I’ll come right out and say that this is the most difficult post I’ve ever tried to write. There’s an ice-breaker for you… In writing this post, my first official entry for Foodbuzz’s Project Food Blog, I’ve been mulling over what to write for over 3 weeks. And though it is the evening before the final day for submissions of the first challenge, one could say that I was procrastinating.
But it’s more than that.
It’s about finding the right words. I’ve started and restarted writing this very post 3 times. It just never seemed right. Until today. But before I get to today, let me take you back in time to how I got my start as a food blogger.
Shortly after I got married almost 4 years ago, I found a home amongst newlywed foodies on a message board housed within a now well-known website called The Nest. We talked about food and life all the time. It was a blissful community. Influenced by the likes of Smitten Kitchen and Culinary Concoctions by Peabody (who was and still is a contributor to the message board), we each started our own food blogs and in April 2007, Smells Like Home was born (under the original name, The Cooking Fiend). Start-up was a slow process but having the support of my newlywed foodie community was the sole driving factor for learning and growing as a food blogger.
Smells Like Home soon starting taking on a different feel for me. It became more of a way to connect with others through food experiences and less about cataloging my own cooking and baking successes and failures. As time went on and food blogging became more popular, it became apparent that another community was forming before my eyes: food bloggers.
As food blogging grew, groups like Daring Bakers emerged; new communities themselves within the food blogging community. These groups intrigued me. I joined Tuesdays with Dorie in its earliest days and soon found that I loved being part of a group blogging towards a common goal. In May 2008, I decided to branch out and form my own group, a community of food bloggers called the Barefoot Bloggers, with the goal of cooking and baking through Ina Garten’s (FoodNetwork’s Barefoot Contessa) cookbooks. Running a group like this hasn’t been easy but I have met some outstanding and inspirational bloggers through this group, like Rebecca of Ezra Pound Cake, who stepped up with an offer to help me keep the group running smoothly. Who does that? She barely knew me.
But that’s what food bloggers do. It’s what strong communities do. I have been an active member of this amazing food blogging community and have been a community-builder and these roles are what define me as a food blogger. My first real-life experience with food bloggers was at the intimate Big Summer Potluck workshop in August. BSP was originally designed as a food blogging event for East Coasters but grew to 40 incredibly talented food bloggers, cookbook authors, and food stylists from all over the country…and it was the first time I truly felt the impact of the food blogging community.
The second time I was struck by this feeling was just today when I attended Cupcake Camp New Haven after hustling around my tiny kitchen the past 2 days baking up 6 dozen cupcakes to bring as an amateur baker. 2000 cupcakes and a delicious afternoon with a community of cupcake bakers; many pro, some home bakers, and probably a few bloggers like me though so many people attended that it was difficult to visit every baker. Though this event wasn’t food blog-driven, it got me to seriously think how a group of people, both online and in real life, can come together with a common goal and instantaneously connect on a level that most new acquaintances aren’t able to connect on. And while there was a contest for prettiest and best cupcakes, this event, very much like Big Summer Potluck, wasn’t about the competition. It was about the community. It was about meeting new people, networking, connecting, supporting. This concept is paramount in the food blogging world.
So as I write this post, I also bring you the chance to check out another recipe from Project Pastry Queen, a new community of food bloggers and non-food bloggers sharing the love of The Pastry Queen cookbook. This 7th Heaven Chocolate Truffle Cake kicked my butt. It was, however, one of the the best cakes I’ve ever made. All 462 cubic inches of it. This was a massive cake that challenged my ability and confidence as a baker like no other cake has. And the result was 12 layers of decadent chocolate cake and truffle filling that knocked the socks off of everyone who tried it. If it weren’t for being a part of the the PPQ community and having the support that goes along with a blogging group such as this one, I never would have attempted to push the limit of my skills. Be sure to check out the PPQ blog for links to results on the other members’ blogs and head over to Sarah’s 20something cupcakes blog for the recipe.
