Heath Bar Cheesecake with Chocolate Ganache Glaze


A great mother is something that you can never take for granted. I am very fortunate that I get to work with my mom, Sally James, on a daily basis. The time that we have spent working on Taylor Takes A Taste, on assignments for commercial clients, and The Southern Tailgating Cookbook is something that I will cherish for the rest of my life. In talking about Mother’s Day 2013 and how we were going to celebrate, Sally and I decided that celebrations are best with some type of cake! The cake for this Mother’s Day is something that my grandmother (Sally’s Mom) and my new mother-in-law will love! It is a Heath Bar Cheesecake with Chocolate Ganache Glaze. My grandmother likes both chocolate and cheesecake. My mother-in-law loves chocolate and Heath bars. When you combine the three elements, you get a dessert that any mother will love!   Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there!


Heath Bar Cheesecake with Chocolate Ganache Glaze

Makes 1( 9 1/2 inch) pan


1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar


4 (8 oz ) blocks of cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
pinch salt
4 eggs plus 1 yolk, room temperature
1 3/4 cup chopped Heath Milk Chocolate English Toffee


2 cups semi-sweet chocolate morsels
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

9 1/2 inch nonstick springform pan, buttered


Preheat oven to 325

In a small bowl add the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter and brown sugar. Stir with a fork until well blended. Press crumb mixture evenly onto the buttered base of the springform pan. Set aside.
Add the cream cheese to the work bowl of a stand mixer. Beat cream cheese on medium speed until blended and the consistency of thick frosting.

With the mixer running, add the granulated sugar. When it is incorporated, add the brown sugar. Stop mixer and scrape the batter off the sides of the bowl. Set the mixer to low speed and add the vanilla and almond extracts, and the salt. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until incorporated after each addition.

Remove the batter from the mixer stand. Fold the chopped Heath bars in with a spatula until incorporated. Empty the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 65 to 70 minutes until cheesecake is set and wiggles only slightly in the center. Remove cheesecake from the oven. Gently run a knife around the edges of the cake. Cool cake in pan. When cool, release the lock on the outer rim of the pan and remove the outer rim. Chill cake in refrigerator for 4 hours.

To make the ganache, put the chocolate chips into a heat proof bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Add the boiling cream to the chocolate chips. Stir the mixture with a fork until blended. Let ganache cool for 5 minutes. Stir. Pour ganache on the top of the cheesecake, spreading with a spoon. Return cheesecake to the refrigerator and chill for 3 more hours or overnight. Serve.

Recipe ©Sally James

Photography ©Taylor Mathis

Sally likes both roses and china plates so this picture is for her! Happy Mother’s Day Mom!

The Southern Tailgating Cookbook


Allow me to introduce you to something that has been three years in the making: The Southern Tailgating Cookbook! The book won’t hit store shelves until August, but you can now pre-order your copy from UNC Press!

If you follow me on Instagram, you have seen some of the behind the scenes recipe development, writing, and shooting that has gone into this project.


When I started my first tailgate tour back in 2010, I could never have imagined that three years later it would turn into this book! I have learned a lot in the book writing process and couldn’t be happier with what this project has turned into! If you have enjoyed the food on Taylor Takes A Taste, you are going to fall in love with the delicious tailgating inspired recipes that I worked with Sally to developed for The Southern Tailgating Cookbook!  Inside the 240 pages of this book you will find 110 recipes that are designed to wow your tailgating guests, 75 images of food and tailgating (shot by yours truly), and 15 side bars that give an in-depth look into aspects of southern tailgating culture. All together this is A Game-Day Guide for Lovers of Food, Football, and the South. Pre-order your copy today!


Jalapeño Cheddar Beer Bread

Welcome to May the 6th, also known as the day after Cinco de Mayo. If you hosted a party yesterday, I am sure that you have a surplus of Tecate, Corona or Dos Equis sitting around your house. What to do with this extra beer? Drink them is the obvious answer, but why go with the obvious? Why not use them to make beer bread! What beer bread is designed for the day after Cinco de Mayo you wonder? This one!  Sally’s Jalapeño Cheddar Beer Bread is cheesy, spicy, and the perfect use for your leftover Cinco de Mayo beer! This May 6th start the tradition of Seis de Mayo Beer Bread.

