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My Perfected Whoopie Pie Recipe (at last)

Well this has certainly been a long time coming. I feel I should apologise to all the people referred to my blog by search engines looking for a whoopie pie recipe only to leave disappointed. I didn’t think the site was THAT well optimised which just goes to show the power of keywords in your copy.

I’ve been trying to nail this recipe for over 6 months, tried and tested 14 separate recipes and made many adjustments of my own looking for a perfect recipe. The lack of a marshmallow filling in this recipe probably means I shouldn’t actually be calling this a perfect recipe as it doesn’t stick to the tradtional recipe for a whoopie pie but I’m going with what’s perfect to me. Marshmallow makes the cake a bit to sweet for my liking which is why I prefer to use a butter icing one but if you would prefer a marshmallow filling leave a comment below and I’ll email you a different recipe for the filling.

One last note about portions. A traditional tablespoon of this mixture will give you quite a large cake, a teaspoon (or melon baller) is more reasonable. Try to keep your portion sizes as similar as possible; remember that you will need two of each cake to make a finished whoopie pie so it makes things easier if they aren’t odd sizes.

Whoopie Pies

Whoopie Pies

You will need

175g self raising flour
100g of unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp of bicarb of soda
1 tsp of baking powder
a pinch of salt
200g of caster sugar
125g of butter/margarine at room temp
1 large egg at room temp
230ml of buttermilk (If you’re lazy like me and prefer to use the all the 284ml in one tub of buttermilk compensate with a little more flour)
1 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract (not essence)

Icing
150g Soft butter/magarine
300g icing sugar sifted
1 tsp of vanilla extract
1 to 2 tsp of milk (or cream if you feel flush)
A few drops of food colouring (optional)

In a bowl or a standing mixer cream your butter and sugar together until the sugar has been completely mixed in and the mixture is nice and light. In a separate bowl sieve together all the remaining dry ingredients, mix thoroughly until your dry mix looks similar to drinking chocolate. Add around a third of the dry mixture in to the bowl with the butter/sugar and mix gently adding the egg and some of the buttermilk. Alternate adding the dry mix and butter milk until all are added, then add your vanilla extract. The end mixture should be much stickier and denser than a regular cake mix.

At this point in the process most other recipes will tell you to either portion out your mix and bake it or put it in the fridge for 30 minutes, ignore that. If you want to have nicely risen little domes on your whoopie pies leave the mixture for 10 minutes to allow the bicab and baking powder to react together before portioning out and baking. Bake in a preheated oven at gas mark 4 (180c) for 10 minutes. If you are making larger pies allow a few more minutes in the oven. A good test to see if they are ready is to press down on top of one, it should be spongy but still give a little. Let them cool on the tray for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Perfected Whoopie Pie

The finished article

For the buttercream icing beat 150g of butter until it is smooth and creamy, gradually add the icing sugar until all the sugar has been absorbed add the milk, vanilla and the food colouring and mix until you have a smooth cream. You can either use a palate knife to smooth the buttercream on to your whoopie pies or you can pipe it on. Put icing on the flat side of one cake and stick this to the flat side of another similarly shaped cake.

The whoopie pies should keep for a week in an air tight container though they’re gone way before then in my house. If you try the recipe out let me know how you got on and please do post your pictures.

Enjoy

The importance of Lists

I’m not talking about the Twitter kind (though they are very important and you should use them) but lists of all kinds.

We spend our entire lives making them. Christmas lists, shopping lists, things to be done lists, things to do before you die lists and that’s before we’ve even got to the ‘your top 10 favourite’ lists. They’ve made an entire movie out of making lists but why are they so important?

Making a list

making a list

Making a list brings a bit of order to things, all the stuff you have swirling about in your head can be poured in to a list and prioritised. The important stuff up top and the not so important down the bottom (or scored off entirely). Which is another reason we like to make lists, the sense of accomplishment and self satisfaction we feel when we can finally draw a big line through a task. A list is a goal, something to achieve, and nothing makes us feel good about ourselves like feeling that we’re achieved the goals we set for ourselves. Most importantly for me lists serve as a reminder. Always staring you in face and never letting you forget how far you’ve still got to go.

Today I’m going to set aside some time to make some hefty lists…

I’ve had a lot of time for self reflection lately and I feel a need for a change of direction so I’ll be making a list of my goals and the things I need to achieve to get there. A list of the things I want to change would also be handy for focusing my mind and maybe a list of things I want to see and do this year to ensure I have enough fun in my life…oh and I need to make a shopping list too, a girls gotta eat after all.

Making lists is healthy and somthing you should all try today, it doesn’t have to be quite so heavy as my list. Perhaps make a list of books you want to read, things you’d like to learn this year or places you’d like to visit?

Remember making the list is half the fun, completing it is the other.

Yet another Whoopie Pie post

And still it inst the recipe I keep promising to post on here. I’ll be straight with you all, in the process of trying to play about with the whoopie pie recipes I kinda over did it a bit. In an effort to try and nail a perfect recipe I was making them so often that people got really sick of them and I was asked to stop making them for awhile. However, Good News! I was given yet another Whoopie Pie recipe book for Christmas (bringing my baking related cookbook count up to 6 now) and I plan on making chocolate whoopie pies before the end of the month.

