Welcome to episode 294 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Alexa interviews Erika Kwee from The Pancake Princess about the Bake Off series on her blog.
Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Brett Lindenberg about growing his site, Food Truck Empire, alongside working a full-time job. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.
Erika has a food blog, The Pancake Princess, but her most popular posts aren’t about recipes that she has developed herself.
Instead, her most popular posts are from her Bake Off series where she tries multiple recipes for the same food from around the internet and breaks them down by what makes them similar, what makes them different, and which are her and her taste testers’ favorites.
In today’s episode, we’re diving deep into Erika’s Bake Off posts and talking about how she produces this comprehensive and unique content for her blog.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- When and why Erika started her blog
- How her Bake Offs works
- Her “formula” for putting these Bake Off posts together
- How she has worked with sponsors on these Bake Off posts
- How she has incorporated video into the Bake Off series
- Which of the Bake Offs were Erika’s favorite
- What to expect in future Bake Offs
- Her advice for switching up the content you’re producing on your blog
- The Pancake Princess
- The Bake Offs on The Pancake Princess
- Pinch of Yum
- Google Forms
- Check out Erika’s Lofthouse Cookie Bake Off video
- Claire Saffitz’s Carrot Cake recipe
- 5 Tips for Growing a Blog While Working Full-Time
- Follow Erika on Instagram and on YouTube
If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].Learn more about joining the Food Blogger Pro community!
Transcript (click to expand):
Alexa Peduzzi: Hey, everyone. Alexa here, and welcome to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. We are so excited that you decided to tune in today and that’s because this episode is a good one. It’s an interview with food blogger, Erika Kwee, from the Pancake Princess. While she creates some awesome recipe content on her blog, her most popular content is actually a series on her blog that she calls bake-offs. In these bake-offs, she tries multiple recipes of the same food from around the internet. She breaks them down, what makes them similar? What makes them different?
Alexa Peduzzi: She has taste testers, taste them, and she analyzes all of that information to come up with different recommendations, so her favorites, ones that are really good, if you have certain ingredients on hand and so much more. They are such high quality posts, and I think it’s just one of those things that’s so interesting because food bloggers typically create recipes. That’s what we do. That is the product that we’re producing. But in Erika’s case, she’s finding a lot of success producing content around analyzing other people’s content, which I think is really, really fascinating.
Alexa Peduzzi: She talks all about this bake-off series in this episode, and she talks about her formula for putting the post together, how she works with sponsors on the post, how she’s incorporated video and so much more. It’s a great episode, and actually it’s a little bit different than some of our more recent episodes because I’m actually the one interviewing Erika. My interviewing muscle is not one that I flex often, but I’m really excited to show it off today. Without any further ado, let’s dive in. Erika, welcome to the podcast.
Erika Kwee: Thank you so much for having me.
Alexa Peduzzi: We are so excited that you’re here. I actually got this idea to interview you actually because I was trying to cure my cookie cravings. I went on a search for vegan cookie recipes and I came across your bake-off post and I was already familiar with you. I follow you on Instagram. I was like, “Oh my goodness. Why have I not thought of having her on the podcast?” We reached out, and I’m just so excited to be able to talk to you today.
Erika Kwee: Oh my gosh. That’s great. I’m so excited to talk to you.
Alexa Peduzzi: Like I mentioned, you have a bake-off series on your blog and that’s where we’re going to focus the majority of our conversation. But I think I want to start by taking a step back and just talking about the story of your blog, the Pancake Princess, where you got the idea, when you started and why you started.
Erika Kwee: Oh, man. I always feel so silly explaining the name of my blog, but it basically came about my senior year of college. I had this good friend named, Coonley, and he loved to work out. We were basically opposites because he loved to weight lift, I love to do cardio. He loved to eat meat and no vegetables, and I was basically vegetarian, but we both loved sugar. We were like, “Hey, let’s start a blog.” We were like, “Let’s call it the Pancake Princess and the Protein Prince, and you’ll blog about meat recipes and working out, and then I’ll blog about vegetarian recipes and we’ll both blog about desserts.” That’s how it started.
Erika Kwee: Coonley, I think wrote one blog post and then dropped off. I just kept the name the Pancake Princess. From there, I mean, it was a lot of pancake recipes in the beginning, and then once I graduated from college, I think that’s when it really ramped up because I just found myself with so much time after work. It was like I don’t have to study, it’s just a 9:00 to 5:00. What do I do with all my spare time? It was really a lot of experimenting with cooking and baking and it was reading tons of food blogs. I love Pinch of Yum. I’ve been following Lindsay for years, and just a bunch of other blogs. I think that inspired me to continue trying to improve my photography and develop recipes. Yeah, it’s just been a slow burn for the past almost seven, eight years.
