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Inside the life of a world-class food blogger: Joy the Baker

Talent, persistence, authenticity, diversity - just a flavor of what is needed to survive in the food-blogging world, where only a determined few achieve commercial success.

Joy Wilson is self-taught but her "Joy the Baker" blog delivers innovative, modern dishes every week ranging from apple pie with a cheddar-bacon crust, and kale quinoa cakes, to her personal favorite, her dad's sweet potato pie. Each month, around 600,000 unique visitors surf the "Joy the Baker" blog.


Joy Wilson, author of "Joy the Baker"
Courtesy of Joy Wilson (Photo by Gabrielle Geiselman)
Joy Wilson, author of "Joy the Baker"

Wilson, who lives in New Orleans, launched the blog to help promote her wholesale baking company back in 2008, when developing an online food journal business was practically unheard of.

Nonetheless, when her first cookbook was published in 2012, the income from her blog alone provided the foundation for new creative opportunities.

"People come to the site because they like what I have to offer, whether it be great recipes, silly stories or links to things I think are important," Wilson told CNBC.

While Wilson would not disclose how much money she makes from her blog, top-food blogs can rake in the cash. For instance, Lindsay Ostrom of "Pinch of Yum" blog made $32,971.75 from her blog in June 2015; published in her own monthly income and traffic report, to show readers how the business is developing.

Celeb endorsement and social media

Wilson has adopted a multi-channel and collaborative approach to generating income and promoting her talents.

She has published two internationally-successful cookbooks and is writing a third about "brunch." She also entertains listeners with podcasts produced jointly with fellow food blogger, Tracy Benjamin of Shutterbean.com. Plus, Wilson has an online video series called "Bonkers Awesome" featuring guest food bloggers like "The Pioneer Woman."

Joy Wilson, author of "Joy the Baker"
Courtesy of Joy Wilson
Joy Wilson, author of "Joy the Baker"

So what next? Modestly, Wilson told CNBC she could do better at handling social media—but the figures begged to differ. She has more than 272,000 Instagram followers and at least 162,700 likes on her Facebook page.

In a sign of the power of celebrity endorsement, Wilson said she still receives traffic to the website and on Twitter, after pop star Taylor Swift tweeted that she'd baked Wilson's giant vanilla sugar cookies.

Wilson's efforts have secured her partnerships with big name brands like Nordstrom, Ghirardelli and Canon.

"(Readers) appreciate my perspective and so I try to respect that by bringing them things I think are great, like working with brands I enjoy and genuinely support," Wilson told CNBC. "It's hard as not everyone's going to like it, but … every day is different, and (I'm still) trying to figure it out."


Doing the dishes

Despite the endorsements and social media push, Wilson told CNBC that when it came to creating her brand, it was pretty much all down to what happened in her kitchen.

"I cook about four days a week, which means I'll be in the kitchen for six or seven hours, cooking things and shooting (photographs), usually getting through three recipes or so," she said.

And it's not just fun stuff.

"It's just me, making food, taking pictures of it, cleaning up, (and repeat)" Wilson told CNBC, adding that she had to do the dishes "about 4 times a day" in between blogging.


Food for the eyes

Dishes from "Joy the Baker"
Courtesy of Joy Wilson
Dishes from "Joy the Baker"

The belief that "people eat more with their eyes" is becoming widely held and online recipes must deliver photographically, as much as being flavorsome, Wilson said. As readers can't taste what Wilson's made—at least until they reproduce the recipe—she has to make sure the dish is the "best version of itself."

Taste-wise, Wilson resolutely refuses to keep things traditional.

"My thing is to mix sweet with savoury. When you bake all the time, you don't want sweet things anymore; you sort of lose your taste for it," she told CNBC.

"I'm always trying to find ways to add salt or add a savoury, earthy element to my desserts, as you can't add sugar on top of sugar on top of sugar, because I won't find that delicious."

The future is ‘foolproof’

Plans for world domination via cupcakes? No, this is not on Wilson's agenda. However, she remains passionate on developing her current projects.

"I'm working on building a studio kitchen teaching space in New Orleans. I want to have a little space where people can come and I can teach people about food, so I can inspire individuals face to face" she told CNBC.

"Making recipes that are foolproof and make people feel good. That's the core of everything."

—By CNBC's Alexandra Gibbs, follow her on Twitter @AlexGibbsy.