Our Gift to You – Swoon Saucers

Author: Kirsti Kay, Dessert, Entertaining, Food, Food & Drink, Holidays, Recipes, Sweets

swoon-saucers-christmas-cookies-1Whenever I’m at a bakery and see the case of beautiful cookies, my knees go a little weak. All the different sprinkles and pretty shapes and the intoxicating singular smell of their collective sugary deliciousness make me swoon with delight! There is almost nothing more delightful than a pink bakery box filled with cookies.

swoon-stamp-christmas-tree-ornamentWith the holidays in full swing and Christmas and Hanukkah almost here, it can seem daunting to squeeze in baking time. Rolling out and decorating those cut-out cookies is a full weekend affair, and wouldn’t you just, for once, like to nap on the couch with the tree lights on and Nat or Andy or Burl or Frank crooning you into a happy holiday snooze?

Here is a recipe that is easy, super festive, and looks just like those fancy bakery cookies. Make the dough on Friday night, bake them Saturday morning, and enjoy the rest of your weekend.


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(adapted from Piece Of Cake: Home Baking Made Simple by David Muniz, David Lesniak and Rachel Allen)

swoon-saucers-christmas-cookies-2Makes about 50 cookies

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. salt
1½ cups unsalted butter at room temperature
½ cup canola oil
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 large eggs
swoon-saucers-christmas-cookies-34 tsp. vanilla extract*
Different sprinkles, nonpareils, colored sugars for decorating

Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter on medium for about a minute. Turn mixer to low and add the oil in a slow stream and then add the two sugars, the eggs (one at a time) and the vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the flour mixture in 4 additions, scraping down the sides after each addition. Dough will be very soft. Refrigerate in bowl covered with plastic wrap for at least an hour (and up to 3 days).

swoon-saucers-christmas-cookies-4Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment.

Put sprinkles into small bowls. I like to use a variety of different holiday-themed decorations.

Using a tablespoon-sized cookie scoop or a spoon, make balls from the dough. Roll in your hands and then into the sprinkles. Place them on the baking sheets in rows of 3. Slightly flatten each ball with the palm of your hand.

swoon-saucers-christmas-cookies-5Bake for about 14 minutes, just until the edges start to turn golden. Cool on baking sheet for a few minutes and transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

*To really get that “bakery” flavor, you can substitute a teaspoon of Fiori di Sicilia for one of the teaspoons of vanilla. Available from King Arthur Flour.

This recipe is great for any holiday – just switch out the sprinkles for Valentine’s Day, 4th of July, etc.!


Pickled French Plums – The Condiment You Didn’t Know You Needed

Author: Kirsti Kay, Entertaining, Food, Food & Drink, Recipes, Snacks, Starters

boat-street-pickled-french-plums-1I remember the olden days when fig jam and quince paste were exotic additions to a cheese plate. I used to really feel like an adult serving guests these fancy-pants confitures. It didn’t matter if your cheese platter was from Trader Joe’s or curated by a man with a handlebar mustache and bushy beard from the hipster cheese store—it was elevated. Now, even kids know what quince paste is, and fig jam is no longer special. You can buy it at Ralphs.

On this blog, we’ve written about rose petal jam and Jimmie’s Chipotle Pepper Jam as we quest for tasty additions to our plateau de fromage, but it has been a while since I’ve found something new that was worthy. Recently, I was visiting the cheese stall at my local Farmer’s Market and they introduced me to my new favorite: Boat Street Pickled French Plums.

boat-street-pickled-french-plums-2Made by acclaimed Seattle chef Renee Erickson, these Frenchie fruits will make your mouth sing. A winning combination of sour, sweet and spicy—the taste triumvirate—this spread creates a perfect storm when layered on top of some creamy, rich, soft cheese. Made with French plums, cider vinegar, cane sugar, coriander, mustard seed, arbol chili, orange peel, and bay leaf, it’s a complex explosion of flavor. It’s also amazing on sandwiches (grilled cheese—hold me!) or ice cream. Trust me, you will need several jars. Boat Street also makes pickled cherries, apricots, figs and raisins. So scratch that—you are going to need a boatload (see what I did there?).

