4 Ways to Create Buzzworthy Content (Butter Recipes Included!)

I was moonlighting as a server for a friend’s rehearsal dinner, passing around trays of artisan deviled eggs, when I heard, “Oh, this is my childhood, right here,” referring to the bread and butter table. That table was the pride and joy of Jen, SugarSpun’s fearless leader. She had artfully set the table with bread and baskets, Pinterest-worthy (she did write the book after all!), to display the four types of butter she had whipped together for the event. In fact, the butter table became the buzz of the evening.

“Did you try the butter table?”

“You have to try this butter!”

“Oh, this one is my absolute favorite.”

The guest who was marveling over the brown sugar and cranberry butter was also the most ardent proponent to other guests. “Oh, you haven’t tried the bread and butter table? Well, let me take you there.”

Now, I promise there is a point to this story beyond making you hungry. It’s very clear that every business on social media wants their content to be buzzworthy. Everyone wants their content to be shared and talked about on other platforms. So, how is it done? Here are four ways we believe create buzzworthy content:

1. Create a campaign with hashtag

Whether your campaign is for Twitter or Instagram – or both – hashtags can be the way to get buzz. Hashtags, although sometimes annoying, are fun. They also create organization.

Charmin’s #tweetsfromtheseat campaign is one of the most creative (and brave). For more ideas, visit Hubspot’s The Rules of Twitter Hashtags: Hits and Misses from 7 Big Brands.

2. Take advantage of timely events

A few weeks ago, Jen wrote a blog on small businesses geared toward the Firefly crowd. With the 10 year anniversary of the movie Serenity and the recently available internet show, Con Man, it was a timely piece. Yes, we all knew about these events long beforehand and were waiting for the release of the show with excitement. We’re mildly geeky that way.

When we posted the blog post, we boosted it specifically to Firefly fans. The resulting shares and likes were even higher than we anticipated! This is what can happen if you take the time to plan content around an event, season, or any other time-oriented happening. It resonates with a passionate group of people and has the potential of going viral.

3. Discuss a hot button issue

People on social media love to have opinions. Relating your product to a hot button issue can help boost the buzz. Understand that you have to use caution if you decide to take this approach. It’s a spontaneous approach that doesn’t allow time for careful planning and vetting.

Many brands have jumped on a Twitter trend thinking they are making great use of their marketing skills only to have it backfire on them. On the flip side, some brands have been able to have great success. As a general rule, just be smart when executing this idea and try to avoid topics like politics or the Lamar Odom saga.

4. Think outside the box

As in the #tweetsfromtheseat example, Charmin brilliantly used potty humor that was just the right amount of outrageous without stepping over the line. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Toilet paper isn’t sexy, but Charmin has made it fun.

The point is to make your brand more relatable rather than just being another company online. Make use of content that will cause your audience take a second look.

In summary, the main goal with buzzworthy content isn’t to have things go viral, though it’s nice when they do. Instead, it’s to have your target market talking about your business and sharing it with other people. You want people to say “Oh, you haven’t tried (your company here)? Well, let me take you there.” Social media is all about word of mouth marketing. Creating a buzz around your content is the perfect way to do it.

Now to take care of the hunger pains I created…

Buzzworthy Butter

The bread and butter table really was fantastic. You can check out our photo of the table, as well as other photos of SugarSpun happenings, on our Instagram page @SugarSpunMkt

The butter recipes are simple to make, especially if you have a food processor. Bring one pound of butter to room temperature per recipe.

 

Lemon Rosemary Butter

Ingredients:

1 lb of butter (4 sticks), room temperature

Zest from one lemon

Leaves from 1-2 sprigs of rosemary

Directions:

Put all ingredients into processor and pulse until well blended.

 

Chive Butter

Ingredients:

1 lb of butter (4 sticks), room temperature

1 small plastic packet of chives, finely diced

Directions:

Put all ingredients into processor and pulse until well blended.

 

Roasted Garlic Butter

Ingredients:

1 lb of butter (4 sticks), room temperature

2 heads of garlic, roasted

Directions:

Put all ingredients into processor and pulse until well blended.

