YouTube Star My Cupcake Addiction Shares Her Best Video Advice
It's a big week for Elise Strachan, founder and host of the incredibly popular My Cupcake Addiction videos. Her first cookbook, "Sweet! Celebrations," released October 25, and her Food Network show, "Sweet Smarts," premieres October 30. "It just happened that way," she told me, noting that it's also her 10-year wedding anniversary this week.
But Elise is pretty used to doing things big: She has over 5 million people tuning in for her fun food ideas on Facebook, a 3 million followers on YouTube, where she shares her full video tutorials (with channels in Spanish and Japanese, and over a million people in her Instagram community. And they all love her gorgeously shot, creative and simple home baking ideas.
I chatted with Elise about how she got started, how she grew so fast, her cookbook deal, her best advice for video content creators, and her favorite Halloween party planning tip.
You have 3 million subscribers on YouTube. How did you start your channel?
I started in my home kitchen with my husband and a handheld camera, five years ago. It began as a way to share my love of sweets with the world, and to hone a teaching style to see if I could "cut it" as a cake school teacher—but it turned into something much larger. We are now a community of over 9.2+ million home bakers around the globe—a number that blows my mind every single time I say it.
How often did you post to start? How often do you post now?
I had a newborn baby when I started—Oliver, who is now 5—so I posted whenever I could. It was haphazard at first, but I would strive for a few times each month. As my channel gained momentum, I increased to three videos a week on a set schedule, and saw a great boost in views and followers. For the past year I've posted two videos a week on YouTube, a minimum of five times a week on Facebook… and don't let me get started on all the other platforms. It amounts to a LOT of leftover cake!
What's changed the most from when you first started to when you started to really grow?
We have 550 videos on YouTube now, and it's actually impossible not to find something I've made on there. On top of that is the change in the quality of my content. When you start out on YouTube, your videos are just one out of a million, and they're buried in within the search engine. Over time, as you build up your library of content, you are helping more and more people to find you, because your videos begin to flood the platform. You will gradually move from being on page 73 for search, to 56, to 35 and eventually to page one.
What would you tell aspiring food video creators about making themselves visible on ouTube?
Just start! You can start from as little as a phone camera and $100 worth of cheap photography lighting. But definitely just do something.
50 not-so-great videos are better than zero perfect ones. Every day, brands, bloggers, celebrities and people like you and me make it big in the digital age. But if you have no stock in the game, it is impossible to win, so hedge your bets and find a style of videography that fits your lifestyle. If you have no idea where to start, I can guarantee there's a video on YouTube that will tell you how!
What does your production routine look like—where do you film, what is your team like?
The first 500 videos, it was just me and my husband Alec—a very small team and a lot of hard work. We recently hired a full-time editor and someone to help me in the kitchen, as well as an amazing brand manager. The team is constantly growing! I try to film the first week of each month, and then I'm free to pursue other projects, like writing books and shooting TV shows.
How much content do you post in a given week? How much of that is branded?
I typically post around 10 pieces of video content and 50 pieces of graphic content each week. The amount of branded versus non-branded varies, depending on the time of year. I make sure the majority of my content is unbranded, and I limit the number of campaigns I participate in to ensure a great viewer experience across all my social media platforms. When I do work with a brand, I make sure that the content I create is unique and creative. I want my audience to feel they are getting something special while watching a branded piece of content.
Do you have a favorite tutorial or series you've made?
I love shooting with my kids, and my fun kitchen series with my oldest son Oliver, "Cooking with Squish." Those are definitely some of my favorite videos! I also love to travel and discover amazing hidden gems and trending sweet destinations in every country or state I find myself in—my "SweetSpot" series is as adventurous as it is tasty.
Like everyone else on the Internet, I am absolutely obsessed with "Stranger Things"—and now also with your incredible cake recreation of Winona Ryder's wall, complete with alphabet and working Christmas lights. WOW. I found it on your Facebook page. How do you use Facebook, and how is it different from YouTube?
True confession, I had never watched "Stranger Things" when I made that cake! I'm a bit of a scaredy cat when it comes to scary movies, but making the cake and reading the comments about the show inspired me to binge-watch the whole series over the weekend, and now I'm obsessed and full of conspiracy theories!
Facebook is my largest platform, with more than 5.15 million followers. The way they consume content on that platform is vastly different to the way the 3 million people who follow me on YouTube consume it.
Facebook audiences are generally a bit older. They like their content to be delivered fast, fun and frequently. YouTube videos perform well when they are led by an engaging host and run 7-10 minutes on average. Facebook is for the time-poor parent.
YouTube is a search engine, meaning that you type in what you want to see, which determines the results you're shown. Facebook is a social media platform, which means you see things based on who you choose to follow, and also what your friends tell you they like. It's harder to find a video you've already watched on Facebook, but you can make new discoveries each day. YouTube will store your search history, subscriptions, and favorite videos for later, and suggest new videos based on your own personal search habits. Each platform has its own audience and best practices—mastering each one is key for success.
How did the book deal come about?
I had a very clear vision for the type of book I wanted to write, and the style of "Sweet! Celebrations" is so unique that I had to prove why my vision would work in print. I met with about a dozen publishers. In the end, I went with the one I felt was the best fit with my brand and believed in the style of book I was trying to create. I'm incredibly proud of this book—it's the first of its kind, and a visual delight that combines beautiful imagery, creative food ideas, and an accessible, achievable approach.
Tell me about the "small bake" recipes in the book. What are they for?
Not everyone needs to serve 40 people or wants to labor over a whole cake as a Saturday morning "kids' activity." My small bakes are great additions to a party, dessert table or event, but they also stand alone. They require less time and fewer ingredients than my full-sized cakes.
Every chapter in "Sweet! Celebrations" begins with a larger, more complex cake, followed by three complimentary small bakes, two no-bake options, and two themed beverages. I also added two simple DIY projects and some style tips to offer additional inspiration for home bakers looking to enhance their overall event and decorate their space.
What's your best Halloween party planning tip?
Eat dessert first! If you're making Halloween desserts, don't hold them out till the end of the night, when everyone will be full of candy. Halloween, Easter and Christmas are the times of year when I indulge the kids in "sweets before savory." They can take their candy home for another day, but I don't want them filling up before they get to my Frankenstein cheesecake jars or zombie brain cupcakes!