November 11, 2008

Whole-wheat Chocolate Linzer cake - Photography in the dark

First display pic

Any good food photographer will stress the importance of good lighting when one is doing food photography. (I am not one!) But what does a person like me do when the sun just won't shine???
With the cold gloomy winter setting in (if you have ever been/lived in the Pacific NW, then you would empathize with me) , taking photographs of food is getting challenging every day. I just have a normal digital camera, and I am so lost.
I have seen the food lighting project in a few blogs, but I just haven't got around to figuring it out, unless someone would do it for me. ;)
And the "white balance" feature in the camera just makes the food look eerie. LOL.

I would love to hear from you, how do you take good pictures when the right amount of lighting is not there?
I will update this post with good suggestions and ideas as I get them, that way everyone can benefit.

Few Updates: (For the rest, pls check the "comments" section)
I would have loved to link back to you guys (like I normally do), but the "post options" is screwed up right now in blogger! So frustrating!

"Priya of Akshayapatram": Lighting is a major problem and you can never beat good sunlight. I made the lighting system based on Lowel ego lights following Jai's instructions. It works very well, but I find it bulky to move around my apartment, as I don't have a dedicated place to set it up in. For now its lying on my bedroom floor and I usually don't have the patience to carry the food there to set it up and take photos. So size it based on your needs.
I have been managing at my kitchen counter with the tube lights ON,white light is the best! Planning on getting a smaller lamp that will be brighter, use a thin paper to diffuse the light coming out of table lamps though to avoid its harshness. You could also make use of the thermacol pieces that come with packages to bounce the light off surfaces to get good shadows/even lighting.
And then there is always an editing/post processing software to help you out a little. If you have a decently good capture, you can make it work by adjusting the brightness/contrast/exposure settings on it.

"Purva of Purva's Daawat": Softwares like picasa helps you making adjustments in the brightness of your picture.

"PG of My Kitchen stories": Try to optimise the colour balance in Adobe photoshop. It does no magic, but you can improve them a bit.

"Nirmala of Passionate Trials": Install a photo editor like Gimp (free) or Photoshop and you can add brightness to your photos very easily.

"Uma of Essence of Andhra": When you want to take a picture at night, just switch off the light in the room! Then switch on the flash of the camera and click the photo. You'll definitely get a perfect picture. I clicked a few pictures using this method and they are just perfect and bright. Will post those pics soon!

Cake, my dear loving cake... (I had ample sunlight when I took these pics, so I am not complaining about this one)

This is a cake modification of the "Austrian Linzer tart" recipe, and I have tried to take on a guilt free variation with a "no-butter", and "less-sugar" version made entirely with 100% whole wheat flour. What better than indulging in a cake without having to worry about your waistline!

Whole-wheat Chocolate Linzer cake

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 2 round cake pans (maybe 8-9" diameter)/line them with parchment paper.

Dry Ingredients:

100% whole wheat pastry flour - 3/4 cup (Try not to use the regular whole wheat flour, unless you want a very dense cake)
Cocoa powder - 3 tbsp
Baking powder - 1 tsp
Salt - 1/4 tsp

Wet Ingredients:

Whole almonds - 2/3 cup
Vegetable oil - 2 tbsp
Skim milk - 2 tbsp
Almond extract - 3/4 tsp
Large eggs - 4 (Separated, meaning white and yolks in separate bowls)
Sugar - 3/4 cups (I use a little less)
Vanilla essence - 1 tsp

For finishing:

Strawberry preserves - 3/4 cup
Confectioner's sugar - Just enough to cover the top of the cake
Fresh strawberries - As many as you like!

Ingredients

Method:

Sift all the dry ingredients together and set aside.

Take the egg whites and beat them on low speed in a hand mixer till soft peaks form, slowly add 1/4 cup sugar and beat till you get stiff peaks.

Grind the almonds in a food processor, then add the milk, almond extract and vegetable oil and pulse till it forms a wet mass.

Beat the egg yolks & 1/2 cup of sugar separately in a bowl till the mixture turns pale yellow and creamy. Add vanilla essence.

Now add the almond mixture and mix till incorporated with the egg yolk mixture. Then add the flour mixture and fold/mix evenly.

Add one-third of the beaten egg whites and fold into the above mixture. Do not beat/whisk (as tough as it may be), then add the rest of the egg whites and fold till the batter looks even.

Divide equally into the two prepped pans and tap gently to settle the air bubbles.

Batter

Bake in a pre-heated oven for 10 min, turn the pans midway, then bake for another 10 min.
Cool completely on a cake rack for atleast an hour.

