food styling 101 and a strawberry ribbon cake

strawberry ribbon cake
photo by lindsay of love and olive oil
styled by teresa blackburn of food on fifth
learning to use a digital camera can be challenging.  my suggestion, take a few classes.  seriously, check out community colleges or art schools and take a few adult/community education classes on digital photography.  personally, i took basic classes during last summer and then again last fall and having the knowledge of the different camera functions has made a world of difference in my photos.
even so, i am by no means an expert but at least i have a better idea of how to go about things.  just as tricky is making the food look good enough to eat.  another big challenge.  staging a shot, picking props, lighting and so on.  it helps if you have the chance to watch and work with a pro.  when i wrote my first book, i had the chance to watch a very talented food stylist during the photo shoot.  but watching wasn’t enough.  when i wrote my second book, i had to actually prepare all of the food to be used in the photo shoots.  even with all of that experience, it still wasn’t enough.  but that hasn’t stopped my from trying.  
then came an opportunity to take a class with a successful food stylist.  as a member of the nashville food bloggers, i learned about a workshop to be put on by local food stylist, teresa blackburn; i quickly signed up.  we watched in awe as she quickly arranged a salad in a plate.  sounds goofy doesn’t it?  but it was how she did things that made it so amazing to watch.  she arranged the salad, leaf by leaf, garnish by garnish.  a drizzle of dressing, addition of background props.  it all came to a beautiful shot.
well beautiful when taken with something besides a cellphone camera!  however, i think you get the idea.  and the next time i try to photograph a salad, i will know exactly how to arrange the components so that it looks good enough to eat! 
one of the other tricks we learned was how to make the perfect dollop of cream.  first of all, it has to be non dairy whipped topping.  something no pastry chef wants to hear…but the technique was so simple, that i will have to practice it till it’s perfect.  but even so, we all had fun smoothing it out, creating furrows across the top and then scooping out the perfect dollop.  
 everyone’s plate arranged on the table for a group photo
teresa liked mine enough to use it to demonstrate adding a whole berry so that it will not sink into the cream.  it was all good fun and informative.  hopefully, there will be additional opportunities like this-i love learning something new.   if you are interested in seeing more of the photos, the nashville food bloggers website has a complete album of the photos that lindsay took during the workshop 
since this was a class centered around food, we were all invited to bring along a snack to share.  i brought my strawberry ribbon cake and if you go back to the photo at the top, you can see how wonderful it looked by the time teresa styled it and lindsay shot it.  and as always, when i go to the garden on sunday mornings, i take a cake.  this time, i took the leftover strawberry ribbon cake and tried to use some of the tips and tricks to get a good photo.  it was a challenge.  the lighting in the garden wasn’t the greatest and i was unable to bring any props.  but i must say, i at least know how to go about this better.  
strawberry ribbon cake
makes 1 (8″) square cake
adapted from the cake bible by rose levy beranbaum
(sour cream coffee cake)
crumb topping

1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup nuts-your choice
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup cake flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes

cake batter
2 eggs
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups cake flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 ounces unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup strawberry preserves
powdered sugar

preheat the oven to 350.  grease and flour an 8″ square baking pan.  to make the crumb topping, place all of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to chop the nuts and continue pulsing until it begins to clump.  don’t over do it or it will be one large clump rather than free flowing smaller lumps.  set this aside while you prepare the cake.

in a small mixing bowl, whisk the eggs with 1/4 of the buttermilk and the vanilla, set aside.  place the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and with the machine on low, allow it to mix to combine the ingredients.  add the butter and the remaining buttermilk and mix on low to combine.  scrape the bowl and turn the mixer to medium and allow it to cream until a little light and fluffy, 1-2 minutes.  add the egg mixture in thirds and mix to combine.  be sure to scrape the bowl.  scrape half of the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out the top.  spread the preserves evenly over the top of the cake.  add the remaining batter and carefully spread it evenly over the preserves-this is a little tricky so take your time. top it all off by sprinkling the crumb mixture over the top.  bake until a pick comes out clean, about an hour.  allow the cake to cool in the pan for 15-20 minutes.  turn it out and invert it onto a rack to cool completely.  just before serving, dust it generously with the powdered sugar.

One thought on “food styling 101 and a strawberry ribbon cake

  1. Lovely pictures and your ribbon cake looks delicious!

    I'm looking into taking some photography classes, as I'd love to be better at food photography. It makes all the difference, I think.

    I hope you will consider linking up with me for my Foodie Friday Blog Hop on A Room for Two with a View. Feel free to share as many recipes as you'd like. I know my readers will love it!

    Have a fantastic Foodie Friday and a wonderful weekend!



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