Batter Chatter: Interview with Sweet Artist Phuong Diep

So, you already know Cake Gumshoe Phuong as an ace reporter on the ways of sweet things to eat in Boston--she's reported on several Beantown bakeries in the past.
But what you might not know is that she's an artist too--a photographer specializing in photos that reflect her love of dessert, travel, and all things sweet and cute, under the name Little Random Happiness (there's a blog, btw). Want to hear more? Thought so. Interview time:
So, Little Random Happiness. Tell me baby, what's your story? I’ve always wanted to start my own business but can never pinpoint on what it should be. I love too many things…photography, baking, making jewelry, and anything else that might be striking my fancy. After working as a Marketing Project Manager for a few years, I decided to save up, quit my job, and travel before taking the plunge at starting a business. I really wanted to open a small bakery but had no experience in that field so I decided to work for one. I was fortunate enough to work for Joanne Chang at Flour Bakery. (Btw, if you haven’t bought her book yet, please do! It’s awesome!) I learned so much by working there. It really helped me understand the business. Unfortunately the right location hasn’t showed up yet so my bakery plan is on hold.

In the meantime, I finally started a blog this year and really love being able to share all the photos I’ve taken over the years. My photos really reflect my love for traveling, desserts, and cute things. They always make me smile. On a whim, I decided to apply to sell my photos at Boston’s SoWa open market this year and was accepted! I’m so thrilled! I used to go there and thought how wonderful it is to be able to do what you love and at the same time make a little bit of income. This will keep me busy for now :)

Cake or pie? Definitely cake! I can never resist a slice of cake. Plus, they get to dress up in pretty frosting.

Pants or skirts? Pants are so much more versatile.

Yes or no? Maybe? It’s nice to have a little bit of time to think before giving a definite answer!

Vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry? Vanilla…sometimes the simplest flavor is the hardest to execute and get right because it’s so subtle. That or I’m just trying to cover up how boring I am...

What product in your store are you most excited about right now? I love all of my photos but my absolute favorite right now has to be Mr. Mustachio and his tourist friend. I took it when I was in Paris last year and love how it came out. It’s almost too cute to look at.

What is the last delicious thing you ate? I’ve been obsessed with macarons every since my first trip to Paris. I seek them out everywhere. Recently I decided to try and make them myself. After a few batches, I’m proud to say that I no longer need to buy macarons until I go to Paris again :)

Any plans to start selling in stores? Not yet but I would love to if the right opportunity arises.

Please, tell us something I might not know about or expect of you. Surprise us. I am known for my sweet tooth but sometimes I do lose it. It doesn’t happen a lot but I could go for months without having a sweet treat (gasp!). When it comes back though, it comes back with a vengeance.

What is next for you and your business? I will be at SoWa open market throughout the summer. Please stop by if you are in Boston. It’s such a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon; browsing and looking at all the wonderful things being sold by different talented vendors. My photos are also on sale at etsy. I will continue to search for a bakery location and promise to let you know if there is any good news!


Find Phuong's blog here.

Batter Chatter: Interview with Food Photographer Angela Boykins

The thing about food on the internet is this: it's gotta look good. Cos you know what? You can describe a decadent brownie or a creamy gelato all day and all night as poetically as you can, but when it comes down to it, what will draw people in is the sexy picture. 

And one person who knows how to engage viewers is Seattle-based Angela Boykins, a budding food photographer whose stunning shots make you wish you were having was she's having, and right now. Curious about some of her secrets to food photography success? Read on:

CakeSpy: First things first. What is the last dessert or baked good that "wowed" you? 

Angela Boykins: My boyfriend and I recently ate at Dahlia Lounge, and finished with a Creme Caramel that I am still thinking about. Seriously, so smooth & flavorful. A perfect ending to an amazing meal. Tom Douglas, you brilliant genius. 

CS: Do friends find it annoying to go out to eat with you because you must compulsively photograph everything before eating? Cos you know, mine do. 

AY: Totally! But also they're really interested in how I get a good shot with problems like dim lighting, and less than perfect styling. I often cook at home for friends and it's always like I am torturing them, because I lay the food down, then take 10 min to shoot. "Can we eat now? Now?"

CS: Can you share a favorite food photograph of yours and tell us why it's your favorite? 

AY: I gotta be honest...I love taking photos of baked goods. They often last longer in a shoot and have more possibilites. One of my faves is a pear cookie I did for a self published cookbook. As I was making the delish cookies, I had the top of the pear sitting in front of me. It was this brain explosion moment. I stacked three cookies and placed the pear top on and it was magical. I feel like that was my first idea that I had to keep photographing food. (aforementioned photo pictured at the top of the post)

CS: I find that brown-hued items (chocolate cake, brownies, or savories such as meats, etc) are very hard to photograph in a way that they don't look like, well, dog poop. Any tips for making them a bit more attractive? 

AY: A light colored linens or textile have a great opposites attract. Also, be simple with the styling. Place your protein with some color (leafy greens or veg sautee) on a white colored plate. Focus not only on the meat, but something that gives a little extra depth. With cakes and brownies, think about adding powdered sugar or a light dusting of what's already included in the recipe. Plus, a good cake stand will be genius. 

CS: Are there any foods that you don't like to eat but you love to photograph? 

AY: I am not a huge mushroom fan. It's a texture thing, I can't lie. However, there is such a huge variety of neat looking mushrooms, it's exciting. 

CS: When it comes to food photography, do you have any secrets to success? For instance mine is always shoot in natural light.

AY: I primarily shoot in natural light. Which, totally makes for tricky business in Seattle. I tend to shoot in the brightest parts of the day, near a window and use a tripod.  

