Blueberry Cornbread Griddle Cakes

Blueberry Cornbread Griddle CakesHappy Valentine’s Day, nerds! (I’ve been re-watching a lot of 30 Rock lately, can you tell?) Here we are in February already; the second month of a full-on dumpster fire of a year so far. I, generally, like Valentine’s Day for the heart-shaped everythings and the extra reminders and opportunities to say ‘I love you,’ while also acknowledging it’s yet another holiday rooted in consumerism. Yawn. We all know the story by now. In the midst of so much horrible, though, I’m fully embracing Valentine’s Day this year as a chance to spread some big, fat, queer love all over the place – and I’m starting with these Blueberry Cornbread Griddle Cakes!

Blueberry Cornbread Griddle CakesHere, we have the best of two breakfasts – blueberry pancakes and corn muffins – rolled into one. What’s your favorite part of a cornbread muffin? The lightly browned and buttery edge, of course! And blueberry pancakes? All of those tart, warm berries bursting in each bite, yes? Lucky you, because this recipe has both, plus the usual melted butter and maple syrup, to boot.

Blueberry Cornbread Griddle CakesCould you make these with your go-to cornbread recipe? Yes, I imagine so, but Valentine’s Day is very often on a weekday and who has time for all that measuring when all you want to do is put a plate of heart-shaped griddle cakes in front of your loves, your besties, or your kiddos? No one, that’s who! I’d rather spend that time cooing over someone I adore – Hey, Bear, that’s YOU! – than getting fussy. For this recipe, I rely on a boxed mix because it does the job very well and allows me a great base to throw in a few extra bells and whistles.

Blueberry Cornbread Griddle CakesQuick, delicious, and they just feel so dang special, Blueberry Cornbread Griddle Cakes are my new favorite breakfast treat for any day that needs a little bit more love. And, let’s be honest, that’s most days lately. Happy Valentine’s & Galentine’s to all my many loves – I wish I could have each of you over for breakfast, kisses, and a plate of griddle cakes. Someone bring the bacon and the mimosas!

XOXO

Blueberry Cornbread Griddle Cakes
Yields 6, 4-inch griddle cakes

Ingredients

  • 1 box of Jiffy cornbread mix
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons of butter, melted, plus more for cooking
  • 3/4 cup of blueberries
  • Maple syrup or honey for serving

Directions
In a mixing bowl, combine the contents of the cornbread mix and add the egg, sugar, milk, vanilla, and 3 tablespoons of melted butter. Whisk to combine and let rest 10 minutes. When you’re ready to go, heat a frying pan over medium-low heat and melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Use a 1/4 cup scoop to make round cakes or pour the 1/4 cup of batter into a metal cookie cutter that you’ve placed into the pan. I used a 4″ heart-shaped cookie cutter. Do not add more batter than this, simply use a spoon to push the batter to the edges of the shape to fill it. Once the griddle cake has set, add the desired amount of blueberries to each cake. Allow the griddle cake to cook until bubbles begin to form and break on the surface of the cake.

If you’re not using a cookie cutter to create shapes, simply flip the cake with a spatula. Be gentle. The cornbread texture makes these a little prone to crumbling. If you are using a cookie cutter, test that the batter has cooked enough for you to remove the cookie cutter by raising it slightly and observing whether or not batter begins to run out. When you’re sure it is set, carefully remove the cookie cutter (be careful! it’s hot!) and flip. If your cookie cutter is a little more intricate, it may help to slide the griddle cake still in the cookie cutter onto the spatula and then remove the mold before flipping. Cook griddle cakes an additional minute on the opposite site and then remove from the pan. Follow with another tablespoon of butter and the next batch of cakes. You can keep your cooked griddle cakes warm in a low 170 degree oven.

When ready to serve, top your griddle cakes with an additional pat of butter if desired and drizzle with maple syrup or honey.

Galaxy Whoopie Pies

Galaxy Whoopie PiesFor the past two years, I’ve participated in a recipe round-up of Oscar-inspired treats based on the films nominated for Best Picture; thanks to Haley who is so kind to invite me back time and time again! If you’re a dear friend/long-time reader (or maybe my mom? Hi, Mom!), you might remember the Lemon Chantilly Cream Puffs I made two years back for The Grand Budapest Hotel or the Chocolate Stout Cannoli I dreamt up for Brooklyn last year. For this award season, I was super excited to be paired with the film, Hidden Figures, which immediately inspired these Galaxy Whoopie Pies!

I’ve been wanting to try my hand at the galaxy-themed dessert trend for a while now, but I won’t lie – making homemade buttercream and tinting all those colors both felt a little intimidating and like a lot of work. While delicious work it is, indeed, making those gorgeous, nebulous swirls is easy peasy with the right supplies.

Jackson, Vaughan, & JacksonBut before we get into the merits of gel food coloring and what size and shape pastry tip to use, let’s talk about Hidden Figures for a sec. If you haven’t yet seen it, do – not only because the vintage wardrobe of pencil skirts and fitted cardigans will make your femme heart swoon, but because you need to know this history of Black women in the space program (or at the very least, the three women whose stories are featured: Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson). It’s a feel-good film, which I get sugarcoats a lot more of the racism and sexism these brilliant women, undoubtedly, faced in their careers at NASA. But it also served as a relevant story of strength and resistance for this presently fraught time. It’s definitely worth a watch even if it casts Kevin Costener as the white man savior who wasn’t even a real person in the lives of Johnson, Vaughan, and Jackson. I’m eye-roll-emojiing all over that!

Galaxy Whoopie PiesThese whoopie pies are delicious, but also really smart texturally: they’re moist in the center, but ever-so-slightly dry throughout to accommodate all of the thick, luscious frosting you sandwich between them. The cake has a deep, chocolate flavor, though they’re only slightly sweet, which is important because that gorgeous filling? That’s Swiss meringue buttercream, the richest, most delicious frosting of all! Yes, it’s also a complete departure from the fluffy, marshmallowy fillings of regular whoopie pies, but stay with me. In this recipe, I made a caramel Swiss meringue buttercream that is out of this world and, well, isn’t that just the most appropriate thing considering these are Galactic Whoopie Pies?

Galaxy Whoopie PiesThe ingredients here are all ones you would likely have in your pantry and fridge – Dutch-processed cocoa powder, a few sticks of unsalted butter, brown sugar, eggs, and a few other things. Things really only get fancy when it comes to creating those beautiful swirls of pink, blue, purple, and black. To achieve these intense colors, you’ll need to invest in gel food coloring. You could probably get close with the trusty McCormick set of liquid dyes that are synonymous, for many, with Easter eggs, but because they’re liquid, they’ll change the consistency of your buttercream and may even cause it to separate. Gel food coloring isn’t particularly expensive and you can pick it up at most craft stores and, of course, online. I’ve used my Wilton set for eons and still have a bunch left – a little goes a long way!

