With Easter fast approaching, we spoke with four talented local businesses that are offering both unique and traditional treats, and there are a few nearby egg hunts as well!
Take a peek inside Lisa Hooper’s Willoughby kitchen and you may be lucky enough to see benches full of pastel-coloured meringue creations that she is baking for a local market. Mybella Meringues started as a business a little over a year ago and Lisa has been taking the local area by storm with her meringue kisses, lollipops and big chunky pavlova nests.
This Easter there will be a number of whimsical treats available, says Lisa. “We have some beautiful gift boxes, a little like ‘choc boxes’ with six different flavours and twelve bite-sized meringues, along with some very cute Easter-themed pops: carrots (not carrot flavour, though), bunnies and piped eggs with gold leaf.”
Lisa’s love of all things pretty, pastel and tasty has come on the back of a career as a graphic design and arts teacher and party stylist. “The production process varies slightly depending on what I’m making, but I basically start with the same base recipe, add the delicious flavour and pipe away different designs or the beautifully striped kisses. Watermelon and the berry flavours are very popular. But caramel, Irish cream and more unique ones like chai tea are great too. Most people don’t expect meringue to have flavour, and are pleasantly surprised.”
And Lisa’s children sometimes get to share in the delight of the MyBella experience. “My kids never get sick of them, but I don’t let them eat them all the time – everything in moderation, right?!” laughs Lisa. “My son loves to come up with flavour creations to try, and my daughter loves all the little custom pops I do, like the pretty unicorns and swans. And Mr Meringue is absolutely husband of the year – despite working his own full-time job, he’s up early to help set up at markets from 7am on Saturdays and helping me pack orders or sticking labels on boxes late into the night.”
Mybella Meringues are perfect for all events – wedding bonbonierre, meringue towers, party favours for christenings and baby showers, gifts or to take to a family gathering or party. And Lisa is also able to brand them for corporate promotions, making a truly memorable takeaway gift for clients. Catch MyBella Meringues at Kirribilli Markets on Saturday March 24 for Easter specials or order from the website for any upcoming celebrations.
With an instagram following of nearly 100,000, Jen Lo’s artisan chocolate and bakery business, Bakedown Cakery, has already been making huge waves since she started three years ago. Think giant technicoloured cakes topped with macaroons, and slabs of chocolate in pastel hues and you get a good idea of what Jen has on offer in her fantasy-land shop.
The former animation and motion graphics designer made the leap from the office world in 2015. “I’d just come to the end of a contract. I always loved making things with my hands and I’ve always loved food, so it all happened fairly naturally,” says Jen. The Bakedown Cakery shop came next in December 2017, part of the St Leonards TWT Creative Precinct, and, luckily, just two minutes’ walk from Jen’s home.
Bakedown’s typical customers are St Leonards workers and people from further afield who are passionate about food and locally-made produce. “Our Toasty block is by far our most popular chocolate, though Face Bark (customised printed chocolate) runs a very close second,” Jen tells us.
Jen’s heritage and passion for food are never far from her mind when she’s looking for inspiration. “A lot of it comes from my love of food and eating – you can take almost anything and turn it into something that works with chocolate. My heritage is Chinese Malay so I’ve always tried to infuse a bit of that into what I do.”
Easter is a particularly busy time of year, “Christmas is always manic, but Valentine’s Day and Easter are almost about the same!” laughs Jen. This year’s magical Easter specials include Eggspresso Easter eggs modelled on the Espresso Martini, as well as assorted eggs based on some of the best-selling chocolate blocks such as pandan lychee and coconut and the ever popular ‘Toasty’.
Once she’s finished with the Easter rush, Jen has more plans in the works. “Watch this space! We’ll be starting to release some more information on private classes, and small group classes for both cake and chocolate.”
Generous amounts of plump juicy fruit, golden sticky glaze, a sprinkling of traditional spices, never too heavy, never too light. Local patisserie, Delicia, has won an army of loyal fans and a number of accolades for their hot cross buns, and 2018 is looking to be a bumper year again.
Easter is definitely the busiest time of the year for the Naremburn business. “We make very large quantities of hot cross buns. Over the years we’ve perfected the production line and we have equipment to cook 700 hot cross buns in just 15 mins,” says owner Martin Rolon.
Martin, who started the bakery as a family business in 1998, says it’s the simple things that make them successful. “We stick to a traditional recipe and we use the best ingredients available. There’s no great secret!”
