Friday, February 17, 2012



I learned early that the most important thing in life is a good story.
- Ruth Reichl

La Folle Journée, Glinka, Prokofiev. DCL, Angers, The Tapestry of the Apocalypse. Creation, entrepreneur, business plan. L’ancien palais de justice, the new, modern, luxury hotel, architects and design. Submission, conference, workshop, networking. Lambretta, 3-D reindeer, applications and cover letters. 6 Nations, fondue, Don Giovane; bamboozled, rig’marole, la Segerdahl et lo Jeep.

Buzz words and a changing life. French, English, Italian; words that only have meaning to us and the evolution of a family. A mixed bag of cultural references, not all clearly understandable to the outside world, events and happenings that may not be intelligible to others who don’t live the same thing as we do. Is it absolutely necessary that one always bare one’s life on a blog and recount the day to day activities? I have made an attempt in my own way, sharing our adventures, our daring Starting Over decisions, our sons’ vagaries, choices and personal combats. I illustrate our story with fancy flourishes and infuse it with a touch of whimsy, a dash of romance, a dollop of humor but sometimes I wonder if it isn’t all just a lot of incomprehensible babble to those on the outside looking in. Revealing the daily details of anyone’s most personal moments to those who have never found themselves face to face in the same room with those individuals, that particular family seems so absurd, slightly gratuitous. Utterly foreign, rather irrelevant tidbits of what I did today, what the kids said, how we are each advancing in our own personal exploits and projects, how can one package it all up and flip it around into entertainment? What can I recount that will make you smile, and what tales will make you roll your eyes, shrug your shoulders and skip down to the recipe? And how much is the truth, how much is real and how much is utter fiction?

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.
- Maya Angelou

So I can tell you with how much joy we received Simon’s perfect notes on his Language (English) Proficiency Test or how pleased we are that Clem snagged the best Third Year Internship in his entire architecture class as he now follows the reconstruction of the old Law Courts (inaugurated in 1851) and their transformation into a luxury hotel; I can rattle on about JP’s new project and the excitement that zips through the apartment like electricity as he advances with the force of a steam roller; the satisfaction at the rapt fascination held by those with whom he shares the details; I can blather on about my own work and successes, give you an inside look and an indulgent chinwag on all that I am writing, for whom and what they said. I can leave you photographs scattered across my desktop, smiling faces that tell the tale of a weekend that you couldn’t attend. And what is it worth, I wonder? Am I capable of touching your life, somehow, and making you understand mine?

If you've heard this story before, don't stop me, because I'd like to hear it again.
- Groucho Marx

Today, I simply wanted to share a few links and some news. And a cake.

From Plate to Page spoke with the wonderful, multi-talented Denise Vivaldo, culinary consultant extraordinaire and author of the successful The Food Stylist’s Handbook. Visit her guest post over on the Plate to Page blog where she gives us an inside look at her own fascinating career as well as the world of food styling.

And speaking of From Plate to Page, there are still a couple of spaces open for our exciting Somerset workshop in May. If you are looking for an intimate, hands-on, practical workshop providing you with the tools, instruction and inspiration to define and hone your food writing, styling and photography skills and kick start your creativity all in a convivial, fun- and food-filled weekend then Plate to Page is for you! For details about the workshop, the four instructors (I teach food writing) and registration, please visit out our website! But hurry, spaces are limited to 12 and they are going fast! Questions? Visit our new FAQ page!

My lovely friend Nancy Baggett, talented food writer and cookbook author, interviewed me for her blog Kitchen Lane as part of her new series on Who's Behind the Blog (my title, not hers). Please visit Kitchen Lane and I hope you enjoy the interview!

I was recently asked to be one of the featured Foodie 100 on the new food community site I have shared 3 previously unpublished recipes on that I particularly love: my best Sweet Potato Pie (the old family recipe of a colleague of an old roommate shared with me some 30 years ago), a gorgeous Apple Frangipane Jalousie and perfect Gingersnaps. And it really is a great new food community.

