Cake Over Steak
Sara is a self proclaimed food blog and cookbook junkie, but above all, she is an artist.
Where many food blogs have super stylized photography that follow their recipes and posts, Sara illustrates many of the featured images on her blog Cake Over Steak, and they are crazy cool.
I am so pumped to have Sara Cornelius from Cake Over Steak joining me on the show today.
On Her Day Job:
I create custom hand etchings on gravestones, and you might think what the heck does that mean. Essentially, I illustrate pictures on granite with the Dremel tool. But we also have a laser machine that can laser etch photo quality images. It works like a laser printer but it is actually laser etching the granite.
I also create the files for that and operate the laser. We do actual pictures on some, or we use that to do texts sometimes, but the more fun part of my job is I create real custom scenes and things for people. Around here, it usually involves deer, cabins and tractors or things like that. Also, houses and beach scenes, so it’s really neat.
For most of the texts that we do, we sandblast that and a lot of that is done by machines and rubber stencils that is put over it, but we also have a guy in our sandblasting shop that hand carves roses. My boss says that he is the best guy in the East Coast doing that and he is really talented. So that is another art aspect at my office.
It’s really fun for me because now that I am in this industry, when I see old graveyards, I get really excited. I creepily go look at it, especially the really old stuff. I love seeing the designs from the ’20s and their kind of designs. You just get this whole new appreciation for it as a craft.
On Starting Her Blog:
At first I started reading food blogs and I thought this is really cool but I will never do this. There is no way I would ever do this and then I guess slowly over time I thought maybe I could do this. It seems like such a nice way to record your life. I like how people could weave a story about their life into a post with a banana bread recipe. You see how people put their own personality into them and you get to know these people through their blog.
I thought well maybe this would be something fun to do but I thought I can’t come up with my own recipes and I am not a photographer, and I would want to have good photography. Then I realized duh, I’m an illustrator. I could do the illustrations, but then I thought, well, I still wanted to have photos.
It took a while for me to actually start it. It took me like two years to come up with a name for my blog, so that was holding me back for a while. But when I started dating my husband, he is a photographer, I convinced him to take my photos for me.
It’s funny because we got engaged two months or so before I actually launched the blog, but I had already been working on it for a couple months behind the scenes. It was kind of funny because when we got I engaged I thought, “Okay then, I know I have a photographer for my blog for long term.” It’s not just that I am getting a husband, I’m getting a full time blog photographer until he gets totally sick of it and forces me to take my own. But I told him he has to teach me before it comes to that.
On Working With Her Husband:
He started his own blog back in June so sometimes it’s a push and pull where he wants to go work on his blog first. But he is a really good sport about it. I feel like people don’t realize how much of a saint he is unless you witness one of our photo-shoots together.
I am a total control freak and I think that because I am not in control of photography as much as I would like to be, it can be so frustrating to me. If the lighting is not good in the one afternoon that we have to do it, I’m like, “I don’t understand there is light on the table, why can’t the camera take this picture that I see in my head.” But he is really good about it.
With us both being artists, but totally different kinds of artists, we can feed off of each other and not be too competitive with each other. Because we are both very competitive people. But for example, I never say I am done with one of my illustrations until he sees it and doesn’t have anything to change. When he is working on one of his crazy composite photography images, he doesn’t call it done until I have seen it either. We are always asking each other for advice and he shows me Photoshop tricks for my illustrations which I do mostly digitally and things like that.
But also, when you are in a relationship with someone like that, I can tell exactly what I think and know that he is not going to freak out on me and stuff like that.
I think that we are really honest with each other.
On the Connection Between Food and Artistry:
I didn’t get into the field until college. I have always been into art as long as I can remember. It just has always been a part of me. Food, I started getting into near the end of college when I moved off campus and had my own apartment, and my own kitchen, and had to feed myself. I think needing to feed myself in my brain I was like, “If I am going to do this, I am going to do this really well.”
I have always loved baking and I was never super into cooking real food. But I think that’s because I just have such a sweet tooth that I have never been that into real food or at least I thought I wasn’t. But I don’t think I found the foods that I really loved until college when I was introduced to them. Like discovering things when you meet new people and you’re in a new place and everything.
That started to grow in college and then for my junior thesis project I did a cookbook. I mean it wasn’t actually a cookbook; it was like you pretend you are doing this big project then you do two to three pieces for it. So I did it as a cookbook and I did some food paintings. They are actually hanging in the kitchen of my parent’s house.
In my senior year for one of my graphic design classes I did actually design a cookbook. So I started moving it into my college projects. I was so burnt out from college that aside from my job, I took the other areas of my life off from art because my senior year was so intense. I started my full time job three weeks after I graduated so it was just no stopping. I gave my brain a break from art for a bit which I think was a really good choice, and instead, I would just bake cookies.
