Cinnamon Candy Baby Cakes

By Libbie Summers from my book Sweet and Vicious-baking with attitude, Rizzoli
Photography by Chia Chong 
Model: Anna Heritage

There’s something about a girl holding a cinnamon candy small cake topped with a hand cut paper heart that screams Valentine’s Day.
Hot and Heavy Baby Cakes from Libbie Summers' Sweet and Vicious-baking with attitude (Photography by Chia Chong)

Hot and Heavy Baby Cakes with Kiss Me Frosting
yields 4 triple-layer baby cakes/serves 12

Ingredients:
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons S&V House Blend Almond Extract or regular almond extract
2 3⁄4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1⁄3 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3⁄4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
5 large eggs (4 separated, 1 whole)
1 1⁄2 cups crushed Red Hots cinnamon candies, plus more left whole for garnish
1 to 2 Atomic Fire Balls candy, crushed (I use a zip-top bag and a hammer)
Kiss Me Frosting (recipe to follow)

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a heavy-duty 13-by-18-inch rimmed baking sheet (a half sheet pan) with parchment paper and set aside.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and almond extract. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt on low speed. Add the butter and mix just until a fine crumb forms. If a paste forms instead, that’s okay. With the mixer on medium speed, add 4 egg whites one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the whole egg and beat well. Scrape down the bowl as needed. Add the buttermilk mixture in thirds, beating well after each addition until the batter is fluffy. Scrape down the bowl as needed. Fold in the Red Hots. Pour the batter onto the baking sheet, evenly spread the batter with a spatula, and bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Rotate the baking sheet once halfway through the baking process.

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the Atomic Fire Balls in 1⁄4 cup water. If you like a spicier syrup, add more crushed !reballs. Remove from the heat and let the syrup cool completely.

Let the cake cool completely in the baking sheet. Using a chopstick or skewer, poke holes in the top of the cake. Lightly brush it with the syrup and let the syrup soak into the cake. Use a 3 1⁄2-inch ring mold to cut 12 cake rounds (each cake will be three layers thick).* Frost the cake using a heaping 1⁄4 cup frosting between each layer. Frost the sides and top and pipe a small tree on top…just waiting for a cardboard star!

Kiss Me Frosting
(cinnamon buttercream)
yields about 3 1⁄2 cups

I get weak in the knees when I think about how powerful this frosting is. I have found nothing—nothing—that it doesn’t taste good on. Biscuits, baby cakes, bacon, and my husband’s sweet lips.

Ingredients:
1 cup (2 sticks ) butter, at room temperature 4 1⁄2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
2 tablespoons evaporated milk
1⁄8 teaspoon red food coloring
1 (6-ounce) box Red Hots cinnamon candies, pulsed in a food processor to crush

Directions:
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until fluffy. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the confectioners’ sugar. Increase the speed to medium and add the salt, vanilla paste, and evaporated milk. Beat for 2 minutes. If the frosting is too thin at this point you can add more of the confectioners’ sugar and mix for 30 seconds, or just until combined. If the frosting is too thick, add a bit more evaporated milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, and mix for 30 seconds, or just until combined. Add the food coloring and mix until fully incorporated. Remove the bowl and use a spatula to fold in the crushed cinnamon candies. Refrigerate the frosting for 10 minutes before using. Frosting can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for up to one week.
*this recipe also bakes up great as cupcakes

Watch the video to get in a French mood for baking!

A Nature-Inspired Valentine’s Day Party for Two

By Libbie Summers
Creative Assistant: David Dempsey
DP: Chia Chong
Editor: Candace Brower
PA: Anthony Lunsmann
Music: Madly, deeply from Melanie Ungar
Floral Design: Audrey Wagner for Carlstedt’s Florist
Cookies: Sugar Whisk Confections
Music: Madly, deeply from Melanie Ungar

My husband is a special man. One of those guys that instead of wondering how long the trays of homemade marshmallows are going to be covering the kitchen counters, he asks if he can make me a cup of hot chocolate. I wanted to do something special for him this Valentine’s Day as I would be traveling on the actual day. So, I set out to have the hot chocolate and cookie party of all parties…in the woods…with a lot of drama…and a camera crew.

