If you’re a regular around Surry Hills, you’ll know there’s no better pleasure than sneaking out of the office for a slice of cake at Jillian’s Cakery. Tucked away on the corner of Elizabeth and Reservoir street, the small hole in the wall always makes it worth breaking the diet.
I met Jillian as a result of my wedding cake-maker mixing up her dates and accidentally booking a flight a few days before the wedding. In a small panic, I began emailing every cakery in Sydney in hopes of finding a replacement. It then dawned on me that I was a short block away from one of my favourite cakeries in Sydney, Jillian’s Cakery.
We decided to opt for a different dessert option but I had the pleasure of being invited by Jillian herself to indulge in some of her made-in-store delectable cakes and ask her a few questions about leaving her corporate life to follow her passion for baking.
You left your corporate job in 2013, what was the Eureka moment to do this
Throughout my career, I had always flip-flopped between a traditional corporate job and kitchen work. My eureka moment was turning 40 and realising I didn’t want to regret not going for something that I was passionate about. I decided to lean into myself and to take a chance on opening my own cake shop instead of working for another hotel or someone else’s business.
Have you always loved baking?
Funnily enough, I loved helping my Mum after school as she made treats for us but never translated that into my adult life until I decided to train as a pastry chef at 29. I have to admit before that, I wasn’t very good at even making cookies at that stage!
What’s your favourite cake to make?
My favourite cake to make has got to be the Angel Food cake. It’s an egg white-based cake that solely uses the air trapped inside of the whipped “meringue” to create a light fluffy melt-in-your-mouth sponge. It’s then iced with chantilly cream and filled with strawberries for a beautifully fresh tasting cake. It’s one of the cakes we do only in winter and spring because of its delicate nature.
How have you used social media to evolve and build brand recognition?
We use Facebook and Instagram to promote specials and let our followers and customers know what we’re up to. I even have my own YouTube channel with tutorials and Top 5’s to teach my loyal customers how to do what I do!
Brand recognition is very important to me. We have our logo and stickers of our logo on every piece of cake and paper bag and coffee cup so that when you walk out of Jillian’s Cakery people will see where you bought your treats from. I think it’s the best form of subliminal advertising.
Where do you get inspiration to create new flavours? And what goes into getting it just right?
I love getting inspiration from other cake makers in the industry and of course magazines like Delicious and Taste. I love experimenting with ratios to make it my own!
What are the common problems you think people encounter when baking cakes at home and what tips do you have to bake the most delicious cake?
I think one of the most common issues home bakers face is mixing a batter for too long. That will make the cake taste tough and bread-like. A trick is to only mix the flour until you know all of its disappeared into the mix. Then stop. That will make your cakes much more tender!
How are you working to be more dietary-requirement friendly?
We are currently developing more vegan recipes to be able to cater to a broader range of customers. It’s the way of the future to be more plant-based so it’s only natural that cafes and restaurants are starting to cater to the movement.
What’s planned for the future?
Jillian’s Cakery would love to open a few more locations and be able to have one or two key products in Woolworth’s and Coles and even 7-11!
During my delicious visit to the store, my friend Katie and I were treated to a slice of key lime pie (bottom right), New York cheesecake (middle) and cult-classic red velvet (top).
In my very unlearned opinion, I can report back they were all heavenly and surprised me in their texture and taste.
The key lime didn’t have that synthetic lime taste I’m used to and had a freshness about it. I don’t know how you know, but from the first taste, you know the cake was baked on site.
I’m not the biggest fan of red velvet but this slice had me swayed. Fluffier than I was expecting, the cake didn’t have that sickly-sweet frosting I’m used to when it comes to red velvet.
The New York cheesecake was indulgent yet light and the apple compote topping and crumbly base made it my favourite out of the three.
Jillian is incredibly warm and you can see she puts pride into slicing up every cake.
Next time you’re looking to celebrate a special occasion, or need to escape for a slice and a coffee, I can’t recommend Jillian’s cakery enough.
Be sure to let her know you read my blog when you visit!