Each week we profile a different Canadian Food Blogger who is part of the FBC community.  This week we meet Alie, the Ontario blogger that loves baking and cooking for her family and friends. Baking for Friends logo

Name: Alie Romano

Blog name: Baking for Friends

Where were you born? Burlington, Ont. Canada

Where are you living now? I’m currently in between Toronto and Hamilton 

Why did you start your blog?

In 2011 I started a dessert/catering company in the Kawartha Lakes. A marketing company from Toronto had reached out to me as a client of theirs wanted to collaborate in exchange for blog posts. At that time I didn’t have a blog but the offer was too good to give up. I started the blog as an afterthought to my ‘main’ business in order to work with this particular client. After 5 years of running my dessert company by myself (I’m afraid to say) I was exhausted and was starting to lose the love for baking. I knew I had to make a switch somehow or I’d lose the love completely. I decided instead of baking for people at events and weddings I’d rebuild my focus onto the blog and share recipes for everyone to make for themselves at home. I flew to Chicago and went to the BlogHer conference to learn as much as I could about blogging.

How did you decide on your blog name?

Well, there are actually a few layers to how my name became ‘Baking For Friends’. I first named my dessert company Simply Sweet Desserts and my tagline has always been ‘Baking for Friends’. When I created the blog it was under my business Simply Sweet and it just seemed natural to use my tagline as the blog name. The tagline comes from why and how I started my business in the first place, simply baking for my family and friends.  I grew up surrounded by good cooks and bakers that enjoyed sharing their love for cooking and baking, which always brought our family and friends together. ‘Baking for Friends’ has evolved because of this love that I grew up with and I hope to share that with others!

What do you blog about?

I share classic and comforting baking recipes, desserts mostly and a little dabble of travel and lifestyle (mostly vineyards, cafes and markets that I have visited). 

Is your blog your business, your hobby or something in between?

Blogging has always been a business for me. Some years it has taken a back seat to other work but my main focus is building a successful blog that is enjoyable and trustworthy to my community/viewers.

What post on your blog most encapsulates you and why?

Leftover pastry pinwheels

This is a hard one for me. I have 3 off the top of my head. First my post on ‘Leftover Pastry Pinwheels’ and second my ‘Perfect Pastry Dough’. Both of these blogs are written out of pure love (before I cared about SEO!) and why I started baking in the first place.  My Grandmother was a huge factor in why I started baking and shaped a big part of who I am. She also made, hands down, the best pastry! I share her recipes and tips that I continue to use and put on the blog. These blogs are written about her and her recipes. The third one would be my ‘Classic Chocolate Cake’. This recipe comes from my dessert company and is an all time favourite cake in our family (especially for my Dad). The blog talks a little about my family, our cottage and generally just being together. I also share tips on building a layered cake as I’m very passionate about passing along my recipes and tips on how to achieve them in hopes my community will create traditions to share with their loved ones.

Classic chocolate cake

Which post do you wish received more love and why?

South African Tart

Hmm, I have a few for different reasons but I think I’d say my South African Milk Tart recipe. Many people aren’t familiar with this dessert and they should be since it’s a dairy girl’s/guy’s dream! It’s made with sweet pastry and a milky, velvety custard. I’ve lived and worked in South Africa and I’m just in love with their cuisine. I’ve got a handful of recipes on the blog that are inspired by the places I’ve travelled and lived. This is a classic South African dessert that needs to be tried by everyone (perhaps lactose friends should stay clear though!). 

Which post’s success surprised you and why?

How to make sugared fruit

Probably my post on How to make Sugared Fruit. I wrote this post a long time ago not even thinking twice about it (and the images aren't very strong, I think they were shot on my iphone!). For me sugared fruit is simple to make and it surprised me that so many people were unaware of this. I always use sugared fruit, flowers and herbs to decorate cakes and desserts (especially when I had my dessert company). One of my favourite dessert tables I did for a wedding highlighted  sugared pears. They were so beautiful and had a vintage vibe; I just loved it!

What’s your biggest challenge as a blogger?

Hmm… you’ve got me at a time where this list is long right now. lol. I’ve recently been having issues with my hosting company which caused many problems. But probably keeping up with behind the scenes, the constant updates of google, SEO, plugins breaking my site, tech stuff, etc, keeps me on my toes. Just when you feel like you’ve got things under control everything needs updating, systems are dated, and you need to relearn how to use those systems. 

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a blogger?

Probably that there’s more to blogging than just baking/cooking and putting up a recipe. It’s been a huge learning curve since I’ve started and I’ve had to learn many skills beyond baking.

What has been your biggest success as a blogger so far?

Definitely it would be working with clients that I’m passionate about and aligning my brand with theirs. I’ve worked a lot of one offs but there’s nothing more satisfying than working long term with a client and building something together with both your names attached. I’ve recently signed my second year with a client creating recipes and blog posts with them.

Share a couple of your favourite food blogs to read. Why do you like them?

Well, I’m afraid to say that I don’t spend too much time on other food blog sites these days. That being said, when I first started blogging I was inspired and drawn to Mimi Thorisson otherwise known as ‘Manger’. I enjoy her stories and passion for food, culture, and family. I now own most of her cookbooks. I’m still old school and I like the feel of a cookbook in my hand and wearing down the pages as I use them time after time. Also, Beth Kirby from Local Milk (sadly she has passed away) she always inspired me and I was early to follow her many years ago. Her photography and vision was utterly beautiful to me and she told captivating stories with her work.  

What are you working on next for your blog?

I’m currently working on updating my blog’s look (theme) so in the next while viewers will see a new layout that’s easier to navigate. I’m also looking at bringing more savoury dishes into the mix. 

What else should we know about you that may or not be in your “About Me” page? I actually don’t have too much information on my ‘about me page' (it’s on my to-do list to update). But there’s a lot that's happened before I started my blog that has really shaped me and my blog. I started my modelling career 21 years ago and have travelled and worked in places like, Australia, South Africa, Cuba and North America. I’ve always gotten mixed remarks about being both a model and a baker! But I’d have to say spending so much time on sets; watching photographers, stylists, and art directors has really helped shape my eye for imagery and my overall professionalism when working with new clients. Not to mention the food I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing and tasting on my travels!

What makes your blog unique?

Funny enough I feel like my blog is unique because I create classic recipes! I know, an oxymoron! Hear me out, I feel a little old school as I’m the blog where you will get recipes that aren’t following trends, diets, or strange/hard to find ingredients. I write more traditional recipes with cream, dairy, and dare I say gluten ;). You’ll find classic recipes on my blog and I like to share the simplicity of baking for pure enjoyment and the love of sharing it with your family and friends.

How do you cultivate a sense of community around your blog? I try to connect as much as possible. I want my community to know that I’m here and ready to help or cheer them on in the kitchen. I respond to every message, email, and DM and do my best to clarify their needs.  For fun in the past I’ve sold custom made French inspired t-shirts and have had giveaways for my community. I’d love to have workshops in the future where we can get together and bake and share a glass of bubbly! And who knows maybe a cookbook is in the future.

What part of the FBC site do you find most useful? There are many things I love about FBC but the Facebook page has always been a great tool for me. I find the community is very helpful whenever someone has a question and it’s a great reference to refer back. Even if I didn’t have the question I might have had it in the past or might come across it in the future, so it’s nice seeing so many food bloggers asking questions. I also like the new open discussion over zoom, where we can chat and talk about blogging in general. Blogging can feel lonely (and confusing at times) so it’s nice when FBC brings us together where we can ask each other what’s going on, how they are doing, what they are working on, etc. 

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