Manuela Kjeilen, the bubbly Norwegian baking blogger brought her passion for pink, cupcakes and life to the 33rd edition of the Sharjah International Book Fair.
Her effervescent personality coupled with her mastery of the baking world won the hearts of visitors as she taught them how to make vanilla cupcakes with two kinds of frosting. Pink frosting, of course, because that is her favorite color.
Kjeilin is the author of the www.passion4baking.com blog and is also an avid instagrammer, with nearly 1.1 million followers. But that also means that her time in the kitchen is spent between baking and taking pictures. "On instagram, my pictures look perfect and people say: 'oh we'd love to live in your house'. No you don't! It's not that perfect, but rather messy," she says, laughing.
In her kitchen, Kjeilin has a ladder that she uses to take bird's eye pictures of her creations. "Going up and down the ladder is probably the only exercise I get. But that's ok, not everyone has to be skinny. Never trust a skinny chef anyway."
A self-taught food photographer for her own blog and Instagram account, Kjeilin says that she has tried everything from moving furniture to moving her cooking stations outdoors to capture the best lighting. "Today, though I have a kitchen that is perfectly set up, I still find myself taking pictures in a particular corner on a particular chair," she said.
Though without formal culinary training Kjeilin's baking skills have earned her Martha Stewart-like fame in her country. "I've noticed that because I don't have that training, I
don't give people recipes with specific instructions on temperatures or strict timings. I just tell them stir the caramel till it's this color, and just show them."
In a very non-chef style, she urged visitors to taste the raw dough to see if it needs any more vanilla. To that a lady in the audience asked if it was safe to taste raw eggs. "Well, I never died from it. That's why you say a prayer before you eat," she quipped.
Her style and recipes are inspired by things she sees in the supermarket that she creatively adds to her dishes. In her session yesterday, she added a small pot of vanilla custard that she saw in the supermarket the night before to her cupcake recipe. The result was a hit.
During her session, Kjeilin was helped by her daughter Deborah, her dedicated sous-chef who seems to share her mother's passion for baking.
Kjeilin doesn't sell what she bakes but loves to give it away. "People always complain about not wanting to bake because they're going to eat what they bake and they're going to gain weight. So this is the solution, bake and make other people happy!"
The best advice she gave the audience about baking. "I never bake when I'm busy because then I'm stressed and things go wrong."
Kjeilen has written 7 culinary books though none of them are yet translated into English.