There is nothing quite like a cracker spread with runny French cheese and a dollop of some magically fruity, smoky deliciousness and a chilled glass of Sancerre. Your mouth (and your guests) will say merci.

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Boat Street Pickles


Kiddie Pools and Cucumber Cocktails

Author: Kirsti Kay, Cocktails, Entertaining, Food & Drink, Spirits

Cucumber Cocktai 1I live in Woodland Hills, California—a suburb in the west San Fernando Valley that is known for being the hottest neighborhood in Los Angeles. I like it here, but in the summer it’s hot as Hades with a side of flame-broiled misery. When Santa Monica is a cool 89 degrees, we are 104. Last summer I remember having lunch with a friend, and the temperature in my car said 118 degrees. I laughed because it was funny/not funny. I’m honestly surprised I haven’t melted. All the candles on my deck did!

This year, my husband Aaron had enough and declared we were getting a kiddie pool. I was dubious, but—lo and behold!—a week later Amazon delivered a crazy-looking, 8-foot-wide, inflatable pool with a pump and a cover. And a skimmer! When one has a kiddie pool, one must not forget the skimmer! I giggled at Aaron’s fervor, but was secretly wondering how soon he could get this thing set up. When we finally tried it out, I’ll be damned if our little pool wasn’t the perfect antidote to this hell-spawned heat. We even got a doggie raft for our pug, Owen. This IS L.A., after all.

The only question was, what does one drink in a kiddie pool in the middle of a blistering Saturday afternoon?

Cucumber Cocktail 2The answer, friends, is a Cucumber Vodka Tonic.

When I read that Prairie made organic cucumber vodka, I immediately went out and procured this spirit. I’m normally a gin drinker, but I love cucumber water, cucumber seltzer—even cucumber perfume—so I was in.

I couldn’t love this cocktail more. It’s refreshing and delicious and the perfect drink for an afternoon in the kiddie pool. It’s also handy when you trick your friends into coming over for dinner and they don’t realize how ungodly hot it is here. I just put one of these cooling little babies in their hands and they are like, “I freaking LOVE Woodland Hills!” The Cucumber Cocktail Diversion, as I call it, works every time. We only hope that next time they remember to bring their swimsuits.



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Serves 4

1 cup Prairie Cucumber Vodka*
I cup tonic water
¼ cup lime juice
2 Tbsp. agave syrup or superfine sugar
mint leaves
cucumber ribbons
Put all ingredients except mint leaves and cucumber ribbons in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until cold. Strain into glasses filled with ice. Garnish with mint leaves and cucumber ribbons.

Turn on music. Get in kiddie pool. Ahhhhhh…


*Use the Prairie Finder to locate a Prairie Organic Spirits retailer near you.


“Peach It, Sister!”

Author: Kirsten K., Entertaining, Food & Drink, Spirits, Wine

Moscato and PeachBefore she moved to France, my friend Mika and I would routinely put away a bottle of Villa Alena Moscato d’Asti with a baguette and a wedge of triple-crème brie. The light, sweet flavor and delicate effervescence of this Italian sparkling wine were the perfect accompaniment to a late afternoon snack. Now that summer is here, I’ve become a peach bum. Their Moscato & Peach sums up the season with heavenly hints of the succulent stone fruit.

Since I’ve seen men turn up their noses at what they perceive to be a girly drink (although, if real men eat quiche, they can also drink peach), round up your girl squad and serve a chilled bottle of this fruity frizzante at your next garden party, afternoon tea, or girl’s night in. When the sisters discover how it complements your freshly-baked gallette, they’ll have a religious experience.

If coming up with summertime entertaining ideas has you throwing your hands in the air, “Peach it, sister!” Offer your guests Villa Alena Moscato & Peach and you’ll be sure to amass a following.

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Villa Alena Moscato & Peach


Villa Alena Moscato d’Asti is sold at Trader Joe’s. Moscato & Peach is available for a limited time.