I am going to be so unpopular making cakes in January…

Whoopie Pie Recipe can now be found here

Illegal Jacks analytics case study 6 months on

It’s been just over a year since Illegal Jacks opened its doors and sought to educate Edinburgh’s masses about the goodness of the burrito. To celebrate the 6 months in business mark Illegal Jacks came up with #Jacksfreeburritos, a special one day only thousand burrito giveaway that was widely publicised online through social media. Based on the publicity around that event I pulled together some social media metrics on Illegal Jacks which you can read about here. Statistics and metrics are always more relevant when you can compare them to something which is why I’ve decided to take another look at the metrics behind Illegal Jacks, using the same methods and tools as I did in April. Apologies to anyone with an aversion to numbers, there will be a lot on them here.

I’ve put the comparison in a nice handy table below (it’s less offensive on the eyes this way) we can see a side by side comparison of the metrics. You’ll notice that there are quite a lot of gaps in the figures, this is down to a couple of reasons; a tool used in April no longer exists; the tool didn’t exist in April for me to make an original calculation; I was too stupid to see the metric was important and calculate it in April. (Try not to be judgemental, I was young and there was no one to learn from.)

*Disclaimer* All the tools used for this are freely available online however as I don’t have access to any of Illegal Jacks accounts I can only do so much with the information I can get publicly. Account holders can access a LOT more information from these free tools and also from other important tools like Bit.ly and Google Analytics. The below metrics aren’t ideal but would be a fair example of the information you could gain through a simple competitor analysis in social media.

April 2010

December 2010

%

Follower Count

589 1679

+185%

Second Degree Followers

1,187,052 N/A

 

Facebook “Likes”

N/A 1525

 

Average Reach*

1078 20938

+1844%

Average Impressions*

6337 28935

+356%

Average Retweet

N/A 21%

 

Tweets per day (tpd)

50 45

-10%

Tweets per month (tpm)

1246 1127

-9%

Klout Influence

N/A 65

 

influential followers (at time of calculation) N/A JJ_Campbell 

Bartonian

 

*averaged from random 50 tweet sample

Starting with Followers, since April there has been a 185% increase in the number of people following the @Illegaljacks Twitter Account.  We can probably attribute this to a few things such as an increase in brand awareness, higher levels of promotion or even simply more people using Twitter.  Unfortunately because my original post was Twitter centric I didn’t record the amount of Facebook “Likes”. The fact that there is very little between the two numbers is impressive as there is a lot more activity on Twitter; however the content on Facebook is more engaging and interactive.

It would be easy to draw a link between the staggering increases in Average Reach and Average Impressions with 2nd Degree Followers (if the damn tool hadn’t fallen over and died) and retweets. Not having hard figures, this is a bit of educated guess work but generally speaking high 2nd Degree Followers + high levels of retweets = high reach and impressions. 2nd Degree Followers and retweets are important as the average life span of a tweet in a non filtered stream is around 4 minutes, the more people who see and retweet that message the better as it keeps it visible (and broadcasting) for longer.

Ah Klout Influence scores, they weren’t included in April as I was entirely unconvinced as to their usefulness. I’m only slightly less unconvinced (does even make sense?) now because of the Facebook integration and daily profile scans. I’d like to think that it would be useful to find out who my most influential followers are and who I most influence but the people it suggests haven’t changed in +6 months so I assume it’s broken. Consider its inclusion above as nothing more than a dream for a better tomorrow.

Influential Followers throws up a couple of interesting results for completely different reasons. A cross reference of tools (mostly Tweetreach and Social Mention) chucked out these two names as the current top two most influential people associated with Illegal Jacks. I was interested to find out why @Bartonian ranked so highly; my suspicion being that he had retweeted a message from the @illegaljacks account and because he has over 15k followers the tools ranked him high. Surprisingly I discovered the tweet that had skewed the rankings wasn’t even a retweet of Illegal Jacks but a retweet of a @mention to Illegal Jacks that someone else had made. A perfect example of why you should collect data often and cross reference it where you can, the more data you collect the more accurate you can make your calculations.

@JJ_Campbell should need no introductions unless you haven’t heard of his alter ego, the Burrito Bandit? JJ_Campbell has been responsible for a series of youtube videos centred around Illegal Jacks, the most recent of which is a music video (see below) aiming for a Christmas number one. Campbell became involved with Illegal Jacks after featuring the restaurant in a video blog in July. Following a positive response from Jack and the “Jackaholics” Campbell was approached to come up with and film further videos and so the Illegal Jacks (W)rap was born and it is this cross platform content that makes Campbell so influential.

