles. Do you see the comb-over in the back on the left? That is really my best work.

Minion Birthday Greeting Cake Topper Printable.

Shrunken Moon Bites (donut holes dipped in white chocolate – if you are really ambitious you could do these as cake pops), Coco-Nutties (Vector’s favorite cookie – conveniently purchased at the grocery store), an Ice Cream Cone station and a dog “food” bowl (just like in the movie) filled with candy finished out the treat table.

Despicable Me Party Food Printable.

Despicable Me Lunch Plates, Cake PlatesCups, Lunch Napkins, Beverage Napkins and Yellow Striped Paper Straws.

Despicable Me Figures of Gru and the girls, Kyle the Dog and four minions used to decorate the cake table were purchased on Amazon.

The Fun

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There’s that precious birthday boy!

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We all wore Minion T-Shirts, which was very fun but of course, I didn’t take a minute to have someone photograph our family together in our shirts. I’ll have to make everyone put them back on and fix that! Sara did have a minion shirt but must have changed into something more fashionable after swimming. Oh to be a tween and still have someone else doing your laundry.

I have learned over several years and A LOT of birthday parties that planning a ton of games and activities really isn’t necessary. What the kids really want to do, especially when they are little is run around and play together. At our house, there is a lot of room to run and many imaginative adventures to be had. And with the boys having birthdays in June and September, they also want to swim (Sara’s is in December so even in Arizona, swimming is out).

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So, while I had a lot of different games in mind, (freeze tag, boogie robot freeze dancing or musical chairs, etc.) I ended up only putting one together – The Space Killer Carnival game from the first movie. Space-Killer-Despicable-Me-

I printed up images of the space aliens from the game in the movie in varying sizes and then glued them to a foam presentation board. The kids used Nerf guns to shoot at the stacked cups.

“KNOCKED OVER!” Of course I had to include an image of Gru after he blew the whole thing up.

If you have not seen the movie, you really must. And then get the second one when it comes out on Blue Ray soon. They are so clever and very funny!

Of course we sang happy birthday, blew out candles, had cake and ice cream …

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and opened presents – my friend Eileen had a captive audience as she read birthday cards.

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And then after a lot of fun and a little too much sugar, some down time racked out with your buds watching your favorite movie is a must. You can get away with this when you’re six.

Speaking of buds …

Nathan-&-Hayden

Hayden is one of Nathan’s favorite buds of all time. Hayden and his wonderful family were our neighbors for many years. When Nathan was a baby and Hayden was about eight, he would pop over all the time to play with Nathan. As they both grew, Hayden never got too big to hang out with Nathan. I have a picture of them together at each of Nathan’s Birthdays. It is great to have a friend who has loved you your whole life! We just wish he was still right over the fence.

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We love you Hayden (and Michael, April and Hope)!

So that’s it. One more birthday party down for the record books.

Whaaaaaaaat? The Party’s Over?

Yes, the party’s over. But around here, it won’t be long until there’s another one!

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Thanks for coming!

Thank you note printable.

All of the party printables shared in this post are made with images found on the internet and are for personal use only and not for sale or distribution in anyway. Please play fair and have a fantastic party!

S’Mores Cupcakes

With the start of the school year, we are back in full swing with Cub Scouts. I love to blog about Cub Scouts because it is such a big part of our lives and has been an incredible experience for our whole family. The Scouting program is awesome and I love sharing all of the fun and important stuff we do with all of you.

This past weekend, our Pack got together for a lesson on the Scouting principle of Leave No Trace. Leave No Trace means just that. It focuses primarily on camping and outdoor activities but the underlying principle applies to all areas of our lives. Take care of your environment; whether it is the outdoors, your school, your home, your room, the park, the movie theater; you get the idea. Wherever you go, whatever you do, be mindful of the environment and how you have an impact upon it.

And ALWAYS leave a place better than you found it. Which means sometimes we have to pick up after others too.

Rather than just talk about it with our Scouts, we wanted them to experience the lesson first hand. The best lessons are often learned by seeing and doing. So this past Saturday, our boys and their families spent a few hours cleaning up along the banks of the Salt River.

