After a whirlwind week in the kitchen, first for clients, then for my own party, I thought  “let them eat cake (and a few more courses)” when I had some friends over for dinner last Friday. I did contemplate an entire menu of desserts – it was my birthday, so it was my prerogative, and I’ve threatened to do so for years, but thought

Let them eat cake!

Let them eat cake!

about the growing folder of recipes I want to try, so I decided my unsuspecting guests would be my guinea pigs. I finally got around to trying the pistachio truffles fellow Chef Karla has raved about for years. Seedless red grapes rolled in goats cheese, then crushed toasted pistachios. So very easy, yet so elegant to serve!

Grape Truffles with Goats Cheese & Pistachios

Grape Truffles with Goats Cheese & Pistachios

The most difficult part was deciding whether to serve them whole or sliced open, because they are such pretty contrasting colors. It was a party after all, and they looked lonely on their own, so I took some sprouted whole grain bread, cut some rounds with a cookie cutter, toasted them, and topped them with rounds of smoked salmon, honey-mustard sauce with dill, and a caper.

Smoked Salmon Toasts with Honey-Mustard Sauce

Smoked Salmon Toasts with Honey-Mustard Sauce

DON’T throw the spare bits of salmon out! They’ve made yummy sandwiches for me for the past couple days, but could easily be used to make a smoked salmon pate, or they are fabulous in scrambled eggs for brunch.

Red velvet cupcake bouquet

Red velvet cupcake bouquet

I treated myself to a new table cloth for the occasion, dusted off my grandmothers’ China, and my great granfathers’ cut glass water goblets, but the scene stealer of the night? My centerpiece bouquet of roses. I’d just finished baking a banana rum cake that smelled heavenly, when I realized it just doesn’t feel like my birthday without red velvet. Two cakes would look downright piggy, but what if I disguised them as flowers? It was a resounding success!

me, Yassi, Kay, Craig, Ryan, Yvonne, and Austen

Jewels, Yassi, Kay, Craig, Ryan, Yvonne, and Austen

After nibbling hors d’oeuvres, sipping wine (or in my case Italian blood orange soda), and lively conversation, we finally sat down to balsamic roasted pears on tender baby greens. The slight bite from the crumbled gorgonzola, and crunchiness from the salty pancetta jolted our palates into anticipation for following course.

Balsamic Roasted Pear on Baby Greens with Gorgonzola & Crispy Pancetta

Balsamic Roasted Pear on Baby Greens with Gorgonzola & Crispy Pancetta

I want friends to feel welcome in my home, and decided what could do that better than some good old fashioned comfort food? These succulent short ribs were quite literally falling off the bone tender while doused in a rich sauce of red wine, tomatoes, root vegetables and fresh herbs. The creamy Boursin mashed potatoes melted in your mouth and the roasted green & wax beans added just the right dash of color to the plate.

Harvest Comfort Short Ribs with Boursin Mashed Potato, and Roasted Green & Wax Beans

Harvest Comfort Short Ribs with Boursin Mashed Potato, and Roasted Green & Wax Beans

I did also make a huge baked eggplant Parmesan in case there were any vegetarians or non red meat eaters among us, but we didn’t need it after all. Personal Chef Approach™ girl that I am, I quite happily divided it into single portions, and froze it to pull out and enjoy the dinners when I’m too tired or just don’t feel like cooking.

Making a wish

Making a wish

All that, and all I could really think about eating the cake I’ve been dying to try ever since buying Joy the Baker’s new cookbook last week. Banana rum cake with brown butter icing to be exact. I’ll be honest – I was up until the wee hours the night before struggling to get the icing to a consistency that wouldn’t send the top layer of the cake tumbling into a landslide. I’m not sure what I did wrong? There were a few non-printable explicatives, a great deal of excess powdered sugar involved, and finally an illegal (not part of the recipe) couple table spoons of cream cheese to the rescue. Perfect cake is much more important than beauty rest, right?

Banana Rum Cake with Salty Caramel Ice Cream

Banana Rum Cake with Salty Caramel Ice Cream

The end result of the cake was as divine as expected, and paired particularly well with my salty caramel ice cream. So well in fact, one guest had three helpings of the ice cream on top. If Ms. Wilson ever gets around to answering my interview questions, you may win a copy of her book with the cake recipe in it!

