First off, let me just say that if I were a red-headed stepchild, I’d be annoyed with the world for making me into a symbol of awkwardness and ostracism. Red-headed stepchildren deserve love, too! They will hopefully forgive me when I say that photography has always been my red-headed stepchild.

In the food blogging world, there are definitely triple-threats — bloggers who are wonderful writers, chefs, and photographers — but they’re few and far between. More often, bloggers are fantastic in one of two of these arenas and are dragging the third along as best they can. Personally, I’m unabashedly a writer first, a baker second, and a somewhat reluctant photographer eighty-fifth.

It just doesn’t come naturally for me. I would never have thought to smash my food before photographing it. I would never have thought to take dark-and-moody photographs when everyone else was still going ga-ga over light-and-airy. I wouldn’t have realized how pretty light-and-airy could be to begin with!

Perhaps precisely because photography doesn’t come naturally to me, though, nothing thrills me like having taken a photo I’m proud of. To that end, I’ve done a lot of wrangling: timing my baking just right for nice daylight, struggling with huge light-bouncing foam boards, setting up tripods, climbing chairs and contorting myself into odd angles, and buying way too many oddling dishes and napkins at fancy stores where I could never afford a full set. The result has been worth it — slowly my photos have vastly improved:

photos from 2009 (left) and 2012

The camera I used did change from 2009 to 2012, though, so maybe you need a comparison of my early photo skills and later skills with the same point-and-shoot camera:

photos from 2009 (left) and 2011 (with same camera — hopefully you can still see a big difference!)

So. I can’t say I agree with those folks who say the camera you use doesn’t matter, because in terms of quality and resolution of your photos, it does. But I definitely think the skills you have matter a whole lot more — and even with a fantastic camera, unless you know a few basics, you won’t be taking great photos.

On my (somewhat frustrating) journey to better my photos, I did a lot of googling, a lot of reading, a lot of experimenting, and a lot of failing. I want to make it a whole lot easier for you. Well, actually, my amazing friend — and fantastic photographer — Taylor Mathis wants to. He created Photographing FOOD, a magazine packed with practical tips for how to make your food photos look as awesome as his.

…and his are definitely awesome — like these two from the first issue!

When Taylor showed me the magazine, I knew I wanted to pass it along to you. I hardly ever do sponsored posts because I just don’t find that many products compelling or unique (I mean, who cares what kind of molasses you use or what brand your mixing bowl is?), but if you love photography, this magazine is well worth the five bucks it costs per issue. So far there are issues on Window Lighting, Color & Camera, and Shooting at Night. I’ve seen all of them, and I kind of can’t believe he’s letting them go for so cheap — they’re filled with information and beautiful photos. In Issue 2 he even does a full comparison of 4 different camera types: camera phones, disposable cameras, point-and-shoots, and DSLRs.

I wish I’d had Photographing FOOD when I started working on my photos. As it is, I’m eager to learn more from it now. I wonder if he has any tips on how to keep a new cat out of your photographs?

Actually, Buckle was great with this tiramisu — mostly because I kept it high off the ground! This version of the beloved Italian dessert is traditional in that it uses raw eggs, coffee, alcohol, ladyfingers, and mascarpone. I put a twist on it, though, by using Bailey’s Hazelnut Liqueur instead of the typical Marsala wine, and adding in some chocolate between the layers. The result was fantastic (and perfect for St. Patrick’s Day.) I might have finished off the last forkfuls of it for breakfast this morning, straight out of the serving dish.

Do you enjoy photography?

One year ago: Tres Leches Coconut Cake Trifle
Two years ago: Bright, Fun Blackberry Trifle
Three years ago: Vegan Pumpkin Nut Bread

Bailey’s Hazelnut Chocolate Tiramisu

Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking, based on this recipe
Yield: about 8 servings

Tiramisu is a brilliant and moody concoction where soaked cookies serve as a vessel for strong coffee, alcohol, and chocolate. The result is a buzzy, boozy, rich dessert — made even more exciting here by substituting Bailey’s Hazelnut Liqueur for the traditional Marsala wine. This would be a perfect dessert for St. Patrick’s Day! This tiramisu does include raw eggs, and therefore probably should not be consumed by the elderly, folks with compromised immune systems, pregnant women, or young kids. Feel free to use pasteurized eggs, also, to minimize the risk.

