2 minutes with Hayley McKee
Occupation: Cake Baker
Business: Sticky Fingers Bakery
We've shared Hayley's recipe for her Golden Saffron Pumpkin cake over on our Recipe page.
Do you have a secret food indulgence?
Well, I’d say I have a problem with chilli flakes and chilli sauce. It goes on everything, from poached eggs to lasagne. I’m quite heavy handed with fennel seeds and feta cheese, too.
How did you get into baking professionally? Any particular mentors you met along the way? Baking started as a mode of relaxation for me, then I decided to pack in my media job and just commit to making a business out of it. That was ten years ago. In the early years, I was lucky enough to cross paths with Nat Paull who at the time had just sold her wholesale cake business, Little Bertha. Nat is now known for her sweet nook, Beatrix, in North Melbourne. Her cake know-how and business advice was and still is, a major helping hand for me.
What was the moment when you thought you’ve made it?
That moment constantly changes and there’s always new ideas and goals on the horizon. Right now, I’m the happiest I’ve been with my profile though. Having my cookbook released internationally was a moment of validation for me and I feel like my baking style which draws on natural flavours and colouring straight from the garden is really being noticed.
Tell us how your cookbook ‘Sticky Fingers Green Thumb’ came to be?
I’d been searching for a cookbook that would teach me how to utilise produce from my kitchen garden for baking desserts. I never found the book, so I started compiling my own notes on how vegetables, herbs and edible flowers can be grown and then used in cakes, brownies and cookies. I was featured on the cover of Epicure/GoodFood ranked as the number one wedding cake designer in Melbourne, and that really lifted my exposure, so the book essentially came into fruition after that milestone. My research and inventions are all in the book and there are close to 60 recipes to get you thinking about how you can bring the outdoors into your baking.
You’ve got some upcoming events, what do you like most about doing these?
It’s brilliant to be able to meet people face to face at the events as most of my work is customer ordered cakes for weddings and celebrations. Pop -up events let me chat with budding bakers and sweet-tooths and I can get to hear first hand how they’ve enjoyed their wedges of cakes and chocolatey bites. My next event is Sunday, September 9th at Grub Street in Fitzroy as part of the Sweet Set event series. I always announce upcoming events on my Instagram (@stickyfingersbakery). There’s another slated for October which I can’t announce yet.
Your creations are certainly Instagrammable. Do you always have a finished visual in mind or do the flavour combinations come first?
Thank you! I love styling the flowers and decorations just as much as creating the soulful, earthy cake flavours. It’s all about taste for me, though. I don’t connect with desserts that look incredible but just taste like a sugary wallop. That’s why my practice really leans on nature and the seasons and finding unconventional, flavoursome additions to add to traditional baked goods.
Any unexpected baking successes you’d like to share?
From the book, I’d say the Miso Eggplant Brownies and the Porcini Caramel Chestnut Cake are the stand out surprises. Both utilise some very savoury flavour notes but cleverly twist them into inviting, intriguing desserts.
What does the future hold for you?
My main goal is looking for that perfect permanent residency or itty-bitty cafe space where I can open my doors to the public on a regular basis. The immediate future sees a busy wedding season!
If we were to visit you in Melbourne, where should we be eating and drinking?
Ohhh, there are so many places I love. We’re very lucky in Melbourne. I’m south side, so I always navigate to Sorsi i Morsi (St Kilda) for truly authentic Italian. Shady Lady is a cool American soul bar that’s just opened in Collingwood. And I’m always stoked to be driving to Kensington to eat real deal Mexican at La Tortilleria. This place makes a killer coffee flan dessert, as well.
Follow Hayley and her cake creations on Instagram @stickyfingersbakery
Hayley’s cookbook Sticky Fingers, Green Thumb is available here. (published by Hardie Grant)
Interview by Amanda Kennedy @artbyamandakennedy