Cake on rack

Spread the strawberry preserves evenly on top of one cake, and then place the other cake on top and press firmly.
I did have pre-powdered sugar with cardamom (Indian spice) and it co-ordinated pretty well with the cake.
Dust the powdered sugar on top and decorate with fresh strawberries. Cut yourself a slice and enjoy!

Last display pic

This goes to:

Aparna's Blog anniversary
Mansi's Vegetarian Thanksgiving
Not Quite Nigella's The Ultimate Chocolate Cake
DK's AWED American

73 comments:

  1. wow, the cake looks superb..love the way you have decorated with starwberries on the top..

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  2. Would like to invite you for a coffee at My blog
    Pls join me :)

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  3. Anu,awesome cake.The main thing which pulls me here to ur blog is that you cook healthy..Am a savvy too..You are a real inspiration..
    Reg photos,most of modern cameras got the facility to adjust with the light we have.Many of them have to be programmed.Professionals does that manually with camera..(am envious)For people like us Sunlight is something irreplacable..Did you explore all facilities of your digital cam ?

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  4. Hey this cake is awesome and dusting sugar gives it a gorgeous look.
    Refer to bee's artificial lighting that u can do it at home.It is great.

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  5. wow.. looks really Yummy & Fantastic Divya.. mouth watering...looks perfect & nice click...

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  6. The cake looks lovely! Install a photo editor like Gimp (free) or Photoshop and you can add brightness to your photos very easily!

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  7. Nice recipe! Even I am waiting to hear from others for tips,I will check for the tips ;)

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  8. cake looks awesome....can i have a piece...

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  9. wow! looks fantastic! Yum Yum! Ask me how difficult it is for me when it comes to lighting. I'm going throught he same problem. I alaso only have a simple camera. Though I have the option in my camera of optimising the yellow tinge with a setting meant especially for situations with artifical light. And it does help a little bit. But it is difficult because of the shadows. I have a small spot light or flood light (or whatever you would call it! :I) meant for using outside when its dark with an energy saving lamp which wasn't expensive at all and has white light. Have taken the photos of my jelly with that. It was better than using my table lamp. But the shadows....
    or try to optimise the colour balance in Adobe photoshop. It does no magic, but you can improve them a bit.
    BTW, where do you get whole wheat pastry flour or semolina flour? wow! would love to find out if we get them here.

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  10. I've been making the last few goods of mine at night too, so I know what you mean about the lighting. Sometimes I have to wait until morning for the sun to come out :)

    The cake looks great, with winter coming I'm craving weird things like strawberries. This would be a nice thanksgiving type dessert :)

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  11. Your cake looks great, especially for being photographed in the gloom. I totally know what you mean, once the sun starts going down at 5:00 or earlier it's so hard to get any kind of a good picture. I haven't baked much with whole wheat flour, except in breads. This sounds delicious!

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  12. Lovely cake Divya, Good natural lightimg plays an important part in food photography. We are not blessed with I guess. I do not have any special tips for it either. I will be glad to see any ideas that come.

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  13. Lovely,I love the cake and the pic.You r a good photographer as far as I am concerned.What u said is true,winter is giving too much ttrouble.I am getting stressed out if my pic goes wrong

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  14. Hey Anu today I have a question for u??? how long do u take to consume one cake or bread?? I mean for two ppl isn't too much. Actually whenevr I bake a cake we two cudnt finsih that. so I stopped it completely. even to finish one normal banana-walnut cake it takes 10 days to finish??? Dont feel bad, just got this in my mind when I saw this post today.

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  15. Bhawana...actually it happens at all houses... but look at her cake...can u even resist? I wud totally dig in myself for bf,lunch dinner..o its cake time!

    Anu..YUM! and YUM! and ok i cud go on and on..but the thing is its official...U inspire me to cook healthy. But as I am lazy oh! who am I kidding you know what...anyways coming to the light..

    I face this prob too...what i do is our tube light is not hung on the wall, I have placed it near one corner so that when its dark, I switch it on, place the food near it and then take pic so I get even light. You can also make your own lights, I guess jugalbandi(J&B) has a post w.r.t this.I for the link yaar...sory for making u search ;p

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  16. OMG!! it looks beautiful. just a couple of days back i saw a pic of this linzer cake in a cook, & & i just sat staring at its beauty. so clean cut, no frills but so very pretty. urs look perfect. i would want to cut and eat that cake, it would be all gone:-(

    clouds here today... and me running around from room to room to get some light. i think its time we build that thing which jai & bee & after that priya did. i am seriously thinking about it.

