We talk to food stylist, photographer and blogger behind Cannelle et Vanille, Aran Goyoaga.

Photographer, food stylist, author and blogger behind the hugely successful Cannelle Et Vanille, Aran Goyoaga grew up in the Basque country and moved to the US in 1998. A professional pastry chef by trade, her blog – marked by its beautiful photography and delicious gluten-free recipes – has captured the attention of people across the world. We caught up with Aran to find out more.

I stopped working as a professional pastry chef… to stay at home and raise my new born son. I really missed the kitchen and realised that a blog could be a good way to document all the baking I was doing at home. It was mainly a journal for myself.

The secret to great food photography is… great light, styling and composition.

I spend quite a bit of time styling… I start with an idea, then I move things around until I find an arrangement that works for me – until I feel there is harmony and balance of textures, colours and movement. Through styling, I’m able to tell a story of the food I am presenting in a moment in time. That is important to me.

I blog about 1-2 times a week… but there are periods when I feel a bit stuck for inspiration. This happened right after I finished working on my book. I had worked so hard for a year styling and photographing every day that I felt I couldn’t give any more. I questioned where I would go text, so took some time off, travelled a bit and ate at restaurants (something I didn’t do much of while I was shooting the book) and this was a great source of inspiration.

I source my props in all sorts of different places… from vintage shops to eBay, Etsy, Anthropologie, Crate and Barrel and boutiques and shops that I come across when I travel. Before I visit a city, I do a bit of research about where to find great props.

I learned to cook… at my grandparents pastry shop in the Basque country. My mom, who was the oldest of eight children, worked front of house and so my brothers and I spent most of the days there with the rest of my family. Because there were so many of us to feed, there was always something on the stove and I learned by watching my grandmother and mother cook together. I miss those days.

I adopted a gluten-free diet… after being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and then Meniere’s Disease (an autoimmune condition of the inner ear). I started reading about the benefits of a gluten-free diet for people with autoimmune conditions and in late 2009, started living gluten free. In April 2010, after exhaustive testing, I found out I have genetic gluten sensitivity, which seem to the cause of many of my health issues. I have been living gluten-free since then and will be this way for the rest of my life. All of my symptoms have disappeared.

Social media has offered… a great way to share my blog and meet new people. I am still in awe of how many people we can reach using these tools. I share the things that I enjoy, my posts, my ideas and what other people I admire are doing. It’s very simple and I don’t have a plan or agenda really.

My Basque heritage… is the one thing that has most influenced my cooking. It’s the same in all cultures, but Basque people wake up thinking about food and go to bed thinking about food, and food and politics are probably the number one topics at a dinner table. Everyone I know cooks and no one thinks of themselves as ‘foodies’ – everyone loves food, no distinctions.

I never imagined that Cannelle et Vanille would become as successful as it has… When I began, the blog was only la tool to document my experiments in the kitchen; a way to share things and keep me busy when my life had changed so much. I never imagined what would follow.

The recipe that I am most proud of… is my sweet and savory tarts. The crusts are flaky, tender and I play around with fillings. Plus they are gluten-free and most people don’t even notice when they eat them.

I’m not sure if I have a most popular post… but I do remember that when I announced I was working on my book, readers were very excited and I received great positive feedback.

I don’t spend a huge amount of time on recipe testing… I cook and those recipes that I enjoy, I make again, style and shoot, so recipe testing is quite fast for me actually.

I love all aspects of food blogging… though I should admit that writing is the part I struggle with the most. When I think of the story I want to tell, I think of it from a visual point of view and try to tell it that way. I love reader interaction very much too. Without it, it wouldn’t be the same, for sure.

Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks… has been an inspiration from the beginning. She has great style, recipes and is so very gracious and generous.

My advice to a food blogger just starting out… would depend on the individual goals of the blogger, but the things that have worked for me is to only blog when I am really excited about something. Also to have a point of view and not try and be all things to all people.

Aran’s book Small Plates, Sweet Treats: My family’s journey to gluten-free cooking is available to buy from Amazon.

Interview by Emily Jenkinson