Stephanie and Greg’s Engagement Pictures

We had a brilliant plan. Saturday night, superb weather, great light, and an excellent location–Point Park. Everything was perfect–except that Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Arts Festival also thought it was a nice time and place.

Oh well, Stephanie and Greg were good sports, so we crossed the river and found some less crowded spots. After all, they had traveled all the way from Erie for this shoot, and they weren’t going to miss it.

Stephanie and Greg met in college, and casual meetings at parties slowly grew into friends, dating, and now engaged. And you know what? I love that kind of story! It’s real life and probably what happens to a lot of us–it certainly did me (I think Jay’s and my first date was the library–how romantic!). But back to Stephanie and Greg–these two are totally sweet together and very easy going. I had a lot of fun hanging out with them, and I’m looking forward to their wedding next year in July.


Greg’s a big Steeler’s Fan, so we meandered over to Heinz Field.

Stephanie has such lovely hair, and I really like how it’s highlighted in this photo.

You can’t beat Pittsburgh’s confluence for a view.

It was a bit windy.


Sheraton Station Square Wedding Photos | Stephanie and Greg | Pittsburgh Wedding Photographer | Birchtree Photography Blog | One of Pittsburgh's Best Wedding Photographers - [...] turned out to be a splendid day for Stephanie and Greg’s wedding at the Sheraton Station Square across from downtown Pittsburgh. To say I’d been [...]

Yummy Strawberry Cake

I love summer time for the abundance of fresh berries, particularly strawberries. So, I thought I would share this recipe for Strawberry Cake that I just made. It’s my twist on a recipe I found online, and I hope you enjoy it. F.Y.I., this is definitely not photography related, so if you’re looking for that–check out my categories at the top of the page.

And, if you do try this recipe, let me know how it came out for you and if you did anything different.


Let’s start with our ingredients. Exact measurements will be listed at the end of the blog.

Here are the “wet” ingredients:

And the dry ones (that’s sugar in the cups):

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and spray and flour two round 9-inch baking pans.

Cream your butter, sugar, and gelatin until light and fluffy.

Separate the yolks from the egg whites, and set the egg whites aside.

Beat the egg yolks into the butter mixture.

Meanwhile, sift your cake flour BEFORE measuring.

Measure your flour, and combine the flour and baking powder.

Measure out your milk and cream (I used a half a cup of each because I didn’t have any whole milk).

Alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk to the batter on medium speed.

It should look something like then when it’s well mixed.

Wash and prepare the strawberries by chopping off the stems.

Puree them in a food processor.

Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.

Now, fold the egg whites and the strawberry puree into the batter.

Pour the batter into the cake pans and place into the oven.

Now you can prepare the frosting and filling.

Beat the heavy cream until stiff peaks form.

In a large bowl, combine the sugar, cream cheese, salt, and vanilla.
(sorry–I forgot a photo of this!)

Check on the cakes (20-25 minutes), and if a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, take them out. Let cool in the pan before placing them on a rack.

Fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture.

Cool cakes on a rack, leveling them if necessary.

Mix the remaining strawberry puree and cornstarch; bring to boil over medium heat, then remove from heat and cool, continuing to stir.

Once the puree has cooled, spread it between the cake layers.

Then frost the cake with the frosting, starting at the top and working your way around the cake.

I added some sliced strawberries to the top as a little detail. That way people will know what kind of cake it is, too.

And viola!

Ingredients for Cake:
1 and 1/2 C. Sugar
1 (3 oz.) package of strawberry gelatin
1 C. Butter, softened
4 Eggs (separated)
2 and 3/4 C. Cake Flour (sifted)
2 and 1/2 t. Baking Powder
1 C. Whole milk (or half skim and cream)
1 t. Vanilla Extract
3/4 C. Strawberry puree

Ingredients for Frosting
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese
1 C. Sugar
1/8 t. Salt
1 t. Vanilla Extract
1 and 1/2 C. Heavy Whipping Cream

Ingredients for Filling
3/4 C. Strawberry puree
2 T. Corn Starch
1/2 C. Sugar

Flashback Friday, Or FAQ #1.

I have a tendency to get into a “reminiscent” mood on rainy days, which today made me think of a question I’m often asked.

“How did you choose Birchtree Photography as your studio name?” Or some variation of that question.

The short answer is that I fell in love with birch trees while living in Moscow, Russia when I was a child. Yes, I lived there for 5 years when I was growing up–and no, my parents weren’t spies–at least, I don’t think they were. Since I thought “Mary Schwarz Photography” sounded boring (and was difficult to spell!), I decided on Birchtree Photography because I think birch trees are beautiful.

Four years ago this summer, I actually spent 10 weeks in Moscow as part of a study abroad program in college. Much had changed since I had been there in 1998, but surprisingly, much had remained the same.

At that time, I only had a point and shoot camera, but here are a couple of photos anyway.


Moscow has a number of great forests/parks located in the city. Birch trees are a common sight:

I’ve circled the apartment where I lived for several years. Note the drab concrete-slab architecture.

And a famous tourist spot–Red Square–with my twist on it.

You can actually find some more photos from that trip–and other places–here on my website.

Emily and Bob’s Engagement Photos at Phipp’s

All day yesterday I kept wondering who would win–the rain or me? Turns out I won last night as we ended up having some great weather for Emily and Bob’s engagement shoot. We met at Phipp’s Conservatory–one of my favorite places to shoot. You just can’t go wrong with flowers and a Victorian greenhouse. We also moseyed on down to Schenley Park for a couple of shots. Ah, I love Pittsburgh and her philanthropists.

Emily and Bob actually met in high school–but it took them some college and time in between before Bob knew Emily was the girl for him (or maybe it was Bob knew all along, but it took Emily some time to decide Bob was the guy for her). Either way, as Bob put it, he went for “100% surprise and 0% romance” for the proposal. It obviously worked!

I enjoyed getting to chat with these two, and thankfully, they both put up with my silly questions! (Emily has a very interesting job as an OR nurse at Children’s Hospital and Bob’s a teacher–so I had to ask some questions about that). I’m very much looking forward to their wedding in December.



Jim Cauley - Emily & Bob get my vote

St. Sylvester’s Church Wedding | Emily and Bob » Pittsburgh Wedding Photographers | Birchtree Photography Blog - [...] Saturday I had the most wonderful time getting to photograph Emily and Bob’s gorgeous wedding at St. Sylvester’s Church in Brentwood. This was my second time to [...]

SmugMug: More Than a Print Partner » Pittsburgh Wedding Photographers | Birchtree Photography Blog - [...] since a post with no photo is lame, here’s one from Emily and Bob’s wedding last Saturday. It snowed, and it was perfect! Posted in Business | Tags: smugmug is [...]

Jennifer - Oh how lovely! What great shots! You absolutely captured their true personalities! I can't wait to see the wedding pictures! (I am Emily's sister.)