October 9, 2012
There’s nothing quite so great as watching a friend coming into his or her own.
For the first two years of Blue Jean Gourmet’s existence, Sonya Cuellar was this site’s exclusive photographer; I never could have gotten this blog off the ground without her.
Sonya is also an extremely talented painter. Self-taught, her work betrays an innate talent for manipulating color and texture. Jill and I are proud to hang several Cuellar originals in our home, and even prouder to call Sonya a friend.
Over the last year, Sonya’s artistic career has really taken off. She started taking classes at Houston’s Glassell School of Art to hone her technique, and the resulting paintings have demonstrated an increased level of sophistication. In January, she was selected for the John Palmer Escapist Mentorship Program, which has pushed and challenged and stretched her to take on new projects and promote herself and her work in new ways. She’s taken to the whole thing like a duck to water, and I am so proud.
Recently, on our way home from an otherwise lovely trip to Memphis, Jill’s camera was stolen. Thankfully, Sonya was willing to step in and become blog photographer again for the short term, until we can replace Jill’s camera. Today’s cake image and others you’ll see in coming weeks were taken by Sonya.
To celebrate Sonya’s blossoming career and expose more folks to her beautiful work, we concocted a little giveaway! To win a custom-painted messenger bag OR iPad cover like the ones pictured here, just follow these steps:
1. Head on over to Sonya’s website and take a look at her Paintings gallery.
3. Post a comment here with the title of your favorite of Sonya’s pieces!
The giveaway will be open until Friday, October 12th at NOON CST. At that time, I’ll randomly select a comment number and inform the winner via email. Due to shipping costs, this giveaway is open to residents of the United States and Canada only.
Many thanks to Sonya for letting me give away one of her awesome pieces–I have the bag pictured above and I love mine! Go enter everyone!
***UPDATE*** We have a winner! Congratulations to Sunny, with randomly selected comment #10. I will contact you via email to get your mailing address!
PISTACHIO CHAI CAKE
Inspired by this article about baking with tea, and riffing off of this recipe, I give you this not-too-sweet and very moist cake. I think it would work very well at brunch and, of course, it goes extremely well with a cup of tea!
I probably didn’t push the chai flavor as far as it could go—it wound up being more of a backdrop for the pistachios, which was fine by me. If you want a more aggressively tea-flavored cake, go ahead and bump up the amounts for the spices.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup almond meal
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
pinch of salt
1 ¼ cup buttermilk
4 T browned butter
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs at room temperature
4 T good-quality loose-leaf black tea (or cheat and cut open some tea bags)
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. ground cardamom
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. black pepper
for the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
approximately 2 T milk
½ tsp. vanilla
pinch ground cardamom—optional
for the topping:
½ cup raw unsalted pistachios, shelled & chopped
pan: I used an 8” spring form pan lined with a piece of buttered parchment, but an 8” square would work as well
Combine the dry ingredients: flour, almond meal, sugar, baking powder, soda, & salt. Whisk in the tea and spices.
Make a well in the center of the dry mixture and pour in the browned butter, eggs, vanilla, & buttermilk. Stir the mixture until just combined.
Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cake has browned on top and cooked through (test with a toothpick). Cool on a wire rack.
To assemble the glaze, whisk all ingredients together. You may wish to adjust the consistency with more milk or powdered sugar, then drizzle over the top of the cooled cake. Sprinkle the pistachios on top of the glaze and serve!