Galaxy Whoopie PiesBecause I wanted a great swirl effect, I opted for a large open star tip (#1M by Wilton – I’m not sponsored by Wilton, but I did take a Tuesday night cake decorating class at my local Joann’s a billion years ago and still have a ton of the supplies!) for my pastry bag, thinking the grooves would add a lot of definition and make the most out of all of those beautiful colors. Really, the most difficult part was getting the colors where I wanted them with the food coloring in terms of their depth and intensity. When I was ready to pipe, I simply alternated tablespoons of each color into the bag, used the dull end of a skewer to gently poke through the colors to blend them a bit, and then piped a few test stars until multiple colors came out at once. If you’ve never piped icing before, this is a great way to learn technique and tension, since you’re just piping circles and swirls as opposed to anything too elaborate. Plus, worse comes to worse, you’re going to pop a lid on these anyway!

Galaxy Whoopie PiesTo hammer home these Galactic Whoopie Pies, I played around with some edible pearlescent dust for the lids, as well as some edible glitter stars. I think the dust, in particular, added some visual interest to the lids, causing them to look a little bit like moons and planets with their craggy surfaces. And the stars? Well, they’re just pretty and make this dessert the perfect centerpiece for your Oscars viewing party. Check out the full list of talented folks taking part in this year’s recipe round-up with me below and happy watching!

Galaxy Whoopie Pies
Yields 8 whoopie pie sandwiches; whoopie pie cake recipe borrowed from here

Ingredients

For the whoopie pies:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg

For the caramel buttercream:

  • 1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • small pinch of kosher salt
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Pearlescent dust (I used lilac) or edible glitter stars, optional

Directions:

For the whoopie pies:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a bowl until combined. Stir together buttermilk and vanilla in another small bowl and set aside. Beat together butter and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, then add egg, beating until well combined. The mixture should be pale and very, very shiny. Reduce speed to low and alternately mix in flour mixture and buttermilk mixture in batches, beginning and ending with flour, scraping down side of bowl occasionally, and mixing until smooth.

Spoon level, 1/4-cup mounds of batter about 2 inches apart onto 2 buttered large baking sheets. Gently smooth each mound and spread them slightly with an offset spatula. Bake in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until tops are puffed and cakes spring back when touched, 11 to 13 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

For the caramel buttercream:

First, make the caramel by adding sugar into a small saucepan with enough water to give it the texture of wet sand. Cook the sugar and water mixture on low heat until it has dissolved, then raise the heat to high and let cook until it turns golden. Swirl the pan gently, intermittently, but do not stir or attempt to stir in crystalized bits of sugar on the sides of the pan, as it could cause the caramel to seize. Don’t walk away during this stage as the sugar can burn very quickly.

While sugar is cooking, add cream to a microwaveable bowl or cup and microwave for 30 seconds, just until it begins to warm. When the sugar has turned golden brown, remove it from the heat and pour in the cream in a slow, steady stream, whisking to incorporate thoroughly. Add a very small pinch of kosher salt and whisk once or twice more. If any crystallization occurs, place the caramel back over medium heat to melt. When finished, caramel may appear thin, but it will thicken as it cools.

To make the buttercream, begin by combining the sugar and egg whites in a medium metal bowl and place over a pot of gently simmering water. Whisk the sugar mixture constantly until it becomes smooth and shiny. Continue whisking until the mixture reaches 160 degrees F, then remove the sugar mixture from the heat and pour into the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk on medium speed for about 5 minutes until the mixture has cooled. You can test this by feeling the side of the bowl. Your egg whites should be smooth, shiny, and peaked.

Next, switch to the paddle attachment and with the speed on low, add the room temperature butter one piece at a time, beating until smooth. Do not add too much butter too quickly, or beat the mixture at too high of a speed, or the buttercream may break. When all the butter has been added, switch back to the whisk attachment and beat the buttercream on medium-high speed for about 6-10 minutes until it is very thick and smooth. If it appears to separate briefly, continue beating and it should come back together. If at any point you get true separation – you’ll know because it will look like a horrifying mess of watery liquid and big globules of fat from the butter, don’t panic. Scoop out about half the mixture and warm it in the microwave for a minute or so. Add it back to the mixer and beat on medium, graduating to high, and it should all reincorporate.

Once the buttercream is ready, stream the caramel into the buttercream and beat to combine. If the caramel has cooled too much in the meantime, or has solidified, just give it a gentle heat on the stovetop. The buttercream is now ready to go. If you’re not going to use it immediately, place a piece of plastic wrap against the surface until you are ready to use it, to prevent it from drying out.

When you’re ready to fill your whoopie pies, separate out the buttercream into four containers and tint each one to the desired hue of pink, blue, black, or purple. Fit a pastry bag with your tip of choice, then fill the bag with alternating tablespoons of each color. Once filled, I used the dull end of a skewer to push down inside the bag and gently blend the colors. Be especially careful if you’re using a plastic, disposable pastry bag, so you don’t risk puncturing it. Test your buttercream by piping a few stars and swirls on a paper plate or napkin. You’re ready to fill the whoopie pies when multiple colors emerge at the same time.

Fill each whoopie pie with a generous swirl of galaxy buttercream, then pop a lid on and decorate the top to your heart’s desire with pearlescent dust, edible glitter, or just leave them plain – they’re pretty as a peach no matter how you finish them.

5 Things You Can Do Now for Thanksgiving

5 Things You Can Do Now for ThanksgivingI’m a little bit giddy about Thanksgiving this year, but not for reasons you might think. Yes, I’ll get to spend it in the company of friends, of people I love, and yes, there will be delicious things to nibble and drink, games to play, and fun to be had with some of my favorite faces. But this year, Thanksgiving, or Friendsgiving as it really is, is the first time in five years that I’m not responsible for the meal – and I’m pretty thrilled about it!

Don’t get me wrong, I love to cook for my friends, to feed them delicious treats, to decorate my home and make it super inviting, but it’s a lot of work that starts weeks in advance. This year, I only have to bring two vegetable side dishes, my best beau, some board games…and that’s it! That’s all that is required of me! I’m so excited to spend time enjoying my friends and being very present in the moment, as opposed to running back and forth to the kitchen like I normally do when hosting. I’ll be the girl on the couch with her feet up and a glass of rosé in her manicured hand – and I can’t wait!

5 Things You Can Do Now for Thanksgiving
But all of my years of hosting in the past have taught me a lot about how to have a beautiful Thanksgiving and what you can do days, even weeks, ahead in order to make the day itself less busy and more enjoyable. Let’s take a look at the 5 things you can do now for Thanksgiving!

1. Prepare your Lists
I’m no one if not someone who loves a list. And while it can get borderline neurotic any other time, if you’re hosting any big event or holiday gathering, organization is key. So get yourself situated early on by preparing your four main lists: guest list, menu, shopping list, and your day-of agenda.

