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Cake decorator and baker Kyla Dempsey on her life in food

Cake decorator and baker Kyla Dempsey on her life in food

by Sarah Gill
21st May 2024

Here, we catch up with Kyla Dempsey to chat about everything from her earliest memories of food to her favourite flavours and culinary inspirations.

Kyla Dempsey is a 23 year old cake decorator and baker from Kildare who has been working in Camerino Bakery, producing celebration cakes for all occasions. Passionate about food from an early age, Kyla loves nothing more than sharing an insight into her life on her Instagram page, @kylaskitchenbakes.

Here, she shares her life in food…

Kyla Dempsey

What are your earliest memories of food?

Food has had a presence in my life for as long as I can remember. Along with cartoons, I had the TV channel codes for Good Food and Food Network memorised at a young age, where I would spend hours watching the likes of Mary Berry and Ina Garten.

Similar to other chefs and bakers, I learned from my mom. I might not always admit it, but her knowledge was the foundation of my career. She made me and my siblings amazing birthday cakes every year, from caterpillars and teddy bears to Barbie and The Lion King themed cakes.

Growing up, from my point of view, food was a focal point of most occasions. Like fish and chips on Friday, a fantastic feast on Christmas Day, or the birthday cake of your dreams becoming a reality. Memories of food flood my brain just from the smell or taste of a dish or ingredient.

How would you describe your relationship with food?

I would say I have a fairly solid relationship with food. My life pretty much revolves around it; what ingredients will I use? What bakery I want to try out next? What will I make for my next meal? The list goes on and on.

I don’t think I’d have it any other way, I love what I do and feel so lucky that I was able to turn my hobby into a career.

What was the first meal you learned to cook?

I think the first meal I learned how to cook was chicken and mushroom pie. My granny taught me when I was about 8 or 9 years old in her kitchen standing on a chair next to her. I still remember having a realisation of how I have the ability to make delicious food.

How did food become a part of your career?

There was never really a question of whether I would work with food. From an early age I knew it was something I felt passionate about. When I was in college I decided it was a good time to begin a ‘something,’ so I started my Instagram page @kylaskitchenbakes in 2019. To me, it’s a form of expression and creativity, as well as a brand. It ranges from photos of cakes, baking along with Bake Off, or Reels of what I’ve been up to.

What’s your go-to breakfast?

Most days I’m rushing out the door because I start my day along with the sunrise, so my breakfast usually consists of a bowl of Branflakes or a boiled egg when I get to work.

If you’re impressing friends and family at a dinner party, what are you serving up?

I love making pizza when I have friends over. I’ll make the dough beforehand so people have an opportunity to assemble their own pizza with any topping they want. It’s a simple way of getting everyone involved in the meal.

Kyla Dempsey

Who is your culinary inspiration?

From a personal perspective I’d say my mom, she taught me about making delicious food since I was a kid. Since becoming invested in the art of baking and cake decorating, I’m inspired daily through online platforms by marvels including Kitty Tait, Claire Saffitz and Julia Gallay.

What would your last meal on earth be?

I’d have to say a full Christmas dinner made by my mom, the full shebang.

What’s your go-to comfort food?

It would have to be something like Chicken Budapest… I’m not sure if that’s even the name of it but we had a tiny recipe cut out from a magazine with that name, it’s similar to Chicken Paprikash.

What’s the go-to quick meal you cook when you’re tired and hungry?

Recently I’ve been enjoying cooking salmon with roasted veg. Ben Lippett has been inspiring my dinner meals lately.

What is one food or flavour you cannot stand?

If I had to answer I’d say I’m not a fan of pistachios, but I wouldn’t say I hate them. All foods deserve a place at the table.

Hangover cure?

It really depends on the type of hangover for me! I’m so weak when it comes to a hangover, the most I can stomach are some crackers or salt and vinegar rice cakes, Lucozade and some paracetamol… girl dinner.

Sweet or savoury?

I used to have a massive sweet tooth but I think I’ve been enjoying savoury more recently. Personal growth and such.

Fine dining or pub grub?

Fine dining all the way.

Kyla Dempsey

Favourite restaurant in Ireland?

