Sweet LionHeart Pâtisserie: Friendship, Frosting and a Whole Lot of Fun!
The story of Sweet LionHeart Pâtisserie is sweet for many reasons. Not just because of the beautiful things they create but also because one half of the Sweet LionHeart duo, Nikki Albertyn, was formerly part of the Crush family. The creation of Sweet LionHeart, together with business partner and childhood friend, Karmen de Reuck, is the realisation of their foodie dream, and we love that.
Together, the pair have created an online confectionary business that fills our Instagram feed with stylish avant-garde cakes and whimsical treats.
Pigtails on the Playground
The pair had spoken of having their own business since they were pigtailed girls on the playground. Like a lot of young creative people, it took them a few career diversions before they settled on what exactly that would be.
Nikki studied graphic design and Karmen worked in hospitality, did a stint as an air hostess and worked in search engine optimisation. A varied career path seems to be common amongst budding business owners and it nets smart, multi-skilled entrepreneurs. This pooling of resources, with friendship thrown in, makes partnerships like this strong and the story behind them so compelling.
Making it happen
We have to take a teeny smidge of the credit here in that Nikki developed her love for food while working at Crush. As an already talented designer, she diversified by learning about photography and food styling at the same time. Her naturally stylish way was the foundation and her ambitious personality pushed her to learn even more.
When she left Crush she joined the design team at Zana and studied a pâtisserie course part-time at Silwood. When asked if confectionary was always her passion, she surprisingly said no. But it was a course that she could manage while still maintaining a job and so decided that it was a good way to get her culinary career started.
She soon realised that pâtisserie offered incredible creative freedom and also engaged her design skills and this sealed the deal.
Where it all began
The cake that kickstarted the LionHeart style is what they now offer as, ‘Astronomica.’ Nikki baked it for her brother one day and it immediately piqued the interest of her family and friends.
It was at this time, over a Skype conversation with Karmen (living in the UK at the time), that the pair spoke of actually realising their dream of going into business together. Karmen packed up and headed home to SA shores and as a result, in 2016, Sweet LionHeart was born.
It’s a trend amongst young creatives nowadays to use the internet to find out how to do things. There’s a culture of “Want to know how to do something? YouTube it” and it’s an exciting direction for education to be moving.
Nikki’s culinary training was the grounds for Sweet LionHeart but the types of cake that the crew now produces were not actually part of what she learnt. Instead, she taught herself by watching YouTube videos of frosting techniques and gleaning tips and tricks from bakers around the world. This is how she refined her skills and created the signature LionHeart look.
She taught Karmen the same skills and between the two of them, they started to fill orders for weddings, showers, birthdays and other celebrations that call for cake (are there any that don’t?).
Over time the range has evolved and now also includes the cutest rocket pops, doughnuts, comets, biscuits cakes and cupcakes. Everything is ordered online and brides can arrange to do a tasting at the studio in Woodstock.
Even though they are besties, their styles differ. You’ll recognise an unmistakable LionHeart look and feel but the duo each put their own stamp on their designs.
From a brief from clients and inspiration from art, nature and things around them, they work on a colour palette, frosting style and cake topper to produce their jaw-dropping creations.
Their tiered cakes are artistic, visually striking and unmistakably LionHeart.
It’s not on top it’s inside…
What the cakes look like from the outside is one thing, what’s on the inside is another story. Fillings include salted caramel, white chocolate & raspberry ganache and whipped lemon curd to name just a few, and everything is made from scratch in-house.
The thing we probably love most about what they do is that there is no fondant icing in sight – hallelujah! Everything is iced with Swiss buttercream, and honestly, it makes ALL the difference.
Perfection and Precision
We watched Karmen and Nikki both building and frosting multi-tiered cakes for orders and were genuinely in awe of the pair. Such precision and care and all with a smile and a shared giggle between them.
Considering that Karmen doesn’t have formal pâtisserie training, her skill is staggering. She’s tapped into her obvious creative side and now manages all bridal orders – and if that’s not testament to her skill (and capacity for working under pressure), we don’t know what is. It just goes to show that you can do whatever you choose in life, you just have to want it enough.
Growing and Evolving
With the demand for Sweet LionHeart’s cakes growing, the team has expanded but the girls are adamant that to maintain integrity and uniqueness in what they do, things have to be capped. So, the savvy business women are looking at other ways to expand, without compromising on what they offer.
Book your seat for the next Frosting Workshop!
Inspired? Us too, and the great news is that you can get some first-hand training from Nikki and Karmen at their frosting workshops. The workshops, offered in Cape Town and most recently for the first time in Jozi, are fun and interactive and you’ll walk away with some wicked skills.
Learn From the Comfort of your Home
In the spirit of skills sharing in the way that they learnt, they are also currently filming a Teachable series on frosting techniques that will be available online. There are also murmurings of merchandise and other ideas.
We have no doubt that there are plenty of creative plans up their collective chef’s whites sleeves.
Pass me the piping bag
Working with your best friend must have challenges but the girls will tell you that the pros outweigh the cons. Both are obviously creative and business-minded but in entirely different ways – they are the yin to each other’s yang.
And, while not picketing feminism, they are about empowerment of women and the all-girl team is proof of that.
The workspace is cohesive and fun with just a touch of glitter and sparkles.
On top of being ridiculously talented, the pair are also incredibly smart and just genuinely good, down-to-earth women, who deserve the success they are enjoying. It has been born of a lot of hard work, late nights and working when everyone else is enjoying their weekends. They do it because they love it and it shows in everything they do.
We ask the Sweet LionHeart pair to tell us a bit about each other…
Karmen on Nikki…
Nikki’s best business quality… They are endless.. from ambition to solid communication to her creative nature. In a business partnership, however, fairness and positivity are her best qualities.
What she’d buy at a petrol station late at night… CHOCOLATE… and maybe some peanut butter or a peanut butter chocolate. She would even put peanut butter on an apple if it was close enough.
A food item she hates… This is a tough one as she loves virtually everything. She doesn’t like anything strange, like stomach or tongue, and I know she dislikes Tiramisu.
What she would say her worst habit is… I don’t think she has one… I would probably say she doesn’t put herself first (which can be endearing), but also sometimes to her own detriment.
One of your favourite memories with her? This has evolved quite a bit – from our younger shenanigan days to our more “adult” experiences. I will highlight a more innocent one 😉 It would be the Skype call during my stint in London where we decided that I would join her in giving Sweet LionHeart a proper go. I came back to Cape Town and we joined forces – this was a dream of ours that came true.
Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate… all the dark chocolate.
Her most endearing quality? Kindness and sincerity. She is such a good friend and has a great sense of humour.
Nikki on Karmen…
Karmen’s best business quality… I admire her for her no-nonsense attitude.
What she’d buy at a petrol station late at night… Salted potato crisps.
One food item she can’t resist…Fries! Particularly from Devils Peak, paired with their cheeseburger. We have way too many of these.
What she’d say her worst habit is… misplacing things.
Memory together where you’ve laughed til you’ve cried… There’s been a few – but most recently it’s definitely some bad joke I made in the kitchen about cake and body parts. Let’s just leave it at that.
Holiday in the snow or by the sea… Sea, definitely.
Wine or whiskey? Wine!
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