When asked where the inspiration for the videos and its characters came from Campbell responded; “We’re big fans of things like Flight Of The Conchords and The Lonely Island so naturally we thought, let’s make a comedy music video about burritos. The original idea was for me to play Jack, in fact we actually recorded a version of the Illegal Jack (W)rap as “sung” by Jack. It’s very different to what we ended up with. Ultimately, our interpretation or not, we thought it would be best for Jack to remain a mystery so we re-recorded it with the idea that the “singer” is a spokesperson for Jack, a sidekick of sorts, thus the Burrito Bandit was born. He’s basically The Green Cross Code Man for Tex Mex food.”

Campbell has also dropped some cryptic hints that there is still more to come; “Keep your eyes peeled this Friday (17/12/10) at noon! As for the future, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of the Burrito Bandit just yet. I won’t say too much but what I will say is that for next summer, yeah, there’s an idea floating around…”

Illegal Jacks has cultivated a loyal following with fans (Aka “Jackaholics”) doing their own things to promote the brand without being actively compelled to do so (such as the Burrito Bandit above). By engaging with people, creating compelling content and generally doing social media well Illegal Jacks as a whole host of brand ambassadors seemingly by accident. It fact the brand itself has taken a bit of flack for the fact that its fans never shut up about it, something that obviously can’t be controlled by Illegal Jacks. There is a lot of passion and positive sentiment associated with the brand, explaining a higher than average retweet rate and high social capital. People who associate themselves with you and have positive interactions with you are far more likely to respond to a call to action than a passive follower.

There are a lot of positive points to take from this little analysis; increases in followers, social capital, reach and influence are all significant. In terms of activity there hasn’t been a large scale promotion such as the #Jacksfreeburritos event since April however a consistent method of engagement and fan based promotion has proved just as successful. I suspect the elusive figures I can’t access (like in Google Analytics) further reinforce the positive increases made. This kind of growth would be unsustainable without further innovative content to drive it so it leaves me wondering just what Jack has up his sleeve for the future? Jack isn’t afraid to try something a little different, which opens up a lot of interesting possibilities for us to look forward to.

As if Inception blowing my wasn’t enough now the soundtrack is too

I’m not supposed to buy anything for myself between now and Christmas. As I’m so difficult to buy gifts for I’m not allowed to take away from that small pool of potential presents, except I just went and downloaded the Inception soundtrack…whoops.

Inception poster

Your mind is the scene of the crime


In my defence this is really all Spotify’s fault. Because I can’t buy anything I’ve been utilising my Spotify account much more than I have before, and it just so happens that they have the Inception soundtrack on there. Fine so far. Unfortunately I don’t have access to Spotify at work (I know, how sad for me missing the #Fridaymix playlists) as streamed media like this takes up too much bandwidth. So I went and bought it for my iphone instead so I can listen to it at work.

I’ve been pretty astounded at the themes built by Hans Zimmer in this score but then I found out that all the music is derived from the Edith Piaf song Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien, which is a major plot device in the movie. My mind is officially blown, how amazing is that? Someone posted this video below slowing down Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien to discover the musical genesis of the main theme of the soundtrack associated with the “kick” back to reality.

Hans Zimmer is quoted as saying he used the slowed down Edith Piaf song, especially in the ending credits, to imply to the viewer that they had been dreaming and that it was time for them to wake up (the kick). Really clever stuff that kind of messes with your head a bit (and I love stuff that does that).

I’ve also been using the Inception App recently which is based around the soundtrack but is also an experiment in augmented reality, using your headphones and mic to weave sounds picked up in to the music you hear. This is partly why I bought the soundtrack, I had a chance to listen to parts of it in an interesting and different way. Hopefully this will be something we see more off in the future.

I need help choosing a Christmas present for myself

No I’m not kidding, I am actually the worst person to buy gifts for.

It really doesn’t take much to make me happy and I have very few wants in life (none of which can be bought) which should actually make buying presents for me a breeze, I’m grateful to receive any kind of present when someone has been thoughtfully enough to buy one for me. The reality though is that my loved ones actually get a bit annoyed when they ask me what I would like for Christmas and I reply that I don’t need anything. It’s possible I make them feel a little guilty as (even though I hate Christmas) I tend to put a lot of effort and thought in to my gifts, especially the ones I make myself.

So this is a public appeal to all of you to save me from grouchy family this Christmas and help me compile a list of (sensible) gift ideas that I can pass on to them. (Or even better you can tell me what you are asking for from Santa this year and I can pinch ideas from your lists.) What are the must have items this year for any discerning 20 something geeky female who likes video games and baking?

LinkedIn implementing keywords in stats…for a price

Well I was certainly wrong about LinkedIn missing a trick. It seems the complaints about not being able to view the search keywords that people used to find your profile have not gone unheard.

Linkedin-Stats

Sample of the Premium LinkedIn Stats

As you can see from the pic above the changes to the “Who’s Viewed My Profile” section (which now also include you having to waive your privacy to view the stats) now include further details on keywords, industries and geography but only for users with premium (paid for) accounts.

The inclusion of keywords is quite significant as it will allow users to better optimise their profiles based on popular keywords associated with their profile and increase the chance of the right people seeing it. The real question is, is this adding enough value to premium accounts to entice people to upgrade? I’d imagine probably not, but fair play to LinkedIn for trying to get more money out of people.


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