A top website - not for me
"I am a qualified food scientist and dietitian who likes to cook ridiculously unhealthy desserts!" Ann Reardon
It's a while since I have looked at a popular food blog, so today, having been pretty much all absorbed by Christmas and Nigella of late, now for something completely different. Well sort of. There are commonalities - as there are always are. We live in an interconnected universe after all.
Ann Reardon is the creator of this Wordpress website, which has been running since 2011. It was begun whilst nursing her third son several times a night - he was not a well baby - to take her mind off it all and probably to keep herself awake. Her background is as a dietitian, as those introductory words on her About page tell you. And yes, this website is all about cakes and suchlike.
And fancy cakes at that. I mean look at this Rubik's cube cake. She is immensely popular, with a YouTube channel all of her own, some of which have been viewed millions of times - the highest number of views I saw was 38 million - that's much more than the population of Australia. It was for an iPad cake.
I mean this is not the kind of cake that you or I could toss off in an afternoon is it.? Well not at all really. So what is amazing to me is that this should be so popular. Are people actually having a go themselves? There are the instructional videos to follow after all. Or is it a bit like Master Chef (not that I know much about Master Chef) where people make impossibly beautiful and complicated things and others watch and are utterly gobsmacked. Vicarious thrill seeking in the kitchen. Is it like going to a top restaurant where the food is cooked by a triple Michelin starred cook and is incredibly complicated perhaps? Surely this is something for an actual trained pastry cook. Not Mrs. Average.
If people are watching it for the wow factor does it make them feel excited, awed, amused, or just depressed at their inability to do such things? I started to watch one of her videos - for a balloon dog cake just to see if, in fact these complicated things are actually easy. However, I confess I didn't get past the first steps in which she made an actual balloon dog, to get the measurements right and that was complicated enough. The video was over ten minutes long, so I'm sure every detail of construction was covered. And people do make these things - at least a few of them because there are comments at the foot of all her recipes about how wonderful it was, or where to get a particular ingredient and suchlike. In times of COVID it could be a good way to pass your time - making a complicated and 'wow' cake. But who would you share it with? Well in the UK anyway. Even her though you can't really throw a party.
Now I haven't perused the entire collection of recipes - it is huge, and there may well be some easy recipes in there, and there are certainly posts that are more tips and tricks than actual recipes. But the majority of them look unbelievably tricky.
But cakes - from a dietitian. Yes there is a gluten-free section, not that gluten free is necessarily sugar free, but still. She is obviously aware of the incongruity and says:
"I often get asked how can you make all of those cakes and desserts and not be overweight? Well, there is no magic pill – all of our meals are low fat and healthy, I eat plenty of fruit and exercise regularly. I try to only make amazing desserts when we have people coming over to share it with. I did have intentions of adding the recipes that I use for dinner to the blog, but I keep getting sidetracked with desserts – they photograph so much more beautifully." Ann Reardon
Interesting comment about the photographs. I honestly don't think that's true. Other food is often stunningly photographed, and truth to tell the photographs here are not that wonderful and mostly plastered with logos and things.
There are also the occasional posts on associated subjects, such as Are the Netflix “Nailed It’ challenges impossible? but I suspect that they are not that common. There is a search feature, but I'm not really sure how you can find particular types of recipes or posts other than the very generalised few in the main menu. There are over a hundred pages, so lots and lots of recipes to work through.
One last interesting thing though. No two. She, or rather her website has a fairly lengthy Wikipedia page dedicated to her. Did she do it herself I wonder? It doesn't really sound as if she wrote it, and maybe you are not allowed to write a Wikipedia page about yourself anyway, but nevertheless it is longish. Longer than some I have found on various minor artists. I suspect the article has not been updated for some time, but it does say that in 2014 How to cook that had over a million subscribers and over 100 million views. I wonder whether it is still as popular. I'm not sure how often she posts these days - the last date I could find was November 2020.
And secondly, back in, 2014 she released an app - yes an app.
"It is considered the world's first augmented reality app for cakes and was inspired by a gaming app. The app allows users to make a cake come to life with 3D moving dragons, unicorns, rainbows and fireworks." Wikipedia
It was released in the Apple App Store and also on Google Play. However, I don't think it has been updated by the developers, and it is no longer available in the App store although Google Play seems to still have it, albeit not maintained for some time. So I guess it's possible that it would no longer work. But how very entrepreneurial.
And yes, entrepreneurial - there is a shop which sells things like T-shirts and mugs. But, a little surprisingly, no cookbooks.
As the title of my post says, this blog is not for me. If I make cakes - not very often - I want something simple and uncomplicated, and there are heaps of recipes out there, from Claudia Roden to whoever is the latest and the best on cake. Even the generally complicated Yotam Ottolenghi has simple recipes for cakes. So it is interesting that there are people out there - so many people in fact - interested in making very fancy ones. It's all very niche it seems to me, but the number of her followers shows that I am completely wrong. And I do know that there are lots of cooking programs and food blogs that are similarly dedicated to cakes.
Did I also say that you can follow her on just about every platform there is. She must work hard on it all. All praise to her to make a career out of something she obviously loves doing. I wonder if she ever gets tired of it. That baby must be 11 or so now, which means her other two sons are teenagers. A difficult time in a mother's life. Maybe cake is the best antidote.