His invitation read: Wear a tux and meet me where I drop you a pin.
This is what happened…


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Paper hearts with written messages on some of them (not all, I kept him looking) marked the path. 
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Then, he went through a paper heart curtain (learn how to make it HERE)
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Then, I had to get him to a bigger area, so it was decorated with pink paper lanterns to lead the way.
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Then, the tree. Imagine being a forrest and coming upon this tree. I love the unexpected.
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He Arrived!!! With the help of friends, I sat the sweetest little table in the woods. A quiet place
to reflect and let him know how appreciated he is.
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The most gorgeous and homespun chic chandelier hung over the table. I let Audrey Wagner work her flower magic. She turned to Carlstedt’s Florist in Savannah for the perfect shades of pink and green florals…
It turned out even more beautiful than I could have imagined. Audrey had been to this rodeo a few times, so she knew to keep it as light as it could be for hanging. We ended up hanging it on a tight rope between two trees. It was perfect.
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And these cookies! Stop it already. I asked Sugar Whisk Confections to make me a few “woodsy” heart cookies and “One that is gingham”. They were almost too adorable to eat…but we did.
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I made a thermos of Le Chocolat Chaud and poured us each a cup. As the sun started setting and the candle light was flickering, I looked across the table and knew the effort was all worth it. Everyday it’s worth it. Because I love this man and he looks great in a tux.
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Watch the story unfold…


 

 

 

 

 

2 Creative and Affordable Valentine’s Day Party Decoration Ideas

By Libbie Summers
Photography by Chia Chong
Assisted by David Dempsey
Production Assistants Candace Brower, Anthony Lunsmann

Throwing a Valentine’s Day party in the woods, I needed to create a moment as soon as my guest (yes, only one) arrived. Check out these two super affordable and absolutely stunning party decorations!

ONE:
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With a big space and a small budget paper lanterns from a Chinese New Year installation were repurposed to set the scene!
TWO:Libbie Summers, A Food-Inspired Life, Chia Chong, Valentines Day
My entire team was OBSESSED with this heart curtain that was the entryway to the party.
What you need:
Paper doilies
String (I used butcher’s twine)
Glue stick (not hot glue)
A tall ladder to hang

What to do:
1. Cut (3 to 4-inch) hearts out of white paper doilies (you can cut a bunch at once). The curtain pictured took approximately 600 paper hearts.
2. Working one piece at a time, cut a piece of twine and lay on a long table.
3. Place one heart on one side of a length of sting, glue another heart on top sandwiching the string in between. Keep moving up the string not worrying about distance between. The less perfect the more perfect. Continue until you do enough strings to create a curtain (I used 20 lengths for this installation).
To Install: Tie a string between two trees and tie your lengths of heart string from them.

Le Chocolat Chaud (French Hot Chocolate)

By Libbie Summers
Photography by Chia Chong

I look forward to the first day of the year that’s JUST chilly enough to have an excuse to make Le Chocolat Chaud. In Savannah, I’m typically waiting 2 months past the rest of the country. But yet, I wait.

If you are chocolate shy, this hot chocolate is probably not for you. Not because it’s too sweet or too rich, because French drinking chocolate is neither. It’s typically made with whole milk (not cream) and the best chocolate your francs can buy. So it’s real chocolate you are drinking/sipping, and it’s heaven. I’m not going to lie, I like to drop a store bought marshmallow in at the end and a sprinkle of flake sea salt. Because no matter how much Le Chocolat Chaud I drink…I’m still from Missouri.
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Le Chocolate Chaud via Missouri
serves 4 (France) 2 (Missouri)

What you need: 
2 cups whole milk
5 ounces best quality possible bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Pinch of sugar (optional)
Pinch of flaked sea salt
Homemade marshmallows (optional)

What to do: 
Add milk to a medium heavy bottom sauce pan and bring to a low simmer. Whisk in chocolate and stir until melted. Add sugar and continue cooking and whisking for another 2-3 minutes.

To Serve: Divid mixture between two cups and sprinkle each with a bit of sea salt. Float a marshmallow on each if desired.
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Video: Love is in the Air

By Libbie Summers
Creative Assistant: David Dempsey
DP: Chia Chong
Editor: Candace Brower
PA: Anthony Lunsmann
Music: Madly, deeply from Melanie Ungar
Floral Design: Audrey Wagner for Carlstedt’s Florist
Cookies: Sugar Whisk Confections

Sometimes the extra effort put into a party for the one you love pays off for both of you. Prepare to get a sugar rush from sweetness and check back in all week as I’ll be sharing the details from this magical romantic party for two.