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  17. Winter means cloudy pictures .... Like other bloggers refered before, my suggestion is the same Jai 's post about do it yourselft lighting project!
    I am self-inviting myself to ur house for a cup of coffee :)

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  18. What a delicious looking cake!

    When the light outside is poor I just keep the food under a spotlight in my showcase and take a picture :-(

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  19. this looks simply irresistible and awesome...the icing and strawberries on top makes it more tempting...
    I agree with you with the lighting problem...and here in UK it gets dark at 4 in the afternoon....
    My camera has good options of clicking in dark but still the problem is they get bit blurred in absence of sufficient light.....
    The trick I use is place your dish in that part of your house where the bulb or your tube light is just above the dish where you have placed it.....
    we have lamps on top, so I try to move them towards the dish when I am taking the pic....
    softwares like picasa helps you making adjustments in the brightness of your picture...

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  20. Cake looks just too pretty to be eaten..

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  21. Your cake looks super delicious...could go for a slice of that right about now...wish you lived closer to me, would have loved to taste all the goodies you keep baking :-)

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  22. u are a queen in baking. the cake looks so professional.

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  23. As Mahimaa says rightly you're a queen in baking indeed!!

    Cake looks soo yummy :)

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  24. The cake looks gorgeous. I feel the day light even without sun shine is good enough for a good click.

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  25. I was waiting to read all the comments before typing in mine :D Lighting is a major problem and you can never beat good sunlight. I made the lighting system based on Lowel ego lights following Jai's instructions. It works very well, but I find it bulky to move around my apartment, as I don't have a dedicated place to set it up in. For now its lying on my bedroom floor and I usually don't have the patience to carry the food there to set it up and take photos. So size it based on your needs.

    I have been managing at my kitchen counter with the tube lights ON,white light is the best! Planning on getting a smaller lamp that will be brighter, use a thin paper to diffuse the light coming out of table lamps though to avoid its harshness. You could also make use of the thermacol pieces that come with packages to bounce the light off surfaces to get good shadows/even lighting.

    And then there is always an editing/post processing software to help you out a little. If you have a decently good capture, you can make it work by adjusting the brightness/contrast/exposure settings on it.

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  26. Simple, nutritious and elegant looking!! Always a winner:)

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  27. Divya this looks simply irrestible....with strawberries on the top with sugar dusting......

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  28. The cake looks fabulous Divya! Perfect with tea.

    Reg. lighting: I found a neat trick recently. When you want to take a picture at night, just switch off the light in the room! Then switch on the flash of the camera and click the photo. You'll definitely get a perfect picture. I clicked a few pictures using this method and they are just perfect and bright. Will post those pics soon!

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  29. Gorgeous cake and presentation.

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  30. your cake looks as pretty as it can ever be! if its dark enough, maybe I can sneak a slice or two without anyone noticing it!:)

    I try to use white halogen lamps with the strong light diffused using a parchment paper or some semi-transparent paper. I know GIMP is a great free tool for post-editing, so it might be worth reading its manual:)

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  31. Great post! I too have lighting troubles at times...especially now that it gets darker earlier.

    Your cake looks delish! Hard to believe its whole wheat! I wish I could find ww pastry flour...I have to probably make the trek to Whole Foods for it.

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  32. Your recipes never cease to amaze me Anudivya. This cake is hardly indulgent at all, I want it!

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  33. read the link that u had sent..i would still not use splenda.. :) somehow i don't feel comfortable using artificial sweeteners.

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  34. A slice of that cake would go perfect with my coffee right now. Or with a glass of zinfandel! :)

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  35. Cake Looks Great in First and Last Pic. I choose Picaso for filling light. you could try Lighting System as mentioned by Priya.

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  36. Looks irresistable. Thank God i dont bake like you. hehe..

    Btw, are you a daring baker? If not i think you should take part in that. You are doing such a great job with baking, divya.

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  37. That's one perfect-looking cake, Divya. Nice tips about the photos, too.

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  38. I've been catching up on most of your entries.
    Whether or not you have a problem taking pictures of your food...Every single one of your pictures, has made me salivate.
    Next time I visit, I'll bring a napkin. ;)

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  39. Despite the lighting, this looks absolutely lovely.

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  40. I'am in the Pacific NW too and the lighting is terrible these days.

    Your linzer cake looks amazing. I love the first picture! Delicious.

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  41. I suppose the food pics looks pretty with real sunlight. But I usually cook at night (Bec Hubby eats at home only at night) so, I usually just use the regular white house light for my pictures. :)

    Your cake looks so delicious! Who would think it is healthy as well?

