Monday, August 15, 2016

Scalloped Layer Cake with Orange Buttercream

"Woods are filled with the music of birds, and all nature is laughing under the glorious influence of summer." ~ Charles Lanman

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to decorate a cake -- a little pleasure I have not made time for in a while. There is something so homey about the smell of freshly baked layers cooling on the counter, ready to be topped with fluffy buttercream frosting.

When I took my first cake-decorating course as a newlywed, my first purchase was a set of petal pans. I have always loved the graceful curves of this design, so I knew it would be a favorite look. What I didn't realize was how time-consuming and tedious it could be to frost all of those curves. Eventually I parted ways with my scalloped pans, but the recent trend toward "naked" cakes revived my interest. 

Thanks to this Sweet Creations Layer Cake Pan Set, I can now make lovely scalloped cakes without the fuss of trying to cover the edges. One standard cake mix provides enough batter to fill the two shallow cake pans twice. A cake leveler is included in the kit, but the layers baked up so evenly that I did not need it. Swirls of fluffy Orange Buttercream and a smattering of delicate hydrangea blossoms completed the design.

Orange Buttercream
Enjoy a refreshing yet subtle taste of citrus.
1/2 cup shortening
1 stick margarine
4 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
1 pound confectioners sugar
In a large bowl, beat shortening, margarine, milk and orange extract with a mixer at medium speed until creamy. Gradually beat in sugar until smooth. Add more milk, a little at a time, if the frosting is still too thick to spread easily. 

This four-layer scalloped beauty made a perfect addition to the cake walk at a carnival-themed dinner at our church. I can see many possibilities for this pan set so hope to have more varieties to share soon.

"Each fairy breath of summer, as it blows with loveliness, inspires the blushing rose." ~ Anonymous

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Sail into School with a Seafood Dinner

I can hardly believe that tomorrow officially begins Carson's senior year! The other three children are not far behind, with Christian starting high school as a freshman, Mary Ashley beginning seventh grade, and Emma taking on fifth grade. We celebrated last night with a back-to-school dinner. Highlights of our themed tablescape included a Hampton Nautical Model Ship, Nautical Sailor Mini Popcorn Boxes filled with Life Saver Gummies, and Anchor and Sailor Themed Straws.

For our "Sail into School" menu, I decided to honor Carson with one of his favorite entrees: steamed shrimp from Publix. In keeping with our seafaring theme, fresh fruits and greens, fettuccine Alfredo, and garlic knots took on appropriate names.

We decided that each year when we have a senior in the house, that kid will get to decide the menu for our back-to-school celebration.

I designed printables for our little party, but unfortunately my little printer wouldn't party. Note the four hearts below the boat, representing my four little loves!

For dessert, Key Lime Icebox Pie was a refreshing choice. Find this super-simple recipe here.

I'm praying that this year will be smooth sailing for all of our sweet ones who are headed back to school!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Among the Pink Roses

One of the delights of visiting Dana's garden a few weeks ago was admiring her roses. Enjoy a peek at these blushing pink beauties!

"But he who dares not grasp the thorn
Should never crave the rose."
~ Anne Brontë

"And the shower of roses spun around me, inviting me to take part in their ever-present waltz." ~ Gina Marinello-Sweeney

"I'd love to have the whole place swimming in roses." ~ James Joyce

"It takes a loyal gardener to tend roses." ~ Sondra Faye

"A newly-sculpted garden burst forth, glistening in an afternoon sun. It welcomed the dusty pink rose ... ."
Gina Marinello-Sweeney

Monday, August 1, 2016

A Sunshine Basket Sweetened with Lemon Cheese Squares

A housewarming gift for a friend who just bought a house, this bright basket of treats offers refreshing summertime flavors. A kitchen towel, oven mitt and trio of mugs from Sur La Table inspired this lemon-themed surprise.

Fresh flowers, a blueberry scone mix, homemade Lemon Cheese Squares and a packet of loose tea round out this tea party for three.

Lemon Cheese Squares

These freeze well, so I plan to save some for an upcoming tea party.

1 box Pillsbury Plus lemon cake mix
1 stick margarine, melted
1 egg
Mix in mixer and press into greased sheet cake pan (10 1/2" x 15 1/2"). In the same bowl, mix:
3 eggs
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
2 tablespoons lemon flavoring*
1 pound box powdered sugar
Mix well and pour over the above layer. This mixture will be soupy. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes. Cut into squares immediately while still hot, then let cool.

*One tablespoon lemon extract may be substituted for lemon flavoring.

Amidst the joys of unpacking and settling into their newly renovated home, I hope this family of three will enjoy pausing for a few moments of relaxation together.

"The light is what guides you home, the warmth is what keeps you there." ~ Ellie Rodriguez

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Dana's Garden of Generosity

"Flowers are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty outvalues all the utilities of the world." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Last summer, I was delighted when an anonymous florist brought fresh-cut bouquets to church -- gorgeous blooms offered with a simple handwritten sign that read "Free flowers from God." My inquiries led me to Dana, a nurse whose nurturing instincts extend to her brimful garden. I recently visited her suburban home for a look at this season's bounty.

I plan to share her story in an upcoming Christian Woman Creative Corner article but can't resist previewing a little of the inspiration here.

