If you’ve been keeping up with LWH over the past few days, you’ve probably gone to bed dreaming of Juli Sterten-Gill’s exquisite cakes and desserts. Juli is one of Melbourne’s premier cake artisans, and she’s been kind enough to give us her thoughts on everything from macarons to fashion-forward desserts to her baking inspiration. In today’s post we chat to Juli about putting together that perfect dessert table, and about DIY dos and don’ts for those enterprising brides who like to take things into their own hands.
In which we discuss putting together that perfect dessert spread
We’d be lying if we said that dessert isn’t important to us. After all, what better way to cap off a perfect day than with a truly splendiferous spread of sugary delights? With dessert being the culinary climax of the night, it’s no surprise that couples put so much time and effort into creating a spread that will give their friends and family enough energy to make that one last round of the dance floor. So what’s involved in preparing that memorable spread? Is there (heaven forbid) a tug-of-war involved?
Juli assures us that this is far from the case. “I’ve never dealt with anyone who outlandish expectations,” she said. It turns out that the biggest obstacle she, and others in the industry face, is getting others to understand the amount of skill and labour that goes into creating a delectable spread. The three words that break her heart? “It’s just cake.” While for some cake really is just cake, to artisans like Juli the possibilities involved in her work are so much greater. ”It’s a wonderland of ideas just waiting to be realised,” she adds.
So once Juli’s apprised her clients of the intensive work that goes into producing her work, what then? “Generally, the ball is in my court once the order is confirmed,” she says. We can’t help but feel somewhat relieved for her at this! Juli sets to work determining the amount of space that she’ll need for her dessert spread, and will take some time to prepare a table design that will show of her spread to its best advantage. “When the venue is a function function centre, I work with the co-ordinator in terms of placements and access,” she says. Home-based venues are slightly different, though. “When it’s in a home we first ensure that the table is away from the elements. After that, we determine what the backdrop is or will be, and work up a table plan from there.”
A table plan? This sounds rather more involved than our own dessert efforts, which typically involve plopping a wonky cake in the centre of a coffee table.
“All my tables follow a couple of basic unshakeable rules,” says Juli. The most important of these? That her work is displayed on her personal collection of vintage glass pieces, and that it’s always set to a plan. She also points out the importance of scale and perspective to the design. ”Once you explain to clients about how the eye travels over a room and stops on a cake or table carefully set-up for maximum effectiveness very few will insist,” she says, with good humour, “on having Great-Aunt Bunny’s grey goose cake toppers front and centre.”
In which we discuss DIY baking
But it’s not always Great-Aunt Bunny who wants to have her grey goose cake toppers front and centre. With today’s trend towards DIY weddings, and the nefarious influence of shows such as Masterchef, many couples are slipping on an apron and taking to the kitchen with a baking marathon in mind. But while the grey geese will probably take a backseat, we can’t help but feel that getting in on the baking action is, for some, courting disaster.
When we ask Juli for some DIY tips, she’s pragmatic in her response. “If you’re planning on a DIY-a-palooza, but lack that all-essential ‘DIY gene’, then move on!” After all, planning a wedding or big event is stressful enough without taking on extra responsibilities. “You’ll inflict so much stress on yourself if things don’t go to plan, look as they should, or save you any money,” she says. The advice every would-be DIYer should take to heart? “Know when to walk away and call in the professionals!”
But to those DIYers who won’t be dissuaded by such sage advice, she offers a few valuable tips. Her first? Google is your friend. “Know what you want to source, then let good ol’ Google do the work for you,” she says. But while Google seems like the stuff of miracles, it won’t solve all of your problems.
“Make sure you know your limit,” she adds. “Those favour boxes may be cheap, but if they have to be shipped from the other side of the planet, be assembled and filled by unwilling volunteers–and all before being transported to the venue or to the home of another unwilling volunteer–then that bargain may not be all it seems!”
In which we discuss mistakes, which do happen!
Juli speaks from years of experience, and while her culinary mistakes have been few and far between–”touch wood!” she says–even an expert suffers from the odd blooper. To make ourselves feel a little better about our shattered dreams regarding DIY baking, we ask Juli if she has any baking-related skeletons in her closet.
While we’ve smoked out our ovens, stuck things to pans, and turned Turkish delight into tofffee, it turns out that Juli’s worst disaster to date has been mixing up the flavour for an order, something she didn’t find out until after the event. “The client said to me, ‘the cakes were gorgeous, and delicious, but weren’t they supposed to be vanilla?’” She’s squeamish at the memory, saying with a blush, “I still cannot work out how I managed to read chocolate for vanilla!” But like any professional, she made sure to own up to her error. “The only thing you can do is apologise sincerely, and make it right. I owned up and worked with the customer to find a solution that they were comfortable with,” she said.
In which we discuss avoiding mistakes
While the chocolate-lovers at LWH can’t help but feel that the above mix-up was probably quite fortuitous to many of the guests in attendance at the wedding in question, we find ourselves wondering at the other mistakes that can occur throughout the wedding planning process more generally. Juli is quick to point out that your biggest mistake is bowing to the opinions of others. ”It’s your wedding no matter what,” she says. “You’re not marrying your second-cousin’s husband’s friend’s brother, so the fact that they think that roses for your bouquet are “so yesterday” is irrelevant!”
“Have the wedding you want to have, your way,” she adds. “What anyone but your partner to be thinks does not matter. Really.” After this impassioned response, we can’t help but ask Juli whether she has any thoughtful pieces of advice to offer to those about to be married.
“The best piece of wisdom I have is to love each other,” she says. Everything else is just detail. The only thing that will matter after all the confetti is cleared away, the hangovers have passed and the bills are paid, is that you love each other.”
This post is the final part in our interview with Juli from Sweet Cupcakes and Treats. If you haven’t already, be sure to read part 1, in which Juli discusses dessert trends and macarons, and part 2, in which Juli discusses her love of vintage treats. Be sure to drop by Julie’s website, which features plenty of gorgeous pics not included here!