Emily Lael Aumiller Interview
Lael cakes is a Brooklyn New York-based boutique cake bakery specializing in vegan, dairy free and gluten-free cakes.
Emily Lael Aumiller is the founder and owner of Lael Cakes. After graduating from New England culinary Institute Emily moved to New York City where she apprenticed with Sylvia Weinstock and Eric Bedoucha of Financier Patisserie.
We spoke with Emily Lael Aumiller about her unique approach to cakes.
Q - I hear a lot about gluten-free products. What exactly does that mean and why is that so important to people?
A - Well, these days depending on whether you have celiac disease, that is you have a lot of sensitivities to certain ingredients, especially with gluten, it’s hard for people to have custom baked goods that cater to their allergies, their lifestyle needs that they can actually eat and enjoy especially on their wedding day. It’s becoming more and more common for people especially in America just the way gluten is produced in America for people to digest it. That’s why it’s more common for people to either have celiac disease or just have sensitivity to it.
Q - I have only heard this recently.
A - It’s becoming more and more common. Again, it’s a lot to do with how we produce our gluten. It’s becoming more and more overproduced which just makes it harder for our bodies to digest. I personally struggled with it and had terrible allergies for years and couldn’t put my finger on it. It ended up being one of the leading ingredients that made my body act poorly to.
Q - That was the main reason why you started your business.
A - It was. I was very involved in the wedding cake industry in New York. I loved what I did. I worked for a lot of the main cake artists all over the city doing custom sugar work and baking and managing other cake businesses and I absolutely loved it, but, in the meantime I’m struggling with allergies because everything I’m touching and eating is what I’m allergic to. That’s mainly why I got into it. I searched high and low around the city for it being such a food trendy city and just even around the country, it wasn’t being offered. There were a couple of bakeries that were offering more rustic style, vegan and gluten free stuff. But, the main question I was struggling with is if all of these incredible custom-designed cakes exist why does that not exist within the ingredients as well? Why can’t we have a custom cake for the inside out?
Q - What would happen to you when you touched one of those ingredients? Would you break out into a rash?
A - Yeah. If you think about it our bodies are just huge organisms. So, anything you’re allergic to like the dyes. I’m really allergic to artificial dyes I found out. So, all the powder dust and the liquid dyes that I’d be kneading into the sugar paste or fondant really affected me. Even being in a bakery and inhaling flower and sugar and not know it. My allergy started to be at their worst when I was working in a bakery in Vermont. I was working in a bread bakery. So, my allergies were just terrible. I just couldn’t figure out why. Now looking back on it the trends I was working on and what I was handling a light bulb goes off. It’s like of course!
Q - Because what you do is so specialized, you have to be in a high population area like New York don’t you?
A - Definitely. One of the reasons I’ve moved here was because of the food industry. It’s forever moving and forever changing and the people are here to support that. So doing something so special here caters to that and it makes it easy for me to access all the special ingredients I need to because I do use such unusual baking ingredients. And there too with the wedding treats here I have people that are traveling all over the world, and all over the country just to have their wedding here because everything here is so accessible so I get to work with people for many different reasons that live locally in that are also just traveling here to access all the specialty things that are available.
Q - There is a big demand then for gluten-free cakes and vegan cakes?
A - There are whether it’s for allergies or lifestyles or personal preference, there is been a big increase in couples that are becoming more knowledgeable about the ingredients used in their wedding cake. Design isn’t the only concern anymore. Couples want their cakes to taste as good as it looks and also cater to their needs without taking away from how good it tastes and what they’re offering to their guests. A lot of my clients don’t even tell their guests that it is vegan or gluten-free if they knew that certain guests don’t really need to know and can’t even tell, my recipes are from scratch. So, they do mock cake and icing very well.
Q – Do you have a celebrity clientele?
