WHIMSICAL HOLIDAY DESSERT TABLE

Since Thanksgiving is over, I'm officially ready for Christmas! Here's a cute little dessert table we put together for our annual Christmas Eve get-together.

Obsessed by these Meri Meri bird cupcake toppers, I went for a theme inspired by The Nutcracker and Mendl's from "The Grand Budapest Hotel," without taking either too literally. 

Our Christmas Eve is all about the kids, so I took the non-traditional, sherbert-colored birds and ran with it. The bird garland then set the backdrop, with some added pinwheels.  I hung sparkly ornaments from the dining room chandelier, birds to fly over the table, and the table was set with foraged fir branches, amaryllis, tangerines, a wink to the nutcracker and sprinkle-covered ice cream cones.  Jenna Elliott, of One Eleven Photography, captured it below.

How cute are the reindeer cups?!  I replaced the candy cane striped cups with gold stars to complement the theme. 

My little sugar plum fairy in her teepee.

Photos: Jenna Elliott, One Eleven Photography

GRAIN-FREE CARROT CAKE

It's Easter Week! We will be celebrating one of our favorite holidays with decoration and recipe ideas. Here's a delicious cake without all the post-junk food guilt!

I took one of my favorite grain-free recipes and put a holiday twist on it. I love this cake because it's the only carrot cake I've ever had that doesn't make me feel sick after eating it. I adapted the recipe from Elana's Pantry, but I have changed several components. I also use real cream cheese in the frosting. Elana has a great coconut-based frosting, should you want a dairy-free option. 

Cake Ingredients:

3 Cups Blanched Almond Flour

1 Teaspoon Sea Salt

1 Teaspoon Baking Soda

1 Tablespoon Ground Cinnamon

1 Teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice

5 Large Eggs

1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

3/4 Cup Maple Syrup

1/2 Cup Warmed Coconut Oil or Extra Virgin Olive Oil (or a combination of both)

3 Cups Carrots, Grated

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine almond flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice.

In a separate bowl, mix together eggs, maple syrup, vanilla extract and oil. Add Carrots. Stir wet ingredients into dry and mix until completely combined.

Place batter into two well greased round 9" cake pans.

Bake for 35 minutes. Do not over bake! Allow to cool. 

Frosting Ingredients:

3- 8 oz. Bars of Cream Cheese (at room temp)

3/4 Cup Maple Syrup

1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

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Topping:

1/2 Cup Shredded Coconut

*For Easter, I've also added some chocolate caramel eggs from Whole Foods.

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Serves 8-10

Combine cream cheese, maple syrup and vanilla in a bowl and mix on high for 1 - 2 minutes until thoroughly combined and creamy. Do not frost the cake until it is completely cool.

When you are ready to frost the cake, take a pastry bag with a 1/2" open tip and fill it with 1/2 of the frosting. If you don't have a pastry bag, create your own by taking a large Ziplock bag and cut 1/2" off of a side corner.

Place the first half of the cake top-side down on your cake plate.

Frost the first layer, by starting in the middle and work your way out in a continual circle. It's fine if it doesn't look perfect! Just make sure it is all covered out to the edge.

Place the second layer of cake on top of the frosting top-side up. 

Fill your pastry bag with the remaining frosting and repeat. Now gently smooth the frosting with a spatula. 

Sprinkle coconut shreds evenly on top.

Decorate with candy eggs to add an Easter touch.

I also added this adorable Meri Meri Easter cake topper to make it extra festive. xx

EASTER PARTY

Our Easter party checklist includes carrot cake, crudités with spinach leek dip, deviled eggs, watermelon bunnies, fresh flowers, confetti eggs, surprise bunnies and lots of fun partyware.

Love the way that tulip opened.

Sweet little birds sweeping over the flowers.

The Meri Meri surprise bunnies and pinwheels help to fill empty space on the table.

The kids welcome the Easter Bunny (cake topper).

And then dig into the treats. 

How cute are the little quail eggs in the crudités box from Joan's On Third?

PARTYING WITH SURPRISE BALLS

Have you tried a surprise ball yet? They're so fun -- stickers, miniature animals and other little treasures wrapped in crepe paper to resemble a ball. They're made in the form of everything from fruit to flowers. We fell in love with Robert Mahar's bright beauties at Crafting Community in Palm Springs. They're perfect for holidays, keep the kids entertained at a party and can even be DIY'ed, if you're so inclined. Here are some of our favorites.

SurpriseBalls

Pomegranate by Anandamayi Arnold exclusively at Tail of the Yak in Berkeley.

Garden Vegetables from TOPS Malibu.

Christmas DIY from HonestlyWTF.

You may remember these Meri Meri Easter bunnies from our party.

This guy would have been a perfect addition to our Swan Guide.