 

Cinnamon Brown Sugar Cranberry Butter

Ingredients:

1 lb of butter (4 sticks), room temperature

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 Tablespoon brown sugar

3-4 Tablespoons finely chopped dried cranberries

Directions:

Put all ingredients into processor and pulse until well blended.

 

 

 

SugarSpun: 4 Ways (with Recipes) to Tailor your Content

I met with a friend regarding blog content for her website awhile back over lunch. Part of it was an excuse to talk about content marketing over gastronomical goodness and part of it was to take advantage of one of the very few low-humidity summer days Pittsburgh has to offer. Over delicious burgers and sunlit tables, we talked about her plans for a blog. The further into the conversation we went, it became clearer that she didn’t really have a grasp on her audience. Knowing your audience is an essential building block to content management. While you may understand your product inside and out, it’s relating your product to your customer that will bridge the gap of communication. It’s important to have this down because when you begin planning content, you need to know to whom you’re writing. Where do they live? What are their spending habits? Is your audience one particular type of person, or do you have different segments? What’s more, the audience needs to be broken down very deeply because, beyond identifying who the audience is, you also need to ask yourself, “Why should they care about my content?”

Although today, audience identification is associated with marketing practices, the process actually dates back to the ancient Greek scholars known as Sophists who were paid to teach people how to use speech and persuasive arguments to win their audience over. It might sound simple now, but at the time it was new and even threatening to some.

Don’t confuse me with the facts.” ~ Earl Landgrebe

One of the tenants of Sophistry is to tailor your speech (or writing) to your audience. The same is true today, because, while your content is very important, the way it is delivered is equally important. You wouldn’t write to a customer the same way you would write to a co-worker, and you wouldn’t write to your 13-year-old child the same way you would write to your boss. Similarly, tailoring your content to the different segments of your audience is a way to reach out to these different groups with a personal voice and communicate with them in a way they can understand and relate to.

In my previous blog post that shows the correlation between an ice cream endeavor and content management, the recipe for the perfect homemade ice cream base was explained. Now here are 4 ways (and recipes) to tailor your message to your audience, each one simply building off the base of your message.

By the way, if you haven’t tried the ice cream base yet, I absolutely recommend it. So far, I’ve made 4 different flavors from it! I won’t lie to you. I am in love.

1. Your base message…with a little something extra

When you have content that is as good as the brown butter ice cream, sometimes you can let it shine on its own, with a hint of flavoring to enhance it. For instance, let’s say you’re a small town bank in middle America. You’re proud of your longtime standing in the community. While you have different segments you’re reaching out to through your blog, at heart, your message is good rates through a trusted company. You can incorporate various tactics at different times to sweeten your message and add a little flavor variation, but the base of your blog emphasizes the trusted culture your bank has.

Chocolate Syrup by Alton Brown

As I said, this ice cream stands just fine by its own delicious self. But, I have a soft spot in my heart for plain ice cream and chocolate syrup, thanks to summers at my grandmother’s. She eschewed flavored ice cream, and instead, introduced me to the joys of chocolate flavored high fructose corn syrup.

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups water
3 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups Dutch-processed cocoa
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons light corn syrup

In a small pot, bring water and sugar to a boil and whisk in cocoa, vanilla, salt, and corn syrup. Whisk until all of the solids have dissolved. Reduce sauce until slightly thickened. Strain and cool to room temperature. Pour into squeeze bottles. Squeeze into cold milk and stir for delicious chocolate milk or serve on your favorite ice cream. And, hey, it’s fat free!

2. Go with what you know

Let’s say you own a vineyard, for instance, and part of your target audience is working mothers who need a break at the end of a long week to get away with their girlfriends for a few hours of laughs. As a mother yourself, you can identify readily with your audience. Instead of trying to be something you’re not, simply blog about what you know. Tell the story about the way a glass of wine after a long day at work can give you a moment of much needed sanity. This is authentic and will resonate with your audience.

Amazing Brown Butter Pecan Ice Cream from A Flexible Life

The original recipe that came with the Brown Butter base was Brown Butter Pecan. I knew, having tasted Jen’s creation before, that it was a sure thing.

