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.
7th Heaven Chocolate Truffle Cake
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
The Pastry Queen: Royally Good Recipes From the Texas Hill Country's Rather Sweet Bakery and Cafe [A Baking Book]
Wonderful post, Tara!! I love it! 🙂
You hit on a huge part of the blogging puzzle. Community is a major piece of it. We all have our neighborhoods in the blogging community, but as a whole, we understand each other and why we do this. Beautifully written! Best of luck to you!
Great post! 🙂
lovely post have fun
What a lovely ride you’ve had through the past few years! I’ve had so much fun getting involved in the blogging community.. its refreshing and exciting to find so many people out there who love food as much as I do 🙂 Good luck with the challenge- that cake looks decadent and delicious!
Beautiful post! Good luck-
this is a great post tara 🙂 can’t agree with you less on the effect of community on food blogging. all the best!
Great post Tara! Good luck!
Great post! I’m so glad the cake I chose turned out to be what it was for you. And I loved seeing your progress throughout the years.
Stopping by to see who else has entered the competition. I had the same problem, trying to find the right words. Afterall, to say all you need to say in one post? Quite a challenge!
But your cake? Deeeeelish and very drool worthy!
Anyway, looks great, reads well and good luck!!
As a fellow FB FP involved with PFB (wow – lots of acronyms!), I’m loving this contest already. Despite the inherently competitive nature of a competition dangling a $10K grand prize, it’s given me the opportunity to find bloggers (such as yourself) that I may never have stumbled across. Good luck to you, I look forward to reading more of your posts in the future!
Well, I’m certainly you found this community! Great to know you better and I’m daydreaming about that cake!
What a wonderful post and quite a different angle than some of the other PFB posts I have read. I wish you the best of luck with this challenge and hope you get to stick around for quite a few rounds :o)
Beautiful post. You nailed it-the community is what makes food blogging so special. I am learning all about that now! Good luck!
P.S. I too started the challenge a hundred times only to erase it and start again!
Great post! Good Luck !
Wow! You do have what it takes to go to the next phase! Can’t wait to see your next post!
What a great post. I’m a new food blogger, but I can already tell that I’m part of a great community and I have a LOT to learn!
Lovely post! Good Luck!
You are a great storyteller…weaving your thoughts through your experiences.
Excellent work on the first challenge! I can see how far your blog has come and how you have grown as a food blogger. And I’d love to have a slice of that cake! 🙂
What an excellent post! I love all the stories of community!
Best of luck in Project Food Blog!
And, what a beautiful cake!
I’m also participating in PFB and looking forward to reading everyone’s great entries! Good luck!
Such a wonderful inspiring post! Isn’t it amazing what we can accomplish when we have such a supportive community? Good luck in the contest!
I agree with you, it was the hardest post I have ever written… Tooting my own horn is not something I am accustomed to and I am sure I skirted the question. 🙂 Your post is wonderful, really inspiring!
I love the idea of us all being part of a community – one that so far I have found mostly supportive 🙂
Great post, I was thinking the same thing when I wrote mine! Happy to send you one of my votes! Good Luck, wishing you the best! Btw, you have some amazing photos, I’m a little envious!
I find all you do amazing… Not only in your career and home but your dedication to your community of bloggers,the terrific website “smells like home”, and your actual cooking talent!!! You should be very proud of yourself… you know I am.
awww…thank you so much for such a wonderful comment, Aunt Ginger!
Great post! Your photos are gorgeous. I voted for you! =)
Check out my PFB post: http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/1/view/503
This looks so delicious! Wowee ♥
Wow your truffle cake stopped me dead in my tracks!. Is it possible that you might share the recipe?
Thanks for your comment! You can find the recipe in the link to 20something cupcake in the text of this post. For Project Pastry Queen, the recipe is housed only on the blog of that week’s host.
Sent a HAPPY ♥ vote your way. See you in round two!
It really is all about community! The challenge has opened so many new-to-me bloggers who I look forward to following. I’d like to see you in the next round and am casting one of my votes.
I also started my blogging days over the next. 🙂 So many talented women from that community who have done great things with their blogs! You’ve got my vote. I hope you can check my site out as well!
Great post! I love the food blogging community! Everyone is so friendly and always so supportive of one another!
The truffle cake looks fantastic! And the brownie pudding – oh my gosh, what a drool-worthy picture! Love your food photos!
Best of luck with PFB! Just voted for you!
your blog looks delicious. love the community angle. best of luck!
Darling Dear… you for sure have my vote… and you are right… that cake is TOTALLY 7th Heaven! ♥♥♥ [email protected]
OMG, that cake! Please send two slices, ASAP! Seriously, though, I really like the community theme of this post and how important the community is to you and how important you are to the community. Community is such a rewarding part of blogging both for the pat on the back when you’re having a down day and for encouraging you to go outside your comfort zones. Best of luck in the challenge – hope to see us both in Round 2! -Sarah
That cake looks amazing. Best of luck in the competition, you’ve got our vote!
Lick My Spoon
hey ya! you have a lovely blog here. Stumble upon your blog through foodbuzz. 🙂 I voted for your blog. hope that helps. Good Lucky !!!! feel free to drop by!!
have a lovely weekend
jen @ http://www.passion4food.ca
Very nice blog you have here! Very beautiful photos!
Hello! I was wondering if by any chance you still had the recipe for this cake? The 20somethingcupcakes blog is unfortunately down 🙁
I had made this a few years ago and my friend is DYING for me to make this for his 30th birthday.
I would be eternally grateful!
Thank you and have a great day 🙂
Hi Beatrice! You got it! I’ve been meaning to add the recipe to this post for years and I just took a few minutes this afternoon to do so. Please let me know if you or your friend have any questions – happy to help! I’m so glad to hear that this cake made such an impression!! And Happy Birthday to your friend!!