Jalapeño Cheddar Beer Bread
Serves 8

2 cups self-rising flour
1 cup yellow self-rising cornbread
1/3 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ cup sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
½ cup Pepper Jack cheese, grated
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
¼ cup jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
3 tablespoons yellow onions, finely chopped
1 (12 ounce) can or bottle of beer

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a medium sized bowl, add the flour, cornbread, sugar, paprika, cumin and cayenne. Stir. Add Cheddar, Pepper Jack and Parmesan. Stir until ingredients are evenly mixed together.

Add 2 tablespoons butter to a sauté pan and melt over medium heat. Once melted, add jalapeño and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

Add beer to pan. Pour the beer, melted butter and pepper mixture into the medium sized bowl of flour and cheese. Stir until a thick batter forms.

Place in a buttered 9 inch loaf pan. Melt remaining 6 tablespoons of putter and pour on top of batter. Bake for 45 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

Recipe ©Sally James

Photograph ©Taylor Mathis

Chow Down Uptown Charlotte Part 1

When most people think of food trucks, the first places they think of are probably Austin, Los Angeles, or New York City, but that might be changing soon! Charlotte’s food truck scene has steadily been on the rise for the past few years. As the weather heats up, so do the food trucks, with their weeknight rallies throughout the spring and summer. The first in a series of Chow Down Uptowns this season was Thursday and there was no way I was going to miss it! Let me walk you through what happens when I show up at a food truck event.

My first stop was the Wingzza Truck (wings and pizza, how could you go wrong?). After talking with the owner, Larry, I decided to go with five Carolina Buffalo wings. Carolina Buffalo is a cross between your mild buffalo sauce (because I’m kind of a wuss), and the golden mustard-based barbecue sauce found in South Carolina. As you can see, these wings didn’t last long!

The next stop was The Homegrown Crepe Inc. When dealing with crepes, I always run into a huge dilemma: savory or sweet?!?! After reading the Ninja Monkey’s description (Nutella, Banana, Espresso Liquer, Toasted Coconut, and Powdered Sugar, I knew it was going to be a sweet night. Also, Ninja Monkey is an awesome name for anything, especially a crepe. Below is what happened when I crossed paths with the Ninja Monkey.

After my dessert crepe, I realized that it was time for dessert. On a previous trip to Charleston with Sara, I had tried King of Pops. They may have been the smallest cart at the rally, but don’t let their size fool you. They are full of flavor! After agonizing over what pop to select, and consulting my friends, Ben and JJ, who have tried 20 or so of them in the last two weeks, I decided to go with the pomegranate lemonade. This sweet and tart pop was the perfect end to the evening (I might have accidentally also taken home two cupcakes. Oops!).

For those of you who live in Charlotte, I hope to see you at the next rally, May 16 at 5PM in the parking lot across from the 7th Street Station Parking deck uptown.


Issue 5 of Photographing FOOD!

Photographing FOOD Issue 5 is now out! The theme of this Issue: “After The Shot!” The first 4 issues were designed to help you with your lighting, propping, styling, and the technical sides of food photography. In Issue 5 I will show you how to take these images you have made and make them even better! Through post processing, cropping, and adding text you can bring out the full potential in your food images!


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That isn’t all. With this issue, I have created two sets of photographing FOOD presets! These Lightroom® Presets were designed based on the light source you were shooting with. Don’t know what a preset is? Think of a preset as a “recipe” for enhancing a photo. Some presets will make a photo look more vintage, some will make an image brighter, and others will add contrast! Presets are applied during post production in Adobe® Lightroom@. Sara had the analogy that presets are like what you do to your phone pictures with intstagram!


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Preset Pack number one is the Window Lighting Pack. These presets were designed to enhance images taken in natural window light! Here is a look at what the presets do when applied to an image.


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Preset Pack number two is based off of an artificial light source. These presets were designed to enhance images taken with a tungsten light or a flash! Here are what these presets do!

Want both packs? Then the combo pack is for you!


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Thank you to everyone who has supported photographing FOOD so far! I hope you enjoy this issue and the presets!


Apricot Whiskey Sour

Hooray for Friday!

The most natural use for an infused spirit is in a cocktail. Sally has taken one of her favorite cocktails and given it an apricot twist. The sweetness of the apricot, sour of the lemon, and boldness of the bourbon make it a great cocktail to unwind with and enjoy the beautiful spring weather! Have a great weekend!