  • Several weeks in advance, you should have a firm sense of who is attending the fête and what they’re bringing. Lock in folks on one item or another based on their strengths. Once you know that one person is responsible for wine and another for their famous pumpkin cheesecake, you’re well on your way to organizing your menu and filling in the gaps.
  • Having a menu in place early on should give you a sense of calm as the day gets closer because you know what’s ahead of you. Building in old reliables that you’re comfortable with executing and the rare new recipe or technique allows you the ability to foresee how to structure your time before and the day itself. You’ll know where you need to build in extra time for your first-time making a meringue-topped dessert for instance versus the mashed potatoes you whip up once a month, that feel like old hat.
  • Planning your menu in advance also allows you to buy responsibly. Thanksgiving – and all holidays – can be expensive for the person hosting. If you take time ahead of time to plan a potluck or to designate specific items or dishes to others, it can alleviate some of the financial strain. If you’re going it alone and intend on not asking your guests to bring anything, planning your menu in advance also gives you time to take stock of what you have already. You’ll know if you’re down to half a bag of confectioner’s sugar or have four pounds stacked up in the back of the pantry.
  • A little planning prevents overbuying as much as it helps you to not miss any key ingredients as you head to the store. Organize your shopping list based on the layout of the spot where you plan to do your shopping. You’ll move through your list faster this way and will be less likely to forget something integral. I always make sure to mark on my shopping list what I have a coupon for or what the sale/deal is so that I’m also certain I’m buying the specific item (the 10oz box versus the 12oz box) that is actually on sale.
  • A day-of agenda for executing the meal itself is where many folks would draw the line with list-making, but I promise you that it’s worth doing – especially if you’re new to planning or cooking a big meal for a crowd. Doing so will allow you to have a schedule to keep yourself to – one that has already considered that the stuffing can go in the oven at the same temperature as the sweet potatoes, but 20 minutes after. A day-of agenda also comes in handy once you’re ready to put all the food out to confirm you haven’t forgotten to warm something or put out the dinner rolls. Consider it a little blueprint to get you through the day.

5 Things You Can Do Now for Thanksgiving
2. Ready your serveware, your place settings, and your tools
A week or two before the event is the time to make sure you have everything you need in terms of your tools prior to the event. Take down your platters from the tops of your cupboards, pull out your box of extra wine glasses, dig through your utensil drawer and find the baster and meat thermometer, sharpen your knives. The worst thing is a stressful day before the holiday when you’re scrambling around trying to finish cooking and prepping and you still have to gather together all of the serving pieces you’re going to need the next day. Be good to yourself and take the time to plan so that on the night before, you can order a pizza, maybe trim some veggies, and take it easy. I like to gather all of my plates together, wash anything that got a little dusty during the year in the back of the closet, and then wrap everything in a clean, spare table cloth and keep them on an empty closet shelf.

5 Things You Can Do Now for Thanksgiving
3. Wash and press your linens
If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that I have a thing for cloth napkins. Do Bear and I use them every day? No, of course not. Laundry isn’t free, nor is it in our apartment, and we’re not jerks. That said, though, I love a cloth napkin when I’m entertaining people, so the week before, I figure out what my table is going to look like and what table cloth and napkins I’m going to use. You know what you don’t want to be doing the night before Thanksgiving? Laundry. Two hours of work weeks ahead of time will save you last-minute annoyance and anguish closer to the holiday. Of course, if you’re thinking of using paper napkins for your event, I say there’s no shame in that. Easy clean-up where you can get it is totally respectable in the face of cooking a huge meal. If linens aren’t where you think your precious time needs to be spent, I get it! No shame!

5 Things You Can Do Now for Thanksgiving
4. Plan your table decoration and layout
A beautiful table doesn’t have to be difficult, elaborate, or expensive. A simple bouquet of flowers separated into smaller, shorter bouquets with a few small tea light candles won’t put you back much and will make you and your guests feel truly special. Pinterest, of course, is a great source of inspiration, so I recommend browsing around in your very early planning stages and getting some ideas. Two things I like to keep in mind as I plan what I’ll have on my table: 1) It’s important for your guests to be able to see each other, so I tend to put together items that aren’t very tall. For Thanksgiving, think pumpkins, gourds, candles shaped like maple leaves, pine cones, etc. An arrangement that includes lower-profile items will be beautiful and won’t risk interfering with conversation. 2) Remember that you’re going to have other things on your table aside from your centerpiece. Be sure you allow room for everyone’s place setting, rogue drinks that make it to the table, extra serving dishes of sides if you’re not buffeting your meal, and elbows! Don’t sacrifice you or your guests’ comfort and ability to stretch out a bit for a really elaborate table design. The whole point of getting together is to enjoy your time together and that’s not possible if you’re getting pushed out by too many wicker turkeys.

5 Things You Can Do Now for Thanksgiving
5. Look to make-ahead dishes
After my first two years of cooking Thanksgiving, it took me about two to three days to fully recover from the amount of work and stress it was – and I was still in my 20s then! But all of that changed as I started to plan better and learned from experience that there were several key parts of the meal I could prepare ahead of time to save me such valuable time. The first? The gravy! Every Thanksgiving I’ve ever had includes this incredible gravy from the one and only Ina Garten. For me, there’s no turkey without this gravy. But you know what? Making gravy in the final moments before your meal goes to the table is hella stressful. It is the worst! So what do I do? I make my gravy two weeks ahead of time and keep it in my freezer. On the morning of Thanksgiving, I thaw it and warm it on the stove (or gasp! In the microwave!) right before we dig in. Sometimes it needs a little whisk or a quick buzz with the immersion blender to bring it fully together, but that’s nothing. Making the gravy in advance is such a time-saver and the result is piping hot, which is never the case when you’re whisking gravy together at the last minute. I make the gravy with drippings from a chicken I roast for dinner a few weeks prior and you’d never know that it didn’t start with a turkey. Take this tip and run with it, seriously!
Cranberry & Clementine Conserve
I also make my cranberry and clementine conserve weeks ahead of time and freeze it as well. For Thanksgiving prep, these containers are your best friends, allowing you to make several different pieces of your meal in advance, and strong enough to withstand the chill of your freezer for a few weeks. Last year, I even made my mashed potatoes a day or two prior (don’t freeze these – the texture will never be the same), smoothed them into a 9×13 pan, covered it tightly with foil, and about 40 minutes out from the meal, I put them oven covered and let them get nice and hot. They fluffed up beautifully as I added them to the serving bowl and there was no last minute mashing and whipping of potatoes either. If you plan a menu in advance, with the possibility of doing some of it ahead of time, you can really take a lot off your plate for the day-of, allowing you to do what you’re meant to: enjoy your friends and family and reflect on how to improve, or contribute more to, our various communities.

Whether you’re hosting your first big meal, bringing a pie, or staying home with take-out and Netflix, I wish you a wonderful, stress-free day of entertainment and one hell of a big piece of pumpkin pie. Enjoy, everyone!

Lemon Chantilly Cream Puffs

Lemon Chantilly Cream PuffsI’m so thrilled to be joining Haley and six other food bloggers in this challenge to create a recipe and post for one of the 2015 Academy Award nominees for Best Picture. I was paired with The Grand Budapest Hotel, a quirky comedy from writer and director, Wes Anderson, and created these Lemon Chantilly Cream Puffs in response. As per most of Anderson’s movies – Moonrise Kingdom, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and The Royal Tenenbaums, among others – The Grand Budapest Hotel features an all-star cast. Part murder mystery, part art heist, part coming-of-age tale, the film grants roles to some of Anderson’s usual suspects, like Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman, but also some new additions such as the lead opposite Ralph Fienne’s Monsieur Gustave, Zero, the Lobby Boy, played by Tony Revolori. Without question, though, my favorite character in the film whose screen-time is far too brief, is Madame Céline Villeneuve Desgoffe und Taxis, also referred to as “Madame D.”