Alexa Peduzzi: Isn’t that crazy to think back and be like, “Wow, I can’t believe this has been a thing for longer than I was in college?” I started my blog my senior year of college too, and it was one of those things where I looked back just the other day and I was like, “Wow, that was a really long time ago. I’ve been doing this for a really long time,” and that’s so cool that you’ve been able to keep it up and just really fall into the name that you created back in the day.
Erika Kwee: Thanks.
Alexa Peduzzi: Yeah, that’s a great introduction. I think what I wanted to focus mostly on today, because I think it’s so unique and it’s one of those things that I think a lot of food bloggers, they fall into this rhythm of just producing new recipes. Publishing a new recipe, developing new recipes and just doing that over and over and over, and that’s the sole content that they produce, and that’s fine, that’s great. But some people to switch it up and offer their readers something a little bit unique. I think your bake-off series is one of those just super unique things and you have it down to such a great formula. So I’d love to focus on that for a little bit. Can you give us just a quick intro about what your bake-off series is and when you started those kind of posts specifically?
Erika Kwee: Sure. A bake-off is basically when I test anywhere from nine … I’ve done up to 16, but typically nine to 12 recipes, all of the same type. It could be snickerdoodles or cinnamon rolls or banana bread, and I bake everything in one day and then I use … Pre-COVID, I used to have friends come over and everyone would sample all of the different baked bread that I had made.
Alexa Peduzzi: I bet you are a best friend of many, many people.
Erika Kwee: I do feel very just happy to have all my friends under one roof. Oh my God, it was so fun back in the day. But nowadays people will just swing by with … they’ll bring a muffin tin or a Tupperware, and I put the samples in their container for them to take home and taste and they basically judge each baked good on a scale of one to 10, and then we analyze all the data and then we try to report out which was the most crowd-pleasing baked good, and then talk about all of the other ones and just compare to see the “best” or the top rated recipe.
Erika Kwee: It might not be your ideal recipe. If you like a chewy cookie, and the top one is crispy, it might not be your ideal. I try not to say, “It’s the best recipe,” but there’s good and bad things about most recipes. That’s how a bake-off works. It basically started in 2017. My friend, Skylar, was visiting me for my birthday and he actually got stranded in Houston because Hurricane Harvey came through, and he was supposed to stay-
Alexa Peduzzi: Oh men.
Erika Kwee: … a Friday through Monday, and then all flights were just being canceled. It was just crazy. We were just cooped up in our house all week, and by the end, we were like, “Back in the day we were talking about this project of trying to bake a dozen different chocolate chip cookie recipes from the internet to find which one is the best. Should we just do that?” We ended up doing it just that Saturday before he left, and we invited all our friends over and that was the very first bake-off. It was so fun that I just wanted to keep doing it. That’s how it started.
Alexa Peduzzi: I love that. That is so cool. Just a fun idea with a friend and it turned into just this really awesome blog series that, I mean, is super popular. When I look at your Instagram account and when you post about these bake-offs and you post all of these super thorough Instagram stories about each recipe, I feel like you get a lot of engagement on them too. I think that’s awesome that you’re able to just grow it from this idea with friends, having fun with friends to this awesome blog content. That’s so cool.
Erika Kwee: Oh, thanks. Yeah, I really … I can’t say enough good things about the people … It feels weird to call them my followers, but just everyone gets so excited about them. I’m like, “Thank you for sharing my same enthusiasm for this totally dorky and nerdy project,” because I’m very passionate about it and it’s just so heartwarming to see that other people are as well.
Alexa Peduzzi: Yeah, oh my gosh. For sure. Well, it just so fun when you test a recipe or a test a certain food and a recipe that I’ve made is on your list and I’m like, “Yeah, that recipe is really good.” It’s just really cool to see it up against some of the other ones on the internet, because there are so many different kinds of chocolate chip cookie recipes, zucchini bread recipes. Most recently, Lofthouse cookie recipes, which is total guilty pleasure of mine. I was so excited to see that you did those.
Alexa Peduzzi: I love those. It’s just so neat to see those recipes stacked up one against another, and to see what makes them different and what makes them so similar. While you were describing the bake-offs, you use words analyze and reports and things like dorky or nerdy, which I thought was really interesting because your bake-offs are really science-based. I think that might come mainly from just the fact that baking is such a science-based thing. But I’m curious if you have a food science background, or what got you interested in more of the analyzing way of consuming recipes?
