Taste & Tipple is 1! How my baby has grown.
I had long wanted to start a food blog and had no end of encouragement from friends and family. I loved to throw elaborate dinner/cocktail parties that featured challenging technical recipes or new cuisines. I was that girl at the restaurant hovering over her plate and that of her dining companions to get the perfect shot for Instagram.
Those things haven’t changed, I still love to throw elaborate parties and have been entertaining friends and family on a near constant rotation since I moved into my new condo. I still take photos of my food but more often with my DSLR.
I finally decided to take the leap of faith and actually launch the blog when I quit my job at Carleton University last September. I didn’t have a new job lined up, I just knew that I was unhappy and had to make a change. While I was job hunting, networking and interviewing, I put in the work to build this website and create my brand identity.
I followed the immensely helpful “How to Start a Food Blog” guide from one of my favourite food bloggers, Minimalist Baker. Their blogger resources are incredibly thorough and took the guesswork out of what to do and how to do it in a cost-effective fashion. I used 99designs to find an awesome designer to create my logo and brand identity.
If you haven’t heard of 99designs before, it’s a really cool site that lets you tap into a big pool of talented graphic designers. You set the parameters and budget for your project and designers will compete for the job. They submit designs, you provide feedback, narrow it down to a group of finalists and then pick a winner after final revisions.
I get a lot of compliments on my logo and brand identity and have to credit the designer, Design-Garden, for her brilliant work. I will definitely be calling on her again if I have any further design requirements.
At the time when I was developing the blog, it did feel a bit risky to be forking out cash for a domain, design services, props, etc. when I wasn’t working and didn’t have any new money coming in.
Luckily, I was able to land a new job within a matter of weeks and pay off my credit card.
I’ve learned so much over the past year and continue to grow each day. I’m looking forward to what the future holds and have some thoughts on how I’ll begin to monetize. I have been fortunate to have a couple of local businesses reach out to me asking if they could hire me for their food photography needs. I’m so grateful for the recognition and for the opportunity to hone my craft behind the camera.
One of the most fun and challenging components of every shoot is styling. I live in a condo and don’t have acres of storage to fill with different glassware/cutlery/plates and photo backdrops – so I have to make do with what I have room for.
It’s surprisingly difficult to achieve the balance between natural and staged. Try to scatter an array of candied pecans on a tray and have it not look contrived, it’s harder than you think.
One of the greatest sources of inspiration comes from other food photographers. The majority of my Instagram feed is populated by brilliant bloggers and food photographers who present endless eye-candy and #foodporn goals.
Antique shops, flea markets and estate sales are treasure troves for food props. I got this tea towel from an antique shop in Almonte last summer – it lists the gift for each wedding anniversary. The gift for a one year anniversary is cotton, in case you were wondering.
Local makers are also awesome resources. I got this adorable cake topper from the Confetti Events boots at the Etsy Made in Canada show a couple weeks ago.
Now, let’s talk about this cake. As you may have noticed, I’m partial to single-serve desserts over big cakes/pies. I live alone and, unless I’m entertaining, simply can’t eat 12 portions of cake. Thanksgiving and the one-year anniversary of the blog gave me a good excuse to deviate from my usual routine.
This is one of the most delicious cakes I’ve ever made. The batter is moist and dense thanks to pumpkin purée, ground pecans, brown sugar and buttermilk. There is just a touch of orange zest in the batter that adds a pop of citrus that refreshes the palate from the rich and buttery goodness elsewhere.
The icing is absolutely to die for. I’m sure the cream cheese icing on a carrot cake was always your favourite part – imagine that, but way better. The combination of brown butter and cream cheese is pure ambrosia. Candied pecans and top and between the layers adds a satisfying crunch.
If you make just one cake this fall, make it this one.
- ½ cup unsalted butter softened
- 1¼ cups packed light brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup fresh or canned pumpkin purée not pie filling
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1½ cups unbleached cake and pastry flour
- ½ cup ground toasted pecans
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp each ground ginger cinnamon and allspice
- 1 tsp orange zest
- cup buttermilk
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- 8 oz cream cheese softened
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 1¼ cup confectioner’s sugar
- 1 cup chopped candied pecans
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- 2 tbsp water
- 1 cup pecan pieces
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Grease sides of two 9-inch round metal cake pans; line bottoms with parchment paper. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat butter with sugar until light and fluffy; beat in eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each. Beat in pumpkin and vanilla until incorporated.
In a separate bowl, whisk flour, ground pecans, baking soda, baking powder, salt, ginger, cinnamon, allspice and orange zest. Stir into butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, making 3 additions of dry ingredients and 2 of wet. Scrape into pans; smooth. Bake in the centre of oven until a cake tester comes out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool in pans on rack for 10 minutes. Turn out onto racks; peel off paper. Invert; let cool.
For icing, in a large heavy skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the butter turns a golden brown, about 4 minutes. Pour into a bowl and let stand until the little bits sink to the bottom, about 5 minutes. Transfer to freezer and chill until firm, about 15 minutes. Scrape the top of the butter from the bits at the bottom; discard bits.
Transfer brown butter to bowl with the cream cheese and brown sugar. With an electric mixer beat until the brown sugar has dissolved, about 2 minutes. Gradually beat in confectioner’s sugar until incorporated and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.
To assemble the cake, brush any crumbs from cake layers. Place 1 layer, on cake plate. Spread with about 1 cup of the icing. Sprinkle evenly with ½ cup of the candied pecans. Top with remaining cake, top-side down. Spread entire cake with a scant cup of the icing to mask. Refrigerate until firm, 30 minutes. Spread cake with remaining icing and decorate with remaining pecans.
Combine all ingredients except the pecans in a skillet and cook over medium heat for roughly two minutes, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is bubbling.
Add the pecans and cook for an additional 3 minutes, stirring to coat the pecans in the glaze.
Remove from the heat, and spread the pecans out on parchment paper to let the pecans cool completely. Break apart and use!
Recipe adapted from: Young, Nicole. "Pumpkin Pecan Cake with Brown Butter Icing." Food & Drink. Autumn 2011.