And now a cake. Food is indeed a universal language, and no matter whether you read my stories (I hope you do) or feel connected emotionally (I do try) or understand my humor or my meaning (if I am lucky), everyone can understand and love a great cake. The kind people at Agate Publishing sent me Pat Sinclair’s book Baking Basics and Beyond. As a food blogger passionate about baking who has many friends and readers who are not experienced bakers and look to me for great yet simple-to-make cakes and confections, I was truly interested in trying the recipes in this book and seeing if it was one I would recommend. As I desired to bake something for my family this weekend and as my son was complaining about the lack of snacks in the house, I decided to turn to Pat’s book and start testing. I will give a more indepth review once I have tried a few more recipes, but if this Chocolate Amaretto Pound Cake is anything to go by, well, I think I am going to love this book.

From Baking Basics and Beyond by Pat Sinclair – with a few personal minor adjustments

6 oz (168 g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 ½ cups (300 g) flour (I weighed 2 ½ cups flour at 350 g)
2 tsps baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup (225 g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
¾ cup (150 g) granulated sugar
¾ cup (170 g) firmly packed brown sugar (I used light brown packing sugar)
4 large eggs at room temperature
2 Tbs Amaretto (out of Amaretto, I replaced it with 2 Tbs Grand Marnier)
1 tsp vanilla
¾ cup (175 ml) milk

Place the chopped chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl over (not in) simmering water just until chocolate is almost melted, stirring with a silicone spatula or similar. Remove the bowl from the bain marie and stir until all the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Allow to cool.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) with the rack in the lower third of the oven. Generously grease a 10-inch (25-cm) Bundt or other fluted tube pan with butter then dust with flour until evenly coated; tap out the excess flour.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the softened butter with the two sugars on low speed just until blended; scrape down the sides then increase the mixer to medium speed and beat for 1 ½ to 2 minutes until fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides after each egg is added, beating just until the egg is blended in. Add the Amaretto or Grand Marnier, the vanilla and the melted chocolate; beat for 2 minutes until the batter is light and creamy.

Reduce the mixer speed to low. Add the flour in 3 additions alternating with the milk in 2, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Scrape down the bowl after each addition. Beat until smooth but no longer than 15 seconds. Pour into the prepared pan and spread evenly.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out dry. The cake will just start to pull away from the sides. Cool for about 10 minutes in the pan on a wire cooling rack.

Loosen the cake in the pan using a metal spatula or long, thin-bladed knife. Place a wire cooling rack over the cake and invert; lift off the pan. Allow to cool completely.

Drizzle the cake with Chocolate Ganache or, more simply do as I did here, drizzle small amounts of melted white and dark chocolate over the top of the cake.


Janice said...

Oh my what a gorgeous cake. I adore amaretto so combining it with chocolate cake seems like a heavenly idea!

Robin O. said...

You ask the question, "And what is it worth, I wonder? Am I capable of touching your life, somehow, and making you understand mine?"

Having the good fortune of spending a single (splendid) weekend with you makes reading your real or fantastical stories all the more special.

Between each carefully chosen quote, image and sentence bring us closer to appreciating and enjoying you -- and with a bit of cake, that is the best there is.

Congratulations on your recent recognitions and accomplishments. You Rock Jamie!

I encourage anyone interested in food to jump at the opportunity to attend the next Plate to Page workshop.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Congrats to you for the recognition as well to your sons and great to know that Jp's project are taking shape...

This cake looks tempting! What great flavors.



Jan said...

When I saw the title "Chocolate amaretto pound cake" in my google reader, I got SUPER excited! The texture of it looks incredible! I love chocolate and amaretto.

Lisa said...

Hooray for Simon! Great cake to celebrate such a wonderful and genius accomplishment. If I told you I won my 5th grade spelling bee, would you bake me one? ;) Love the flavor of Amaretto paired with chocolate - and, of course, love that glaze! Gorgeous Bundt!

James Brewer said...

This cake look delcicious, and I love your quote at the very beginning.

I love reading your posts, they are so enthralling.