Lemon Chantilly Cream PuffsMadame D., played by the incomparable weirdo that is Tilda Swinton, is the wealthy widow who visits The Grand Budapest regularly for its timeless service and the affections of Monsieur Gustave – a paramour of many an older lady. Madame D.’s first moments on screen are also her last, as she is murdered for her fortune shortly after. Stuffy, fancy, and lavish in her dress and accoutrement, Madame D. was, immediately, my inspiration going into this Oscar blog challenge. The image of her full, graying beehive and rich ochre dress quickly coaxed the idea choux pastry from my brain, developing, with time, into these gorgeous lemon chantilly cream puffs.

Lemon Chantilly Cream PuffsChoux pastry, which creates the actual puff itself, is a recipe that gets a lot of flack for being difficult, but I think this largely stems from American’s lack of familiarity with it. Truthfully, it requires only a strong arm that can endure some vigorous stirring and about 5 minutes of your absolute attention. Why don’t we make cream puffs all the time, right? I know! This version is filled with a mixture of stiffly whipped cream, lightly sweetened, and then folded together with bright, zesty lemon curd. Together, they create an airy, but rich, lemon filling that is every bit as regal as Madame D. herself. I can just see her biting into one with her crimson-painted mouth right now!

Lemon Chantilly Cream PuffsWhat makes these cream puffs extra fancy, though, is the lemon-enhanced meringue peaks that surround the cream puff lids in swirls and swoops, just like Madame D.’s coif. Set in the oven for just a few minutes, they toast up light brown and taste of the very best campfire marshmallow. They are as whimsical as the film itself, but, dare I say, far more delightful! Check out the recipe for these beauties below, but before doing so, won’t you see what these seven other wonderful bloggers have concocted for their Best Picture pairings?

Oscars 2015 Best Picture Inspired Recipes

I’m so impressed by the level of creativity here and can’t wait to try some of these delicious treats! Now, onto Madame D.’s puffs!

Lemon Chantilly Cream Puffs
Yields approximately 10 cream puffs

Ingredients
For the cream puffs
1/2 cup (or 1 stick) of butter
1 cup of water
1 cup of flour
1/4 teaspoon of salt
4 eggs

For the lemon chantilly cream
1/2 cup of heavy cream, chilled
1 tablespoon of granulated sugar
1/2 cup of lemon curd
* If the lemon curd is store bought, add the zest of one half a lemon

For the meringue tops
2 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar
1/3 cup of granulated sugar
A dash of lemon extract

Directions
Make the cream puff shells first, noting that they must cool completely before filling. I often make them the night before and leave them out on the counter, uncovered, overnight. If you put them in a container while they’re even slightly warm, they will get doughty. Once filled, they get soft, and then soggy, as they sit, so if making them for a party or for company, fill right before you’re reading to serve. Ready? Let’s go!

Preheat your oven to 400°F. Crack all 4 eggs into a pitcher, or bowl with a spout, so that they are ready immediately when needed. In a heavy-bottom pot, over medium heat, add the water and butter to the pan. When the mixture is boiling and the butter is melted, add the flour and salt and stir quickly to combine the ingredients. Continue stirring as the mixture integrates and forms a soft ball, which follows your spoon around the pot. The sides of the pot should be clean as the batter forms. Once the batter is ready, remove the pot from the heat and add one egg at a time, mixing vigorously throughout to incorporate each egg. You may need to alternate between a wooden spoon and a whisk, beating in the eggs. Your mixing should be fast and deliberate so that the eggs do not begin to scramble. The batter is finished when the eggs are all added and the mixture is smooth, thick, and holds its shape.

On a parchment-lined baking sheet, form 10 evenly-shaped mounds with a slightly peaked top. I create a larger mound as the base and then a smaller one on top. If your peak comes to a fine point, gently pat it down so that it does not burn in the oven. You may also pipe the batter onto the baking sheet if you prefer. Bake the puffs for about 40 minutes or until they are a medium brown (not golden). Set aside to cool completely.

In the meantime, create the lemon chantilly cream. In a chilled bowl, add the heavy cream and the sugar and beat on high until stiff peaks form. Separately, warm your lemon curd in the microwave or on the stove top, so that it is a very soft gel-like consistency and gently fold it into the heavy cream a bit at a time until it is thoroughly incorporated. If you are using a store-bought lemon curd that could do with a bit of freshness, also fold in the zest of one half of a lemon at this time. Return to fridge and allow to chill.

When the cream puffs are cooled and ready to be prepared for serving, slice each puff horizontally at the point where the two mounds merge, creating a clear, wide base and a peaked top. Very gently, scoop out the base of the cream puff and discard the moist, slightly doughy center to provide maximum space for the cream. In a clean, dry bowl, add the two egg whites and the cream of tartar and beat with a mixer until foamy. Slowly add the granulated sugar and continue whipping until stiff peaks form. Once they have, pour in the dash of lemon extract and whip just to incorporate.

Preheat the oven to 400°F again. Fit a piping bag with a large round tip and fill with meringue. Pipe swirls of stiff, lemon meringue around the lids of the cream puffs and place on a lined baking sheet. You could also dip and swirl the lids into peaks if you want to avoid the piping work. Bake just the meringue-covered lids for about 5-8 minutes until they are golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to set and cool while you fill the base of the cream puffs with the chilled lemon chantilly cream. When ready, top each cream puff with a meringue-covered lid and serve.

Bagel and Lox Cheese Ball

Bagel & Lox Cheese Ball
As an only child who lives halfway across the country, it’s safe to say that when I go home to visit my family, it’s a pretty big deal. If you’re an SNL fan, you couldn’t have missed this year’s Thanksgiving sketch by the ladies of the cast about heading home for the holidays – Back Home Ballers – which feels like an only slightly exaggerated version of my reality. What can I say? My mom misses me a whole lot (it’s mutual, Mom! Promise!). While home a few weeks ago, I was greeted two Saturday mornings with the biggest perk of being a long distance daughter – fresh-baked Jersey bagels! Still slightly warm in the center, they were perfectly chewy and heavily covered in a dense “everything” style mix of sesame seeds, poppy seeds, coarse salt, garlic, and onion. Gah, so delicious!Bagel & Lox Cheese BallThese bagels reached true “baller” status, though, when my mom broke out the surprise of lox and cream cheese to go along with them. We bonded over this treat when I was little; when the sight and smell of lox saw my dad scurrying from the kitchen with his nose pinched and me following suit just because it seemed the silly thing to do. Left to enjoy her luxe bagel alone, my curiosity eventually got the better of me and I returned to the table one morning and asked my mom for a bite. I had never tasted anything so savory and so delicious! I was hooked and from then on it became a special, once-in-a-blue-moon treat shared between mother and daughter – my dad stayed firm in his position on the matter.

Bagel & Lox Cheese BallWhen I returned to Minneapolis after Christmas this year, I brought back with me some fresh bagels for Bear and I because that’s the kind of girlfriend I am. One who travels with food in her luggage to bring you a familiar taste of home. We gobbled them up in just three days (what? they go stale fast!) and each time I bit into one, I sighed and spoke about the bagel and lox of weeks ago. Laying in bed on the night of the last bagel, I fantasized about the bagel and lox plate at a cafe I used to get here in Minneapolis that was truly a tasty feast, save for the hard, dense bagels they served with it. The Midwest has many perks, but bagels aren’t one of them. At any rate, this bagel plate came with a mound of garlic and dill cream cheese, capers, thinly sliced purple onion, and tomatoes. Mixing and matching ingredients between bites of lox and everything bagel was an indulgent pleasure, but one I’d foregone in recent years because of those disastrous bagels that accompanied it.