Ingredients

1 c pecans

2 T butter

1/2 t sea salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Microwave butter in a bowl, then toss pecans and sea salt to coat. Spread out onto an ungreased cookie sheet or pan and bake in oven for 9-12 minutes, being careful not to burn. Set aside to cool.

Add according to your ice cream maker instructions.

3. Nostalgia is powerful

Nostalgia is a great tool to connect with your intended audience. Look no further than Coca-Cola, who is steeped in nostalgia, from retro glass bottles to Santa Claus. The same can be done for your brand. Well, you may not have the history that Coke has, but the idea is to take your audience back to a place of comfort. Maybe it’s the 80’s, or maybe it’s a memory of going to Grandma’s house. Whatever it is, use your content to play to these emotions. It’s a marketing tactic that’s worked for years, and it will work for you.

Peanut Butter Dough

This is my very own creation, a nod to my past connection with the extraordinarily unhealthy peanut butter dough of my childhood. Picking out the ingredients made me cringe the entire time. Powdered milk? Jif peanut butter? Karo syrup? And yet somehow, the flavors in this base melded and swirled perfectly.

Ingredients

1 cup Jif peanut butter

1 cup powdered milk

1 cup corn syrup

1/4 cup powdered sugar

Directions

Combine in one bowl and mix together. You’ll need to use your hands halfway through. Once everything is mixed, add into ice cream according to your ice cream maker instructions.

4. Go with the seasonal push

For businesses, picking the right season is part of tailoring your message because there is a time and a place for everything, as Solomon and the Byrds describe. A season doesn’t necessarily have to refer to the changing weather patterns. It can also refer to holidays or observed events. If you are a publishing company, for example, celebrating Banned Books Week would be the perfect time to talk about books you have that are similar to those that have been banned in the past. Try to capitalize on news items as well. Any association with a particular trend that will resonate with your audience has the potential to boost your sales.

Berry Crumble from Take a Megabite

I am a sucker for just about anything berry. Strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, and though it took a few years, blueberry too. Berries picked fresh from the (often prickly) bush are the absolute best. Pair the sweet/sour flavor with crunchy, and I am putty on the floor with my foodgasm. Oddly enough, berries in the winter, to me, just don’t taste as good. I still eat them, don’t get me wrong. There’s just something about eating them in season that makes them right.

Ingredients

For berry compote:

  • 1 pint berries (mixture of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 T fresh lemon juice

For crumble:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, chilled

Directions

For berries: Preheat your oven to 375F. Combine berries with sugar in an 8-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Gently mix. Roast for 8 minutes. Let cool slightly before pureeing with lemon juice in a food processor. Strain puree into a small bowl through a fine mesh strainer. Chill.

For crumble: Make crumble. Turn your oven down to 350F. Line with parchment paper. Whisk together the flour, the remaining 1 cup of sugar, salt and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon into a medium bowl. Cut butter into flour mixture with pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and bake for 30-35 minutes, tossing every 10 minutes, or until golden. Cool completely.

Once ice cream has been made, layer in a one-quart container with the leftover berry puree and crumbles. Top ice cream wit plastic wrap and an airtight lid. Freeze for at least 4 hours. You’ll have extra crumbles for serving.

In summary, you have to know your audience before you can tailor your content. From there, be creative and you will likely be impressed with all the sweet results you gain.

 

SugarSpun: Ice Cream and Content Management – What Not to Do

What feelings do the words “summer” and “ice cream” invoke for you? For me, it’s hot summer days traipsing to the ice cream store down the street in the middle of the day, money clutched in my sweaty, little hands. That first feel of the cool ice cream cone on my palm was perhaps my first experience with a foodgasm, even if the taste itself was blah. Those rainbow sprinkles (or jimmies, as they’re known in southwestern Pennsylvania) were just extras to the actual main attraction – the delicious shock of cold on my tongue and down my parched throat as I savored every last lick of summer in a cone. Even the brain freeze it induced wasn’t enough to detract from the amazing feeling of a blazing hot sun on my head and the giggling rush to lick up the cold ice cream before it melted down the sides.

