Lily Vanilli is getting ready for Halloween when we visit her at the lock house where she lives on Regent’s Canal in east London. Featured in the latest issue of AnOther Magazine, the self-taught baker is known for her creative approach and for finding inspiration in unexpected places. “The bleeding hearts are an easy crowd pleaser,” she tells us. “They’re also fun and enjoyably gross to make. The meringue bones are really simple and cute too.”
Her recently published baking book, Sweet Tooth, features recipes for the hearts – which are red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting, fondant, and a mixed berry coulis blood – the meringue bones, and for candied shattered glass as well. “You make it in sheets and then smash it,” she says. “It’s what they use in films when people smash through panes of glass. It’s more brittle than real glass so it breaks easier, and tastes better.”
In Sweet Tooth, Lily Jones (aka Vanilli) encourages people to be bold when they’re baking – to get the basics down first, but then to enjoy the baking process as a form of artistic expression and not simply a formal process. In the introduction she writes: “There are countless examples of well-loved desserts that were born out of mix-ups in the kitchen… everything I know about baking I have learned through trial and error; through reading and practice. I have always been free to experiment, applying my own touches to recipes.”
“The bleeding hearts are an easy crowd pleaser – they’re also fun and enjoyably gross to make"
No stranger to baking for Halloween, Jones’ previous book and baking kit, A Zombie Ate My Cupcake, featured recipes inspired by insects, roadkill, and zombies, including marzipan beetles and Fallen Angel cakes. This year her own plans for Halloween include making cakes for the Museum of London, and for an event at Shoreditch House.
Looking forward, Jones is also getting ready for the holiday season at the Lily Vanilli bakery on Columbia Road Market. “I’ve included lots of winter recipes like mulled wine granita, absinthe hot chocolate and really fiery gingerbread,” she says. “Also most of the recipes have suggested winter alternatives so you can adapt them according to the season. Basically everything gets a bit more boozy.”
Cakes made by Lily Vanilli for The Hunger photoshoot were donated to a WaterAid fundraiser at a local primary school.
Text by Ananda Pellerin