Apricot Whiskey Sour

Makes one serving

2T. apricot juice

3T. fresh lemon juice

4T. Apricot infused Bourbon

4T. water

Lemon wedges for garnish

Crushed Ice

1. Fill a glass with crushed ice.

2. In a separate glass add the apricot juice, lemon juice, apricot bourbon and water. Stir. Pour mixture over the crushed ice. Stir. Garnish with a lemon wedge. Serve.

Image ©Taylor Mathis

Recipe © Sally James

Pecan Apricot Bourbon Cakes

Remember the Apricot Bourbon from a few weeks ago? By now your bourbon and apricots have had plenty of time to infuse together. You are left with two products: a bourbon that has a pleasant, sweet and subtle taste of apricots and dried apricots that are filled with bourbon. Don’t throw away this infused fruit. Sally uses them as a key ingredient for her Pecan Apricot Bourbon cakes. This recipe makes enough for two 9 inch loaf pans.

This tea cake can be served any time of day. Breakfast with a cup of tea, a mid morning snack, after school snack, or a midnight snack. I have found there to be no time of day that is wrong to eat it!

Thank you all for the sweet well wishes you left Sara and me. We had a wonderful wedding and honeymoon! In case you are curious, here is a link to some of the pictures from our big day. Thanks to Laura Matney for doing such an amazing job in capturing our day!


Pecan Apricot Bourbon Cakes

Makes two 9” loaves

4 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature (additional for greasing pans)

1 pound light brown sugar

1 ¾ teaspoon salt

9 large eggs, room temperature

1 teaspoon. vanilla

3 tablespoons apricot bourbon**

3 ½ cups flour (additional for pans)

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

2 ½ cups pecan halves

1 ½ cups diced bourbon apricots **

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour two 9 “ loaf pans. Set aside.

Put butter into work bowl of electric stand mixer. Cream on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add sugar and salt and mix for 3 to 4 minutes until butter and sugar mixture is light and fluffy.

Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition until egg is incorporated into the batter. Add vanilla and apricot bourbon and mix until blended.

Put flour, nutmeg, pecans and apricots in a medium bowl. Stir until blended.

Add flour apricot nut mixture to the batter and mix on low speed until just blended together.

Divide batter evenly between the two prepared loaf pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 60 to 70 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let cakes cook in pan for 5 minutes. Invert onto a wire rack and cool loaves completely before slicing.


©Photograph Taylor Mathis

©Recipe Sally James

Meet Sara


A little over three years ago, I started Taylor Takes A Taste. It was January of 2010. I had moved back to Charlotte after almost 6 years in Wisconsin and California and was trying to figure out where to take my business. I knew that I wanted to be a photographer, but after a few months of trying to make it as a wedding photographer, I realized that shooting weddings was not for me. Food was what I loved. So what did I do? I started a blog. Taylor Takes A Taste was originally started as an outlet to practice food photography. Over the last 3 years it has turned into much more than that.

If you told me that today, I would be working with my Mom, as recipe developer on the site and on my cook book, I don’t think I would have believed it. The most amazing thing that has happened through the site has been indirectly meeting my wife, Sara. She isn’t my wife yet, but after tomorrow she will be! So I am going to go ahead and start calling her that.

So how does Taylor Takes A Taste lead to finding the person that I want to spend the rest of my life with? Well, I can thank online dating for that. Sara and I met through EHarmony. In the fall of 2010, I had done some work with Sara’s former company. For a few months I worked with one of Sara’s co-workers on some tailgating content from the first Tailgate Tour. He knew that Sara liked to bake, so he told her about Taylor Takes A Taste. Sara started reading and following the site. At the time we both had no idea that I had been at her office every week for almost 3 months.

In very early 2011, we were matched on EHarmony. On EHarmony, you start with a series of controlled multiple choice questions followed by giving a list of can’t stands and must haves. This then moves into guided communication where you are given a few questions that you can type in responses to. I don’t remember what questions I asked Sara, but I do remember her response. It had nothing to do with the question. She asked “Are you Taylor from Taylor Takes A Taste?” Apparently I am the only food photographer named Taylor living in Charlotte. Upon meeting on our first date, I came to find out how Sara had been following my blog for a few months and could see that I wasn’t crazy. She tried getting more information from her co-worker about me and came to the conclusion that I must not be that bad of a guy. So I like to think that Taylor Takes A Taste played a role in us meeting.

