The Polka Dotter’s Gingerbread Cake with Salted Caramel
When we decided we wanted to roll out a dedicated cake month on Polka Dot Bride in April, there was one publication we just had to chase down for an interview- the beautiful baking blog that goes by a name that may ring a bell, The Polka Dotter! Salma Sabdia is the incredible talent behind the blog and we have the honour of getting to know her today! Let’s connect the dots…
Could you please sum up what you do for us in a few sentences?
I’ve combined my love of baking with my love of photography to create a blog where I share sweet recipes for the home baker. Most of the time I’m actually working as a doctor or spending time with family and friends. I have a beautiful, energetic toddler who keeps my husband and I on our toes.
Why do you call yourself/your blog The Polka Dotter?
I wish I had a deep and meaningful story to tell you but the fact of the matter is – I just really like polka dots! (Hey, that’s good enough reason for us!)
The Polka Dotter’s Lemon and Blueberry Layer Cake + Cream Cheese Frosting
How did you get into baking? Did you go to culinary school?
My mum is a fantastic cook and baker and would encourage my siblings and I to join her in the kitchen when we were little, especially when baking for special occasions. As I grew older something about the precision and beauty of baking stuck with me. I haven’t had any formal training in baking, just many, many hours spent pottering around the kitchen, a lot of trial and error, and of course inspiration and guidance from a variety of cookbooks and baking blogs.
What’s the most exciting project you are working on at the moment?
I’m rather excited about a couple of projects at the moment. I can’t share the details quite yet, but if you follow me on Instagram (@thepolkadotter), you’ll definitely be among the first to know. To date, one of my favourite collaborations was last year, working alongside the team at Jocelyn’s Provisions, the iconic Brisbane bakery. They produced and sold my Coconut Raspberry Cake with Lemon Curd for a limited time in their bakery, which was an exciting experience for myself as a home baker.
The Polka Dotter’s Coconut Raspberry Cake with Lemon Curd
What’s your number one tip for a fellow baker starting out in the blogging world?
That’s a great question but I feel I need to give my top two tips that are often overlooked by bloggers starting out.
(1) Content is key. Enticing images will bring curious minds to your page while good quality recipes will keep people coming back for more. I strive to only post images and recipes I can stand by 100% – anything less and you’re not only letting yourself down, you will lose your audience’s trust.
(2) Networking. Blogging doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Make connections with people in the industry and engage with your audience, especially on social media, as that is crucial in driving traffic to your blog in today’s climate.
You seem to include a lot of seasonal fruit in your baking. What fruits are good to use right now (Australian autumn) in desserts?
Yes, I love using seasonal produce in my baking! As the weather starts cooling down, I usually find myself baking apple or pumpkin pies, or pairing pears with ginger or chocolate in a lovely layer cake. Citrus season also gets into full swing in the cooler months, and is lovely with a hefty dose of cinnamon or cardamom, or enjoyed with earl grey.
Additionally, you use beautiful flowers in your styling, what are your favourite flowers to use in your styling and where do you source them from? Do you always have fresh flowers in your house?
I love gorgeous blooms, they can brighten up a naked layer cake or tart with ease, even for someone like me who is terrible at styling them! For edible blooms – I love violas with their lovely shades of purples and yellows. I finally started growing my own violas last year and when I realised how ridiculously easy it was, I wish I had started earlier. I sourced seedlings from my local farmers market and hardware store and after a few weeks the number of violas I had heavily outweighed the amount of cakes I could produce!
For all the rest of my floral needs I’ve recently come to rely on a local florist, Maia Fung of Still Life – Floral Art. She’s a beautiful, talented woman who always keeps me updated about which flowers are in season, and blooms she thinks I would like. I would highly recommend her services to all your readers for their wedding bouquets.
Can you share the details about a cake you have made for a wedding to inspire our engaged couples reading?
I had the lovely opportunity to bake a trio of wedding cakes for my sister’s wedding a couple of years ago, which included three separate layer cakes – a Mocha Mud Cake with Coffee Swiss Meringue Buttercream, a Lemon Curd and Coconut Cake and a Persian Love Cake. We styled them with fresh flowers from another exceptionally talented and highly recommended florist, Sandee Newton of Always Fabulous Flowers.
The Polka Dotter’s Persian Love Cake made for her sister’s wedding
Unfortunately for us you don’t make cakes for events, but the good news is you have great recipes on your website. If someone is going to make their own wedding cake or make it for someone they love, what’s the best recipe they could look to on your website for inspiration and why would this be good for a wedding?
If baking one cake for a large crowd, I think it’s important to ensure you are catering to most palates and dietary requirements. Chocolate and citrus are always well received by the majority of guests, and I would subsequently recommend recipes like my Mocha Mud Cake with Coffee Swiss Meringue Buttercream or Lemon Curd and Coconut Cake (especially being ones I’ve baked for large occasions a number of times).
The Polka Dotter’s Lemon Curd and Coconut Cake
That being said, baking a cake for a wedding or large event can be a mammoth task, so I feel compelled to share a few tips for the home baker embarking on such a project.
(1) Practice! Make sure you have made the exact same cake in the same quantity under the same conditions (ingredients, oven, time pressures, weather) that you will be making for the wedding or event. This allows you the opportunity to tweak the recipe, be aware of the recipe’s pressure points and ensure you and/or your loved one is happy with the aesthetic and flavour of the final product.
(2) Consider alternatives to a traditional tiered cake. Opting for 2-3 separate layer cakes, styled in a complementary manner, or a combination of a layer cake and cupcakes, can be a great way to create a wedding showstopper without having to tackle a tiered cake as a home baker.
(3) Adequate catering. Ensure you have accurately calculated there will be enough cake to go around, and be mindful of whether the cake will encompass dessert (requiring larger pieces), or there will be additional dessert served. If the wedding cake will be cut by a member of the wedding party (and not a caterer), ensure that person is familiar with cutting a large cake in event style pieces, to ensure consistently sized pieces for all guests.
(4) Transport. This is often an overlooked area of baking an event cake as a home baker (I know from experience!). Even for small distances – the cake should be securely packaged to withstand bumps and sudden speed changes on the road without any damage. Also if travelling a large distance, be mindful that the cake should not spend time exposed to direct sunlight which can melt delicate frostings, especially in warmer and more humid climates.
As long as you are well prepared, baking your wedding cake can be a very satisfying experience or alternatively can make a beautiful gift to extend to a loved one, and will bring an immense joy seeing guests enjoying your handmade creation.
The Polka Dotter’s Chocolate Salted Caramel Brownie Cake + Fresh Figs
What’s your favourite blog to follow – baking or non-baking related.
My favourite blog would have to be Call Me Cupcake by Linda Lomelino. She’s incredibly talented and one of my biggest inspirations for baking and photography.
All images and cakes by The Polka Dotter
About the author Salma Sabdia, The Polka Dotter: Hi, I’m Salma, and I love creating beautiful images and sweet treats. If you’re looking for a little baking inspiration, you’ve come to the right place.