Tuesday, November 26, 2013


1. “White Christmas” – While there are more than five Christmas carols written by Jewish songwriters, I thought I’d just cover my favorites, starting with not only the most famous Christmas song written in modern times, but according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the best-selling single of all-time.

Written by: Irving Berlin in 1940

Actually written by: Israel Isidore Baline (Irving’s real name)

Written while: seated poolside at the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa in Phoenix, Arizona (talk about your White Christmas)

Made famous by: Bing Crosby in the movie Holiday Inn 

Cool Irving Berlin fact: Refusing to make money off his deep-seated patriotism, Berlin donated all the royalties from “God Bless America” (just another little ditty he penned) to the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Campfire Girls.

2. “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer”

Written by: Johnny Marks in 1949

Based on: a poem/story penned by Marks’ brother-in-law, who invented Rudolph

Made famous by: Gene Autry, whose recording sold over 2 million copies in the first year alone.

Famous Rudolph mondegreen: “Olive, the other reindeer” (see our post on mondegreens if you don’t know what they are)
Cool Johnny Marks fact: He is the great-uncle of economist Steven Levitt, co-author of one of my favorite books of all time, Freakonomics.

3. “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”

Written by: composer Jule Styne in 1945 with lyrics by Sammy Cahn

Actually written by: Julius Kerwin Stein and Samuel Cohen (real names)

Made Famous by: Vaughn Monroe, hitting #1 on Billboard in ’46 

Interesting “Let it Snow” fact: the lyric never once mentions Christmas
Cool Jule Styne fact: he also wrote the music for the musicals Gypsy and Funny Girl

4. “Silver Bells”

Written by: Jay Livingston and Ray Evans in 1951

Actually written by: Jacob Harold Levison and Raymond Bernard Evans (real names)

Introduced by: Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell in the movie The Lemon Drop Kid
Made Famous by: Bing Crosby and Carol Richards 

Cool “Silver Bells” fact: the song was inspired by the silver bells of the Salvation Army bell ringers, thus making it one of the few Christmas carols about the city, as opposed to the usual rural countryside setting.

5. “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”

Written by: Albert Hague in 1966 (with words/lyrics by Dr. Seuss, of course)

Actually written by: Albert Marcuse, who was born in Berlin, but his family raised him Lutheran with the last name Hague in order to avoid the raging anti-Semitism in the 1920/30s (He got out of Europe just in time, landing in America in 1939)

Made Famous by: Thurl Arthur Ravenscroft, who made a name for himself singing and doing voice-overs for Disney (and Frosted Flakes!)

Curious Albert Hague fact:
 He was also an actor! You can see him in both the movie and TV series, Fame, playing the role of Shorofsky


Fabric Scrap Christmas Cards 

“Sending Christmas Cards!”…I just can’t seem to get that phrase out of my head from the infamous 12 Days of Christmas song!  Why you ask? I’ve been busy making Christmas cards from fabric scraps!  I got the idea from a recent Fresh Picked Friday’s post I published with similar Christmas cards using fabric scraps…Since I have a bajillion pieces of fabric scraps, I knew this was one project I had to try.  I decided to make reindeer faces out of different fun prints, then draw on the reindeer’s features.  This was such a fun project, and it saved me from having to spend a lot on Christmas cards too!  Here’s how my fabric scrap Christmas cards turned out…
I just love how each card is unique and one-of-a-kind! Plus, I ended up personalizing the cards a bit depending on who I was sending them too; for example, my friends with new babies received a card with two big reindeer and a little baby reindeer =)
These DIY Christmas cards were super easy to make.  First, I picked up some blank card stock with envelopes for $5 at Target (I love that place!)
Then,I started out by cutting pieces of fabric into these round shapes for the reindeer’s head.  I simply cut a wide round bottom, then a small round top like this…
Next, I used a few light swirls of Elmer’s Glue to attach the fabric to my blank card stock…
For this next step, I used fabric paint “pens”, but you could use regular paint, or even markers for a similar effect.
Using my fabric paint pens, I drew the antlers, eyes, and smiles onto my reindeer. You can be creative with this step and have fun with creating different personalities for your reindeer =)
Next, I used a red fabric paint pen to draw the big red noses on my reindeer…this is what really makes them ;)
Now all you have left is to wait for the cards to dry, then personalize each one with a message on the back side!  Who would’nt love to receive one of these handmade Christmas cards?!  I know I would ;)


This recipe was found at www.foodpluswords.com .  Another over the top dessert!

Black Velvet Layer Cake

look at this cake!
isn’t it sinister? isn’t is spooky? don’t you just want to eat the whole thing in one sitting?
i honestly can’t think of a more perfect cake for halloween. black velvet cake! with chocolate marshmallow frosting, no less!

black velvet: it’s not just a name for a horse anymore! or kitschy paintings of kittens! or a ridiculous, cheesy ’80′s song!
wait. the horse was black beauty, not black velvet. just kidding.
also, that song is stuck in my head now. go listen to it. it’s ridiculous.

alright, let’s talk about this cake. aside from the fact that it’s uber-black (totally metal!), it’s also effing delicious. italics for emphasis and seriousness. it’s that good.
most scrumptious version of red velvet cake i’ve ever made. true story. you know how sometimes red velvet cakes are super-gorgeous to look at, but once you take a bite you realize it’s just a good-looking heap of dry crumbs?
not this cake. it’s got beauty and brains! well, good looks and a moist crumb, rather. same difference, really.