Erika Kwee: That’s such a good question. I wish I had a food science background because oftentimes, when I’m writing my blog post, I’m having to Google and be like, “Is baking soda acidic or basic?” I’m like, “I can’t remember,” because I think there are all of these elements that affect recipes and I have been a home baker all my life, so it’s mostly trial and error and reading what other bloggers and food scientists are saying, and me trying to piece together why a certain recipe might’ve been better than another because I really just have no official food or chef training, unfortunately. But I think … I did get my MBA. I was actually an English major in college, and then I went back to business school to try to get some more marketable skills.
Erika Kwee: I think that I’ve always been very analytical and spreadsheet-oriented. I just love organizing and categorizing things. Even though the bake-offs didn’t start intentionally because they wanted to categorize the internet, looking back, I think it was a natural progression for me because I still encounter this to this day where I’m like, “Okay, I want to make graham crackers for this camping trip that I’m going on. But which is the best recipe? There are literally thousands, on Pinterest on Google, and I would love for someone to just tell me which one is the best. I think it’s just that natural instinct, I guess, of me wanting to just be efficient and have a more data-driven way to say, ”This recipe is better and here’s why.”
Alexa Peduzzi: Yeah, and I think that makes a lot of sense. I mean, there are so many resources that go into if I am a consumer or reader of a blog, and I’m like, “Hey, I’m deciding to make this recipe,” I’m investing time, I’m investing money for ingredients. You want it to turn out right. It’s cool that we have a resource like your bake-offs to see which recipe is the most worth it. Like you said, people like recipes for different reasons. It’s really cool that you document that too. If somebody’s ideal cookie is really chewy with a crisp edge, then maybe this recipe is the best for them. But then if there are more cakey recipe or cakey cookie fun, then this recipe might be better. It’s really cool that you’re able to compare apples to apples, I’d say, in these bake-offs, for sure.
Alexa Peduzzi: Just the fact that you said that you don’t have any formal recipe training, I think that’s really interesting. We actually did a poll of our Food Blogger Pro members not too long ago for a course that we’re releasing soon and almost 70% of our Food Blogger Pro members. Those are people who are working on starting and growing their own blogs. They don’t have any recipe training, which I think is so unique. Yeah. It just goes to show that you absolutely do not need that in order to just create content that people are just, I guess pun intended, eating up.
Alexa Peduzzi: I’m curious if you could break down the formula for these posts, because if you go on your site and you click the little bake-offs tab at the top and you look at them, you’ll see that the posts are pretty standardized, I’d say. It looks like you have some formula or, I guess pun intended again, recipe for these posts. I’m curious how you go ahead and choose the topics and the different recipes like you said, hundreds, thousands, millions of recipes online. How do you choose the nine to 12 to 16 that you actually use in a bake-off? How do you test? I’m just curious how you’ve created that really replicable, that’s hard to say, replicable formula for these posts.
Erika Kwee: Yeah. I think that choosing the recipes is actually the most time-consuming part or at least … I mean, baking takes almost all day, but it is the most frustrating. Yeah, but the baking part is fun. The choosing the recipes is honestly agonizing for me because I want to test all the recipes. I think nine to 12 sounds a lot when you think about how much you’re baking in one day, but it’s such a small sample of the internet. So I always am like, “Should I do 16 this time?” But you always worry about taster fatigue, because after a certain point, everything starts to taste the same.
Alexa Peduzzi: Oh yeah.
Erika Kwee: So I try to eliminate. But basically, the way I usually approach each bake-off is I start by picking what I’m going to do next, for example, carrot cake, and I will Google a carrot cake and start scraping the most popular recipes off of Google. But the best source I feel that I have is actually from Instagram. I’ll put out a call and say, “Hey, do you have any carrot cake recipes that you love and would love to see in a bake-off board just want to see tested?” It’s really helpful there to see the themes that keep popping up. If everyone is recommending Bravetart’s carrot cake, for example, I know that it’s a super popular one that I should probably test.
Erika Kwee: I’ve used that as one measure, and then I also put all of these recipes and twist spreadsheet, and I try to organize it … It depends on the recipe, but it could be by fat. Maybe all of these butter-based carrot cakes versus butter and oil based carrot cakes versus only oil-based or oil plus brown sugar. However, the recipes just shake out in terms of being distinctive. Then from there, I try to pick a couple of recipes from each category. Maybe two oil-based, two butter-based, et cetera.
