I am self-reflective almost to a fault. I look back at my life, my choices, my emotions all the time. I'd like to think this makes me a better person and that I keep making changes to get me on that path, but it seems the more I reflect, the more I realize how many aspects of my life could use a tweak, a nudge and sometimes even an overhaul.
Take this blog, for example. It wasn't always this riveting little piece of the internet you see before you. In fact, it isn't even my first blog. Before we dive into the fun stuff like giveaways, cake and presents, let's sojourn through my past awkward and unguided (and very apparently so) past incarnations of blogs.
Cooking Is Love - Picture it: UConn, 2007 [Sofia from Golden Girls, anyone?] Armed with rudimentary cooking skills, chipping non-stick cookwear and a roommate who tolerated my late-night baking binges [thanks, Claire!], I graduated from the angsty land of Livejournal and tried to chronicle my attempts to feed myself via Blogger. Though the title would suggest posts about cooking, nearly all cooking posts that ever existed were deleted in the overly-critical, self-deprecating attitude I was sporting at the time. highlights include: over-use of the on-camera flash and complete ignorance of the macro feature what the name suggests: a blog chronicling my cooking adventureswhat the blog actually features: baking posts, or a photographic journey through three levels of cake decorating classes
2009 - Way More Than Cheesesteak - At this juncture, I was between going to pastry school and grad school but got accepted to the latter before I could apply to the former. Grad school proved to be nothing like I'd hoped or wanted it to be and I found solace standing tip-toe in front of my Kitchenaid, mixing, measuring and covering my galley kitchen in flour.
what the blog title suggests: photographic and descriptive evidence that there is way more to eat in Philadelphia than just cheesesteak [attention: everyone in CT]
what the blog actually features: photographic and descriptive evidence that I spent more time researching French pastries than French literary theorists.
2010 - No Small Potatoes - The summer I ate my way through Ireland and found wifi to tell you about it.
what the title suggests: An effort to photographically chronicle all eating adventures through the Emerald Isle, while disproving stereotypes about Irish cuisine.
what the blog actually features: For once, I was actually spot on. Good Irish food and large potatoes.
highlights include: sprawling fields of green grass, cows, and the Cliffs of Mohr not captured: I return to the US and to WMtC lugging two suitcases, an oversized carryon, a purse and a bag full of Jameson, brown bread and Baileys bought at the airport, all while casually sipping an iced caramel macchiato and getting strange looks from everyone I encounter.
2011 - My first foodblogging conference! Here, I realized that there are people who are big deal bloggers, who take nice pictures, write well, have followers who aren't their mom (love you, mom!) and who have since become my friends :) After realizing that my blog was more about what I baked than actually eating in the city (ya know, because I lived in the 'burbs and all...), I decided to drop the whole what-I'm-eating-in-Philly gig and go with what I'd always wanted to do: narrate my life through food.
...so here we are. Present day. I haven't quite managed to execute that goal all the time. I often got caught up with wanting pretty pictures (hence the post dearth during the months I was sans camera) or feeling the pressure of needing to be like everybody else. Now that I have a shiny camera, I do still want pretty pictures (and I'm working on figuring out how to do that and it's certainly giving my ego a few knocks), but I think I'm finally comfortable with putting out content that's true to what I had in mind all along. That means telling my story primarily with words through the lens of food. That also means there might be more paragraphs than pictures and there may not even be recipes. I've realized that after grad school momentarily stole the joy out of writing, my main focus is putting confidence back in my voice (metaphorically and literally), rather than worrying about teaching y'all how to bake.
This past year has taught me what it means to be a blogger, especially with regards to connecting within the amazing, supportive community that exists. I'm so lucky to have met so many talented bloggers during this past year, who have graciously offered everything from rides to conferences to advice on photography and blogging etiquette to long-distance baking projects, have mentored me and encouraged me to speak up when I wasn't sure I should even whisper. I am truly blessed to occupy this tiny space in the bloggosphere and have you all--readers, fellow bloggers, and friends--to thank :)
So, as a nod to my roots, both personally and blog-i-torily (umm... go with me on that one...), I wanted to do two things.
1.) PRESENTS. That's right. Presents for me, presents for you. My present is coming on Thursday (more on that later!) Your present is a fantastic giveaway! The Philadelphia-area foodblogger, Iris McCarthy (@PalatePrincess) gave me two copies of her book, The Food Lovers' Guide to Philadelphia and I've got one that could be yours. (And who knows, maybe I'll even grab a bite with the winner if they're in town!) To enter, leave a comment with a favorite birthday tradition you have. For additional chances to win, you can like Palate Princess on facebook or follow her on twitter! (Just leave a comment and let me know that you've done so!) I'll use a random number generator to pick the winner on Thursday, November 1st. The winner will be notified via email.
