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We came across the work of Juli Sterten-Gill from Sweet Cupcakes and Treats at a recent event, and were so impressed by her sugary confections that we quite literally did a double-take, which is not something to be recommended in high heels. Needless to say,we quite promptly got in touch to find out a little more about all things cakey, bakey, and delectable, and came away with a good deal of wisdom on the topic. Read on for some insider tips about cakes, cupcakes, and macarons!

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In which we talk cupcakes

Cupcakes popped up seemingly out of nowhere a few seasons ago, but their ubiquity seems to be on the wane, something that has icing-addicted individuals like ourselves feeling somewhat petulant. When we mention this to Juli she agrees that there has been a shift back towards traditional stacked wedding cakes. “But cupcakes will always have a part to play in weddings that are a little left of centre,” she says.  How so? “They can be boxed and personalised to become your wedding cake, your favour and a place card marker all in one. After all, as awesome as stacked cakes are, they can’t multi-task!”

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In which we talk macarons

Assured of the continued existence of our beloved cupcakes, we begin pondering the latest big ticket dessert item: the macaron. Juli, who is quite the macaron expert, points out that macarons, despite looking fabulous, come with their own not insubstantial set of problems. “They require perfect conditions in order to get them ‘just so’,” she says. “Hence their price tag, which in Melbourne runs at an average of around $2.50 each.” She concedes that while the Martha Stewart-inspired approach of attaching them to the exterior of a stacked cake is an appealing one, those hosting a wedding between December and March, or the “sticky season”, might be in for disappointing results.

Oh dear. To our untrained eyes all macarons look like tasty little morsels ripe for the eating. So what exactly is a disappointing macaron? And how does it compare to a good one? Fortunately, Juli comes to the rescue, saving us from our embarrassing ineptitude. “A good macaron will have a few characteristics that set it apart from an average or bad one,” she says. Key things to look for include a “pouffy foot, a shiny shell, and a firm but moist centre.” Unfortunately, she points out, it can be hard to tell a bad macaron until after that first disastrous bite. An overbaked macaron typically has a centre that has shrunken away from the shell, she says. And an underbaked one? “It’ll be gooey at best, or gloopy at worst. I hope no-one ever suffers the experience of a bad macaron!”

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In which we talk macaron risk management

So if we are going to go the macaron route, how should we go about minimising the risk of munching on a mouth of sweet Playdo? Juli’s advice is to make like Occam’s razor and keep things simple. “I offer chocolate macarons only because I love the taste contrast of chocolate and almonds,” she says. In fact, the only variable she introduces is in the fillings. “When you pair chocolate with a sharp flavour such as fresh raspberry or lemon ganache, it’s really heavenly!”

Juli has some additional tips to lower the risk of your macarons dissolving into a gluggy mass before the guests get to them. “Ultimately, macarons are made from egg whites and nutmeal, so while they’re fairly robust little creatures for what they are, they’re far from bullet-proof. If they’ve been left out of the fridge for too long, they’ll go soggy, so sturdy packaging is a must.” Here she pauses. “Of course, the sogginess is also an indicator of an undercooked macaron, but we’ll be kind and assume that’s not the case!”

This post is part 1 of our expert feature with Juli. Stay tuned over the next few days for more insights, and more exquisite pictures! Of course, if you can’t wait until then, Julie’s website features plenty of gorgeous pics to tide you over.

Click here for part 2 of our interview with Juli, in which we discuss dessert trends and vintage sweets.

 

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