Amazing Bakers & Decorators Interview Series: Lyndel Miller

Our interview series has taken us behind the scenes of amazing blogs, bakeries, events and magazines, but this one is extra special as we speak to Australian stylist and author of ‘Naked Cakes’, Lyndel Miller.

As a freelance food, stills and lifestyle stylist (and originally a cook) based in Brisbane, Lyndel Miller’s food journey began with her parents somewhat iconic cafe and some of Australia’s leading health retreats. From beginnings in commercial kitchens she grew to dabbling in design, interior design, art, varied crafts, natural medicine, sales and marketing. It wasn’t until she found and explored photo styling and food styling that Lyndel found her purpose, for the joy of many today.

Six years later and working with award-winning advertising agencies, art directors, editors, producers, corporates, food manufacturers, publishing houses, small businesses and individuals, Lyndel’s life long love of baking has now been celebrated in her beautiful book, Naked Cakes.

Living by the motto that foodie friends are the best friends, join us to discover Lyndel’s journey to create Naked Cakes and inspire bakers all over the world with her simple formula for creating easy, visually stunning layer cakes, for any occasion!

Naked Cakes Cover

Q: Lyndel, what do you think is your first baking memory? Was it your own or eating someone else’s delicious creation?

L: I’m sure I was delighting in baked goods from a very young age. But my first memory of being awestruck in the kitchen was my Mum’s pavlova. She used to make it for special occasions, especially Christmas. It’s burnt into my memory. I remember visiting the fridge often to view it in all its glory. It’s swirls and ripples. I loved all its textures. I’d linger in the open fridge door for a while. Mounds of freshly whipped cream with speckles of vanilla through it and pinch of icing sugar (I usually got to lick the bowl) ..I loved that too! Topped with the freshest of seasonal fruit! There wasn’t any skimping on produce ( that’s a trend in our family, we all cook for an army !) … strawberries, mango segments, peaches, banana and generous slashing of passion fruit pulp.. a few sprigs of mint, maybe some strawberry flowers..it was just magnificent.

Oh, and the vanilla slices from Pinkerton Bakery in Manly NSW. In the days when you used to be able to drive down the Corso. I’d dream about those.. Sadly this bakery no longer exists. Mourning.

I once went on a dessert trail with Masterchef Skye Craig, to find the perfect vanilla slice…( amongst other sweeties ). Nothing came close. Perhaps .. The French Lettuce in Carlton, Melbourne.

Q: Everyone has a sense of their own baking ‘style’ from cakes, to muffins, breads, cookies etc.. What is your favourite thing in the world to bake and why?

L: Cakes of course. For me they are celebratory. I create them for special occasions, in fact I don’t bake them just for the sake of it.

They are my culinary gift to another. I delight in the smiles I receive from others who love to receive them.

Lychee Cake with Mascarpone Buttercream_WEB

Q: Tell us about your beautiful new book, Naked Cakes. How did it come to life?

I fell in love with the idea of Naked Cakes after my sister created a semi naked cake for my wedding. It was charming, not to mention delicious. I loved its rustic, honest and unpretentious nature. It was the nicest gift to receive. One from the heart. A gift of time and creativity. This made an impression on me. Sarah had considered the flavour we would enjoy and made the cake to fit my wedding theme.

One day the penny just dropped. I wanted to make a book on Naked Cakes.I wanted to take the reader through the process of creating a special cake for someone they love. What flavour would you choose? What fillings?  How would you crown or adorn your cake? What would be your masterpiece?

How would you present it? and then the book would supply them with all the tools to get started. My book is a little different to most. It includes a chapter on the simplest of flavour pairing. It has a chapter on base cakes, fillings and frostings and abundant chapters on new ways to decorate cakes. You’ll even find edible blooms. There is no fondant to be found. In addition I share some ideas I have created with this approach with a few of my favourite  cake recipes and flavour profiles in the mix.

I couldn’t stop there so I’ve added tips with how you would set the scene and tabletop. Preparing it for the cake that would grace your equally swoon worthy table where all things and all guests are considered. The simplest and prettiest of DIY crafts to help you do so.

I believe that creating an atmosphere being equally as important as creating the cake to share and going the extra mile. This is now I was brought up.

This is cooking with love. The selfless kind.

A book that’s not only full of stunningly beautiful cakes but loads of inspiration. Whether you are a first time baker or a veteran I’m sure you’ll love it. It’s not the type of book that intimidates.This was a deliberate choice. It’s the type of book that empowers. Created for those that love to create, bake and share, or just love the idea of this and want to learn how.

