My first cookbook, Baked to Order, comes out in just a few short days! One of my main takeaways from the cookbook writing experience is that it takes a village. I could not have written this book without the help of SO MANY people! In particular I wanted to give a shout-out to my wonderful cookbook photography partner Diana Muresan.
Diana took photos for all sixty main recipes in the book, plus chapter openers and step-by-step photos for some of the more intricate processes. COVID lockdowns hit when we were about a third done with the photos, which prevented us from working in the same room as much as we had planned (not to mention it threw a major wrench into our childcare/school routines!). In retrospect, I’m still not entirely sure how we pulled it off. There were a lot of spreadsheets, socially distanced food drop-offs, and FaceTime consultations involved. But challenges were made to be conquered! I personally learned so much from watching Diana in action — she has an incredible eye for light and detail. I can’t wait for you all to enjoy her beautiful photos!
At Ruth’s invitation, I am sharing my favourite images from Baked to Order, and a bit about the photography and styling process behind them. It was a fantastic project, and like all worthwhile life experiences, it had its ups and downs (hello, lockdown). The best thing about creating the photography was working with Ruth, whose skill, patience, and optimism seemed endless, even amidst the challenges of finding ingredients during food staple shortages, or transporting ready-made baked masterpieces to my studio to be photographed. If you ever took a cake to a party, sweating bullets at every turn or pothole, and praying your cake makes it in one piece, unscathed, then you know what those weeks looked like for us. But amazingly, not a single crumb was harmed during transportation, and all the goodies made it to my studio in one piece, ready for their moment of glory. Working “together but apart” on the book wasn’t exactly how Ruth or I had envisioned our collaboration at the start, but I am really proud of this book and I hope that you enjoy it too.
Braided sourdough challah
We were experienced baked goods transporters by the day when I opened the door and Ruth was standing there, holding a baking sheet with this braided challah on it. It looked stunning, and was still warm. My jaw dropped and I could not look away – it is one of the easiest subjects I’ve ever photographed. I literally just placed it down on set and started clicking. It’s one of my favourite images in the book, with its appealing simplicity of a beautiful bread hugged by gentle light.
Earl Grey bundt cake
This is one of the more propped shots in the book, as I made an effort to hint to the bundt’s tea flavouring by adding props that supported the story. In the interest of creating an image with nice glaze drips, we decided to glaze the bundt after it was already on set. If you are styling a bundt with a glaze, adjust its consistency carefully, so the drips flow slowly and you have plenty of opportunity to capture them in crisp detail.
If there is powdered sugar to be photographed, I’ll make it a priority to photograph it in motion – it is one of the most beautiful food gestures that can be captured, in my opinion. So I decided to capture a motion shot for the bostock. The difficulty was creating an action shot in horizontal orientation, which does not naturally lend itself to food action images. We normally drip, drizzle, sprinkle or pour vertically – so fitting that into a horizontal frame was challenging. I still think it is beautiful, and definitely learned a few tricks while shooting it.
David’s chocolate raspberry cake
The way light interacts with the different textures of chocolate is so interesting, and this cake gave me the chance to observe that. I took some images of the whole cake, but the magic was missing: I wanted the readers to see what the inside looked like. I knew from Ruth’s briefing on the recipe that the layers were sandwiched together with juicy raspberries in between, and also knew the layers would look perfect when cut. Grouping several plated slices in the shot hints at a celebratory gathering, and it’s as if we are just waiting to be handed a plate so we could, with a satisfied smile, finally dig in.
Mango strawberry tart
The fantastic thing about a tart is that it can be styled in so many ways: whole with sparse garnishes for a flatlay, or with lots of garnish, sliced once, or with many slices, as I’ve done here. To achieve the clean cuts, I made sure to not place garnishes where the cuts were going to be, as garnishes get pulled down into your tart if you are trying to cut through them when slicing. So after taking a few shots of the uncut tart with the strawberry garnish, I removed the strawberry halves, then sliced it, and finally re-positioned the strawberries. Another thing to keep in mind is to keep the garnish as fresh-looking as possible, since “tired” garnishes would make even the best-looking tart look… well, tired.
I have so many other favourites, and I hope you will have some of your own once you hold the book in your hands. Ruth put her heart into it, and we both strived to create something you would enjoy and use often in your own kitchen. Happy baking!
Baked to Order comes out November 17, 2020. Preorder wherever books are sold!