CAKE CONVERSATIONS WITH ‘FROM THE WILD’
Wildly creative, generous and raw. These are the adjectives (amongst many others) that come to mind when you first lay eyes on the earthy creations of ‘From the Wild’ by Shanti Wilby. She is the perfect illustration of someone turning a need into a niche and I can’t encourage you enough to read till the end cause this interview is packed with gold info nuggets.! But I’ll step aside now, and allow this gorgeous lass do the talking on another superb segment of CAKE CONVERSATIONS: Gluten Free, Vegan & Dietary Cakes.
Tell us about yourself, your life and your biz. How did you start your caking journey and what made you want to launch From The Wild? Walk us through your start-up journey – from idea to launch
My caking journey started at a very young age! My family is German. I was born in Germany but we moved to Australia when I was 2 years old. But I have so many fond memories of picking apples in my grandparents orchard in Germany when we visited, watching my Oma make gorgeous German cakes – plum tarts, apple pies, baked cheesecakes; eating Quince jelly that my Opa made, and then later on seeing my mum cater for family and friends through her own love for baking and sharing food.
I think the first cake I ever made was when I was maybe 8 or 9. My friend and I would spend the weekends finding new cake recipes and baking all by ourselves. We felt so grown up and independent! The first cake we ever made, we forgot to add the eggs and it just ended up being rock hard. It was hilarious, but my curiosity for baking and my love for making food for others grew from there!
For the majority of my childhood, I grew up in the Adelaide hills, we lived (and now run the business from the same property) a 21 acre property with scattered fruit trees. I feel like growing up in this environment has always sparked my love for food, baking and sharing this experience with others.
Throughout my childhood, though, I had a lot of health issues and a sensitive digestive system. I had candida and many food intolerances for many years, and I was unwell a lot in my teenage years. Fast forward into my adult years, I am now gluten and dairy intolerant, so going out to eat and getting dessert when we go out is a real challenge for me. My choices are so limited. I think about people on FODMAP diets, or with other extensive health issues that affect their diet, and I just wanted to create food that was beautiful, nourishing and decadent that could be experienced by those with limited choices.
I spent some years living in Byron Bay, from 2012-2015 and that really sparked my passion for plant based food. I had the opportunity to work at Gaia and I assisted a friend, Jules Galloway, who was a naturopath that regularly held food workshops and high teas that were vegan and paleo friendly. Seeing Jules doing what she loved and watching the chefs at Gaia create such incredible food really solidified my passion for plant based food and I started to find vision for my own business ventures. I placed myself in situations where I could learn and grow in curiosity and that deepened my resolve to start my own business, once we had moved back to Adelaide.
The moment that really hit the nail on the head for me, was when I went to a graduation dinner (in Byron of all places). We pre booked our dinner and pre communicated my dietary requirements. When it came to dessert everything looked amazing. From apple pies to chocolate puddings and baked cheesecakes. I thought to myself, oooh I wonder what I’ll get…! The bowl landed in front of me and I was totally underwhelmed. A freaking bowl of tinned fruit salad. TINNED!! No fresh fruit. Just tinned. I was like THAT’S IT I’m doing something about this!! I’m going to create my own awesome scrumptious desserts for people!
The moments that give me joy, is when I cater an event or drop off desserts and someone comes up to me and says something like, “so which flavour is gluten free AND dairy free?” Or .. “which one is gluten free and vegan?” And my response is ALL OF THEM! The look on their face is priceless. Their expression is somewhere between “it’s Christmas” and “I could kiss you” !! I love these moments because I know how frustrating it can be to have limited or no choices when you go to a catered event, or a wedding.
I feel so privileged to be able to do what I do, and to know that I am contributing to the vegan/plant based food culture in it’s culturally formative stages. I can’t wait to see how our business sevolves, and how the food scene grows as more people become aware of alternative approaches to desserts and plant based food practices.
You have a very unique niche, tell us about your unique selling point, business ethos & product line.
Our products and ethos really stem from my passion for creating food for people with limited food options (from food intolerances), and alternative lifestyle choices. I wanted to create a food product that would be beautiful visually and overwhelmingly delicious, with lots of different textures and flavours. Attention to detail is a huge motivator and driving force for me in how I sell and present my cakes.
