London’s hottest young baker Lily Vanilli partnered with Airbnb to host a special Food & Drink Experience, where guests were welcomed into her Hackney bakery to learn the artistry of cake decorating while sipping champagne and enjoying some of her signature sweet treats. Here, she shares her insider’s guide to London.

LILY JONES, AKA LILY VANILLI, is one of London’s brightest baking talents. The self-taught baker and author, who has created bespoke cakes for Elton John, 10 Downing Street, Alexander McQueen, and POP magazine, is beloved for her whimsical confections. She’s been called “one of the most sought-after artisan bakers of her generation” and “the queen of baked goods”, credited with modernizing baking for the millennial generation. Her handcrafted cake decorations often feature fresh flowers, wild berries, shells and dinosaurs sculpted from fondant, and edible glitter. Her flavor combinations, from yuzu and black sesame to pink lemonade meringue, and toasted amaranth and physalis, are equally inventive. “I like to think I was one of the first to use fresh flowers and buttercream on wedding cakes and break from a lot of the traditions they are bound in, as well as making tiered cakes for non-wedding celebrations—at least I hadn’t seen anyone doing anything like it before,” says Jones, who is committed to using fair trade, seasonal ingredients.  

With a few cookbooks under her apron (the latest, #BakeForSyria, raises money for Unicef’s Syria Fund), a popular Sunday-only bakery in London’s Hackney, and another outpost opening soon in Tbilisi, Georgia, Jones is at the top of her game. “I’ve always believed that a cake looks good if it looks like it’s going to taste good,” she says of her signature style. “Fresh, edible, delicious-looking decorations are key. Beyond that, I like to experiment and I’m always trying to do something new and different. I think when you’re really passionate about something it gets in your blood and you find inspiration in everything, from fashion and art to flavors and travel experiences.”

THE EXPERIENCE

“I very rarely open the doors of the bakery during the week or hold any classes, so this is really unique for me,” says Jones of the special Food & Drink Experience she hosted for Airbnb. Guests learned how to decorate a cake using natural flowers and fruits, while sipping on champagne, indulging in Jones’ sweet treats, and hearing about her life as a baker, author, and entrepreneur.

LILY’S LONDON

“I’ve lived in the Hackney/Tower Hamlets area for around 15 years and have had my bakery here for 10 years. I love the amazing food and pubs. There are still a few good spots for playing pool and drinking pints and lots of new places with a good menu and wine list. I recently moved to Bethnal Green, which feels much more like the real London; there are still local butchers and pound shops and not everything is a juice bar yet.”

Cheap Eats: Little Georgia on Goldsmith’s Row for borscht and Mangal in Dalston for Turkish.

Fine Dining: Palomar at the bar.

Coffee Shop: A Portuguese Love Affair on Hackney Road; it’s also my favorite summer spot for wine and snacks outside.

Produce & Provisions: I love the Turkish shops at Broadway Market. Also the local florists like Grace & Thorn and Rebel Rebel.

Beauty: Sarah Carr for facials, Glasshouse or Radio to try and fix my godforsaken hair.

Massage: Refinery E9 or Masaj in E2.

Bar: I like quite dive-y pubs most of the time but otherwise Helgi’s on Mare Street, A Portuguese Love Affair or Sager & Wilde are good for wine and atmosphere.

Art Gallery: I love the National Portrait Gallery, the pre-Raphaelite collection at the Tate, and the sculptures at the British Museum.

Nature: Epping Forest or Hampstead ponds to swim..

Souvenir: A Bread Ahead donut.

DISCOVER MORE FOOD & DRINK EXPERIENCES IN LONDON LIKE LILY’S

Experience in the Spotlight highlights visionary Airbnb Experience Hosts in their cities. Featuring experts including award-winning chefs, celebrated musicians, world-class architects, and professional athletes, we view each city through the eyes of local creatives as they share a wealth of insider tips, secret spots, favorite haunts, and the destinations that inspire their creativity.

Airbnb partnered with superstar baker Lily Vanilli on an exclusive Food & Drink Experience in London, where guests learned how to decorate cakes at her Hackney bakery.