Skincare and sweets. Not your usual combination, but Jen from The Jen Project discusses both in her amazing blog! It's been so awesome following along and learning about her journey with sugar and skin, and also reading about all her great product reviews.
Read on for the full interview:
1. When and why did you start your blog?
I've been blogging sporadically since high school (if Hanson fan fiction counts, then since middle school...) If you're talking about The Jen Project specifically, I started it in 2016 as a creative outlet to express my interests in baking and skincare. By blogging, I want to help people who are experiencing woes in the kitchen or with their skin (or both!).
2. I love that you discuss your skincare routine AND also share amazing dessert recipes! Has your view on desserts changed since you started focusing on skincare?
I keep seeing research-backed evidence that eating too much sugar causes acne, among other health issues. But I can't imagine a life without desserts - for me, the occasional breakout is worth the endorphin-surge I get when I eat a cupcake. It's all about moderation. So my love for desserts hasn't changed - I just eat fewer of them. As a baker, knowing that health-conscious people might only try a few bites of my dessert motivates me to make those few bites the best they've ever tasted.
3. Do you avoid certain ingredients and foods and why?
I try to be omnivorous when I'm cooking and eating - variety is the spice of life! The only place where I draw the line is goat cheese - I can't tolerate the gamey smell. So unfortunately chevre cheesecakes are not in the stars for me. I did experiment with a dairy-free diet for clearer skin, coming up with dairy-free smoothie and cake recipes that I shared on my blog. Again, I love variety, so I'm happy to switch it up between traditional sweets and other recipes that cater to people with dietary restrictions, whether they're gluten-free, vegan, egg-free, refined sugar-free, for their pets, etc. I welcome the challenge of baking something yummy using unconventional ingredients.
4. What is your favorite bakery and what do you order there?
There are three bakeries in the San Francisco Bay Area that I adore:
- Icing on the Cake Bakery in Los Gatos - when I was in grad school, I wrote a Yelp review in which I declared that my wedding cake someday would be the banana cake with cream cheese frosting from this bakery. And six years later, that's exactly what happened. Our wedding guests still talk about how yummy it was. Every member of my family gets a banana cake from Icing on the Cake every year for their birthday - that's how good it is.
- The Prolific Oven in Palo Alto - the chocolate rum cake is *to die for* - moist chocolate cake and rum-flavored cream cheese frosting covered in cocoa-dusted chocolate crumbles. This cake is one of the main reasons why my dairy-free stint fell by the wayside...
- B.Patisserie - I could eat their kouign amanns and passion fruit bostocks every morning for the rest of my life. I've tried kouign amanns and bostocks worldwide - none can compare to the ones at B.Patisserie. The kouign amanns shatter upon contact into crisp, buttery flakes and have gooey, caramelized centers. And my words will never do justice to how delicately passion fruity the bostock is *wipes drool off keyboard*
5. With the holidays coming up, are you pretty strict with your diet and the amount of sweets you eat? If you are, what tips and advice can you offer?
I'm not strict with my diet during the holidays, but I eat super slowly no matter the season, so it's easy for me to tell when I'm getting full and I need to stop eating. Not sure why I eat so slowly - I think it comes from a childhood fear of choking? I'm a huge fan of holiday sweets! It helps that my husband and I share everything at holiday parties so each of us can try a little bite from a wide spread of desserts.
6. Is there a recipe you would like to share? OR If there is one dessert that anyone should master, what would it be?
I'm going through a cheesecake phase! I used to spend a lot of time banging my head against the wall because I could never get a smooth cheesecake surface, but I recently learned an easy trick from a recipe in the Washington Post: rather than fussing with a water bath, bake your cheesecake at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 6-8 hours. I like popping the cheesecake into the oven right before I go to bed, and when I wake up - ta da! Perfect, crackless cheesecake. I then like to freeze the cheesecake before I pop it out of the springform pan so that I get clean edges. Of course, if you're pressed for time, you can still go down the water bath route, which I explain in detail in my wedding cheesecake blog post.
7. Do you have a favorite cookbook or blog?
I'm infatuated with So Beautifully Real's vegan cakes - they're stunning and delicious (I went on a pilgrimage earlier this year to visit her shop in Australia). There are so many bakers I admire from Australia: Butter Baking and Raymond Tan come to mind.
Cookbook-wise, I love the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook - the layered naked cakes are cumbersome to make but the effect and taste are well worth the effort. I'm also a fan of all things Martha Stewart.
8. What is your holy grail skincare product at the moment?
I love L'Occitane's Immortelle Precious Water toner. I pat it on my face after washing, and it elevates every skincare product I apply thereafter: my moisturizer absorbs better, my sunscreen goes on more smoothly, primer feels more velvety. I got my mom addicted to it as well!
9. What is your favorite guilt-free dessert?
Perfectly firm, crispy, sweet grapes straight out of the fridge - I could eat a zillion of them!
10. Can you talk about your #missunitedcakes project and what made you want to start it?
I've been traveling a ton this year, so I thought it would be fun to commemorate each US state I visit with a cake. I was also inspired by a friend of mine who went on a road trip to visit all 50 states by her 30th birthday, and by Sufjan Stevens who set out to record an album for each of the 50 states (he's made two amazing albums about Michigan and Illinois so far). In each cake, I'd like to capture not only the public's general perception of the state, but also what I took away from my experience of visiting it. So yes, I'm planning to visit all 50 states, and each visit will have to be deep enough for me to be able to tell a story through cake. To date, I've visited 20 and made cakes for only 3 of them (Pennsylvania, California, and Hawaii) - wish me luck! I'll be doing Texas and Tennessee next.