Bagel & Lox Cheese BallBut wait – I had cream cheese and purple onion in the fridge…and capers too! I even had, after examining the specifics, all the spices and seeds I’d need to make an everything bagel. All I was missing was the lox itself and that certainly wouldn’t be hard to find. I was onto a re-creation of sorts as I drifted off to sleep. Thing is, though, I knew even as my dreams found me that night that I didn’t want to be bothered making bagels – and anything store-bought out this way was just going to be a cruel, doughy joke even if it was to be smeared with all the right fixin’s. Enter: the bagel and lox cheese ball that came to mind the next morning. Sleep really is good for the brain!

Bagel & Lox Cheese BallIf you’ve spent any time on Pinterest lately, you’ve seen that the humble cheese ball is having a renaissance right now and truly, thank goodness! Why did cheese balls ever go out of fashion? While they might not necessarily be the most chic thing, I’m willing to bet that there’s never any left at the end of a party, no matter what you add to them or what you roll them in. A bagel & lox cheese ball seemed like a natural next step, adding in all the familiar toppings and flavors within the ball itself and covering the whole thing in the crunch reminiscent of my favorite bagel.

It sounded so good in theory, but the execution was tastier than I could have even imagined! All of the flavors I dreamt about, enjoyed around the table with my mom, are right here in this cheese ball. The perfect bite, but wrapped up into one adorable, party perfect sphere! Served with bagel chips or rye crackers, this is the perfect cheese ball for a brunch spread or an afternoon tea party. Won’t you give it a try?

Bagel and Lox Cheese Ball
Yields one cheese ball, approximately 3 inches across

Ingredients
1 8-ounce block of cream cheese, softened
2 Tablespoons of thinly sliced green onions
2 Tablespoons of finely minced purple onion
1 Tablespoon of nonpariel capers, roughly chopped
3 ounces of lox or smoked salmon
Fresh cracked black pepper
1/4 cup of toasted sesame seeds
3 Tablespoons of poppy seeds
2 Tablespoons of dehydrated onion flakes
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1-1/2 teaspoons of coarse salt (I go a little light on the salt because of the salt in the ball itself)

Directions
Leave the cream cheese out to soften for a few hours or microwave for 30 seconds or until soft to the touch and set aside. Slice the green onions, the purple onion, the capers, and the lox. Add all aforementioned ingredients to cream cheese and crack in about half a teaspoon of black pepper. Combine thoroughly together. Put bowl directly into the refrigerator, uncovered, and allow to sit for 30-45 minutes. In the meantime, cut a 14″ piece of plastic wrap and lay on a flat work surface. After the time has passed, remove the cream cheese mixture from the refrigerator and spoon into a big mound in the center of the plastic wrap. Draw sides and edges of the wrap up together toward the center, shaping the mixture into a ball and twist the plastic wrap tightly shut. Finish shaping the plastic wrap-covered ball into as round a shape as possible. Return to a clean bowl where it will help hold the shape and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

While the cheese ball is resting and firming up, prepare the “everything” bagel coating. Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine the sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dehydrated onion flakes, garlic powder, and salt in a bowl and than pour, in a single layer, onto a baking sheet. Bake in oven for 4-5 minutes or until the mixture is toasted. Keep an eye on these, as they go from toasted to burnt in a second. When finished, remove seeds from pan immediately and allow to cool completely.

When the topping is cooled and your cheese ball has had time to firm up, remove the latter from the plastic wrap and roll in the the toasted “everything” mixture, being certain you cover the cheese ball completely in the topping. Serve immediately.

DIY Chalkboard Cake Toppers

DIY Chalkboard Cake ToppersWell, the semester has begun and though I wish I was creating blog content all the live long day, I’ve been back to teaching and guiding students through their first few weeks of gender & women’s studies classes. For the first time in a long time, I’m teaching some intro-level classes, which are my absolute favorite. Observing students as their minds are being blown is just the very best feeling as a teacher. These are the perks!

Before things really got underway this semester, though, I celebrated my birthday last week with a friend whose big day is just a day before mine. Surrounded by friends and loved ones, we drank champagne and ate an amazing Italian-inspired meal, al fresco, in our beautifully decorated side yard. It was quite a time! For dessert, I made us a giant cheesecake, covered in the season’s sweetest strawberries, and used these easy DIY cake toppers I had made the week before to make it extra special.

DIY Chalkboard Cake ToppersIf you follow my Instagram feed or checked out the highlights from Charlotte & Katie’s wedding feature, these may look familiar to you. I made Charlotte & Katie a pair for their wedding cake back in July and because they were just so easy (and almost criminally inexpensive), I followed up with a set for myself. What’s wonderful about them is that they’re reusable – the white paint that spells out your message of “Happy Birthday!”, or what have you, is written on a chalkboard paint background with a chalk marker! With a damp cloth, the slate is wiped clean and they’re ready to go for your next happy, cake-included, occasion.

DIY Chalkboard Cake ToppersYou’re limited here really only in terms of what shapes of wood you can find. While I’ve come across other shapes and sizes at Joann’s, these hearts are my favorite and are most applicable to a variety of holidays and events. Chalkboard paint, though, is available in so many different colors now and what you use as an accent color for the backs, edges, and skewers is entirely up to you. Now that I’m thinking of it, I wish I had tracked down a hot pink chalkboard paint because, paired with the metallic gold accent, it would have been a femme birthday dream come true!

DIY Chalkboard Cake ToppersThis is an easy craft that you can pull together in about an hour total, that costs only a few dollars, and will add a really personal touch to any future party. Arrange them on cakes, pies, cupcakes, and even stuck in the middle of a mound of cookies. They’re a sweet addition to any dessert and something you, or your loved one, can hang onto as a memory afterward or re-use in the future.
DIY Chalkboard Cake Toppers

DIY Chalkboard Cake Toppers

Supplies:
Two wooden cut outs in any shape; I used hearts from Joann Fabrics, which were under $1 each!
Chalkboard paint
Acrylic paint in color of your choice for backs, edges, and skewers
2 wooden skewers
Hot glue sticks & glue gun
Foam paint brush, about 1″ wide
Small thin-tipped paint brush, s square tip works best
Chalk marker, or regular chalk

Directions:
On a flat surface lined with newspaper, paint the backs and edges of your shapes with your accent color of choice; I used the foam brush for the back and the thin-tipped brush for the edges. If you get a slight bit on the front, just wipe it off as best you can, but don’t fret – the chalkboard paint will cover all. After the accent color has mostly dried – about 10 minutes – apply a second coat to backs and edges. When the second coat dries either move on to the following step or add a third coat if needed. Using the thin-tipped brush follow your shape and paint a perimeter on the front of the piece with the chalkboard paint so that you create a margin and don’t risk painting over the edge that you just painted with your accent color. Using the wider foam brush, fill in the shape with a coat of chalkboard paint and allow to dry. Follow this step for the front of the shape for at least three coats in order to get a truly opaque surface. Allow to dry completely. If need be, touch up the edge with your accent color.

