Cupcake interview with Hello Naomi

Name: Naomi Henderson
Age: 25
Location: Newcastle, Australia
Occupation: Computer Engineering PhD Student

When did you first start baking? Who taught you to bake and where do you get your recipes from?

I started baking when I was young, around 8 maybe…Baking has always been something I enjoy but it has only been since last year that I have been completely addicted to it. My mum taught me. *aww* She was always one of those sweet mums that bake! I have a whole bunch of baking, cupcake and sweet books and so I get my recipes from everywhere. I especially like Women's Weekly recipes, they always seem to turn out well.

What have you learned about the baking process during the time you've been making cupcakes?

I have learnt a lot from trial and error! I've learnt that you have to have patience and things will take twice as long if you don't. But I think the main thing is that you should use quality ingredients, the best tasting butter, milk, eggs etc will make the best tasting cupcakes!

How often do you make cupcakes? Do you sell them or are they simply for your friends?

I make cupcakes whenever I have a good excuse tom like someone's birthday etc, which seems to be every couple of weeks. I just make them for my friends at the moment but I am in the process of starting a business.

You say on your Flickr profile that you're a graduate student who programs robots by day and a "cupcake ninja" by night. What does "cupcake ninja" mean and how are the two connected for you?

I have this friend who always says random weird things and one day he called me a "cupcake ninja" I thought it kind of suited me because I'm always up really late at night baking and decorating! Being a cupcake ninja lets me release my creative side that gets bottled up with engineering but unfortunately it’s kind of a big distraction from my research.

Where do you get your ideas from? Clearly you are largely inspired by pop culture and games like Pacman and Super Mario, but what makes you create a whole set of cupcakes around a particular game?

Umm I don't know! Because I do engineering most of my friends are guys so after always making them pink cupcakes with rainbows and flowers etc I thought I should make something a bit more suited, so that's why Super Mario, Pacman, robots, lego etc. For each theme I google images for ideas and because a cupcake is too small to fit much on it I design them as part of a big picture.

Many of your cupcakes, such as the recent Puccho ones, are very intricately decorated. How long does it take you to make your cupcakes? What are the main ingredients you use for decorating?

It always takes me a night to make a set so how much sleep I get depends on how detailed they are. The puccho ones took me from about 6 that night to 5 the next morning to bake and decorate but my latest ones took me from 11 in the morning to 5 the next morning because there were so many! Also, it doesn't help when they are all different!

A lot of people ask me what I use for my icing - I use ready to roll fondant for my cupcakes and most of my decorations and royal icing for any piping. You have to try different brands of fondant to find one that tastes good though, some can taste like gelatine.

What flavor cupcakes are your favorites to make?

All the decorated ones are vanilla. The vanilla ones have a smooth, cute shaped top that is good for decorating, and they taste really good too! I also love to make cookies and cream flavoured ones but unfortunately they don't look as good!

Which of your Flickr cupcake sets are most popular?

My rose cupcakes are the top of my "interestingness" photos but the Pacman and Super Mario cupcakes have been the most popular as far as views and comments. They were on a lot of gaming sites and blogs so they got a lot of geek attention!

Many people attribute cupcakes' popularity to nostalgia, and your cupcakes add to the nostalgia factor by using classic games as decorations. Do you think there's a link between the nostalgia for each of these?

Definitely! Every time I'm thinking of a design it's always based around stuff I loved when I was young or would have loved. I think my latest ones are a perfect example! It was my 25th birthday last week so I had a 80s party with 80s cartoon cupcakes and everyone could pick their favourite!

Do you have any advice to readers looking to make creative cupcakes?

Collect ideas and patterns from anything that grabs your attention. Also colour is super important! Collect ideas of colour combinations that catch your eye and have a good selection of dyes. I have bought a lot but the main ones I use are red, yellow, blue, green, black, brown and purple and from those I can make whatever colour and shade I need.

Of the many cupcakes you've made, which are your favorites?

Every time I make a new set they kind of become my new favourite, but I think maybe the puccho ones are my fave.

What do you have coming up next?

Well my 80s cartoon ones were next so I'm not real sure now!

Do you sell your cupcakes?

No not yet. I am in the process of setting up a business. I'll let you know when it's ready!

And now for some personal questions…

How often do you eat cupcakes?

A couple times a day as often as I make them, so I have a few every few weeks!

What's the best thing about eating cupcakes?

The complete happiness felt eating something so cute and yum.

What's your favorite type of cupcake?

I still can't decide! I've been torn for a while between vanilla cupcakes decorated with fondant (for some reason the decorated ones taste better) or vanilla with buttercream…

How do cupcakes compare/contrast to other baked goods for you?

They win hands down as far as cuteness! They are my favourite but I also love carrot cake, pavlova and profiteroles.

Is there any innovation you'd like to see made to the cupcake that would improve it for you?

Umm cupcake vending machines?!

Do you bake your own cupcakes? Or (even better) have someone who bakes them for you?

Yes I bake them all! But I'm sure my mum would help me if I asked.

What's your first cupcake-related memory?

I remember when we first got our mixmaster it came with a recipe book and the first thing I learned to bake were cupcakes. I also remember the first time I made buttercream icing!

What's the most fun you've ever had with a cupcake?

It’s always fun giving them to people and they are always fun at parties but I can't really think of one fun moment…

Do you have anything else to add?

I hope I didn't bore everyone! I'm really happy that people enjoy my work and I really appreciate everyone's super nice comments. I really love this blog so thanks heaps!!!


Anonymous said…
Great interview! Naomi's answers and advice apply to artists of all mediums. Cheers!
Anonymous said…
Naomi, what brand of fondant have you found to taste the best? I always make my own marshmallow fondant because pre-made fondant tastes so bad, but I confess that Wilton's the only brand I've tried.

-- fellow engineer by day/cupcake ninja by night.
giz said…
She has such clever and unique ideas. The time element to produce such artistry is a devotion that I wonder if it will ever pay her what she's worth.
betty geek said…
These are my favorite designed cupcakes thus far. I guess I am an undercover geek baker. Very inspirational. Good interview!
sharon said…
Awwww I am a total fan of her cupcakes! They are sooo adorable and I admire her ability to create such cute designs! My favorite ones are the Super Mario batch and the robots! They all look so neat and the colors look so pretty together. How she uses a bunch of cupcakes to create a scene is so awesome! It's great to finally see an interview on her, I always wondered what she was like. Ahhh!! I can gush on and on about her cupcakes!!!
ccalvo said…
You are my fav so far