Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Interview: Julie of Willow Bird Baking

Meet Julie Ruble, food blogger extraordinaire! Her blog Willow Bird Baking has a huge fan base and when you read her stuff, it's not hard to see why. Her recipes are delicious, her writing is superb, and when you enter Willow Bird Baking you sort of feel like you've entered a cozy, cottage atmosphere where there's no judgment about your skills in the kitchen and no one cares that you just ate half a pan of brownies for dessert dinner.

Julie was recently featured in the Charlotte Observer where readers got to see a little behind-the-scenes action and learn more about Julie and Willow Bird Baking.

Because I love Julie's blog so much, I HAD to bake at least one of her recipes so that I could show you all how amazing and diverse her collection is. Her recipe index contains links to 100+ recipes that she's tried, tested, and proven to be true! After scrolling through the list about a thousand times, and a large puddle of drool forming on my desk, I decided on Julie's Chocolate Sheet Cake recipe!


It does not disappoint!

I was fortunate enough to be able to have a detailed conversation with Julie and learn about some of her inspirations, her favourite food bloggers, and her keys to success. Take a read while I finish off wrap this cake up and save it for later.

Interview with Julie from Willow Bird Baking!
Jordan: First off: Why/ how did Willow Bird Baking Start?

Julie: It started in June 2009, mostly as a way for me to compile and share fun baking projects I'd done.  I  had seen a couple of food blogs and loved the idea of creating a record of my time in the kitchen. I had no idea at the time it'd turn into such a satisfying community-building experience!

Jordan: Did you have any aspirations for your blog or yourself when you first started?

Julie: I didn't have a goal beyond recording kitchen accomplishments.  In fact, when my traffic started to climb, it was a really pleasant and unexpected surprise.

Jordan: The recipes you post are SO diverse and there are so many of them! What makes you choose to make one recipe over another? Do you look for efficiency, fun, or a bit of a challenge

Julie: It all depends on my mood!  Some weeks I'm swamped at my day job and I look for something cute and simple.  Other times I feel like pushing myself and creating something exaggerated and fun.  The common theme is that I always want something inventive -- a new spin on an old favorite, or two desserts combined into one.  I love creativity in the kitchen, and it can really pay off big time in terms of kitchen confidence.

Jordan: Where do you find your inspiration for being in the kitchen? Do you find inspiration from no where or do you pull it from a source like a favourite cookbook or a person?

Julie: I find inspiration in a lot of places.  Often just scrolling through the food blogs I love will give me ideas for new recipes to develop.  Other times I think of a dish I've tried and loved and ponder what creative twist I could give it.

Jordan: You say you like to look at other food blogs. What are a few of your favourite food blogs out there and what about them do you particularly enjoy?

Julie: Oh, this is hard!  I follow literally hundreds and love SO many of them (including, of course, Kitchen Karate!) but I'll just mention a few that I'm crushing on right now.  I love Orangette and Whisk Kid, two very different blogs that both have fantastic writing.  I also love How Sweet It Is, a blog that's currently just rocking out in terms of awesome content.  Finally, I'll mention i am baker because of her fantastically creative desserts.  This is really just a few of them, though!  There are tons I love.
Jordan: Your blog incorporates a great ratio of writing, food, and photography. What would you say is your favourite part or do you love each differently and for different reasons?

Julie: My favorite part is definitely the writing!  Writing is my first love, and I think it's the part of WBB that allows me to connect with a community of readers, something I appreciate so much. The food is a close second, though, and I love it for different reasons.  I get to be creative, silly, and build my confidence through my work in the kitchen.  In some ways it's a way to take a break from my day job and the rest of my life and just focus on making something delicious. Photography has become something I value, now, but it's been such a process for me, because I'm not naturally talented with it.  I've had to learn my camera and really work to produce photos I'm satisfied with.  It's a continual process. Like any other challenge, though, it's so rewarding to grow from it.

Jordan: You were recently featured in the Charlotte Observer! What was it like and how did it all come about?

Julie: It was an awesome experience!  Kathleen Purvis, the food editor for the Charlotte Observer, knew about the blog and we had chatted here and there about food in Charlotte and other things.  After Project Food Blog, she wrote me an email and asked if she could interview me about the competition, WBB, and my high school cooking class.  She came and observed a class and asked me some questions, and Todd Sumlin, a photographer, came and snapped shots of me photographing my Red Velvet Cheesecake -- it was all so much fun.  I was really humbled and grateful for the experience.

Jordan: I've come to learn that no food blog experiences over-night success. At what point did you start to notice a rise in viewers and how did ti make you feel knowing that people were reading your stuff?

Julie: It definitely took awhile to see an increase in traffic.  I think a defining moment for me was seeing my traffic skyrocket when I posted my Coffee Cookie Dough Fudge Cheesecake.  I literally watched my blog stats and cried a little!  I couldn't believe that many people would be interested in my blog.  The numbers definitely made me feel good, but what really makes me feel successful is the kind of interaction I have with WBB readers now.  It always thrills me to see people baking my recipes and being proud of the outcome -- to be a part of their family's celebrations through the food they serve.  And I also love the memories and stories they share through comments and emails.  It's been so rewarding.

Jordan: What is it about your blog, in your own opinion, that keeps people coming back for more? What separates you from everyone else?

Julie: I think one thing that defines WBB is its unique focus on encouraging people to tackle fun new recipes to build their kitchen confidence.  It's not just about sharing everyday dinner recipes, but emphasizes challenging yourself in the kitchen.  For instance,  I posted a Croissant Challenge in which many readers committed to make homemade croissants for the first time.  It was so rewarding to hear how proud they were of their work and to see their awesome results!  That's really what it's all about -- sharing that kind of growth with other home cooks.

Jordan: Why the name Willow Bird Baking?

Julie: WBB is named after my little toy poodle and cooking buddy, Byrd.  I added the "Willow" part because I wanted it to sound serene and gardeny -- I know, what?! -- and "Baking" for obvious reasons! :)  I've grown to love the name because it's unique.

Jordan: Finally, what advice do you have for new food bloggers out there who are just starting out?x

Julie: There's lots of advice I'd love to give -- produce content regularly and frequently, investigate simple ways to take great photos with whatever camera you have, and read other food blogs for inspiration.  But I think one of the most important pieces of advice I can give is to be genuine, and make your content personal.  Anyone can google for a recipe, but people come to food blogs for a person -- to build a relationship with someone they can identify with.  They want to read your stories and put the food into the context of your life, and then share their own stories and food experiences.

Have a question for Julie? Post it in a comment and maybe Julie will answer them!

Until next time, happy baking!




  1. That's a greatr interview. I began following Julie during the Foodbuzz competition. Stumbled :)

  2. LOVE this interview! Julie is awesome and so is her blog!

  3. I love Julie!!! Thanks for this interview! I always love reading anything she has to say!


I love you all for reading! Your support means everything!

If you have any questions regarding recipes, posts, or use of photographs, whip up some buttercream, then send me an e-mail: kitchenkarate(AT)gmail(DOT)com. You shouldn't have to wait too long for a reply. I'm a computer fiend!

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