The Sweet Potato Cake

When I was in college, I used to love going to a restaurant called Brickstreet Cafe on Augusta Street in Greenville, SC. The food was great, but the cakes and pastries they served were divine.

Enter: my obsession with sweet potato cake. It may sound crazy — but you have to trust me. This is the best thing you’ll ever eat. It took me several years to perfect this recipe, but I have to say — I think I’ve got it down.



for the cake:

2 boxes yellow cake mix

6 eggs



2 sweet potatoes



3 9-inch round pans (greased)

plastic wrap

for the icing

2 8-oz packages cream cheese

1 stick butter

2 lbs. powdered sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

1.5 cups toasted pecans


  1. Pre-heat oven to 350. Poke sweet potatoes with fork to create vents in the skin. On foil-lined cookie sheets, bake both sweet potatoes until the flesh is soft, about 1- 2 hours. When they’re done, pull them out of the oven and let them cool for at least 10 minutes.

  2. Follow the cake mix instructions on the boxes, using a hand-mixer to create a massive bowl of cake batter (Normally, that means mixing in 6 eggs, 2 cups of water, and some butter, but just follow the directions.)

  3. Add 1.5 cups of the sweet potato flesh into the cake batter, mixing gently with the hand mixer.

  4. Add cinnamon and nutmeg to the batter to taste — normally I add about 2 teaspoons of each.

  5. Fill the batter into three greased round cake pans, and bake for 20-25 minutes (follow instructions on box) When the cake is lightly browned on top, pull out of the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. (Cooling is essential so you don’t break the cake when you flip it out of the pan.)

  6. Set three separate sheets of plastic wrap on your counter. Using a paring knife, carefully slide it around the edges of the cake pan to help loosen the layer of cake. In one swift motion, turn the pan over onto the plastic wrap. Wrap each layer in a separate plastic wrap, and freeze ( at least 1 hr, overnight if possible.)

  7. Mix the first four ingredients of the icing together with a hand-mixer. Fold in the pecans.

  8. Spoon a small bit of icing into the center of a cake stand. Unwrap the first frozen layer of cake and put it on the dollop of icing, securing it onto the cake stand. Smooth a layer of icing over the first layer of cake. Repeat with the next two layers.

  9. To ice the sides of the cake, work from the top down. If any drips of the cake stand, use a damp paper towel to wipe it up.

  10. Voila! Wait 30 minutes for the cake to continue to defrost, then enjoy!

Music City Ate. A lot.

This weekend, Nashville hosted a food and wine event called Music City Eats. And boy, did I.


I wrote a preview piece about the festival for Forbes. And thanks to the beauty of the "press pass," I actually got to attend!

(SIDE NOTE: There's no way I would have been able to afford the $500 all-access pass on my own. I'm sure we'll never know about actual ticket sales, but if the festival happens again next year, I hope it will be at a slightly lower price point, so that more people can partake.)

Under white tents armed with red wine, I had the privilege of tasting Roderick Bailey's tender pork shoulder; Sarah Gavigan's savory Japanese pancake; Josh Habiger and Erik Anderson's rendition of "eggs" and bacon, and Hattie B's throat-singeing hot chicken. The entire weekend was one delicious indulgence.

And I can't forget to mention Arnold Myint's Banh Mi. Good gracious.

IMG_1539While most people milled between the interior tents tasting and drinking, there were "demos" and panels happening in larger tents around the perimeter.

In the demo tent, an angled mirror and jumbo-tron displayed the chef's hands at work. In one demonstration, acclaimed chef Jonathan Waxman (pictured in purple below) butchered a duck, turkey, and a chicken with ease.

During the panels, the talent explored various topics, like Bourbon or Moonshine? or How do you Q? During the Southern Food Lore panel, Tandy Wilson scolded our generation for culinary laziness. And in What Would You Serve?, Jonathan Waxman discussed musician's favorite late-night snacks. Someone mentioned Velveeta. IMG_1552I'll be honest. There were parts I didn't love. Anytime you charge $500 for tickets and tout a long list of celebrities, some people (read: me) are going to feel awkward and out of place. At times, it wasn't just indulgent—it was grandiose. But maybe that was the point.

I also felt the event was missing a few of Nashville's most talented chefs. Sarah Souther at Bang! Candy, Scott Witherow with Olive & Sinclair, Evie Coates with Twelve at the Table, just to name a few.

But don't get me wrong. There were parts I loved, too.

High on the list? Meeting Dana Cowin—the editor-in-chief of Food and Wine Magazine—and realizing she is just as kind and thoughtful in person as she seems on television. Catching up with Jeni Britton Bauer, and learning that she offers a sabbatical to every employee who has been with her ice cream company for at least three years. Stopping by Roderick Bailey's tent, and marveling at how he's remained so humble amidst a spectacular year of hard-earned success.

