Lyuba Ellingson is a self-proclaimed foodie with a penchant for social media. In 2017, she created a delicious mash-up of her two passions and became @pastrysnobmsp (that’s her Instagram handle). Here are a few of her favorite ’grammable Lake Minnetonka desserts—and her tips for sharing the perfect photo.
The Story Behind the Blog
“I was always kind of a dessert snob. I was always picky. I’ve taken pictures of everything—ever since I’ve had a decent camera on my phone. They just always got stored on a hard drive somewhere,” says Lyuba Ellingson.
She’d try new spots and always, always, always peruse the dessert menu—snapping a photo here and there. Then in 2017, Bellecour opened in Wayzata, and the crêpe cake stopped her in her tracks.
“My friend got kind of annoyed with me for professing my love for this cake, and she said, ‘Why aren’t you on Instagram? Come on, share this with someone else.’”
So Ellingson did. She created an Instagram account, @pastrysnobmsp, and began posting the confections she was eating anyway, along with observations about the restaurants she was visiting, the flavors and whether she’d order something again. Her following grew, and in a world where restauranteurs know the power of a great ’gram, she eventually began receiving invites to influencer foodie events and offers to collaborate. She still has a full-time “day job,” but moonlights as a taster and social media content-creator, fork in hand, showcasing the newest and best desserts in the Twin Cities and beyond.
“We’re so lucky around the lake. The options have increased so much, even in the last two years I’ve been doing this,” she says, rattling off the openings she’s most excited about right now: “Red Bench, Penny’s Coffee, all these cool, new places.”
She’s noticing another trend, too: restaurants—even long-established ones—investing in how they’re perceived online. They put up murals and add outrageous menu items, just to get folks to click and share. But there’s a tension that comes with that, too, she says.
“You can get people in the door because of Instagram, but if the flavor doesn’t live up to the hype, you’re going to have a problem getting people to come back,” she says. Sometimes a frequently Instagrammed dish turns out to be a dud, flavor-wise, or something that wasn’t even on her radar turns out to be amazing. “And then there’s the age-old issue. My mind always battles between what I want to eat and what I know will photograph well. I hate that.”
We got Ellingson to dish a bit on her favorite lakeside dessert spots of the moment.
It’s where it all began for Ellingson. The crêpe cake is still her go-to, but she also loves the seasonal profiterole and the almond chocolate croissant. “It’s a gorgeous space inside, but they also have a fantastic patio,” she says.
Sebastian Joe’s Ice Cream at Tommy’s Tonka Trolley
What’s not to love about this tiny place in the middle of Port of Excelsior? “There’s always good light—with the beautiful lake and boats in the background,” says Ellingson.
Del Sur Empanadas
Ok, so this spot is as chill and as authentic Argentinian as it gets. The tres leches is Ellingson’s favorite. Translated from Spanish, its name means “three milks” because it’s a decadent sponge cake soaked in—quite literally—three milks: evaporated, condensed and heavy cream. “It’s delicious, and they have beautiful artwork on the walls—you can tell they’ve invested in making the spot look cool” says Ellingson.
YoYo Donuts & Coffee Bar
Yes, it’s in a strip mall. But the donut flavors are imaginative and fantastic (there’s ice cream, too). “You can take the kids out for dessert—and get some great photos, too,” Ellingson says. Try the maple bacon for a delicious salty-sweet combo. The “dirt and worms” donut is a guaranteed hit with the kids.
A Guide to the ’Gram
No, we can’t all be cake-centric influencers. But everyone can stand to spruce up their feed a bit. Here are a few of Lyuba Ellingson’s top tricks for nailing the perfect shot.
Pick a great spot.
Location, location, location. Ellingson swears by the rooftop at 6Smith, especially at sunset. Try Nautical Bowls for gram-worthy eats and spaces, too. At ninetwentyfive, “the space is gorgeous. The patio is gorgeous. The food is gorgeous,” she says. Or go to Copper Cow for the boozy milkshake. “You can’t get any more ‘cooking for Instagram’ than that,” she says.
Lighting is key.
Highlight the dish’s confectionary goodness with a flattering glow. “You want to stick with natural light, but not direct sunlight,” Ellingson says. (Ahem—that might mean asking the host or hostess for a spot next to a window.)
Don’t spend a fortune.
Ellingson uses a plain old smartphone for her content—no special lights, no special lenses—and insists that it doesn’t take the latest and greatest to compose a delicious shot.
Get a good angle.
Ellingson will play around with the height and angle of the plate and the composition of what’s in the shot. A favorite shot—and one that gets a lot of good engagement online—is to photograph a dish after one bite has been eaten out of it. That gives the viewer a sense of how much frosting there is, what the inside of the cake looks like, and whether it’s smooth or crumbly.
“I don’t do any of the fancy stuff,” Ellingson swears. She gravitates toward a handful of Instagram settings she uses on nearly all of her shots to give the appearance of a consistent filter, though there’s none applied.
@pastrysnobmsp by the numbers
Date of her first post
Average posts per week. “I started out doing it daily, but that was not good for my physique. Plus, quality over quantity, you know?” says Ellingson.
Giveaways to date (That’s reason enough to follow!).
Partnerships to date—including 11 comped staycations last year.
Followers (and counting).