Her website Bake and Destroy is a goldmine of great recipes, fashion, useful tips and ideas. She’s been a judge on the highly competitive Food Network show ‘Cupcake Wars’, so she knows her onions (so to speak), when it comes to baking the perfect cake.
The oven was pre-heating in her Chicago apartment, so I asked her a few questions.
What first got you interested in baking?
I’m five years older than my two younger siblings, so I was always my mom’s helper when I was a kid. I don’t think she made a birthday cake without me cracking the eggs and pouring in the milk for a ten year period. I definitely still licked the beaters until I finally went to college.
Is there a philosophy behind Bake and Destroy?
I like to think Bake and Destroy is a blog that encourages people to have fun cooking and baking. When I first started the site over five years ago most of the food blogs out there were pretty serious. I think I’ve added a healthy dose of goofiness to the blogosphere. Aaaand I just used the word “blogosphere” so feel free to kill me now.
Baking seems to have become increasingly popular again in the last few years, why?
The whole DIY movement in general is so popular right now – I think baking is just another form of doing it yourself. Growing up in Chicago’s hardcore scene, all of my friends screen printed their own shirts, sewed their own clothes, made ‘zines, stuff like that. I grew up baking, so I was the girl bringing vegan brownies to the indie wrestling shows.
What is the best cake you have ever made?
A few weeks ago I had a sudden craving for chocolate cake. Not cupcakes, not cookies. I wanted a full-blown cake. So I threw together enough batter for one 9″ round chocolate peanut butter cake and made a batch of peanut butter buttercream while it cooled. I piped huge peanut butter roses all over the whole thing with a big open star tip and was eating a slice of homemade cake not 90 minutes after wishing I had a piece. It wasn’t my most creative recipe, but it was damn near instant gratification so it stands out in my memory.
What type of cooker/oven is best for baking?
I’ve never had a fancy oven – I always work with whatever standard issue oven comes in a small Chicago apartment. The trick is learning whether or not your oven has any hot spots, and using an oven thermometer. I had an apartment with a really terrible electric stove – it ran much too hot and before I bought a thermometer I was burning things left and right.
Is it better to hand mix or do you recommend using electrical utensils?
In most cases I prefer to hand mix. One comment I always get about my cakes and cupcakes is how moist and fluffy they are – the secret is in the hand mixing. Unless your recipe states otherwise, you really only need to mix your wet and dry ingredients until they’re just blended – you don’t need to beat the daylights out of them. The more you mix, the more gluten you create, therefore, the drier and chewier your cake will be. I love my stand mixer for making bread, cookie dough and buttercream, though.
Do you have any baking heroes?
Stephanie Samuels, the pastry chef who owns Chicago’s Angel Food Bakery, is one of my role models. Her products are excellent, quirky and creative and she’s really made her business an asset to her community. She donates treats to lots of non-profits and from what her employees have told me, she’s a doll to work for.
I also have a ton of respect for Mindy Segal, the chef behind Hot Chocolate here in Chicago. I believe she’s been nominated for three James Beard Awards and everything I’ve ever had of hers was phenomenal. Of course Ben Roche might be my biggest hero. Google him – he’s from outer space!
Who is your all time fav band?
This really depends on my mood! When I’m in the kitchen I listen to The Cramps and The Detroit Cobras, but most of the time my iPod is playing Slapshot or Gorilla Biscuits.
I heard you have written a ‘Bake and Destroy’ book, can you tell me anything about it?
Absolutely! Last year I got in touch with Julie Hasson, who has written several of my favorite cookbooks, about a wrestling-themed bake off I was running – Sugar Slam. She was sweet enough to alert her literary agent to my existence and I’m currently working on a draft of my first cookbook. It’s called Bake and Destroy: Good Recipes for Bad People. In a nutshell, it’s about 50 fun, meatless recipes for people who party hard in their kitchens.
Do you ever get baking groupies?
I’ve gotten recognized a few times a few times, which is always funny and a little embarrassing. Embarrassing mostly because it always happens in like, the deodorant isle at Target. I actually had a few people recognize me last summer when my husband and I went to San Fransisco.
I’ve always had more readers on the West Coast than anywhere else. Oh, and I signed an autograph once at dinner, and my husband made fun of me for the rest of the night.
Is the way to a mans heart through his stomach?
I don’t know, people say that but I’ve always managed to date vegan musicians, dieting tattoo artists or weight-conscious athletes so I never really got to test the theory until I met my husband. He actually won me over when I overheard him say he’d want an all-chocolate wedding cake if he ever got married so it’s definitely the way to my heart.