Culture Cache

Author: Kirsten K., Entertaining, Food, Food & Drink, Savories, Snacks

Culture Cache 1Nowadays, it’s not uncommon to entertain guests who have a variety of dietary restrictions and preferences. You yourself may be gluten-free, lactose intolerant, vegetarian, or vegan. It can be challenging to create a menu of foods to serve that will cater to all tastes and requirements, so you might find yourself returning to the same old standbys again and again. While many people are gonzo for garbanzos, I am sick of chickpea dips, so it’s time to ditch the ho-hummus and try something a little nutty.*

When chef Miyoko Schinner became a vegan decades ago, she focused her culinary talents on creating gourmet dishes without the use of animal products. However, like many people who transition to a plant-based diet, she missed the dairy cheeses she used to enjoy and sought to recreate them in her kitchen. The result is Miyoko’s Creamery: a range of aged, artisanal vegan cheeses that look and feel like they came from the dairy case and have flavors that are reminiscent of familiar favorites.

Culture Cache 2Made from a base of organic cashews and miso, these cultured nut products (labeling laws prevent Miyoko’s Kitchen from referring to its creations as “cheese” on the packaging) have a smooth, creamy texture and a piquant tang. While other vegan cheese alternatives often contain processed soy and long lists of additives, Mikoyo’s Creamery combines wholesome ingredients with a sophisticated presentation that will give you the wow without the cow.

The Fresh Loire Valley variety is wrapped in a wine-soaked fig leaf and brings a soupçon of French refinement to even casual get togethers when served with dried fig and olive crackers and a bottle of crisp Chardonnay. For a bit of dark drama, offer guests a noirish nosh of Mt. Vesuvius Black Ash on a platter of black grapes. The ash imparts a slightly smoky flavor, but for those (like me) who prefer a more intense per-fume, try the Aged English Smoked Farmhouse.

Culture Cache 3The online cheese shop at Miyoko’s Kitchen has an ever-revolving and evolving lineup of flavors, which often sell out quickly. I am fortunate to have a local market that carries a large selection from Miyoko’s Creamery, but those who have trouble finding certain varieties and are adventurous in the kitchen can make their own cultured nut products by following the recipes in Miyoko’s book, Artisan Vegan Cheese.

Whether you or your guests have food allergies, ethical concerns, or simply a desire to reduce your consumption of dairy products, get some culture and squirrel away a cache of vegan cheese from Miyoko’s Creamery for your next gathering of (health) nuts.

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Miyoko’s Creamery


Artisan Vegan Cheese can be purchased from Amazon and Barnes & Noble , or get an autographed copy from Miyoko’s Kitchen.


*Unfortunately, those with nut allergies are still left holding the hummus.

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happy New Year

Author: Kirsten K., Entertaining, Food & Drink, Holidays, Spirits, Wine

The Pursuit of Happy New Year 1A close friend of mine who makes her living as an “intuitive” told me several years ago that she believes I am the reincarnation of Thomas Jefferson. While I’m dubious about this, I’ve had some fun with it over the years, celebrating the special anniversaries in “my” life and reminding a number of my fellow Americans on July 4th of the debt they owe me: “You’re welcome.”

I have become highly attuned to all things Jeffersonian, so it wasn’t surprising that a bottle of sparkling wine with Thomas Jefferson’s signature and likeness on the label caught my eye when I was perusing the shelves of my local liquor store. What was surprising is that it’s produced by Gérard Bertrand, maker of the fine rosé in the lovely rose-shaped bottle that Kirsti gushed over in her very first post for The Swoon Society.

The Pursuit of Happy New Year 2I bought a bottle of their Cuvée Thomas Jefferson, which Kirsti and I enjoyed with friends during the holidays. Everyone agreed that it was an exceptional crémant—elegant, fruity, and superbly balanced. I made a declaration that this was the perfect sparkling wine to ring in the New Year and resolved to get another bottle to toast the arrival of 2016.

The label states that this cuvée is a tribute to Thomas Jefferson, “the most French of American presidents,” who had a love of wine from the Limoux region of France, believed to be the birthplace of sparkling wine. Like Jefferson, Gérard Bertrand Crémant de Limoux Brut is both charming and a true ambassador of its homeland.