The lower Salt River is a major recreation site in our area and unfortunately, not everyone respects the privilege of enjoying such a beautiful place. A LOT of trash gets left behind. It was important for our Scouts to see first hand how even a little waste has a big impact when the effects of so many visitors is combined.

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They worked hard and cleaned up a lot of trash.

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We are very proud of our “Bear” and his understanding and respect for nature and the need to care for and protect the environment. He is passionate about it. Now, if we could just get that same passion to carry over to his room.

After all of that hard work and a lot of hand sanitizer, it was time for a treat. It was way too hot to roast marshmallows (and open fire isn’t allowed right now) so I decided to improvise and turn Scouting’s signature dish into a cup cake.

S’Mores Cupcakes

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I love to bake from scratch and have some wonderful chocolate cake recipes from my grandmother. But there are times when practicality wins out and you just have to break out the cake mix. I adapted a recipe from the cookbook “The Cake Mix Doctor” by Anne Byrn and came up with a yummy chocolate cupcake, perfect to feed a lot of hungry Cub Scouts. Three batches yielded 60 cupcakes. If you don’t “overfill” as I tend to do, you might just get 24 cup cakes in a batch.

Cup Cake Ingredients

  • 1 package Milk Chocolate cake mix
  • 3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 1/3 Cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Cup Cake S’More Toppings

S'mores-Cupcake-Toppings

  • Graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 Bag of jumbo marshmallows, each marshmallow cut in half
  • Graham cracker pieces or mini graham crackers for garnish
  • Chocolate pieces for garnish

Cup Cake Directions

In pure cake mix fashion, put all of the ingredients together in your stand mixer and blend it all on medium to medium-high for a minute. Scrape down the sides and blend for another minute or until well combined and smooth. Line your muffin/cup cake tin with paper wrappers and fill each 3/4 of the way full.

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Then sprinkle with graham cracker crumbs (about a teaspoon each). I made the first batch with the graham cracker crumbs placed in the bottom of the wrapper and the batter poured on top. It didn’t adhere to the cake like I wanted so I opted to sprinkle the crumbs on top.

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Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.

I love how they look with the graham cracker crumbs on top.

Next … the fun part.

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Set your oven rack, two spaces down from the broiler and then turn the oven to the broil setting.

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Put your cupcakes on a sheet tray and place a marshmallow half on top of each one. Place the marshmallow topped cupcakes under the broiler for 1 minute and 45 seconds. That is the exact amount of time my oven took to perfectly toast the marshmallows. The time needed in your oven may be different so keep an eye on them.

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Finish the cup cakes off in true S’Mores fashion with wedges of graham cracker and chocolate. The crackers can go on right away but let the marshmallow cool a bit before you add the chocolate or you’ll have a melty mess.

The boys and families of our Pack spent and afternoon doing our part to clean up a bit and leave things better than we found them. But our day wasn’t all hard work. Yes, there were yummy cup cakes but did I mention there was a also helicopter?

No? Ohhhh, there was a helicopter!

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Our Wolf Den Leader is a Sheriff’s Deputy and he arranged quite the surprise for our boys. For all of us, actually. When he told me he was setting up something cool, I was just thinking a few sirens and lights. Nope. There was a helicopter.

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Of course the boys LOVED it. And they deserved it. Hard work always has its reward!

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I know one little boy in particular who was in heaven!

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Really, does it get much cooler than that?

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We also had a visit from these deputies who patrol the river on ATVs. Very cool too! In fact, I’m pretty sure they have their own action figures. Well, if they don’t they should.

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The perfect spot to watch a helicopter take off!

A special thanks to Rob and our friends from the Sheriff’s Department for the work you do to keep our community safe and for so graciously giving a little of your time to make a kid’s day.

You guys rock!

A Duck Dynasty Birthday Bash!

Up until a few months ago, I had somehow managed to live a Duck Dynasty free life. Blissfully unaware of what I was missing. No knowledge or care for the antics of Willy, Jace, Uncle Si, Phil or the rest of the gang of duck call millionaires.