Dana grew up watching her mother arrange flowers and took to the art intuitively. She takes great joy in sharing her gifts with others -- whether lining the windowsills at church with colorful vases or distributing blossoms to her neighbors. 

Among her many blooms, zinnias are a favorite for their vivid color.

Dana enjoys taking cuttings to retirement homes. As she sits in the lobby arranging the stems, many patients grow nostalgic remembering heirloom varieties from their gardens past.

Considering the bounty Dana shares with others, one might assume her property includes vast acreage. But to my surprise, I discovered tangles of blooms densely planted across narrow stretches of lawn.

It was so encouraging to realize that such natural splendor is accessible to all.

Dana starts flowers from seed and chooses hardy floral varieties that require little maintenance. Tomato plants flourish beneath the foliage, adding another element of enjoyment to her efforts.

As I snapped these photos, Dana watered her flowers and reflected on the joy she has cultivated -- both for others and for herself.

This garden of generosity brings to mind Proverbs 11:25: "Whoever brings blessings will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered."

Thank you, Dana, for welcoming me to your outdoor oasis!

As we walked among the blooms, she put together a few arrangements -- lovely centerpieces she sent home with me to enjoy. Look for her tutorial and tips in an upcoming post.

"Flowers seem intended for the solace of ordinary humanity." ~ John Ruskin

Monday, July 4, 2016

Happy Independence Day!

"[F]ireworks had for her a direct and magical appeal. Their attraction was more complex than that of any other form of art. They had pattern and sequence, colour and sound, brilliance and mobility; they had suspense, surprise, and a faint hint of danger; above all, they had the supreme quality of transience, which puts the keenest edge on beauty and makes it touch some spring in the heart which more enduring excellences cannot reach." ~ Jan Struther

Exuberant clusters of white blossoms bursting forth from these flowers remind me of the brilliant fireworks that soon will be lighting the night sky. Catching such a display is usually a highlight of my Fourth of July. This year, however, the holiday promises a different kind of splendor. I am joining my children for a week at church camp, so I anticipate enjoying a rousing devotional under the stars tonight.

I must admit, I am a little nervous to embark on this adventure into the great outdoors and hope that I will not wilt under the heat of the Alabama sun.

It has been many years since I went to camp, but it was the site of many of the most cherished memories of my youth. We referred to the dirt road leading into the campground as "the trail of tears" because many children entered the gates pleading with their parents to turn back but left at the session's end weeping for the friends they could not bear to part with. Looking ahead to the fellowship, Bible study and singing we will share, I am prayerful that this will be a spiritually uplifting week that all of us will treasure.

Who knows? This might just be our best Independence Day yet!

"There was one bursting now, a delicate constellation of many-coloured stars which drifted down and lingered in the still air." ~ Jan Struther

Friday, July 1, 2016

We All Scream for Ice Cream

"Ice cream is happiness condensed." ~ Jessi Lane Adams

The mid-summer heat of July offers the perfect opportunity to indulge in cool and creamy ice cream, and we have shared many scoops together over the years at A Little Loveliness. Here are a few of my favorite flavors, desserts and celebrations -- perfect for the sun-drenched days to come.

Fabulous Flavors

I developed this delicious Raspberry Lemonade Ice Cream several years ago. Enjoy a paper-wrapped cone topped with whipped cream, a fresh raspberry, and a striped paper straw.

My little chef Christian tempted us with this version of Rocky Road Ice Cream.

And a visit to Hilton Head introduced us to this recipe for Peach Ice Cream. This would pair well with my craving for Chilton County peaches!


There is an ease about desserts made with ice cream that complements leisurely summer days. For a simple treat, try these Ice Cream Tea Sandwiches.

For quick Independence Day Sundaes, fill waffle bowls with vanilla or strawberry-swirl ice cream and top with sweetened berries.

When I'm pining for my old Kentucky home, one taste of this elegant dessert -- patterned after the Nonesuch Kiss at Irish Acres -- takes me back to our time in Lexington.

What's not to love about a decadent serving of Mocha Punch served in a personalized travel mug? Sounds like a perfect recipe for friendship.


Ice cream has certainly played a role in many of our parties through the years.

Emma does not enjoy cake, so her birthday parties have usually incorporated some sort of frosty treat. For her pARTy -- held at a paint-your-own-pottery studio when she turned 7 -- we dressed up a favorite flavor with whipped cream, sprinkles, and paintbrushes.

Sometimes ice cream offers the incentive for getting together. For this entertaining idea, churn up some fun by inviting the neighbors to indulge in your latest creation.

For Emma's 8th birthday, ice cream was definitely the star of the show, as we welcomed friends to Emma's Ice Cream Parlor. This fete was one of our easiest yet most enjoyable to date!

Get the scoop in these party posts:

I ordered several sets of these 12-packs of cone-themed ice cream cups and spoons, so we had plenty after the party. That spring, I took them to her class at school to use during a sundae party. The kids were thrilled to take them home! The remainder have been nice to tuck into birthday gifts for friends, along with a gift card to a favorite ice-cream shop.

I hope you have enjoyed this round-up of ice cream recipes, desserts, and celebrations. Now, would you like that frosty treat in a cup or cone?

"Always serve too much hot fudge sauce on hot fudge sundaes. It makes people overjoyed, and puts them in your debt." ~ Judith Olney

Blog Widget by LinkWithin