Alexa Peduzzi: Wow. That’s cool.
Erika Kwee: Yeah. Then from there, I think … I mean, I just try to choose a representative sample that, if one … I try to find a benchmark recipe because a lot of recipes are imitating or adapting from each other. So if there’s one standard recipe that it seems a lot of people are replicating, always love to have one of those. Always love to have one if there’s a weird ingredient or a method. I want to melt the baking soda in buttermilk before you add it to the battery, or something weird like that, to throw one of those in there to see if the technique makes a difference. But yeah, that’s pretty much how I select the recipes. Then it’s just a matter of preparing for the baking, doing all of that, ending with samples. Yeah. Sorry. Did I forget the second part of your question?
Alexa Peduzzi: No. I asked 15 questions, so I apologize for that. Yeah. I guess the second part of that was how do you test the recipes? I know you mentioned that people rate them on a one through 10 scale. Do they write down their responses or their thoughts somewhere, and then get them all to you? Then how do you put that all together?
Erika Kwee: Oh my gosh. Let me tell you, back in the day in the early, early days, everyone was writing down their scores on a piece of paper, and I would transcribe that piece of paper into, I guess, an Excel sheet. It took so long. It didn’t take me long to electron … What am I trying to say? Make that electronic. Now people fill out a Google Form. There will be typically a question on how would you rate the flavor from one to 10? How would you rate the texture from one to 10? How would you rate the thing, the cookie overall from one to 10?
Erika Kwee: Or when we did the Levain cookie bake-off, for example, you would rate how close is this copycat recipe to the original? From there it’s pretty easy to just take that data and then pop it into Tableau or Excel and to say, “Okay, the top-ranked cake or cookie is X cake based on this question’s rankings.”
Alexa Peduzzi: That is so cool. Yeah. I love that. Such an easy way to make it so much easier to comb through that data because it is like … How many taste testers did you say you have, typically?
Erika Kwee: Gosh, it could be anywhere from 25 to 45.
Alexa Peduzzi: Oh my goodness. You must be just covered in flour at the end of each bake-off day. That is so amazing. Oh my goodness. Yeah, I could not imagine going through all of that data just by them writing it down. I could imagine how thankful you are for those Google Forms. That’s great. Could you walk us through-
Alexa Peduzzi: I was just going to say, could you walk us through the post itself? Because I know you have different headings and you digest each, or I guess you pick apart each recipe. How did you go about figuring out the ideal way to lay out that content?
Erika Kwee: Yeah, that’s a great question that I’m still exploring because I feel like these posts are extremely long, and I love the people who DM me and say, “I just read every word of your post and I love it,” but I know that the majority of people are not really looking to read an essay on which is the best carrot cake on the internet. I am trying to think of ways to streamline it and make it a little more digestible if you just want to glance through it. But I think when I first designed those posts, I was thinking in terms of … Is it called a science report, where you have your hypothesis and your methodology and your analysis?
Alexa Peduzzi: Yeah. Oh my gosh. Take me back to bio.
Erika Kwee: Yeah. I mean, I always try to give a little bit of an intro about why I chose the bake-off, and then tell people what ingredients I use because the protein content and flour could really matter, for example. I want people to know, if they want to try to replicate my results, here is exactly what I used. Then I try to put a little section on the methodology in terms of did I bake everything the same day? Yes. Here are the types of pans that I used, and here’s what it was lined with because parchment paper versus silpat can matter.
Alexa Peduzzi: For sure.
Erika Kwee: Yeah. Then I’ve tried to post the results and do a little bit of an overview on why I think the results shook out the way they did, and then a section on the factors that I think affected the bake-off. For example, in the chocolate cake bake-off, we really found that a combination of butter and oil as the fat made for the best texture because butter gets that great flavor and then oil gets you a really soft texture. Then it really just, from there, is a deep dive into each recipe where I try to give a fair overview of each recipe and point out where I might’ve gone from wrong in the recipe or any weird …
Erika Kwee: Like this takes forever to make, or this requires an overnight rest or here’s why people loved it and didn’t love it, and insert some tastes or commentary in there because my tasters are hilarious. They just love to give me anything from very serious comments to very sassy comments. I think there’s definitely a good balance on the whole when you look at them. Then at the very end, this is where I try to be like, “Too long? Didn’t read? Here’s the highlights if you want to make the least effort, but highest payoff cake or the most voiced cake,” blah, blah, blah.
