Cake artists Jandri van Zyl and Nikki Symons whip up a recipe for success

Founders of Cake Canteen Nikki Symons (née Albertyn) and Jandri van Zyl. Picture: Supplied

Founders of Cake Canteen Nikki Symons (née Albertyn) and Jandri van Zyl. Picture: Supplied

Published Jan 30, 2024


For cake artists Jandri van Zyl and Nikki Symons (née Albertyn), mixing eggs, sugar, butter, and flour means a lot more than making a cake.

As cake artists, it is a constant source of pleasure, pride, and creativity as they have brought that expertise at their new Cape Town cake shop called Cake Canteen.

Van Zyl, founder of The Velvet Cake Co and Symons, founder and creative director of Sweet LionHeart, have collaborated to create the best cake in the Cape Town.

Cake Canteen emerged in August last year when Hertex Fabrics proposed opening a cake shop at its Bellville showroom. A collaboration with Sweet LionHeart and The Velvet Cake Co, Cake Canteen was officially established on November 1.

Inspired by a desire for collaboration over competition, the cake shop caters to cake enthusiasts and those seeking a delightful sit-down experience.

Van Zyl said she and Symons had different approaches to their craft and collaborating gave the Cake Canteen an edge in that guests could now experience two well-known cake brands in one space.

“We love it when clients can immediately see who baked which cake – there is something so special about supporting each other in that way,” she said.

The Cake Canteen. Picture: Supplied

Asked about their childhood memories of being in the kitchen, Van Zyl said her grandmother baked amazing creations without really using a recipe and she also enjoyed throwing ingredients together and seeing what came to life.

“Surprisingly, I do not see baking as something that needs to be precise, but rather expressive,” said Van Zyl.

Symons said she grew up spending most family holidays and gatherings in the kitchen cooking up a feast with her mom, fostering a deep appreciation for the conviviality of food.

Her mom was a more spontaneous cook. She said her early baking adventures were guided by her grandmother.

“I have the fondest memories of spending what felt like hours making Mexican tea cakes with Granny Dodge in her kitchen in Woodstock with its way-too-low ceiling, eating half the batch as soon as it came out of the oven while sitting on her countertop.

“My true passion for baking was only ignited once I got going in the part-time patisserie course at Silwood in 2015,” said Symons.

“As a graphic designer specialising in multimedia design a lot of the work I was doing, besides some photography and food styling, was restricted to the digital realm.

“When I started my course at Silwood I started to understand how I could bring my love for design into a physical space working through cake, all the while honing my craft as a photographer and stylist. I became obsessed with taking photos of cakes and baking them for orders fed this need – so that is how it all started.

“If it was not for Instagram I am sure my journey would look very different as that was where I started getting orders before I had a website for Sweet LionHeart.

“Now everything we make is ordered online via the site and Instagram is purely promotional and keeping in touch with our community,” she said.

The Cake Canteen. Picture: Supplied

With a wide selection to choose from, the current top-seller at the shop is their vanilla and cinnamon buttermilk cake with a hint of pink milk, stacked with lemon curd and custard, coated in Swiss buttercream.

Besides their beautiful and delicious cakes, they also offer coffee by Rocco & Riley.

Cake Canteen is at the Hertex Fabrics showroom in Bellville as well as Upper Buitenkant in Gardens and they trade from Monday to Friday from 8am until 5pm and on Saturday from 9am until 2pm.