Rosanna Pansino is the queen of geeky baking. On her popular YouTube series "Nerdy Nummies," she creates edible, sugary homages to all of her favorite video games, movies, and TV shows. She's made everything from a Disney Frozen dress cake (with a massive 180 million views) to Minion cupcakes.
After seven years on YouTube, "Ro" has become a verified YouTube celebrity, racking up over 10 million subscribers and close to two-and-half-billion views. She's slowly expanded her YouTube channel to include lots of different kinds of baking (and lifestyle videos like bedroom tours). And she's just getting started.
Even as her online empire expands, baking remains her number-one passion. She can now add "cookbook author" and "baking line creator" to her jam-packed resume of culinary accomplishments. Her second cookbook, Baking All Year Round: Holidays and Special Occasions, comes out in October, and on August 1 you can purchase new products from her baking line with Wilton.
So how do you become YouTube's most popular baker? We chatted with Rosanna about everything from the best-ever pineapple churros (sorry, Disney) to the food trend she's ready to retire.
Was there a specific moment when you knew that your YouTube channel was really taking off?
I don't pay too much attention to analytics and success, but I definitely realized things were changing when I started to get recognized in public. The very first time was at Chipotle. A really sweet fan wanted to take a picture, and I had this huge burrito in my mouth! It was so funny, and that's when I realized that things were starting to shift.
What was the first recipe that you were inspired to post on YouTube?
The first food video I made on YouTube was a Mario Star cake for a pre-E3 barbecue at my house. I have a lot of friends who play video games, and I decided to make a themed treat for the party.
At the time I was vlogging, so I filmed it and uploaded it. It was the first time the community gave me a lot of feedback. Back then, no geeky baking show existed on television or online, so the community really really wanted to see more of that. I was overwhelmed by their requests for more geeky baking, so every week I would bake a new thing that everyone wanted to see and it just slowly grew from there.
How old are your fans?
It's a whole family unit. When I do my meet-ups, the entire family comes out. I'll see moms, dads, teenagers, fathers, and sons. And there are younger fans, like 5- and 7-year-olds, but I've also met some really wonderful 2-year-olds who like watching my videos!
How do you think YouTube has changed how people cook and bake?
I think YouTube has helped people learn how to do anything. If my friends are ever stumped on anything — from stuff in the kitchen to how to tie a tie — they will find a tutorial on YouTube.
Who has been your most surreal guest? Like, you can't believe you got to hang out with them and make a video!
Cookie Monster! Hands-down, Cookie Monster. I love Cookie Monster, I grew up watching Cookie Monster. So it gave me all the feels, all the nostalgia. It still feels surreal — I cannot believe we got to work together. We have the same passion for baked goods and we both have a great sense of humor, so we had a blast.
Who is on your dream guest list?
I would love to bake with Bill Nye the Science Guy.
Who are some of the other creators on YouTube who inspire you?
Is there a trend on food YouTube that you're really excited about right now?
I love all the food trends. When rainbow bagels came out, I was ON IT. I could not wait.
Disney park foods are becoming more trendy. They're really upping their game, becoming more and more delicious and more creative. The most recent release from Disneyland is a pineapple churro. We just recreated the recipe for people who don't live in California or can't make it to Disneyland. And no shade to Disney, cause I love Disneyland, but my recipe is better.
Are there any food trends that you're kind of over?
I'm not super into the charcoal food trend. It's just not my favorite. This may be TMI, but after digestion when it's coming out the other end, it's just a little scary.
Are there any recipes that you created for the show that have carried over into your life?
Lately I've been loving everything tropical. I made a pineapple pound cake recipe with Madeline Iseman for the Jumanji movie and the recipe is so good. It doesn't need any toppings — you can bake it like banana bread. I also love the pineapple churros. We've made them three times since developing the recipe and making them for the show.
What's your next challenge in the kitchen?
I've spent the last year developing new recipes with my team because we're working on a new book. We wanted to develop recipes for people who had food allergies, so we came up with some dairy-free recipes that were really, really good so we're not sacrificing taste. We also developed vegan and gluten-free recipes that will be in the book as well. The book has a bunch of regular recipes, and then vegan, dairy-free, and gluten-free recipes sprinkled in. It's something I've been wanting to do for a long time because I've been getting requests from our community.