Sarah started her blog Maison Cupcake just a few months after I started Kavey Eats and we met pretty soon after that, via blogger events we both attended. We’ve been friends ever since and Sarah’s blog is a wonderful source of inspiration for tasty,family-friendly cooking.
Hello and welcome, please introduce yourself and tell us a little about the kind of content you share. Is there a story behind your blog’s name?
I’m Sarah from Maison Cupcake my blog started as only baking but has morphed into other things along the way.. I’d have put much more thought into the name of my site if I’d realised I’d be using it five years later.
Why did you choose to blog about baking?
I started the blog in a month when I had volunteered to make cupcakes for a street party. My first efforts were pretty terrible but I logged photos of my progress and then blogged about the party itself. After that I didn’t want to stop and wanted to improve my baking skills, possibly to launch a local cake making business if I got good enough. At the time there were only about six proper baking blogs in the UK and I got my inspiration from American baking sites. After much consideration I didn’t sell baked goods commercially as I found brand collaborations on the blog were more lucrative and were less of a drain on time with my family. I would find supplying cafés with the same old brownies week after week very tedious. With the blog you rarely do the same thing twice.
Does blogging about baking present any particular challenges?
It can be hard to keep up a conveyor belt of posts when you don’t feel like eating baked stuff yourself. Often I seriously don’t want any sweet stuff in the house whatsoever because it’s too much of a temptation. I should blog more breads but I find it’s the naughty stuff that’s more popular! The ingredients can work out expensive – which is annoying if it’s not naturally what you’d have been having for dinner. The advantage though is that baked items are often ok to photograph the next day when you’ve got better light and you can take your time with photo shoots because your dinner isn’t going cold.
What are your earliest memories of cooking? Who or what inspired you to cook?
My grandmother was a very traditional cook and turned out amazing meals from a tiny kitchen. I had also adored home economics lessons at school and nearly went to catering college but was put off by the prospect of unsocial hours working in hotel or restaurant trade. No one ever suggested I might get trained up and then work for myself, there wasn’t the same sense of entrepreneurial spirit that there is today.
What are the biggest influences on your cooking at the moment?
I am very keen on making as many things as I can from scratch. I get very disheartened in supermarkets seeing how they profit from getting us to cut corners in the kitchen. It’s great to see kit for old fashioned skills such as making your own cheeses or sausages being sold in Lakeland and such places but I’d sooner see people confidently knocking up everyday sauces and pesto without relying on gloop in jars.
Tell us the story of your most spectacular kitchen failure!
I made some chocolate brioche once that looked like dog turds. Had I wanted to invent a recipe for edible chocolate dog turds I couldn’t have done it any better. A Japanese Buzzfeed style site once picked them up saying it was a recipe for edible dog turds and the post suddenly got about 3000 hits 3 years after publication.
Which food or ingredients could you not live without?
On a practical level, flour, eggs, butter and sugar. But personal favourite must-have ingredients are chickpeas, sweet red chilli peppers, rocket, dill mustard and gherkins from IKEA.
Which food writers / chefs do you find most inspirational and in the same spirit, are there any particular cookery books you cherish above the rest of the shelf?
I enjoy Rose Prince’s books very much. They’re like Nigella’s first book How to Eat in that they’re very conversational about real home cooking and all words and no pictures. My guilty pleasure is collecting tiny hardback cookbooks on niche topics/brands from French supermarkets. I own about 25 of them and they’re fabulous as food styling reference for different dish types.
If I were coming for dinner, what would you cook for me?
Oh blimey I think I would feel too flustered and show off the fine eateries of Walthamstow Village to you instead!
What’s the single piece of equipment you wouldn’t be without?
I always take my Heston vegetable knife and OXO potato peeler on holiday. We go self catering a lot and there’s nothing worse than an ineffective knife or peeler.
What’s your kitchen white elephant?
I don’t really have any white elephants as I’m meticulous about decluttering stuff I don’t use but the Morphy Intellisteamer was something I couldn’t justify countertop space for.
What are the biggest turn offs for you, when eating out?
A plate being cleared before you’ve finished chewing the last mouthful. That makes me really mad!
If we were meeting for a meal out, which restaurant would you choose?
I am dying to try the new branch of Eat17 in Hackney. It’s a brasserie style restaurant above a Spar convenience store. The original one is near my home in Walthamstow and the Spar won a national convenience store award. It’s like having a mini Selfridge’s food hall on the doorstep. The owners are very finger on the pulse with new trends and small producers so anything new and interesting tends to show up in there. Next door in the Eat17 restaurant, their burgers in brioche buns (and yes with Eat17 bacon jam) are the best I’ve ever had. GBK and Byron just don’t cut it for me now I’ve been spoiled.
If we were to take a trip together, where would we go?
Let’s hop over to Bruges and tour chocolate shops followed by glasses of red cherry Kriek beer. And I could show you my favourite ever homewares shop – it’s a Dutch/Belgian chain called Dille & Kamille and is fabulous for food styling props!
Since you started blogging, has your style and content changed over time, and if so, in what ways?
I have varied the mix of content over time… it started as mostly baking and then become more a journal of places we’d been as a family or blog events I’d attended. I attend far fewer events now as my motivation had mainly been to make friends with other bloggers and now we don’t need an event to get together! I used to worry it was all too random but so long as I put my personality into everything I don’t think it matters if you deviate onto other subjects.
What is the hardest aspect of blogging for you?
Not having enough hours in the day. There are so many ideas I’d love to get off the ground but never enough time to do them especially with family commitments. There’s only so much blog related work they’ll let me get away with in evenings and at weekends.
What inspires you to keep blogging regularly?
I hate to say it but money. Not everything I blog is done to earn money through brands but enough of it to justify me being self employed publishing brand content or blogging for commercial sites. The perks that come with working with brands keep things interesting although one does quickly tire of yet another free apron / hessian bag / kitchen timer. I prefer it when brands provide a good spread of their products in an adequate quantity to experiment properly – rather than “goodies” that are invariably branded cheap spoons/pens/mugs. And if they want you to meet their latest brand campaign deadline or provide them with content for their own websites and social media they should pay you too.
What are you absolutely loving cooking, eating, doing right now?
I am in love with fregola since having some served at Britmums in a macaroni cheese style sauce topped with shin of beef in gravy. It was the best meal I ate out of a cardboard box with disposable cutlery ever. After struggling to track fregola down, my trusty Walthamstow Spar started to stock it but unfortunately my husband has a horror of small round things and refuses to eat it.
What’s the single most popular post on your blog?
Bizarrely enough it’s a terrible photo of a chocolate smoothie that I tagged The Shrink Mummy Shake. It regularly goes crazy on Pinterest.
Can we give a little extra love and attention to a post you love but didn’t catch the attention of your readers in the way you hoped?
This is very old post about a ramshackle market in Montenegro where my in-laws have a holiday home followed by recipe for an Eastern European pepper sauce called ajvar. I always wish I published more travel posts, certainly I have a massive backlog of unblogged pictures taken abroad. There’s so much well researched travel content out there I worry that my holiday snaps would be too facile in comparison!
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Blog URL: http://maisoncupcake.com
Facebook page: http://facebook.com/maisoncupcake
Twitter handle: http://twitter.com/maisoncupcake
Pinterest profile: http://pinterest.com/maisoncupcake
Instagram handle: http://instagram.com/maisoncupcake
Enjoyed this interview? Read the rest of the series, here.