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From TikTok to ckbk 🌈🦄

To mark the December 6th publication of Savory vs. Sweet, the debut cookbook from Miami-based influencers Shalean and Stephanie Ghitis, we spoke to one of the authors to find out how the cookbook came to be published. 

The duo’s @soflofooodie social media sensation was voted in the top ten 10 food creators on TikTok in 2020. As so many of us were quarantined at home during the pandemic, their vivid, playful bakes were a welcome rainbow in the midst of difficult days. Their viral hit Unicorn Rainbow Cheesecake served just that purpose, and was followed by countless other colorful and quirky sweet and savory creations.

ckbk spoke to Shalean about how it all started…

 

Starting out

When Shalean Ghitis developed a gluten sensitivity in 2015 and was struggling with the restrictions this led to for her diet, she and her colleague Stephanie started a social media channel as way to connect with other people on gluten-free diets. After six months or so, Shalean was no longer sensitive to gluten and was able to gradually reintroduce it, but meanwhile the two had caught the bug for social media and so @soflofooodie was born. 

 
 

Stephanie already had a cake business before the two met - they bonded over a love of food and what Shalean calls their “hobby partnership” began. Just for fun at the start, it soon developed into something much bigger: “In the beginning”, says Shalean, “Steph was the creative eye and hands behind the executions and I was the photographer, videographer, editor, and focused on the social media aspect. As we transitioned from hobby to business, I learned baking techniques from many years of watching Steph and her creative process.” 

“Now we work cohesively on shooting content, creating recipes, working with brands, and businesses. I still take care of the editing and social media aspect so when people are interacting with us on social media, It's me they're speaking to!”

 

Red Velvet Cheesecake from Savory vs Sweet

 

Lockdown baking

It was in 2020 that the duo’s social media really took off. While acknowledging the difficulties for so many during the pandemic, Shalean has some positive memories of the time, “2020 was the year of quarantine trends from pancake cereal to banana bread and mini foods. Every time we turned around there was a new trend to hop on and I think the content we created really spoke to our audience. It was fun, exciting and a way to connect with others even though we were at home.”

Milliones were stuck at home during the early stages of the pandemic, and so social media was busier than ever. @soflofooodie started on TikTok in 2020 and quickly gained millions of followers, and saw huge growth on Instagram, too.

Rainbow bakes

Their famed Unicorn Rainbow Cheesecake was just the perfect Instagram creation - bold rainbow-colored layers of cream cheese to create a no-bake cheesecake, topped with sprinkles, and set in a Rice Krispies crust. It set the style for the @soflofooodie channel’s kooky candy-shop vibe, with tons of color, and nail art to match. 

 

Shalean and Stephanie’s vibrant Unicorn Rainbow Cheesecake went viral in 2020.

 

Shalean told ckbk that the 2019 creation really caught the imagination of their followers during the pandemic, it “landed us on outlets such as Insider, Tastemade, NBC6 news, and other major publications. It's a recipe that reached individuals all over the world and we would get asked many times daily to share it.”

They have since tweaked the recipe to create something even sturdier than the original and that’s the version which is available on ckbk: “we were finally ready to share the recipe with the world and so it is included in Savory Vs. Sweet!” In fact the book is a treasure trove for cheesecake lovers, also featuring recipes for Key Lime Cheesecake, Red Velvet Cheesecake, and S’Mores Cheesecake Bars

Team Sweet or Team Savory?

The book explores “the best of both worlds” asking “Are you on Team Sweet, or Team Savory?” Despite its colorful appearance, Rainbow Grilled Cheese is firmly in the Team Savory camp. Another of Shalean’s favorite savory quarantine recipes is their Hot Cheetos Mac and Cheese Crusted Donut, shown below. She recommends their take on Spicy Rigatoni (don’t forget the all important addition of a splash of pasta water to the sauce!) and their recreations of popular 90s snacks from their elementary school lunch boxes.

 
 

The book’s style of brightly colored social media-friendly cooking is a trend that is not disappearing any time soon – Netflix shows like Baking Impossible and Is It Cake?, not to mention the international Bake Off phenomenon, show the huge appetite for spectacular and impressive bakes. For Shalean it’s the versatility of cake that drives this never-ending trend for color and vivacity, “it's a continuous interest because there is so much room for creativity.”

 

Shalean Ghitis and Stephanie Ghitis.

 

Recipes for success

When not working on recipes, Shay and Steph work together on the admin team at a school for people on the autism spectrum. Their passion for creating accessible recipes using everyday ingredients is also motivated by their work with people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). 

The two’s partnership blossomed into a romance and they were married in February 2022. (The wedding cake was a Funfetti - check our their Confetti Cake Cheesecake - and a wall of cinnamon rolls also made an appearance at the event!).

 

Spicy Rigatoni Pasta from Savory vs Sweet

 

On the challenge of balancing their day jobs with internet stardom Shay says, “We have very few days off and it can be extremely exhausting, but it is well worth it. We're often asked if we would quit our jobs to take this on full-time and the truth is, the autism community is our passion and is always going to be a big part of our lives, so right now we are content with our decisions to do both!”

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Top recipe picks from Savory vs Sweet

Savory vs. Sweet is available online in full at ckbk, and includes more than 50 recipes – here are a few highlights…

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