Kim Watkinson is The Ninja Baker. Although a current Santa Monica, California, resident, this crafty cupcake aficionado and baker spent the first 17 years of her life living in Tokyo with her businessman-father and pro-tennis star mother (Dorothy Knode). Through her time in Japan, she not only learned the nuances of the language, but also developed a deep love and appreciation for the culture. Specifically, she notes on her blog that the appreciation “simple beauty and simplicity” has especially influenced her life and her baking.
With her food blog, Watkinson says she “aim[s] to build a bridge between the East and the West through baking, blogging and book writing.”
This week on The Daily Meal, we feature Watkinson and draw attention to her recipes and writings. Check out her interview below!
The Daily Meal: What is the mission of your blog?
Kim Watkinson: To allow readers a taste of Japan’s exquisite culture and cuisine. Taking into consideration the ingredients available in America, I often create Asian fusion desserts and dishes by dipping into the best of both worlds.
How’d you get started with Ninja Baker?
Japanese food and language were all I knew until age 5, albeit I’m an American of European descent, Tokyo was my hometown until age 18. I still read, write, and speak Japanese; and am influenced by the Japanese penchant of plating pretty food!
I was also inspired by the film Julie & Julia, I intermittently started blogging about baking while at a corporate job at a Japanese company. When I was laid off due to company cutbacks, I thought I’d make money as a baker; I sold a few items to FOX TV shows (where my husband works) and to friends in our apartment complex. However, I missed writing and facilitating communication between Americans and Japanese.
Are there any foods you can’t stand?
Spam! (Even though Spam rice balls are wildly popular in Japan.)
What is your proudest post?
Love Blossoms a Beautiful Bakery: Sensitive Sweets. I write a monthly column in English and Japanese for a Southern California magazine called Motto LA, and I also felt it was important to share the Sensitive Sweets piece on my blog, too. The story is about a mother of two food-sensitive sons. She created the bakery to cater to allergy-sensitive children and allow them to enjoy birthday cakes like other kids.
What is your biggest blog blunder?
Honestly? Getting disappointed with fellow bloggers who don’t reciprocate comments. I understand now that most of the time it’s not personal. Everybody is super busy planning for his or her next posts!
Do you have a memorable comment from a reader?
My favorite comments are from readers who say they always enjoy visiting my site because they learn some new factoid about Japan.
What’s on your cooking playlist?
The Splendid Table podcast — Lynne Rossetto Kasper is incredible! She’s educated, elegant, eloquent, and down-to-earth! She is well-versed about food from every corner of the globe.
I also love The Dinner Party Download duo. They are hilarious and always have entertaining guests.
What are some other blogs you love?
A Taste of Culture; Elizabeth Andoh is a living encyclopedia about Japan and Japanese cuisine!
Bakerella; I admire her artistry.
Cake Spy; Creativity personified!
Just One Cookbook; She is a lovely lady with lovely posts about Japanese food and her family.
That Skinny Chick Can Bake; She is the maestro of gorgeous desserts and fail-proof cookie recipes.
What are some food apps you love?
Vibrantly helps take fantastic food photos.
Let’s Cook Japanese (from NHK – the PBS of Japan) has do-able authentic Japanese recipes.
Hello Cupcake is fascinating — I wish I could perfectly replicate their cute cupcakes.
What is the best thing about blogging?
Connecting with readers and other bloggers; sharing tips and fun facts.
The worst thing?
Navigating the mysterious algorithms of Facebook.
Is there a recipe you’re currently obsessed with?
Miso Salted Caramel Chocolate Brownies
What would even your most loyal followers be surprised to learn about you?
I love to dance. The Hustle, West Coast Swing, and Waltz are my favorites.
On my last trip to Japan (in May), I also took a traditional Japanese dance (Nihon Buyo) lesson and am now hooked! All I need to do is a find a teacher in LA!
What are five of your all-time favorite posts:
Tofu Nuggets, #SundaySupper: These nuggets are perfect for a vegan Japanese bento box!
Chocolate Pocky Cake, #SundaySupper: It’s so pretty and easy to make!
5 Secrets to Serenity and Girl Power, #InMyKitchen: This article contains a few recipes for happiness and yumminess I’ve picked up along the way.
Gluten-Free Protein Bars, Michael Symon’s 5 in 5: One of my favorite celebrity chefs is Michael Symon and I adapted a recipe from his 5 in 5. The gluten-free protein bars are so easy to make and hit a harmonious blend of crunchy, soft, sweet, and salty.
3 Gluten-Free Divinely Decadent Cakes: One of my prettiest and yummiest cake recipes is for a Gluten-Free Lavender Chocolate and Japanese Green Tea Matcha Cake. (It seemed to be quite popular on Pinterest, too!)