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Sacramento’s sweet secret for Valentine’s Day

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As Valentine’s Day approaches, Sacramentans may be in search of something sweet to impress that special someone, and The Sacramento Press found just the place to go when a store-bought box of chocolates simply won’t do.

Sacramento native Melissa Johnson took her love of all things sweet and launched an online dessert magazine that features what she said are the Web’s most delicious sweet treats. Best Friends for Frosting offers an eclectic collection of recipes and trends that are gathered from the hippest, freshest dessert blogs in a forum that offers bakers one-stop shopping.

Johnson said she started baking when she was a little girl and dreamed of opening a bakery. She started a blog with her mom to share the desserts they baked together, but she soon realized there was a world of undiscovered baking talent on the Web that needed to be shared.

“I love the creative freedom I have now, and I did not want to lose my passion for desserts by owning a bakery,” Johnson said.

The website just celebrated its first year, and what started as a blog to share Johnson’s own dessert creations has blossomed into a forum that features contributors from across the country and the world.

“I like being on the other end – supporting people and featuring other dessert bakers,” Johnson said. “I track down people through their blogs who are passionate about desserts and who love baking.”

For Valentine’s Day, Johnson shared her new favorite – vanilla almond cupcakes with salted caramel buttercream – a recipe that was adapted from a boxed cake mix. She tinted the frosting pink and added gold glitter, for the antique look she said she loves.

Johnson said her website hosts a steadily growing number of unique visitors each day. The opportunities that have resulted include an invitation to join a “taste team” for Easy Food magazine where she’ll review recipes, and an invitation to host Sacramento’s first “Foodspotting” event at Ella Dining Room & Bar in January. 

She was selected by Wrigley to design a candy creation for Valentine’s Day. The result was an “ugly sweater Valentine’s cake” that she designed in collaboration with Tessa Lindow Huff from The Frosted Cake Shop using just some of the 10 pounds of assorted candy Wrigley sent for the project.

One of the accomplishments Johnson said she is most excited about is a post from her website that has been reposted more than 4,000 times in just two weeks on Pinterest – 16 frosting recipes that she collected from popular dessert bloggers. 

Johnson said it’s important to her that she is able to address her entire audience, so she is careful to select contributors for her website who can offer recipes for people with special dietary needs. Those with diabetes, gluten intolerance or those who need low-fat options will all find recipes they can enjoy on her website.

Among her contributors is Molly Allen, a college student from Washington whom Johnson also tasked with editing the majority of her posts each week.

Allen studies English and said she jumped at the opportunity to work with Johnson.

“I was so drawn to her blog and her writing,” Allen said. “I love to write, and I love to bake, so I merged the two.”

Allen shared her favorite Valentine’s Day recipe – cherry chocolate M&M cupcakes with almond frosting – from her blog, Cake FYI

French macarons are a huge dessert trend, said Nicole Bosack, who contributes recipes and trends to Best Friends for Frosting.

“They are tricky to make, but once you finally get the trick down, you won’t forget it,” Bosack said.

Bosack started working with Best Friends for Frosting in November, after following Johnson on Twitter and responding to a search for more contributors.

“Her place is a one-stop shop,” Bosack said of Johnson’s online magazine. “Melissa finds a great assortment of baked goods.”

Still, Bosack’s favorite dessert to bake is the cupcake, and she shared a recipe – “Pink Champagne Cupcakes for Two”– that she said will surely impress on Valentine’s Day.

She said Web traffic on her blog – Sweet Peony – has increased significantly since collaborating with Best Friends for Frosting, and added that Johnson does a great job of linking to contributors on the website.

Johnson said her favorite dessert is the salted caramel French macaron from Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates, but it’s one she’s been too scared to tackle yet.

Other hot trends are cake pops and new flavor combinations, like sweet and salty or soda-flavored frosting, Johnson added.

For those looking for something other than the tried-and-true cupcake for the year’s most romantic day, Johnson shared an easy decorated donut recipe that’s great for last-minute dessert needs.

Along with recipes, readers will find interviews with bakers and party planners, décor ideas and do-it-yourself projects. Johnson said she loves to hear from her readers and makes sure she responds to everyone.

Her dream is to someday have a dessert show on the Food Network, but for now, she said, she enjoys baking as much as possible and sharing the Web’s best desserts with her growing online audience.

“A winning dessert in my eyes is one that looks beautiful and tastes amazing,” Johnson said. 

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