As we prepare to bid adieu to 2015, celebrate your inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of Happy New Year by electing to purchase a bottle of this revolutionary wine (trust me, I know how to make a good purchase). Then, on New Year’s Eve, raise a glass to old friends, new beginnings, and independent spirits. You’re welcome.

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Gérard Bertrand Cuvée Thomas Jefferson Crémant de Limoux Brut


Cuvée Thomas Jefferson can be obtained online from The Wine Club and Wine.com. To learn more about Gérard Bertrand Crémant de Limoux, visit the company’s website.


The Pursuit of Happy Birthday
Update 4/13/16:

Thomas Jefferson was born 273 years ago today. Since we at The Swoon Society like any excuse to uncork a fine bottle of bubbly, we’ll be celebrating Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happy Birthday by toasting our third President with a glass of his namesake sparkling wine. Join us, won’t you?



“Oh, fuuuudge…”

Author: Kirsten K., Dessert, Entertaining, Food, Food & Drink, Holidays, Recipes, Sweets

Fudge 1If you didn’t have the “presents” of mind to consult our Holiday G.I.F.T. Guide earlier, and now, with Christmas just days away, you’re empty-handed…or, you’ve been asked to bring something sweet for the holiday dessert table, but you still haven’t wrapped a single present, much less had time to bake…it’s O.K. to use the “F” word. No, not that one. The Queen Mother of delicious words. The “f-dash-dash-dash-DASH” word—fudge! As someone who enjoys giving and receiving gifts of homemade goodies from the kitchen, I’ve sampled and prepared my share of fudge recipes, but the best one I’ve tried also happens to be the easiest. The Five-Minute Fudge from My Sweet Vegan is not only vegan-friendly and gluten-free, it’s the richest, creamiest fudge you’ll ever taste.

Fudge 2

photo credit: Hannah Kaminsky

Unlike many fudge recipes that require a candy thermometer or become grainy if not cooked just right, this recipe is simple and virtually foolproof. Made with rich, thick coconut milk and powdered sugar in place of granulated sugar, the fudge comes out silky smooth every time. Whether nestled in tissue paper inside a decorative gift box, wrapped in cellophane as a stocking stuffer, or arranged on a platter and served to guests, this homemade fudge is a quintessential holiday treat that everyone will appreciate, including those with food allergies or dietary restrictions.

If you want to get creative, the recipe can easily be adapted for a number of variations. The original recipe is called Five-Minute Coconut Fudge and includes shredded coconut, in addition to coconut milk. At the holidays, peppermint extract and crushed candy canes can be substituted for a festive seasonal touch. I prefer the warm flavors of walnuts and vanilla, but the possibilities are as vast as your imagination. You can work in fudge the way other artists might work in oils or clay, producing original gifts in minutes that will be fondly remembered long after the last bites have been eaten…and that’s a Christmas story with a happy ending.

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FIVE-MINUTE FUDGE (adapted from My Sweet Vegan by Hannah Kaminsky)

Fudge 31 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips*
3½ cups confectioner’s sugar
½ cup Dutch process cocoa powder
2 Tbsp. dairy-free margarine†
½ cup regular canned coconut milk
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Lightly grease an 8×8-inch square baking pan. In a large bowl, combine the chocolate chips, sugar, and cocoa. Separately, place the margarine and coconut milk in a small saucepan and stir together over medium heat. Cook the mixture until the margarine has melted and bubbles just begin to break at the surface. Remove it from the stove and immediately pour over the chocolate mixture. Fudge 4Let everything sit for a couple of minutes, and then stir vigorously to melt the chocolate and incorporate the dry ingredients. Continue stirring until a completely smooth mixture forms. Mix in the vanilla and chopped walnuts and quickly pour everything into your prepared pan, smoothing out the top with a spatula. Let cool completely before cutting into squares. Makes 32 small squares.

*To make the recipe truly vegan, use a dairy-free brand like Enjoy Life.

†I prefer Earth Balance. For a soy-free option, try their Soy Free spread.