In the 3+ years that I’ve been food blogging, I’ve grown as a cook, a baker, a blogger, a person, and a community member. And it’s the community that makes me the food blogger that I am today. To that end, I have what it takes to be the next food blog star. I blog to share recipes. To share stories about successes, failures, and experiences. But what sets my blog apart from other food blogs is that Smells Like Home isn’t about the glory or the thrill of competition. It’s about the ability to connect with others and help build this ever-growing and inspirational community.
For the cake layers:
- 2 ⅓ cups cake flour
- 1 ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp table salt
- 1 oz unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 ⅓ cups light brown sugar, firmly packed
- 3 large eggs
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 cup boiling water
For the ganache frosting:
- 24 oz bittersweet chocolate (70% or 72% cacao), finely chopped
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 8 pieces
- 2 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- ¼ cup light corn syrup
For the truffle filling:
- 8 oz semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 3 oz unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream
- 6 large egg yolks
- ⅔ cup powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp Grand Marnier orange liqueur (optional)
- To make the cake: Preheat oven to 350° F. Arrange 2 oven racks in the upper and lower third positions of the oven. Line 2 12x17-inch baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats and coat with non-stick baking spray. Set the pans aside.
- Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.
- Place the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl and microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring between each one, until the chocolate is completely smooth.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
- Add in the eggs one at a time, beating for 30 seconds at medium speed after each addition, and scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Mix in the melted chocolate and vanilla until fully incorporated.
- With the mixer on low, stir in the flour mixture and sour cream in 5 alternating additions starting and ending with the flour, beating each one at medium speed for 20 seconds. With the mixer on low, slowly pour in the boiling water and slowly turn the mixer up to medium until the water is completely incorporated, about 30 seconds.
- Pour the batter in a large measuring cup and then pour half of the batter into each of the prepared baking sheets. (Alternatively, you can use a kitchne scale to weigh the batter in the pans to ensure they are equal.)
- Bake for 7 to 12 minutes, until the center of cake is springy when lightly touched and a toothpick comes out clean from the middle of the cake. Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and allow the cakes to cool for at least 30 minutes.
- To make the ganache: Place the chocolate and butter pieces in a medium heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the cream over medium heat just until it begins to form tiny bubbles around the edge of the pan and it starts to steam. Immediately pour the cream over the chocolate and butter and let it sit for 2 minutes. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted. Mix in the vanilla extract and corn syrup until the chocolate is smooth and glossy. Allow the ganache mixture to sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours. Do not refrigerate it to speed up the process or it will become too hard.
- To make the truffle filling: Add both chocolates, the butter, and the cream to a medium heatproof bowl and microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring between each one, until the chocolate is completely smooth and all are fully incorporated. Allow the mixture to cool completely.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg yolks at high speed for 5 minutes, until thick, glossy, and light in color. Add in the chocolate-butter-cream mixture and beat on medium-high for 1 minute. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and Grand Marnier (if using) and whip on medium speed just until incorporated.
- To assemble: Place a layer of wax paper over the top of each of the cooled cakes and invert the cakes onto a work surface. Cut each cake into three long 4-inch wide pieces (you'll cut the cake from short end to short end in 3 long pieces).
- Place 1 cake layer on a serving platter and spread 1/5 of the frosting on top and top with another cake layer. Repeat with the remaining cake layers and frosting, ending with a cake layer. Cover the cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 2 to 3 hours.
- Remove the cake from the fridge and frosting the top and sides with the ganache. To make clean slices, dip a serrated bread knife in hot water each time you make a slice. Slice the cake horizontally (short-ways).
Do Ahead: The ganache can be made the night before you need it and kept at room temperature (covered) until you're ready to serve the cake. The entire cake can be made and kept in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month before serving.
Storage: Keep leftovers well-wrapped in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 1 month.
adapted from The Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather
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OXO Good Grips Non-Stick Pro Half Sheet 13 x 18 Inch
Silpat Premium Non-Stick Silicone Baking Mat, Half Sheet Size, 11-5/8 x 16-1/2
Winco MS3A-8S Strainer with Single Fine Mesh, 8-Inch Diameter
Pyrex Glass Mixing Bowl Set (3-Piece)
KitchenAid 6 Qt. Professional 600 Series Bowl-Lift Stand Mixer
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