CS: I hear this rumor that a lot of the foods you photograph you've also cooked or baked. So, basically, what I am saying is that I know you've got a sweet recipe to share. Yes? 

AY: Do I! I found a recipe for vegan cupcakes 3 yrs ago from a now defunct blog and I can't stop making it. I usually adapt it to a cake and layer it with my Mom's killer peanut butter frosting. It needs to be said, I am not vegan. But dang, vegan baking is super fun! So far I have had good luck with vegan baked good recipes tasting light and moist, all without the major gutsmack of butter and eggs. Thanks Vegans! Here it is, enjoy! My Mom says hi!

Chocolate Vegan Cupcakes


  • 1 C. soy milk
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 C. sugar
  • 1/3 C. veg oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 C. flour
  • 1/3 C. cocoa powder
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt


Whisk together soy milk and vinegar, add sugar, oil, and vanilla. Beat on med high until foamy. Sift together dry ingred and add to soy mixture; mixing in batches. Pour into cupcake papers and bake at 350 degrees for about 10-15 min. Ovens vary.

Mom's Peanut Butter Frosting


  • 1/3-1/2 C of peanut butter
  • 2 C powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk (CS Note: Obvi, non dairy to keep it all vegan)


Beat together until smooth and creamy. Use Immediately.

What's next for Angela? She's working on building a website (in the meantime, check out her photos via Facebook) with a very talented up and coming graphic designer,, and is also focusing on devolping a studio space, hitting up restaurants to update their websites and cooking up a storm. And of course, "taking pictures of what the guy next to me ordered."

Batter Chatter: Interview with Food Photographer Ryan Nowell

Photo by Ryan (used for interview)
One of the best parts of looking at food websites and recipe books--bar none--is the pictures. A compelling food photo can draw the viewer in, evoke taste memories, and create new appetites. But what goes on behind the lens? Who could tell us better than Ryan Nowell, a Portland-based photographer with a great eye, and a penchant for sweets (as evidenced by the collaborative blog, The Chef and the Photographer, which he writes with his pastry chef wife).

CakeSpy: What was the last sweet you ate?
Ryan Nowell: Well the last baked good was the Chocolate Bundt cake from this post on our website. I actually ate the piece in the picture the evening of the same day. I may be biased but it really was wonderful! Nice and dense but not too chocolatey. We missed out on taking a photo of the whole thing.....wanted to eat it too much! The outside was nice and shiny and would have made a great shot. Oh well, good excuse to make another.

Photo by Ryan (used for interview)
CS: Tell me what photography means to you.
RN: Photography is really a great way to show people what I see in everyday items and moments. I always feel like there are so many wonderful images that we are surrounded by but most people are too busy to notice. Food especially is something that everyone enjoys and by taking photos it makes it easier to explain how all the ingredients came together.
Photo by Ryan (used for interview)
CS: As a photographer, how does food stack up to other subject matter (people, landscapes, etc)?
RN: Food is just about the easiest and sometimes the most challenging as compared to people or landscapes. People are really great to work with but it can sometimes depend on the person. I like to shoot candids which can sometimes catch people off guard and not everyone, in my experience, likes to have their photo taken. Landscape is another of my favorite subjects. Living in the Northwest really gives you so much to shoot but can sometimes be a challenge when its raining most of the year. With food, you have complete control of everything in the image but then some elements can be tricky to control and light. I like to mostly use natural light when its available but other times I use a light box I made at home to mimic natural light and to help with shadows. Shadows in food can be tough since each object will have so many angles, textures, and colors. Sometimes shadows can really take away from what you would normally see with your eye which has the ability to adjust to light in a fraction of a second. I don't use any flash at all at the moment which makes me work a little harder to work with what I am given.

CS: Tell more about your blog, Chef & Photographer. How did it come about?
RN: Our blog came about with my love of photography and my wife's culinary passion. Its a great way for us both to work together and to then enjoy her creations and share them with family, friends and anyone that may come across the site. It's also a great way for my wife to document a recipe that she has created and reference it later if she needs to. She also really enjoys the challenge of the setup of the shot and really does most of the styling of the food since she is sometimes looking for a specific look or detail in the food.

CS: Your wife is a pastry chef (!). What is your favorite dessert that she makes?
RN: Yes, my wife is a Pastry Chef and teaches at a local culinary school. I am not sure if I have a favorite since she hardly makes the same thing twice but a few of my favorites are her Cheesecake and Pumpkin Pies. Luckily many recipes have been created and tested on me which I thoroughly enjoy!!
Photo by Ryan (used for interview)
CS: It seems that the desserts featured on your blog seem to honor seasonal ingredients. How does it change food to keep your ingredients seasonal/local?
RN: We do try to use as much local ingredients as possible. We have a modest garden in our backyard and sometimes we end up with more then we can eat which gives my wife some more inspiration to try and create something savory or even desserts using vegetables.
Photo used w/Permission from Coco & Co
RS: You recently did some photography for the Coco and Co. Chocolates site. Now, chocolate seems like it's a particularly hard food to shoot and make look good. Any tips for getting sexy chocolate shots?
RN: The main issue with chocolate is lighting for sure. For the chocolate truffles for Coco and Co., I used the light box I mentioned earlier. It really cancels out the shadows nicely and helps to light up all sides of the truffle and works well with any textures that be present.
Photo by Ryan (used for interview)Photo by Ryan (used for interview)
CS: Where else can we view (or purchase/ commission?) your photography?
RN: I am about to release my website which will be coming soon! It will be In the meantime, check out Ryan's photos via Flickr!