2.) Make a cake, duh. Though I'm a pie person [I was born the day after Pi Day, c'mon!], I've never not had cake for my birthday. So, in keeping with the "where I came from" mentality, I reached back to my dad's Hungarian side and decided to make a dobos torte with an autumnal spin. It's normally made with chocolate frosting, but I wanted to make something that would represent who I am, only in dessert form: multi-layered, small, pretty sweet and kinda spicy. My layers were a little off-kilter, but then again, I'm not perfect either ;)
Happy baking, happy giveaway entering and happy bloggaversary Charlie Brown! ...er, kellybakes! (and yes, I sometimes refer to myself in the blog-person)
**Disclaimer: I was given two free copies of A Food Lover's Guide to Philadelphia; one to keep and one to give to a lucky reader. The opinions expressed here are (as always and forevermore) my own. The end.
**And the winner is...** ProgressiveGrae! Based on the actual comments (not mine) you've randomly been selected as the winner! woohoo! I'll be contacting you shortly! :]
Apple Butter Dobos Torte with Spiced Caramel Icing
kelly bakes (frosting), dobos torte sponge cake very slightly adapted from Kaffeehaus by Rick Rodgers
A traditional dobos torte is five layers of sponge cake with chocolate frosting in between. I made mine with 6" round layers because I wanted a personal-sized cake, but the original recipe called for 9" rounds. Because this cake is by no means traditional, you can either make the 9" rounds or the 6" and use the extra layers to make a taller torte!
- For the sponge cake:
- 6 large eggs, separated & at room temperature
- 1 1/3 C powdered sugar, divided
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 cup cake flour (or 1 cup all purpose flour + 2 T cornstarch)
- 2 C apple butter
- For the icing
- 2 C powdered sugar
- 1 stick of butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 C half and half, divided
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tsp cardamom
- 1/4 tsp clove
- Special tools: parchment sheets for lining pans + a pencil
For the sponge
- Position oven rack in the center and preheat oven to 400F.
- Using a round cake pan (9" for traditional torte, 6" for personal-sized), trace 1-2 circles onto parchment (1 for a 9" round, 2 for a 6"). Flip parchment over so that pencil side touches the cookie sheet, not the cake.
- In a mixer, beat egg whites to soft peaks then gradually add 2/3 C powdered sugar. Continue beating until whites become glossy, stiff peaks. Set aside.
- Beat together egg yolks, vanilla and remaining 2/3 C powdered sugar on medium - high until the yolks turn pale yellow and thickens.
- Stir 1/4 of the beaten egg whites into the yolks to lighten them then, using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the remaining whites.
- Combine flour & salt. Sift half the flour over the eggs and carefully fold in. Continue with the remaining flour.
- Using a 1/2 C measuring cup, scoop batter onto one of the baking sheets in the center of the traced circle. Using an off-set spatula, spread the batter into an even layer, filling the traced circles. Place in oven and bake for 5 minutes or until the edges are slightly browned and the center springs back when poked with your finger.
- While this sheet is baking, repeat the process with the next sheet (trace circle(s), flip parchment over and fill with batter).
- When the first sheet is done, invert to a flat surface and ever-so-gently remove the parchment sheet from the back. Slide the cake back onto the paper and let it stand until cool. Let the baking sheet cool and line with new parchment.
- Repeat tracing & baking steps with remaining batter.
For the frosting
- In a bowl, combine powdered sugar and spices. Set aside.
- Melt butter in sauce pan. Add brown sugar, salt and 1/4 C half and half over medium-low heat and cook until sugar dissolves (approx 2-3 minutes). Remove from heat and add vanilla, stirring to combine.
- Pour caramel into powdered sugar and beat with hand beaters, adding half and half until the frosting reaches desired consistency.
- Spread a small dollop of frosting n a cardboard round or plate. Place one layer of sponge cake on top. Using small offset spatula, spread a thin, even layer of apple butter onto sponge cake, stopping just before the edges. Top with another layer of sponge cake.
- Repeat process until there are five layers of sponge cake, but add apple butter to the top layer.
- Use small offset spatula to frost the cake.
- Slice, admire your handiwork & enjoy!