When your shapes are completely painted and dried, heat your glue gun and ready your two wooden skewers. If you choose to paint the skewers in your accent color, painting them when you paint the shapes is the best plan, as painting them once they’re glued to the shapes is a bit awkward. Flip your shapes over so that the back side is facing up. Apply a small, 1/2″ or so line of hot glue to the back of the shape and press the top, non-pointed, side of the skewer into the glue. If the glue is not enough to encase the top of the skewer, apply a bit more glue over top so that it is covered. Do the same to the other shape & skewer and allow to dry completely. Hot glue is usually clear, so depending on your preference, you can either leave as is or, if you’d like, once the glue is hardened and cooled, you can use your accent color to paint over the glue and make it blend a bit more seamlessly. This step is optional.

Once the skewers are dried, the cake toppers are ready for use. Use a chalk marker for easy, seamless writing (or regular chalk if preferred) and spell out your message of celebration. Chalk markers can be easily removed with a damp cloth (avoid paper towel, as it catches on the paint and the wood). Allow surface to dry before re-printing.

Charlotte & Katie’s DIY Wedding Feature!

DIY Wedding JarsCharlotte and Katie’s beautiful DIY wedding has been wonderfully featured this week on the blog Lesbian Wedding Style Guide! There are photos there to showcase some of the projects we took on and an interview with yours truly.  I’ll have another post or two here on some of the elements we made, but here’s a chance in the meantime to learn a bit more of the story and see some photos of their beautiful day. Won’t you check it out?

Here’s a sneak peek…

Charlotte and I met through our Ph.D. program. She’s since left Minneapolis for a visiting assistant professor position in Ohio, but because it’s not permanent, her partner Katie has stayed in Minneapolis working on her electrician apprenticeship. My priority for their wedding was to stay within their budget while maintaining all the details that would make it beautiful and worthy of them.

Read the rest of the full post here!

Photo courtesy of Ethan Ethan

DIY Photo Confetti

DIY Photo ConfettiOnce upon a time, I wanted to create a design element for my friends’ DIY wedding reception that would wow them and their guests. Knowing that the bride, Charlotte, wanted a way to integrate some photos of her and Katie from their wedding ceremony, which happened a few weeks prior, I wracked my brain thinking of how to do so in a fun, innovative way. That’s when I landed on what is probably my all-time favorite DIY idea to date: photo confetti! This was it! The party idea I had been searching for and after seeking out the right tools and templates, and selecting the perfect shades of coral and navy to match their colors, I was well on my way. Before I knew it, I had cups filled with varying sizes of their faces betwixt pops of color and a bit of gold glitter. I was stoked! This would be the perfect final touch on their wedding reception’s welcome table! DIY Photo ConfettiAnd it would have been…had I remembered to put it out. Wah-wah. Truth is that we were so busy finalizing appetizer trays, piping whipped cream rosettes, and readying ourselves that the final moments of party prep saw my lonely bag of confetti abandoned on a bookshelf, forgotten, until I was home, showered, getting into bed, and suddenly I remembered it! What followed was one of my best cursing streaks yet. Sigh. I guess Virgos mess up after all! DIY Photo ConfettiThis doesn’t mean that we can’t still have a tutorial though and, of course, there are still pictures to ogle and inspire your own varieties. This project comes together much easier than you might think and, truly, the only potential drama of the whole thing is that you’ll want to make sure you have full ink cartridges on your printer or ones very nearby. Or, better yet, you can skip all the at-home printing and upload and order photos fresh from somewhere like Shutterfly, which would definitely cut out the only time-consuming part of this project; I suggest ordering your prints first and then choosing the sizes of your dots. If you go the at-home, DIY route, you’ll need access to Photoshop or some kind of similar photo editing program that gives you the option to create patterns and fill images with them – I hear Open Office is good for this, but I’ve never tried it. I have access to Photoshop CS5, so my directions are based on that particular software and version; I’m happy to try and help troubleshoot in the comments if you run into any issues. There is also a pretty foolproof video made by someone much more qualified than me to explain this whole pattern/fill process we’re going to undertake, so I’ve linked to that below too. DIY Photo ConfettiI knew from the start that I’d be using some hole punches (you can’t even imagine the mess it would be if I tried to cut these out freehand! Oy!), which you can find in the scrapbooking section of your craft store or on Amazon, and decided on two sizes – 1″ and 1.75″. I used the 1″ punch for individual shots of Charlotte’s and Katie’s faces and then used the bigger punch for shots of them together. What I was less clear on was how I could print the images in a way that would allow me to easily punch out the areas (close-ups of the faces) of the photos I wanted to, within the dimensions I needed, and also without wasting a ton of ink printing out whole 4×6 photos. Tricky stuff – but easily mastered! DIY Photo ConfettiThank goodness for Bear who quickly suggested trying to find a Photoshop-friendly template for a button maker online so that I’d have the exact size I needed for the confetti dots and with an allowed rim for bleed – meaning, in case I cut a bit outside where I had intended, I’d still have a little room within the photo itself and wouldn’t be cutting outside it onto the blank photo paper. Admittedly, this wound up happening a few times any way just because when I initially started punching out photos I did so with the photo facing up, obscured by the punch, so my aim was sort of a guessing game. I soon realized, though, that if you flip the photo image-side down, you can see where you are about to cut by turning the punch over, as the underside of the punch is exposed. That observation made this project a lot easier. You’re welcome. DIY Photo ConfettiAfter a quick bit of searching, I found these templates to be exactly what I needed and once I lined up the image in the template through Photoshop, I was able to create a quick pattern out of it (more details below), and then fill a page with my image repeated over and over on it. Once the sheets of photos are printed, the punching out goes quickly. I supplemented the photo dots of the confetti with, as mentioned above, some coral and navy 1″ dots, as well as some gold glittered ones because glitter only increases the wow factor of all things, amiright? I also used my old, reliable standard 1/4″ hole punch to punch out some much smaller dots in order to bulk up the mix and make it a bit more like your standard confetti.

This is such a sweet idea for wedding decorations, or even ones for an engagement or bridal party. I can see incorporating photos of the couple as kids, or awkward teens, to make them really fun! Outside of weddings, though, the confetti is great for pretty much any special occasion – birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, etc. It’s a great, inventive way to add a personal touch to a party and celebrate a certain someone(s). It’ll be the talk of the event – just remember to put it out and use it liberally! This stuff is made for fun!

Think you’ll try making some photo confetti of your own? Have you ever helped a friend or family member with their wedding décor? What did you make? Would love to hear from you in the comments!

