Time to take a break from soap wrapping and ponder some Christmas Eve cake thoughts. Isn't that a pretty cake? I love its red and white layers. I always make a special cake for Christmas Eve. We host a Christmas Eve dinner at our home. It's actually my favorite part of the holidays next to Christmas morning. My dad, step mom, brother and his wife come to our home. After browsing through oodles of cake receipts this one stood out. You may remember last years Christmas Eve cake. That was a yummy cake! Pretty too. I think this one will be just as wonderful. I found the recipe in the chocolate book while browsing the magazines the other day. Which by the way, has some really yummy sounding recipes in that book. I very seldom purchase a magazine any more. It must really capture my attention more than once before I take the plunge. This one did just that. It's on the news stands now. The recipe though originated from Better Homes & Gardens.
1 12-ounce package fresh cranberries
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup cranberry juice
2 teaspoons finely shredded orange peel
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
8 ounces white baking chocolate, chopped
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2-1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons butter, softened
1-1/3 cups granulated sugar
1-1/4 cups milk
12 ounces white baking chocolate, chopped
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
For filling: In a medium saucepan, combine cranberries, the 1-1/4 cups granulated sugar, the cranberry juice, orange peel, lemon juice, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, about 10 minutes or until thickened. Transfer filling to a medium bowl. Cover and chill for 2 hours. Transfer to a blender or food processor. Cover and blend or process until smooth.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the bottoms of two 9x1 1/2-inch round cake pans. Line bottoms of pans with waxed paper; grease and lightly flour pans. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, cook and stir the 8 ounces white chocolate over low heat until melted. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, beat the 10 tablespoons butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Gradually add the 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar, beating until combined. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in the 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla. Alternately add flour mixture and milk to butter mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined. Beat in melted white chocolate just until combined. Spread batter in the prepared cake pans.
Bake about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Cool cake layers in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Remove layers from pans. Peel off waxed paper. Cool completely on wire racks.
For frosting: In a medium saucepan, cook and stir the 12 ounces white chocolate over low heat until melted. Cool for 20 minutes. In a large bowl, beat the 1 cup butter on medium to high speed until fluffy. Beat in melted white chocolate and the 2 teaspoons vanilla. Gradually beat in powdered sugar.
To assemble, use a long serrated knife to cut each cake layer in half horizontally. Place one layer, cut side up, on a serving plate. Spread with one-third of the filling. Top with the second layer; spread with one-third of the filling. Top with the third layer; spread with the remaining filling. Top with the fourth layer, cut side down.
Spread top and side of cake with frosting. If desired, cover loosely and chill for up to 24 hours. Let stand about 30 minutes at room temperature before serving, if chilled. Makes 16 servings.
We believe the holidays wouldn't be the holidays without handmade. Each season we introduce a shiny new Bittersweet. Our Frosty Forest Potpourri is shining brightly along our hand-made soaps.
The tiny pine cones that are in the potpourri were hand picked from my neighbors yard! You can follow the "Pine Cone Plucking story"on our Face-book page if you'd like.
Pink Pepper Berries, Cinnamon Bark, Hemlock Cones, Star Anise, Eucalyptus, Cedar, and yes my neighbors pine cones, help to create this beautiful natural blend. We scented the blend with our signature yummy Frosty Forest. It's not a strong fragrance. Rather it's soft and light and oh so VERRY MERRY nice to the nose. It comes packaged in a burlap bag.
I've been putting together the gift tables in preparation for this Saturdays Open House.
It's so funny. Every year during this time there's a most popular Bittersweet item everyone wants. The funny part is I never know what that item is going to be. I always guess, and I'm always wrong.
This hand-made gift giving season I'm going to say the most popular Bittersweet will be the gift sacks. They're pictured above. The little sacks, or sacs are embellished with paper doilies and trimmed in ribbons. We stick a tiny eucalyptus sprig in each sac. A bar of our moisture rich pH balanced soap inside the sac.
In keeping with the spirit of the season and gift giving my friends from Zinio are offering some fantastic magazine subscription deals. Tis never a better time to save on your favorite mags! They make great gifts. They're also offering a giveaway on their web site.
I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the subscription cost of my favorite magazine. I jumped in and ordered it! If you shop today you can take advantage of greater savings by shopping their Cyber/ Week bargains.
It's the final Saturday before our holiday open house!
