Note: below is a little encouragement to share content that you really care about and that will eventually draw people closer to you. If you want the recipe for this delicious cake, scroll to the bottom and ignore my ramblings.
‘In order to be recognized by others, you need to give them a reason to remember you. You need to gift them something yours, in a way. If you don’t say anything because you’re scared, you’ll never gift anyone anything.’
This is something a dear friend of mine told me as we were sitting in his car and I was complaining about how difficult it had always been for me to make friends, or make connections in business.
‘Waiting for people like you to come to you is all right,’ he went on. ‘But what if there’s someone who shares your view in a room filled with a crowd you’re both feeling out of place in? if you don’t tell everyone who you are, you’ll never find them. You need to talk about yourself through the things that are dear to you.’
This conversation gave birth to what I can consider my first real New Year’s resolution.
I have always had a hard time to speak my mind. I have always been the kind of person who was very conscious of the fact that, when you say something, whatever you say, there will be at least one in ten, a hundred or a thousand people who will disagree with you. I was always the one trying to find the most democratic solution for everyone. I was scared of that ‘one’ out of ten who might have destroyed my feelings (or my being right).
This friend’s words came like a slap in the face.
He is the total opposite of me: he is a kind of person who, when working in the kitchen at a seaside resort in Cuba, he legitimately threw a whole set of old pots into the ocean and urged the boss to buy new ones. They listened to him.
“Is there a point you feel it’s important to prove? Then go ahead and do it full-throttle. No one needs lukewarm sentiments. Share your point of view with the world, and do it in a hot-fire way. I feel like you need to rekindle your timbers, but you’re not going to do it if you’re being lukewarm. You need to burn. If you know what I mean.”
I feel that this principle is also valid for what we share on social media, and for our success on IG, Facebook, or wherever else. Here’s why:
In business or social media, we often behave like I do with people – in our specific case, we do it with our Instagram or Facebook content. We’re constantly talking about what people like, what people want, and what the trends are. In other words, by complying with what we think will work best for a crowd, we are trying to be lukewarm. And it is no more than guess work, because the truth is that we hardly ever know what people really want. We can examine the trends, we can follow the flow and try to ‘shoot in the crowd in the hope to catch someone randomly’ (as an Italian saying goes). But trends pass quickly and no one can cater to everyone.
No one should, really.
But work that matters to you will always be 100% yours. It might imply failure, and it might even imply losing some following. But it is the right – and best – thing to do in the long run. If you feel it isn’t working for you, it is time to change, even if it seems to be working for the crowd. It can be a small change, a little at a time, so that the crowd that follows has time to adjust. But it needs to be done nonetheless.
I just want to do a big shoutout to all of you who are dissatisfied with social media: just talk about what you care most about, and find creative ways to do it. People often lack ways to find marvel: you can be the eyes of those who can’t seem to source it from anywhere just by sharing what awes you. Those who relate to your feelings will come. It’s like magic.
Talk about your process, your struggles and your successes. Make a phone call rather than sending an email. Invest in yourself and learn the best ways to deliver this kind of content in a way that works. Connect with others, then connect more. And keep doing these things on repeat.
The next time you’re sharing something for your social, ask yourself: am I really sharing content that matters to ME? Because I asked myself this very thing over and over and quite often the answer was no.
With all the ifs and buts you put before your work, the truth is that you can choose and the options are only two: you complain about the world / the industry /the people being lukewarm, or you do something to rekindle the fire.
I will stop being lukewarm and start lighting flames that heat me up but won’t burn me.
This cake is also a result of this kind of thinking. I was thinking that maybe I should so some cookies but then some others, or something lighter, or something easier to make…but then I decided to go full blast and make a whole damn cake. If you are like me and you feel the need to implement this full-throttle behavior in your business or life, let’s take this challenge together.
What’s your challenge for the new year?
Aside this, mine is turning Hortus into a better performing site, with a good newsletter and possibly writing in Italian as well.
PS: I just wanted to let you know that as I was writing this article I burned a whole bag of beans I was BOILING. Silly me. So I’ll be happy if you appreciate the effort.
ABOUT THIS CAKE
I haven’t made one in quite a while and, well, it isn’t perfect looking, but it is one of those kind of cakes that are moist, full of flavor and delicious. The sponge cake is actually very light, and has very little butter as its goal is to absorb the flavoring liquid, jam and flavor from the filling. Flavor-wise, it is a mix between a classic buche de noel that we’ve always made with my mom when we were kids, and a sort of Black Forest. I love cherry jam the most in this kind of cake (the one I personally made with cherries from our trees this past June!), but feel free to use the kind of jam you like most.
I also use rum because it gives heaps of flavor and you 100% won’t taste the alcohol. Still, skip it if you prefer and use some aromatic liquid – maybe elderflower syrup or some other flowery mix. You could even use some Dona Chai if that is how you roll. Up to you.
Let this cake rest in the fridge for a few hours before serving – HIGHLY recommended. And, even if it doesn’t turn out super pretty, it is still gonna be delicious!
- 30g flour
- 20g potato starch
- 40g cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup / 100g sugar
- 2 tablespoons / 30g melted butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup / 125ml water
- ¼ cup / 50g sugar
- 3 tablespoons rum
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons cherry jam
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 200g ricotta
- 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon rum
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- ½ cup / 125 ml whipping cream
- a drop of almond extract
- cherry jam
- whipped cream
- Flowers, leaves, sugar pearls to decorate.
- Preheat the oven to 170 C˚ / 340 F˚.
- In a bowl, combine the flour, starch, cocoa powder and baking soda.
- Separate the egg whites from the yolks in two bowls, and add the sugar to the bowl with the yolks. Beat them until pale and very fluffy, then sift in the combined dry ingredients. Loosen the mix up with the butter, rum and add the vanilla - if it seems too tough add a tablespoon of milk, but we'll be adding the whipped whites as well.
- Bet the whites until stiff and gently fold them into the mixture.
- Generously butter and flour a 9-inch / 24cm baking mold and slowly pour in the mixture. bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely.
- Add the first 4 ingredients to a small pot and bring to a boil. Turn it down to a simmer and let it cook until reduced by almost half, then add the lemon juice, vanilla and cherry jam and mix well. Let cool.
- Beat the ricotta with the sugar, rum and vanilla. Whip the cream until stiff and, if you like, add a drop of almond extract. Fold the cream into the ricotta mixture, and let set in the fridge.
- Once everything is cool and set (you can do all the above things a day before) assemble the cake.
- Divide the filling in 3 parts, one of which more abundant than the other two, saving the most generous portion for last.
- Cut the sponge cake lengthwise into 3 layers, and set the bottom layer on a pretty plate or cake stand. Wet it generously with the liquid and spread a layer of cherry jam, then spread a first layer of filling. Lay the second sponge cake layer on top and repeat, then top with the top layer. Cover the entire cake with the remaining filling. It will give your cake a 'naked effect on the sides, but make sure to smooth out the top.
- Now, you can leave the cake as is if you cannot be bothered to use a sac-a-poche to decorate the cake, and just finish with some pretty white flowers and a ribbon on the sides, and maybe crumble or arrange some meringues on top. I whipped /2 cup cream and used it to do a few frills and decorations with a sac-a-poche, in my mom's fashion, then topped with meringue.
- You can serve it straight away, but I suggest letting the cake rest in the fridge anywhere from a few hours to overnight. Once it will have sat for some 10-12 hours, it will be twice as delicious!