A lot of the time when I tell people I’m a cake maker they get so excited. But then when I list the types of cakes we make “gluten free, plant based, vegan friendly” you can tell their facial expressions change a bit and often their enthusiasm turns into polite nodding. Haha.
I think that’s because when we think about eating food that is “free” from all those things, or “healthier” people expect it to be bland, or dry and unexciting. This has been challenging for me, because in some ways it feels like you have to convert people to liking your cakes, or convince them that they’re still delicious. But I’ve been really overwhelmed with the positive feedback and excited responses we have received in both our wholesale feedback from cafes, and our event cake feedback from our private order customers! My main desire is that our cakes would be well known for the attention to detail, the style, and that people can really see the love and care that goes into each product.
A lot of people struggle with allergen-free baking and diet-specific cakes. How have you developed your baking style to cater for those with diet specifications?
For me, this style of baking started out of my own dietary needs and it has evolved from there! I LOVE experimenting in baking techniques and I often feel more like a mad scientist than a cake maker! I am always interested in new plant based forms of baking and blending and how those ingredients are used to create different and unique textures and flavours. It is a completely different type of food science and often the ingredients are quite temperamental so it can sometimes be quite challenging to experiment. But making space to learn new techniques is really important to me
What are your top 3 Gluten-free baking tips?
Hmmm!! I would say first and foremost, make sure you find a good flour blend. A lot of flour blends are so processed and starchy so I would suggest visiting your local organic store/grocer and asking them about the gluten free flour they sell.
Do lots of research and have some fun looking at blog posts for gluten free baking. I read a lot of recipes and find a lot of inspiration from other food bloggers in how they tackle gluten free baking and vegan baking and the ratios they use.
And thirdly have enjoy the process! If you’re new to gluten free baking, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get it right straight away. Be patient with yourself and experiment with flavours that you love and flavours you’re familiar with. Gluten free baking takes time to familiarise yourself with, so take notes as you go, record the successes and the mistakes and always feed your curiosity. Ask questions, reach out to food bloggers. There is an amazing community out there, and so many generous people who love sharing their knowledge and baking tips with those who will listen!
What are your top 3 Vegan baking tips?
Read as much as you can and watch lots of you tube videos!
Similar to Gluten free baking, vegan baking is also so different to conventional baking. The ingredients react differently, and it takes time to get to know what the right consistency of certain ingredients should be.
My main tip would be, don’t overwhelm yourself with too many new techniques. Master one thing at a time. For example, vegan egg replacement. There are so many great alternatives! Pick your favourite sweet treat (for example brownies) and then learn to master that with different techniques. There are SO many great recipes and blogs out there, that are fun, delicious and in depth and educational to help you on your GF vegan baking journey!
What are your fav books & resources for this unique category of baking?
Oh there are so many!! For gluten free baking, I really love Emma Galloway’s books “My Darling Lemon Thyme” and “Real Food Kitchen” I use her recipes regularly, for so many meals and weekend baking, and can her recipes can be easily substituted in dairy free and vegan alternatives in her recipes) Link – http://www.mydarlinglemonthyme.com/
Another is the lovely Anthea from Rainbow Nourishments. Her blog posts and ebooks are just stunning and the recipes are so delicious. Link – http://www.rainbownourishments.com/
Acorn Kitchen cookbooks have also been a huge inspiration to me in learning different and new techniques, and plating techniques too. I had the pleasure of eating at their restaurant a few years back, in England, and it was seriously mind blowing! Link – http://www.acornvegetariankitchen.co.uk/
And last but most certainly not least, Matthew Kenney Cuisine. Their recipes and plant based academy is so incredible. I have done one of their courses and I hope to do more in the future, but I have learnt so much behind the science of plant based techniques and the different approaches to making food, from them. Seriously amazing stuff! Link – http://www.matthewkenneycuisine.com/
There are many bakers out there who don’t know how to expand into wholesale orders. What advice would you give to someone wanting to expand their business into catering for cafes/restaurants & other businesses on an ongoing basis?
