In My Kitchen with Sorella Muse Photography + Baking a (Gluten-free) Swedish Chocolate Cake from Top With Cinnamon
A lot of you always ask me who took the photos I use for all my social media profiles. Actually, for a blogger I rarely like it when photos are taken of me, because I rarely like how they turn out. I always like to be in control. The one exception to this, is my friend Nicole. We first met for coffee on a sunny January afternoon two years ago in Los Angeles so she could interview me and take my portrait for a photo series she was working on, and in the course of the interview we became firm friends. Nikki is the person I write epic, essay length emails to, gossip about boys with and receive snail mail on beautiful notecards from.
En-route from Los Angeles to Singapore in November, Nicole stopped by for the weekend. In between a very late supper at Salt, country walks, a lazy brunch, catching up on How To Get Away With Murder (we bonded in California over our shared love of Shonda Rhimes shows) and creating an Ottolenghi-fest for dinner, I stepped in front of her super talented lens to make a gluten-free version of the famous Swedish Chocolate Cake from my friend Izy’s book Top With Cinnamon. It is a family favourite for dessert in our house, and the gluten-free version was in honour of Nicole. Though, I think I might like it better that way!
Izy Hossack is pretty much the only blogger I’ve ever felt true blog envy, jealously for and I’m not ashamed to admit it. One evening my Mother found me sitting dejectedly staring at the beautiful photography on her beautiful blog Top With Cinnamon, and wondering out loud (to her, I’m only in the habit of talking to myself when I’m swearing at myself for being stupid when I make a mistake in the kitchen!) how I’d ever make a success out of blogging full time when I could not take pictures like that, when Izy could create such stunning recipes and visuals, and sign a book deal, all the while she was still sitting her A Levels.
Now, thankfully I pulled myself together and remembered that all of our blogs online are unique in our own ways, and if we all produced identical work things would be a little boring, in the real world Izy and I are now friends. What started as a brunch date in a deserted City restaurant on a sunny, early Summer Sunday turned into us sitting in the window of the restaurant all day talking baking, blogging and everything in between. Izy is the person who I text to ask when I’m standing in the middle of Covent Garden for directions to the store where you can get imported American food magazines, and who is responsible for pointing me in the right direction for the two mammoth bags of the most amazing chocolate chips I’ve ever baked with from the wholesalers.
I’ve been meaning to share this book with you since the first weekend I cooked with it, just before publication, but my biggest problem, aside from the usual photographer things of their being a lack of natural light or something not looking as aesthetic enough (I don’t know how Izy does it), I kept on eating all the food I made from the book before I could get around to snapping it. Favourites so far include the Sweet & Spicy Roasted Chickpeas (dangerous to leave around to nibble, but fantastic for using up leftover half tins of chickpeas if you’re like me and cooking for one a lot of the time), Izy’s Blueberry Smoothie and my new favourite salad, her Tuna Salad with Blackened Tomatoes which I have made many, many times.
I really, really love the way it has been put together, which is a lot in part down to Izy who, as well as styling, writing and photographing the whole thing, was allowed a lot of input with her publishers about how the finished book was going to look like. The book is divided into 6 chapters: Breakfast + Brunch, Sides, Mains, Sweet Snacks, Desserts and Staples + How-To’s. Aside from it being my view that every single book needs to have a brunch section, I like how the staples section at the back gives basic recipes for pastries and pestos that can be used in other recipes throughout the book. I’m also glad that there are two whole chapters dedicated to savoury cooking which is more of my groove, which makes the book an everyday cookbook, rather than just another baking book. In other news, Izy puts tequila in her guacamole and basil infused butter in her chocolate chip cookies. That girl is a genius of flavour.
The one thing that annoys me about my Mothers (otherwise beautiful) kitchen I seem to have moved into over the past 10 months since I finished university and moved back from London is that it is dark, and many of the walls are painted a golden yellow: a total nightmare for photography. Another is that while a lot of the surfaces were custom built for our somewhat shorter than average family (like the kitchen island is too low for most people, but perfect for us to knead dough on or roll out biscuits), we still have to climb up on things to reach the cupboards! The baking and spice cupboards often provide a real challenge!
I think Izy’s Swedish Chocolate Cake has become a fast family weekend favourite, as it is something that we pretty much always have the ingredients for, and we can throw together whenever we fancy a dessert; there is usually a tub of my Mother’s homemade vanilla ice cream stashed in the freezer. The only way you need to deviate from Izy’s recipe to make the cake gluten free is to swap out the flour for ground almonds, and after greasing line the cake tin with greaseproof paper, not a dusting of flour. Also, as the original recipe is made with salted butter, which we don’t have in the house, I add a generous pinch of salt to the cake batter.
- 135g (10 tbsp) Unsalted Butter
- Pinch Salt
- 55g (1/2 cup) Cocoa Powder
- 350g (1 3/4 cups) Golden Caster Sugar
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 110g (1 cup, minus 2 tbsp) Ground Almonds
- 3 Large Eggs
- Icing Sugar, for dusting
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees (350 fahrenheit). Grease a 18cm (7 inch) cake tin with a little butter and line with greaseproof paper. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over a low heat. Once melted, remove from the heat. Add the salt, cocoa and sugar, and stir well. You should have a grainy mixture. Set the pan aside and allow to cool to room temperature, so that when you add the eggs, they don’t cook in the mixture. Once cool, beat the eggs in one by one until the mixture is smooth, then stir in the ground almonds until the mixture is all combined. Pour into the tin and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the cake is set around the edges, but still a little gooey in the middle. Let the cake cool in the tin for about 20 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake to release it from the tin, then turn it out onto a wire cooling rack or straight onto a serving plate or cake stand. Dust with icing sugar, and serve.
Another thing I thought I’d share a little ‘behind the scenes’ with you from our home while Nikki had her camera out is the window sill where I shoot the majority of my recipes. Here is both what it looks like from behind the lens, and what I look like, jumping around shooting whatever cake, bake or savoury item happens to be the order of the day. Most of the things you see shot on my wooden board background are shot here, too. In Summer, I also shoot a lot on patio tables, and I tend to use my marble slab outside rather than inside, because the windows create some funny reflections on the polished surface.
Be sure to check out Nicole’s photography website and blog Sorella Muse Photography (especially if you like in California and you’re planning on getting married any time soon!), and head over to Izy’s blog Top With Cinnamon to find more of her delicious recipes, and some of her beautiful photography also! I’m particularly on board with her Waffled French Toast at the moment. You can buy the Top With Cinnamon book, here.
As we’re on the subject of super talented friends here, I’d love it you’d leave some links to some of the awesome and amazing things your friends have been getting up to recently. it would be great to share the love for the families we choose for ourselves!