3 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon powdered sugar, divided
1/2 cup espresso or strong coffee, divided
6 tablespoons and 4 tablespoons Bailey’s Hazelnut Liqueur, divided
1 pound Bel Gioso Tiramisu mascarpone cheese*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (7-ounce) package Ladyfingers
1/2 cup Ghirardelli 60% cacao chocolate chips, melted and cooled
cocoa powder for dusting
dark chocolate covered espresso beans for garnish, optional
*I accidentally used Bel Gioso’s Tiramisu mascarpone instead of regular, so it already had a bit of coffee and sugar in it — you can use it, too, or add a tiny bit more coffee and sugar to your mixture.

In a large bowl, beat 3 egg yolks, 6 tablespoons powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon espresso, 6 tablespoons Bailey’s Hazelnut Liqueur for a couple of minutes until well combined and thickened. Add the mascarpone cheese and vanilla extract and beat until well combined and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

In a separate (very clean) bowl, preferably with a stand mixer to spare your arm muscles, whisk 3 egg whites until foamy. Add 1 teaspoon powdered sugar and whip to stiff peaks. Stir about 1/3 of the egg white mixture into the egg yolk mixture to lighten it; then fold the rest of it in gently. Taste for flavor.

Pour the rest of the espresso and Bailey’s into a flat dish. Dip one side of each Ladyfinger in this mixture for just 5 seconds (so it doesn’t get soggy) before layering them, soaked side up, in a deep serving dish. Repeat, lining the entire bottom of the dish with the cookies. Drizzle cooled melted chocolate all over the cookies. Dollop about 1/3 to 1/2 (depending on how many layers you think you’ll be able to get in your dish) of the mascarpone mixture (called zabaglione) over the top and use an offset spatula to spread it into an even layer. Dust this with cocoa powder. Repeat layering dipped cookies, melted chocolate, zabaglione, and a dusting of cocoa powder, ending with a layer of the zabaglione dusted with cocoa powder (I got 2 full layers of cookie/chocolate/zabaglione/cocoa powder before my cookies ran out, but it depends on the size of your serving dish.)

Chill at least one hour before serving. Dot with dark chocolate covered espresso beans and serve. Eat within 36 hours or so, or things start to get soupy.

Disclaimer: This is, as I mentioned, a sponsored post. I received compensation for reviewing the magazine and sharing it with you as well as three free issues. However, as you already know, I never share a thing with you that I don’t love, and I always give my honest opinion. Hope you enjoy it, too!

34 Comments on Bailey’s Hazelnut Chocolate Tiramisu (and Photographing FOOD)

  1. Elizabeth @ Confessions of a Baking Queen
    March 3, 2013 at 8:21 pm (9 years ago)

    I love tiramisu and have had a Bailey’s version on my to do list! And I always had layers of chocolate in between each layer because lets be honest chocolate makes everything better. Your photos have improved dramatically, I am trying to learn photograph as well, there is just so much to learn! I try to force myself to shoot in manual but sometimes auto seems so appealing! LOL

  2. Lisa @ Who Stole My Baby?
    March 3, 2013 at 9:15 pm (9 years ago)

    Oh, this looks incredible! My husband will love this. I have to say, I’m a terrible photographer, The fact that food blogs need pictures is really the main reason that I don’t write one. In the end, the blog that I do write is a lot more true to who I am, AND it doesn’t require any photography – win!

  3. Dianna
    March 3, 2013 at 10:16 pm (9 years ago)

    1. I totally hear ya on the photography-phobia. I want SO badly to become better at it, especially because something as beautiful as food deserves to be photographed in the best light, {Both literally & figuratively!} but I just don’t have the patience to sit down & learn. I like to pretend I’ve gotten better over the past year. Perhaps I will browse this magazine & see if I can absorb some of Taylors skills through osmosis. 😉
    2. I would usually want to cry at the thought of a smashed cake, but Naomi has such a talent it’s hard to be anything but enchanted! She is one of my favorite food photographers in the biz.
    3. This tiramisu. YUM. I love Bailey’s as is, so I can only imagine this is incredible. {P.S. I love your progressively diminishing dessert shots!}

    • Dianna
      March 3, 2013 at 10:18 pm (9 years ago)

      *Taylor’s. Ugh, yucky typos. 😉

  4. kellypea
    March 3, 2013 at 10:22 pm (9 years ago)

    I definitely enjoy photography — far more than cooking now, unfortunately, and that’s huge for me. Makes it a tad challenging to keep up with a food blog! The dessert looks fabulous because I’m always partial to a dark moody shot. Thanks for sharing the magazine — I am constantly learning.