Alexa Peduzzi: That’s one of my favorite parts right there because it is super digestible. I’m on your brownie post right now, and you have a heading, Best Brownie Recipes to Try. You have, “If you only have cocoa powder …” Some brownie recipes have cocoa powder and melted chocolate,“ but you give two recommendations, ”If you only have cocoa powder, these are the recipes for you. If you only have one hour, here are the other recipes that you might want to try. If you want a fancy one, a fudgy one.”
Alexa Peduzzi: You’re not saying, “Oh, this is the only brownie recipe that you want to try.” You say, “Yeah, this is probably our favorite out of the bunch we tried. But if you only have certain ingredients on hand, these are really awesome recipes to try too.” I really, really love that. That’s typically what I scroll down to first, just to see the breakdown, and then I’ll go ahead and read the rest of the post. But I think that right there is so helpful and valuable.
Erika Kwee: That’s great to know. I love hearing that.
Alexa Peduzzi: Yeah. Well, one of the things that I noticed too, I mean, if you, again, just go onto the bake-offs section of your blog and you start to scroll through, there’s … You have the pictures down to a science. They all look very, very similar. There’s the nine recipes or whatever that you’re testing, so the nine cookies with handwritten labels below hand and a crinkly piece of parchment paper below it. Do you have any thoughts or reasonings behind why you wanted to standardize the pictures for these?
Erika Kwee: I guess it was just a matter of branding. I wanted people to be able to see it and think, “Oh, that’s a bake-off from the Pancake Princess.” I do definitely acknowledge that maybe handwritten labels are not the best way because I feel like that you lose it in a lot of photos. It’s hard to see. But yeah, there’s just the style that I’ve developed over the past couple of years.
Alexa Peduzzi: For sure, and I think that’s … I think the handwritten labels are great because like you said, as soon as they see six cookies or nine cookies on a crinkled background with handwritten labels, I absolutely know it’s you and I jump off of your blog to go read about it, especially when they are the dark chocolate Levain peanut butter cookies. Those looked amazing. I was so pumped that you did that.
Erika Kwee: So good.
Alexa Peduzzi: One of the things I find really interesting about these posts is that they’re really great examples of posts that aren’t necessarily just recipe development posts that you can get sponsored. Your most recent bake-off post, the Lofthouse cookie post was sponsored. Can you talk a little bit about that process and how you pitch a different recipe series idea to a sponsor?
Erika Kwee: Sure. I had actually been hoping to get a bake-off sponsored. I’ve been thinking about it for a while and I was thinking what a great opportunity for me to partner with a brand to elevate their brand story with a bake-off? Because there are products that I use in every single bake-off like Land O’Lakes butter, Imperial Sugar, and a lot of people will come ask me, “Hey, how do you like using this flour versus this flour? Or this product, what do you think of this?” I mean, honestly, half the time I’m like, “I really have … I’m not a food scientist or anything. I’m honored that you are asking for my opinion, but as an enthusiastic home cook, this is all I can tell you.”
Erika Kwee: But, I mean, I think it’s great that people see that there’s some baking authority here, maybe just from the sheer volume that I’m baking. I think when I approached Imperial Sugar, the way I tried to frame it was, “These bake-offs are highest performing posts, they’re very popular, people are coming to read about these great recipes. I think it would be a great partnership for me to also talk about Imperial Sugar as it’s a super high quality consistent product that I use all the time. Why not? It just seem like a great synergy, an opportunity.” That is how I pitched it to them, and I was just thrilled that they were also into the idea. We are partnering for a few posts, and then we’re going to monitor and see if we’re going to continue the partnership. But overall, very happy with how it’s going so far. Yeah, that’s just how it came about.
Alexa Peduzzi: That’s awesome, and it’s really interesting that these are your highest performing posts, and I feel like that’s … They’re acting as that cornerstone content of this is just a really awesome well-researched piece of content, Google, other search engines, readers all love a ton of information. I’ll hand it to them in one beautiful package in a blog post like this. That’s really cool to see that your hard work on these are paying off in traffic and sponsor deals. That’s really, really cool.
Erika Kwee: Thanks, Alexa. Yeah, I was very excited.
Erika Kwee: Oh my gosh. What a good question. The answer is no, I do not bake everything twice.
Alexa Peduzzi: Thank goodness.
