How ‘The Nerdy Nummies’ Became a YouTube Phenomenon

UPDATED: May 11, 2016
PUBLISHED: May 7, 2016

Rosanna Pansino, 31, threw a party for her gamer friends in Los Angeles several years ago. Always a baker, she decided to create a cake that looked like something straight out of Super Mario Bros. She filmed the video and posted it on YouTube.

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Little did she know she had struck gold.

“I was getting viewers who were writing me saying, ‘This is amazing. You need to keep doing this’ and ‘Nothing like this exists on television or online. There are no geeky baking shows,’ ” Pansino says.

Ta-da! The Nerdy Nummies baking show was born.

Her videos—which feature everything from Minion cake pops to Pac-Man popsicles—regularly receive a few million views each. Forbes named her one of the top-earning YouTube stars of 2015, at $2.5 million. After sufficient demand from her online followers, Pansino published The Nerdy Nummies Cookbook: Sweet Treats for the Geek in All of Us, which was a New York Times best-seller for six weeks.

Despite her success, Pansino’s journey was challenging at times. She always knew she wanted to be in the entertainment industry but wasn’t sure in what capacity. She made YouTube cooking videos part-time while working various jobs until her agents gave her an ultimatum: Drop the YouTube videos to focus more on auditioning, or they’d drop her. She followed her gut.

“In that moment, I had to choose which path I wanted to take—more of a traditional route, or continue to make YouTube videos. And I chose to create my own content and make my own opportunities. I didn’t have time to be nervous or scared of it. I felt like the decision was made for me because I knew where my heart was, and my heart was in creating my own content.”

Talk about a risk being worth the reward.

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This article originally appeared in the June 2016 issue of SUCCESS magazine.

Jamie Friedlander is a freelance writer based in Chicago and the former features editor of SUCCESS magazine. Her work has been published in The Cut, VICE, Inc., The Chicago Tribune and Business Insider, among other publications. When she's not writing, she can usually be found drinking matcha tea into excess, traveling somewhere new with her husband or surfing Etsy late into the night.