Yolanda Gampp Takes Cakes To The Next Level With New Recipe Book - Exclusive Interview

You know the saying, 'the bigger the better.' Well, when it comes to baking, Yolanda Gampp is no stranger to that term. In fact, the "Crime Scene Kitchen" judge is known for her extreme novelty cakes on her popular YouTube channel, How To Cake It. Now, Yolanda, nicknamed the "Beyonce of Cakes," is releasing a recipe book for giant cakes with a sweet twist. If you pre-order "Layer Up!" now, you will receive a free pecan pie layer cake mini course taught by Yolanda herself.

Layer Up! includes your favorite dessert recipes stuffed inside of cakes, for the ultimate cake glow-up. Two desserts in one? Sounds like a power duo. During an exclusive interview with Mashed, Gampp spilled all of the details on her upcoming book, "How To Cake It," and Fox's "Crime Scene Kitchen," along with a fun lightning round of her favorite foods and advice for aspiring bakers. 

Layer Up! is Yolanda's passion project

Tell me what audiences can expect in Layer Up!.

"Layer Up!" is a passion project of mine. I wanted to write this book years ago, and it's filled with my core recipes that are tried and true that I have been baking for 20 years. Each cake is pretty much a dessert-stuffed project. That's the best way I can explain it, layers and layers of flavor. There's seven chapters in the book, and each chapter is dedicated to a flavor profile, and there's three cakes in each one of those chapters for a total of 21 cakes. The best part of "Layer Up!" is this is for any sort of baker. If you're a novice and you're new to baking, you can really take this book at your own pace and you can start with a smaller project. 

As mentioned, every single cake has a dessert inside, but you can make that dessert. There's [dozens of] recipes in the book ... cheesecake, brownies, peanut butter blondies, peanut butter cookies, chocolate chip cookies. You can make those as a standalone dessert, or you can layer all the way up and make them as I have made them in the book. For example, in my key lime pie cake, we have key lime layers of cake that are also crusted just like a pie would be. Then, it's filled with a lime buttercream and a lime curd stacked all the way up, and on top, I place a key lime pie with some stabilized whipped cream. 

You can do it all the way. You can make the buttercream and the simple syrup and the cake layers and the key lime pie, or you could just make the key lime pie or you can make the lime layers and fill them with a vanilla buttercream. I really like to encourage people to be creative. This book is my creation, but I always encourage people to do it their own way and take it at their own pace.

Why Yolanda chose to focus on 'stuffed cakes'

That was a fantastic explanation and the key lime pie sounds delicious, wow. So, what would you say your inspiration behind these stuffed cake recipes is? How did you come up with this idea?

I know that my YouTube channel is known for making novelty cakes, over-the-top cakes that look like things. Cakes that look like food were very popular on my channel, and most of the cakes I decorated with fondant because it's a great medium, right? I often got questions about, "Can you make a cake without fondant?" Or people ... stating their dislike of fondant. With novelty cakes, I am a lot more restricted. There [are many more] rules you need to follow in order to build a novelty cake. It needs strength so you can build it. What I also made on my channel were cakes that I referred to as mega cakes and these cakes led me to the idea of "Layer Up!" 

What I loved about making these cakes was I could focus on flavor. For example, I have a chocolate peanut butter mega cake on my channel and the footage of me eating it at the end is actually embarrassing because I was slobbering all over the bites I was taking. I loved those cakes because, for me, I had so much more freedom to create because it wasn't about structure necessarily, it was about the flavor ... It's called "Layer Up!: The Glow Up Guide, The Ultimate Glow Up Guide For Cakes." I wanted to glow-up any cake that I had made on the channel, [and] there's a lot of additions that I always wanted to make, but never got to.

Yolanda revealed her favorite dessert recipe from Layer Up!

Do you have a favorite dessert or cake recipe from this book? I know you mentioned the cheesecake, the chocolate peanut butter cake. Are there any that you are most excited about?

Honestly, we had a hard time as I recreated them all for the book. We had a hard time deciding what the true favorite was. Key lime stands out for me because I love tart and sweet. I'm a big fan and I love it. Adding the crusts to the cake layers is something that adds a whole other dimension. That's another thing I love about these cakes in "Layer Up!" — there's a lot of texture, which once again, I can't really do that in novelty cakes, right? It's the cake, the filling and then there's boards and dowels and all kinds of things that keep it together, but with the cakes in [the book], it's flavor on flavor on flavor. 

I also have an apple pie cake in the book, which is a vanilla spice cake. There are sautéed apples that I sautéed with brown sugar, butter and cinnamon, layered into the cake. Then, I made pie crumble, and instead of topping a pie with it, I sprinkled it into the cake. I also baked the pastry as discs. There's every element of an apple pie in a cake, and then I had a lot of fun making a lattice top that I laid on top of the cake. I iced a little hump of extra cake, like a scoop of ice cream. Everything is an ode to one of my favorite desserts and I try to work in the flavor and the texture of that dessert as much as I can in a cake.