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Internet Photo

Then, one fateful day in February, my sister posted on Facebook just how “Ha-Pay, Ha-Pay, Ha-Pay” she was that the new season of Duck Dynasty was starting that night. Duck what? I commented. What are you talking about?

She tried to explain but ultimately said “you just have to watch it for yourself”. I was hesitant as I am not a reality TV show watcher; House Hunters, House Hunters International and about a million cooking shows are as close as I get. But a show about millionaire rednecks? “It is so funny” she promised. Why not. Curiosity won out and my family and I tuned into Duck Dynasty for the very first time.

And you know what? We laughed.

Internet Image

Internet Image

And laughed and laughed and laughed.

And watched about 9 straight episodes because it was funny and kind of like a train wreck where you just can’t seem to look away.

There was a lot to like and a lot to laugh at. Lots of funny one-liners, sibling rivalry and the antics of adult men who act like 10 year olds. An I am who I am and proud of it attitude and of course crazy Uncle Si and his wild stories and complete annihilation of the English language “I’m what some people call, hey cultured, ok? I’m like a fine stinky cheese”.

Cultured. Not exactly what I was thinking.

Actually, watching Duck Dynasty was a lot like being back in my husband’s small hometown in Indiana. Seriously, his little brother’s groomsmen had names like Meat and Cletus and Buck. I’m not making that up and I’m still hoping there was a nickname or two in there.

But “cultured” isn’t what Duck Dynasty is about and something I’m pretty sure those guys could care less about. In fact, the patriarch of the family, Phil “The Duck Commander”, would refer to anyone who is cultured (or lives in a sub-division) as a “yuppie”. And he doesn’t mean that in a good way.

What Duck Dynasty is about is family, faith, sticking together, praying together and loving each other no matter what. It’s about being comfortable with who you are and where you come from. It’s good clean fun and something I feel good about letting my kids watch. That is saying something these days.

And, it’s funny.

My nine-year-old in particular LOVES it so when it came time to start planning his birthday party, I thought how about a Duck Dynasty birthday party? FUN! He was all for it!

Here’s how it turned out …

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A Duck Dynasty Birthday Bash

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The birthday boy bearded up and ready to party!

The Invitations

I love to make my own invitations and always have a lot of fun trying to be clever. Don’t laugh at me but I use word … as in Microsoft Word. I do everything in Word, it is all I know. Not very sophisticated or computer savvy but effective enough.

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I put a cast photo from the internet at the bottom of the invitation and then folded over the top two-thirds, concealing the interior of the invitation. The Duck Commander logo, which I also found online, along with “You’re Invited” printed on brown cardstock and then adhered to the plain white “fold-over” completed the outside of the invitation.

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For the interior of the invitation, another internet picture – this time of Uncle Si with his famous “HEY JACK!” started things off just right. The rest of the invitation read …

HEY JACK!

IT’S A PARTY!

Ha-Pay, Ha-Pay, Ha-pay (which is what Phil always says and that’s how he says it Ha-pay) Birthday David!

Let me be more “pacific” … (remember how I said Uncle Si has a gift for completely butchering the English language?)

Where: On Brewer Land (something is always happening on Robertson Land which flashes on the screen regularly) with our address.

When: Date and Time

Come sharply dressed in your best cammo and bring a swimmin’ suit. And come hungry ’cause Miss Kay’ll (the family matriarch famous for her cooking, including some non-mainstream livin’ off the land type ingredients) be cookin’ up squirrels and frog’s legs.

RSVP to the Duck Commander at …

It is easy, fun and inexpensive to make your own invitations. If Microsoft Word and I can do it, believe me, you can too!

If you would like to print my invitation, you can do so by clicking the following links and then going into the text box(es) and changing the wording as you like.

Duck Dynasty Invitation Printable.

Duck Dynasty Invitation Front Art Printable.

The Decorations & Favors

I had a great time putting this party together. I love planning the decorations and decking out the dining room table. Our dining room has been adorned with many themes over the years … Spiderman, Princesses, Cowboys, Surfin’ at the Beach, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Thomas the Train, CARS, Artist easels and canvases and now … Duck Dynasty.

