Italian Crumbly Cake and a few more thoughts about the #IFBC2013

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the #IFBC (International Food Bloggers Conference) which I wrote about in my previous post.  I enjoyed the keynote speaker, Dorie Greenspan and spent a fun weekend in Seattle with the Doristas.  I also had the privilege of attending two photography sessions offered at the #IFBC conference by the noted photographer and food stylist for the New York Times, Andrew Scrivani.  Just for fun check out  beautiful food photography at  So, what did he say?  What did I take away from the photography sessions at the conference??  Wow, where do I start?  He gave a lot of information about food styling, food photography, organizing photos and the business of photography.  He also told quite a few jokes, I think just to lighten up the serious business of food styling and photography  -the jokes were much appreciated by all of us attendees.  I was most inspired by the information he gave us about how he lights the photos he takes in his studio -specifically how he controls the natural light that is the light source for his photos.  He explained how the light flows through a fairly small window on to a table set in front of a window where he arranges both the food and selected props he photographs.  He uses all kinds of thin boards, paper, films, fabric etc. to both diffuse the bright natural light and direct it on to his photography subject.  The end result photos are so natural looking that they look like they could have been taken anywhere -on top of a snow covered mountain, on a blanket placed on a sandy  beach or in the middle of a vineyard in the Napa Valley.  I find it fascinating that lighting and a few well chosen props can convey so much ‘other worldly’ information in a simple photograph.  I’m intrigued by beautiful natural lighting in photographs, most likely because I find it to be so difficult to accomplish.

He talked about shooting in RAW versus JPEG and why you should be shooting in RAW.  He also spoke about selling photographs and how to organize your photos using tags.  He spoke to the serious photographers at the conference, giving them solid information about food photography and answering questions at the end of both sessions.  I admit to glazing over a few times but I’ll go back to my gut feeling that sometimes it’s good to challenge yourself with info that’s over your head -nothing wrong with that!

A few of Andrew Scrivani’s food styling tips have already made it into my food blogger’s repertoire.  For example..making notes on your recipe about the way you’re planning to style your photograph later, like..’chop parsley for soup garnish, zest lime for cookies or cut a fresh sprig of basil for plate’.  I know what you’re bloggers have way to much fun playing with their food.

As for my food photo challenges -we live in a wooded area where natural light for photos is never found to be pouring through any windows, maybe light filtered by trees -if there aren’t any clouds in the sky and it’s anytime between 3 and 3:15 in the afternoon – then you’re good to go for food photography.  Next house, next life..I’ll be sure to look for a sunny window!  I’ve been know to carry food and props around with me in search of sunlight but that gets old real fast.  So as fascinated as I am by Andrew Scrivani’s sunny studio window I have to make photos using pretend natural light from sources other than the sun, which is unfortunate but life in my wooded canyon goes on and things get done all the same.

I made an Italian Crumbly cake for this post  because I hoped it wouldn’t be too awfully difficult to photograph with my limited source of natural light.  I also used the beautiful cake plate my mother-in-law gave me for my birthday in hopes that it might distract you from any and all imperfections in my photos.  The cake was excellent and the recipe will be a keeper for years to come.

Italian Crumbly Cake and a few more thoughts about the #IFBC2013

Serving Size: 8-10 servings

Gently adapted from Dolce Italiano by Gina DePalma.


  • For the Cake
  • 1 & 1/4 cups Italian style "00" flour or cake flour
  • 1/4 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick / 4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • For the Topping
  • 2 cups sliced almonds
  • 1 large egg white
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon


  1. Preheat the oven to 325F.
  2. Lightly grease and flour a 9" springform pan, tap pan to remove excess flour.
  3. To Make the Cake
  4. Using a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, almond flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon, set aside.
  5. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the whole egg, egg yolks and sugar on medium speed until the mixture thickens and turns light yellow, about 3 minutes.
  6. Add the dry ingredients on low speed until incorporated, scraping down the bowl as needed.
  7. Add the vanilla extract and melted butter, beat for 30 seconds on medium speed.
  8. Scraped the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top to make it as level as possible.
  9. To Make the Topping
  10. Place the almonds in a medium bowl.
  11. Lightly whisk the egg white in a small bowl until it is foamy and pour over the almonds.
  12. Sprinkle the almonds with sugar and cinnamon, stir gently to combine.
  13. Spread the almond topping over the cake batter.
  14. Bake the cake for 35-40 minutes, or the cake is golden brown and the top of cake is springy to the touch. Cake tester should come away with a few crumbs.
  15. Place the cake on a metal rack to cool.
  16. After 10 minutes remove the sides of the springform pan and continue cooling the cake.
  17. Carefully remove the bottom of the pan from cake with a large offset spatula before serving.

