Snippets Issue 21 : The Black Magic Issue

Lily Vanilli

Demon baker Lily Vanilli chats about her gruesome cakes.

Lily Vanilli

It seems only fitting that for the Black Magic Issue I was able to interview Lily Jones aka Lily Vanilli, an innovative baker who is changing the way people look at confectionary forever. While you may have seen cute cupcakes popping up all over the place, Lily focuses on the shocking and sometimes slightly odd. Her new book “A Zombie Ate My Cupcake” shows readers how to make 25 grotesque, ugly, weird and super tasty treats. I took some time to pose 13 questions to the rock n roll baker.

Question 1: Lily, I understand that you trained as a graphic designer what made you
 decide to switch gears and go into baking?

Baking was a hobby, I did lots of different work after finishing my degree but came back from working as a designer in Australia, just as the recession hit, and fell back on baking to make some extra cash at the weekends... it grew from there into a business.
Question 2: was baking something that you were always interested in?

Not always, but I love cooking and experimenting with different flavours and techniques. Baking grew into an obsession just in the last few years.

Question 3: where do you find inspiration for all of the crazy, kooky creations that you make? For instance the bleeding cupcake stabbed with glass?

Lots of places! Things I read, see, imagine... I always loved horror and that’s a big influence. Also, I read a lot about food history and science and there is a world of inspiration there. It was actually a friend of mine Kate Bones who inspired me to work with sugar glass.
Question 4: you must be very excited about your new book “A Zombie Ate My Cupcake”, what made you choose horror as the theme?
I was already making lots of weird and macabre cakes when the publisher approached me. They had the title in mind already and I immediately knew I wanted to make it in a graphic horror novel/comic book style with a lot of horror references in the design and content. It was a really natural process.

Question 5: do you have other themed books planned or is horror where it’s at?

We are planning on doing a follow up to Zombie, the book serves as an introduction to lots of different cake making and design techniques and I want to continue making books with lots of instruction as well as inspiring themes and cake ideas. Maybe 'Zombie' will become a series. However, I am 
starting work on my next book soon and it will be in a very different style, still very conceptual and creative but a very different idea!

Question 6: of all the ingredients you could use why bacon?!

The bacon recipe in the book works with the same flavours as you would have in an American French toast & bacon breakfast - maple syrup, pecan, cinnamon, nutmeg - a very buttery cake topped with very crispy maple-glazed bacon... it's delicious!

Question 7: what is your favourite cake/cupcake/creation?

I like making something new every time. I like a challenge and a totally new visual. But from the book I'd probably say the hearts as they are so realistic and creepy, but really simple to make and delicious.

Question 8: is there anyone or any event in particular that you would love to bake for?

 I am looking forward to working on more of my own events - lots of exciting stuff planned!

Question 9: you have collaborated a number of times with fashion designers. Was this by chance or do you hold a special place in your heart for fashion?

I think it's more that fashion has a special place in its heart for cake! I love working with creative, imaginative people in any field and there are plenty in London that work in fashion. So yes, I'm looking forward to working more with Fred Butler, for example.

Question 10: what keeps you motivated?

Challenges, ideas, inspiration... creating opportunities that self perpetuate.

Question 11: what is next, do you have any other projects in the works?

Yes lots! The Experimental Food Society Spectacular is coming up this month and I will be making a special piece for that. Also the book launches in Oct and we have some fun events planned. Plus I am launching exclusively in Harrods that months too - so we have lots of really varied things planned for Chocolate Week, Halloween and then Christmas - lots of displays, events and fun!

Question 12: what advice would you give to someone wanting to follow their dreams?

Be brave and steer clear of the grindstone.

Question 13: any final thoughts for our readers?

 I would love to see images of cakes people make from or inspired by the book – there is an FB page

Happy Baking!

 xx Lily

You can find out more about Lily Vanilli and see some of her delightful concoctions on her website and her new book “A Zombie Ate my Cupcake” is available on


I love her book have and awwwwwsooommmeeeee!!
Yeah me too!
it reminds me of ms lovett's meat pies.. i love it!

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