‘On The Wire With’… is a new section on my blog for interviews with inspiring boss women who I find intriguing. That could mean bloggers, business owners, women who are ‘behind the scenes’ in our community and close friends… basically anyone who fits in nicely with my blog and what I represent.
The first interview to get us started is with Jessie over at CakeSpy. She’s a seriously awesome woman and I love her story. I have read her blog for a while now. Basically, in a nutshell she’s an illustrator, a public speaker, a baker, a writer, a recovered sufferer of bulimia and ‘head spy at her dessert detective agency’. She’s also illustrated TWO books. I thought she would be the perfect person to start of my interviews with. Have a read about her below, she’s super inspiring…
When did you first start delving into the world of blogging and how did you come up with the name CakeSpy?
Before I was a professional cake gum shoe, I was the art director of the refrigerator magnet division of a greeting card company in Seattle (really). I really wanted to have more creative freedom, and it was a small company, so my upward mobility was limited. I decided to start a company. What would my ideal company include? Well, that was easy: writing, illustrating…and cake. Since I was sort of “seeking” something, the name CakeSpy came to me quite naturally. How on earth I would make money with my business idea was beyond me, so I decided to start a blog while I figured it out. This was 2007, when a lot of people didn’t know what blogs even were and I was part of a small community of food bloggers. I never thought that the blog itself could be my business platform, but it very much evolved into just that.
Whereabouts are you living at the moment, and what do you love most about this place?
Right now I live in Santa Fé. But I’m not from Santa Fé, I’m from New Jersey originally. I’ve also lived in NYC, Seattle, and Philadelphia. But back to Santa Fé, NM. What I love best is the awesome community I have formed here, primarily with yoga friends, and then food stuff: the pecan raisin rolls from Sage Baking Company, drinking chocolate from Kakawa, chocolate cake from Whole Foods, and everything served at Jambo Cafe.
You’re an amazing artist and all your prints are so freaking cute! When did you start drawing and why do you use watercolour paints?
Well, thank you! I have always been an illustrator–even as a young child I was always inventing characters and worlds and drawing. When I was very young my parents gave me a set of Winsor-Newton watercolors; that became my medium of choice and has remained so ever since.
Can you tell me a little about your second Book “The Secret Lives of Baked Goods” and what inspired you to delve into the history of these sweet treats, let alone make a book about it?
I always say “it tastes better with a back-story”. I love the stories behind desserts, and so I thought it would be a great project to delve into a number of desserts and tell their stories in addition to sharing recipes.
I really enjoyed reading through the Eating Disorder Recovery section of your blog; I think it’s an incredibly brave thing to project out into the world. Have you had many readers come back and relate to your personal story and journey?
Eating disorders are deeply shameful diseases. I know this first hand. But I also know that by shedding a strong light on them, you can diminish their power. By sharing my story, I am hoping that I will enable others to do the same and escape the shackles of disordered eating. I get some response in form of comments on the site, but more so, people e-mail me privately. This isn’t a huge surprise since eating disorders are pretty private. If my writing can help people on their own recovery journey, then I am doing something important with positive ripples that I might never even know about.
Your totem animal is the magical Unicorn, pretty and magical… but can kick ass if needed too – have you always felt a connection to unicorns in particular?
Funny thing – not really. When I was young, my mom had this huge issue with Lisa Frank’s ubiquitous bright unicorns and candy-landscapes on school supplies, and refused to buy me any of the cool trapper keepers. The funny thing is that I never asked for one or anything. But her forbidding them made me want one so bad, and kick-started a unicorn obsession that has lasted till today. My love of unicorns was an act of rebellion!
Do you have any advice for beginner bloggers who may need some tips?
It’s so different from where I started – people who started blogs last year have more advanced blogs and techniques than me! Basically, I try not to get caught up in the numbers or technology unless I have to, and try to focus on writing and sharing things that I think are interesting. So that’s my advice to people: focus on content first, followers and hits after. Because if you don’t have interesting stuff to say, then there’s no reason for people to keep coming back.
I resonate so badly with your quote “We all need delicious things in our lives” – do you get many customers who want Raw, Dairy free, Gluten free (basically everything free) desserts?
I can only imagine how that might affect you in a commercial baking setting! I don’t really bake commercially, I more do recipe development then share the goods with friends and family. Usually, people are very happy to get free goodies. But a lot of people say that they “can’t” eat them due to dietary reasons, some of which are real and some, I suspect, imagined. I get that people have food allergies, sometimes serious ones. But I also think that we’ve gotten a bit caught up in our food issues, almost making them like designer labels. Personally, what someone does eat interests me far more than what they don’t eat. Because then, regardless of your dietary foibles, we can focus on how you can treat yourself.
What’s in-store for CakeSpy over the next few months? Any projects you can tell us a little about?
Good question. At this moment I don’t have any one huge project. I would love to write another book but right now have put that on hold as I don’t think the world is ready for my next idea yet (that is to say it’s been rejected by everyone). That’s kind of tough because I would like to think that since I published two books I have an “in” – but I am trying to be okay with that. Mainly I would say that I’ll continue writing and recipe developing for various clients, and continue selling prints through my online store. We’ll see what is coming next!
Do you have a favourite dessert? You’re absolute go too when you feel like really treating yourself?
Birthday cake (yellow cake with pink frosting) or crumb cake – the more crumb the better. In case you’re not certain what crumb cake is, I wrote an essay about what it is and is not.
Cats or Dogs?
Pugs!! I have two: Porkchop and Olive.
What are some of your top bakeries to visit in the states? (I’ll be there early 2017 so will probably be adding them to my list of must-eats).
I am not super familiar with the deep south, so instead of particular bakeries I will tell you about sweets that you can’t miss in the deep south.
- Biscuits: every region in the south has a different variation. Some are feather-light, some are as big as a cat’s head (and thus called “Cat-head biscuits”.) Biscuits are big in the south – try to eat as many as you can, in both sweet and savoury settings.
- Pies – pies are a big deal in the south. In Georgia, peach variations are particularly popular, but all around the south there is a lot of pride in pie: sweet potato, buttermilk, chess etc.
- Layer cakes – genteel areas like Charleston are known for their fluffy layer cake creations such as Lady Baltimore cake. Don’t miss out!
- Benne wafers – sesame seed cookies that have roots going back to the times of slavery (I think sesame seeds came over on trade routes from Africa or the west Indies). They’re very nice cookies.
If you go to New Orléans, it’s a food world unto itself, with king cake, turtles, beignets, snowballs, and more. I wrote about NOLA sweets here…
Isn’t she wonderful? Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions Jessie, I know you are a super busy woman so I really appreciate it.
I urge you to check out her website over at CakeSpy.com or catch her on Twitter, Facebook or her Etsy Store. She also has a shop on her website where you can buy some of her wicked watercolour prints.
I hope you all enjoyed reading this first interview and if you have any comments or would like to have an interview feature on my blog then please get in touch.
**All images taken from CakeSpy.com with permission.