  5. Coyoty
    March 4, 2013 at 5:01 am (9 years ago)

    Waaah! You ate it all!

    (Nice progression.)

  6. Colette @ JFF!
    March 4, 2013 at 7:04 am (9 years ago)

    Tiramisu can make a peon feel like royalty!

  7. Courtney Jones
    March 5, 2013 at 2:54 am (9 years ago)

    Oh wow! This looks fantastic! 🙂 I love tiramisu! I love thin spin on a classic.

  8. Kristi @ Cherry Jasmine
    March 5, 2013 at 4:40 pm (9 years ago)

    This Tiramisu looks fantastic! I want to grab a fork and eat it right from my screen. And your photography is gorgeous ~ I love it! It’s awesome to see the progression. There’s hope for me yet, and I have to admit, sometimes it’s a real test of patience. 🙂

  9. Mari @ Oh, Sweet & Savory
    March 5, 2013 at 4:51 pm (9 years ago)

    Chocolate & hazelnuts – absolutely my two favorite flavors. Yum!
    And Julie – your photos look amazing! You should be proud of your evolution as a photographer! I’m a baker first and writer as a close second. Like you, I struggle with photographs. I have my mind made up to download the magazine – thank you for that lead!

  10. Ace
    March 5, 2013 at 8:40 pm (9 years ago)

    Thank you so much for sharing this! My photography skills are pretty much zilch and I feel like I can never figure out how to make it better. I’ve been reading boatloads of info but most of the people saying things like “it’s just so simple, you set it up and click.” And I think to myself, but I did set up and click and my photo looks *nothing* like your gorgeous photo no matter how much a tool around in Photoshop. So excited to read the issues, I hope they help!

  11. Jenni
    March 7, 2013 at 6:16 pm (9 years ago)

    ahhhhh!!!! I have a huge weakness for tiramisu! I love that you used bailey’s liquer here instead of the traditional wine, I bet it made such a fun difference! Thanks for the suggestion on the magazine, I will definitely check it out! I’ve always loved photography, and have been involved with it since high school, but honestly, taking photos of FOOD is a totally different monster – especially if you don’t have all the props and crazy lighting.

  12. Lauren at Keep It Sweet
    March 7, 2013 at 6:59 pm (9 years ago)

    First of all, I’ve always considered you a triple thread since I was drooling over your desserts years ago (perfect photos or not, they looked good!). Second, this looks amazing and seriously beautiful.

  13. PapaLos @ The Man, The Chef, The Dad
    March 8, 2013 at 4:41 pm (9 years ago)

    Awesome post, sponsored or not! I liked what you said about the food bloggers being triple threats. When I started, it was those triple threats that gave me inspiration for blogging, but at the same time, they’re the same ones I was cursing when I couldn’t do the things they were doing (I’m getting there though! Slowly but surely..). I also loved the comparison shots from years ago to now. While fixing up my blog I got to look back at my pics from my early posts and it is amazing (and immensely embarrassing) the difference a year makes. Your difference shows and I can only hope my pictures get as good in the same time.

    The magazine looks awesome and seems well worth it to speed up the process of learning. I can only imagine how much more annoying I can become to my wife after reading those issues.

    And the Tiramisu looks and sounds amazing! Great pictures for a great dessert. I’ve made a few before, always traditional though. Spicing it up with some Bailey’s sounds like a dream. I’ve been wanting to get one on my blog for a while, I’ll probably wait till the holidays though.