Sara and I had been dating for a few months, and it was time for me to meet her family. At the time, I didn’t know and I don’t think Sara did either, but her mom and sisters had found Taylor Takes A Taste. When Sara told her mom that she was dating a guy named Taylor who had a food blog, her oldest sister did some investigating. Again, there aren’t many male food bloggers in Charlotte names Taylor. During a weekend in trip to their house in the town we are getting married, her mom and sisters made this Double Chocolate Pie.

Like me, Sara is a fan of food. Her favorite foods involve bread, pasta, and cheese. So naturally when Sally developed this Red White & Blue Macaroni and Cheese for Taylor Takes a Taste, this became one of Sara’s favorite recipes. Click on the picture for the recipe.

Sara also likes cake. Her favorite cake is from a bakery in her home town. Sara and I have this running joke that if I was ever going to break up with her I would have to do it with a break-up cake. You know, a cake with something like “Roses are Red, Violets are Blue, I am sorry but I am just not that into you.” The cake could be eaten as a way for her to get over me breaking up with her. When it came time for me to propose, I knew there was only one thing I could do: say it with cake. So, I decided to give Sara an engagement cake! Without Sara knowing I called the bakery, had the cake made, and drove 8 hours round trip to her home town and back. What happened next is a lot easier to show you than explain…

So your next question may be, is that same bakery doing the cake for our wedding tomorrow? Yes they are!

3 years from now, I have no idea what other opportunities Taylor Takes A Taste will bring me, but whatever they are, I know that Sara will be along with me for the journey! I will have a few posts sporadically scheduled over the next few weeks, but during that time I am going to be taking a vacation and spending time with my new wife!

Apricot Infused Bourbon

Infused liquors have a wide variety of uses that I will share with you next week while I am on vacation ( more about that on Friday). The infusion takes a few days to mature, so begin your infusion this week.

Infusing is not magic. A cheap bourbon that you  don’t enjoy drinking will not become the most delicious liquor you have ever tasted. After infusing, it will be an apricot flavored cheap bourbon that you don’t enjoy drinking. Keep this in mind when selecting your infusing liquor. Use the stuff you enjoy drinking. Here is how you prepare your Apricot Bourbon.

Apricot Bourbon

2½ cups good quality bourbon (Sally’s favorite is Bulleit and I can’t complain with that)

2 cups dry apricots, halved

¼ cup dark brown sugar

Put all ingredients in a large Mason jar and close lid.

Shake the jar until ingredients are well mixed. Let bourbon rest and shake once daily for 6 days.

Strain the bourbon, reserving the apricots. Put bourbon back in the jar and close lid. Store the bourbon in a cool dry place. Reserved apricots may be stored in a sealable container in the refrigerator for several weeks.

Picture ©Taylor Mathis

Recipe ©Sally James

Peach Bourbon Pecan Sundae Sauce

The Madness of March has come and gone. This weekend is the Final Four! Either Louisville, Wichita State, Syracuse, or Michigan will walk away Monday night with a national title. I picked Louisville to win it all in my bracket, but being a Big 10 alumnus, I find myself looking for a win from the Maize and Blue.

Like the end of a delicious meal, the end of the tournament needs a dessert. Did you know that Georgia is known as the Peach State?  With the Final Four in Atlanta, it is only appropriate to have a peach themed dessert to end the tournament. For this Peach Bourbon Sundae Sauce, you will need the infused peach bourbon I brought you a few weeks ago. If you are still in pain over your busted bracket, then make sure to make yourself a Bracket Buster Cocktail this weekend as well.

You can use any ice cream flavor that you like. For this one, Sally selected a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Peach Cobbler ice cream. For an easy serving method, dump the pint of ice cream into a bowl. Scoop on a few heaping spoonfuls of  warm Peach Bourbon Pecan Sundae Sauce and serve with a few spoons. I would like to say this serves 4, but let’s be honest my fiancee and I can easily take down a pint of ice cream between the two of us. So let’s say it serves two. Speaking of my fiancee, Sara and I will be getting married on the 13th, so next week there will be a wedding-inspired post before I take a little time off. Have a great Final Four Weekend!



