It was a wintery day here in the Northwest, perfect for a Christmasy trip to Portland’s famous Convention Center to meet and interview Jessie Oleson from CakeSpy! She was at Crafty Wonderland to sell her new cookbook and other works of art as part of her, “Tour de Sweet” bakery tour. I must admit that I was nervous to interview Jessie, but she immediately put me at ease the moment I met her. With a gift as magical as the unicorns she paints, she was able to answer my questions, chat with her guests and make everyone feel as though she known them for years. What a sweet treat for my afternoon!
What an amazing amount of talent you have! For those of us who are used to you as Head Spy for the Cake Spy, you are also an accomplished artist and writer. Was your mother, illustrator Margie Moore, a major inspiration behind you following a career in the arts?
I would say most definitely that my parents were supportive of me being involved in the arts, and certainly her successes as a children’s book illustrator is something that made me believe that I could go into an artistic life for myself. But–this is a funny little fact–I was actually published in a magazine for my artwork before she was. When I was 12 years old, my artwork was published in a children’s magazine.
As a competition?
No, it was, like, a teacher suggested that I submit to Stone Soup Magazine, which was all under 13 year old readers, so I was actually a published illustrator before she got her first book deal. (laughs)
With such a great writing career what made you switch gears, or expand your career, to involve baking?
Well, actually, it’s kind of funny because that job that I had before I was a professional dessert detective, I was an art director for a refrigerator magnet company.
(Nods). Well, so, I chose the artwork that went on magnets. But I felt that while I was in an artist’s position and got to do a lot of writing and marketing, I still felt like I wasn’t quite getting all of my interests involved. And so I wanted to start a business for myself and I was like, “What do I love?” and the things that came to me were writing, baking and illustrations. And I was like, “Alright, how do I combine those?”
And quite successfully you have!
Well, so, I decided to start a blog, and I thought the blog would be what I do while I figured out what I wanted to do with that idea but it has ended up being the thing that I have done. So, it surprised me more than anyone else!
Aside from birthday cake with pink frosting, what is your favorite dessert?
I love crumb cake! I grew up in New Jersey so “crumb cake,” when I say that, I mean the style that proliferates there which has big, fat, brown sugar crumbs and kind of a yellow cake base. And, actually, in my book, I have a version called “Behemoth Crumb Cake” where it’s triple the crumb and half the cake. Best. Thing. Ever.
You are offering an all expenses paid trip to Seattle for your “Do You Want To Be A Cake Spy?” contest. Will you personally be reviewing the entries, and how will you pick a winner?
So, I will personally be reviewing the entries, however I believe I will be forming a committee of trusted peers so that we can come up with the BEST way of deciding.
Trusted taste-buds then?
(Nodding and laughing)
What is one of your “sweetest” baking memories?
My sweetest baking memories…Well, certainly one is of the moment where I felt like I was a culinary genius…so I’ll classify that…was when I made something called “Grilled Cheesecake.” Which is a slice of cheesecake, grilled between two slices of pound cake so that it visually resembles a grilled cheese sandwich, but all made of sweet ingredients.
That’s the type I like to eat for lunch!
Yes, it’s totally low-fat! Practically health-food! (laughing)
What is one of the best pieces of advice you have been given, or would give, to someone in the food blog/food baking industry?
Don’t get into it to become famous. Do it because you love it.
Do you feel that with digital techniques, such as Photoshop and other editing tools, that cake decorating has reached a new level? Meaning that the average person now has unrealistic expectations for decorating…much like “air brushing” on models? Do you think it gets in the way of creating a cake that tastes amazing because now it’s all about appearances, or is it possible to have both?
I do think it’s possible to have both and certainly visual appeal is important because eat first with our eyes, no doubt about it. And I do think that there is a lot of great inspiration out there, but I will agree that sometimes, you know, cake competition shows, and things like that, really put no emphasis on the actually flavor of what’s created. It’s more about the look. So, I mean, I wouldn’t say that it’s unrealistic goals, because people can certainly do it at home if they have the time and the will, I’m sure that they can learn to do things like that, but I do think that for me, at least, the taste ultimately is the most important.
So there’s nothing wrong that I made my daughter’s birthday cake in a pan? It tasted great.
No! (Shakes her head laughing)
And lastly, what are some of you favorite foodie blogs?
Purchase CakeSpy’s book, Sweet Treats For A Sugar-Filled Life: http://www.amazon.com/CakeSpy-Presents-Sweet-Treats-Sugar-Filled/dp/1570617562
CakeSpy’s Blog: http://www.cakespy.com/
Do you want to be a Cake Spy? http://www.cakespy.com/blog/2011/11/21/so-you-wanna-be-a-cakespy-contest.html