The YouTube Star Who's Teaching Kids How To Bake : The Salt Celebrity chef Rosanna Pansino hosts the YouTube show Nerdy Nummies and has more than 8 million subscribers. Among her fans are thousands of children who want to learn how to bake.
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The YouTube Star Who's Teaching Kids How To Bake

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The YouTube Star Who's Teaching Kids How To Bake

The YouTube Star Who's Teaching Kids How To Bake

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

You'd like to think that a kid learning to cook would do it by spending hours in the kitchen with a loving parent. But failing that, there is YouTube. For our series on children's media, NPR's Neda Ulaby introduces us to a celebrity chef for the digital set.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: Rosanna Pansino may have created with sounds like an impossibly tiny niche, nerdy baking videos, about six years ago.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO, "SUPER MARIO CAKE - NERDY NUMMIES")

ROSANNA PANSINO: Hello. Today I'm going to make a "Super Mario" star cake - or attempt to - with fondant. So this could get a little messy.

ULABY: Now she makes $6 million a year decorating baked goods inspired by "Super Mario," "Harry Potter," "Minecraft" and "Game Of Thrones." At first, she made cakes from mixes and used frozen pizzas.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO)

PANSINO: This is super funny. I am going to decorate it like a cake. I'm going to put barbecue sauce.

ULABY: 8.5 million people subscribe to Pansino's YouTube show, "Nerdy Nummies." The 32-year-old has morphed over the years from a sweet, scruffy, pigtailed look to something more like a coiffed Food Network star. I asked in what other ways her show has changed.

PANSINO: They've become actual recipes (laughter). In the beginning, I really focused on having fun and decorating.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO, "HOW TO MAKE A UNICORN CAKE - NERDY NUMMIES")

PANSINO: Pansino's team of 10 employees help her dream up real recipes for "Frozen" princess cakes, rainbow cakes.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO, "HOW TO MAKE A UNICORN CAKE")

PANSINO: The recipe that we're making today is a Funfetti cake from scratch. The things you'll need will be two cups of all-purpose flour, 1.5 cups of sugar...

ULABY: "Nerdy Nummies'" devout fans include two best friends - both named Sofia, both 12 - who live in Southern California.

SOFIA ROBERTS: My favorite episode is where she made a unicorn cake.

SOFIA MATHEWS: That one's good.

SOFIA R.: It was really cool.

ULABY: Both Sofias love to bake. They just finished making four kinds of French macarons. That's normal for a certain kind of foodie kid today, who did not exist when I was 12. Back then, just making chocolate chip cookies counted as a major culinary win. The Sofias' moms, Katheryn Roberts and Ellen Mathews, swear their daughters almost made the macarons alone.

KATHERYN ROBERTS: I helped to fold egg whites. That's my job. So...

ELLEN MATHEWS: Yeah. Me, too. I didn't help either. I just cleaned up.

ULABY: The Sofias like to text each other recipes and notes about other YouTube shows, like "How To Cake It," which comes from Canada, or "The Scran Line" from Australia.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO)

NICK MAKRIDES: I'm going to line my cupcake tin with some cupcake liners, filling these up about three quarters of the way.

ULABY: It's impossible to know the exact ages of the people watching these channels. YouTube says it does not track viewers under age 13. In fact, a company spokeswoman told me YouTube does not even see itself as serving children. That's news to 12-year-old Sofia Mathews. She says YouTube's do-it-yourself videos are perfect for kids.

SOFIA M.: You can tell if you're doing it right because a person is actually doing it.

SOFIA R.: They show you...

SOFIA M.: Yeah.

SOFIA R.: ...Exactly what you're going to do. And they tell you exactly what you need to do.

ULABY: So helpful for visual learners like Sofia Roberts and the host of "Nerdy Nummies," Rosanna Pansino.

PANSINO: I have a learning disability, and the best way that I learned was through visual content and communication style that was very clear and direct.

ULABY: In fact, that's what this digital cooking celebrity learned from an analog ancestor, a public television star.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE FRENCH CHEF")

JULIA CHILD: Hi, I'm Julia Child.

PANSINO: The only person that I watched was Julia Child.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE FRENCH CHEF")

CHILD: Now we're going to have what I think is one of the great desserts of all time, a souffle Grand Marnier.

PANSINO: She's fun, and she's fearless. She's not afraid to make mistakes. And if you watch videos of her cooking in the kitchen, she makes mistakes all the time.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE FRENCH CHEF")

CHILD: Well, that didn't go very well.

PANSINO: Who cares if you spill a little batter? It'll bake out. Try everything.

ULABY: A great lesson for kids both in and out of the kitchen, although one mom I know wryly joked she wished online cooking videos paid just a little more attention to cleanup.

Neda Ulaby, NPR News.

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