In the meantime, sign-up for free membership to try my salty caramel ice cream recipe, or you can save more than the cost of premium membership when you upgrade to enjoy all of my recipes, weekly menu plans, and a supportive community in the forum ensuring you’re never alone in the kitchen.

Speaking of cake, my favorite topic of conversation that evening was Sprinkles Cupcakes‘ new ATM machine. Sheer brilliance. A marketing masterpiece grabbing a whole new clientele of midnight munchers! What flavor cupcake would you pick from the cupcake ATM?

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  • March 12, 2012
    4:38 pm

    Wow, what a wonderful menu! Smoked salmon is a favourite of mine, especially when mixed with cream cheese. I had a little cat who devoured my toast one morning whilst I was making tea. I turned around to see Minou chowing down, cheese around her mouth and enjoying herself so much that I had to laugh. She’s passed on now, but every time I see smoked salmon with cream cheese, I think of her.
    The red velvet cupcakes look so amazing! I’m guessing if you did up a brochure showing them done up like you have on your table, you would have a lot of orders to fill. You might have to do blue velvet ones for Tatjana the next time she visits.
    As for the cupcake ATM, I’d have to have chocolate with maybe some coffee worked into them. I don’t remember the last time I had real cake, so buying just one good cupcake would be perfect for me.
    Glad you had wonderful friends to help you celebrate! You’re such a special person, so having a few days of celebrating is definitely in order. Hugs to you!!

    • March 13, 2012
      9:56 am

      Funny the things that remind us of pets. I think of Oscar whenever I smell peanut butter – he was there like white on rice whenever he smelled it come out of the cupboard.

  • March 12, 2012
    11:12 am

    Happy Birthday Jewels! My birthday is on the 10th, so I’ve been enjoying lots of tasty treats the last few days. The red velvet cupcake roses are STUNNING! I almost wouldn’t want to eat them. (almost!)

    xo,
    Kathy

    • March 12, 2012
      11:14 am

      Happy birthday to you too Kathy! Your Pisces – you’ll eat the roses (cupcakes).

  • March 12, 2012
    11:32 am

    Drooling over the menu…and your red velvet cupcake centerpiece looks FANTASTIC!!! It looks SO real…and reminded me of one that I saw made of bacon – bacon…my nemesis!!! http://www.dailyfork.com/Bacon-Rose.jpg

    • March 12, 2012
      3:48 pm

      Love the bacon roses – will have to remember that one for the next brunch that I do.

  • March 12, 2012
    11:39 am

    Happy B-day Jewels, rose cupcakes look to cute to eat!!

    • March 12, 2012
      3:51 pm

      I was amazed at how beautifully they turned out. Might start selling bouquets since there seems to be so much demand amongst my friends for them.

  • March 13, 2012
    12:07 am

    You are totally my kinda girl, Jewels! I love that you had cake and cupcake roses. Wow, those roses came out beautifully. It looks like everyone was enjoying and having fun, and there’s really nothing much better than that. 🙂

    • March 13, 2012
      9:58 am

      I wished I’d bought some of those Chinese take-away boxes, so everyone could take a rose home. I think everyone did enjoy the party – relaxed at home.

  • March 13, 2012
    7:47 am

    Okay, Jewels. Reading about your menu in the Forum is one thing (non-premium members – you are missing out on so much fun and information – the Forum ROCKS)

    SEEING the menu come to life in your photos?? I feel like I just cheated on my diet just by looking at them!!

    HEAVENLY, Jewels – BRAVO and Happy Birthday MONTH!

  • March 13, 2012
    1:51 pm

    Everything looks and sounds divine. Will definitely be serving the truffles, and your red velvet rose bouquet was gorgeous! Keep celebrating…our birth month is only half over… 😀

  • March 13, 2012
    9:58 am

    Sorry Jodi – didn’t mean to derail you.

    • March 13, 2012
      10:09 am

      No derailing at all – It was a visual cheat and I’m sitting here eating my salad like a good girl, lol!

      I also must say that the bouquet is beyond exquisite. It’s really lovely, Jewels.