Why Yolanda's first book was so hard to write

Did you come up with all of these creations on your own or do you have a team that normally helps you out?

No, I came up with all of them on my own. "Layer Up!" is truly the first book I wanted to write because I didn't get to making novelty cakes right off the bat. I worked in a bakery when I was really young. I focused on filling and icing cakes. I became really good at that. I worked my way up and eventually taught myself how to carve and use fondant. My thought process is, you have to start with the basics before you get all the way there. Some people don't even want to get all the way there. They want to make great tasting cakes that don't necessarily look like anything. 

I wanted to make this book first, but when my channel hit a million subscribers, I was suddenly approached by all these publishers and we chose one and they wanted me to make a book that most represented my channel, which is fine. I love my first book. It was very hard to write, and novelty cakes are my passion. People love seeing a transformation, which is why so many people watched me on YouTube, but I felt really strongly that a book like this — "Layer Up!" was more, I don't want to say acceptable, but more palatable for the general public. If you've never baked anything before, you're not going to go from baking nothing to baking a cake that looks like a lucky cat, right? That's a very big project and you probably don't have all the tools required. 

I knew that my first book, "How To Cake It," would really appeal to people who already had cake decorating skills and wanted to push the limit, but "Layer Up!" is for anyone and you can use it in any way you please. I even included a mix and match chart. I thought about it at the end of production. I included a mix and match chart near the back where I make suggestions to pair this cake layer with this frosting or pair this cake layer with this buttercream. You can make a simple cake that's just cake and filling the way you'd expect when you don't have time to layer all the way up, as I like to say.

Why Yolanda thinks novelty cakes are not just for skilled bakers

I know you mentioned that this is for more novice bakers who are looking to get into it or really for anyone. What about the book are you excited for fans to see the most or are you excited to see them get creative with it? What would you like to see from your fans?

I would love to see them get creative with it. I've always considered myself an aspirational baker. I don't expect everyone to recreate what I'm making, but I want them to try because that's how I got here. I tried and I consider myself someone who is still learning. Every time I make a new cake on the channel, I think about a different way to do it, a different tool to use, and that's what keeps me creative and inspired. I'm hoping they'll do that with "Layer Up!" 

In my first book, we were really excited to include some of my viewers and community's work. We did a challenge called Replicate, and I invited them to recreate one of my cakes on the channel with their own spin on it. We actually put two pages in the book shouting out those people and their work. I am planning to do this later on with "Layer Up!" and have people recreate, layer up their own cake, use their own flavor inspiration or be inspired by their own favorite dessert and show me what they've got. I'm going to ask people to hashtag and we're always ... that's the whole point of How To Cake It — yes, I'm showing you, I take my work very seriously, but I don't take myself very seriously and I try to encourage that in people. 

What's the worst thing that's going to happen? You're going to make a cake and maybe it doesn't look the way you hoped it would. It's still going to taste great. It's going to be great, and even when you make a mistake in baking, that's where you do the best learning. I went to chef school a long time ago and I realized people are a lot more intimidated by baking than cooking. They really talk themselves out of baking. One of the top comments on my channel is, "Who's watching this, but never going to make it?" It's one of the top comments and I want people to try it. There's plenty to be afraid of in this world. I promise baking is not one of them and you can do it. I try to include as much information and knowledge that I have gained over the last 24 years in "Layer Up!" 

I want to put out my own point of view. I love nothing more than to create something new and put it out there, but that doesn't mean you have to do it exactly the way that I did. I want to see them try and if they want to recreate what I made, great. If they want to make their own creation, even better. I've had this book on my mind for years. Like I said, I wanted this to be the first book. I have had notebooks and little scribbles and notes in my iPhone for years. Every time I eat a dessert or think about something to do, I would jot it down. Seeing it come to fruition has been such a joy for me and I really hope the audience loves it as much as I do.

Yolanda explained why baking has come so far

I think you have a very great mindset when it comes to baking, especially since it's an art and it could be very intimidating to other people. Going off of that, I know many of your fans enjoy the teaching aspect of your videos. Is there any advice that you have for aspiring bakers?

My best advice would be "practice makes perfect." I think that's hard to swallow for a lot of people, especially in the world we live in where everything is instant gratification. "This is my first cake and it's going to be perfect." I don't think my cakes are perfect. I could point out a flaw in every single cake on my channel, except one. It's not about that, it's about learning and growing. Start small and start where you are comfortable, right? Maybe that's baking your brownies. Maybe you want to make a cake. It's fine, and I promise that every single time you try and you do it again, you will get better and better because what you gain is confidence. 