A - I do. I’ve worked with a lot of people over the years. Some of the recent clients have been Sophia Vergara of Modern Family, Matthew Robbins, who is Contributing Editor of Martha Stewart and also has his empire. I’ve worked with editors from Elle and Vogue and Stacy London from What Not To Wear. So, it’s opened up some doors to not only work with personal clients but celebrities as well.
Q - You apprenticed with Sylvia Weinstock. Her business is in Manhattan, correct?
A - Correct.
Q - You’re in Brooklyn. Did you live in Manhattan for that apprenticeship?
A - The wonderful thing about New York is that people commute all over the place, like any of the five boroughs really. Just because I’m located in Brooklyn I’ve worked many places in Manhattan, Queens, New Jersey. There’s cake artists spread out through all five boroughs. It’s pretty simple to get to. I’ve always lived in Brooklyn. My husband and I lived in the lower East side for a bit, but, I love Brooklyn. There is just the space and the community and you can still access Manhattan very easily.
Q - When you apprenticed with Sylvia Weinstock. I assume you weren’t getting paid. How then did you live? How to pay your bills?
A - I had a few different jobs. It was an unusual position. She doesn’t take on interns, but, I was working very hard to build up my portfolio. I had been working in the baking and cooking industry before that. So, she just kind of took me under her wing and I did an internship for three months, six months with her under the sculpting department. It was an incredible experience. It was really unusual. It really opened my eyes.
Q - Is she demanding?
A - She has high expectations which she should. She expects a lot. That’s why she doesn’t take a ton of people on. It was really a special opportunity. I kind of walked in off the street after emailing her and showed her my portfolio and for whatever reason she gave me the opportunity to work for her. We built a real wonderful relationship from it. They’re still very supportive of me and my business and stay in touch.
Q - When you tell people you interned under Sylvia Weinstock that impresses people doesn’t it?
A - Definitely it opened up a lot of doors for me. It was definitely something for her to look at my portfolio and see something in me that she didn’t see in other people. So it was great because I was sculpting side-by-side with other people that sculpture her. She just has the most amazing team. A lot of creativity in and out. So, it’s something special. After leaving her and moving on to other bakeries having that name on my portfolio definitely opened up doors for me.
Q - How far in advance to you take orders?
A - It all depends on the season and how intricate and how large of an order they’re looking at. I have people that start working with me sometimes two years in advance, a year in advance and then sometimes people contact me a month in advance for their wedding. And, it all depends on whether I’m booked or not. So, I do recommend people getting in touch with me six months to a year to get the process started to make sure they got there date on the calendar and start meeting. Once I have the date on the calendar and they do a tasting, details then can be worked out throughout the year, or throughout the months up to their wedding. The important thing is meeting and making sure the date is open and free for us.
Q - How many people work alongside you?
A - I have a very small team, one assistant and I bring on freelancers which is really great to have throughout my busier seasons. That way I have flexibility and then I worked with the Natural Gourmet Institute with their internship program. So, I have some students that come in and out and do earn college credits which is really fantastic.
Q - Do you only make wedding cakes?
A - I make all custom cakes. Mostly wedding cakes, but I also do a lot of custom birthday cakes or even kids cakes that are just very unique and on the high end and upscale. So, lots of custom pastries as well.
Q - Do you make cookies as well?
A - Well, I do. I offered dessert tables. As long as they’re putting in a custom order with the cake, sometimes will do dessert tables too. So, I do everything from Caramel covered apples to macaroons to cupcakes to doughnuts. We have a wedding coming up in a couple of weekends where they’re doing a huge cake and the very large dessert tables. But, it’s all going to be gluten free and vegan. So, we do offer a lot of custom desserts too.
Q - After a day in the bakery, when you go home, who cooks dinner?
A - We take turns you know. It’s fun to go home and cook. It’s relaxing to me. Baking is such a scientific procedure. I love cooking because you just get to toss it in and make it taste good. But, my husband is very good at cooking too. So, he’s very sweet and takes care of me on early mornings and late nights.
Official website: www.laelcakes.com
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