The other day I came across an article with tips for successful food blogging, one of which was to watch Google Trends to see what recipes are trending so you can cook and share those and draw visitors to your blog like flies to honey. Or maple syrup. Whatever. Apparently everyone who’s anyone in the food blog world is doing it.
I did a double take, gulped, and then wondered — am I just way, way behind the times because I blog about the simple, everyday food I cook in my kitchen, hoping that readers will enjoy something that comes straight from the heart? In a world of a bazillion glamorous food blogs– each beautifully designed, photographed, and SEO’d to the eyeballs — am I the bumpkin who shows up to the party without makeup and in last season’s shoes?
In a moment of confusion I turned to Desi, my resident sage. Do you think I should be watching Google Trends before I decide what to cook and post? I asked him. Like many food bloggers today (and gosh, how they have exploded since I started blogging in 2007!) should I be spending hours on Pinterest and Facebook and Twitter to make sure that my blog gets read by everyone I can possibly reach? Otherwise, in another year, will anyone actually be reading Holy Cow!?
Well, is that what you want? he asked me back.
I thought for a moment, but I already knew the answer. No.
Let me clarify first– I don’t mean to knock every blogger out there who’s marketing their blog with savvy (although I will say that headlines stuffed with keywords hurt my eyes and make me want to look no further). I understand the importance of marketing and I do my share of it. I am lucky enough to have great pictures on my blog thanks to Desi and I made some changes to the blog recently, like adding the Easy Recipe plugin so you could print and share recipes more easily. And I have a Facebook page, a Pinterest page and a Twitter account that I share my latest recipes on. But by no means do I want to spend hours every day selling my blog when I’d rather be creating great food and memorable posts. When I started writing Holy Cow!, all I wanted was to invite those of you who love good food to my kitchen, engage in a conversation about cooking, life and the animals that make it better, and share the simple meals I cook up for my family and friends. Even today that’s what I’d rather do with most of the time I spend nurturing this blog.
Still in the doldrums after my enlightening (if rather one-sided) conversation with Desi, I opened my mailbox and there was a reader email waiting for me. “Vaishali, I love you and your recipes and your website,” Ingrid wrote. “You are an absolute treasure!”
Treasure? I don’t think so, but it was the light bulb moment I had so badly needed. I thought of all those emails and messages you have sent me over the years telling me how much you appreciate the blog (I have saved them in a folder and I look at them once in a while when I am having a bleak blog moment. True story). I thought of all the times you’ve cooked one of my recipes and written to tell me you loved it — it brings a smile to my face each time and helps me keep going. I thought of the blogs I love, like Nupur’s One Hot Stove, and why I love them– because they offer up a tasty slice of life alongside simple food. I realized then that my blog is already where I want it to be and the people I blog for — you and me — are already here. And if you aren’t, you might wander in one day and decide you’d like to stay back for a chat and some good food.
And once I realized that I was relieved because, honestly, I’ve never been the trendy type. To me, life is all about doing your own thing and finding your own niche, not jumping into one created by someone else.
Here’s to bumpkins without makeup! May our tribe increase.
Now for this delicious and healthy Banana Coffee Cake with Chocolate Streusel. I wanted to make a coffee cake for Desi (the word “cake” makes him delirious) — ideally one that would use up three overripe bananas sitting in the kitchen — when I found this recipe.
I made lots of changes to it, besides veganizing it by replacing the buttermilk and eggs. I made the cake whole wheat (yay!) and I cut down significantly on the sugar and oil (double yay!). The cake was moist, delicious, perfectly sweet, and — in a word– superb.
So here it is, as a thank you for sitting through my rant. This recipe’s not trending on any search engine, I’m pretty sure, but are bananas and cake and chocolate ever out of fashion?
Have a great weekend, all!
- For the streusel topping:
- 1¼ cup semisweet chocolate chips
- ½ cup walnuts, chopped
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- For the cake batter:
- 1½ cups whole wheat pastry flour (can use half regular whole wheat and half all-purpose flour)
- ¾ tsp baking soda
- ¾ tsp baking powder
- ½ cup applesauce
- ½ cup sugar
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- ¼ cup nondairy milk like soymilk mixed with 1 tsp of vinegar
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 3 large bananas, mashed
- Make the streusel by mixing well all of the streusel ingredients in a bowl. Set aside.
- Whisk together the sugar, oil and vanilla extract for a minute, either in the bowl of a stand mixer or with a hand mixer. If you don't have either, use a whisk but make sure you beat well for about 2 minutes.
- Add the nondairy milk and applesauce and beat for another minute until everything is well incorporated.
- Add the flour in two batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula to ensure everything's well integrated and you don't have any streaks of dry flour.
- Oil and flour a cake pan. The one I used was a square pan that's 9 X 9 X 2 inches, but you can use a regular 8- or 9-inch cake pan if you'd rather.
- Pour half of the cake batter in the pan and with a spatula make sure it is spread in an even layer. Sprinkle half of the chocolate streusel topping on the batter.
- Pour in the remaining half of the batter and smooth over the chocolate streusel. Sprinkle the remaining streusel on top.
- Bake the cake in a preheated 350-degree Fahrenheit oven for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Cool in the pan on a rack.
- Slice and eat.
For more healthy banana cake inspiration, check these out:
Elvis Cake, a luscious whole wheat banana cake with peanut butter frosting