Amarena Cherry Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Crème Fraîche Frosting

• 19 October 2019

Growing up, when asked the highly-anticipated question, 'what cake would you like for your birthday?', I always requested a black forest cake. My mom would make the best boxed chocolate cake she could find and pair it with chocolate Jello pudding, cool whip and cherry pie filling. It's one of my favorite things she made growing up! While the following recipe may be considered a bit more sophisticated, it doesn't diminish how special that cake was to me. As far as I am concerned, any time chocolate and cherries get together, it's a very good thing.

This version of a black forest cake infuses many of the baking ingredients I love most--rich cocoa, crème fraîche, amarena cherries and buttermilk. It's one heckuva quadfecta, I tell ya, and one I promise you will not regret using. If you're unfamiliar with amarena cherries, they are small, wild black cherries from Italy and are typically packaged in a pretty jar soaked in syrup (you can read a brief, but sweet story about how they came to be here). Amarena cherries are delicious on yogurt, on ice cream, in fancy drinks, and of course with chocolate cake. I confess, I've been intermittently playing with this recipe for over a year now; pretty much making up excuses to make it as often as possible (work party? girls night in? Valentine's Day? a friend's birthday? Just because?!). Needless to say, it's become my most requested recipe this year.

A few tips regarding saving money on some of the spendier ingredients: you'll find the best bang for your buck if you pick up your crème fraîche and amarena cherries at Trader Joes (the later is going to be available oh so soon). The crème fraîche (Bellwether Farms) is a few dollars cheaper at TJ's than at other markets and the cost savings on the cherries is even more significant. A small jar of amarena cherries can run between $13-20 online or at upscale grocery stores. However, at Trader Joes, they are just $3/jar...and also made in Italy. That being said, they only carry them during the holiday season, so it wouldn't be a bad idea to stock up if you anticipate enjoying this cake recipe as much as I do!

Click "read more" below for the recipe.


What to Eat for Thanksgiving Lunch: Winter Squash Soup with Apples + Crème Fraîche

• 21 November 2018

For many years, I found myself spending hours in the kitchen on Thanksgiving morning (no complaints!), preparing a dinner that would take place around 4 or 5 pm, with no thought as to how I would nourish my family for lunch. But, clearly we all need sustenance before 5 pm, even on Thanksgiving :) One year I got smart and created this turns out it makes for the perfect Thanksgiving Day lunch. Here's why:

- you can make it ahead of time (make it tonight!). Soup is often better the next day anyway.

- it's light enough to allow room in your stomach for an indulgent Thanksgiving meal, but substantial enough to energize you to keep plugging away on those pies. 

- it's a crowd pleaser for kids and adults alike

- the soup calls for a combination of my two favorite winter squashes--butternut and red kuri squash (a combination so naturally good that even in the French markets, you'll find these two squashes side-by-side...ha! :)

- your vegetarian guests will thank you when you save them a bowl to enjoy during Thanksgiving dinner; this way, they too can enjoy an elevated meal. 


Justin Hackworth's Fine Art Prints

• 13 June 2016

For years, Justin Hackworth has been the one to capture some of the most important moments in my life. I consider these images treasures and am so grateful to Justin for taking the time to make our photo sessions a priority.  Now that I don't live nearby, I love that I still have access to Justin's work online. 

You can discover these fine art prints here and view more of Justin's wedding + portrait photography here.  I think any of Justin's prints would look fantastic on a gallery wall styled like the ones seen in this home tour (more images of this Australian home here).  Swoon!

images via Justin Hackworth and The Design Files


Mini Fruit Rouges Crisps with Pistachios

• 06 June 2016

For me, summertime is the season for camping, small trips to see family/cousins and for picking berries.  The activity is both practical and enjoyable for kids (who doesn't want homemade jam in their lunches next schoolyear I remind them) and adults alike.  We all get to munch while we pick, chat about this and that, and catch a few rays of sunshine (not to be taken for granted up here in the Pacific Northwest).  Also, since we live in the city, it involves a trip to either the suburbs or the country, which is always refreshing as long as you don't get stuck in traffic :).

