Life of Pie: How Lauren Ko's Pies Took Over Your Instagram Feed

By Peyton Ladt Sterns November 20, 2018 

Two years ago, Lauren Ko had never baked a pie. Today, because of her intricately beautiful pie designs, she has amassed a quarter of a million followers, quit her day job, and is now living, the life of pie.

Lauren Ko

Q

Tell us when and how you started baking pies.

A

I come from a family of phenomenal eaters and grew up baking and cooking my whole life. But I didn't make my first pie until September 2016, when I was newly moved to Seattle and had extra time on my hands while I looked for a job. I came across photos of really beautiful pies on Pinterest and wondered if I could pull it off too. I went for it, and this plaid lattice apple pie was the first one I ever made!

Pies didn't immediately become "my thing" though. I made them here and there over the next year, with some wild successes and some major fails. It was mainly a weekend hobby and a great way to use up large quantities of produce in my kitchen.

I started the @lokokitchen Instagram account in August 2017 simply as a holding place for my food photos, but by some stroke of wild internet magic, it went viral and by this happy accident, I’m now deep into the world of pies.

Q

Your Instagram following has taken off like a rocket ship - what were your big breaks?

A

I think I was very lucky to be in the right place and time, because my Instagram account was a near instant hit. My very first post received 600+ likes and I'm pretty sure my 200 followers were just my friends and family. To my complete surprise, I reached 4K followers in a matter of weeks, and a month after that, in October 2017, @designmilk reposted one of my pie photos and I gained 8K followers in one day. That was a huge catalyst in pushing the snowball down the hill and the momentum really hasn't stopped since! I filmed a video with Buzzfeed Tasty, baked with Martha Stewart in her test kitchen, and have been featured in publications like Vogue, Oprah Magazine, and Washington Post, all of which have continued to broaden my audience.

Blueberry Ombre Spoke Pie

Q

What are your thoughts are on types of fats used in baking (butter, lard or shortening)? Do you have a preference? 

I prefer using butter for flavor and crust consistency. Costco also sells butter in bulk, so that makes it an easy choice.

Q

How do you come up with new designs? 

A

I’m inspired by things like architecture, textiles, geometric patterns, and color. I keep lots of Pinterest boards with ideas. I also happen to see pie everywhere, so I make a lot of mental notes when I’m out and about. I have pies and tarts in my feed inspired by library facades, lawn chairs, bathroom floors, and bamboo purses!

I never sketch out my designs beforehand, they don't involve any measurements or mathematical calculations, and I don’t go through pie “drafts.” All of this is mostly much because I’m too lazy. I usually start a baking session with a general idea in my head and then just go with the flow, depending on how the dough or fruit cooperate.

I also don’t use any special tools. A ruler and a simple pastry wheel, and the occasional shape cutter, round out my arsenal. I’m a regular person baking out of my humble home kitchen, so nothing fancy here!

Q

What are your tips for our readers at home designing the top of the pie crust?

A

Keep the dough cold and resist the urge to over manipulate it!

Tangram Tart

Q

If I'm a novice pie baker - which flavor should I start with? 

A

Apple is a classic and the risk of an overly juicy pie is minimal. It's a great place to start!

Q

If I'm a veteran, what's a pie risk I should take? 

A

Experiment with naturally colored doughs!

Kiwi Papaya Block Tart

Q

What's the last thing you drank?

A

Delicious, delicious Txakoli.

Q

If you were stranded on a desert island, and could only eat one pie forever, what would it be? 

A

Ironically, I don't eat very many sweet pies (something about over-saturation...), but a savory one with potatoes and lots of melty cheese would be my go-to.

Q

Coffee or tea?

A

Black coffee 10000%.

Q

What's your go-to party playlist? 

A

I grew up in a Chinese-Honduran family, so there is always Latin Top 40 and salsa music going at my house!

Q

Favorite host/hostess gift to give or receive? 

A

Since I don’t sell my pies and my husband and I don’t really eat them, you can imagine that I bring one with me everywhere I go. As for receiving, cheese is life. If someone brings cheese to my party, they’re a winner in my book.

Tell me more: 5 Crowd-pleasing Cheeses For Your Next Cocktail Party

Q

If you could invite 7 people to dinner, dead or alive, who would it be?

A

David Lebovitz, Stella Parks (Bravetart from Serious Eats), Samin Nosrat, Michelle Obama, Celia Cruz, RBG, and lastly, my husband, Ben, because he is always reliably the life of the party.

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Peyton Ladt Sterns

Chocolate chip cookies are my spirit animal.

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