I baked you a cake.

This might sound creepy, but I've always liked peeking into other people's houses. Not in a stalkerish, hide-in-the-bushes-and-stare-like-a-weirdo kind of way, but rather in passing, just-catching-a-glimpse.

It started on car rides when I was little, counting how many houses we'd pass with lit-up windows. Sometimes the curtains would be open, and I could see pictures on the wall and the TV glowing. Or families eating dinner. And I could never help but wonder what their story was -- what they were talking about, what their everyday lives were like, stuff like that. By the time I could imagine what they were having for dinner, the house was gone and we passed another.

Blogs are kind of like lit windows in a way. With each new post, the light goes on, and readers can peek inside at dinner on the table and books on the shelves and catch just a glimpse of everyday life. And if you're lucky, sometimes the front door will open and you're invited in.

That's what happened when Shanna of Food Loves Writing suggested that we get together, hang out, be friends. We know each other from a previous life as interns at a publishing company and we live in the same area and we started food blogs at almost the exact same time and really, there was no reason why we shouldn't meet up. So just like that, I had a real live blog friend. This past summer, we've gotten together a few times -- over brunch on a Sunday, and at her lovely blog party, and the other night at a Thai restaurant, where we stayed talking long after our food was wrapped up and the bill paid, while the workers prepared place settings for the next day and silently shooed us out with their swift glances.

And when we got past the normal food-and-blog talk and finally approached some truly serious stuff, i.e. what really happened to John Locke in Season 5 of LOST, I knew that I had found not only a blog-friend in Shanna, but a good friend. A real one. A lasting one.

Since she has this mild obsession with cookies and baking (while I drool over beets, plain and roasted, she bakes them into a cake), I promised her a while back that I'd bake something and post it on my blog. And after searching for a recipe that didn't involve having to go out and buy baking materials (I do not own a mixer, muffin tins, cake pans, cookie sheets, a rolling pin, loaf pans, etc. etc. etc.), my sister sent me a simple recipe for a berry upside-down cake. It only served two, so I wouldn't be stuck with a monstrosity of a dessert. I could use a flimsy pie tin purchased at the grocery store. And the only ingredient I didn't have in my kitchen was baking powder (what the hell is baking powder, anyway?)

So here it is. Please don't laugh.

look! i baked!

Upside-Down Berry Cakes (adapted from Cooking Light, via Jenny)
This one's for you, Shanna. Thanks for turning the lights on and inviting me in.

1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Dash of salt
1/4 cup skim milk
4 teaspoons reduced-calorie stick margarine, melted
Cooking spray
1 cup fresh strawberries, sliced (The original recipe calls for blueberries. I think any berry will work.)

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Combine first 4 ingredients in a small bowl and stir well. Add milk and margarine, stirring just until flour mixture is moist. Divide batter evenly between 2 (10-ounce) custard cups* coated with cooking spray. Top each with 1/2 cup strawberries.

Bake for 35 minutes or until lightly browned and fruit topping is bubbly.

*I used one mini pie tin and didn't think to adjust the baking time, but it turned out OK. I think.


  1. AH! I am crying. (This happens to me pretty frequently, I find, and especially with food blogs, and especially with food blogs by friends.) Love that you baked this. Love that you bought baking powder. Love to have you as a friend.

  2. I found your blog through Shanna, and I have to admit that I teared up a little bit myself. I wonder if there is a common gene between us food lovers and criers? Cause lord knows I love food. And I cry at just about anything.

  3. I hope that, someday, I'll have a real live blog friend, not just an over-the-internets blog friend. Both you and Shanna are lucky, and me? I'm jealous, but living vicariously through the both of you :)

  4. I am finding, through many a food blog, that people who love food, are some of the greatest writers. My deduction is that those who love food, are sensual people. They love food because their is either emotion attached to it, because the taste makes them feel a certain way etc. These same people, those who are sensitive to the senses (does that make sense), can write some of the most heart felt things I've ever read. I love this post, you hit it right on the nose. I am impressed by your cake, as I am not a baker myself, for the gesture is touching. great post!

  5. I find myself eagerly awaiting your posts! I love the idea of this recipe - that it's a small serving. However, the thought of that margarine is totally unappealing to me. Low fat/no fat baking usually calls for applesauce to replace the butter, margarine, oil, shortening, whatever. It's measured one for one. I always substitute applesauce for oil in my muffin recipes and in my cornbread recipe (from "The Thrill of the Grill" chef). I think I'll try it in this one, and I'll let you know how it goes! Thanks, again, Jacqui.

  6. shanna - you are really something else. something else pretty awesome, that is. have fun in maine this weekend! be sure to send twitter updates of all the fun foods you'll eat. and try lobster! or crab!

    kim - so glad you stopped by! and about the food and crying...it must be all those onions. i put onions in everything and i also cry all the time. i could be happy, angry, confused, embarrassed, scared, or chopping onions, and the tears just start flowing.

    engineer baker - maybe shanna and i will take a road trip to oshkosh someday, and we can all eat lots of cheese and discuss celebrity news, or favorite TV shows, or how we like our eggs. or something. :)

    sprouted kitchen - i totally agree with you -- all it takes is some real emotion and passion for something and it just shines through in one's writing. and food is so connected to family and friends and memories for me that it works as a perfect vessel for writing about life in general. thank you for your sweet comment!

    mrs. p - ahh! you are the best! i've heard of people using applesauce as a substitute for oil in baking before...and it doesn't end up tasting like applesauce? interesting. this baking thing is verrrrry interesting.

  7. I'm a little nervous about using applesauce in this particular recipe, because the ingredients stand alone, somewhat. But, if you want to hear from an impressive food critic, ask Mira. She makes muffins with me, and she is crazy about those muffins!

  8. I've also made some great friends through blogging...such a boon I never expected when I first started my blog :) Yes, talking til the restaurant closes type of friends...the best! :)

    The cake looks yummy and sounds yummy too...doesn't look at all like your first brush with baking powder :)

  9. mrs. p - oh dear. how i love mira. and muffins. but mostly, mira.

    chichajo - i didn't know what to expect when i started my blog! certainly not keeping up with it for a year and counting (as i'm one to get bored quickly with projects). and even just one friend through the blog is a very, very awesome bonus. thanks!

  10. Oh my, this is a darling post. It is very special when you meet a blog friend. The initial bonding over a shared obsession leads to comments on each other's blogs followed by e-mails and finally a real meeting when you actually hear the voice attached to the words you've been reading for so long. There's nothing like it. Happy you two found friendship. And, baking inspiration. ;)

  11. I love this! I'm with everyone who says there must be a correlation between food lovers and criers ... I definitely am both!

    I also agree that food lovers are sensual people. I just make cookies yesterday, making up a new recipe, and I took my time eating one of the cookies, closing my else, recalling every ingredient in that bite. Then my husband came in, took a cookie, and ate it in two bites. I asked if he could taste one of the flavours and he shrugged his shoulders. Oh well. Maybe some of us are meant to just eat and not get lost in a cookie.

    The cake looks lovely and I'm sure it tasted wonderful. :-)


  12. jennifer - you've got it entirely right. and thank you.

    kristilyn - love that you savor each bite of cookie! i do enjoy really taking in the flavors of food and imagining new ways to describe them. thanks for stopping by!


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