If you’re after a bespoke cake fit for a queen for your big day, LionHeart, an online-based Pâtisserie Studio founded by extraordinaire pastry chefs Nikki Albertyn and Karmen De Reuk, is the place to go. The business partners and childhood best friends are motivated by a shared infatuation for sweet, sugary treats which shines through in all of their creations. Nikki and Karmen pay equal attention to both design and flavour while at work in their kitchen, resulting in state-of-the art sweets that look every bit as delightful as they taste.
Read our fun interview with the pair, alongside a selection of luscious desserts, from custom cakes to creative confections.
For those who don’t know, what is the story behind LionHeart? How did you get the idea for the bakery?
Nikki: The concept for LionHeart was born on a vacation to Europe in 2014. There was a Porter Robinson album myself and my boyfriend listened to death, with a track called ‘Lion Hearted’ on it. Something changed in me over that holiday and that song really made me feel that change (as weird as that may sound), almost like a rising sense of bravery to start a new venture. I’d been working as a graphic designer and the itch to step into the entrepreneurial space became real when I had completed a part-time pastry course at Silwood in 2015. After posting what I was making at school I started to get requests to bake for people. Less than a year later I went full-time and had my best friend from school join me to take over the world with sweet, cakey goodness.
Who or what have been the biggest inspirations for your career?
Nikki: Both Katherine Sabbath (AUS) and Meringue Girls (UK) have inspiring stories behind how their businesses started. Katherine Sabbath was a school teacher that now makes the most beautiful cake creations that have blown up all over Instagram, whereas the Meringue Girls have built a solid brand on being creative with one simple product – meringues.
Where does your love for baking sweet, sugary things come from?
Nikki: To be honest, I only really developed my love for baking and sweet treats after going to Silwood. I was much more into the cooking space – growing up, my mom and I would spend lots of time together cooking up a storm and making the most delicious salads for guests at our beach house over the holidays. We still do it, but now I’m always keen to do the dessert as well!
What are your earliest memories of baking and what are your fondest memories of baking to date? Do you remember the first dessert you ever baked?
Nikki: I can’t say that I remember the first dessert I ever made but I do have a few sweet experiences that stand out in my mind:
1. My cousin and I would bake cupcakes under the supervision of her nanny, who would let us eat the glacé icing out the bowl with a spoon till we felt ill.
2. Making Rice Krispie Treats for market days at school – I still love those things to this day.
3. Making Peppermint Crisp tart at Karmen’s house over weekends.
What did you make today?
Karmen: Other than making the required bazillion gallons of Swiss Meringue Buttercream for this weeks orders – we frosted, tiered and decorated a wedding cake for a styled bridal shoot organised by 2ic Projects which will be featured in SA Weddings. It isn’t a well-rounded day without having some time to play and product develop… We are working on an exciting Easter promo, where we are hoping to do some really cute Easter themed LionHeart Rocket Pops. Eeeek, so excited!
What is a typical work day like for you?
Karmen: We typically start off with tea to discuss the work for the day. With a small team of two we need to divide the admin, orders and marketing between us. You might find us full of frosting typing emails in the corner of the kitchen surrounded my mountains of cake and sprinkles. The cake life isn’t all that glamorous of course, we are part-time cleaners too. To achieve what Nikki likes to call the ‘feng shui’ of the kitchen, we are creatively interrupted by having to do dishes at least 15 times a day. Lastly, each day ends with a 45-minute full kitchen scrub down. We might treat ourselves to a little chai tea in between it all.
What makes the perfect cake and what are you personal favourite treats?
Karmen: FLOWERS…My perfect cake includes a colourful textured buttercream style, topped with an array of flowers to match this colour palette.My second favourite is to play around and use various decorative components to achieve a LionHeart Big Bang – the one below is an Island themed 21st birthday cake we did recently. Nikki introduced me to Hoghouse’s Pasteis De Nata treats. These custard-filled Portuguese tarts are my new binge. People seem to think we do not get excited to eat cake. We LOVE cake!
What is next for you business?
Nikki and Karmen: We are still in the planning phases but something that we are really excited about and have been talking about since the beginning, is moving into the workshop space. We’re hoping to launch these in winter this year. Other than that, we are aiming to continue to grow the business, take on more orders and keep loving what we do!