This week is always full speed ahead. Holiday gift ordering kicks in 24/7 and manufacturing attempts to keep up with supply, demand. I start my mornings with long lists of to-do's while still in my pajamas. Some days those pajamas remain on all day!
Unlike a store that purchases items and then re-sales, Bittersweet is a manufacturer. We don't have to wait for new merchandise to arrive. When we run out of things we make more. Depending on which item we sale out of the turn-around time is usually 24-48 hours. Sometimes a manufacturing item may be back-ordered or out of stock. When this happens it slows down production. If the back-ordered essential is an oil needed to make a creme or lip balm we may have to stop production completely until the item becomes available. The companies we order our butters, oils and herbs from are on top of their game. They've been in business for over 100 years. We don't allow substitutes. We're fastidious when it comes to choosing the purest, finest apothecary ingredients.
Having said all that, a familiar feeling always makes its way this time of year.
The fear of running out of Holiday soaps before our open house. You would think after 16 years of holiday soaps and open houses those feelings would disappear. I suppose they have softened some.
Every season is different and you never know what to expect.
Years ago when I worked as a marketing director for a small book-fair company I used a mathematical formula to calculate how many books to include for each fair, school. The formulation almost always never failed and the estimated figure was quite accurate. Don't you love it when a formula is accurate? It makes things so much easier.
It's hard to predict how many bars of holiday soap to make. All kinds of things figure into this prediction. I won't bore with you that discussion.
I've been pondering some serious soap thoughts lately. To sum up these passionate soap feelings is impossible to convey in a short post. A dedicated very long spot is needed to share the passionate topic. Those pondering thoughts are pure|clean and simple.
Rewinding & high lighting some past and future hand-made holiday gift idees...
no. 1 ~ Pretty Pot Holders.
A bit time consuming to consruct, but worth it. Not only are they a pracitical gift, but they're pretty too. I made the ones pictured with small remnants of left over fabric. I cut the cloth in various sizes to make a square and then stuffed them and cut a back to fit. Turn inside out, and then sew to close. Add a small fabric hook at the top for hanging.
no. 2 ~ A collection of vintage handkerchiefs.
You can wrap the collection of hankies in an origami pouch or place them in a wicker basket with a pretty bow. I prefer white handkerchiefs, but colorful floral ones would be nice too.
no. 3 ~ A pretty little apron.
If you're new to sewing, choose a simple pattern. Then the fun part. Shop for the prettiest fabric. The pattern I use to make Bittersweets aprons is vintage. It's a 1964 pattern. You don't need a vintage pattern. If you're wanting to re-create this style of pinnie, choose a chefs apron pattern.
no. 4 ~ Pretty little coin purse.
You may remember these from last year. You can purchase the hardware at your local craft store. There is a link to directions and a pattern on the back of the hardware package. Easy and quick to make. Fun to make.
no. 5 ~ Homemade Chutney.
I've been making this aromatic spicy, Sweet condiment for many years. Everyone loves it. If you've never canned before making chutney is an somewhat simple way to introduce you to the process. The fun part is making the shrug and label for your homemade treat. This is the recipe I use.
no. 6 ~ Rich Dark Homemade Cocoa and Marshmallows
One word, YUMMY! Here is a link to both the cocoa recipe and the marshmallows. I also include label templates. This is the best homemade cocoa recipe I've ever had!
If you have any questions about any of the hand-made holiday gifts you can use the search box located on the left side bar. Simply type the word in the box and the topics magically appear.
Gearing up... Busy week... Open House is arriving next Saturday. Holiday order packing and shipping, soap wrapping, oodles of elf work!
Santa sent Oliver, (aka, his favorite elf), to the shop yesterday. He is helping Santa build a reserve of our famous lip balm and holiday soaps so that all of the good little boys and girls won't be without their favorite Bittersweet!
The Saturday Lounge Pant in simple white cotton or linen. Add pretty trims. Super easy to make and fast. You can whip some up in no time. Who wouldn't love to have a pair of "Saturday Lounge Pants?" You can find oodles of patterns for the short. This pattern is close to what I used to make the one in the picture.
A French Lavender Chalk Board with Trimmings
Who wouldn't love to have a pretty French Chalk Board? I purchased the chalk board at my local craft store along with a yard or so of burlap. I cut the burlap to form a 2 inch strip long enough to go around the entire board. Then simply ruffle the cut burlap strip. With a glue gun attach the burlap. You can embellish the chalk board with dried lavender sprigs or herbs, dried flowers, etc. Maybe place the French style chalk board in a wicker basket filled with tea towels and kitchen gadgets.