Erika Kwee: When I thought about doing video, I was like, “There is no way I could do it twice.” We had to figure out a way around the bake-off schedule so that he could catch me right as I was done baking before people came to pick up samples. But yeah, very excited to start the video series, and that was born out of … I started doing a day-after tasting series on my stories. That was mainly because I would try all those cookies the day of and put my own survey rankings, and I just didn’t have the energy to do it all again and story it the same day. So I would do a day-after tasting and people ended up liking that because I guess it’s helpful to see does this cookie tastes as good the next day? Because some definitely hold up better than others.
Erika Kwee: It was a more success … I got more positive feedback on those stories than I did with almost any other story, and I was really shocked at the number of people who were like, “I look forward to these stories every bake-off,” or, “What are you posting? I can’t wait to watch.” Or even … I love this one mom told me, “My kids love to watch you, and they’re asking when the cookie lady is going to be back.”
Alexa Peduzzi: Oh my gosh. That’s so sweet.
Erika Kwee: I know. My heart. I was dying. But yeah, I think I was surprised at how much interest those stories were getting despite the fact that I felt like I was really just rambling. I was thinking, and I actually think this tip might’ve come from a Food Blogger Pro Podcast or something, but I know that embedding video into a blog post can help with SEO rankings. So I was like, “What if I tried to do the tasting videos in a YouTube format? So that way, A, it would boost the blog SEO rankings, but then B, it’s a more better long-term way to house the tasting videos versus just save to my highlights on Instagram, and see it would open up to a whole new YouTube audience, which definitely have not penetrated that at all.
Erika Kwee: That is how I decided to give it a try. The first video was actually with the Levain chocolate peanut butter cookies. I was just looking at how many videos they were of people trying copycat Levain cookie recipes, and I was like, “I feel like no one is doing a comparison of nine different cookies on YouTube. So hopefully this content will do well.” Yeah. Then I talked to my friend, Michael Ma, who is a local videographer in Houston. Super talented. He’s the only thing making me look good in these videos. I was very nervous to film myself because I just hate watching myself on camera, but his videography is absolutely incredible. Very thrilled to be working with him. Yeah, I think that is basically how that process got started, and I’m going to try to keep doing them for as long as I can and just see if I build any momentum on YouTube.
Alexa Peduzzi: I think that’s great. One of the things about recipe videos is that they don’t perform all that well on YouTube because they’re so short, the hands and pans videos, I mean. The ones that are under a minute, you share on Instagram, they blow up on Instagram, same with Facebook. But YouTube is the place for longer form content, so anywhere from 10 minutes up, anywhere like that. I think that it’s really smart to put together these videos. You already have all of the cookies or all of the cakes baked.
Alexa Peduzzi: It’s really cool to just turn on a video camera and talk about what people thought, what you thought, what makes the recipes different? I’m really excited to see more of that actually. I always love watching taste test videos on YouTube. It’s a guilty pleasure, I guess, of mine. I think it’s really, really cool that you started doing this and they are so beautiful. Whoever’s listening on the podcast, be sure to head over to our show notes for this episode and I’ll have some links there for the videos because it’s just … They’re beautiful.
Erika Kwee: Thank you so much.
Alexa Peduzzi: Yeah. I think we’re getting probably to the end of this podcast episode, but I have some quick and easy, maybe not easy actually, questions for you. You’ve done a lot of bake-offs, what? I’m looking here probably over … I should have counted before. I don’t know. Probably over 20-ish?
Erika Kwee: That’s sounds right.
Alexa Peduzzi: Yeah. Do you have an absolute favorite of the ones that you’ve done? I’m seeing here vegetarian stuffing, brownies, brownies part two, pumpkin pie. So many different ones.
Erika Kwee: Oh my gosh. It’s so hard to say, because after some of them, I felt like I absolutely never wanted to eat banana bread again.
Alexa Peduzzi: I guess that’s true.
Erika Kwee: I don’t know. Some of them were just such a pain in the butt to make that I was like, “I’m not even enjoying eating these.”
Alexa Peduzzi: Oh my gosh.
Erika Kwee: But I think cinnamon rolls really stood out as a great one. That was really complex to schedule, but really satisfying to pull off, and then also really fun to eat. Gosh, I have to say that the first chocolate chip cookie bake-off, I felt so sick after, and I think everyone did too. That amount chocolate was just not great in the volume that we were eating. I have to say chocolate chip cookies are not my favorite. But let me think. Oh, the lemon bar bake-off. The lemon poppy seed muffin bake-off, I actually loved that one and I was surprised at how much I love just eating muffins. That one was really fun.
