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Delicious Bites: Spiced Pumpkin + Maple Cream Cheese Layer Cake

Are you ready to learn how to make a Spiced Pumpkin + Maple Cream Cheese Layer Cake for my special Thanksgiving edition of Delicious Bites? Hi, it’s me Jillian and around this time last year I spent a few weeks in Quebec and New York, arriving just before Thanksgiving. I found beautiful fall leaves; pumpkins were in abundance at the markets and my hotel served delicious steaming cups of hot apple cider in the lobby. I love all things pumpkin and I love apple cider so I was in heaven. Even though we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here in Australia, in my mind’s eye I have visions of a Martha Stewart-style spread complete with gleaming roast turkey followed by fresh-from-the-oven pumpkin pie. I’m sure you already have your own favorite recipe for pumpkin pie so instead I’ve come up with a pumpkin pie inspired layer cake with maple flavored cream cheese icing. Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving dessert?


The cake is based on a classic carrot cake recipe using browned butter and grated pumpkin for flavor and texture. Pumpkin tends to be used for savory dishes in Australia so tinned pumpkin puree can be hard to find. If you like, you can use pumpkin puree instead of the grated pumpkin and although the texture will be different it tastes just as good. Just hold back on the buttermilk though, as pumpkin puree is much more liquid than grated pumpkin.


Pumpkin puree is easy to make if you’d like to make your own. Just take a generous wedge of pumpkin; my favorite kind is Kent which you may know as kabocha and I also like butternut. Remove the seeds from the pumpkin but leave the skin on; wrap the pumpkin in foil and place it on a baking tray. Bake at 400°F/200°C for 45 minutes to an hour until the pumpkin is soft. When the pumpkin is cool, unwrap it from the tin foil and scrape the flesh from the skin and blend it using a stick blender or food processor. This is one of those cakes that takes a while to prepare but is a snap to put together. You combine the dry ingredients with the liquid ingredients, pour into a tin and bake. What could be simpler than that?


Once the cake has cooled and sliced horizontally into 2 even layers it’s time to ice it with some maple flavored cream cheese icing. I kept the decoration simple with this lovely bunting from Paper Boat Press.


Here’s the recipe for you -

1 1/4 cups self raising flour
1/2  tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp each ground cinnamon, ginger & nutmeg
125g (4 oz) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (110g) caster sugar
1/4 cup (40g) brown sugar, lightly packed
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/4 cup buttermilk
50g dried dates, roughly chopped
50g pecan nuts, roughly chopped
1 cup peeled, grated pumpkin or pumpkin puree

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Line the base of a 20 cm (8 inch) cake tin with baking paper and then grease and flour the sides. Sift the flour with the bicarbonate of soda and spices into a large bowl and set to one side. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally until the butter turns a nutty golden-brown. Pour the browned butter into a medium size bowl and let stand until cool but not set, about 15 minutes, before mixing in the caster sugar, the brown sugar, the eggs, the vanilla and buttermilk. Stir until well combined. Add the buttermilk mixture, the dates and nuts into the flour mixture and mix well. Add the pumpkin and combine until well mixed. Add a little extra milk if the mixture looks too dry. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan and bake on the centre shelf of the oven at 180°C/350°F (conventional) for 45 minutes. Cook until the centre of cake is firm and the top golden brown. Cool for 10 minutes before turning the cake out onto a wire rack. When completely cool, slice the cake horizontally into 2 layers.

Cream Cheese Icing
125 g (4 oz) unsalted butter
250 g (8 oz) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
2 cups icing (confectioners) sugar
1 tsp maple extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

In a small bowl cream the butter, cream cheese and extracts until thick and creamy. Add the 2 sugars and mix to form a creamy icing.

Assembling the cake
Put one cake layer on a cake plate. Spread 1/2 the icing on the layer. Top with the second layer then ice the top the cake with the remaining icing. Decorate as desired. Refrigerate the cake. Before serving allow the cake to come to room temperature for maximum flavor. Cut into generous slices and enjoy a little taste of Thanksgiving on a plate. Delish!


