Career Profile: Cecilia Fahlström, Copenhagen Cakes //
If you haven’t heard of Copenhagen Cakes you’ve been missing out… until now. We talk to the skilled baker behind the popular blog about sweet treats, Instagram fame and publishing her very first cookbook.
Copenhagen Cakes is the love child of foodie and passionate baker Cecilia Fahlström, a PR and marketing manager living in Copenhagen. Her stylish aesthetics have been widely recognised among the Instagram community and her delicious recipes have been picked up by food lovers worldwide. Along with writing recipes for Danish Magazines in her spare time, and in addition to her day job, Cecilia published her first cookbook last year. We speak to the author, blogger and full time busy bee about cakes, beautiful styling and photography here.
How did Copenhagen Cakes start? Have you always had a passion for baking?
As a kid I remember always being in the kitchen with my parents (both of them amazing cooks) helping them out with dinner as well as desserts. I remember sitting on the kitchen table with my tiny apron rolling cinnamon rolls following my Swedish grandmother’s recipe. Well, growing up I’ve always found my ”moment of zen” when dedicating a few hours to baking a cake. As I kept baking and challenged myself to become better, I started my blog for my own sake, as a place to keep track of recipes as well as pictures. People started reading my blog and commenting on my creations, and now five years later, here I am with Copenhagen Cakes, at a place I would have never imagined.
Who / where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere! I find inspiration for taste and ingredients when I go out and eat at restaurants or patisseries. For looks and styling, I especially get inspiration from my local florist. I have this amazing florist on my street, and I visit the shop several times a week. When seeing the beautiful flowers in different combinations, I immediately start imagining how they would look good on a cake and wish layers/ingredients would match that look.
It’s clear you are also an enthusiastic photographer. How did you get into photography and what style would you say your imagery has?
Aw thank you so much! I consider myself an amateur photographer and I am very self-critical and can always find mistakes and things I would have changed in my pictures. So being complimented for my photography really means a lot!
I honestly don’t know much about photography. Everything I know, I’ve taught myself through endlessly searching through the internet and watching hundreds of hours of YouTube how-to’s. To support my photography skills I’ve been lucky enough to be selected as an Olympus Ambassador, and this has given me opportunities to have a solid support base always ready to assist me whenever I need help.
I’ve been struggling for many years to find my own style when it comes to food photography. Being consistent is hard, when seasons change and ”food styling fashion” changes as well. I try to keep my pictures simple and personal, indicating that there’s a story behind them. I don’t like too much stuff in the photos, and I like small touches of things, that relate to me and make the picture significantly ”mine”.
Give us a few tricks on creating great food photography:
Chase daylight! Shoot in bright surroundings near a window (if inside) or in a light shade if outside. Never shoot in direct sunlight as this creates hard shadows. Experiment with crumbs and different degrees of ”dirtiness”. Your settings must look real and authentic. Eat a slice of the cake you’re about to shoot. Make sure the fork is messy with crumbs. You will be surprised how much of a difference it makes to add these small changes that make your styled food look ”real”.
As a PR & Marketing manager in the restaurant scene you have had inside exposure to the food industry. Do you think this has helped you when setting up Copenhagen Cakes?
It has certainly helped me both ways around. My interest in PR & Marketing came after having blogged for many years and having developed an insight and understanding for the PR industry and blogger scene. My sense of aesthetics and (limited) photography skills, developed through blogging, has also been a priceless competence I’ve used in my professional career.
You mention that as well as your blog and Instagram you create and style recipes for Danish Magazines alongside your day job. Where do you find the time? How do you juggle work and play?
I never sleep! Haha… I am literally working from I wake up in the morning ’till I go to sleep at night. Right now I’m thriving being busy all the time, because I love what I do. But I do realize that at some point I have to slow down. But it’s hard to slow down when you’re having fun while working 😉
How have you used Instagram to grow your business?