As sprinkles and cones gave way to Haagen Dazs and Ben and Jerry’s, the convenience of ice cream behind those freezer doors in the store were a life saver. Cold goodness at my finger tips with just the flick of a freezer door any time I wanted.

And then I tried Jen’s homemade ice cream.

I was ruined for life.

Suddenly Haagen Dazs meant nothing and Breyers tasted empty. Even Ben and Jerry’s didn’t have the same je ne sais quoi that had once made many a late night gas station runs worth it. I was tainted by the creamy goodness that was laced with whatever homemade fillings Jen got into her head to create. There was, quite simply, no going back to regular life after that. 

Maybe part of the mystique of it was that, with her two hands (and an ice cream maker), she could sprinkle in a few ingredients and wallah! sugary dairy heaven was created. She’d dip a spoon in while the machine was still working, taste-testing as she went, then hand a spoon over for me to sample.

It seemed a relatively simple process. Create the base, let it cool and then throw it into the ice cream maker with a few choice ingredients. I could do that, right?

It’s the end of summer – the last hurrah before temperatures cool, and we break out the sweaters and boots to watch the leaves change colors while we see our breath in the air. But, I was determined to salute the last (ridiculously) humid days of summer with my own homemade ice cream.

To add to my ambitious notion, the last two weeks of work have been particularly crazy with shifting schedules and more projects coming due. In other words, finding time and energy to make ice cream was a challenge. Even more challenging was the fact I decided to take flavor requests from each team member in the office. As I’ve mentioned previously, when it comes to cooking I am excellent at experiencing what not to do. In fact, I have a whole personal website and blog planned around that theme on my someday list. When my work as a content manager and ice cream maker collided, I began to compile a list of what not to do:

1) Skimp on the details

I have this habit of looking over the ingredient list and substituting random things to match what I have in my pantry. I have a 70 percent success rate of maintaining the integrity of the recipe with substitutions, by the way. My mantra “fake it ’til you make it” doesn’t always work when it comes to cooking. Other times, I fail to take into account the prep time needed when scheduling things out, which can mean throwing off the rest of the plans. For instance, those 12 eggs I had to separate when I doubled the ice cream recipe took much longer than planned without the proper utensils. I often forget it’s the prep time that takes longer than the actual cooking.

Creating content calendars requires the same attention to little details. Who is available to write when is just as important as the content. Sometimes, it isn’t feasible to write long, involved blogs back-to-back. Sometimes, strategically placing lighter pieces in between is just plain smart, especially when you’re a smaller company with less resources to rely on.

2) Plan at the last minute

Let’s face it. There are times when planning comes down to the wire. That’s life. It doesn’t have to be like that all the time, however. Proper planning can minimize the last minute rushing around. That’s why evergreen material is so important to have on stand-by just in case someone isn’t able to make a blog deadline – it always serves as a back up.

For me, because I hadn’t counted on how long it would take to prep everything and include the fillings, I ran short on time.

3) Rigid planning

The ice cream (absolutely, amazingly delicious and deserving of it’s own blog and drink recipe) in liquid form was made and cooled in the refrigerator. It was ready to be made into ice cream. What wasn’t ready, however, was the filling, these five different fillings I had so brilliantly thought of. While I had figured in the timing of one type of ice cream filling, I had failed to multiply the time to create such masterpieces by 5. I foolishly pictured something akin to Cold Stone, where the ice cream base is already created. They simply scoop out a specific amount, add one or two fixings, and mix it right there on the counter. Please take note that the key words here are “already created.” As in, what my liquid ice cream and fillings weren’t. And I had no time to finish it. With work commitments and other projects, it simply wasn’t going to happen. I had to come up with a new strategy.

Content calendars are often just as fluid. One of our clients is experiencing a significant amount of fluidity, creating a chance for our team to learn better communication and flexibility. The general rule is to stick as close to the calendar as possible, but there are times when going with the flow will produce far better results than the rigidity of a concrete plan.

