“I happily continue working with many clients in fashion, but definitely came to the realization that I needed to build my future. This realization combined with my passion for baking, fashion and art has been the foundation of Botanic Bakery.” - Kristel van Valkenhoef
Passion takes various shapes and forms. For Kristel van Valkenhoef, Botanic Bakery is a platform where her passion for nature, baking and fashion converge. From the stunning edible crystals hand-finished with edible 24-karat gold, to the flawless glazed donuts topped with enchanting florals, every confectionary piece is a work of art almost too pretty to eat. Before Botanic Bakery was born, Kristel traveled the world as an emerging model who has worked with labels such as Céline, Dolce & Gabbana, Narciso Rodriguez, and Helmut Lang. Her fashion career doesn’t stop there. She now brings art to the table in a very different form: by creating beautiful custom confectionary pieces for clients including fashion house Viktor & Rolf and Jill Stuart.
Nature plays an instrumental role in inspiring Kristel’s creations, and you will often find delicate florals of various shapes and colours paired with a touch of 24-karat gold leaf to add a hint of glamour. Her most iconic creations are the vibrant candy crystals with an assortment of colour and flavour pairings that can be customized to the client’s liking.
We had the pleasure to engage Kristel van Valkenhoef in a short interview to chat about the start of Botanic Bakery in NYC and the inspiration behind her creations.
P - Pendulum Magazine
K - Kristel van Valkenhoef
P: Can you tell us a little bit about your background? What were you doing prior to opening Botanic Bakery?
K: Certainly. I’m born and raised in The Netherlands. When I turned 16 I started modelling, and after my first year of university I started to model internationally. Since then, I have spent most of my years in Milan and Paris. I moved to New York six years ago and have since called it home.
During my travels, I have always tried to learn the languages of the countries I lived in and embrace their individual cuisines. Somewhere along the way I studied communication and multimedia design and had done editorial work for a New York based magazine. Four years ago I became a mother and felt the need to widen my horizon. I happily continue working with many clients in fashion, but definitely came to the realization that I needed to build my future. This realization combined with my passion for baking, fashion and art has been the foundation of Botanic Bakery.
P: Was baking always a hobby of yours? How did your interest in baking eventually lead to where you are now?
K - I have been fond of baking for as long as I can remember. My mother was an avid baker and the time I have spent with her in the kitchen growing up has contributed to who I am today. I have very fond memories of when I was very little, where my mother would let me whip up cake batter, but wouldn’t let me play around too much. It was something serious for her, almost technical. That understanding remains with me today. My mom also gave me the opportunity to do things over and over again until i would either get tired or satisfied. I would never make 12 muffins, I would need to make at least 4 batches. I never really questioned why. In retrospect, I realize that baking has always been a way to express myself. All throughout my life it has been a way of making me feel at home, and sharing love and happiness.
Baking, reading cook books, buying tools and ingredients has always been my guilty pleasure and I never thought I would be able to build a career out of something I love so much. This understanding to embrace my creativity and passion is wonderful and has been my biggest blessing.
P - I see that nature is a major inspiration of yours for cakes and confectionary pieces. Were you always surrounded by nature growing up or in the environment that you currently live in? Where else do you find inspirations from?
K - Nature is everything to me. I grew up around lots of animals and I used to ride horses every day. Memories of time spent in meadows and haystacks are probably one of my favourite ones. Home is something that I used to miss a lot. Living in cities always felt a bit empty until I moved to Brooklyn. I now live in a loft space with a garden and when I open my blinds I see trees. It’s peaceful. I’m home.
P - Do you have any tips for those who want to work with fresh flowers for their pastries?
K - Be sure to order flowers from an organic supplier specialized in edible flowers. Before use, give the flowers an ice bath and let them dry. You can also grow your own edible flowers, they are usually very easy to grow. When I work I choose the flower I want based on colour and freshness. For instance, on fresh baked goods I need fresh flowers, and for crystallizing I like them 2 days old. For drying and lollipops I like them about 4 days old because the humidity level is lower. Also make sure that the entire flower is edible. Sometimes the petals are edible yet the greens are toxic.
P - From agate pieces to cake pops, what would you say is your favourite kind of sweets to make? Why?
K - I think you might say I have a creative attention disorder. I really do not enjoy being repetitive. If I have a week with loads of geode trials, I kind of don’t want to see any for a while. That is the same for all my treats. I love the process of creating and letting go. That being said, I guess the geodes do have a special place in my heart because the process is very delicate and always different.
P - What are some of your proudest moments on this journey as a confectionary artist?
K - I think one of my proudest moments might have been earlier on when I received an approval from Viktor & Rolf for cookies inspired by their marriage collection with compliments on my creative process. It was the first time in fashion I was valued by what my hands have created instead of what I looked like going to work. I think the journey as a whole is what makes me proud and happy in general. The feeling of knowing where I want to go is very fulfilling.
P - Are there any exciting projects you are currently working on?
K - Yes, definitely. I am working on and testing out a couple new concepts. I am keeping all of this away from the public right now but I can’t wait to share it with you.
Of course, we can’t wait to see the magical creations Kristel will be brewing up. If you live in New York and want to add a creative spin to your upcoming social gathering or party, we are sure Kristel’s confectionary art will make wonderful party favours that will have your guests raving.