Alexa Peduzzi: Yeah. I remember you talked about the glaze being a very important part of those recipes too, and I was just like, “Yes. Yes, It is.” I love lemon poppy seed muffins. I think they’re one of those unsung heroes of the dessert world. Totally agree with that. That’s really cool. I could imagine the pecan pie or any of the pies, just being a bit of a process to pull off, for sure.
Erika Kwee: Oh my gosh. Yes. That pecan pie bake-off, I was so exhausted after, and it was just the blind baking of the pie crest and then the adding of … Oh my gosh, it was just so much work. But yes, on the lemon poppy seed note, I am still on the hunt for a super lemony muffin itself because that glaze is so key but it’s just … I think all of the flavor is basically in that glaze and I want the flavor to come in the muffin too. We got closed in the bake-off, but I think my ideal muffing is still out there somewhere.
Alexa Peduzzi: I get that, for sure. Always in pursuit of the best muffin, or the best whatever, and I guess this series is a great answer to that. Even if you don’t find the ideal one in a certain bake-off, I guess there’s the opportunity for part two of the lemon poppy seed bake-off.
Erika Kwee: Yes, definitely.
Alexa Peduzzi: I noticed that you to like to plan your bake-offs seasonally, like pecan pie around Thanksgiving, Parker House rolls around Thanksgiving, to ginger bread around Christmas. Are there any that you’re planning within the next couple of weeks or months that you’re really excited about?
Erika Kwee: Carrot cake is coming in time for Easter, and I personally am not a huge fan of carrot cake and I know this is blasphemous, but I don’t really cream cheese frosting, but…
Alexa Peduzzi: Oh my gosh.
Erika Kwee: I feel crazy saying that because everyone loves it, and I like certain cream cheese frostings. If there’s some lemon in there, give it to me. I like it a little more sugary than cream cheesy. It has been so highly requested, that I finally am like, “I can’t put this off any longer. I must give the people what they want.”
Alexa Peduzzi: Totally.
Erika Kwee: I’m excited to do that one just to see will I find my ideal carrot cake in this bake-off? It will actually be a good test for me.
Alexa Peduzzi: That’s great.
Erika Kwee: Yeah, I’m excited and scared because there are so many different pineapple and raisins and nuts. People have very strong opinions on these things and I don’t really. So I’m just like we’ll see how the recipe is shakeout when we get there.
Alexa Peduzzi: For sure.
Erika Kwee: But yeah, also, this is a long ways off, but I want to do a baked mac and cheese bake-off for Thanksgiving this year. That will be an unusual savory one, but I’m very excited about that.
Alexa Peduzzi: Oh my gosh. That will be fantastic. I know, gosh, mac and cheese, there are just so many different ways that you can make it, between the different kinds of noodles or the different kinds of toppings. That’s going to be a really cool one. I’m very pumped for that. Carrot cake, man. I’m a big carrot cake fan because I am a big cream cheese frosting fan. I think I like the frosting, to be honest, a little bit more than the actual cake. But I saw Claire Saffitz, she made this giant, I think it was a three tier or four tier carrot cake. That might be one that-
Erika Kwee: Oh my God.
Alexa Peduzzi: A recipe that we might need to add to the bake-off.
Erika Kwee: I actually watched her video and tried it, and her frosting was so good. It was a brown butter cream cheese frosting, and I was like-
Alexa Peduzzi: Yes.
Erika Kwee: … “This is the key that I’ve been missing. I just need to put brown butter in it.” It was so good.
Alexa Peduzzi: There you go. Oh my gosh. That’s actually a great idea. I forgot she did that. Yeah, for sure. I bet you that was amazing. Man, you’re getting so excited about this now. You said you have a lot of taste testers, and that’s great. They obviously take a little bit of each recipe, but first of all, do you have any leftovers, and second of all, what do you do with them, and I guess third of all, can I have some?
Erika Kwee: Such a good question. I used to absolutely … When people would come over, I don’t know. I guess I just couldn’t distribute it as evenly because people were just taking what they wanted, and I would have so many leftovers, and thank God I could just take them to work. Even if I dropped it off in the kitchen at 8:00 AM, people would demolish everything by 9:00 AM, and I’d be like, “Don’t you people have to work. How are we going to work on the sugar high?” But it was great.
Erika Kwee: Nowadays when I can just hand out samples, I can better estimate, okay, 20 people are coming, I’m going to give each person a half cookie or a whole cookie for this sample. But yes, I do tend to have a lot of leftovers, and luckily, in COVID, my neighbors and I have all gotten to know each other. So usually I have enough willing neighbors to take leftovers that I can pawn everything off on them. Yes, I would love to send you some leftover.