4) Accept subpar results

It’s tempting to go with blurred details. Let the little things fall by the wayside and let your customers have less than the best. There is a need for flexibility, absolutely. But not at the expense of your standards. I started out with such a fantastic base for the ice cream and found I wasn’t willing to scrap my plans completely, but I definitely needed more time to develop them.

Instead of rushing things to get subpar results, give yourself time and space to improve what needs to be done. I promise you, you’ll get a better response with higher quality than if you rush to get out mediocrity, much like my ice cream project.

In the end, there is nothing to be gained in rushing homemade ice cream or content management – the wait for both is well worth it!

Stay tuned for more ice cream recipes. In the meantime, here is the recipe for the base – a delicious ice cream all on its own.

Amazing Brown Butter Ice Cream
(Adapted from Jen’s previous blog, A Flexible Life)

  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 6 T butter
  • 1 c brown sugar
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 2 c heavy cream
  • 2 c whole milk
  • 1 t vanilla

In a heat safe bowl, whisk together egg yolks until well blended. Set aside.

In a thick bottomed pan over medium heat, melt butter, stirring, until it begins to brown. As soon as the color shifts to brown, add brown sugar and 1/4 t salt. Stir until sugar begins to dissolve. At first, the brown sugar and butter will mix up, but after awhile, the butter will start to “weep” back out of the brown sugar. Don’t worry, this is totally normal.

Once the butter has started to “weep,” add some of the mixture to the milk, tempering it. Then pour all of the milk into the pan. It will spatter, so watch out. Chances are high that your sugar will turn into big crackly chunks when the cold milk hits it. Don’t worry about it. Just keep stirring until the sugar fully dissolves again.

DO NOT BOIL.

Pour about 1/4 of the milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Once the egg yolks have tempered, pour the eggs into the milk mixture. Continue cooking and stirring over medium heat for 5-7 minutes. The mixture is done when it passes the “back of the spoon” test.

For those of you who don’t know, that just means to take the spoon out of the liquid and quickly run a finger through the coating on the spoon. If the coating stays separated after you run your finger through it, it’s done. If it runs together, it’s not done.

Pour custard into a large bowl containing the cream and add the vanilla. Whisk until well mixed. Pour the mixture into a one gallon Ziplock freezer bag and submerge in an ice water bath until cold. (Generally 30-45 minutes.)

Pour into ice cream maker and freeze according to directions.

Trader Joe’s Kona Coffee Cookies Copycat Recipe: AKA Taste of Subtle in Social Media

Shortbread cookies are warm fuzzies to me. They speak of blue tins full of dress-up jewelry – the tasty companions to pretend tea parties or a deliciously buttery counterpoint to a simple cup of tea. For some unknown reason, however, I’ve never tried to duplicate the store bought version. It’s silliness, really, because the recipes are simple! While I hesitate to use the words fool-proof because I am quite good at what not to do in a recipe, they are extraordinarily easy. I’ve just never felt the urge to duplicate a recipe.

Until now.

It all started with a last minute trip to Trader Joe’s to grab desert for an impromptu get-together. We picked up the Kona Coffee shortbread cookies on a whim with a flurry of other goodies in our hands. That night, I discovered yet another snack to go on my Trader Joe’s crack list. (There are several on that list, by the way. Have you tried the dark chocolate mint creams? Absolute top of my list. Of all lists. Any list.) I became addicted to Kona cookies. But, a few months later, I moved away from the convenience of a Trader Joe’s just down the street. So what’s a girl to do?

Why, do a Pinterest search, of course!

I have a confession to make. In the interest of full disclosure, I feel I must tell you that I don’t like coffee. I quite honestly think it tastes like dirt. The only way I can drink it is when I have a little coffee with my cream and hot cocoa. Oddly enough, I like the taste of coffee in things like ice cream or cookies.

While I’d like to believe this little revelation adds credence to the deliciousness of the Kona Cookie recipe, it occurred to me that I like coffee in my cookies like I like sales on social media – a little goes a long way. In looking to find just the right recipe, I realized the right proportion of coffee in the recipe was important. No one wants to bite into coffee grounds, no matter how sugary it is, least of all me.

