Modest Marce: When Deliciously Understated Style Meets Fresh, Seasonal Cooking

Deep down, we all want to be foodistas who snap photos of dishes that are more an artful labor of love than something set on the Wednesday night dinner table. While we all try our best, there are a select few who were simply born food artists. One such enviable at-home chef is food blogger Marcella DiLonardo.

Marcella DiLonardo is from Ontario, Canada and is the mastermind behind Hey Modest Marce. A lover of local food and a crusader against kitchen shortcuts, she delicately assembles her creations in front of her camera in order to capture the movement and effort that goes into the final product that we all see on Instagram. She sees no reason to hide the process. She’ll even be the first to admit that a beautiful presentation really is a labor of love.

The Method Behind the Photo

Although Marcella has undeniably enviable photos, the recipes that accompany them are surprisingly attainable.

She claims that she purposefully crafts minimal recipes because she is “someone who doesn’t like seeing a recipe that has a lot of ingredients in it or several ingredients that I don’t have in my pantry. I could only assume there are a lot of other people out there who feel the same way I do. I want my readers to be able to easily make my recipes in their own kitchen.”

This insistence on simplicity isn’t a surprising revelation when you learn that Marcella’s blog started in her university dorm room as a way to index her recipes.

“I wanted my recipes organized not only for me, but to share them with the online world. I was never one of those bakers who would have secret recipes that I wouldn’t give out to people,” she explains.

Carrying on a Family Tradition

They do say that sharing is caring, and Marcella’s open and no-frills approach to food blogging is reminiscent of her heritage. As a grandchild of Italian grandparents, she says, “All we did was spend time in the kitchen! I grew up making homemade pasta, sauces, lasagnas & cured meat with my grandparents. I spent my summers helping them can a summer’s worth of tomatoes & peaches for the winter months.”

These hours spent in the kitchen helped solidify the idea that no shortcuts should be taken in the kitchen. That doesn’t mean that things cannot be simple, however.

More often than not, Marcella says that selecting ripe, seasonal produce will make up for a short list of ingredients.

celebrating TWO YEARS of modest marce on the blog today with this naked cinnamon vanilla cake! ?????????????

A post shared by modest marce (@modestmarce) on

In fact, most of the recipes she produces purposefully incorporate the season into their flavors. “In the spring and summer I stick to fresh fruits (berries & peaches), but in the winter when nothing is really in season here in Canada, I opt for cozier comfort dishes that don’t require fresh produce but more so cozy spices.”

Particularly, she loves peaches and apples, which if you didn’t know that, you would wonder why her list of recipes is almost overladen with recipes incorporating these distinctly seasonal fruits.

Her love of these traditional markers of summer and fall stems from her lifelong proximity to local orchards. “My parents live around the corner from a peach orchard so my mom and I always go over in the summer to get ourselves a bushel to bake with,” she explains.

After a pause she adds, “I currently live steps away from two apple orchards.” Clearly, living in Canada has its perks.

i made brownies in my new @vitamix & they are SPICY! ??????

A post shared by modest marce (@modestmarce) on

With so much fresh fruit at her disposal, it’s only natural that Marcella chose baking as her primary kitchen activity. With a pastry knife and a piping bag, she echoes the beauty that surrounds her in her cakes.

Baking is not only a creative outlet for Marcella, but she claims that baking gives her the best audience to taste test and critique because “No one EVER turns down a cupcake.”

Hummingbird Cake

modest marce hummingbird cake
Food52

Marcella’s favorite recipe is Hummingbird Cake. In fact, it’s become such a love affair in her household that she’s “become known [for it] amongst my family and friends.” Her famed cake rose to prominence in her circle not only because it is tropical decadence at its finest, but because no one in Canada knows what it is. When the discover it, however, they quickly fall in love.

“I always have to explain to everyone what a hummingbird cake it & what exactly is in it. For those who aren’t familiar, it is a pineapple banana cake with cream cheese frosting. Kind of like a carrot cake, but maybe even better!”

You could even say this cake is partially responsible for her blogging career taking off. “It was the first article I wrote for Food 52 when I began my blogging adventure. I was so excited to be able to create a recipe for such a large publication so early on in my career. It was a hit on their website too!” Marcella remembers. 

Want to try it yourself? Get the recipe here.

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