I’ve been posting on this blog for 12 years. When I started, I was 27, I had a full-time job in communication and events, I was single, and I lived with my parents and my sister. I was a dreamer, a fervent optimistic, a weekend baker, and an improvised home cook. On February 1st, 2009, I decided to start a food blog because I had the urge to be passionate about something, and I thought I could channel my curiosity for food through the pages of a blog.
Now I am almost 40. I have a husband, Tommaso, who’s also my best friend and business partner, a 5-month daughter, Livia, and two dogs, Noa and Teo. We live next door to my parents and grandma, in our small apartment with the best view over the hills. I’m still a dreamer, even though my intense optimism has been toned down by age and a no-nonsense approach to life. I’m still an occasional baker – hello high insulin -, but mostly a passionate home cook.
After three years of blogging, I left my full-time job and embarked on a freelance career as a food writer and photographer.
Now, I like to define myself as a food entrepreneur. Cooking classes, gatherings, cookbooks, recipes and photography, videos, and podcast episodes: everything revolves around our love for food, cooked and shared.
Over the years, we shared our content on Facebook (do you know we have a group, Cooking with Juls’ Kitchen?), on Instagram, through our podcast, Cooking with an Italian Accent, which is two years old today, and via email, with our Newsletter.
But the blog remains the place where we prefer to share recipes, stories, photos, and glimpses of our life.
In 2020 we reached more than 2,200,000 page views in one year, with a 40% increase in traffic for the English language alone. Needless to say, your support is what makes us going even after 12 years.
Last spring, during the lockdown, we all became pizza and bread masters. Still, if you look at the blog statistics, you also liked the ricotta ravioli, the sage ragout and the classic Tuscan ragout, the stuffed turkey breast, the delicate acacia flower fritters, and the most loved, the apple olive oil cake.
Thanks to 12 years of blogging, I honed my cooking skills, my photography, and my writing.
This blog is my playground and my online portfolio. It is also the only journal I’ve kept through the years, where I recorded my struggles to find my place in the world, the feelings of uncertainty when I had to start over, and the tentative steps I took to build my career. It is also the place where I shared the beginning of my love story with Tommaso, our September wedding, my pregnancy during the lockdown, the arrival of Livia into our lives.
But this blog is also a collection of family recipes that now I wish to pass on to Livia and a detailed photography of who I am now as a home cook. It is part of who I am, as a person, as a woman, and as a professional.
Why do we (still) believe in blogs?
We’re not old-fashioned bloggers who miss the good ol’ times, and it is not because I am an obsessive writer. We want our content to live on the Internet as long as possible, as we dedicate time, and love, to create what we share. A blog post has an average life span of 2 years – or even longer as this post that you keep going back to would prove -, a pin on Pinterest of 4 months, a photo on Instagram of 21 hours, a post on Facebook 5 hours. Now you see why we still ardently believe in blogs.
Social Media come and go: think about Facebook, how relevant it was 5 years ago, how boring it can be now. Besides this, algorithms change from day to day, making you suddenly invisible even to your mum. With a blog is different, you have 100% control on it. You can read this article to have further information on the lifespan of a social media post.
How to maintain a long relationship with your blog.
Today, to celebrate this significant milestone in a time of fast-consuming content, I’ll be sharing what I think is important to maintain a long-term relationship with your blog. You won’t be surprised to discover that it is very similar to what keeps the sparkle alive in a relationship between two people, be it love or friendship.
Write about something relevant for you.
If you intend to blog for years, write about something exciting and relevant for you. It will help you be consistent, showing up week after week, creating new content, sharing your perspective and experience on that subject. You will enthusiastically research, coming up with new ideas. If the last trend is proteic shakes, but you are a keen pasta maker, don’t jump on the bandwagon. Keep nurturing your niche.
That’s why I blog about food, why I chose Tuscan and Italian food after a few months of very eclectic posts (from frosted cupcakes to curried vegetables to Chinese spring rolls), why I still find it relevant after 12 years. I’m always excited when I discover a new local recipe while I am queueing at the butcher or when I dig a fascinating story from in one of my cookbooks.
Even though I chose my focus years ago, it does not prevent me from exploring other cuisines, like the French mousse au chocolat, or the intersection of different traditions, as in the squash mac and cheese, which is very close to our pasta ai quattro formaggi.
Be yourself, act natural, and use your tone of voice. Don’t pretend to be someone else. It is easier to be consistent when you do not have to fake a voice, or interest, or a life. Readers feel when you are not genuine, when you are using a style that is not your natural one.
On this matter, these are two of my favourite quotes by William Zinsser, from his book On Writing Well, a book I won’t ever recommend enough to everyone interested in writing non-fiction.
“There is no style store; style is organic to the person doing the writing, as much a part of him as his hair, or if he is bald, his lack of it. Trying to add style to a weak foundation is like a bald man adding a toupee. At first glance, the formerly bald man looks younger and even handsome. But at second glance – and with a toupee, there’s always a second glance – he doesn’t look quite right. This is the problem of writers who set out deliberately to garnish their prose. You lose whatever it is that makes you unique. The reader will notice if you are putting on airs. Readers want the person who is talking to them to sound genuine. Therefore a fundamental rule is: be yourself.”
