Well, that sure went fast!
Today is the anniversary of the birth of The Merchant Baker. One year ago today, I very nervously pressed the “Publish” button and posted Brownie Bark. It was both epic and anti-climactic. Epic because I was starting a new venture, epic because I was entering into a very public space that I had previously avoided like the plague, and anti-climactic because once I pushed the button, nothing happened. I was just sitting at my computer and in a heartbeat I went from unpublished to published. You can’t immediately see any reaction. No one even knew the blog existed yet.
Don’t get me wrong, I was acting as if everything had just happened. I was nervous, anxious, excited and more than a little freaked out. I was barely on Facebook let alone any other social media outlet and now I was OUT there…eek! And now I needed to not just observe the social media machine, I had to embrace it so that something would happen.
The mystery and power of social media was just one of the things I had to conquer. Food styling and photography? Well, let’s just say I’ve learned a lot but have only scratched the surface. My friends and family were very supportive of my early post photography, but it’s clear that my photography skills needed some work. Before I figured out white balance, I had some posts that I’ll simply call the “Blue Period.” :) Take 10 Minute Buttermilk Caramel Sauce, then and now. I had to reshoot it. It was too good to get lost in some dark dingy photos. I’m featuring it again today along with a redo of Spiced Applesauce Cake. It’s a nice reminder of some recipes I love, and a year later, I’m trying to give them the credit they are due.
The cake is an easy way to share some fall flavors without a lot of hassle or commitment. It’s just a simple snack cake; applesauce takes the place of peeling and chopping up apples. It’s full of spice and fall flavor. If you use better spices you’ll have better flavor. Check out the original post to read more about the spices I used. The 10 minute Buttermilk Caramel Sauce takes the cake over the top. There’s nothing like hot caramel sauce dripping over a warm spiced cake…or over anything, really.
I happened to have some particularly small honey crisp apples on hand, so I couldn’t resist dressing up the cake with a drippy caramel apple to celebrate this special day. It worked out beautifully, and who doesn’t want a little caramel apple with their Spiced Applesauce Cake? No one I know :)
I’ve enjoyed sharing my favorite recipes, whether they were ones that I’ve developed on my own, or others that are just tried and true. There’s an infinite amount of recipes out there. It’s always nice when someone who has similar tastes to yours can tell you that something is just plain good. I won’t post something just to fill a slot for the week. I stick with quality over quantity and there’s been plenty of really good, but not good enough recipes that haven’t made the cut or will continue to be developed until they do. Whether it’s a fellow food blogger, a food magazine or a cook book, I always know after I’ve tried a few recipes if they are a trusted source. I hope this blog has become that for some of you.
This blog has also given me a great outlet to talk about food with people who want to hear about it. I have a few friends/family that will engage in a long conversation about a certain recipe or ingredient or a process. Most people’s eyes glaze over after a few minutes. I get it. When my husband and I were dating, he showed me how to build a computer. Yeah, I get it. I love being able to use a computer, I just might not be passionate about mother boards and hard drives. Some people just like to eat good food. They don’t really care much about how it was made.
But even now, when I can write 1000 words without blinking, I don’t know how many people are actually reading the post. I don’t have data for that (sigh), and I do love my data. In my merchant days, I could get quick feedback when I delivered product to stores. The consultants and store managers would tell me what they thought as soon as they opened up the cartons. I could find out if my customers liked what we created and watch sales by the hour if I chose to. I could track what the end use was of the product. Lots of data. Lots of feedback.
I analyze all kinds of the data for the blog and while there’s no metric telling me that people read the words or enjoy the writing or make and like the recipes…what I do know is that thousands of you stop by each week from over 100 different countries. It’s mind boggling and more than I ever expected. I’m truly grateful.
For those of you who make the recipes and comment on them, or email me about them, know that it makes my day to hear from you…because then I know that something is actually happening and it’s something good. I personally was never one to comment on blogs no matter how much a loyal reader I was. I do comment more now on others’ blogs because I’m living it, but I still don’t do so often, unless I really feel a connection and have something sincere to say. So for those loyal readers who come back to read each post or make the recipes, but who prefer to stay out of the mix…I get you and I’m sending out a virtual high five to celebrate the day. Thanks for coming back again and again :)
Finally, I’m grateful to my husband, who built this site for me and who didn’t flinch when I came up with a totally different looking design for the site two weeks after he completed the original design. He sat patiently with me and helped me bring that new vision to life so that I could feel comfortable presenting something that I felt really represented “me”.
When I couldn’t find a graphic for a pot filled with vegetables, he created one for me so that it could be part of the logo. When I decided I wanted a wood textured background, he found a photo we had taken of a playground bench near our house and used that. (It was exactly what I was looking for!) He’s stained and painted back drops and helped me source photography props. He holds caramel drippy spoons in mid air while I take photos. And, of course, he’s one of my valuable taste testers. I could go on and on.
So, one year after I pushed the button and waited impatiently for the band to play and the balloons to drop…something did happen. I produced a blog, challenged myself to do something I’ve never done before, learned that producing content for a food blog takes far longer than I ever thought possible, found a different kind of creative outlet, developed some food photography and photo editing skills, learned about the benefits and drawbacks to social media and how to engage productively, and joined a whole new community where I’ve met some really great people.
Today, The Merchant Baker turns one…
I’d say it was a year well spent.
Spiced Applesauce Cake with 10 Minute Buttermilk Caramel Sauce
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 1 ½ cups unsweetened applesauce
- 10 Minute Buttermilk Caramel Sauce
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray an 8” or 9” square cake pan with cooking spray. (I used a 9" pan)
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices.
In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar and vanilla together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Add eggs, one at a time and beat well after each addition. Then, beat in the applesauce.
Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until combined. Expect the mixture to look a bit curdled. This is normal.
Spread the batter in the prepared pan and bake until golden brown and a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs, about 35-40 minutes. (If you're making the caramel sauce, you can start it once the cake is in the oven or even while its cooling. It will be done in plenty of time to top the cake.)
Cool cake in pan 15 minutes. Loosen the edges with a knife and remove to a cooling rack to finish cooling or you can let it cool in the baking pan if you're planning to serve it from there.
Top each serving with warm caramel sauce, if desired. (Trust me, you desire it!)
*Store plain cake (without caramel sauce on it) in a covered container at room temperature. Caramel sauce should be refrigerated separately. See sauce recipe for further storage details.
*This cake stays moist for at least three days and probably more, but it rarely lasts that long in our house.
Cake from Smitten Kitchen
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