Lily Vanilli – Let Them Eat Cake!

Recent years have seen an explosion of talented bakers. From cupcakes to macaroons, baking is now big business.

And the big news is Lily Vanilli, who has sent a shock wave through the conservative bakery backwaters with her creations that have drawn praise and interest both commercially and critically.

Lily appears demure and somewhat delicate, but she’s is no pushover – you don’t succeed in this market by being soft-centred – and she has a keen business mind as well as a rich imagination.

“I’ve always liked cooking and even from an early age, I am sure I considered it as a career, although it may not have been a conscious choice.”

As a child her father’s work took the family to the Middle East and Lily spent her formative years in Saudi Arabia.

“We lived on a compound and everything was idyllic and perhaps cocooned to a degree. I certainly wasn’t exposed to any of the political or religious intolerances often associated with the kingdom and I have to say that my experience of Saudi was wonderful. It’s a beautiful place and I have a great fondness for the country. I am certain I will return there one day.

“I was 14 when we came back to the UK, moving to Croydon, and within a couple of years, with college before me, I had to make a decision on what career path to follow. I loved photography and was also a keen reader of philosophy but eventually it was the latter discipline which I threw myself into.

“After university I took a post in Australia in graphic design but within a few years, I wanted to return to the UK. The country was stuck in the middle of the recession and work was hard to find so I turned to the one thing that could provide me with an immediate income, baking.”

Lily set up a stall at her local market and baked her cakes at home, selling them at the weekend. The venture was an instance success and she had to seek out working premises. Having officially launched the company in February 2009, she has never looked back.

Her cakes have drawn worldwide interest and her client list reads like a who’s who of celebrities, with the likes of Elton John, Lulu Guinness, Sadie Frost and Alexander McQueen all fans. She has been featured in everything from The Sunday Times magazine to Vogue.

In the summer of 2010 her book A Zombie Ate My Cupcake was released, full of gruesome cake creations with an instant appeal to young children.

“I wrote this with my Godson in mind and wanted to portray a sense of ghoulish fun about the cakes featured. I always wanted it to appeal to younger people as well as cooks.”

Having read through the book it certainly does showcase Lily’s extraordinary artistic ability. Featuring Marzipan Beetles, Morbid Meringue Bones and Dracula’s Bite cupcakes, it shows you how to surprise not only the taste buds but your visual senses too.

Harrods soon came calling and her products are now available in their food hall although Lily was quick to impress upon me her desire to stay away from the mass production of her cakes at the moment.

“I design and bake all the cakes myself, along with a trusted third generation baker who I work very closely with. I want my personal stamp on everything that carries my name so I am cautious about farming out my templates for others to bake.”

Her creations also played a big part in a music video from pop band Ash, featuring among other things, a bloody heart and the film was included in the Top 50 videos of 2010.

In the here and now, Lily is riding the wave of success but she still has big plans for the next few months.

“I’m working on another book that I hope will be out towards the end of the year and I plan to be involved with Cake Britain again this year.”

Cake Britain was launched in 2010 and was the world’s first exhibition of completely edible art. It drew vast crowds and media interest and this year’s event is sure to be an even bigger success.

“I’m not quite ready to open up a shop but I have always thought it would be cool to have a late night establishment that would serve sweets and treats as an alternative to a diner. Maybe one day…For now if people want to buy my cakes they can either visit Harrods or contact me through my website.”

Clearly, she has a lot on her plate but when Lily does find time to unwind, her interests are varied.

“I love the cinema and eat out a lot. Many of my friends are chefs so I am often spoilt for choice in the food department. I also love playing pool and fishing and right now I am learning to shoot.”

All this and I have heard it said that she is also a bit of a dab hand at karate!

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