[editor’s note: What Tammy’s not telling you is that her first attempt at making the frosting for these cookies included a misinterpretation of the word “strong coffee” in the directions. Rather than brewing coffee and using it to make the frosting, she dumped the strong coffee grounds into the frosting. As such, we most definitely learned that NO ONE wants to bite into coffee grounds, no matter how much sugar you add.]

Social media was never meant to be a platform to push your company or your products. As strange as it may seem now, it’s a social platform where you get to make yourself – your brand – more personable. This is your chance to be more than just a company or a logo. You now have a voice that has potential to reach hundreds of thousands of people because you are human and relatable. Here, the bottom line isn’t money; the bottom line is building community.

I’ve seen far too many companies treat social media like just another place to advertise, another version of a TV commercial. Now I’m not here to tell you that you shouldn’t advertise or put your product out on different platforms. What I am saying is, like my coffee cookie recipe, too much sales at the wrong time in the wrong place can quickly turn things from sweet and enjoyable to outright bitter.

Here’s another way to say it.

As marketers, we sometimes catch ourselves getting caught up in a client’s desire to constantly tout how amazing the company is that we’re promoting. As a result, it’s easy to lose sight of the customer. We can forget that it’s not simply about what our clients want; it’s about who we’re talking to and what will reach them best. On social media, where people go to be informed, catch up on things around the world or to soak in the gamut of emotions created by photos and videos, constant in-your-face sales is the last thing they want to see. Consumers have become adept at tuning it out; something you are trying to avoid as a business owner investing time and money into social media.

The general guideline to follow is the 80/20 rule. 80 percent of the time, share information or relevant pieces that will engage your customers; and 20 percent of the time is for you to focus on your brand or a call to action. Build the relationship with your audience first so you can establish credibility. You need to earn the right to sell them your product.

There is a time and a place for everything. Just because you can sell, sell, sell doesn’t mean it’s wise to do so all the time. Thank goodness Trader Joe’s gets that concept with their coffee cookies.

DSC_0005
Recipe from Kris at Umami Holiday

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 c. powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 Tbsp. coarsely ground Kona coffee
  • ½ vanilla bean, split and scraped for seeds
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 c. AP flour, sifted
  • 1 c. powdered sugar (for the glaze)
  • 2 Tbsp. strong (brewed!) coffee
  • ½ tsp. instant espresso powder (optional)

Directions:

  1. Place the unsalted butter into a stand mixer and mix for 1-2 minutes on low, or until glossy and creamy.
  2. Add the powdered sugar, kosher salt, vanilla seeds and coarse coffee grounds and mix until uniform at low speed, then scrape the sides of the bowl and mix on medium for 4-5 minutes. The batter will lighten in color (the color will be similar to cookies n’creme bars).
  3. Add the sifted flour and mix until combined, then scrape the bowl and mix for another 1-2 minutes on low.
  4. Scrape the bowl to combine the dough into a ball in the center of the bowl. Place plastic wrap onto the counter, then put the dough ball onto the plastic wrap. (You won’t need to brush flour on your hands, as the dough will not stick to your fingers.)
  5. Place another sheet of plastic wrap on top of the dough ball, then flatten the dough into a 7 x 10 inch rectangle using either your hands or a rolling pin.
  6. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
  7. When you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350ºF.
  8. Line your baking sheet with parchment paper.
  9. Take the dough from the fridge and remove the top layer of plastic wrap. Cut the dough into 1 x 2 inch rectangles.
  10. Place the rectangles on the parchment paper at least 2 inches apart.
  11. Bake for 14-16 minutes, turning the pan halfway through bake time (7 minutes). The cookies are done when the edges are golden-brown.
  12. Remove the cookie sheet and allow the cookies to cool on the pan for 10 minutes.
  13. Move the cookies to a cooling rack and let them cool completely.
  14. For the glaze: Mix the powdered sugar, strong coffee and espresso powder (if you have it) with a spoon until the glaze is a nice, caramel color.
  15. Spoon the glaze onto half of the cookie and spread evenly, then place on parchment paper to harden.
  16. Will keep for 4-5 days if left in an airtight container. (Good luck with that–mine disappeared before I could test the theory!)

