Interview: Becky McKay, The Internet's Mad Cereal Baker

Becky McKay is The Cereal Baker, an inventor of deliciously insane recipes, including donut-stuffed cronuts and deep fried crescent roll-wrapped Girl Scout cookies. She has a special genius for conceiving of recipes that you won't find in traditional cookbooks. You can often find them at Foodbeast. Becky kindly agreed to an interview with Neatorama so that we can learn more about her work.

Snickerdoodles made of Snickers bars and Cheez Doodles

You’re known for combining ingredients normally not put together, such as pizza rolls stuffed inside cupcakes. What gives you the spark of inspiration to develop these recipe concepts?

Here's the basic rundown of what goes on in my head (in this case, it's pizza and cupcakes—but you could substitute pretty much any two foods): I like pizza. I like cupcakes! How can I put them together? I really enjoy the challenge of figuring out how to turn an already established idea into something new. The grocery store is also a great place to get inspiration. While I don't usually go to the grocery without a list—one that I often forget to bring with me, I pretty much always take the time to walk through my favorite aisles (yes, I have favorite aisles in the grocery store) to see if anything new jumps out or anything old jumps out in a new way.

Well, now I've got to know: what are your favorite grocery store aisles and why?

In no particular order:

Baking aisle - It's always going to have something I need in it. Most often I'm looking for chocolate chips and frosting (mix the two together and, blam, you have fudge)

Cookie aisle - It's where I get my inspiration for what kind of cookie I can mix-in to said fudge or make a "truffle" out of.

Chip aisle/frozen snack foods aisle - Both great places to find the answer the question "What can I cover in chocolate today?"

Cereal aisle - Cereal marshmallow treats, baby! Plus, my husband is a CTC fiend.

Ice cream aisle - Because I. Love. Ice cream. I even hover around this aisle to shove my opinions about Blue Bell ice cream onto anyone who seems to be contemplating buying another brand.

Store specific: Target's candy and seasonal aisles are always an awesome spot to find new and limited edition flavors.

Spam and Peanut Butter Cookies

Why do you go by the name "Cereal Baker"?

It's a loose play on words. I'm a "serial" baker in that baking is an ongoing activity for me—and I like to use cereal in a lot of my recipes.

Describe your workspace. How have you arranged your kitchen for optimal food butchery? You have any tools that you regard as essential?

I don't actually have a lot of counter space in my kitchen, so it doesn't take much for me to make quite a mess out of it—and I do. The stand mixer is always out, but pretty much everything else is tucked away wherever I can find the space. My favorite thing about my kitchen is the pantry, to which we added extra shelving. It's like having a mini, Becky-centric grocery store in my house: If ever I'm in the mood to whip something up (which is often), I just open the door to my pantry and see what I can find.

I'm sitting here trying to mentally catalog all of my gadgets... I think my cookie scoops are essential, for me at least. I have two: one for cookies and a smaller one for cake balls and truffles. Both make the task of measuring out consistently sized confections so much easier than by hand. And parchment paper. Parchment paper, like butter (I grew up in a margarine household), is something I've only discovered in the past several years, and it changed my life.

How so? What does parchment paper offer you?

I use parchment paper whenever I make cookies or cakes. I've learned the hard way that no matter how well you grease a cookie sheet or cake pan, the only thing that can guarantee a non-stick surface is parchment paper.  It also makes for really easy clean up —something I do not particularly enjoy. I don't need to scrape any pans, I just toss the used parchment.

Chocolate-Covered Cheetos

Which dish featured on your blog are you most proud of?

Wow, that's a tough one. I guess the Chocolate-covered Cheetos. I know they're pretty simple in concept and in execution, but people really seem to love them. And I think they served as a starting off point for my love of covering all things in chocolate.

Have you thought about publishing a cookbook with all of your delightfully weird recipes?

If I ever do publish a cookbook, you've just given me a possible title: Delightfully Weird Recipes. A lot of the recipes I "create" are really just twists on something else that's already been done. I don't know if that's enough to merit my own cookbook (or who in the world would buy it), but it's always a possibility.

Corn Dog Brownies

What's been your biggest recipe disaster?

So my basic MO is find two foods I like and somehow put them together. Well, I make and remake this fudge that has a base of 1 can of frosting and 1 bag of chocolate chips. You just melt, mix, spread in a pan, and chill. It's super easy and the variations (frosting flavors, chocolate chip varieties, and mix-ins) are endless. One day I thought, huh, I like fudge. And, oh man, do I love ketchup (oh MAN, do I love ketchup). So I tried my hand at ketchup fudge. It was terrible. It didn't taste like ketchup. It didn't taste like fudge. It was a hot mess and was promptly thrown in the trash. Luckily, for the most part, the majority of recipes that I've tried have turned out surprisingly well.  

We dish up more neat food posts at the Neatolicious blog

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