Happy Thanksgiving everyone! See you all again next month with a special Christmas themed Delicious Bites treat for you! – Jillian

(text/images: jillian leiboff)

Posted in Delicious Bites on November 14, 2013

Colorful Artwork of Ana Montiel

The artwork of London-based, Spanish visual artist and designer Ana Montiel takes me to a happy place today. The first two works were part of a show at the Pop up Galerie recently in Paris. Artists were invited to choose an album cover and revisit it for the show. Ana combines her passion for flowers with a favorite album, New Order’s iconic “Power Corruption and Lies”. About this project she says, “I love the album, the original Fantin-Latour still life and the Peter Saville album design. I originally made the drawing with watercolour and sumi-e ink to then translate it to a 3 ink composition ready to be screen printed.” The album is shown below the first two paintings below. Lovely, right? By the way, I know we’re heading into Christmas but I’m really into yellows and greens lately. Crazy!




I really like seeing work like this because I’m a music lover and actually miss the care that I feel once went into album covers. It seems thoughtful covers are a dying art these days, at least in mainstream music. In fact, the last more mainstream album art that I got excited about was Keane’s, “Under the Iron Sea“. I must confess though, my ultimate favorite record cover was from The Smiths, This Charming Man, which I have framed on my wall at home. I love the image showing Jean Marais from Cocteau’s film Orpheus.

Below you can see more stunning watercolors by Ana for the ultimate eye candy escape today. You can also learn more about Ana here (I love her bangs!) and watch this charming video about her life and work. What an interesting woman! I especially enjoyed seeing her paint and hearing her thoughts about, “Living in the NOW”, which I feel are so important. Some of her clients include Anthropologie, Carolina Herrera, Jo Malone, Nina Ricci and Rolling Stone Magazine to name a few.








Lucky for us, she has an online shop where you can purchase lots of these paintings as prints to frame. Aren’t these pretty?

By the way, do you have a favorite album cover? I’d love to know more!

(images: Ana Montiel)

Posted in Arts + Crafts on November 12, 2013

Currently Crushing On…

Good morning everyone and welcome to another week of inspiration and joy! I thought I’d round up a few interiors and notes from my style files lately so you can see what I’m inspired by at the moment. Some things are rather random and have more to do with non-decor stuff, which may seem funny but so many of these ideas generally cross over to interiors eventually for me. Perhaps a few of my notes will inspire your next decorating project! While looking through my notes below, you simply must listen to this mega sweet song, “Subtle (feat. Mikky Ekko)” from Active Child.


A yellow framed window – love! By stylist Tina Hellberg who is represented by Söderberg Agentur.


Okay, another one from Mokkasin but I can’t help myself, this over-scale floral wallpaper by Mr Perswall that she installed on a single wall in her home BLEW MY MIND.


Push Pop confetti from Umba. Just because. And for New Year’s from my new balcony! Also, the colors make me happy. Imagine filling a present with confetti mixed in with tissue paper. What a treat for the recipient!


Always will be inspired by big, gorgeous shelves filled with kitchen things. This is from a favorite blogger of mine, Mokkasin.

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I also LOVE the color palette in this moody floral shot taken by Mokkasin. Such a great palette for a room, don’t you think?


Pale green walls above staircase, floral wallpaper below. Yum. (Lovely Life)


Black countertops, mint tiles. (Lovely Life)


Multiple strips of wallpaper – fab! (Lovely Life)


This home (4 images above) in Sweden from Lovely Life. Oh my, a bevy of decor ideas. Love the green doors and this gorgeous geometric tilework.


I really like the home of my friend, Berit, from Snug Studio, who is a new mom and has the sweetest apartment nearby to me. I like this pendant that she created and hung above her dining room table.