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We camo’d up for this one. I ordered duck blind fabric for the table-cloth and plastic camo netting for the background – which I hung from the chandelier.

Oh the things that have hung from that chandelier.

The wooden crates came from Michaels and added some elevation to the table scape. I like to make the cake the centerpiece of the table and then decorate around it.

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I printed up a lot of fun Duck Dynasty images from the internet and incorporated them into the design, along with a lot of swamp creatures and critters that I picked up at Michaels.

Here are the images I used along with a couple of funny quotes …

Duck Dynasty Party Image Printable

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This was the birthday wish on the cake. I mounted the photo and salutation on orange card stock, taped a drinking straw to the back and stuck it into the cake. Easy. Cheap. Awesome!

Here is the Printable Cake Topper – just go into the text box and change the “name” before you print.

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This is my favorite part. I found some of the funniest one-liners and quotes from the show, printed them out and hung them from the chandelier with raffia.

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I don’t care how cultured you are, that’s funny!

Especially to adolescent boys. Who are not cultured.

And their dads. Hmmmmmmm.

Okay, and me.

Here are the quotes if you would like to use them …

Duck Dynasty Funny Quotes Printable

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I have a confession. I’m funny about party favors. I like quality favors. It isn’t about how much you spend but quality is better than quantity; whether it is one cookie decorated in the party theme and wrapped adorably in a cellophane bag or a few items kids will actually play with. All of those little junky plastic piñata fillers make me crazy. Please don’t take offense to this. I’m not judging. I’m just saying that at my house, those little things end up in the garbage about 4.2 seconds after we walk in the door; sadly making their way to the nearest landfill. I know I’m not alone here.

The Duck Dynasty Party Favors

Nothing was very expensive but it all fit the theme well and hopefully will be useful and/or played with. And will avoid the landfill at least for a while.

Duck-Dynasty-Party-10I know my kids have been wearing beards and bandanas for days. And blowing duck calls.

Loud duck calls.

Okay maybe the plastic spinning tops that don’t spin and dog choking rubber bouncy balls aren’t so bad.

Click the items listed above for the link to purchase. If there is no link, they were not purchased on-line and were purchased at a party or craft store (Michaels or Hobby Lobby).

Additional Party Supply links …

Camo Party Supplies

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The Food

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Whenever I throw a party, I like to lay out all of the platters and serving dishes ahead of time and then put the items on them that they will be used for; well the non perishable ones anyway. That way I won’t be scrambling around at crunch time looking for service items. It frees me up to scramble around at crunch time in other ways.

It is either organization and good planning or OCD. Either way, it keeps me straight. And sane.

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I also like to make descriptive food “place cards”. Who am I kidding, I LOVE to make them.

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Especially when you can make them theme oriented and fun!

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The Duck Dynasty Party Menu

  • Gator Tail with spicy BBQ dip (grilled chicken skewers, gator tastes remarkably like chicken)
  • Miss Kay’s Boudin Sausage Bites with BBQ dip
  • Buffalo Style Frog’s Legs (curiously similar to hot wings)
  • Bayou Baked Beans
  • Pulled Pot o’ Squirrel (pulled pork in the crock-pot)
  • Swamp Grass (coleslaw – a must with pulled pork and soft rolls)
  • Caprese Salad, Yuppie Food
  • Watermelon and blueberries, arranged into “Pretty Yuppie Food”
  • BBQ chips, tortilla chips and salsa
  • Purple grapes
  • Veggie tray with carrots, grape tomatoes and sliced cucumbers
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Do you see my note pad and Sharpie there? My list is never far away. Nor is my Sharpie. I’m partial to orange at the moment.

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And of course, no Duck Dynasty Party would be complete without a big pitcher of Uncle Si’s famous (or infamous) iced tea.

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Only ours wasn’t sweet. Sorry all my southern friends, we’re Yankees – or south westerners at least. There’s no “sweet” in our tea.

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Printable Menu Tag 2

The Cake

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I use this three-tiered stand a lot and decorate it according to theme. It is easier than a stacked cake and leaves more surface area for decorating. Of course we had to have ducks and a few beavers and their dam; which the Robertson men do battle with on a regular basis. I used stick pretzels to make reeds on the side of the green duck cake and to make the beaver dam on the chocolate cake.