DIY Photo Confetti

Supplies
Hole punches of varying sizes – I used 1/4″, 1″, and 1.75″
Scrapbook paper or card stock in your desired colors and textures
Photos printed to the size of your hole punch OR, if DIY-ing this, you will need:
An inkjet printer with both color and black & white ink cartridges
Several sheets of 8.5 x11 glossy photo paper for printers – I used this kind from Canon
Photo editing software, Photoshop preferred
Templates that match the size of your hole punches
Scissors

Directions
Download the templates you will need that match the size of the hole punches you intend to use for the photo dots. Once you’ve opened the templates in Photoshop, paste in your photo, making certain that it resides in its own, new layer below the layers labeled “cut line” and “face line.” The “face line” marks the edge of your image within the dimensions of the template. For example, if you select a 2″ template, the “face line” is the end of the 2″, so what you want to punch out with a 2″ hole punch needs to be within this circle and aligned accordingly. The “cut line” represents the edge of the bleed area in the event you cut a bit beyond the face line or, in the case of this being made to make buttons, the space between the “face line” and the “cut line” is what would wrap around the edge of the button. The video tutorial at Buttonmakers.net is a good resource for understanding this process better, as well as creating a pattern from the photo, which is our next step.

Once you have pasted your photo into the template and adjusted it accordingly to the “face line,” (you may need to change the size of the image in order to get it to fit) hide the “face line” by deselecting it in the layers frame so that it disappears from your image. Next, go to Edit >> Define Pattern and name your pattern something discernible, i.e. Char Face. Your pattern is now saved and ready to use! Open a new Photoshop document that is size 8″ by 10″ and set the resolution to 300 pixels/inch. With the new, blank image open, select Edit >> Fill and then on the “Use” menu, select “pattern.” Below this, you will have the option to choose your custom pattern. Select this drop-down and find your image within the library. Depending on how many patterns you have, you may need to scroll through to the bottom to find your newest one. Select your pattern and then click “ok.” The new, blank image will fill itself with as many iterations of your image it can to allow for on an 8.5″ x 11″ page. You may now print this on a sheet of glossy photo paper.

Once the photos are printed, you can punch out the images using your hole punch that matches the size of the template you used; as a point of reference, I got 12 1.75″ dots out of my 1.75″ template. After punching out all of the images on the periphery of the paper, you may need to use scissors to free up the inner area so that you can punch those dots out too; my hole punch couldn’t extend that far into the page from the paper’s edge. When punching out your photos, turn the image upside down in order to view it from the underside of the hole punch. This will allow you to see what you have lined up to punch, so that you can make sure your image is centered, within your margins, etc. Print and punch as many images and sizes as you desire and follow suit with some dots of scrapbook paper or card stock to integrate colors and textures in your custom blend. If your event is outdoors, you may want to stick with paper that has a heavier weight to it so that it does not blow away. Incorporate a sizable amount of 1/4″ dots in order to really stretch your confetti, but to also increase its tossability …that’s a word now, I swear.

Make Your Own Wedding Bouquet

DIY Wedding Bouquet | Femme FraicheIf you’re thinking about making your own wedding bouquet – or a hand-held bouquet for any occasion – but are concerned you won’t be able to hack it, I’m here to tell you to put fear aside and embrace the DIY! Making a bouquet, even a large one, even one for a very fancy affair, is not nearly as difficult as it seems. Truly, the hardest part is standing in front of a refrigerator full of flowers and deciding which ones work best together. Even then, though, I’ve got some tips to make that easier, as well.

Creating your own bouquet, or having someone in your wedding party make one for you, is so much more cost effective than going to a florist and shelling out at least $200. By making the bouquet yourself, you not only save money, but can really customize it to your tastes. With a few tips, some guidance, and patience, you can design a really gorgeous bouquet and for a price so small, you’ll feel like you got away with something really sneaky!

Charlotte's BouquetI recently created a gorgeous bouquet for my friend Charlotte’s wedding (above) and while it was far easier than I anticipated and came together really beautifully, my nerves were sky-high leading up to making it and throughout the process. Of course they were though, right? It’s a big job, and an important one, but also totally overrated in its presumed difficulty. You’ve got this!

Because I was focused hard on creating a beautiful bouquet, I didn’t enlist anyone’s help in taking photos throughout its construction. Curses! Fortunately, though, there were leftover flowers and the next day, I recreated a smaller version of Charlotte’s bouquet in order to lead you through the crafting of your own with some step-by-step instructions and photos. If you’re looking to make a larger bouquet, I’ll note in the tutorial where and how to continue adding flowers to make a very full, formal one like hers. At the end, I’ll also organize a list of some tips I figured out along the way.

I promise you that the hype – and expense! – of bouquets isn’t justified. With some patience and some know-how, anyone can make a stunning bouquet for any kind of special day.

Step 1: Select & prepare your flowers
The first thing you’ll want to do is select what flowers you’re going to use in your bouquet. Consider the head – or flowered section – of the bouquet as needing three distinct kinds of flowers – 1) those that make up the bulk of the head (this can be one or several different kinds of flowers), 2) those that give the bouquet some height or dimension, and 3) those that can be used as filler to bulk a section up or add some contrast. I chose to incorporate some bay leaf in this bouquet to create height and dimension to my bulk flowers – roses & carnations – and, if you look really closely, you might be able to tell that they’re artificial! For filler and stems, fake sprigs can add a lot of variety and drama for very little money.

DIY Wedding Bouquet | Femme FraicheTo prepare your flowers for the bouquet, remove all fresh leaves and thorns below each flower’s head and cut all stems on a 45 degree angle while under running water, then plunge immediately into a vase filled with room temperature water. Cutting the stems under water prevents an air pocket from immediately forming at the cut site, which will interfere with the flowers being able to take in as much water as they need; this is an especially important step when working with roses. As you work, keep your flowers in water and in a cool spot.

Step 2: Build your base
The first step to making a sturdy, tight bouquet is to build a solid base. As a foundation, this initial group of flowers will keep the center of the bouquet together, creating a strong neck by which to hold it. The base is important because it will be what you build out from in order to grow the bouquet to the size of your choosing.

DIY Wedding Bouquet | Femme FraicheCreate the base by pairing 4-5 flowers together in the pattern or arrangement that you like. Starting with the first flower in one hand, imagine it as the very middle of the bouquet. Add your second flower and hold the two tightly pinched between your forefinger and thumb, adding the third, fourth, and possibly fifth flowers in the same way, keeping them tightly gathered beneath the heads of the blooms. Don’t worry if, at this point, the stems are all pointing in awkward directions. All you want to be certain of is that the top of the flowers appears the way you’d like the middle of the bouquet to look and that the flowers are being held together tightly right below the heads.

DIY Wedding Bouquet | Femme FraicheNext, apply the end of a roll of floral tape no further than an inch below the flower heads and, while holding the stems tightly together,  wrap down the gathered stems about two inches. The tape doesn’t have to be perfectly wrapped or look very neat – you’re going to be adding more flowers and then ribbon to cover it all – it just has to be tightly wound, keeping your base very solidly together.

Step 3: Build out the head & tape
Once your base is solidly clustered and taped, the next step is to continue widening and building out the head of your bouquet. Here’s where you decide how big you want the bouquet and can continue adding concurrent layers of flowers accordingly to get the shape and size that you want. Employ the same tactics as above, adding and pinching the new flowers one-by-one around your base, holding them tightly. A loosely held bouquet will shift and appear sloppy, so keep those stems tight and, as needed, apply more floral tape to keep everything sturdy.

DIY Wedding BouquetIf you’re working with a mixture of different flower sizes – for example, in Charlotte’s bouquet, I used roses, carnations, and then large, white hydrangeas – consider symmetry when in doubt about how to further arrange the growing layers. Balancing one large flower on either side and then filling in the two remaining sides with similar, smaller flowers will keep the bouquet round and voluminous. If you don’t like how something looks, rearrange things. Nothing is set until you tape the final bunch and even then, you can unwrap and reassemble, or add additional flowers if they are needed.

