This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend my first-ever food bloggers conference, The Big Summer Potluck.
It was not what I expected. I had heard about other blogger conferences, which had sessions on search engine optimization, social media tools, and how to take better photos. This conference was not like that at all.
As I listened to the first presentation by Jessamyn Rodriguez of Hot Bread Kitchen, I thought, "What does this have to do with blogging?" Not that her presentation was boring; it was actually quite inspiring. It was about how she had an idea to start an organization to help minority women secure management-level positions in the culinary industry, or start their own businesses, and made that idea a reality.
As the day went on, I realized, this is all about blogging. It's about reawakening the passion. When I started this blog, I wasn't worried about subscribers, pageviews, or rank. I wasn't worried about photo quality (heck, for at least the first year, I didn't even take photos!), engaging readers on my Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or Google+ accounts, or hosting giveaways of the latest and greatest products.
I did it because I was passionate about making delicious food. I wanted a place to organize my favorite recipes, and share them with people.
I don't post recipes that we don't enjoy. I post recipes, even if I don't get great pictures of them. If I host a giveaway, it's because I use and enjoy those products, books, or ingredients, and think you'd like them, too.
I'd been worried lately that my full-time job was interfering with my ability to engage my readers on social media, or get Foodgawker-worthy photos, and hey, how did this other blogger get to work with great brands and why don't I know how to do that?
Honestly, it's tiring, and it makes blogging more like work. I started blogging because it's fun. And the only way I'll continue is if it stays fun. That doesn't mean I'm going to stop posting on social media, or work to make my photography better. I'm just not going to let it overwhelm me.
I came away from the conference feeling inspired, and supported, which was something I needed after these past couple of months, even though most of the bloggers there have no idea about the loss we suffered back in June.
While I was there, I met other bloggers like Courtney of Cook Like a Champion, Annie of Annie's Eats, Shanon of The Curvy Carrot, Audra from The Baker Chick, Kelly from Kelly Bakes, Stephanie from Girl Versus Dough, Kelli from The Corner Kitchen, Carla from Chocolate Moosey, Erin from Eat Bake Drink Cook, Heather from Hezzi D's Books and Cooks, Joanne from Eats Well With Others, Isabelle from Crumb, Brandy from The Nutmeg Nanny, Samantha from Sweet Remedy, and many more. If you don't follow their blogs already, you should.
Did I mention that I also met Abby Dodge, an award-winning, internationally-acclaimed cookbook author, food writer and culinary instructor? I was barely able to keep myself composed and introduce myself.
There were also presentations by Jessica Powers from WhyHunger.org; Robyn Hillman-Harrigan from Shore Soup Project; Coach Mark Smallwood from The Rodale Institute; a demo by Brian Samuels of A Thought for Food; and live music by Martha Redbone. We also met representatives of the conference sponsors, Gourmet Garden (I've been using their ginger in a bottle for over a year now), OXO (half of my kitchen gadgets are OXO-brand), Philips, KitchenAid (I won a toaster!), Sabra, Attune Foods, Musselman's, Kerrygold (cheeeeeeeeeese), and The Middle Sister.
So, what does Fig-Raspberry Upside Down Cake have to do with all this? Well, the conference is called The Big Summer Potluck -- and each attendee is asked to bring a dish. I brought the cake to the Friday night welcome dinner. We could choose up to three different preferences for what dish we'd like to bring, and were ultimately assigned one dish. I was assigned my first preference, a "down-home" cake, pie, or cobbler.
I chose this upside down cake, because, honestly, I didn't think I'd have another chance. No one else in my family likes figs. It was just a little bit sweet, and very tender. I got several compliments on it, which, coming from other foodies, were greatly appreciated.
I've included both weight and volume measurements. For ingredients like flour, going by weight gives you the most accurate measurement and ensures your final product is as close to the original as possible. Kitchen scales can be purchased at any kitchen goods or housewares store, and a good one costs less than $50. It's a great investment. If you need to make this recipe and don't have a scale, you'll be more likely to get a measurement closest to accurate if you spoon the cake flour into the measuring cup and level it off (rather than dipping your measuring cup in the bag of flour).
I also strongly recommend that you sift the cake flour. It has a tendency to clump, and sifting ensures even distribution, so that your cake bakes evenly. If you go by volume, measure it into the cup first, then sift.
Fig-Raspberry Upside Down Cake
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
- 1 cup (7 ½ ounces) light brown sugar
- 8 to 12 fresh figs (black mission or brown turkey)
- 4 ounces raspberries
- 3/4 cups (5 ¼ ounces) granulated sugar
- 1 vanilla bean
- 2 large eggs
- ½ cup (4 ounces) sour cream
- 1 cup (4 ounces) cake flour
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan, then line with parchment paper. Wrap the bottom of the springform pan in two layers of tinfoil.
- Cut the stems off of the figs, and slice them in half from top to bottom.
- In a medium saucepan, melt ½ cup of the butter. Once melted, whisk in the brown sugar and stir until melted (this doesn't take long at all). Pour the mixture into the springform pan. Arrange the figs in outer and inner circles around the pan. Fill in the gaps with raspberries.
- Using a thin paring knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise, leaving ½ an inch at the top intact. Using the flat side of the knife blade, scrape out the tiny flecks (the seeds) from the inside of each pod half.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the other ½ cup of butter with the granulated sugar and the seeds from the vanilla beans. Save the empty pod for another use (like making vanilla sugar or homemade vanilla extract!).
- Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Then mix in the sour cream.
- Lay a piece of parchment paper on a counter, and sift the cake flour, baking powder and baking soda together onto the paper. Use the paper as a funnel to add the mixture to the bowl. Mix on low speed just until incorporated.
- Scrape the mixture on top of the figs and raspberries and gently spread with a spatula.
- Place the pan in the oven, and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the pan to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Run a thin paring knife around the edges to loosen the cake from the pan.
- After ten minutes, gently tilt the pan on its side, and pour any juices into a measuring cup (it's okay if there aren't any). Remove the side of the springform pan, and gently flip the cake onto a serving plate. Remove the parchment paper. Pour any accumulated juices over the top of the cake.
Number of servings (yield): 8 to 12 servings