Like Cher and Beyoncé, Joy Wilson requires no last name. Her thousands of readers know her simply as Joy the Baker, the creator of one of the most thoroughly enjoyable baking blogs out there. Wilson birthed her blog in 2008 and soon won a loyal following, thanks to both her innovative takes on classic comfort food recipes (hello, avocado pound cake and chocolate peanut butter pretzel brownies!) and her personable, irreverent style of writing.
Today marks another milestone for Wilson: She's going analog with the publication of her Joy the Baker Cookbook. Featuring 100 mostly new recipes and 100 original photographs, the book is a comfort compendium, cheerfully encouraging readers to have cake for breakfast and spike their banana bread with bourbon. Wilson, who lives in Los Angeles, took some time to speak with CHOW.com about the book, her blog, and mastering the balance between kale salad and cupcakes.
When you first started your blog in 2008, did you have an audience in mind?
When I started, I remember very well that I had 37 readers in one of the first months—I was over the moon! At first it felt like a super-selfish endeavor, wanting to take pictures of food and write about it. Gaining numbers didn't really enter my brain. Maybe about a year and a half in, I started to notice that people were not just coming to the blog for the recipes but connecting with my voice and the stories I would tell. If I would hint at breaking up with someone, people would be like, "Chin up," or "Me, too," and that was when I was like, "Oh my gosh, this is a thing."
Given that there are so many food and baking blogs out there, what advice do you have for someone who wants to stand out from the pack?
It's hard now—there are so many blogs and so many really good ones. I don't think people should focus on having the fanciest camera or coolest props from Anthropologie. I think you have to stick to and trust in what is unique about you, which is your eye and your taste. A lot of times I shoot with my iPhone, which I love, and people recognize my photographic style, which is amateur and really not fancy at all but something that's part of Joy the Baker as a package. So I feel it's important to just go with you.
How much baking do you do now?
I spend maybe three or four hours every day baking and photographing. The rest is emails and editing photos and blogging and Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. I hope no one invents another social media thing I have to be on!
Are people always asking you how you bake so much and don't weigh 500 pounds?
I get that so much! The answer is that when I cook something I feel so close to it and so immersed in the ingredients that sometimes when it's done I don't have the desire to gobble it down. I find that when people bring me things like fries or doughnuts I have an easier time eating things I don't make. That said, I eat dessert twice a day. I eat a lot of cakes and pies and brownies. To combat that—I am not a skinny person, but regular-sized—I love to ride my bike and go for a run. I eat a lot of lentils and kale because that's what I love to eat. I think there's a balance between eating cake and riding my bike and kale salad that I have sort of mastered.
So what kind of dessert are you most likely to go after?
Rice pudding. It's so starchy and milky and you can make it crunchy by undercooking the rice. I will stand over a pot and eat the entire thing. I can't make it very often because I know myself and can't stop eating it. I'll play with flavors: My favorite is cinnamon ... with brown sugar and dried cherries. Things like chocolate rice pudding, I don't understand. Stop it, it's rice pudding! Leave it alone!
One thing I find so refreshing about your site is that you so proudly embrace your sweet tooth. For some reason a lot of people seem to be ashamed of eating sweets. Is it still taboo?
Well, it certainly was seven years ago when Atkins was going bonkers. I think it's slightly less taboo now but there are still people who don't like to admit it. I'm in LA and around a lot of skinny, actress-y, model-y types all the time. Those are the kind of ladies that like to admit to having potato chips for lunch, but they're 90 pounds. [Some of them] lie about having a sweet tooth just to show off how skinny they are.
And then there are the vegan, gluten-free bakeries that try to make dessert into health food.
Right. Can't we just let it be dessert?
Image source: Joy the Baker / Facebook