A pretty desk drawer
I purchased an unfinished four drawer desk chest. I removed the handle pulls and painted them. They were black. Then I chose a pretty paper from the scrap book section of my craft store. I placed the paper onto the drawer to find out where to cut the paper to fit exactly. Then I glued the paper onto the wood carefully and making sure there are no bubbles. Cover with several coats of quality satin varnish.
A Lavender Sachet
Honestly, I don't know of anyone that would not love a few Lavender Sachets to tuck inside their linen drawers or closets.
I simply purchased wide eyelet trim and cut them to make a small square. I turned the square piece inside out and sewed around three sides. Then I filled the little pocket with fresh lavender. Sew up the bottom and that's it. I placed a Bittersweet label on a piece of twill tape and wrapped it around a trio of the hand-made sachets. You can purchase personalized hand-made cloth tags at the craft store or you can make your own with heat transfer. H'm.... That's an idea!
A soft woolly winter hat
This may be a tad bit complicated to explain. Simply because when I crochet I don't ever use a pattern. Start with a single crochet and then let your fingers to the walking. I used a thick soft blend of yarn to make the hat.
A lacy lingerie chemise.
This little camisole was easy to make. I chose muslin and simple lace trim. I purchased lingerie type clasps so that the camisole could be altered to fit. This pattern is similar to what I used to make the one pictured. Here's another cute pattern.
Hand-made holiday idees, number two coming after Thanksgiving.
Are you like me and can't quite grasp the idea that Thanksgiving is this Thursday? I really can't believe how quickly it's arrived.
A couple of weeks ago my aunt sent me an email. The topic of discussion was sweet potatoes. She had written in the letter how yummy and tasty my moms sweet potatoes were.
Until I read the letter I had forgotten about moms special sweet potatoes.
When I as a teenager I recall my mother raving about a downtown Kansas City restaurant. She worked nearby the restaurant at the time. The restaurant, Ruby's Soul Food.
I can vividly remember my mother excitedly telling my father about Ruby's sweet potatoes served at the restaurant. She was determined to uncover the secret ingredient in those Ruby sweet potatoes.
She recognized the sweet licorice flavor that helped to create the yin & yang flavored sweet potatoes. Star Anise.
If you're wanting to re-create and serve the notorious Southern sweet potatoes that Ruby and my mom were famous for the recipe follows. It's one of those recipes that you'll need to do a lot of taste testing. No measuring here.
Depending on the size of your family...
Boil 9-10 sweet potatoes in a large pan.
Make sure to not over-cook the potatoes. A fork inserted into the potato is an accurate testing devise.
After the potaoes have cooked, allow to cool. When cool, cut into over-sized bites.
Place big bite size sweet potatoes in a prepared shallow dish. I always use a glass dish.
Melt one stick of butter and pour over the potatoes. Mix a small dose of star anise powder into a cup or so of brown sugar. A good dose of brown sugar, a slight dose of the spice. Approximately 1 cup or so, brown sugar, making sure to cover the potatoes generously. You can top with pecans if you want. This is where the assistance of the taste buds comes in. Start out small with the spice. It has a strong flavor. You just want a hint of the spice.
I like to roast the pecans before sprinkling on the sugared spice sweet potatoes. But you don't have to.
Bake in a 350 degree oven until bubbly. I'd say about 30-45 minutes.
A search for the perfect Christmas star would be necessary to fulfil the soulful inspiration.
While out and about shopping, I stopped by one of my favorite outlet stores. I walked directly to the Christmas display and began my search for a star. The store offered a array of Christmas stars, but none stood out. After a considerable amount of time searching and to my dismay I didn't find the special star. As I was walking away I gazed back toward the Christmas isles. What's that I asked myself? Something was sticking out under one of the display tables. I walked toward the table, bent down and there it was!
A beautiful handmade star. It is perfect, I thought.
As I made my way to the pay station several people stopped and asked me, "where did you find that star?" As I was waiting in line to pay for the star, several more people asked me, "where did you find that star?" I told them it was the only one. Each of them had a disappointed look on their face. While the opposite look was hard to hide on mine. The search for the special Christmas star was over.
The star hanging above our fireplace symbolizes the words in this song.