Lily outside her London bakery.
Lilly Vanilli's (AKA Lily Jones) career sounds like something pulled straight from a chick lit novel. Girl needs to save a few dollars, so girl bakes cakes and sells them at the markets. Girl is discovered by food writer for The Times, becomes a huge success and is dubbed the baker for the stars. But Jones' career trajectory from graphic designer to uber baker has not been a sugar dusted jamboree. Rather, in between whipping eggwhites and running a highly successful bakery business in London that includes cake sculptures, events catering and a Sunday bakery open to the public, she has released her second cookbook Sweet Tooth. Jones has also collaborated on a UK wide food industry initiative “Young British Foodies”. The ethos of which is the following: "seek out, celebrate and support the unsung heroes of British food.”
It is something that Jones is passionate about.
"There's a quiet revolution happening up and down the country that is changing the face of food in Great Britain on a big scale. We wanted an award that looked beyond the celebrity chefs and food writers, to what's really happening that's new and exciting in British food, and a chance to support those emerging businesses financially as well," she says.
Jones is well placed to judge considering she has worked with some incredible minds in the food, fashion and music industry having baked for Elton John, Veuve Cliquot, Downing Street, Sadie Frost, Levis, and Bompas and Parr.
So what were her favourite projects?
“I always love working with Bompas and Parr, as they push everything to an extreme creatively and make things immensely fun, but perhaps the most challenging project I’ve worked on was the most daunting - making an edible sculpture for the V&A Museum.”
But thankfully for the common folk, Jones' taken the "daunting" out of baking in Sweet Tooth where she takes readers through the basics of baking. As far as Jones is concerned, once you know the science behind baking and are strict with a recipe, “then you can enjoy its freedom.”
And her recipes are genius. As this particular baker can attest, a stained cookbook is a used cookbook and every recipe so far has been a resounding success.
Here is a recipe from Sweet Tooth to boot!
PINK GRAPEFRUIT, ALMOND AND BROWN SUGAR TEA CAKES
This recipe uses a variation on the basic frangipane on page 258, but you can substitute either
recipe for the other. This one is richer because of the brown sugar, and has a deeper caramel
flavour that’s lovely with the tart grapefruit.
Cooking ti me
1 pink grapefruit | use half the zest for the frangipane, see below |
30g flaked almonds
1 tbsp light brown sugar, for sprinkling
2 tbsp apricot jam | optional |
For the frangipane spon ge
150g unsalted butter, room
150g light brown sugar
200g ground almonds
Finely grated zest of 1/2 pink grapefruit
35g plain flour, sifted
One 12-hole cupcake/muffin tray,well greased
One baking tray, lined
1 Preheat the oven to 180°C fan assisted/gas mark 6.
2 Top and tail the zested grapefruit and cut away the peel. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut out the fruit segments from just inside the membrane. Discard the membrane and juice, then place the segments on your prepared baking tray and bake for 20 minutes.
Remove from the oven, and allow to cool. Leave the oven on.
3 To make the frangipane, beat the butter and sugar together for approximately 3 minutes. Beat in the ground almonds and zest, followed by the eggs and then the flour. Spoon evenly into your
prepared cupcake or muffin tray and press a cooled grapefruit segment on top of each. Sprinkle with the flaked almonds and brown sugar.
4 Bake for 20 minutes, or until a cocktail stick inserted into the centre
comes out clean.
5 To make the optional glaze, mix the apricot jam with a few drops of water in a heavy-bottomed pan and heat over a medium heat until runny but not bubbling hot. Brush a little of the glaze over each tea cake as they come out of the oven. Allow to cool in the tray for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.