I consider Instagram for both work and play. I LOVE Instagram and check it whenever I have a few minutes I need to kill. But at the same time I’m totally aware that Instagram is business, and when handled correctly it is such a powerful marketing tool. I use Instagram, as well as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, to make my followers aware of new posts on my blog and whenever I have news I want to share. But Instagram isn’t solely for driving my followers to my blog. I certainly also use it as an aesthetic outlet, where I share glimpses of beautiful things I cross daily, for example a cute bouquet of flowers, a coffee date in Copenhagen or beautiful architecture seen on a holiday.
Speaking of Instagram… you have over 140k followers! You must be pretty thrilled. When was the moment you realised you were an Instagram influencer?
Haha I am? I’ve never really related to the term ”influencer”. I’m just happy that other people find joy in my pictures and my stories, enabling me to continue doing what I love to do.
You launched your cookbook ‘Copenhagen Cakes’ last Spring, tell us more about it and if you plan to do a follow up book:
I had SO MUCH fun creating the cookbook. I am so so so proud of it, and I really think that it’s because this cookbook is essentially a part of me. I’ve put so much of my personality into that book, and from what I hear from the readers, I’ve succeeded in doing just that, which makes me so happy. I wanted it to be not just a book with recipes, but a book with feelings and with atmosphere. In other words, I wanted it to be a book sharing my passion and joy of baking. Therefore the book has not just pictures of cakes in close-up, like any other cookbook, but also pictures of styled tables, of my favourite places in Copenhagen, of my friends and I eating cakes etc.
I would LOVE to make a second cookbook, but I have no idea where to find the time for it! If some day I suddenly find a few months of non-booked time in my calendar, I’ll put the making of a cookbook in there.
What do you consider to be your greatest career achievement to date?
Ah that’s a tough question! Most of the time I feel blessed to be where I am and to have achieved what I have. Other days I’m frustrated because of new challenges appearing and things not working out how I wanted them to. I guess that makes me strive for always being better and never settling. I find it hard mentioning one big thing that I consider my greatest career achievement. I actually would instead highlight lots of little things. Like the birth of my webshop copenhagencakeshop.com, like the many friendships I have made through blogging, writing and publishing my cookbook, seeing my name in magazines, having my mother call me because she saw me on tv etc. But the best thing is, beyond a doubt, getting amazing feedback from my readers. Everything I’ve created I got to do because in the beginning someone liked what I did. I would never be where I am today had it not been for this amazing community of loyal readers and followers encouraging me to keep doing what I’m doing.
What advice would you give someone looking to follow a similar path as you?
Be yourself. Find out what your personal style is, and put your focus there. You want to express your personality and YOUR story – not copying someone else’s because it’s pretty or because it’s working for them. And of course: Work hard but only work as long as it’s still fun and you’re still enjoying it.
And finally… a little while ago we did a post on 21 things we wished we had known at 21 (read here). If you could go back, what would you tell your 21 year old self now?
At 21 I had just dropped out of my study in Religion (a bachelor’s degree at the University of Copenhagen) and started studying Medicine. I loved studying religion, but in hindsight I switched to Medicine because I thought it was a better career choice and a ”safer” future jobwise. I ended studying Medicine for only one year, and then returning to Religion where I eventually finished my bachelor’s degree, topped it with 1 year of arabic language studies and finally took my Master’s degree in Islamic Studies.
If I could give 21 year-old me some advice it would definitely be the following:
1. Don’t be afraid to do what you love doing and find your own path! Society (and your parents) might tell you that you need that fancy university degree and that you must aim to get the highest marks, but in reality you should put more focus in networking, developing your skills and starting your business. And yes, you can do both at the same time. When you’re 28 no employer will ask to see your grades from your Masters’ degree, but they WILL ask to see your accomplishments, your work experiences and references.
2. Travel more! Travelling is time spent well. Seeing the world is good for both mind for your experiences.
With thanks to Cecilia.
Visit Copenhagen Cakes here to drool at some glorious cake creations and find a few recipes also.