I think Drury Buildings would be up there in my favourite restaurant list. It’s a lively place with accommodating staff and unbelievable food. Their menu was developed with the concept of sharing the dishes with each other in mind. Not to mention the use of Irish produce in each dish.

Best coffee in Ireland?

Ooh that’s a tough one. For me, I’d have to say my favourite coffee would be from Proper Order Coffee Co in Smithfield. Their amazing selection of baked goods make it a double whammy – shout out to No Messin’ Bakery.

Go-to beverage accompaniment?

Is it boring if I say water? The ideal palette cleanser…

I’ve recently become a tea drinker, I think it’s perfect for sweet or salty foods, but when it comes to cocktails I love a good ol’ margarita.

What are your thoughts on the Irish foodie scene?

I think it’s come a long way from what it used to be, and has more opportunities to grow. I love seeing new cultures integrating and influencing the Irish food scene.

I think social media has also influenced it. It’s refreshing to see people around the world sharing ideas and then noticing local foodies echoing something that might have originated on the other side of the globe.

I also adore pages like Lovin’ Dublin and CHAR, who direct readers to ‘what’s happening near you’ content so you’re always up to date with openings, ‘must-try’ restaurants, cafes, festivals and markets. They shed a light on businesses that might be getting overlooked.

What’s your favourite thing about cooking?

I’d say by getting to explore new flavours and techniques, you learn something new every time you cook or bake. Apart from that I’d say the sense of community or ‘togetherness’ when you sit down and enjoy a meal with another person.

What does food — sitting down to a meal with friends, mindfully preparing a meal, nourishment, etc — mean to you?

Aside from the basic function of nourishment, in my opinion food evokes emotions, or can help us process emotions.

Whether it’s getting through heartbreak with a tub of ice cream or celebrating accomplishments with a rewarding meal, our bodies will be drawn to or pushed away from certain foods. I feel like I have emotions and memories tied to different food experiences throughout my life.

On another note, the connection you create with another person as you sit down for a meal together is an incredible experience.

For example, we came up with “Family Friday,” at work where we try to bake or cook something special and enjoy it together. I think these moments with food create connections with people everyday, more than you might realise. Dining tables or kitchen counters can be great places to develop a relationship.

Kyla Dempsey

Food for thought — Is there room for improvement within the Irish food/restaurant/hospitality scene?

Absolutely, it’s a difficult time now in a post covid world with everyone’s habits and spending changing, but one thing is certain that people need and love food. I think the Irish food scene has come a long way but has more room for development.

Personally, I’d love to see a shift in locally produced foods becoming more accessible to the public. There are micro farms, suppliers and food businesses all around the country that need to be acknowledged more. A recent discovery of mine was a milk vending machine in McGranes Milk Barn in Navan Co. Meath. They’re a family run farm established in 1973 supplying pasteurised and non-homogenised milk to the local community.

I was in Paris over the summer and the neighbourhood I stayed in had at least one bakery on every street and a produce market three times a week. The market had a mix of cheese, meat, fish, fruit and veg stalls. There were designated areas in the street for the stalls that were assembled and disassembled each day by the local council, it was wonderful to see the community so involved. With recent demand for sustainability and locality in the food sector I feel like this could be one initiative to improve the current situation in Ireland.

Chef’s kiss — Tell us about one standout foodie experience you’ve had recently.

I went to Pichet on Trinity Street recently and I think it was hands down the most divine dining experience I’ve had in my life. From the atmosphere of the restaurant to the attention of detail put into every aspect of the dishes, it was spectacular. Chef’s kiss.

Compliments to the chef — Now’s your chance to sing the praises of a talented chef, beloved restaurant or particularly talented foodie family member.

It’s more a bakery/ cafe than a restaurant but I think Panem on Ormond Quay deserve some recognition. Hands down my favourite place to stop for a coffee and pastry in town.

Also shoutout to my friend and colleague Santiago Perez (@santibreadandcoffee), he is one talented baker and I admire his passion for bread making everyday.

Secret ingredient — What, in your estimation, makes the perfect dining experience?

I’d have to say the ambiance of the dining environment. The music playing, the lighting, the layout and the finer details like tableware should all compliment each other to achieve the superlative effect.