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 DotterHi, 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.

Choosing a band to play at your wedding is one of the most important decisions you’ll make for your wedding day. How do you know if a band is for you? Are the musicians professional and experienced – the cream of the crop? Do you love what you hear at their showcases? Do they give it their all whether playing at events large or small? Quinn of Club Band (Radio Club Band  (QLD), Press Club Band (NSW, NT and TAS), Party Club Band (SA),  Summer Club Band (WA),  Melbourne Club Band (VIC) , Capital Club Band (ACT) shares his excitement and enthusiasm for all things music, his fellow band members and adding to the ‘romance and vitality’ of your wedding day. A great band gets everyone in the party mood and even the most die hard chair sitter will be sure to bust a few moves if the dance floor is infectious! Make it memorable, let your hair down and dance the night away with your guests, celebrating with you at the best party of your lives. Quinn gives us a  peek into Club Band – the fun, the bands’ energy and the best ‘party bangers’ of all time!
What is your role in the Club Band organisation?
Chiefly, I’m one of the band’s singer/guitarists and I regularly perform with the band at weddings and the live showcase nights. I’m also one of the musicians working in the office, assisting brides and grooms with any questions, helping manage their bookings, ensuring we’ve worked out all the fine details before the big day to make the performance its best.

Please describe Club Band.
Club Band is all about offering the best live wedding entertainment there is. Not just cruisy background music, a live party-hard performance that makes the night truly exceptional, by playing exactly the type of music that couples want. The musicians I play with are the best there is – playing with touring bands, at studio sessions, on TV & live stage shows, the top A-list musicians in the country. Musicians who love to play weddings when they’re not on the road or playing festivals!

What sets you apart from other bands?
A few things – dressing sharp, playing the right songs, and engaging our audiences, but mostly, we take pride in our customer service. Every customer is valuable to us and we really want to exceed couple’s expectations. We respond to emails, messages and phone calls quickly, we’re on hand for advice and ideas, and we take the time to meet face to face – our showcase often sees us chatting to couples for hours after the music’s over!

What exciting events have Club Band(s) played at?
They’re all exciting! As a singer, I get really pumped before every show, rocking a wedding of 50 people, or an epic gala dinner with 1000 guests in black tie. It’s all about the crowd interaction, the banter, the coming together & dancing the night away. When it’s not exciting in any setting, I’ll know it’s time to hang up the guitar. (Neveeer!) Together, we’ve shared the stage with some big kahunas, Paul Kelly, Daryl Braithwaite, many more, and of course playing alongside childhood idols is a major buzz but what’s even better is seeing how grounded they are and that they’re just living normal lives like anyone. Separately, our band members have played in touring bands and major festival with indie artists, all the way up to bands you’d know very, very well.

You offer several configurations from a 4 piece band to an 8 piece band. What factors would band size depend on, for a wedding?
The 4 piece is probably the most popular size, so it’s a great combo to rock just about any event, and is flexible in terms of line up. The 4 piece can have brass, keyboards, male and female vocals, it’s very flexible. Depending on the scope of an event, we can add musicians one by one to suit the theme. The 8 piece has it all though. It’s a next-level experience. With the full band, brass section, and male and female vocalists, it’s really something to behold. It adds the magic, the visual spectacle and sense of occasion that lifts the night from truly memorable, to absolutely unforgettable. Sometimes a venue’s size or location means a small band is more appropriate, and we’re always able to customise the line-up as needed.

Are the band members professional musicians?
We’ve got a roster of players that we manage internally, based on availability. Lineups can change a little, but there is no second or third choice – every player is of an absolutely outstanding calibre. A lot of people assume this is so we’re covered if anyone gets sick, which it is, but it’s actually so much more than that! Personally, I love working this way – whether I happen to have Jeremy, Lawrence or Brad on bass with me any given performance, I know they’re going to knock it out of the park. Each has a different chemistry which means the band’s energy stays exciting, live, fresh. It’s how we keep it fun and interesting!

Are there any differences between the bands with the sound/style?
Every performance is different, based on what couples ask us to play. There’s a few songs that seem to always feature (the kind that it would be bizarre if we *didn’t* play them!) I think everyone’s idea of fun is pretty much universal though. There are definitely some Aussie classics and some party bangers showing no signs of going out of style!
How does a bridal couple begin the journey with you in choosing what best suits their needs? Is there a central booking hub and do couples deal with one person from beginning to end?
Couples can check our pricing and availability on our site. This connects them directly with us, the musicians, in helping with their enquiry from start to finish. We love to answer specific questions, we’ve got heaps of experience with weddings. We like to think we’re pretty approachable and normal, even if some of us do sleep past 10am (sorry mum!)