DIY Wedding Bouquet | Femme FraicheWhen you have filled out the head of the bouquet to the point where you are satisfied, use the floral tape once more to begin tightly taping the stems together. Start, again, an inch or so below the heads of the flowers and wrap tightly, overlapping the tape, until you’ve reached approximately 2 inches above where you want the stems of the bouquet to end once you are prepared to cut them.

Step 4: Incorporating filler
For some reason, filler is my favorite part of creating a bouquet. I think it’s because of how it takes an already beautiful bouquet to a completely different level, but also because there’s so much you can consider using to add height and texture. As mentioned earlier, I used some artificial options – a spray of bay leaves and a stem of faux white berries – but also incorporated traditional baby’s breath because it’s just so dainty. Consider overbuying on the filler, choosing lots of different varieties, and then experiment once your bouquet is in-hand. You can’t know for sure what kinds of leaves, sprays, or baubles, your bouquet will benefit from until you have everything in front of you. Filler is an opportunity to really add a little extra beauty that is specific to your tastes and aesthetic.

DIY Wedding Bouquet | Femme FraicheDepending on the length of your filler, you may be able to just nestle it between the blooms, as desired, but if the pieces are longer, or fall more on the outside of your bouquet, you may need to, once more, tape the length of the bouquet handle from one inch below the flower heads to 2 inches above where you will trim the stems. If you’re concerned about filler falling out, you can always add a drop of hot glue to the end before nestling it down into the head of the bouquet.

Step 5: Finessing the handle & trimming stems
The bouquet head gets all the glory, but truth is that the handle can also be really gorgeous and eye-catching too. For both Charlotte’s bouquet and this re-creation here, I used a thick navy grosgrain ribbon and pearlized pins for a clean, classic finish. You can use any combination of ribbons, laces, twines, etc. that you can think of, so long as you can easily cover the floral tape and find a way to inconspicuously secure the ends.

DIY Wedding Bouquet | Femme Fraiche
With this bouquet, I wrapped the ribbon tightly over all of the visible floral tape. When I reached the end of wrapping, I cut the ribbon about a half inch too long and folded it under, creating a finished edge, stretched it as far around the handle as it would go, and held it firmly against the handle with my thumb. Using my other hand, I pinned into the fold and then into the stems, angling the pin upward into the handle so that it was securely fastened and safely ensconced in the handle, free from poking through to the other side and injuring someone. I proceeded to do this with several other pins, equal distance from one another, up the length of the bouquet handle. Of course, if pearlized pins are not your style or you’re using a twine or something similar, you could always just hot glue the end and tuck it beneath an area where the handle is wrapped.

DIY Wedding Bouquet | Femme FraicheLast, but not least, trim your stems straight across about two inches from the bottom edge of the handle wrapping. Handle length is entirely personal and, fortunately, something you can customize. Just remember to err on the side of caution and trim less before more. No one wants a stumpy bouquet!

When finished, place your bouquet in enough water to submerge the ends, but not wet the wrapped handle (see tips below regarding flower food). Bouquets can be kept overnight in the refrigerator if made the day before or left in there to keep cool if made the day of the event. Before doing so, verify that the flowers you’re using can withstand the coolness of a refrigerator, though, and are not a variety that will wilt in lower temperatures.
DIY Wedding Bouquet | Femme Fraiche
Tips & Tricks:

  • When selecting flowers, consider sturdier blooms for the bulk, nestling more delicate ones inside the bouquet. For the DIY bouquet maker, erring on the side of stronger, less delicate flowers, will allow more room for rearranging.
  • Finding flowers that are easily accessible and financially within your means are key parts to DIY-ing your bouquet. Google around your area for wholesale flower markets, many of which are open to the public, and also start scouting friends with Costco memberships. Yes, Costco! Believe it or not, they have gorgeous fresh flowers and at really reasonable prices – $16 for 2 dozen roses? Boom. Also check out markets that fancy themselves more “gourmet”-type establishments – Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Kowalski’s, if you’re in the Twin Cities, are all examples. They always have fresh, beautiful flowers available and, often, a wider variety compared to a standard grocery store.
  • Remember that you can always supplement with artificial pieces. I’m not suggesting making a silk flower bouquet, but filler, embellishment sprays, and leaves can be hard to find if you’re working the grocery store circuit for your bouquet. Check out local craft stores a week ahead of time and stock up on all kinds of potential. Save your receipt so that you can return the pieces you don’t use.
  • Use Pinterest as inspiration ahead of time and gather ideas there for flowers that work well together and bouquet handle designs that match your tastes. Print pictures, or save images to your phone, and take them with you when looking for flowers or materials from the craft store.
  • Give yourself plenty of time. This is a new endeavor and while it’s really not very difficult, it requires patience, and deftness of hand; rushing through will end in broken stems and petals askew. Think the whole process will take you 2 hours? Block off 3-4 to be safe. No one wants to have to rush out the door to the ceremony, leaving their kitchen strewn with debris.
  • Pay extra close attention to pets while you’re creating your bouquet. Dogs and cats gravitate toward crunchy, fresh flora, so they may be circling beneath you like sharks or waiting for you to turn your back in order to steal a taste. Because plants and flowers can be really harmful to pets, consider keeping them in another room if possible until you are done with the bouquet and clean-up or enlist a friend or partner to keep their eyes peeled.
  • A bouquet can last well over a week if kept fresh with water and nutrients after the ceremony. Cut the stems on a 45 degree angle under water and then return them to a vase of water that has been fortified with the packets of flower food that come with loose flowers or make your own concoction by diluting half a teaspoon of bleach and half a tablespoon of granulated sugar into a half gallon of room temperature water. The bleach keeps bacteria down (the #1 cause of early flower death) and the sugar feeds the flowers. Keep this mixture on hand and empty, rinse, and refill the vase with new solution every day. Keep flowers in a cool place that receives indirect sunlight and that is far away from fruit, which releases ethylene gases and can cause flowers to shrivel up early.
  • Transporting a bouquet to a wedding venue can prove a challenge. Creating a stable holder, though, takes just a few minutes. Find a box that is wider than the bouquet (for stability), but that is still easy to carry. Next, seek out a jar that is nearly the same height as the box, but no shorter than an inch below, or longer than an inch above, it. You will want a jar that is at least 4 inches wide so that the base is not too narrow to support the top-heavy head of the bouquet. Wrap the mason jar with brown paper or newspaper in order to give it some padding and tape well. Place the mason jar in the center of the open box and fill all open space around it with filler or any kind – again, newspaper works well here. Fill it tightly so that the jar cannot slide around. Close the lids of the box and tape shut, then cut out a square around the mouth of the jar. If the jar is slightly taller than the box, cut the square before putting the mason jar in the box and taping down the lid. Fill the mason jar with water and flower food solution and insert bouquet. Before leaving, loosely wrap a plastic bag around the head of the bouquet to keep it clean. Check out the quick photos I took with my phone for a better idea of how to efficiently transport the bouquet – photo 1, photo 2, photo 3, photo 4.