“Believe in your own identity and your opinion. Writing is an act of ego, and you might as well admit it. Use its energy to keep yourself going.”
Show up consistently.
At the beginning, it used to be three, four times a week. My posts were brief, photos would take just five minutes, and the writing was informal, easy, casual. Now I aim to post twice a month: often it takes about three days to have a post up on the blog, if you consider testing the recipe, organizing the photo shooting, cleaning up the mess, writing and researching, translating the post in both languages and then sharing it.
I wish they still have the informal, easy atmosphere of the first days, even though I really hope the dedication we put into creating our content shine through each post.
Why is consistency so important? Because practice makes you better, and considering your blog like your gym or playground will hone your skills, give you confidence, and help you find your voice and style.
The more you write, photograph, research, the better you get at it. If you do not believe me, listen to Stephen King.
It is ok to take some time off.
As in every relationship, there are good days and bad days. Taking a break from your blog can help you refocus, find new inspiration, breath new life into your content. I realized that the more time I spend offline, the more creative I become because I need real life, experiences, I need to dip my hands in flour and eggs, to be inspired.
Every time I have taken a break from the blog, I’ve come back home willing to share what I had found, with renewed energy and enthusiasm.
I have to remember to be patient whenever I want to hasten results. Starting a blog takes time, creating an audience takes time, finding your voice takes time. But then on the way to your goals, you learn, you discover new passions, you enjoy the drive!
So, this is what worked for us. What do you think about blogging? Do you still read them? (I guess you do, if you’re here). Do you think blogs are still relevant? Do you have a secret to keep the blogging sparkle alive? As a reader, what is essential for you? What do you like to find in the blogs you read?
- What I shared in today’s post is part of what we usually teach during our food writing classes and workshops. We’ll be organizing an online food writing course soon, just in Italian for the moment. We’ll share dates and program in March.
- Keep your eyes peeled for some news in our newsletter, too. After our transfer to Substack for our Monthly Newsletter and our Quick and Fresh Newsletter, there will be a new weekly newsletter in March, can’t wait to tell you more about it.
A cake to celebrate. Tiramisu cake
After such a long post, you know a recipe would come. And it is a celebratory cake, a tiramisu cake. Tiramisu is one of my favourite desserts ever: it is creamy, with the right flavour balance given by the dark coffee and the sweet mascarpone cream. Now it becomes a tiramisu layered cake, where the bitter flavour of coffee meets a moist chocolate cake and a creamy mascarpone filling.
Ingredients for the chocolate cake
- 3 eggs
- 50 g (1/3 cups) all-purpose flour
- 25 g (1/4 cups) potato starch
- 5 g (1/3 tbsp) baking powder
- 90 g (1/2 cups) sugar
- 70 g (1/2 cup grated) dark chocolate, grated
- 30 g (2 1/8 tbsp) butter
- A pinch of salt
Ingredients for the mascarpone filling
- 500 g (1.1 lb) mascarpone cheese
- 225 g (1 cup) fresh cream
- 50 g (1/4 cups) sugar
- 1 tablespoon Baileys
- 2 cups espresso
- cocoa powder to decorate
Make the cake.
- Grease and dust with flour a 18 cm (7 inches) large pan, then preheat oven to 180°C (350°F).
- Separate egg yolks and egg whites.
- In a stand mixer or a large bowl with an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites with half of the sugar until soft peaks form, then set aside.
- In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining sugar until they are pale yellow, almost white, and stiff. When you lift up the whisk, a ribbon of batter should fall and remain on the surface of the batter in the bowl for a few seconds.
- Incorporate the two batter folding the whipped egg whites gently into the yolks.
- In another bowl, sift the flour with the potato starch and a pinch of salt. Fold the sifted dry ingredients into the beaten eggs, using a spatula to make slow movements from the bottom of the bowl to the top.
- Melt the butter and the dark chocolate in a small bowl in a bain-marie, or in the microwave.
- Add the melted chocolate and butter in a thin stream into the batter, folding it gently.
- Scrape the batter into the previously greased and floured pan and bake for about 25 minutes, until the sponge cake is dry. Check with a toothpick. Let it cool completely.
Make the filling.
- In a large bowl, whip together the mascarpone with the sugar and the fresh cream, then add a tablespoon of Baileys. Keep in the fridge until you need it.
Assemble the cake.
- Slice the cake horizontally and make three layers.
- Arrange the first layer on a cake stand, or on a serving plate, and brush it with coffee. Transfer the mascarpone and cream filling in a pastry bag, and frost the layer with one third of the filling.
- Top the mascarpone with the second layer, brush with coffee, and frost it with one third of the filling.
- Arrange the last layer on top of the mascarpone, brush it with coffee and frost it, decorating it with the remaining filling as you like.
- Dust the cake with cocoa powder and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving it.