When it comes to the best things in life – butter and sugar obviously included among them – Jessie Oleson has only one rule she lives by: If some is good, then certainly more is better.
Oleson is a writer, illustrator, confectionarian and the creator of CakeSpy, a popular blog that highlights her quest to find the sweet in life. On Thursday, the Belmar native and Seattle resident dropped in at Sugarush in Red Bank to sign copies of her new book, CakeSpy Presents Sweet Treats for a Sugar-Filled Life.
In between drawing personalized unicorns on inside covers and explaining how to make good food taste better, like one recipe’s suggestion to triple the amount of crumb on a crumb cake, Oleson talked about the process of turning what she loves into what she does for a living.
“I worked for a few years as the art director of the magnet division for a company when I moved to Seattle,” she said. “At some point I asked myself what my interests were. The three things that came to me were writing, illustration, and baked goods.”
Then, back in 2007, Oleson decided to launch a platform to showcase all three of her interests in the form of her own food blog. Though food blogs today, just four years later, are as common as blondes in Sweden, CakeSpy was one of the firsts of its kind, quickly drawing an audience and, eventually, interest from publishers.
Initially, book offers came in the way of pre-conceived ideas with publishers offering deals, but not the kind Oleson was looking for. Oleson said she decided to wait for her own project and a publisher that understood not only CakeSpy, but her quirky sense of humor, too.
In just a few short months, Oleson compiled 60 recipes, along with photographs, illustrations, and her musings into a cookbook that best represents her personality. With her book published, Oleson was dispatched on a book tour of the United States, making stops at seemingly every major city along the way, including Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York, among others. Of course, Oleson had to make her way back home, back to where her baking influence first began.
“My mom was always one of those bakers who, instead of making a mere birthday cake for us, would bake a pink, three-tiered wedding cake,” She said, adding that the baking bug soon took hold of her. “I was invited to everything, now I think I understand why.”
While Oleson credits her mom for getting her started in baking, the internet has given her both the unlimited space and audience to bounce sweet ideas off on a near-daily basis for years. To that end, Oleson believes food blogs have become a great resource both for writers and readers looking to expand their food view and try things they might not have.
“I think that food blogs have been a great way to enable people to get into baking,” she said. “Even with my book, which is brilliant by the way, you don’t have the opportunity to post step-by-step instructions and provide instant feedback.
“Certainly for me, (blogging) was a big help in learning and being able to experiment with new ideas.”