Once you start to gain that confidence and believe in yourself, you will do better and you will try things. That's exactly how I got here, from trying things. No one told me to do it. In fact, when I started, there was no Food Network. There was no show on TV with cake. I had to travel out of the city to even buy fondant. Now, there's fondant in my local grocery store. Now, you really have the means. If you've been thinking about it and you want to try something, try it. Like I said, what's the worst thing that's going to happen? Even if you make a cake and it doesn't look good, you can laugh about it, it's okay.

Yolanda shared her all time favorite cake she's made on How To Cake It

That's not just great advice for cakes, it's great advice for life as well. I know you mentioned your YouTube channel, How To Cake It, a few times. Do you have an all-time favorite giant cake you've made on How To Cake It? I was watching one. I think it was your peanut butter jar and I love that one.

Yes, I always try to make objects people relate to. A jar of peanut butter is something most people have seen before. My all-time favorite, it's not giant, it's life size, but my all-time favorite is my roasted Thanksgiving turkey. That is the one cake that no matter how many times I see a picture of it, I wouldn't change a thing. It's because as I made it, you don't see this in the process because obviously the video is edited. It took me about just over three hours to carve the turkey, because it's such a free form shape, you know what I mean? You can't measure it. It's not a perfect square or anything like that. I kept carving and carving, and as I was making the cake, my brain was saying, "What did you get yourself into? You can't do this." I had no model. I was looking at pictures. I'm so proud of the way it turned out. 

Even the way I decorated it, for example, I used shelf liner to texture the fondant to look like turkey skin and that's something I thought of as I was doing it. I ripped it out of one of my drawers and I started doing it. I have this quality, I don't know what you would call it — I guess it's obsessive — but once I have a picture in my mind, I can see what I want to make. I can see it so clearly in my mind and I will do anything to get there. That's really difficult with cakes because at the end of the day, you're trying to control food and sometimes it doesn't want to be controlled. Sometimes the weather doesn't want to help you either. 

Once I know what I want to make, I will do anything to get there. The end result of that cake makes me... I'm beaming right now as I talk about it. I love it. Even the way we set the table and I used my cake hump leftovers to make a "sweet stuffing," I love it. It's not the flashiest, brightest, most fun-looking cake on my channel, but it is the one I'm most proud of.

What makes judging on Crime Scene Kitchen so hard for Yolanda

I'm going to turn gears to "Crime Scene Kitchen." I know there is only one season of that so far. Are there any plans for a second season?

Well, this is tricky. I'm not sure what I'm allowed to say, but there might be.

Okay, I'll take that, no worries. Is there a certain criteria that you look for when judging cakes on "Crime Scene Kitchen"?

Yes. "Crime Scene Kitchen" is such a unique show. I've been on other shows as a judge.

I think it's very unique too. It's such a creative idea.

It's such a great idea, and it's unique because there's no doubt everyone on the show can bake, right? In some capacity, they can bake, whether they're a home baker or they're professional or they own a little shop and they focus on one thing in particular. The rules are very specific because they have to go into the "Crime Scene Kitchen," decipher what the clues or what they think the clues are telling them. and then bake accordingly. Sometimes, you could bake the wrong dessert. It could be perfect, but if it's wrong, it's wrong. So, another team could do better because they've executed the correct dessert, even if it isn't perfect. 

It's unlike any other show I've judged where it's very clear what you're supposed to make, you're told what to make, and then we're judging based on that. I really enjoyed it. I hope there is a Season 2 because I really enjoyed it. It challenged me as well. I have a hard time judging people. I want to help people and encourage people on their baking journey, but when you're a judge, you're a judge. You have to tell them what they did right and what they did wrong. I never want to burst anyone's bubble. I like challenging myself in that way because on How To Cake It, it's me making my cakes however I want to make them, and on "Crime Scene Kitchen," I have to open myself up to other people and give them honest feedback.

Why Yolanda put How To Cake It on hold

You mentioned How To Cake It and I wanted to see if you could give your audience any hints to what you are working on for upcoming episodes [...] ?

I actually put a pause on How To Cake It on my YouTube channel last year. As we know, everyone has had a difficult few years. I think we can say that. With How To Cake It, the whole reason I was able to go on "Crime Scene Kitchen"  [and] write Layer Up! is because I put a pause on the channel, because for years before that, we were in this hamster wheel of constantly putting out an episode, which — as I mentioned before, when you watch a 12-minute video on YouTube, you have no idea what went into creating that video. The average cake I make on my channel takes me two to four days because filming slows down the process. Filming and stopping to take photos and documenting the whole thing slows down the process greatly. I have to do things in the middle like take business calls and all those other things that are not fun on camera. Then, there's the whole editing process and uploading. 