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Which by the way was a Sugar-free/Gluten-free chocolate cake.

And it was delicious. And I got to have cake.

Ha-pay, Ha-pay, Ha-pay!

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I also put out a pecan bars and peanut butter and jelly bars.

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David loved the cake and that is what matters most!

And he got all nine candles out in one breath!

The Fun

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Well, cammo, bandanas and beards are fun of course! And Nathan is fun!

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And friends are fun!

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And water balloons are fun!

Duck-Dynasty-Water-BalloonsEspecially when you have to toss them to your partner without breaking them.

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And built-in entertainment is fun.

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And easy for mom and dad.

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We had also planned to do some duck target shooting with Nerf guns but as is always the case, the kids really just want to run around and play and swim. So that’s what we did.

Family, friends, food, fun, cake and presents.

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And a Duck Dynasty floor mat. The greatest gift ever.

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An attempt was even made to redecorate the entry hall.

Sadly, a line had to be drawn.

As a kid, I didn’t have big blow-out parties with thirty of my “closest” friends at giant expensive venues. Don’t get me wrong, those parties are just fine and great fun; we just did it a little differently. We did family parties at home and I loved it. Those are some of my favorite memories and that is how I approach birthdays now that I am the mom. I have done a few of the big venue parties but for the most part we stay at home, in the company of family and friends. And lots of food.

I hope my kids will one day look back with the same fondness that I do. I hope they too will have wonderful memories of the fun we had at home with the people we love.

And of how they were celebrated.

Happy, Happy, Happy Birthday David.

Note: The “printables” shared in this post contain images obtained from the internet and are not official Duck Dynasty merchandise or for sale in anyway. They were created for use at my son’s party and I am simply happy to share. There is a link in the post to official Duck Dynasty Party Merchandise.

A Very Vintage Event

Before I write another word, I first have to express a very heartfelt thank you for all of the kind words, wishes, support and prayers we received after sharing Nathan’s autism diagnoses. God never leaves us alone in our journey and it is beautiful to be reminded of that. Nathan is very blessed and loved, as are we. Thank you!

Nathan-1I had to put this in because its just so darn cute! Do you ever wish you could have just one more moment with your “baby”? I love my big kid but every now and again I just really miss that baby; soft hair, chubby hands, quiet rocking, sweet snuggles … sigh.

Tangent alert. Sorry,

I know I haven’t been writing as much lately but I’ve been reminded of something recently … summers are busy.

Really busy.

Yes, there is a season to everything and summer, with all three kids at home going in three different directions, just isn’t writing season.

It isn’t just the kids that are busy though, I have also gotten busier but in a really fantastic way and I am excited to tell you about it.

A few months back I was asked by the head of our church’s Women’s Ministry to take over the events team. We are blessed to have a large church and thriving women’s ministry with many activities and events. Needless to say, it is a pretty big job. But it is also an incredible opportunity to serve the women of our church and I must say that I was very humbled and honored when Jodi asked if I would consider it. Women’s ministry has always been where my heart is and has always been where I have served. With three young kids and our focus on their needs and special needs, I have had to serve on a smaller scale but as I said before, to all things there is a season. Nathan will be starting Kindergarten this year and my plate won’t be quite as full.

God’s timing is perfect. I love that about Him.

So, after consideration and prayer, I happily accepted the job and immediately jumped into the first event or series of events as it were – the Spiritual Growth Summer Speaking Series.

My role for this four week event is food and hospitality … hard to imagine, right? My goal each week is to match the hospitality table, food and design with the personality of each speaker as I know three of the four speakers personally. I know I was lead in this direction as it gave me the opportunity to reflect on the very distinct style and unique gifting of each of these women. To consider what each has brought into my life and to pray over each of them as I plan and prepare. What a blessing it has been for me. What a blessing each of these women is to me.