I pitched this to my publisher and they too fell head over heels with the concept.

So it began.

Rosemary Lemon Cake_WEB

Q: What was it like testing, baking & photographing so many cakes in a short time? Where did the leftovers go? Could you even look at a cake afterwards?

L: I loved every minute of it! but yes, I did need a break from the sweeties for a while. Months in fact ! I had many volunteers and many a cake to share. You gain new friends! ( jokes ) The house was full of them! It smelt delicious.

Q: What is your favourite cake from the book? What do you think is everyone else’s favourite?

L: My favourite is the Coconut Limoncello cake with lemon curd and honey buttercream. I must admit I made this for myself. All the others I made to appeal to my varied readers. I wanted something for everyone. It reflects my style and my palette.

Everyone’s else’s favourite? The choice is divided, there are so many to choose from. There really is something for everyone. There is gluten free, vegan and sugar free recipes amongst the traditional. My vegan readers love My Watermelon cake. A 70’s fave. What’s more exciting is I’m seeing what cakes my readers create using my cake creating principles in the book. I’m loving this!

Watermelon Cake_WEB

Q: As well as publishing your beautiful book, you’re an accomplished stylist. What are your tips for photographing beautiful cakes and sweet treats to look Instagram-worthy?

L: There is a lot more to beautiful food photography than most think. It’s an art. Some photographers have an affinity for it and some don’t. I work with some amazing ones. So photography tips, I’d leave that to the experts.

As far as making the food look as glorious mouth watering, and swoon worthy that you wish smell- a -vision existed well, Let the food speak for itself.

Show off all the details that appeal to you in the first place. The cakes crumb, it’s lusciousness, show how moist it is.. perhaps it’s the crust?

Compliment it with colour to look it’s best. If you are a blogger, start with a colour wheel and its principles. Explore your angles. It’s all experimentation. It’s always a process. Just explore it. AND – always photograph food in natural light. I think it’s a crime to shoot in artificial. Props help as do surfaces/ backgrounds, but they must be relevant. You are creating a story, so make sure the message is clear. For instance you wouldn’t have rolling pin in a muffin baking story, or a saucepan in a meringue story. Every little detail is considered. Look to food magazines like Delicious and Gourmet Traveller. The more you actually observe the more you’ll learn.

The rest of the tips, well you’ll have to book me for those (laughs).

Q: Have you has any memorable cake-fails? Would you care to share one with us?

L: Baking fails, I’ve had a few. There are so many variables aren’t there ? Discovered hot spots in ovens, forgetting the eggs! Over cooking! Doubling a recipe doesn’t always work!

The most memorable was doubling the butter content in an already butter laden brownie recipe .. Not concentrating obviously .. It wasn’t such a fail though. Funny enough it tasted amazing but it was ridiculously rich.

Q: Can you see any fun new trends in cake or sweets developing for the year ahead?

L: Decadence is always going to be in fashion and we are always going to be looking back to the past, and be nostalgic. We all love those sweets we grew up with and Mummas cooking. I’d like to see more bush foods in baking. I would personally like to explore this more.

Q: Lastly, what Queen products are in your pantry right now? Do you have a favourite Queen product?

L: All the vanillas! My fave – Vanilla paste ! It’s a staple in my pantry. I’m never without it. I’m a little heavy handed with it too. I love Vanilla. Oh, the smell!!! (close second to coffee).

To discover more of Lyndel’s styling work, follow her on Instagram.

Preview some of her recipes from the book here and grab your own copy of her book here.

NAKED CAKES COMPETITION – Entries Open!

Show us your very own Naked Cake Creation and be in the running to win one of three Naked Cake Baking Kits! ENTER HERE

To enter:
1. Post your original photo of a naked cake you have made.
2. Describe in 200 words or less a) the cake flavour b) the icing flavour c) the decorations and d) the reason or occasion you made the cake for

You could win one of three Naked Cake Baking Kits consisting of Lyndel Miller’s ‘Naked Cakes’ recipe book, a Breville Scraper Mixer Twin, Breville Freeze & Mix plus Queen Vanilla Bean Paste and Gel Food Colours, valued at RRP$775.

If you like, you’re welcome to add your recipe too, but it’s not mandatory. Good luck!

Terms and conditions: http://queen.com.au/terms-conditions-naked-cakes-competition/
Discover inspiration in Lyndel Miller’s Naked Cake recipes : http://queen.com.au/tag/naked-cakes/