SugarSpun Notes: The glaze was an adventure. I couldn’t get it on the cookies right without it pooling into one big glop. Hearing my cry of distress, Jen stepped in and performed her magic with glazing by drizzling in perfect lines. Some taste testers liked the cookies with the glaze, others liked it without. I recommend you experiment for yourself.

Double Berry Shortcake Sliders

berry slidersThere’s a challenge that comes with putting great ideas into play when you have limited resources. It’s a challenge we face constantly when working with our smaller clients. It doesn’t matter how great the idea is, if you don’t have the resources, you aren’t going to be able to put the idea to work for you.

Any good cook knows this scenario all too well. You’re looking to make something tasty and you realize you’re missing a key ingredient. Sure, you can take time out of your day, head to the store and invest more money into getting just the right ingredient…but that’s not always the best route. They say necessity is the mother of invention and when it comes to both baking and marketing, invention can be a good thing.

Playing to your strengths and working with what’s available can sometimes lead to simplest and yet most compelling campaigns we see. It doesn’t get much simpler than knowing Old Spice makes you “smell like a man.” Building off that simple foundation was enough to launch an absolute viral sensation. That’s why it’s so important to learn to turn your limitations into innovations.

That’s exactly how Double Berry Shortcake Sliders came about. I’d been holding on to a recipe for strawberry shortcakes sliders for months and when the time that I finally had a craving for them, I couldn’t find good strawberries in the stores. I’d just returned home from a trip to visit my family though and had returned with fresh blueberries and raspberries galore from the bushes in my parents back yard. Who says shortcake has to be made with strawberries?

A bit of lemon zest added to the whipped cream and a substitute berry combination later and we found ourselves enjoying little bite size bits of yumminess. Limited by those missing strawberries? No way..it was just a great reason to go a different direction and to discover a recipe that works.

Double Berry Shortcake Sliders
(Recipe adapted from Simply Recipes)

For the biscuits
2 c all purpose flour
2 T white sugar
1 T baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 stick cold butter
7/8 c heavy whipping cream
1 large egg
1 t vanilla extract
Directions:

1. Whisk together flour, sugar, salt and baking powder.

2. Use a pastry cutter or fork to cut small chunks of butter into dry ingredients

3. Whisk cream, egg and vanilla together in a small bowl

4. Mix liquid and dry ingredients until moist and well mixed

5. Turn dough out onto a counter and knead 8-10 turns to form a ball

6. Lightly flour a smoother surface and roll dough to 1/2″ thickness

7. Use a juice class or very small biscuit butter to make small rounds

8. Place rounds on an ungreased baking sheet

9. Chill for 10 minutes in fridge

10. Bake at 425 for 12 minutes or until lightly browned

11. Remove to racks to cool

For the Whipped Cream (don’t you dare use Cool Whip!)

1 c heavy whipping cream
1 T white sugar
1/2 t vanilla
1/2 t lemon zest

1. Start with cold cream and a chilled bow

2. Add whipping cream to bowl and whip at high speed with a whisk attachment until it begins to firm up

3. Sprinkle the sugar over the cream and add the vanilla

4. Continue to whip until cream is thick and holds it’s shape

5. Gentle fold in the lemon zest

To make the whipped cream, make sure you are starting with cream that is very cold. It helps to chill the bowl first too. Use a hand mixer (you can make whipped cream in a blender, but watch out; it’s easy to over-whip the cream in a blender) to whip the cream until it just begins to firm up. Sprinkle the sugar and vanilla over the cream. Continue to whip until it is thick and holds its shape.

For the Sliders

1. When the biscuits have cooled, gently split them in the middle

2. Spoon a tiny bit of whipped cream into bottom layer of biscuit

3. Pile with blueberries and raspberries

4. Add more whipped cream

5. Top slider off with other half of biscuit, adding more fruit and whipped topping if desired

Extraordinarily Well Done Chocolate Chip Cookies

Earlier this week I was talking to someone about what I do for a living and they made the comment that “anyone can be a marketer.” I laughed a little bit, because I knew what they meant, but I also pointed out that “marketing” and “marketing done very well” were two very different things.