The first week, my friend Christina spoke on living outside of yourself, outside of your comfort zone, truly giving God every part of you. She was so inspirational and is currently spending two weeks in Africa living her words. She is a blogger and mama to six and has gone to Africa with our missions team to chronicle the team’s work and the experience. I encourage you to visit her at The Lang Gang Loves and read about the incredible things God is doing in Malawi and in the hearts of all who are blessed to serve there.

The second week, Christina’s mom Candace was our speaker. I have had the pleasure and privilege of sharing bible study with this amazing woman of God. She is truly a Titus 2 woman and I have been deeply blessed by her nurturing and teaching heart. Her beautiful message of forgiveness and the freedom that comes with it was one so many of us needed to hear.

Last night, my sweet, sweet friend Kristin spoke on knowing and sharing Jesus Christ. This is a gifted and anointed woman who delivers a powerful message. Wow! I am still thinking on her words this morning.

So, three weeks into the events and it only took me two weeks and two events to realize that it might be nice to bring my camera along and share a bit of my new adventure in event planning here on my blog. I wish I could share the first two evenings with you but better late than never, right? So I’ll start with Kristin and last night’s event.

Kristin loves all things vintage, eclectic, shabby chic. I love those things too and was very excited to pull out some of my antique service pieces and my grandmother’s linens and lace.

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For the flowers, I filled jelly jars with Kristin’s favorite hydrangeas (sorry, I said hibiscus pre-edit), pink tipped white roses (which look very old-fashioned to me), small white mums, and sprays of little purple filler flowers. A larger bouquet of the roses complemented the smaller bouquets.

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I love fresh flowers and I love mixed bouquets.

A person’s favorite flower truly says so much about them.

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I decided to do “old-fashioned” treats and decided on a menu of Red Velvet and Coconut mini-cupcakes, my grandmother’s banana bread and pecan bars served alongside a refreshing platter of watermelon and blueberries and gorgeous bowls of juicy ripe strawberries.

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The small seedless watermelons are great sliced in easy to hold wedges and present beautifully surrounding a mound of sweet fresh blueberries.

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Lace. Lace. Lace. I love handmade lace and am so thankful to have the ivory tatted lace from my grandmothers and great-grandmothers. It is so beautiful atop a white table-cloth.

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Or a black one.

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You can’t go wrong with a simple bowl of  fresh in-season strawberries. I knew there was a reason I couldn’t pass up that soup tureen with the missing lid on my last trip through my favorite antique store.

And now for the baked goods. I can’t eat them but I sure do love making them! I mentioned before that I wanted to serve old-fashioned treats so here’s what I came up with …

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Barefoot Contessa’s Pecan Bars

I make these every Christmas and can’t begin to describe to you how incredibly delicious they are. If I were going to fall off the gluten-free/sugar-free wagon with reckless abandon, I would fall into this plate of Pecan Bars. The honey and orange zest and rich shortbread crust are what make them so special.

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As you may have read before, I love Ina (the Barefoot Contessa) and use her recipes all the time. They always come out perfectly and are certain to be crowd pleasers. Here I made her Red Velvet and Coconut cupcakes in mini-version.

And I made a lot of them.

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I also made my grandmother’s banana bread. It doesn’t get any more old-fashioned than that and you can’t go wrong with her recipes either!

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I didn’t make it into the tea sandwiches this time as I had quite a bit of frosting and richness on the table already. The simple fingers of moist delicious banana bread were perfect just as they were.

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And there you have it, a Very Vintage Event. It was a blessed and wonderful evening. I am looking forward to sharing more “events” with you but for now, I need to get going as we are having a big event at the Hacienda and I’ve got to get busy.

I told you that my boy turned nine a few weeks back, well his party is tomorrow and we’ll be gettin’ our “redneck” on with a Duck Dynasty bash. It’s gonna’ be a party, Jack!

Only in my world do we go from vintage elegance to Duck Dynasty in the same week!

Salted Pecan Coffee Cake with Maple Glaze

As I have worked my way through so many of my grandmother’s incredible recipes, I have come to notice a few things about her “style” or signature touches, especially with baking. Two big stand outs are the use of orange zest and sour cream as so many of her recipes call for one or both.