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  1. Not only does this look delicious, but I have always thought your photography was outstanding – a bit jealous myself. I absolutely l o v e the cake plate! Cathy~

  2. You always have beautiful photos! I feel your pain with the natural light issue- my house is dark. That cake looks scrumptious. :)

  3. Patty, no distractions needed, this looks wonderful and it sounds like a WONDERFUL time at the conference, sure wish I could have been there but it’s fun to hear all about it!

  4. I noticed that beautiful plate right off, what a nice gift. I haven’t had any light these days at least where I want to photo. Next house too, lol. I do have all the ingredients for this cake however. I haven’t tried shooting in RAW I wonder if there is a lot of processing afterwards. Glad you had a good time.

  5. Smile. Thank you for sharing more of this wonderful experience Patty. It is so funny because I actually did consider lighting for food photography when we bought our first house! This cake looks just lovely. I wish I had a slice beside me now.

  6. Your cake looks really tastey. I think you have really good photography and always have, I would never guessed you don’t have very much natural light at home. I have tons of natural light and I still struggle with my photos. I realize I am most comfortable with black back grounds because with my light it seems to pop. It’s hard for me to shot on white backgrounds it always looks grey and not bright enough. I need to take a photography class to make me get out of my comfort zone. Anyway sounds like you had a great time.

    • pattysfood says:

      Suzanne,Interesting that you prefer using black back grounds for your photos-I’m going to have to try that! I think white is difficult to work with and get a good color. I’m thinking about finding a photography class too ;)

  7. Your lack of sunny windows could have fooled me… that means you are doing something right! That cake looks scrumptious. I think that almond topping can be repurposed in other recipes.

    Have a wonderful time in Germany!

  8. I never would have known you didn’t have an excellent source of natural light…your photos are always terrific. And your cake looks pretty darn terrific, too! Enjoy your trip!!!

  9. my…that topping is driving me NUT!

  10. Had I been able to attend IFBC, the photography sessions are the ones I would have been most interested in attending. Your cake looks delicious!

  11. Patty I love this cake and all those beautiful almonds on top. Rustic and flavors I adore, as I adore Italian based/flavors in desserts. Going to look into that cookbook for my library!

  12. I’ve always been inspired by your food styling and photography! And your cooking and baking! I would love to learn more about “food photography” and the session with Andrew Scrivani sounds inspiring!

  13. It was so amazing to meet you! I appreciate all that you shared with me about photography & light. I love your photos & I love that you continue to challenge yourself. I’m sure if you ever decided to sell your photos, you’d be very successful.

    Oh, and the cake looks wonderful, too! Is that yourFrench towel from Kennedy Watson?

  14. I totally thought you had a sunny window with great light pouring in :-)
    That was a great session with Andrew – definitely food for thought. (And I am totally working over Joe for a new camera for Christmas)

  15. Gorgeous cake, that crumbly topping looks just scrumptious. I love your plate (and I have some serious light envy ;)).

  16. Learning more about food photography is one of my bucket list assignments, and it seems I never have enough time to devote to it. I need another life really! But what I CAN make is this fantastic cake Patty! That topping!

  17. Patty, thank you so much for sharing the photography tips…I never took any class in photography and I find it too complicated…light, aperture…and so on. I try to take my photos by the window…during Fall and Winter is a challenge.
    The cake looks fabulous, I love the nutty layer…and the rich cake layer…perfect for the afternoon tea.
    Hope you are having a wonderful week my dear :D

  18. As others have said, your photographs are always beautiful. That must have been a great tutorial.

  19. Like everyone else Patty, I also thought you had natural light and a sunny window. Maybe you should give us some tips on lighting. I really enjoyed the session with Andrew Scrivani and was able to come home with some interesting tips. It also made me realize I really need a photography class. Hope you’re enjoying your trip.

  20. Sounds like you had a great time at the conference, and I have been loving everyone’s photos from the conference. This cake looks devine!!!! If I could only reach into the screen and grab a slice.

  21. What a stunning cake Patty! I very much enjoyed your post and the thoughts on photography and styling. I think as a food blogger, we are consistently searching for the great shot with great food and fun props. An ever evolving art. You did a great job and this cake sounds simply amazing!!! Hope you have a great weekend!

  22. I love simple cakes topped with almonds! Such an elegant look, and so much easier and more nutritious than plopping heaps of frosting on top. This is a beauty of a cake, Patty!

  23. Gorgeous cake, Patty! Italian tortas are one of my favorite desserts. Food photography definitely takes a lots of practice and requires a creative eye. You’ve nailed it!

  24. Your cake looks lovely! Sounds like you learned a lot at the food bloggers’ conference.

  25. Patty, your photos are always so bright and clear, I assumed you were taking them in a sun-filled room. Whatever you’re doing, it’s working! :)

    I’d love to have a slice of this splendid cake with my second cup of Saturday coffee, please!

  26. I am late to the party on this one but also thought you had a light filled house- amazing that you do so well given your environs. And I wondered if that was the tea towel from Watson Kennedy- so fun to find it is. That cake stand is gorgeous- you got very lucky in the MIL dept :)

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