The wedding cake is the centrepiece of the event. It’s what every guest looks forward to, but is almost always disappointed by. Cakes have generally been hideous creations swathed in plasticky, rubbery fondant with artificial flowers overwhelming it. I’ve never liked such cakes, the look or the taste. And I’ve rarely come across a wedding cake that I actually liked.
Enter Gillian Bell’s cakes. Her cakes are visually stunning with a rustic, bohemian aesthetic of buttercream frosting topped with edible flowers, the flavours sound delectable (e.g. white chocolate and lavender cake, couverture chocolate, homemade caramel and peanut praline…) and the best part, all the ingredients are locally and organically sourced.
I can’t wait to get myself to Brisbane (Queensland, Australia) to visit her and try one of her cakes for myself.
Here is her story in her own words…
Every cake I bake has a story to tell – of the dairy farmer up at dawn to send me fresh, creamy milk and butter, the happy chickens scratching in the morning mist laying beautiful golden eggs, the wheat farmer eating breakfast knowing he has a long, hot day of harvesting stretching out before him, drawing on a lifetime of experience that tells him the grain is ripe. Now it is my turn – to call on my lifelong love of baking, and with these wonderful ingredients, bake them into the most special cake of a couple’s lives.
I grew up in a large family and my mother was very busy with children and had little time to bake. So at some point I must have decided that if I wanted cake, and often, I needed to teach myself how to bake it. I also loved to read and had my head in books – books about adventures that were all the more exciting because of the wonderful teatime treats, suppers and picnics that featured in them. I wanted to recreate the homemade treats that I found so powerfully evocative. So what started as baking crisp pastries and fragrant cakes developed into a desire to share with others ‘real’ cake, made from the freshest ingredients, just as it used to be made. Baking has always been part of my life – part of the everyday ordinary events, as well as the special occasions.
I approach baking like an artisan, personally sourcing ingredients and bringing the romance of the kitchen garden to the creation of my cakes, mixing cakes by hand in vintage baking bowls with hand-hewn wooden utensils. My cakes are seasonal, fresh and made with all the care and attention the ingredients, and the occasion, deserve. I choose to use organic, locally sourced produce in my cakes where possible because I know the remarkable difference in quality and taste and it is important to me that my cakes taste delicious as well as look beautiful. I also want to support our farmers and producers who farm sustainably and to pay them a fair price for their efforts so they can continue doing what they do best. I also grow (organically) flowers and fruits in my postage stamp-sized garden that I use to make my own conserves, syrups and preserves for my cakes. If I can’t grow it, I source it from other local organic growers.
I develop my own recipes so couples can have whatever type of cake they like. This means couples can select a cake that will be as unique and as special as their wedding day. Some of the cakes I have made for couples recently include vanilla & mandarin, strawberries & elderflower, dark chocolate & cumquat, pear & ginger, lime & coconut, lemon & lavender and white chocolate & raspberry, filled with homemade curds, preserves and organic buttercreams. My chocolate cakes are made with couverture chocolate.
My cakes are either ‘naked’ (that is, they are not enrobed in buttercream or chocolate so you can see the layers of the cake), or finished with a light dusting of icing sugar, freshly made soft frostings, buttercreams or couverture chocolate ganaches and often simply decorated with the edible flowers that I grow in my little garden, or I can source organic or pesticide-free flowers, or at the very least, locally-grown flowers from a florist of a couple’s choice.
Images from her website.
Last image via The Lane.