Peach Bourbon Pecan Sundae Sauce

makes about 2 cups


4 tablespoons unsalted butter

2/3 cup chopped pecans

2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/3 cup diced dried peaches

1/4 cup white corn syrup

1 tablespoon peach bourbon

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/8 teaspoon salt

In a medium saucepan melt the butter over medium heat. Add the pecans and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. The butter should begin to brown but not burn.

Add the sugar, cream, peaches, corn syrup, bourbon, vanilla and salt. Stir. Cook, stirring, over medium heat for 4 minutes. Remove sauce from heat and cool 5 minutes. Pour warm sauce over ice cream.

Photography ©Taylor Mathis Recipe ©Sally James

Cheddar Chorizo Crostini


If your bracket is now busted, the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 rounds of the tournament are an excuse to hang out with your friends. The second weekend of the tournament is made for eating, drinking, and watching as those remaining contenders in your bracket pool cheer with joy or curse their now busted bracket. Regardless of how your bracket is doing (mine was busted a long time ago), you will work up an appetite during these rounds.

For an afternoon/evening of basketball viewing, these Cheddar Chorizo Crostini are a winning dish. You can easily prep them before the game or the night before. They only take a few minutes in the oven to cook, making them perfect for a staggered service throughout the games. With spicy chorizo, crunchy bell peppers, and sharp cheddar cheese, these Crostini are a delicious snack to compliment Mach Madness.


Cheddar Chorizo Crostini 
Serves 8

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 teaspoon garlic, chopped
pinch (1/16 teaspoon) cayenne pepper
½ cup red bell pepper, diced
1 ½ cup Spanish chorizo, diced
30 slices of French bread
2 cups (8 ounces) Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese, grated
Parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place butter, garlic and cayenne pepper in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until a smooth compound butter has formed. Add bell pepper, pulse a few times until peppers are mixed into butter. Remove butter from processor and reserve.

Add chorizo to a sauté pan and cook over medium heat for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Let cool.

Place slices of French bread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes until lightly toasted. Let cool.

Spread compound butter on toasted bread slices. Add Cheddar. Top with chorizo. Bake for2-5 minutes until cheese is melted.

Kicking off March Madness with The Bracket Buster Cocktail

It’s that time of year again. Welcome to March Madness! Other than college football in the fall, this is my favorite time of year to be a sports fan. Today and tomorrow the field of 64 teams will be narrowed down to 32. After the weekend, there will only be 16 teams left. A week later, that number will be down to 4. The Final Four will meet in Atlanta to decide who will be the last remaining team and the champion. The best part of the tournament is the bracket! You have until noon eastern time to get your bracket in. You don’t have to know anything about basketball to fill out a bracket. All you need to be able to do is to pick one team over another. You can do it by who would pick in a mascot fight, which uniform colors you like better, or have your alma mater winning it all. Regardless of your picking strategy, there are sure to be those teams and matchups that will bust your bracket. There may be a Cinderella of this year’s big dance or it could be all the #1 seeds that meet in Atlanta. That is the fun of the tournament; anything can happen!

Sally’s Bracket Buster Cocktail is inspired by this year’s Final Four City – Atlanta. Peach infused bourbon is mixed with a muddle of brown sugar, lime juice, and fresh basil. These ingredients are dumped in a glass full of crushed ice and topped with Sprite. The peach bourbon will take 2 weeks to reach full maturity, so start the process now for it to be ready when the Final Four rolls around.  The Bracket Buster will be there to celebrate with you and your team being in Atlanta, or to cheer you up when your bracket is busted.


Bracket Buster Cocktail

Makes 1 strong drink

6 basil leaves

1 teaspoon dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1/4 cup peach bourbon (see below)

1/2 cup Sprite

In a tall glass, add basil, sugar, and lime juice. Muddle ingredients together with a muddler or long wooden spoon for 30 seconds. Add bourbon and stir. Add Sprite. Pour over a tall glass filled with crushed ice. Enjoy.

For this drink you will need peach infused bourbon. It takes 2 weeks for this bourbon to fully infuse, so start soon for your drink to be ready for the Final Four.

Peach Bourbon

1 1/2 cups chopped dried peaches

3 cups good quality bourbon

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

Add the ingredients to a mason jar. Seal the jar and shake, mixing ingredients together. Keep in a shaded areas for 2 weeks. Strain out fruit and return infused bourbon to the mason jar.

©Recipe by Sally James

©Photography by Taylor Mathis