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Mug Queen

by Anjali Balakrishna

Photography by Gemma Stafford Team

Food, blogs and YouTube: what more could one want? In this digital age, sharing recipes and “Tasty” videos of delicious treats is easier than ever. When browsing the web, one may stumble upon blogger, professional chef and all-around food guru, Gemma Stafford.

Originally from Wexford, Ireland, Stafford has followed her passion, as well as her taste buds, into the world of baking.

“I started baking at a very young age. I think one of my earliest memories was when I was six,” said Stafford. “I used to follow my mum around the kitchen when she baked and cooked. Ever since then I have been obsessed with it, and then I went to college to study professional cookery.”

After college, Stafford went on to work as a professional chef, but when it came to branching out on her own she did not hesitate. And thus, her website, Bigger Bolder Baking, was born.

“I worked for many years in restaurant kitchens as a chef, but I was always working for someone else and coming up with other people’s menus,” she said. “So [my website] was a great way for me to continue working with food but be able to step out from the restaurant kitchen.”

Stafford worked in kitchens across the globe, as well as her native Ireland. She later decided to make the move to the U.S. and has since settled in California where her website and channel has blossomed.

“Coming from a small country, I was drawn to the United States and everything it had to offer, being the land of dreams and all,” she said. “It was somewhere I wanted to end up. I wanted to be in America, I wanted to be out on the West Coast and enjoy the sun and everything. I knew it would definitely be kind of a lifestyle change.”

After the start of her website and YouTube channel, Stafford was astonished by how increasingly popular her content was becoming and is happy that the following her content has garnered has spawned a connection between her and her audience.

“I didn’t know we would get so big so fast, but [it feels] a little bit surreal,” she said. “But I think it’s been a journey for me and the audience.”

Stafford has created a diverse spread of content, ranging from donuts and holiday treats to savory goods. Her personal favorites are when she gets to work with bread, something not always seen on her channel.

“We did episodes outside when I got a pizza oven, and we made bread and things like that,” she said. “I think those are actually some of my favorite recipes, especially because I got to do more dough which I don’t always do on my channel; it’s one of my passions when it comes to baking.”

A big hit with fans has been Stafford’s no-churn ice creams and frozen yogurts, so much so that she decided to cater to another demographic of her audience: dairy free.

“There’s a large audience that is non-dairy, so it was because the no-churn videos were so popular we thought, ‘why wouldn’t they also be popular dairy free?’”

It is Stafford’s innovation and personal experience that led to the creation of her most popular videos: mug cakes. But she did not stop at mug cakes. She has developed a whole range of mug recipes, from breakfast to pizza and more. These recipes resonate with college students and their stomachs.

“I used to go to boarding school and we didn’t have kitchens, all we had were the microwaves—you had to make everything in the microwave,” she said. “It was just kind of keeping in mind the audience who wants one single serving, who only have a microwave, but still wants to make some real food. I kind of saw that that was a bit of a no-brainer, and it works for everybody—college students, people who want to just have single servings—and they’re very inexpensive to make.”

When asked about what advice she had for trying and making the most of mug meals, Stafford said, “You get creative and use what you have in your fridge, kind of just think outside the box a bit. I’m a big fan of things like noodles that cook really fast.”

College students rejoice. Even though dorms are only equipped with a fridge and microwave, non-dining hall food is a possibility. Stafford’s mug recipes are a convenient way to feed yourself healthily. Plus, one can also make easy, sweet treats, like her classic mug cake, because even broke college students need to indulge sometimes.

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