Alexa Peduzzi: Thank you. Yes, I am your girl when you have some carrot cake leftovers, for sure. That is crazy. I guess I didn’t realize that you have a full-time job too, along with running the Pancake Princess?
Erika Kwee: Yeah. I work as a product manager at HP. That is my day job, and I just scrape recipes in my free time.
Alexa Peduzzi: Holy moly. Wow. That’s incredible. So you put in all of this effort for these giant super well-thought out, super well-researched bake-off posts with a full-time job. How do you manage that? How do you balance the time?
Erika Kwee: Well, I mean, in COVID I honestly have had so much time that it doesn’t really feel like I need to juggle that much because, I mean, I’m very lucky in that I don’t have a lot of other constraints on my time. No kids, no pets. I guess I just put a lot of my free time that I would have spent going out and socializing with friends into researching recipes. But I mean, I would say each post probably takes around 20 hours, and at least eight hours of that is just baking all in one day, with the rest of the researching spread out an hour, two, each night. Sometimes I can multitask and watch TV at the same time. It doesn’t feel like it’s a super heavy load.
Alexa Peduzzi: That’s cool. That’s really cool. I know people will have a lot of questions about that because there’s a lot of us out there who are balancing full-time jobs with blogs and with other responsibilities. It’s cool. Even just working on it a little bit each night is a really good tip. I guess my last question for you, because your bake-off series is so unique and it’s just so different from the norm of what food bloggers like to publish typically, I’m curious if you have any advice for bloggers who want to switch up the kind of content that they’re publishing or producing on their blogs? So how to find a new idea or how to test the waters to see if your readers will like it? Do you have any advice?
Erika Kwee: I guess the piece of advice that comes to mind is just, if you have been sitting on an idea that you’ve been dismissing or thinking, “I don’t think anyone would be interested in that,” to just explore it and just give it some attention and see, just try it out because what’s the worst that could happen? For this, we always thought it was a cool idea, but I didn’t think that it would take off quite in the way that it did. That’s generic advice. But I feel like there are a lot of things that you can do with the food blog outside of just the normal recipe development, and people are interested in new content. Yeah. I don’t know if that’s the most helpful, but that would be my advice.
Alexa Peduzzi: No, I think that makes sense. Ideas come all the time too, and I think it’s easy to just push them under the rug and be like, “Oh, I’m doing it this way. I’ve always done it this way. These ideas can wait, or I’m just not going to do them.” But taking a chance and seeing and testing the waters, and it doesn’t mean you need to stick with them full time or only post that kind of content. But if you’re curious about switching it up, I think that’s great advice, for sure.
Erika Kwee: Awesome. Yeah. You put it much more eloquently than I did.
Alexa Peduzzi: Well, yeah, this was such a great conversation, Erika. I’m so, so excited and honored to be able to talk to you. Seriously. Such a fan if that wasn’t abundantly clear throughout this interview. But if people want to connect with you and chat and see some of these bake-offs, see what you’re up to, where is the best place that people can connect?
Erika Kwee: My Instagram is @thepancakeprincess, my vlog is thepancakeprincess.com, and my YouTube channel is … I think you can just search Pancake Princess. I do have Facebook and Pinterest, also Pancake Princess, some form of that on those platforms. But yeah, Alexa, thank you so much for having me. I am so honored to be here, and I was so happy to talk to you, so thank you.
Alexa Peduzzi: You got it. Yeah, we’ll see you later.
Erika Kwee: Awesome. Thanks.
Alexa Peduzzi: And that’s a wrap on this episode with Erika. We so appreciate you tuning in and we hope you enjoyed it. I just think that Erika has these posts down to a complete science and they are so much fun to read, and I highly encourage you check them out. You can get links to her bake-offs, her blog, her social media, her videos and more at the show notes for this episode at foodbloggerpro.com/294. You can get all of that there, and be sure to give her a follow on Instagram. She really does great work, and just so excited to have been able to talk to her today. Last thing I wanted to mention, that last thing that we talked about, her advice for switching out the content that you’re producing on your blog.
Alexa Peduzzi: If you just need a little bit more of a nudge, I really do encourage you to take that leap and try out that idea that you’ve been thinking of. Ideas come all the time as I’m sure as somebody who produces content. So if you have an idea that you’re on the edge of, I encourage you to give it a try. If you do, we’d love to hear about it in the comments of this episode too. Again, foodbloggerpro.com/294. All right. That does it for us this week. We’ll see you next time, next Tuesday, and until then, make it a great week.