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Self-taught baker Lily Jones, better known as Lily Vanilli, is one of East London’s most creative cake makers. In Shoreditch, where her business is based, she has inspired a fashion for Marie Antoinette (Sofia Coppola’s movie) style cakes, interpreting the baker’s role in the most glamorous way ever.
Transforming the perfect frosting into a full time job wasn’t exactly in her plans at the beginning. Lily just paired her imaginative designs and sculptural talent to the best ingredients available and in 2008 she invented a lucrative hobby that gradually turned into a business.
Now her client list includes fashion designers with a sweet tooth like Lulu Guinness and Alexander McQueen, but it doesn’t stop there. She has baked cakes for Elton John, chef Nuno Mendes, the Wellcome Trust and for Joseph Kosinski’s box office success, Tron. She also set up a catering business and Cake & Cocktail, a member’s bar proudly addressed to all lovers of cake and decadence. Finally, she opened a bakery that's open to the public just during the weekends.
How did you start making cakes?
I started out baking as a hobby, experimenting. I didn’t set out to start up a business, I started making cakes to sell once a week for a little bit of extra money and it grew from there.
Which was the first important project that you did?
I did cakes for a jewellery story in Lula magazine shot by Metz and Racine, it was at the very beginning when I was still really broke. They offered me £50 or a credit – I took the £50. After that I think it was working with Bompas & Parr.
Which is your background and how did it influence the style of Lily Vanilli?
I studied philosophy, then worked in London, NYC and Australia as a graphic designer, journalist and photographic producer – basically I was all over the place. I think that has influenced my attitude and style. I like to experiment and collaborate and work on lots of very different projects.
Being a good artisan VS being a good businesswoman: which is the most important thing?
I only really care about being a good baker, the quality of the food, keeping it interesting and always learning are what I really care about. As far as being a good businesswoman goes, it’s something I’ve only started working on since I have staff to look after. Before that I was sort of a freelance baker…if I had work, that was great, if not I took time out. Basically, I let the business side of things take care of itself.
Which was the most exciting collaboration in your career so far?
Its really hard to say… Baking for Elton John and making a cake sculpture for the V&A Museum were exciting projects, and I always love working on anything with the director Alex Turvey (who I did the Ash video with) or jellymongers Bompas & Parr. The most important collaborations are ones which inspire you beyond the project you’re working on.
What else are you up to at the moment?
I’m working on my second book – it’s a collection of all the different things we make in the bakery – from the traditional cakes and pastries to the canapés and the sculptures. It goes into a lot of detail explaining the science and method of baking, so you can create your own recipes not just mine -its out later in the year. I’m also working on a new bakery project in Suffolk.
Are you the same talented in cooking food as you are in making cakes?
Not even close! I’m working on that!
Lily Vanilli Bakery
6 The Courtyard
Ezra St. London