Fudge 5Variations:

To make the original coconut fudge, omit the walnuts. After pouring the fudge into the pan and smoothing the top, sprinkle one cup of flaked coconut evenly over the entire exposed surface. Press the coconut gently into the fudge with the palm of your hand and let cool.

To make peppermint fudge, add 1 teaspoon of peppermint extract with the vanilla extract and stir in 4 smashed candy canes. Omit the flaked coconut and top the fudge with the crumbs of 5 additional crushed candy canes instead.

Cider House Yules

Author: Kirsten K., Cold Drinks, Entertaining, Food & Drink, Holidays

Cider House YulesThe members of my family are not big drinkers, so our holiday table is always strewn with a selection of non-alcoholic beverages. Primary among these is sparkling apple cider, which is why, on a visit to Colonial Williamsburg a few years ago, I decided to purchase a bottle of their Chowning’s Tavern Mulled Sparkling Cider to try at Christmastime. It is, without question, the most festive and flavorful sparkling cider I’ve ever tasted!

The Williamsburg Marketplace also offers a traditional Virginia Sparkling Cider, but I like to order the mulled version for the holidays. Infused with spices like cinnamon and cloves, each sweet sip encapsulates the season with the nostalgic flavors of an old-fashioned Christmas. Adults and children alike will enjoy a cold, crisp glass amidst the warmth of holiday gatherings with family and friends. Serve it at your own seasonal get togethers, or give it as a host/hostess gift in place of the usual bottle of wine.

Yes, Santa Claus, there is a Virginia, and it makes a golden, delicious cider, so please stop to pick up a bottle—or a crate—on your annual flight next week, because I’ve been extra nice this year. Thanks a bushel!

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Chowning’s Tavern Mulled Sparkling Cider


I was dismayed this year to see that the Williamsburg Marketplace is not offering single bottles of the mulled cider for sale on its website. Since I don’t need a full case of 12 bottles, I contacted their customer service department and was told that single bottles are still available and can be ordered over the phone at (800) 446-9240 (Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST). Alternately, single bottles of the Virginia Sparkling Cider and Mulled Sparkling Cider can be purchased year-round from the Williamsburg Craft House by calling (757) 220-7747.

This Galette Is Plum Delicious

Author: Kirsti Kay, Dessert, Entertaining, Food, Food & Drink, Recipes, Sweets

Galette 1We at The Swoon Society like to eat and we love making food for friends. I made this fantastic plum galette for a dinner party last Saturday night. A galette is basically an open-faced pie where you pile the ingredients into the center of a pie crust and then fold the edges over the filling and—voilà—a quick, easy dessert that has so much damn rustic charm, your guests suspect you also churn your own butter.

When my husband Aaron proclaimed, “This is your best galette yet,” I knew I needed to share the love. Take it as your own, Swooners, and good luck with that butter churning.

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Galette 2PLUM GALETTE (adapted from Food & Wine magazine)


1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
¼ tsp salt
1/3 cup ice water

¼ cup plus 1/3 cup sugar
3 Tbsp ground almonds or almond meal (available at Trader Joe’s)
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 ½ lbs plums, halved, pitted and cut into ½ slices
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
½ jar apricot preserves, slightly warmed


Combine the 1 ½ cups flour, 1 ½ sticks of butter, and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times (resist the urge to pulse more!). Add the ice water and pulse a few more times. You should still see chunks of butter in the dough. Gather dough into a ball and roll out on a lightly floured surface into a 16×18-inch circle about 1/8” thick. Roll dough around a rolling pin and transfer to a large, flat cookie sheet. Chill 30 minutes in the freezer (you can also make the night before, cover with plastic wrap, and keep in the refrigerator). Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine ¼ cup of sugar with the ground almonds and flour and spread over the center of the pastry, leaving 2” around the edge. Arrange the plum slices in a decorative circular pattern, starting at the outside edge, and dot with the 3 small pieces of butter. Sprinkle all but 1 tsp of the 1/3 cup sugar over the plums. Gently fold the 2” edges of the pastry up over the fruit (if dough is too firm, let thaw about 10 minutes until pliable or it will break). Sprinkle the border with the remaining 1 tsp sugar.

