As many of us did during quarantine, 24-year-old Sasha found herself baking a lot more often than before. In the past, Sasha’s friends always wanted her to start a baking account, but she just never had the time. With an indefinite amount of time now, she decided it was time to start documenting her pastries on Instagram on a daily basis.

Out of the lockdown, @fakepastrychef was born in March of 2020. From there, Sasha’s photography skills only got better by the day. With perfectly crafted pastries, photoshoots, and captions — what more could we ask for?

Sasha began her account as a self-taught home baker based in Washington, DC. She’s currently a grad student at George Washington University, and will be graduating this upcoming May. When she’s not baking, she’s pursuing a security policy major, which is pretty far off from measuring ingredients or frosting a cake.

Not only does she have some amazing baking skills, but Sasha’s food photography will sweep you away and leave you craving something new every day. The account is currently at 4.5k followers, but continues to grow each day. Read on to hear what she had to say about her passion, and find some tips and inspiration for your own food photography along the way.

This interview was condensed and edited for clarity.

Did you always have an interest in baking or was this a new passion you discovered? Would you consider baking as a career now or is it just a fun hobby?

I’ve been baking since I can remember. I learned from my great-grandmother and grandmother. They have always been the bakers and cooks of the family.

This is 100% just a hobby, I really don’t think that I have the time or patience to actually make a business out of it — but once I retire (maybe when I’m 70/75), I could totally open up my own bakery and work there! That would be a fun retirement plan.

I’ve noticed you tend to post pretty early in the day, how do you plan out your daily recipes, or are they more spontaneous? Where do you get your inspiration from?

I’ve noticed that if I post early in the morning, the post gets more attention throughout the day. I’ve tried different hours and different days, but this method seems to stick pretty well.

I have 20+ recipe books and I like to flip through them and find inspiration. I also look through Pinterest to find recipes.

Depending on the year and holiday coming up, I usually do a themed bake. But more or less I’m pretty spontaneous about what I want to bake.

Did you have prior experience with food photography or did it take some trial and error at the start?

I had zero photography experience. I use portrait mode on my iPhone to take all my photos and the VSCO to edit it all. It took many months of photographing and baking to figure out my style and how to really set everything up. I looked through photos on Instagram to see how everyone else was doing it and went from there! Now, people often ask what camera I use when in reality it’s just my iPhone.

Describe your photo-taking process.

It can take me about an hour just to set everything up for the photo. I like to decorate the scene with ingredients that I used and I like to make sure that I capture the dessert in every possible way. So, if it’s a muffin I’ll take a photo of it in the “sleeve” then unwrapped and then with a bite taken out. I like to have fun with it and it really lets me be creative with the whole thing. I like to use a lot of baking trays/plates/serving trays that I have bought throughout the years or ones that I have thrifted. I even use stuff from nature like leaves and flowers. It’s probably the most fun I have in the whole process.

Where do you see this account going in the future, and did you expect it to become a daily thing you do?

I'm hoping that it stays as it is. Something fun that I do, something that I can do throughout the week or on the weekend. I don’t want this to be taken too seriously and I don’t want it to become my life. As of right now, it's my fun hobby. Plus, I love baking for people. Feeding people is truly a passion.

I never thought this Instagram account would become so popular. It amazes me every day. Like people actually want to follow me? In reality I thought I would get maybe 200 followers, but to have over 4,000 is crazy! And it's mainly something I do on the weekend — I just post throughout the week. So all the hard work is done before Monday.

What’s your go-to thing to bake? What has been your favorite thing you baked so far?

I don’t have a go-to bake, my mind changes every day basically about what I like! I hate baking the same thing twice (unless it’s traditional holiday treats like pie or buche du noel or something my really close friends like). My favorite thing to bake is often cakes! I like the whole process of baking the layers, assembling the cake, icing, and decorating it. I like to work on my piping skills and decorating the cake really fancy!

Lastly, what are some tips you would give to people looking to improve their food photography skills?

Keep trying! It took me so long to find my own style and to get better. There’s no harm in taking thousands of photos just to get the one perfect shot. I sometimes take so many photos for just the five that I eventually choose and post.

Also — no need for a fancy camera. Portrait mode on an iPhone does wonders. 

This story was part of Brainfood: Careers in the Food World. Check out the rest of the collection here, and see you at Brainfood on Friday, Nov. 12 at 3 p.m. ET!