In her coffee cake recipe there is no orange zest but the addition of sour cream makes for a wonderfully rich and moist cake. I have made the cake a few times now and have been playing around with it, gilding the lily a bit.

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The first time I made it, I made the mistake of questioning grandma Ibby. Why would you want to top the cake with the streusel mixture and then end up with all of the “good stuff” on the bottom of the plate when you invert it out of the pan? So I put the streusel in the bundt pan first in order to have a pretty crumbly crunchy top to my cake. What I ended up with was an unattractive just about burnt mess. Sorry grandma, you do know best.

Still determined to update the recipe a bit and add my own touches, I decided to embrace the current salted caramel craze (a craze I am very fond of by the way) and add Fleur de Sel to the streusel. Let me tell you, that crunchy hit of salt on your tongue mingled with the sweet of brown sugar and spice of cinnamon – glorious. I’m talking Hallelujia Chorus G.L.O.R.I.O.U.S.

But how to finish the cake? How to add a little flourish to it without overdoing it or taking away from the beauty of the base recipe. I opted for finishing it with a simple maple glaze and Salted Pecan Coffee Cake with Maple Glaze was born; a most welcome addition.

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Salted Pecan Coffee Cake with Maple Glaze

Streusel

  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 Cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Fleur de Sel or coarse sea salt
  • 1 Cup finely chopped pecans

Cream together the softened butter, brown sugar and cinnamon (I just do it with a fork, not with a mixer) and stir in the Fleur de Sel and chopped pecans.

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Cake Ingredients

  • 2 Cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt or 1/4 tsp table salt
  • 1/2 Cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 Cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 Cup Sour Cream

Cake Directions

In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and whisk to combine.

In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, cream butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy (3-5 minutes).

Grandma’s Tip: Cream the butter for a few seconds before adding the sugar. Add the sugar slowly, a little bit at a time and then add the vanilla and cream 3-5 minutes until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time until just incorporated.

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Grandma’s Tip: Crack each egg into a small bowl, not directly into the mixer. This way you will avoid any stray pieces of shell and the potential for a bad egg ruining your whole mixture.

Mix in the dry ingredients in thirds, alternating with the sour cream; start and end with dry and mix each addition until just combined being careful not to overmix or overwork your batter.

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Take your time, do it right, enjoy the process and  you will end up with one gorgeous batter.

In a prepared 10 inch bundt pan (buttered and floured or coated with baking spray) spoon half of the batter and spread smooth. Sprinkle with half of the streusel mixture. Top with remaining batter and spread smooth. Sprinkle with remaining streusel mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees 40-45 minutes.

Cool in the pan for 20 minutes on a wire rack and then invert onto a cake stand or serving platter – make sure your serving dish has enough room for the maple glaze to pool around the cake. Let the cake cool completely (about an hour) before icing with the glaze.

Maple Glaze

Maple-Glaze

  • 1/2 cup Powdered Sugar
  • 2-3 Tbsp Pure Maple Syrup

MIx together until smooth.

Maple-Glaze-2The glaze should leave a sturdy “ribbon” when drizzled back into the bowl as you want it thin enough to run over the cake but thick enough to form a beautiful icing.

Drizzle over the cake and decorate the top with a few pecan halves or a light sprinkling of chopped pecans.

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Let me tell you what happens with the addition of the glaze.

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It puddles and pools around the base of the cake, seeping underneath and mingling with the salted pecan streusel creating a gooey almost caramel like sauce that is plate licking delicious.

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How I would love it if you could pull up a seat at our backyard picnic table under the blooming Palo Verde tree and enjoy a leisurely late breakfast. Happy conversation, a gentle warm breeze, bird song and the soft buzzing of honey bees in the tree’s yellow spring blossoms.

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I enjoyed just such a morning this past Saturday with a wonderful group of ladies who make up the prayer team I am blessed to be a part of. We spent some peaceful time in the comfort of the spring sun praying together and then enjoyed each other’s company as we shared this very special cake. My grandmother would have loved it; the prayer and the fellowship. And the cake.

