Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to attend the Food Photography and Styling Workshop hosted by Twigg Studios and The Little Plantation in London, where I was given great insight helping me further develop my photography skills, which I admit, up until that point, was primarily based on taking ‘lucky’ shots and my impatient inquisitions to my own personal search engine (Djamo). For the most part of the last year and a bit, I have (
unconsciously consciously, definitely consciously) tried to steer away from taking too many photographs without the assistance and reassurance of my faithful companion and camera-connissiore. For one reason or another, I heavily criticised myself for my imperfections in photography taking and food styling (lets not get me started with my editing skills), which, now that I look back, although it really helped push me to better myself, the harshness of my feelings towards myself and my abilities was completely unnecessary. You cannot expect to run before you can walk – something I needed to be reminded of. The workshop really inspired me and provided me with the confidence I really needed to move forward with my photography, styling and editing (and as a bonus, I got to meet one of my Food Blogger Idols!). I am fairly shy in my own right and sometimes find it quite difficult to express myself verbally but the atmosphere was so relaxed and comfortable, I found myself worrying later on that I may have come across as bit too loud, forward and maybe even worthy of a “Miss Best-Suggestion” award. But, jokes aside, I have provided a few of my favourite shots I was able to take (and edit myself!) here in this post, thanks to the help and expertise of the lovely ladies I met at the workshop. (Djamo, I think you may now be out of a job).
Apart from Kimberly (pictured above) and Aimee (pictured below), I was also able to meet Silvia from Salvia + Limone, Maxine from 9 Tea Cups, Caroline from Suppers in Season and Anna from Anna Banana. All beautiful women. All completely different in style, character and with different stories to tell. All brought together by the love of food. And it got me thinking, as we began opening up with each other as we offered a glimpse into our own unique worlds, what an incredible privilege it was to be surrounded by their kindness, strength, courage, creativity and wisdom. All the things I aspire to have, to be.
The presence of strong, independent women is not something new to me. My mother, Djamo’s mother and sister, my sisters, my friends, my grandmothers are all examples of this, but somehow, the workshop really amplified that. My mother raised five children (at one point three of us were under the age of three at the same time), my sister, Faye, is expecting her first any day now (need to up my game with my knitting), and another sister, Nadia, who has just finished her Masters in Immunology, has already applied to do her PhD in the coming year. It is such a pleasure to see these women making their dreams come true alongside their own journeys into motherhood and prospective careers, and this encourages me to keep focussing on my goals and to never take my eyes away from what I seek in life. Thank you!
This leads me on this beautiful Italian cake: Torta Mimosa. Usually bouquets of golden mimosa flowers are given to the women in your life to whom you cherish, love and appreciate on the 8th March, International Woman’s Day. Late? Definitely. But no sweat. It is a rather romantic gesture I believe, and one my grandmother would have thoroughly enjoyed. She loved flowers and plants (she had obtained the nickname “Ida Green Fingers” for good reason), something, I think she passed on to me. She would most certainly have enjoyed their powdery fragrance.
To any puritans reading this: I solemnly swear that this cake is no where near traditional, in appearance or in its flavours. But at the heart of this cake, lies its essence, its offerings of love and gratitude. I have seen a number of recipes using solely lemons, pineapples, or even orange blossom to flavour the cake, and as lovely as they sounded, I really wanted to capture the fragrance of the Mimosa blossoms, which has often been described as powdery with honeyed violets and hints of almonds. I decided to use the citrus freshness of the mandarin here (which is currently in season) as its sweet-sourness breaks through and complements the floral perfumes and the nuttiness of the almonds.
Cooking time: 2+ hours
Makes: 1×6 layer (8 inch cake)
1cup caster sugar
4 eggs plus 8 egg yolks
3/4cup plain flour
1tbsp baking powder
1tbsp ground almonds
2tbsp corn starch
2 tsp almond essence
1 1/2tsp violet essence
zest of 1 mandarin
juice of 1/2 mandarin
8 egg yolks
3/4 cup caster sugar
300ml whole milk
300ml heavy cream, plus 400ml for whipping
3-4tbsp plain flour
1/4cup confectionary sugar
Honeyed Violet+ Citrus Syrup
1/4tsp violet essence
7-8tbsp caster sugar
Mandarin Mascarpone Buttercream Frosting
zest of 1 mandarin
juice of 1/2 mandarin
3cups confectionary sugar
1cup butter, room temperature
1/8tsp salt (only if unsalted butter is used)
crystallised mimosa flowers (optional)
fresh mimosa flowers (optional)
The night before the cake is to be made and assembled, make the filling. Place the milk and 300ml of the heavy cream into a saucepan and allow to come to gentle simmer, stirring occasionally. Take off heat. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and place in a bowl along with the sugar and the flour. Stir to combine. Slowly (and stirring continuously) add small amounts of the hot milk mixture, until the mixture is well combined. Pour this back into the pan, adding the mandarin juice and zest and stir over a gentle heat until thick. Pour into a bowl or jug, covering with cling film (ensure this touches the surface of the custard so no skin forms) and place in the refrigerator.
On the day, preheat the oven to 180c (160c fan-assisted) 375f. Place the four whole eggs into a bowl along with the sugar and whisk vigorously for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, separate the egg whites from the egg yolks, and slowly add these, one by one, into the bowl before adding the almond and violet essence. Continue whisking for another 5-10 minutes. Sieve the dry ingredients together and slowly fold into the egg mixture until evenly dispersed. Pour into 2×8 inch cake tins and place in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden on top and a skewer comes out clean. When removing the cake from the oven, simply turn the heating off and with the oven door half ajar, allow to cool for a few minutes, prior to removing (I have found this helps to ensure that the cake doesn’t suddenly sink). When cooled slightly, take out of the tin and place on a cooling tray.
When the cake has cooled completely, trim the browned edges off the sides of the cake (so the bright yellow shows) (Tip: I use the underside of these scraps that still hold bits of the yellow cake as decoration) and the top. Cut each cake into 3 layers and set aside.
Meanwhile, make the syrup. Pour the water, sugar, essence and cointreau into a pan and allow to come to a boil for 2 minutes before taking off the heat and adding the honey. Stir till the honey is melted into the liquid before setting aside to cool. Whip the rest of the heavy cream (400ml from the filling) along with the confectionary sugar and set aside.
Next, make the buttercream by adding confectionary sugar, butter and mascarpone to a bowl and mix thoroughly. Add the zest and juice of the mandarin and continue to stir until combined.
To assemble the cake, place the first cake layer onto the cake stand. Trickle 1/5 of the syrup onto the sponge before spreading with some of the crème filling and 1/5 of the whipped cream. Place a new layer on top and continue. When you have placed the top layer onto the cake, spread with the buttercream before spreading rest of the crème over this. Decorate with yellow crumbs or as desired.
Here is to the beauty of womanhood.
Thank you for reading.