Bake the galette on the middle rack in the oven for about an hour. The crust should be nicely browned. If any juice has leaked out onto the baking sheet, slide a knife under the galette to prevent it from sticking. Brush the apricot preserves over the fruit and crust. Let cool to room temperature and serve with freshly whipped cream, if desired.

Nice Bundts

Author: Kirsten K., Entertaining, Food, Food & Drink, Sweets

In our health- and weight-obsessed culture, I find it amusing how often people feel the need to tell me about the desserts that don’t tempt them. Either they’ll mention that they have no desire for sweets—in which case I know immediately that we can never be friends—or they’ll say, “I like ice cream, but I couldn’t care less about cookies.” Or, “I love fruit desserts, but I can walk away from chocolate.” (Also not a candidate for friendship.) The one I hear most often is, “I have no interest in cake,” to which I respond, “Hello? Frosting.”

Nice Bundts 1Notwithstanding the whipped cream version (a betrayal!)*, I swoon over frosting. Vanilla buttercream on lemon cake, cream cheese frosting on carrot cake, chocolate ganache on anything—yes, please! Judging by the mountains I’ve seen atop bakery cupcakes and the increasing availability of frosting shots, I’m not alone. I have a friend who’s a talented cake decorator. She considered pursuing it as a career when her children were young, but decided to abandon it altogether when her daughter began to demonstrate an unhealthy obsession with frosting. The struggle is real.

A few years ago, a franchise of Nothing Bundt Cakes opened near my house and I began to receive coupons in the mail for a free Bundtlet. While I enjoy a good play on words, I might have chosen a different name for the chain, like Mind if I Bundt In?, A Bundt in the Oven, or the title of this post. I also have a touch of arachnophobia, and the ropes of frosting cascading down the sides of their Bundtlets remind me of nothing so much as the legs of a spider gripping its prey. Eek! Still, I’m not one to turn down a free offer of generously frosted cake, so I set out to redeem my coupon.

Nice Bundts 2There are some gift items for sale in the shop, but when it comes to the baked goods, it’s like the sign says. Kirsti’s guiding principle is: “Do one thing, do it well.” The shop carries only Bundt cakes in various sizes: 8″ and 10″ cakes, Bundtlets (single serving), and Bundtinis (bite-sized). All have the same cream cheese frosting. They come in a handful of flavors, including Chocolate Chocolate Chip, Red Velvet, and Cinnamon Swirl, with a special flavor every couple of months, but that’s as complicated as things get. I handed over my coupon and departed with my Bundtlet, feeling slightly guilty about getting “Nothing” for nothing.

In retrospect, I shouldn’t have felt remorse, because it was clearly a well-thought-out plot to take my money. One bite of their signature frosting and I knew I was in trouble. The cake itself was quite good, baked to perfection and super m-word (I am forbidden from actually using that word on this blog, due to my co-swooner’s extreme aversion), but let’s be honest: cake is just a delivery system for frosting, and this frosting is superbly balanced in every way—soft and creamy, rich and buttery, sweet and tangy. I am gainfully employed and this shop is one mile from my house. You do the math (i.e. addition of pounds, subtraction of dollars).

Nice Bundts 3I regularly enjoy half a Bundtlet with my afternoon tea. The frosting-to-cake ratio is extremely satisfying, particularly if you let the cake reach room temperature so that the frosting becomes smooth and spreadable. Kirsti likes to offer a tray of Bundtinis on the dessert table when she’s having a party. Convenient and portable in their sturdy paper cups, they are just the right sweet bite to carry around as you mix and mingle. For my birthday a couple of years ago, I decided to invite people over for dessert, at which I served a 10″ Bundt cake. It was the best turnout I’ve had in years.

Visit the Nothing Bundt Cakes website to find a location near you and pop in for a sample. You can also follow them on Facebook or sign up on their website to receive updates about special promotions and coupons. Over time, this can save you a Bundtle—and that’s the icing on the cake.

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Nothing Bundt Cakes


*There are few things I can get more whipped up about than whipped cream frosting. If I don’t feel the grease on my lips, it isn’t frosting!