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My grandmother’s original coffee cake recipe specified only “nut meats” in the streusel ingredients; leaving the possibilities wide open. I started with pecans, which is the recipe you have here. Next up, a walnut orange combo using the same basic batter and then having a little fun with orange; a bit of a tribute to her love of orange zest. I also have a hazelnut chocolate chip version rolling around in my head. Stay tuned!

Kitchen table, dining room table or backyard picnic table, I hope you find a moment to slow down, gather round and enjoy!

“Our Creator knows just what we need. God, who made food for our provision and pleasure, made the table for our souls.” – Joanne Thompson, Table Life

Barefoot Contessa’s Lemon Yogurt Cake

If you have read my blog for a while now, you are pretty familiar with the fact that I adore the Barefoot Contessa. Some people love Kobe or Tom Brady, some love Meryl Streep, some love JT, Adele, Ryan Gosling, or Bono. But me, I love Ina.

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One thing, well, there are many things, but one thing in particular that you will never see on my blog are the words “recipe adapted from the Barefoot Contessa”. 

I love taking a basic recipe idea and tweaking it to add my own unique touches – that is half the fun of cooking. And I will ALWAYS give credit where credit is due but I will never adapt Ina. It can’t be done. I can’t add anything that she hasn’t already perfected. At least according to my taste buds and that is why I love her. Well that and the fact that I feel like I could pull up a chair in her barn (LOVE the barn) and talk with her for hours over coffee and oh, I don’t know, Lemon Yogurt Cake.

And that is just what I am going to share with you today. What a coincidence. Lemon Yogurt Cake, one of my absolute, all-time, favorite “tessa”, as my five-year-old calls her, recipes. We watch her show quite a bit if you couldn’t guess.

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Originally, I had planned on sharing the crustless Quiche recipe I’ve been working on but it still needs some work before I put it out there; the finished product is too “liquidy”. Oh, if only I could pick up the phone and give Ina a ring …

“Ina, hi, it’s Dani. I’m great. Yes, the kids are fine. Thanks for asking. How’s Jeffrey? So glad to hear it. Listen, what are your thoughts on mini-crustless Quiche that turns out  just too soft and liquidy?”

And yes, she would know just what I mean by “liquidy”.

You have your dreams. I have mine.

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The Barefoot Contessa’s Lemon Yogurt Cake

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So why is this one of my favorite Barefoot recipes?

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Lemons. I love lemon anything.

No mixer, just a whisk and a bowl – that I love!

It is light, made with yogurt and vegetable oil but it still has an incredibly rich flavor.

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And the lemon simple syrup … WOW!

In prepping for this post, I happened to discovered yet another thing I love about this recipe;

it is forgiving.

What do I mean exactly? Well, you know when you are outside weeding and suddenly you think “OH CRAP! MY CAKE” and run for the back door, bursting into the kitchen to find your assistant lying on the couch, remote in hand as he glances up and casually says “mommy dat stove been beepin”.

Forgiving like that.

Just keepin’ it real. And I can say crap – my kids don’t read my blog yet.

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Crap.

Lucky for him, he’s just too cute to fire.

Lemony. Quick. Easy. Moist. Light. Delicious. AND Forgiving. That is why I love this cake.

Note: the only thing I do a little differently than Ina (I know, I can’t believe I’m saying that) is simply that I don’t often add the glaze to the top as we are not big “frosting” people. We like the cake as is, moist with a bright lemon tang that is just right and not overwhelming. Although the glaze is a nice touch and I do add it when I’m making the cake as a gift.

In retrospect, this probably would’ve been a good time to add the glaze. Then you might have never known about the over-baking. Mistake covered up. But that’s just not my style. I’d rather have a little fun with it.

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Besides, Ina is so good that even when life happens and you overbake one of her recipes, all is not lost and you can still …

Enjoy!

I promise, I’ll bake a prettier one with glaze and update the post; just for you guys and for Ina. Her wonderful cake deserves a little bit better representation. But for now, let’s just bask in the freedom of admitting we aren’t perfect. And that’s okay! Besides, this is nothing. Oh the epic kitchen fails I could share with you – maybe someday.

Of course, you are MOST welcome to comment and share any of your memorable kitchen failures. I would LOVE to hear about them. We can be blissfully less than perfect together.