Maureen said...

Fantastic cake and I'm so pleased for you and how you life is unfolding in such a splendid manner. :)

THE Tough Cookie said...

Jamie, the timing of this post is just perfect for me, after last weekend's Cookbook Conference.
A beautifully told story accompanying a delicious recipe is what draws us in, makes us want to go to the kitchen to create, to nourish and share with our friends and families.

Maris (In Good Taste) said...

yyyThis is such a beautiful cake and the photos are stunning!

Deeba PAB said...

Yay for the Dagneux family or is it Schler sweetheart! Yay for JP, Clem & Simon ... and the anchor which is you! Loved reading how electric life is, and how well the boys are doing. Congrats to you too for all the recognition and accolades. Am off to Nancy's Kitchen for the interview! Big kisses!

Sally - My Custard Pie said...

Rest assured we are riveted to every detail :) As the Irish comedian Frank Carson used to say in his catchphrase 'It's the way I tell 'em' and truly this is the case. Loved that interview over on Kitchen Lane, too.
I get so tired of baking chocolate cakes for my family - I yearn for lemon, ginger, even seed. But the Amaretto adds an extra dimension. Love the decoration too.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

You have definitely touched all of our lives Jamie and it absolutely makes sense. In fact it is crystal clear as if we were there with you such is the vividly beautiful way you write. And I have to say a big thank you for the unexpectedly lovely compliment you paid me on Maureen's blog. It was so lovely to read that from you, whom I've always considered an absolutely wonderful writer! :D

I'm off to check out your interview now! :)

Mairi @ Toast said...

Love your writing & your stories :) It's what makes popping in here unique & your writing certainly inspires me, both as a craft & perhaps to share a little more of myself :) If I look at the blogs I return to again & again they are the ones where life shared.

Mairi @ Toast said...

Love your writing & your stories :) It's what makes popping in here unique & your writing certainly inspires me, both as a craft & perhaps to share a little more of myself :) If I look at the blogs I return to again & again they are the ones where life shared.

Jill Colonna said...

Congratulations, Jamie, to all of your successes, articles, interviews, as well as the accomplishments of your talented family. Great to hear that all is going so well - and what a way to round it all off with a perfect looking cake with all the drizzled deliciousness!

Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

Hooray for Simon. Love the amaretto in your cake. I bet it brought out the chocolate taste. It also reminded me that we used to make a drink with ice cream and amaretto that was so good. Maybe a dash of chocolate would be good in it.

Magic of Spice said...

A beautiful cake indeed!
Congratulations on both you and your families successes!

JavelinWarrior said...

I think the attempt to make the connection with your readers/followers speaks volumes about you as a person - and any failure to connect is certainly not due to a lack of your effort or writing abilities. You're a fantastic and ever-interesting writer and your recipes are always a must. Honestly, I think many of us are on sensory overload and we don't slow down enough to make a genuine connection with someone, even with those like yourself who are trying to connect (at least I know that's true for me).

Thanks for the reminder and thanks for sharing the links - and of course your pound cake is amazing (the chocolate crumb looks perfect!).

As ridiculous as a Liebster award is at your point in blogging, I have nonetheless nominated your blog for the award. Because I think you have an awesome blog and it deserves even more love and praise. Check my blog for details and please pass on the love :)

bunkycooks said...

You know I love your stories and writing. I am also glad that we can share all of these successes and challenges as friends and have a group that supports each other and cheers everyone on. It will be a very exciting year for you, I am sure. I agree, the Foodie 100 is a very nice site and committee and I am happy to be a part of it, too.

Lora said...

Congratulations on all your well deserved accomplishments Jamie and you had me at chocolate amaretto. Love that cake.

Cake Duchess said...

Very nice news about your boys. You must be thrilled. Are you saying some things you write here are utter fiction?;)Keep it up whatever it is because it makes me smile and I look forward to your stories (great quote from Ruth:)off to see your interview!

Jenn Kendall said...

this cake sounds DELICIOUS! yum!

Junglefrog said...

