Caroline Khoo is an Australian based superstar dessert stylist that takes her delicious dessert creations from great-to-glam by styling them beautifully. She uses anything from edible flowers to shiny gold sprinkles in the shape of stars with a pink and purple pastel color palette; delish on the inside and the out. Overtime, she collaborated with major brands including Dior, Tiffany and Co., and more. All this happened under her company she launched four years ago called Nectar and Stone that stemmed from her food blog.
Along with dessert styling, Caroline is also a photographer, blogger, author, and supermom. Everything works together – she bakes and decorates, photographs her creations, shares it online, and wrote a book with a collection of her recipes and more called “I’m Just Here for Dessert.” And at Chapter Friday, we totally are here for the dessert too.
We have a major sweet tooth, and when desserts are beautifully made, they’re just that much harder to resist. We talked to Caroline all about challenges in her career, keeping a healthy diet, her glam dessert aesthetic, and her favorite dessert of all time.
Making a living out of styling desserts, how on earth is that possible?!
Caroline: ‘I know it does sound a little crazy but I’ve always believed in that saying that “we eat with our eyes first” and this rings true in my case as my community and brands that I work with appreciate the visual styling and also the products I deliver. I never intended to make a career out of styling and baking but somehow my appreciation for making pretty desserts and sharing it with my audience turned itself into something.’
How much of your day is spent baking, styling, running your blog, but also living as a woman and mom in Australia?
Caroline: ‘No day is ever really the same for me as a do such a variety of tasks. The week involves at least 4 solid days of baking. But I am always working on emails. The other days are spent styling, meetings, sourcing suppliers etc. As a mother, I am heavily involved in my kids day as well which includes school pick up and drop offs plus their sports activities. If I need to do emails or meetings – I somehow squeeze them in and anyone that I am dealing with knows that the kids are part of life.’
Your collaborations include several amazing brands like Dior, West Elm, and Christian Louboutin. Which was the most creatively challenging for you?
Caroline: ‘The Dior collaboration was a beautiful one to be involved with. I really enjoyed the challenge of capturing the essence of roses into chocolate. As with any challenge in dessert making – trial and error plays a big role – it is always stressful at some point – in my case it is being a perfectionist. I am quite hard on myself.’
How can being a perfectionist be a good and bad thing when it comes to your profession?
Caroline: ‘Yes being a perfectionist is pain. It is obviously a great thing for a client because I think they know they are getting the best from me. A pain in that I think I will always think I can do better – and when does that process end if you always think like that? So it’s really important for me to find that balance and know when to stop, so I will often get people’s opinion on my work.’
What’s the non-glamorous side of your craft as a dessert stylist?
Caroline: ‘The cleanup! No just kidding. The reality is when you run your own company you can’t switch off as much as you would like to. Answering urgent emails, having late night meetings with international clients means that you need to be available. So whilst things look glam and amazing, the reality is there is a lot of hard work going into the background.’
It must be super tempting to always be working with delicious treats.
Caroline: ‘Gosh yes I taste everything and I have certainly become curvier because of it. But I also eat really well – a really balanced diet which doesn’t involve a lot of sugar. And I like to do pilates and big walks so I think this keeps me in good shape and I will often do a juice cleanse to get rid of any toxins in my body.’
How do you combat a situation when you’re in a dessert styling rut?
Caroline: ‘Creativity is the energy in my life. I am very passionate about exploring ideas and visually I need to get out and see things. Nature is a very big inspiration for me so I love to use flowers and leaves as part of my design work. Colour and texture are also very important so I like to use these to provide layers to my work. I think the key to not falling into a design rut is to constantly be nurturing your creativity. For me, this includes photography, painting, even knitting. If you explore different mediums then the ideas flow a lot more.’
Along with being a dessert stylist, you’re also a photographer and author.
Caroline: ‘I think with dessert styling, I have always wanted to honor the desserts with good photography, because as I said before “we eat with our eyes first”. So dessert making and photography have always been equally important to me, especially to showcase my work to an audience. As I have quite a distinct and recognizable style, the opportunity to write a book was a dream come true and really the perfect medium for me to tie everything that I have learned and showcase all the work into one format.
What’s your favorite dessert of all time?
Caroline: ‘Sooooo hard to answer but I always say macarons. Those little desserts were such a pain to teach myself but such success when I mastered them. And really, nothing beats a freshly made macaron.’
What’s the biggest career lesson you learned along your career journey?
Caroline: ‘It’s ok to take your time. Learn to be a master in everything you apply yourself to and do your very best. Make lots of connections and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Mistakes are our teacher, we need them to learn better, to improve and develop.’
Credits portrait photo: Lulu Cavanagh.