Over the past 5 1/2 years I’ve taken countless photos. It would be quite exciting to know the exact number… or maybe not.
Out of all these, obviously I love all the photos I post, more or less. But there are some that are special. Those that have a little extra something.
This whole shoot is exactly like that for me.
What makes it even more special is that the house we shot this in is no longer what it used to be. Obviously, the house was pretty run down and in great need of renovation, but still.. look at that turquoise kitchen cabinet and that beautiful golden medallion wallpaper. The paintings, the marble table and the chair. I could spend a long time in there, just looking through the old newspapers lying around.
I had been in this house a few times prior to shooting in it, with permission from the owners of course. When I was working on my last published book “Sweet food & photography” I told my publisher about this house and I could see the excitement in her eyes. I told her about the wallpaper, the newspapers (I had yet to discover the kitchen cabinet) and the light. There is definitely something special about the light in old houses. She said to me “you HAVE to take photos in this house”. So I took her advice.
First, we (and by we I mean me and my friend/assistant Emma) made a test shoot with some muffins and pies I had lying around at home. I remember it was so freezing in the house that day. Even colder than outside. I think this was in April 2014. I realized that it was a perfect location to shoot and that I had to come back and do it again.
About one month later we came back to shoot. Everything was exactly as we left it. What I also love about this shoot is that I didn’t even have to bring any props. We found everything we needed in the house (except for the cakes, flowers and plates, obviously). Now, all of that is gone. I’m a rather nostalgic person, so the fact that it’s all gone makes me think about it even more. I try to remind myself that the house was in pretty bad shape and that it was just a matter of time before it had to be demolished or something. Now, the house has new owners, turning it into their dream house. I’m just happy I was able to take these photos before it was too late! Of course, I gave a copy of my book to the previous owners as a thank you for letting me shoot there.
Many of these photos are from my book Sweet food & photography, which is being translated into English, French, Dutch and German. Feeling very grateful! I also felt like I had to share this recipe from the book because it truly is one of the best cakes. The crunchy caramel popcorn on top.. well, all I can say is, try not to eat them all straight from the baking sheet…
Oh, and by the way, that framed photo to the right in the photo above is of a kitten sitting on a table next to a cactus. How great is that?
CHOCOLATE CAKE WITH CARAMEL BUTTERCREAM
AND CRUNCHY CARAMEL POPCORN
Recipe from my book Sweet food & photography
75 g (about 5 1/2 tbsp) butter
1 3/4 cup + 2 1/2 tbsp (270 g) all purpose flour
2/3 cup (60 g) cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cup + 1 tbsp (340 g) granulated sugar
pinch of salt
barely 1 cup milk
2/3 cup strong hot coffee or water
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 cup (225 g) granulated sugar
1 scant stick (100 g) cold butter, in cubes
1/2 tsp sea salt flakes
CARAMEL SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM
4 egg whites (approximately 150 g)
3/4 cups + 1 1/2 tbsp (180 g) granulated sugar
2 sticks + 2 tbsp (250 g) butter, at roomtemperature, cut in cubes
1/3 cup + 1 1/2 tbsp caramel (recipe above)
CRUNCHY CARAMEL POPCORN
1 bag of salted microwave popcorn (only use half of the popcorn for this recipe), or make your own
1/3 cup + 1 1/2 tbsp caramel
1. Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter and flour two 6-inch (15 cm) baking pans.
2. Melt the butter and let it cool.
3. Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt into a large bowl. Add eggs, milk, coffee and butter and stir until batter is smooth.
4. Divide the batter between the baking pans and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in their pans before you turn them out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
1. Gently heat the cream in a small saucepan. Set aside.
2. Put the sugar in another saucepan and heat on medium high until the sugar starts melting around the edges. Carefully swirl the sugar with a heatproof spoon until all the sugar has melted. If you’re using a baking thermometer, the sugar should be about 338°F (170°C).
3. Add the butter, piece by piece, and stir until melted. Carefully add the warm cream (it will bubble up!) little by little and stir until smooth. Stir in the salt.
4. Pour caramel into a jar and let cool to room temperature while you make the buttercream.
CARAMEL SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM
1. Pour egg whites and sugar in a clean and heat proof bowl (preferably stainless steel or glass). Put the bowl over a saucepan with simmering water. The bowl should fit snugly, and the water should not be touching the bowl.
2. Whisk the sugar and eggs with a whisk constantly until the mixture reaches about 65°C (about 140-150°F). If you don’t have a sugar thermometer, just rub some mixture between your fingers. If the sugar has melted and mixture is hot to the touch, it’s ready.
3. Remove the bowl from the heat, beat until white, fluffy and cool with a stand- or electric mixer. This step can take about 5-10 minutes.
4. When the bowl feels cool to the touch, start adding the butter, piece by piece. Don’t worry if the mixture looks curdled and soupy just keep beating until smooth! Add the caramel and beat until smooth.
CRUNCHY CARAMEL POPCORN
1. Preheat oven to 300°F (150°C).
2. Make the popcorn according to the instructions on the bag.
2. Put half of the popcorn and the caramel (if the caramel is too thick, heat it for a few seconds in the microwave) in a bowl and stir until the popcorn is coated with caramel. Spread popcorn in a single layer on a baking sheet covered with baking paper.
3. Bake the popcorn for 15 minutes, stirring a couple of times. Remove baking sheet from the oven and leave to cool.
1. If cakes are rounded on top, even out with a knife. Cut both cake layers in half using a sharp serrated knife (you’ll end up with four thinner layers). Put the first layer on a cake board or a cake stand. Spread buttercream on the first layer. Add the next layer and repeat until you’ve used up all four layers
2. Spread a thin layer of buttercream all over the cake (this is the crumb coating layer, to hold all the crumbs in place) using an offset spatula. Put the cake in the fridge for about 10 minutes or until the crumb coating layer has firmed up a bit (leave the bowl of frosting in room temperature).
3. Spread the remaining buttercream all over the cake until cake is smooth. For a totally even and smooth surface, dip an offset spatula in warm water and dry it between every pass. Works like a charm!
4. Put the crunchy popcorn on top of the cake and pour remaining caramel sauce over.