A lawyer and a cake maker? You must have balanced cerebrals!
I studied visual arts in high school and my focus was oil painting, which has equipped me well as I use the same style for hand painting on my cakes. I use edible powders instead of liquids because I prefer thicker brush strokes. I use them like I would use oil paints.
After school I went straight to university to study Law. I always had a creative streak but back then there wasn’t really a market for it – no multimedia existed and nothing like the cake decorating courses we have today. The main artistic avenues for me were being an artist or a fashion designer.
I chose corporate for a sustainable income yet I craved a creative release. By chance, a friend gave me a cake-decorating book as a birthday present and I thought it looked fun. The very first time I attempted it I fell in love with the process and kept on making more cakes for family and friends until I felt comfortable to bake for the general public. I decided to do it for mums who may not have the interest or the time to create birthday cakes for their children.
What is great about deliciously yours?
I love the quality of my product. I don’t think I have had anyone say that my cakes don’t taste delicious. I love that they taste amazing and that I get great feedback from my clients. Mums are exceptionally busy and the fact that I can offer them an invitation, cake, party favours, cookies or cupcakes and they don’t need to deal with anyone else is wonderful. They know they can bring concepts to me and everything will just flow.
I love that my cakes are unique and that I create something special for that mum’s special event. It is something she will remember always from her son’s birthday or daughter’s Christening. That it was made especially for her. It’s more than just a cake – it’s about creating a memory because I know my cakes will be remembered for years to come when mums and children look over their family pics of that day. That is something really special.
Why did you evolve your cake making business into stationery design too?
Often clients will come to me with an invitation and ask me to use it as inspiration for the cake design. Sometimes the invitations are, shall we say, ‘stylistically challenged’. Sometimes they would give me a copy of the invite and I would find the paper not of good quality. Sometimes that can stifle my creativity. I started to dabble in my own and my first ever invitation was for my sons 7th birthday. It was a Lego theme and I married the cake and party favours with the invitation. I loved it! I then came up with template designs that I really love – they’re unique and you won’t get a mermaid invite or a speedy racer invite like that anywhere else. I print on beautiful thick cardstock. I personally do all the designing, printing and cropping, and source the paper and envelopes. I love paper and it has evolved into wedding and engagement invites but kids invites are my favourite. I taught myself how to use Adobe Illustrator in a week and plan to do an intensive course next year.
What is a typical day for you?
My work hours are 7am to 3pm and then in the afternoon I spend time with my boys. I love after school catch-ups with my eldest son and hearing the gossip from the playground. We share afternoon tea together and do homework. If I need to do some baking I can do that in between afternoon tea and dinner. I can’t really concentrate on anything that requires attention like figurines, piping, sugar flowers etc until they go to bed. Like every other mum I know, it’s an 18-hour day. The beauty of cake decorating is that I’m not going to finish in 3 hours. It takes a bare minimum of 3 days – Day 1 is baking, Day 2 is prep, and Day 3 is design work. I can usually fit this into 2 hours each evening. I don’t watch television so I can just sit at my desk and design an invitation or work on my figurines.
I find it relaxing and fun although time pressure and creativity don’t always work well together. I know what my limits are and I won’t take on too many orders per week, and even if I did the quality would suffer. Although, when a client calls and the design sounds awesome – I usually squeeze it in!
What inspires you creatively?
Fashion, colour, flowers and art. My current craze is hot pink and I love anything with fuscia. Picasso is my favourite artist and I love the era he is from. I get inspired looking at his works and will often research a brush stroke. My children are gorgeous – they get excited and my eldest son will often ask when I will make a cake for his friends at school. I find that very motivational and inspiring; they keep me going.
Talk me through your creative process
I have a little folder that sits on my desk and I collect things over time that interest me such as textures, colours, or a picture of flowers. Often the client will have a couple of big picture ideas and I often think about these in my sleep!
Collaboration is important as is sketching things out, mixing colours and putting them next to one another. I will have an image in my head and sometimes it may not come together until the last minute. This is another reason why no two cakes are the same. The mum has an idea about what she wants and my brand is to do my own work – I see it as my job to put it together so that it inspires her.
Have you had any really difficult concepts to work with? How did it turn out?
I had a cake that I delivered last Saturday. My clients wanted it to look like old vintage textbooks for their daughter’s 21st birthday. I was excited, yet they said the bottom cake needed to be A3 in size and the other two cakes to be proportionally smaller. They also wanted Freud on the cake as their daughter is studying psychology. They showed me a picture of an incredible cake, which was massive, and it kept me up at night as I didn’t know how I was going to do it. I finished it at 2am that morning and it turned out incredibly well. They wanted each cake to have a specific name and I made a couch for Freud to sit on. I was worried that a figurine of him would look tacky so I sourced a Freud edible image and had him sitting on the couch upright. It really popped and looked amazing.
There was a hand-painting element that took a lot of time and I used a lot of different powders, fondant, watercolours and I hand coloured all the fondant. It had 3 shades of brown and I embossed the title of one of the books in gold yet the real challenge was the magnitude. I couldn’t carry it and the venue staff had to get 2 men to carry it in. I used 8 large cakes to be sculpted to the right size.
What has been your most favourite event you have worked on and why?
I did a photo shoot for Lenzo, a styling and hire company based in Melbourne. The owner travelled to Sydney to do the shoot and we collaborated with lots of different vendors. I designed a pop-art comic themed invitation for an engagement. Comics are massive in the US and there has been a resurgence of super heroes. I tailored it to the client’s style and received over 1,000 likes on the Lenzo page with so many positive comments about the shoot, cake and invitation! It was really fun and the best collaboration this year.
What have you learnt about business that you would share with others?
Time management is crucial. My life is a series of calendar entries; lists for domestic duties, time for baking, work meetings and when the newsletter is due. More recently I have learnt to pick up the phone to my customers. Initially the queries come in via the website or Facebook. I find it impersonal to continuously chat via online means when it is so much more lovely and enriching to have a real life chat with someone. I have learnt it is a beautiful thing and it makes the collaboration process so much more fun whilst being important for building relationships.
I may quote a cake and the customer changes their mind and unless they want something doubly expensive, I don’t charge extra for that. Design is collaboration and along the way we will change our minds and that’s ok. I change my mind too – and it is perfectly fine to do that.
Another bit of advice is to let yourself be known and be clear about what you stand for. My cakes and designs are not from a cookie cutter mould. I have never made the same cake twice as they are unique to that person and event. People want to know you and they are going to have this cake in their photo for the rest of their lives. I am capturing a moment in time and that is really special.
Favourite Inner West spots?
Drummoyne – we have been here for 10 years and love the waterfront near Russell Park. I love to get fish and chips from Ocean Foods and sit by the water while the boys play and watch the boats.