It was this constant hamster wheel of going through all those processes, putting up the video on Tuesday, and then we started again. Even though I had been on other shows, for example, I could never say yes to more than one episode. I would fly to another city, film one episode, get back here and start YouTubing again. It did become very tiring ... and I have a lot of other things in life. I have a child and I had all these other projects I wanted to accomplish. I've been on a very long cake journey. I've been a cake decorator for 24 years, like I said, and it is the love of my life, but I needed a change. I made cakes for clients for 16 years. Basically, they would come and see me, have a consultation and I would have the honor of making cakes for their very special occasions, weddings, bar mitzvahs, 50th birthdays, anniversaries, you name it.

I loved it and I was so blessed that I could even have that as a job, as a self-taught cake decorator. It did stifle my creativity because in the end, I had to make what my client wanted and was willing to pay for, not what was in my imagination. The beauty of How To Cake It was How To Cake It began when my son was very small, eight months old. And I remember thinking I had to... I didn't make cakes for a while because he was very young and I was at home with him. I remember thinking, "I can't wait to put my work out there — wait a minute, I can make whatever cake I want." 

I always refer to How To Cake It as — when it first started, I had this bucket list of cakes that I had dreamed of making, but no one ever wanted, but me. I made them on the channel. Things like Walter, my most popular cake, my watermelon cake, that was something in my mind and it was fantastic. Then came, which I never expected, this whole community of baking enthusiasts or people who wanted to watch me transform cake into objects. They would start to suggest things to me, like "Make giant sushi. Make a giant strawberry." That was so wonderful because a lot of the times, I would think, "Why didn't I think of that? That's a fantastic idea."

Yolanda revealed why she is grateful for How To Cake It

The most amazing thing about YouTube versus TV is that YouTube is in real time. Every time we put a video on Tuesday, our community would respond with their thoughts and their ideas and their reactions and we could instantly act on them, whereas if you look at something like "Crime Scene Kitchen," fantastic idea. We film the whole season, but we don't know what the public thinks until you air it.

That's what you see happen to a lot of TV shows. Unfortunately, it's "let's throw all these eggs in one basket and maybe they'll pick them up and maybe they won't," whereas with YouTube, you can react instantly and it really is a two-way conversation.

YouTube is definitely a creative outlet, but people don't realize how hard content creation actually could be and is.

It's extremely hard. We have a joke at How To Cake It that I do one of the hardest possible things you could do on YouTube. There are plenty of successful YouTubers who vlog or do things that don't take half as long to film. Therefore, they can make more content to put out. The more you do that on YouTube, the more favored you are. We could never even play in that game. We knew we could never put up more than one video a week. It almost felt like running a race and knowing we never put the proper shoes on, if you know what I mean. 

I'm very grateful for YouTube. It changed my life in a way I would have never expected. It came at a time in my life when I thought "I've got to switch gears and become a mom." Here came YouTube and it opened my life up in a way I can never express. I am so grateful for the community that we built. One of the most surprising things about YouTube, like I said, all I wanted to do was put my art out there and showcase my art. I started to think, "Maybe I'll get more orders and I can go back to work when I'm ready, when my son is old enough." The community we built and the reactions and when I get stopped in the mall by moms who say, "I love your content. I will let my child watch you for hours because you're so creative," I could cry because that means so much to me and I never expected that.

Yolanda shared her favorite fast food order

What is the one baking tool you think is the most important to have in the kitchen?

A good rubber spatula. I want to say mixer, but there are a lot of things you can bake without a mixer if you're not ready to go there and it's an expensive purchase. A good rubber spatula — you need to be able to scrape down. You need to be able to not leave anything behind in the bowl because you spent time and money on those ingredients.

Who is the one chef you'd want to cook you dinner?

Gordon Ramsey. He technically has [made me dinner] — I've been to one of his restaurants, but I don't think he cooked it. I love his personality and I have a lot of respect for the empire he has built.

What's one food you could never live without?

Oh, this is Thai food. Can I pick a whole genre, please?

Yes, you can pick a whole genre.

I love Thai food [...] It's like what I said about the cakes in "Layer Up!" Thai food hits every one of my taste buds, every one of my sensors. It's sweet, it's sour, it's spicy, it's crunchy, it's soft, it's everything. It's saucy, it's amazing.

I agree. All right, last one. What is your go-to fast food order in which restaurant?

There's a chain, a local chain, a Canadian chain. Actually, I think it's in Toronto and outside Toronto. It's called Burger's Priest. I always order the High Priest, which is technically their version of a Big Mac. That's funny because I don't like Big Macs, but it's two patties, they have a special sauce, three buns and then I get it smoked, which means they put jalapenos inside. I get it with fries and that's the one time I drink pop. I can't eat that burger without a Coke or a root beer.

Visit Yolanda's website to pre-order Layer Up! and try new cake recipes.