I did get to indulge in that other passion but slowly I started thinking more and more about doing the food blog again. What that would be and what I wanted it to be like, and eventually, it turned out to be what it is now.
On the Person Who Influenced Her Cooking:
It would be my really good friend Jackie from college. She was really into cooking and I remember thinking that’s so weird. Because even though my mom always had a home-cooked meal for us at home almost every night – family sits down for dinner and it’s homemade and everything like that, my mom didn’t love cooking and she still doesn’t. I think she might have if we hadn’t been such picky and annoying children. I really feel for her now looking back on that.
Being that my friend Jackie was really into it, I started cooking with her every now and then in college. Actually, when I started becoming friends with her, it was my freshman year and I went to school in Philly. That day, she had walked to the Italian market, which is kind of a long walk, just to buy a rolling pin because she wanted to bake a pie.
I met up with her when she got back to the house. She said, “Hey, I’m going up to the penthouse in the dorm to make a pie, do you want to help me?” So I said, “Sure!” and then my best friend and roommate came out to join us, and a couple of other friends, and we ended up going outside to eat this pie. We bought ice cream and some other things and it was as the cherry blossom trees were blooming right in front us.
That is the night we all became really good friends. So then every year after that we celebrated our pie night and we would have pie and ice cream when the trees bloomed. That was really cool. I would say she’s the first person I knew who really loved cooking that influenced me. But then once I started reading food blogs. It was really food bloggers who got to me more.
On How She Decides on What to Cook:
That’s a good question because I don’t make as much as I want to.
I have cookbooks that I have not even cooked from, that’s ridiculous. Sometimes a recipe grabs me so much that I literally put it on my to-do list. If I know I can’t make it that day, I’ll think why do I have this going on this night, but I have this day off and I could make this then, and I will put it on my to-do list for that day.
Every once in awhile it’s kind of like the luck of the draw where I have everything in my kitchen to make it or something like it and then it’s like, “Ooh this is what I will make for dinner tonight!”
The Pressure Cooker:
Which food shows or cooking shows do you watch?
I don’t think the show is technically on anymore. I think you can find a couple of them on Hulu but I think the recipes are on YouTube though.
What are some food blogs or websites that we have to know about?
Definitely Food 52. That’s one of my favorites.
Who do you follow on Pinterest, Instagram or Twitter that make you happy?
She is a mommy blogger but her family adopted a puppy like a year ago and this dog naps on their two-year-old son every day.
It’s so cute.
And then also food blogger Bev Cooks, she had twins like a year ago, a boy and a girl, and she posts really great pictures of them every day. She also adds hilarious captions so that is one of my favorites.
What is something all home cooks should have in their pantry?
I think everyone should have a microplane zester because if you have ever tried to zest a lemon or whatever without one, it makes me want to kill myself.
Those make it so easy and they are also the best for grating parmesan cheese.
Name one ingredient you cannot live without?
Chocolate. Milk chocolate.
I guess with baking I use more of semi-sweet but flavor-wise there’s like Icelandic chocolate bars, something they sell at Whole Foods, that I used to get in college, and I think my favorite was 33%.
It’s great, it comes in this plane white paper, it looks really nondescript but it’s two layers of chocolate. So it’s technically two bars and they are pretty big. They have all these squares but they have a couple of different percentages, but I liked the 33 and the 55.
What are a few cookbooks that make your life better?
I mentioned the Smitten Kitchen one, I love that one. I love Keys to the Kitchen by Aida Mollenkamp, that is one of my all time favorites. That one just has so many great recipes. My favorite pesto is from there. But that one is fun because each recipe teaches you a technique. So if you wanted to do just a basic recipe, you could leave out some of the crazy seasonings or whatever, but it also gives you a new interesting take on it. I think that is a great one for a beginner cook who is a little adventurous.
Another one I turn to a lot is one of the first cookbooks I ever got. It’s called Fast, Fresh and Green and it’s all about cooking vegetables. But it has it broken down by cooking technique and within each chapter it gives you a breakdown of if you are using this vegetable, cut it to this size, and do it for this time for this method. It has a bunch of great sauces and different ideas for things so I turn to that a lot.
I think that’s one of the things that I love about trying new recipes, because you almost always learn something and then I can use that to come up with my own version later.
What song or album just makes you want to cook?
Probably Dean Martin’s greatest hits. I really love the Rat Pack old style stuff. I think that makes me want to chill out in the kitchen and cook up some really good pasta.
Keep Posted on Sara: