Valentine's Day with Lia from Stories to Gather
We sat down with beauty and businesswoman, Lia from Stories to Gather to talk about her journey in starting her own business, becoming a mother and her idea of the perfect date night outfit! Plus Lia has shared the recipe of her Chocolate & Raspberry Layer Cake - the perfect dessert for this Valentine's Day.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how your journey of starting your own business “Stories to Gather” came about?
I’m Lia, the heart and and of Stories to Gather. I grew up in an Australian-Italian household so family gatherings have always been around food. Since I was a child I saw the love and affection people would put into a celebration, and it stuck with me.
After becoming a mother my perspective on work changed. If I was going to be spending time away from my son I wanted it to be for something that was meaningful and fulfilling to me. My husband asked “If you could do anything, what would it be?” and I responded with “grazing tables”, and it was from that simple question and his encouragement that STG was created.
We love the name “Stories to Gather” how did you come up with the name?
Reflecting on why I loved events, it was the connections made. We would always make sure the table was full so everyone felt welcomed and would leave with a full stomach and an even fuller heart from the stories shared and memories created with loved ones. The name came from that idea.
Planning a special date is never easy, what are some tips on planning the perfect date tablescape?
- Select a colour palette and tie all the elements back to this. Seek inspiration for your colour palette from a beautiful ingredient that is in season, florals, or the table linen you would like to use. For this tablescape I was inspired by the beautiful rose coloured print in the dress.
- Incorporate a piece of nature to the table. Whether it be something that you have foraged on a walk, incredible seasonal fruit or beautiful blooms to bring warmth, interest and texture to your tablescape.
- Don’t get stuck with the “rules” of setting a table. Have fun and let it be a reflection of you and how you like to entertain. Each table should take on the heart and soul of every gathering and be as unique as the people who share it. This table is a celebration of Love so I included a meaningful quote to share with my love.
How does your personal style reflect your personality?
I’m naturally a little reserved, and so I often find myself in softer tones and neutrals.
What is your take on a perfect date night outfit and why?
Something that I feel comfortable and confident wearing. This is most often a dress and at the moment I am drawn to anything with a puff.
I can imagine running your own business and having to juggle motherhood can keep you quite busy, what are some self care practices you incorporate into your week, anything you can share to other mums who have their own small businesses?
There is no silver bullet here. I am good at it some weeks, and then not so good other weeks. I’m fortunate to have supportive parents, in-laws and a partner, which frees me to go to a movie, or out for dinner with friends. But finding joy in the small things is also important, such as being present when talking to other creatives or soaking in the atmosphere of a flower market. Life is busy, but you can often find something that will sparkle.
How do you practice sustainability in your day to day life?
This was a key focus when starting STG. We try to minimise packaging (especially single use plastic) by providing packaging that is either reusable, rescuable or edible. Instead of plastic containers we use cloth bags, glass jars, cardboard boxes and even open coconuts as bowls.
Chocolate & Raspberry Layer Cake
For the cake:
- 75g cocoa, sifted
- 225g plain flour, sifted
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder, sifted
- 175g caster sugar
- 75g brown sugar, sifted
- ¼ teaspoon salt flakes
- 250g unsalted butter, melted
- 3 eggs
- 150ml sour cream
- 150ml milk
- ½ teaspoon baking soda, dissolved into the milk
For the filling:
- 2 punnets raspberries
- 5 tbs caster sugar
- 1 tsp lemon juice
For the icing:
- 200g quality dark chocolate
- 30g unsalted butter
- 1/8 teaspoon salt flakes
- 150ml sour cream
- ¼ tsp vanilla extract
- 140g icing mixture, sifted
- Fresh raspberries to garnish on top (optional)
To make the cake...
Preheat the oven to 150°C (fan forced) and grease and line two 20cm round cake tins with baking paper.
In a large bowl, place the cocoa, flour, baking powder, caster sugar, brown sugar and salt flakes. Mix to combine.
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients. Pour in the melted butter, eggs, sour cream and milk (with baking soda dissolved in it). Whisk together until combined.
Divide the batter between the prepared cake tins using a rubber spatula to spread the mixture in the tin.
Place in the preheated oven and bake for around 35 minutes, rotating the positions of the cakes after 20 minutes. A thin skewer comes out clean when it is ready.
Once baked, allow the cakes to cool for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Let the cakes cool completely before icing.
To make the raspberry filling...
While the cake is baking, stir together 1 punnet raspberries, sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently and mashing the raspberries.
Cook until the mixture thickens and has a jam-like appearance (around 5-8 minutes). Once thickened add in the remaining punnet of raspberries and gently fold through to help the berries hold their shape. Allow the mixture to cool.
To make the icing...
Melt the chocolate, butter and salt together. This can be done using the double boiler method (suspended over a pan of simmering water), in the microwave, or on the stove top if you have induction. Whichever option you choose, go slowly, have uniform sized pieces and stir with a rubber spatula.
Leave the chocolate mixture to cool. It is ready when it feels only a little warmer than your body temperature. Whisk in the sour cream, vanilla extract and sifted icing mixture. It will firm up slightly as it cools and should be able to coat a spoon without it dripping off. If you would like it a little firmer, add in more icing mixture and if you would like it a little runnier, add a little warm water.
To assemble the cake…
To serve, trim the tops of the cakes to level them.
Place one trimmed cake on to the cake stand or board and use a palette knife to spread half of the chocolate icing.
Spread the raspberry filling and add the second cake on top and repeat the process of icing.
Garnish with fresh raspberries (optional) and enjoy!