This recipe is a personal favorite, as it encompasses so many things I love--mini desserts, fresh berries, slightly nutty flavor and a mix of warmth and coolness (if you serve with ice cream, which is a must in my book!).  If you don't have access to tayberries, like we do up here in Washington, feel free to substitute cherries, a more classic "fruit rouges".  Enjoy!


What Do You Like Best to Do?

• 17 May 2016

I subscribe to Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project newsletter, which is essentially a daily reminder to find and create happiness in our own lives (versus allowing it to just fall upon you).  I want to share with you a quote from one particular email.  It reminded me how important it is to take a personal inventory every now and again; and remember, amidst the chaos, disappointments, pain, etc. that we need to discover the things within ourselves that can bring us small bursts of joy (at least this was my interpretation).  It sounds so simple to do, but the application can actually be quite challenging.

"It is all a question of weeding out what you yourself like best to do, so that you can live most agreeably in a world full of an increasing number of disagreeable surprises."

--M.F.K. Fisher

I used this image here because I love to photograph landscapes, particularly in France.  The mix of chartreuse grass and gray limestone struck me as stunning in a natural, unpretentious way.  That evening, I hopped over some train tracks and slipped through a barbwire fence to snap this shot alongside my oldest daughter.  This is a moment I like to remember and represents a moment of joy for me!

p.s. another fantastic newsletter to subscribe to is Brené Brown's Courage Works.  About once a week, she sends out a pretty image and a poignant quote.  It's just the right amount :).


New Work by Jenny Vorwaller | In the Shop

• 22 August 2014

It always feels a bit like Christmas when one of my favorite artists restocks her online shop.  I literally feel my breath taken away when viewing so much beauty in one little space.  If I didn't already own four of Jenny Vorwaller's works, I certainly would not be able to restrain myself this time. Hopefully, that means you don't!

With the kids almost back in school, treat yourself to a piece of original art and revamp your space to celebrate the tranquility that September inevitably brings :)

New works here  |  Pretty iPhone cases here  |  Peek into Jenny's new Seattle studio here


Guava Pineapple Refresher

There are only three ingredients, but they are good ones!  One hundred percent guava juice is difficult to find, but not impossible!  I use the Ceres brand from South Africa, which oddly turns up at the most random of places (my local drug store?).  It's definitely worth seeking out.  Sometimes, you can even find it on sale for around $3.  When you do...stock up!

{click "Read More" to view the recipe}


A Morning at Volunteer Park Cafe

• 13 August 2014

With school starting back up in three weeks, I am starting to dream again of the occasional morning get away with friends.  Don't get me wrong...I am not wishing away a moment of summer; however, it is always fun to ponder a change of scenery.  

I often am asked what my favorite breakfast spots are here in Seattle, so it was a real pleasure to be asked to taste the new-ish menu at Volunteer Park Cafe.  My short list includes about five restaurants, all very different from each other, but tasty in their own way.  I was thrilled to confidently add this fantastic, local joint to my list of must-eats! If stepping away with a friend to enjoy a delicious breakfast in a setting that feels like one of Seattle's best kept secrets, take yourself to Volunteer Park Cafe.  Not only is this popular neighborhood joint a choice destination, but the allure of the beautiful park down the street cannot be ignored.  So indulge in a few extra pastries and then promptly walk them off at Volunteer Park afterwards.  Be sure to stop at the arboretum as well!  

This welcoming cafe is casual, cozy, communal and gourmet.  If skipping the hussle and bustle of downtown sounds appealing to you (and why wouldn't it?), this Capitol Hill joint is a must-stop.  
While I prefer eating here for breakfast or brunch, please note they do offer dinner services Tuesday through Saturday.  

Volunteer Park Cafe
1501 17th Avenue E
Seattle, WA 98112
t: 206.328.3155

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