In fact, marketing is a little like chocolate chip cookies. Everyone can make them and most everyone has, but few do it extraordinarily well. Some people use the recipe off the back of the Tollhouse bag, some pick up the break and bake variety. Those things will get the job done and they might even get it done well. But they won’t result in the type of chocolate chip cookies that makes people go “Whoa!.”

That’s what we’re looking for here at SugarSpun. Not just the standard recipe marketing or the out of the box solution…but the idea and the implementation that makes people go “whoa!” Real chocolate chip cookies take the right ingredients. You’ve got to use butter, not margarine, pure vanilla extract rather than imitation and you’ve got to use brown sugar in addition to white. The same goes for Social Media…you can’t just throw up the standard Facebook page and Twitter feed, you’ve got to have a real voice with a real purpose.

If you REALLY want those chocolate chip cookies to be good, you use both large and tiny chips to get the kind of melty, chocolaty mouthful of cookie goodness that makes your eyes roll back in your head and your belt loosen on its own, just to be supportive of the experience. You’ll also add (or leave out) the nuts based on who is going to be eating them. In our world, it’s all about getting to know your audience so we can help you offer up the tasty morsels of yummy goodness that get them to invite the neighbors over to share the joy.

Extraordinarily Well Done Chocolate Chip Cookies
(adapted from AllRecipes)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup salted butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg + 1 yolk
1 3/4 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1 cup of diced pecans, walnuts, or macadamia nuts (if your audience merits it)

1. Preheat oven to 325.

2. Lightly spray baking sheets with PAM

3. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt, set aside

4. Cream melted butter with the brown and white sugars.

5. Add eggs and vanilla to butter and sugar and mix thoroughly

6. Slowly add dry ingredients until fully mixed.

7. Add chocolate chips

8. Add nuts (optional)

9. Drop by 1/4 cup heaps onto cookie sheets, leaving at least 3 inches on all sides

10. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until edges are slightly brown, but centers are still soft.

11. Remove from oven, allow to cool for 5 minutes before removing to wire racks

12. Pour a tall glass of milk and have yourself a little moment.

Balanced Zucchini Bread

It took me awhile to find a zucchini bread recipe I loved because they were either too sweet or too bland and was happy to finally find a balanced recipe.  I wanted one sweet enough to enjoy, while not overpowering the zucchini. 

Sometimes a campaign message can be hard to balance as well.  If your message is so sweet and full of fluff that it leaves people wondering what you’re really advertising they aren’t going to take you seriously.  There are millions of videos on YouTube and at times I’ve been sent a funny commercial or clip, and while I laugh, I have no idea what they were advertising.  It is great if your video gets a million views, but if the conversion rate is next to nothing you’ve wasted the chance to get your message to a huge audience by playing to the sweet side to disguise the message.

On the other hand, you can pump a video or blog post so full of information and promotion that noone hits the retweet button or gets to the end of the video to see your link.  As interesting as your research data or new hire is to those in your company, someone stumbling across your blog  isn’t going to be drawn in to that message without a little sugar added. 

Consumers want to be entertained while still getting real information.  Captivating your audience without losing them to the next shiny thing that comes along is hard to balance, as your job becomes to engage, entertain and educate all while focusing on the message you are trying to get across.  In the same way, getting people to happily eat zucchini is alot easier when you add the right ingredients, including a little sugar.

Balanced Zucchini Bread

3 eggs
2 C sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 C shredded zucchini
1 small can crushed pineapple
3 C flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp nutmeg
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Topping- 2 Tbsp brown sugar

Makes 2 loaves

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Sift dry ingredients together.
  3. Mix together eggs and vanilla in a large bowl.
  4. Mix in other ingredients, alternating dry mixture, pineapple and zucchini until combined.
  5. Add nuts if using.
  6. Spray 2 loaf pans with cooking spray and distribute batter evenly between the two.
  7. Sprinkle the top of each with brown sugar.
  8. Bake 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick insterted in the middle comes out clean.  Freezes very well.