Like no one else I know you ARE capable of touching everyone elses life Jamie. You have a way with words that speak to the heart of everyone who reads it I'm sure. I know it does mine at least... I love reading your everyday tales, the excitement you experience and the things that are going on in your life!
And so much is going on it seems at the moment... ;)
That cake looks absolutely to die for delicious too! Gotta try it soon!

Jeanne said...

Like we've said before, it's all about the story... And of course about the CAKE!! Good luck with everybody's projects, Saucy :)

Nuts about food said...

I may not know you personally, but I look forward to reading every new post. I enjoy the stories and the recipes and you have certainly touched me. So thank you for posting.

Helene Dsouza said...

Hi Jamie!

you know I always enjoy reading your posts. You play around with words like a jongleur, its fun and inspiring and I try to learn from u.

Sometimes, I must admit, there are words, sentences with a particular meaning which I dont understand. BUT I am always learning a bunch of new english words with u!

I am facing the challange too.. I want my readers to read through, I want them to understand get the message, the thought, the idea. A dish in my eyes has lots to tell, its fascinating!

Wish I could cme to the meeting in may so I could learn from u some food writing tips. It would be an honoure to learn from u Jamie!

amaretto and choco,... I hadnt had this combination in years. Again I wish I could indulge a piece or 2.

Eggs on the Roof said...

Don't think for a moment that we tire of stories, insights or cake. Because we don't, Jamie. I love the generosity of your posts, the sheer joie de vivre and, of course, the writing.

Eggs on the Roof said...

Don't think that we ever tire of the stories, the insights or the cake - because we don't, Jamie. I love the generosity of your posts, the sheer joie de vivre and, of course, the writing.

Kulsum@JourneyKitchen said...

I think we as blogger's wish too much. Which isn't saying it's wrong looking at how we have progressed in last couple of years but I say you don't have to blog for everyone or write for everyone or take pictures that will wow everyone. You love writing, keep doing it and may be everyone's not going to read it but many others will. You have a niche. That's important and you are doing a great job. Oh and love the cake. You do bake the best desserts and yet they are so homely.

Sanjeeta kk said...

Loved reading about how wonderful life could be when there is a mother, wife and a daughter like you! Congrats for the accolades and wishing for many many more to come your way...
As usual the cake is incredible.
Warm hugs to you all.

shaz said...

Oh my! The drizzly bits on top caught my eye straight away. Then I spied the "crumb" and the texture looks divine. Oops, did I give myself away talking about cake first? That I jumped straight to the recipe? (You know for a fact I'm kidding right?); I never visit your site unless I have time to read your wonderful prose dear Jamie, keep your tales rolling.

Natalie A. said...

Wow, this cake looks so pretty and I bet it tastes great too! Thanks for sharing this recipe!

El said...

It sounds like your household is abuzz with success- congrats! The pound cake looks wonderful. I always bake mine in a loaf pan but the presentation is so much better this way. Lovely!

Michelle @ A Recipe Junkie said...

For real??? this cake looks so good!

Michelle @ A Recipe Junkie said...

wow and yum!

Ivy said...

Congratulations for the recognition and on all your accomplishments and that of your family. I always enjoy reading your posts and learning from you. The amaretto cake looks fabulous.

Janet Rudolph @ DyingforChocolate said...

Love your blog.. beautiful .. and this recipe is outstanding. thanks

lisa is cooking said...

Congratulations to your whole family! I love reading your stories and finding out what's happening 'behind the food.' And, the food. What a great-looking cake!

Asmita said...

Hi Jamie,
The cake looks gorgeous! I love bundt cakes and yours looks heavenly!!!

Rambling Tart said...

I think all those "little" details ARE interesting to those interested in YOU and in YOUR life, Jamie. :-) I like hearing about your dreamings with your hubby and the shenanigans of your sons. :-) I'm glad you share glimpses of your world with us. Of course they can't convey the whole picture, but they don't need to, and I for one don't expect them to. I'm just happy to see whatever parts you feel safe sharing. :-)


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