I love this gray/brown script in this Home Beautiful Australia article snapped by the Sweet Style blog. Not only does it look so warm and inviting this time of year for a magazine spread, but it’s also a paint color I imagine to be quite gorgeous on my living room wall!

blogged Nov 11

Wooden walls, a running shelf around a room (love) and copper pendants as seen in Elle Dekoration DK, shot by Line Klein. Stylist : Mille Collin Flaherty. Home of Tanja Vibe.


Working by a window (what my goal is for my next apartment – I’ll show you once I move in). Seen in Elle Dekoration DK, shot by Line Klein. Stylist : Mille Collin Flaherty. Home of Tanja Vibe.

blogged Nov 11

I know every blogger has one, but I still want a Moroccan Beni Ouarain rug like this. I wish I had taken a vintage one home with me when I was in Marrakesh visiting Maryam back a few years ago – I came THISCLOSE too. Ugh. Photo: House & Hold.


Fresh flowers. I can’t get enough. Beautiful mix shown above by Willow & Jade.


Half painted walls by VTWonen.


And more partially painted walls from Farrow & Ball. Only this time, from the top down. Love the green door, too.

What’s inspiring you at the moment?

(image sources appear directly under photos shown above.)

Posted in inspiration on November 11, 2013

Old Furniture, New Life

I was so happy when I came across a lovely article in Boston Magazine today featuring the New Hampshire summer home of my friend and interior designer, Fernanda Bourlet, from Simplemente Blanco. You have to click here to read and see the many photos of her white-washed interiors, but a favorite photo had to be shared below… And in a moment I’ll tell you why I love it so much.


Why I love it: Okay, aside from the fact that it’s white and I love a few white pieces of wooden furniture in my home… I really like that the piece is old and was painted to give it a fresh, new life. I imagine it was once very dark brown and for me, it wouldn’t be the same piece and would look a bit granny in brown. But in white, it looks current and fresh and fits perfectly in Fernanda’s country farmhouse. I like the combination of both straight and curvy lines along with the glass front so one can show off prized treasures inside… The rugged leather suitcase on top and the dainty vintage lamp top it off so nicely – understated yet charming. And the birch in the corner, how lovely is that? Here’s another great example from Fernanda’s home…


I know lots of people see cabinets painted white and right away think Shabby Chic or Country Style but I look at them and think of how unique these pieces can become when given a few coats of paint. For instance, imagine this in glossy black? Or lacquered canary yellow? Maybe a matte gray? There are so many options, you could even wallpaper the interior of the glass cabinet for a little ka-pow! While I wouldn’t paint a prized antique – most of the stuff I see that’s been painted and/or restored genuinely needed love and new paint saved them from abandonment in the attic.

Now that I’m moving, all I can think about is changing up my interiors, painting walls and furniture, and making everything more interesting. I badly needed to freshen my space and purge of stuff I’d grown tired of so moving gives me the perfect chance to do precisely that. And though I sprained my ankle last night (great timing, right?) and will be limping around for 6-8 weeks, and my baby is due in 11 weeks, I’m surprisingly optimistic and excited about this move. The wood flooring will be installed this week – so things are moving along. I honestly can’t wait – I keep going upstairs (we have the keys now) to look around and measure and just BE in the space so it slowly becomes more familiar to me. It’s such a luxury to have this property while we still live two floors down – so we have several weeks to get everything together. With winter coming, and the Christmas markets beginning here November 25th, I have to stick to my spreadsheet and keep ticking things off because it’s so easy to get distracted by the holidays and the many fests here. And my mom will be visiting for a few months after our son is born, so I also have to prep the guest bedroom for her! Busy times people. Let’s hope I can manage all of this!

Do you have a piece of furniture that you’ve painted and given new life too? Please share a photo and tell us what you did in the comments section below. I’d love to peek!

(images: Nat Rea for boston magazine)

Posted in uncategorized on November 10, 2013


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