a floral take on ombre

I don't know about you, but I can't seem to get enough of ombre everything these days. I recently helped my friends at Oakland Bakes develop this cake using flowers to create a romantic ombre effect. We used ranunculus and cyclamen in shades ranging from white to bright pink. 
This cake makes me want to get married all over again!


top that cake

Need a special cake topper for your next celebration? My good friend Sarah is making these gorgeous gum paste letters.
She also does mini diplomas and numbers that are perfect for a graduation party!
Her glittery numbers are featured in the May issue of Martha Stewart Living.
[cake and cupcake photo from Signe Sugar, brownie photo from Martha Stewart]


go for the gold!

Let's say you are hosting a competition (like maybe a burger cook-off?) and you need a trophy. Let's say you forgot about it until the day before. So now you need it on the quick and preferably on the cheap. "Impossible!" you might say.

Nonsense! Just make one out of crap around your house (or crap you find in the clearance section of Target).

Now before I get your hopes up too high, you may be wondering, "Will this look as official as the trophy I got in second grade for playing soccer? Will people believe I spent a lot of money on this solid gold trophy?". The answer is no.

But stop right there. When was the last time someone made you a trophy? The question you should be asking is, "will it make someone's day to receive a handmade trophy even if it is a little crappy?". 
Of course it will!

There are many things you can use to make a trophy. The most important elements are:
1. A sturdy base (I've found empty yogurt containers work great for this)
2. A fun shape for the top (In this tutorial I'm using magic wands I found in the kid's party section of Target. For past cooking competitions, I've also used cheap-o spatulas I found at the dollar store)
3. Gold spray paint. This is non-negotiable. A trophy isn't a trophy if it isn't gold. 

Click below to see how easy it is:


mini flag garland

I've always loved Papel Picado (Mexican wedding flags), so I really flipped when I found a mini version while shopping in the Mission. These little flags were the perfect size for decorating a cake table, but I think they'd also be great in a window or on a mantel.
Now I want to hang them all over my house. 
Available in a whole rainbow of colors at Casa Bonampack
[cakes by Oakland Bakes]


time for winning!

Why not introduce a little friendly competition at your next BBQ? 
Try hosting a cooking contest!

Simply send out an invitation challenging your friends to see who can make the "World's Best (insert kind of food here)". Its best to choose a food that allows for many variations. We've had hamburger and kebab challenges for BBQ parties. You can also do something like mac n' cheese when its too cold for grilling.

The advantages of this are threefold:

1. People will bring food to your BBQ. It will be actual food they put thought into, not just chips they picked up on the way.
2. You'll get to eat a lot of different delicious food with very little cooking on your part.
3. Everyone will be united around a central event. This is the easiest way to get people talking that don't know each other. Fun will ensue!

My favorite theme so far has been the burger cook-off. It allows for endless variations and everyone loves burgers. At our last competition, we had quite a variety: beef, turkey, lamb, chicken, mushroom, and lentil.

As the host, its a good idea to have basic condiments on hand, as well as some extra buns (inevitably someone will forget to bring buns for their burger. How does this happen? I don't know, but it does). You may want to also provide some side dishes, or you'll be likely to have burgers with a side of...burgers. 

You'll also want to let people know how many burgers to bring to participate in the cook-off. We usually tell people to bring sliders, or plan to cut their burgers in four so everyone can try a piece.

To decide on a winner, I like to have everyone vote via secret ballot. You may want to offer more than one prize. I usually like to offer one prize for "Best All Around" (otherwise known as the "Burger Master"), and then something like "Most Original". This gives the vegetarians a chance at winning something, and encourages creative entries. 

Now you may be wondering, "what could I possibly offer as a prize that would properly reflect the importance and grandeur of winning a competition such as this??". Well, for many people, a full belly and the admiration of their friends may be enough. But I prefer to mark the occasion with homemade trophies!

Stay tuned for the how-to... 

[Photos courtesy of Lauren Veloski]