Are they able to have the band play for the ceremony as well as the reception?
Yes, we have some cool packages that include acoustic ceremony sets, canapes sets and string quartets, as well as the reception band. They’re very affordable add-ons to the band booking and they’re very popular. Having live music throughout the whole day adds romance and vitality.

How do you help them decide on the music to play for each part of the day? How open are the bands to requests on the night?
Some couples have songs in mind right at the beginning, others haven’t got that far yet. We offer guidance to couples for songs that might suit a particular moment. A ceremony will need special songs for the aisle walk, signing, and recessional, which are often personalised requests. A first dance and father/daughter dance are quite similar, it’s very personal and it’s different for every couple. We encourage requests too, as we want to play what we know our couples (and their guests) will like! And if I get requests from guests on the night, I usually play them, except if I know it will bomb the dance floor!

 If a couple has a preference for a particular singer or musician are you able to arrange this?
Absolutely. Couples often let us know who their favourites are, and we’re honoured to be personally requested. Availabilities can depend on the time of year though, so we recommend couples book us as far in advance as possible.

Where can we view your bands? Do you have showcases or play at venues throughout the home cities?
Yes, one and all are invited and most welcome to come and see us live at our regular showcase. We love to meet engaged couples and talk weddings, and we often play song requests made on the night. It’s a great snapshot of what we do, with some banter, great music, and our personality on display. Our showcases are free events, and are scheduled regularly. Details are on our websites (Radio Club Band  (QLD), Press Club Band (NSW, NT and TAS), Party Club Band (SA),  Summer Club Band (WA),  Melbourne Club Band (VIC) , Capital Club Band (ACT).

If I lived in country Australia, will the bands travel to my wedding?
You bet, we absolutely love to travel. If it’s driveable, we can do it. City folks we might be, but we know that our country brothers and sisters wrote the book on how to party and we wouldn’t miss it for the world. We keep a good few country favourites in the repertoire just in case there will be any country fans in the crowd on the night!

What do you love about being a part of Club Band?
I love entertaining a crowd of great people, on behalf of two very special individuals, on a really special day, at a beautiful place, with amazing musicians. I love giving my absolute best to make a couple’s wedding entertainment something they can look back on with pride and happiness.

Thank you Quinn for sharing the story of Club Band. Loving that there is a Club Band in every capital city in Australia, and they’re willing to travel to country locations too – so no-one misses out! To find out more about Radio Club Band  (QLD), Press Club Band (NSW, NT and TAS), Party Club Band (SA),  Summer Club Band (WA),  Melbourne Club Band (VIC) , Capital Club Band (ACT) visit the website.

All images by Photography Club.

Australia has some of the most talented cake artists in the world- it’s something we are being reminded of again and again as we work our way through all of our Australian cake designer’s amazing wisdom in Cake Month,

One such gem is Hayley McKee- she built her business, Sticky Fingers Bakery based on her curiosity and passion about bringing nature-based ingredients into delicious sweet treats and she’s sharing her knowledge in her brand new cookbook Sticky Fingers, Green Thumb. We sit down with the in-demand baker to find out more about her impressive cakes and what inspires her unique, au naturale style. 

Can you sum up what you do for us in a ew sentences?
I’m a cookbook author and self-taught baker specialising in baked desserts that taste of nature. I like to let real ingredients shine, instead of masking them with sugar or artificial flavourings. My speciality is wedding cakes, and I was recently ranked number 1 Melbourne wedding cake designer by GoodFood/Epicure. My cookbook ‘Sticky Fingers, Green Thumb’ was recently released worldwide.

Please describe your unique baking and cake decorating style.
I use herbs, vegetables and edible flowers in my baking, as well as native Australian bush ingredients. I’m known for my earthy, flavourful combinations, like Chocolate Wattleseed, Spiced Parsnip & Willow Blossom, Porcini Caramel Chestnut, Golden Saffron Pumpkin are all great examples of my style of baking. Wedding cakes are frosted with whipped buttercream and then scraped back, so nothing is overly sweet. I decorate each cake myself using edible flowers, native Australian flowers or rambling garden varieties of open bloom flowers.