But my favorite part was seeing local chefs that I admire have a place to display their incredible talent. They work so hard, and so often behind the scenes—and they deserved every bit of attention that Music City Eats provided.

And to have an event of that caliber right in Nashville's backyard felt surreal! Wasn't it just a few years ago that if you wanted a good burger and didn't want McDonalds, your only option was a sushi restaurant? (Disclaimer: PM's burger is still one of the best in town.) But I digress.

Food and Wine Magazine sponsored it; a large event company called C3 Events produced it; and Caleb and Nathan Followill devised it—and if you ask me... Music City Eats was a huge success.

Here's hoping for another taste in 2014!

His and Hers Bourbon Recipes

If you're just tuning in...the Gibson's just finished a big fat kitchen renovation. So naturally, we've been hanging out in our new kitchen making delicious recipes and meticulously cleaning everything. (Because it will always stay as clean as the day we finished the renovation... right?) And speaking of recipes, we've been stirring up a few new cocktail recipes, too. A year or so ago, we turned our old hutch into a bar, and recently it's been filled with the Gibson's favorite spirit: bourbon. Our favorite local mash is Belle Meade Bourbon (obviously... because Charlie and Andy's story is so rad). But when we branch out into Kentucky—we've been enjoying a different variety: Bulleit Bourbon.

bulleit bourbon

But when using Bourbon... we've got "his" and "hers" standbys. Special thanks to the folks over at Bulleit for helping us craft a few good recipes!


The Old, Old Fashioned. (None of that bacon-infused business.)

  • 2-3 dashes of orange bitters
  • 1 tsp water
  • 1 oz simple syrup
  • 3 oz Bulleit Bourbon
  • 1 twist orange

Directions: Muddle bitters with simple syrup. Add ice. Stir. Then add bourbon and water. Garnish with orange slice. Sip responsibly.


The Mint Julep

  • 1 1/3 oz. Bulleit Rye
  • 1 ½-2 oz. Simple Syrup
  • Fresh mint leaves

Preparation: Muddle mint leaves, simple syrup and crushed ice in rocks glass. Add Bulleit Rye and fill glass with ice. Pour into cocktail shaker, shake vigorously and serve in rocks glass with fresh mint garnish. Yum.

So there you have it folks. Our favorite sips. We even ordered one of these prints from Bearings for our kitchen (more on that later) because whiskey has become our favorite. Do you have any favorite bourbon drinks?

TN Brew Works + Beer School Blog

A few months ago my friend, Scott Greenwood sent me an e-mail with one single line of text. "Claire," he wrote, "You need to write something about this new brewery, TN Brew Works." So after meeting the founders of TN Brew Works, Christian Spears and Garr Schwartz, it didn't take long for me to realize that Scott was right. This weekend, Garr and Christian stopped by our porch with a few growlers of their newest brews. And while I'm no beer buff, Brian Thiele and Josh Lauritch of the Beer School Blog offered to help navigate the way through the tasting.


To fill you in on the back story, Garr grew up in Nashville, but lived in New York City for ten years working for Lehman Brothers with his friend and co-worker, Christian. For years, Garr moonlighted as a home brewer, and Christian was his favorite test taster. After years of the daily grind, Garr and Christian made a huge leap—they left the world of finance and devoted themselves to the art of beer, aiming to open a craft brewery in Garr's home town (a much more affordable alternative to NYC) as soon as possible.


When they stopped by the porch, it became deliciously clear that Garr treats beer the way Evie Coates treats food. He knows it's special. He knows it's more than just hops, yeast and sugar. In fact, he makes sure of it. He explained that beer is really a lot more like wine than it's usually treated in the United States. It's meant to be enjoyed with food; it's meant to be sipped around a table—not sloshed on a fraternity floor. They brought perfectly curved glasses, encouraged us to swirl, sniff, and taste carefully.

My absolute favorite was the "Basil Ryeman," a smooth brew with hints of basil—it was so delicious, you could hear "wow's" all around the table. I immediately imagined sipping it with Italian food, or my favorite herb-crusted pork. But don't just take it from me. Make sure to check out Beer School Blog over the next week or so, for their favorites too! Even though I love a good beer, Brian and Josh know a whole lot more than I ever will.

Check out a few more photos of the tasting...

IMG_2337Christian and Josh



IMG_2372Brian Thiele knows beer.  Here he is, trying to put words on the good things he's tasting.



Though Garr still ferments his creations in the guest bedroom of his home in Franklin, a brick-and-mortar brewery is well on the way. They expect to open this summer—and I for one can't wait! TN Brew Works will be located on Ewing Avenue, just a stone's throw away from Jackelope and Yazoo. Brewer's row anyone?

Thanks so much fellas! Can't wait for the rest of Nashville to fall in love with your beer!


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