wouldn’t this layer cake make a lovely centerpiece for a halloween party? especially if you light the sparkler right before you cut and serve it. drama! anticipation! sparkly flames! what’s not to like?
theatrics: people love ‘em. give the people what they want.

i’m pretty sure you would do a better job frosting this cake than i did. my frosting skills aren’t the best, and my cake layer leveling skills are downright laughable! thankfully i can make a damn tasty cake, so people are pretty forgiving when i serve them an off-kilter cake that’s completely covered in sprinkles.

i love this black velvet cake! i really do. it’s simple to make, the unfrosted cake layers freeze beautifully, and the flavor is absolutely pitch-perfect. top it off with deeply chocolate, fluffy marshmallow icing? i’m swooning. hold me!
seriously though, i want this cake to be my life partner. i want to marry it. don’t tell my fiance.

a word of caution: this cake will absolutely turn your mouth black. no joke. totally worth it, i promise.
i don’t mean to be bossy, but make this cake. make a gorgeous layer cake. make cupcakes. make mini cupcakes. whatever you do, just make this cake!
it’s really quite a spooktacular dessert.


Black Velvet Layer Cake

Yield: one four layer cake
Prep Time: 15 minutes


Black Velvet Cake

2 1/4 cups cake flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened coca powder (not Dutch process!)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla bean paste (substitute an equal amount of pure vanilla extract for the paste!)
3 tablespoons freshly brewed coffee, at room temperature
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup half & half
1-2 tablespoons black food coloring (depends on how dark you'd like your cake to be!)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar 

Chocolate Marshmallow Frosting

one 7-ounce jar marshmallow creme (also known as fluff!)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2-3 tablespoons heavy cream, depending on how thick you'd like your frosting to be
black food coloring (you can find this at your grocery store in the baking aisle! and how much you use depends on how dark you'd like your frosting...i used about 2 tablespoons to get a very dark charcoal gray/black frosting!)
sprinkles or nonpareils, for decorating (optional)


 Black Velvet Cake

preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, with a rack in the center.
butter and flour two 6" round cake pans and set aside.
sift the cake flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt into a small bowl and set aside.
in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment fitted on, combine the butter and sugar.
cream on medium speed for 2-3 minutes until pale in color and fluffy.
scrape down the sides of the bowl. with the mixer on medium-low, add the eggs one at a time until incorporated.
add the vanilla and coffee, and mix on medium speed until combined.
combine the buttermilk and vanilla in a small bowl or glass.
with the mixer on low, beat in the dry ingredients in 4 additions alternately with the buttermilk liquid mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.
once all the ingredients are combined, turn the mixer off and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
with the mixer on low, add the black food coloring a little at a time until the desired shade of black is achieved.
in a small bowl, combine the baking soda and vinegar. it's going to fizz up a bit, so be prepared!
with the mixer on medium, immediately add the baking soda/vinegar mixture to the bowl and beat for 10 seconds.
turn the mixer off and deposit the cake batter evenly between the cake pans. there might be a bit left over, so make some cupcakes while you're at it!
bake at 350 degrees F for 20-30 minutes for the cake layers, and 18-24 minutes for the cupcakes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake/cupcake comes out clean.
remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then carefully remove the cakes/cupcakes from their pans and cool completely on a wire rack.
once the cake layers are completely cool, you can frost and assemble your cake. you can also wrap each layer well with plastic wrap, then a layer of aluminum foil, and store in a freezer-safe plastic zip-top back for up to three months.
to thaw a frozen cake, simply remove it from the freezer and transfer to the fridge to thaw overnight.

 Chocolate Marshmallow Frosting

using a spatula, scoop the marshmallow creme out of its' container and into a large bowl.
add the unsalted butter, confectioners' sugar, melted chocolate, and vanilla extract.
mix with the spatula until all ingredients are well combined.
add the heavy cream, a tablespoon at a time until your frosting is a smooth, spreadable consistency. you don't want it to be runny, just smooth and easy to spread!
assembling the layer cake
using a serrated knife, trim the domed part of the cooled cake layers off. cut each layer in half so you have four even layers.
dab a quarter-sized amount of frosting in the center of a cardboard cake round. if you don't have a cake round, you can trim a paper plate to be slightly smaller than the cake layers and use that instead.
place one layer onto the cake round, pressing down gently.
deposit approximately 3 tablespoons of frosting onto the layer and using an offset spatula or butterknife, spread the frosting onto the cake layer in an even layer. try to leave about 1/4" border around the edge of the layer.
stack another layer on, making sure the layers are lined up and even.
repeat with the frosting and stacking until all four layers are stacked together.
add about 1/4-1/2 cup of frosting to the center of the top layer and smooth it out over the top and onto the sides of the cake.
the marshmallow frosting is pretty thick, so you might be able to get away with not doing a crumb coat, especially if you plan on covering the sides of the cake with sprinkles like i did!
smooth the frosting over the cake as evenly as you can. the top and sides should be relatively smooth!
decorate the cake however you'd like, and place in the fridge for about 30 minutes to allow the cake to firm up.
serve and enjoy!
the frosted cake will keep, stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days. just take it out about 15-20 minutes before serving!