That is such a good question! We have been supplying cafes for almost two years now and it has been an incredible experience so far. These are my main tips, from what I’ve learnt so far!
Keep it simple:
When approaching a new café/starting a wholesale product line keep it really simple! Start with a few flavours that you know you have really nailed. Make sample boxes, create a price list and just get out there!
Choose the cafes you want to stock:
When approaching cafes, really do your research. Look at their Instagram feed – how do they advertise themselves? Do they tag their cake stockists and give credit where it’s due? What kind of feedback/reviews do they have on their facebook page? Really make sure you stock the places YOU want to stock. And if you go in there and don’t feel they would be a good fit for your product, then don’t be afraid to say no! Selling wholesale is a lot of hard work, and it really has to be rewarding for you, so making sure you choose cafes that will celebrate your product and give it the care it needs in the fridge/food cabinet is SO important!
Think about longevity:
One of the most challenging things is finding ways to create a product with a good shelf life. For us, this is a challenge because everything we do is preservative and refined sugar free. Make sure you test your product at home, in your own fridge. Check the taste, consistency and colour of the product each day to see how it handles, and make adjustments accordingly. You can also have your product tested in a certified lab to determine it’s shelf life.
And lastly, don’t compete on price!
Provide a product that is high quality, made with all of the love and worth very penny. This was the advice my accountant gave to me (accountant/constant source of life wisdom), and it has been a nugget of wisdom every time I go to price anything. Obviously you want to create a product that is affordable as a wholesale item, but don’t short change yourself in the process.
I’m sure an ambitious caker like you is currently looking ahead towards new projects, future goals, expansion etc ..Soooo, What’s on the horizon for you?
Always always! Perhaps too many new projects…!
It’s interesting because I am currently in the process of looking to diversify, and I’ve had a few people prompt me to really ask myself what it is that I want to invest my time into, in the business. I really love the wholesale aspect of things – we have worked so hard to create a rhythm that works (and it is actually finally working), and now that the wholesale is more streamlined, I’m looking at my other passions and skill sets within the business and asking myself, where to from here!?
I have a lot of loves and passions around food, but one thing I know for sure, I LOVE seeing other people empowered and educated around food and having fun with cakes and growing in their own confidence around cake styling, so 2018 will be the beginning of us launching some intimate plant based cake workshops, as well as some exciting collaborative events I am working on with other businesses and foodies in SA and Australia. I’m excited to invest more of my time into workshops, and to see how they evolve, and what kind of response we receive. I will be holding some fun preliminary workshops on vegan chocolate making, but I’m also developing some more in depth cake styling workshops on how to make vegan butter cream for perfect piping, layering tiers, and how to play with different colour palettes using alternative coloured powders that are natural and plant based.
The workshops will be be as interactive and hands on as possible, for each attendee to really get the opportunity to immerse themselves in the experience and to grow in their cake styling confidence and have a play with different ingredients! Each workshop will have a different theme and styling colour scheme. I’m really looking forward to it!
Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Balls RECIPE
This recipe is my go to recipe for a healthy (and slightly decadent) protein rich snack, but it’s also perfect to share with friends at a picnic, or to pop on a vegan cake for some extra texture and shape! It is so simple, and so delicious! – Shanti Wilby
- 100g almond meal
- 110g smooth peanut butter
- 40g maple syrup
- 5g Maca powder
- Pinch of salt
- 50g vegan dark chocolate chips (I use Loving Earth dark chocolate)
- *Optional – 100g dark chocolate, melted.
- Place the almond meal, peanut butter, maple syrup and maca powder in a food processor and process on medium speed for 15-20 seconds, or until the mixture has combined and looks like a fine textured crumb. Scrape down the sides with a spatula.
- Add the dark chocolate chips and pinch of salt and process for a further 10 seconds, medium speed until combined.
- Transfer to a bowl. Roll the dough into balls, this mixture makes 6 – 8 cookie dough balls, depending on the size you roll them into.
- Optional – dip the cookie dough balls into the melted dark chocolate and let set in the fridge for 15 mins
- Store in an airtight container for up to 7 days, in the fridge
Note: If a softer consistency is preferred, you may add an extra 20g of macadamia/cashew butter or 25-30g of peanut butter.