Q&A: Lily Vanilli

17th Jun

‘The Queen of baked goods’ - ES Magazine

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Lily Vanilli (real name Lily Jones), is one of London’s best loved contemporary bakers. The author of two recipe books and the co-founder of the YBF awards, Lily has reinvented the traditional perception of baking and has created surreal and delicious masterpieces for brands and high profile clients. With customers such as Elton John, Victoria Beckham and Lulu Guinness, she is undoubtedly the most sought after baker in London. We sat down with Lily to discuss her inspirations, her wedding cake advice and how she found herself to be the most influential baker in the capital.

Q: You started out as a Graphic Designer, what inspired you to become a baker?

A: I had always loved baking and actually did a few different things after graduating, the last one, working as a Graphic Designer for the Greens party in Australia. When I returned to London, the recession had hit hard and I struggled to find work, so fell back on my baking skills to make a living. 

Q: How does your bakery’s location influence your creations? (Lily Vanilli is based just off Columbia Road)

A: It’s wonderful having access to all the local producers (E5, Newton & Pott, Coleman Coffee) and of course the florists and the flower market are a constant source of inspiration - for flavours, design and decoration.

Q: What has been your biggest challenge as a baker? And, what has been your favourite project?

A: I think the biggest challenge was trying to understand how I could grow the business enough to make it sustainable longer term, without wearing myself out completely but also making sure I still had a role in the kitchen.

My favourite project was working on a cake for the V&A - it was exhibited as a sculpture and then cut up and eaten!

 

Q: What is your favourite ‘alternative’ wedding cake flavour?

A: I love working with the couple to create something bespoke and unique for them, so the favourite is always changing - but I do love incorporating seasonal flowers and fruit, so I do that whenever I can.

Q: What advice would you give a couple looking for their perfect wedding cake?

A: Try to envision your dream cake from the flavour through to the design. I feel that a wedding cake is likely the most decadent (and costly) cake you will ever invest in so it should be exactly as you like it. Pinterest is often a good source of inspiration if you're stuck on where to start. 

Q: How do you approach designing a bespoke wedding cake?

A: My new website allows you to build a mood board for the design, choose your flavour and also leave notes on what you have in mind. However, we encourage people to go off menu too if they know what they would like.

Q: What emerging wedding themes have you noticed recently?

A: There is a still a veer towards rustic, simple, seasonal and naked wedding cakes which I really love - with fresh flowers and fruit central to the design. I always think a cake looks good if it looks like it’s going to taste good, so thats a big factor for me. Gold is having a moment too!

Q: What are the current food trends that are inspiring your baking? I.e any raw food wedding cakes?

We have been getting a lot of requests for gluten free or vegan cakes. No raw cakes so far but I'm up for the challenge!

Q: Lastly, Have you ever had any cake disasters? We once witnessed the whole cake table collapse at a wedding!

A: Oh no! That's terrifying, thankfully no.

Be sure to follow Lily on Instagram and check out her website for more wedding cake inspiration. 

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