  14. Nicole @ youngbrokeandhungry
    March 8, 2013 at 9:22 pm (9 years ago)

    Gah! Food photography is my nemesis! It’s such a struggle for me to pair colors together and find the right food props. I am so excited to dive into Photographing Food, it looks full of helpful tips. Oh and this tiramisu looks down right amazing!

  15. Cristina
    March 12, 2013 at 5:17 pm (9 years ago)

    I think you’re photography is beautiful. Gorgeous lighting on this tiramisu. Food photography really is a work in progress and a beast to be loved. What’s refreshing about it is that there’s trends like in fashion that keeps it fresh and interesting. Thank you for sharing about the ezines for Photographing Food. 🙂

    I’ve only made tiramisu once (a long time ago with Daring Bakers), but have a couple of variations I’ve been wanting to try. Luv what you’ve done here with the baileys hazelnut-choco tiramisu.

  16. Christina @ My Homespun Home
    March 12, 2013 at 9:59 pm (9 years ago)

    Bah! At least with Daylight Savings Time I can somewhat count on light after 5 p.m., but man, going through my first winter of food blogging I was driving myself absolutely crazy trying to get decent light to take pictures. I ended up pretty much stuck trying to cram all my cooking in during the few available hours of light on the weekend, which was stressful as all get-out (and what was I supposed to do with the soup I made at 2 pm on Sunday when I wasn’t hungry and the dumplings wouldn’t keep til dinner?)

    Like you though, I’ve been quite happy to at least see how I’ve managed to progress since I started. I have to admit though, I’ve had to stop myself from going overboard on the “propping” as I have nowhere to keep the extra stuff. I’m ok for now just using the mix of cute, vintage, and plain white dishes that I already have and hoping everything looks good!

  17. Paula @ Vintage Kitchen
    March 13, 2013 at 9:52 am (9 years ago)

    Two out of three applies to almost everything. There were years when I ate tiramisu whenever I found it in a restaurant. But with the flavors of baileys and hazelnuts it just got better! Awesome.

  18. Kelly@FrugalFoodieFamily
    March 14, 2013 at 5:16 am (9 years ago)

    LOVE this post!
    Are you open to sharing if you use editing tools (i.e. Photoshop) for your images? The quality of your pictures is so smooth and lighting so consistent! I’ve struggled for over a year with my images and feel a lot of it has to do with the poor lighting in my home and the fact that I don’t own any editing software.

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      March 14, 2013 at 11:51 am (9 years ago)

      Thanks, Kelly! I use Lightroom to edit my photos, but the adjustments are very small and superficial (white balance, light, etc.) Nevertheless, I love LR and feel it makes a big difference! Here’s an example:

      I probably wouldn’t invest in it until my photos were almost where I wanted them, though. For a long time I took photos outside on my balcony (between 2pm and 4pm) because I needed to capture good light. Now I can finally take them at a window (got a great camera and a nicer window space), but that natural light has been key!

      Also, look into Photographing Food issues. You will be amazed by the number of concrete, helpful tips Taylor gives:

      Hope that helps!

  19. Rita
    March 18, 2013 at 12:15 am (9 years ago)

    Where can I get Bel Gioso tiramisu mascarpone cheese??

    Thanks 🙂

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      March 18, 2013 at 2:07 am (9 years ago)

      Hi Rita, I bought mine at Harris Teeter, which is a mid- to upper-level (not the economy store, not the most frou-frou one) grocery store here in North Carolina.

  20. holly
    April 19, 2013 at 12:45 pm (8 years ago)

    are you using the soft or crunchy lady fingers?

  21. Vernis
    August 2, 2013 at 3:27 am (8 years ago)

    Hi Julie

    By powdered sugar, do you mean icing sugar or caster sugar? Thanks.

    • Julie Ruble
      August 2, 2013 at 3:54 am (8 years ago)

      Powdered sugar is also called icing sugar, confectioners’ sugar, 10X sugar. Enjoy!

  22. Lisa
    September 12, 2013 at 1:32 am (8 years ago)

    This looks DELICIOUS!!! I can’t wait to try making this soon! What size dish works best for putting it together in?

    • Julie Ruble
      September 12, 2013 at 1:35 am (8 years ago)

      I did mine in one slightly smaller than a 9×13 — a pyrex baking dish 🙂 Hope you love it!


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