While the hot cross buns continue to be a huge seller, Martin is well known for his pies and almond croissants. “We only use top ingredients. We continue to use butter even though the prices of butter have skyrocketed in the past few years, we don’t skimp on quality ingredients.”
Having been a mainstay in the local area for twenty years, Martin feels that Delicia Patisserie is really part of the community. “Naremburn is a small but vibrant community. There’s always a great vibe and over the years customers have become like our extended family, many have become friends for life. Our children attend local school and sports clubs, we’ve also sponsored schools and local clubs and other initiatives as we believe that loyalty goes both ways!”
So if you are looking for a traditional treat in a world of no fruit and chocolate chip experimentation, head down to Naremburn this Easter and pick up a dozen or more of Delicia’s delectable buns.
Delicia Patisserie, 298 Willoughby Road, Naremburn
ChocoLab started as a collaboration between boyfriend and girlfriend Veronique Eldridge-Smith and Spencer Walden in 2015. Veronique is a self-taught chocolatier and Spencer brought his tech background to turn their dream into an ecommerce reality. They both gave up their day jobs and have not looked back since successfully running their business for over three years.
Customisation is king at ChocoLab and sets them apart from their competitors. “We have more than eighty ingredients and a choice of milk, white or dark chocolate which means there are countless combinations to try. Each bar is individually handcrafted with love, using premium couverture chocolate, so that you get a unique and amazing creation each and every time. Creating your own personalised chocolate bar and then experiencing the flavour is unbelievably satisfying,” says Spencer.
On top of this, ChocoLab can add a message or photo printed directly onto your chocolate bar, making a unique gift. Just a quick scroll of their instagram feed shows numerous examples of the amusing chocolate slogans that they have created for customers.
Easter 2018 sees the launch of the 3D egg. “This year for the first time we are doing custom 3D eggs, where we handcraft an egg with up to five different ingredients selected by you,” Spencer tells us. And while Easter is busy, Spencer and Veronique move huge volumes of chocolate on Father’s Day and Christmas too.
Although the business is online only (they have run the occasional pop-up), ChocoLab’s warehouse is in Artarmon. “We’ve lived around Willoughby/ Lane Cove/ Artarmon for the last five years. We love the local area,” says Spencer.
For a unique take on Easter eggs and celebration chocolates, visit ChocoLab’s website, put your customer order in now and support a growing local business.
Local Egg Hunts
1. Thursday, March 22, 6pm-8pm.
Where: Bunnings Chatswood
The Fun: A family fun night featuring an Easter show for the kids – “A Very Fairy Easter Adventure” with the Sugar Plum fairy, balloon artist, face painting and Easter craft, a farm animal petting zoo, a colouring-in competition, an Easter egg hunt and light refreshments. There will also be a special visit by the Easter Bunny with Easter Egg treats for all!
2. Friday, March 23, 5pm.
Where: TWT Creative Precinct, 60 Atchison St, St Leonards
The Fun: As part of the TWT Creative Precinct Block Party, Bakedown Cakery (see above) is hosting an Easter Egg hunt. There will be 50 mini Easter Eggs hidden across the Creative Precinct – they might be hidden in the bushes, in the trees or inside the venues that make up the precinct. Five of those eggs are golden. If you find a golden egg, you can trade it for a big Easter Egg at Bakedown Cakery. To register for the Block Party click here.
3. Wednesday March 28, 3pm-4.30pm.
Where: Willoughby Park, McClelland St, Willoughby
The Fun: McGrath Lower North Shore is hosting a free egg hunt for the community. Hop on down!
4. Saturday, March 31, 4pm.
Where: Castle Cove Golf Club, 68 Deepwater Rd, Castlecove
The Fun: A free Easter Egg hunt, face painting, sausage sizzle and drinks at club prices.
5. Sunday April 1,
Where: The Incinerator Cafe, 2 Small St, Willoughby.
The Fun: The Incinerator’s annual Easter egg hunt is on Easter Sunday from 9.30am onwards. They’re also having a guess-the-Easter-eggs-in-the-jar comp for anyone who dines in.
6. Sunday, April 1, 10am-4pm.
Where: The Greens, 50 Ridge St, North Sydney
The Fun: There’ll be Easter Egg-tivities starting with a special visit from a furry friend from 10am-1pm, an egg hunt at 10.30am, face painting from 12pm-4pm and a choccy guessing comp.