Your desserts are inspired by and taste like nature. Do you get out amongst nature a lot yourself- hiking, swimming and/or foraging etc?
I grew up amongst nature in six acres of wild bush so I definitely gravitate towards open green spaces. I spend as much time as I can in nature, playing with my son and working on my community garden plot, growing edibles.

Where you do source your nature-inspired cake toppings and decorations- native blooms and seasonal fruits?
Most of the organic herbs and edible flowers I use in my cakes, I’ve grown myself. Other than relying on my home grown ingredients, I love my local fruit and veg market. I’ve been shopping for my ingredients there for so long now that I have some really cool friendships with my suppliers. Plus, visiting my growers markets always gives me ideas for creative, new cake flavours.

There are no artificial flavours and colours in your recipes (yay!) How do you achieve such vibrant colours without using artificial ingredients?
Beetroot, tumeric, pumpkin, spinach, blackberries, raspberries, basil and blueberries are my secret weapons for bold colours, without the junk 🙂

How do engaged couples get in touch with you to order their wedding cake?
A lot of my business comes through Instagram or the pop-up bakery events I hold in Melbourne. A simple email with details on the date of your wedding and the guest numbers are all it takes to start the conversation rolling. I encourage my couples to think about any special food memory (sweet or savoury) or special family sweet they have, so I can try to incorporate that into their cake design. I’ve had people ask for a cake to reflect their heritage (Sri Lankan and Japanese have been favourites of mine) and a couple even asked me to recreate their favourite doughnut that they shared on their first date!

How far in advance should engaged couples book in their Sticky Fingers Bakery wedding cake?
The sooner the better for the busy wedding months (Oct – March), as I usually book out a few months in advance, but it’s always best to just send an email and we can roll on from there.

Tell us about the process of writing your beautiful cookbook Sticky Fingers, Green Thumb?
I’d always dreamed of writing this book because it was the cookbook I’d always looked for! I wanted to explore the best under-utilised ingredients for baking – vegetables, herbs and edible flowers – and teach people about their beautiful flavours and how to weave them into cakes, brownies and cookies. There are just under 60 recipes in the book, some of them new for me but most of them old favourites that I’ve been dying to share with the world. Each one is big on flavour and surprises. If you’re interested in baking, I share my process of baking a cake from start to finish and all the equipment you need to survive as a killer home baker.

Do you have a favourite passage or paragraph from your book, you’d like to share with us?
The section where I began to realise that my baking could be transformed by turning to edible gardens and farmers markets for new flavour ideas, is really the core of my book:

“A breakthrough came when I realised that everything else I ate, and everything I believed in about good food, was based around real ingredients. I cared about where I shopped, the produce I bought and who I bought it from, but my cakes lacked this connection to local suppliers and natural ingredients. My baking shifted when I switched on to local growers’ and farmers’ markets and, most importantly, to edible gardens.

By tuning into the plant world I eventually arrived where I belonged: baking sweets that tasted of nature. Where the ingredients were familiar, the colourings genuine and the flavours unmasked. Vegetables, herbs and edible flowers gave me vivid flavours to explore and offered a savoury–sweet balance that satisfied with-out overwhelming. Soulful, earthy and seasonal baking became my true direction and, ultimately, my signature style.”

If there was one cake recipe you’d recommend from the book to make at home/serve at a wedding, what would it be and why?
The Beetroot Rose Truffle cake is a decadent hit! It’s a lush. brownie style cake flavoured with roasted beetroots and a dash of rose essence.

If it’s not too personal to ask, we are wondering if you are married and whether you can share a description and image of your own wedding cake.
It was a 40 degree day for my wedding so I had to think on my feet and bake a three tier cake with no icing (it was a rooftop wedding). I chose two different flavours: Persian Love cake made with cardamom, rose and pistachios, and the Solitude which is a yoghurt, dark chocolate and honey cake (my husband’s favourite). Both flavours were dense, gooey cakes so they worked well served as small portions to cover our guest numbers. We cut the cake with sparklers and fireworks streaming out the top (!) and served it with generous dollops of clotted cream.

Ms Zigzag says: Intrigued by Hayley and her to-die-for baking and recipes? So are we! Hayley’s new cookbook is a must read ‘Sticky Fingers, Green Thumb.’ Be sure to enter our competition to win one of three copies of her book- competition closes on 30th April at 5pm.