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  42. Thanks for stopping by my blog!
    This cake looks really delicious, I love the decoration too :)

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  43. Thank you for visiting my foodblog and leaving such a kind comment.
    It's always lovely to find blogs such as yours.
    The cake and presentation is wonderful. As for the lighting problems - we here in the UK have had minimum sunshine this year - in just one week alone they recorded 24 minutes of sunshine!!!!

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  44. Nice cake for my evening tea time. Yummy

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  45. reg tomato uthappam recipe, no need to roast rava. u can use plain rava.

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  46. OMG!! I must control myself, that looks more than fabulous! Very nice indeed.

    I hear what you are saying about the light, I've had a few photo failures recently and I'm blaming the dark evenings.

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  47. WOW ur cake looks divine, beautiful and delicious too. Keep up the good work!!!

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  48. there is an award waiting for u here...

    http://gourmetaffair.blogspot.com/2008/11/cheesy-chicken-triangles-and-friendship.html

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  49. wow looks superb...nice cake

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  50. looks superb ...delicious...

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  51. Picture Perfect........wow good to know what others do to get a great pic.

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  52. anu reg your question...if you ask me i wud say your entire blog qualifies...all your recipes are healthy..so i leave it to you.. you choose and send what ever you want...best if it is less or no sugar.

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  53. I totally understand the lighting issue. Cant depend on natural sun light any more! I just ordered Lowel Ego lights which will arrive tomorrow, yay! A home made alternative to this is on the Jugalbandi blog, I see that someone has already mentioned it in your comments. Look at this blog for before and after ego light shots: http://steamykitchen.com/blog/2008/02/03/lowel-ego-lights-for-food-photography/
    love your blog and pictures, thanks for visiting mine :)

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  54. awesome cake anu. and healthy too

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  55. How are you doing dear! The cake looks very yummy. Love the icing and the way the cake presented. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful picture :)

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  56. Cake looks scrumptious and heavenly.Can I have a piece..

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  57. I think your cake looks beautiful. Adn the decoration is the icing on the cake. :)

    Thanks for celebrating with me so wholeheartedly.

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  58. Forget the lighting.. cake looks stunning :)

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  59. that looks totally yummy .. loved it .. i too have a similar problem divya when it comes to lighting .. even i have a normal digital camera, i always cook in the morning & photograph in sunlight I feel nithing can beat sunlight

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  60. Hi there love your blog what brand of wheat flour do u use?
    sunanya

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  61. Great photos, even in the dark! The cake looks so rich and delicious!

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  62. Sunanya - I use a 100% whole wheat flour/pastry flour. Any brand would work (I think there is only a handful though). As long as it says "100%", it should be healthy.
    Hope that helps :)

    Vibaas - I did register myself as a daring baker, but haven't really figured out how that works :(

    Bhawana - I am quite the dessert person, so it doesn't last very long. LOL. But you know, I don't feel that bad about getting cakes and cookies into my system because I try to make them healthy. So I guess there is a win-win there.

    Ramya - Thanks so much for the award! :)

    PG - Both semolina and whole wheat flour should be available along with the regular flour. If it is not at your place, check out the health food stores, or speciality sections.

    Thanks everyone for the tips and suggestions about lighting/photography.

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  63. Divya, that picture has come out so beautifully you know...all my pictures are taken during nights..can't help it..:)...so have given up on thinking if the picture has come out as beautiful as I want!..but yours are so tempting!

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  64. psl do remove the word verification..its so tough to leave comments!

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  65. I can understand how you feel ... the monsoon months were so upsetting for me due to the same reason .. lack of natural light.I think what Uma said will work ... switch off the lights and use the flash.Advanced cameras have an option to increase the ISO ... which helps too. Else you will have to depend on certain software applications to brighten them artificially.
    That cake does look yum .. and looks easy to make too. :-)

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  66. hey ..cake looks so good.
    m really impress with ur cooking...
    can u suggest me hand mixer for cake making?
    Proctor-Silex® Hand Mixer 5-speed 100Watt or Toastmaster® 6-Speed Hand Mixer 125-watt....which is better?

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  67. Poonam - I apologize for getting back a tad late...
    I use a normal hand mixer without stand or extra attachments, it is very simple and works just fine. So if you are new to baking, you can probably get started with an inexpensive model.

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  68. hey thanks dear for replying instantly!

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  69. so beautiful!I love it! Very creative!That's actually really cool.
    謝謝你的文章分享,請你有空到我

    參觀,Thanks

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Thank you for taking the time to comment on this post. I will try to respond to queries as soon as I can. If I miss anything that needs to be addressed... please feel free to ping me again.
Happy cooking/baking or whatever it is you are doing in the kitchen! :)