Newcastle, NSW, Australia
I’m a former industrial chemist, and after deciding on a career change while at home with my two young children, I’m now a qualified pastry chef. In 2009 I started taking some classes in cake decorating and other pastry-related cookery, and taught myself many more decorating techniques from books and internet resources. In 2010 I started a pastry apprenticeship, studying Retail Baking (Cake & Pastry) Certificate III at TAFE, which I completed with Distinction in 2012. I completed my apprenticeship in December 2013, and am now working as a full time Pastry chef and Cake Decorator at 'Exquisite Cakes by Lennert' in Cessnock, NSW.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Mission Accomplished!

And there goes another time warp... but for me, that's a GOOD thing! If I haven't been posting on my blog, that means I've been busy and gainfully employed. But there is a very good reason I decided to make a rare appearance today. I quote from my very first blog post on the 1st of August 2009...

"With Cameron’s third birthday rapidly approaching, and his birthday cake to be my first serious attempt at decorating since I began to explore the world of edible art, now seems like as good a time as any to start documenting my quest to become a pastry chef slash cake decorator."

Cameron is now seven, so more than four years have passed, and I am very happy to announce that my quest is complete... as of today, I am a qualified Pastry Chef! I know there are huge gaps in the actual documentation of said quest, but once I actually started my apprenticeship and was working full time, blogging fell by the wayside as life became busier.

My journey had some rocky patches, but thankfully I found the right employer at the right time. I am now staying on at Exquisite Cakes in Cessnock as a full time "pastry chef slash cake decorator" ... just like I wanted to be!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Toy Story

It's August again already!  I started this blog four years ago today in the lead-up to my son's 3rd birthday, which was when I started taking cake decorating seriously. This time last year I'd decided to put my blog on the back-burner, and Cameron's 6th birthday cake missed the boat... before he turns 7, here's the 'Toy Story' cake I made for him last year...

After the dramas I had getting Rapunzel together for my daughter Rebecca's 4th birthday earlier in the year, I decided that I needed to simplify things so it wouldn't be such an ordeal. After all, that's the reason I had to stop taking private orders while working full-time... work was already tiring, and having to come home and do even more cake work became too stressful to be enjoyable.

Cameron wanted a 'Toy Story' cake, so I decorated a simple rectangle to make Andy's bed. It's a bit rough by my standards, but the birthday boy loved it and that's the main thing. Oh, and in the lead-up, when I realised I was cringing every time I thought about modelling Buzz and Woody, I decided to cheat and buy plastic toys. After all, Rebecca got a Rapunzel doll to play with after her cake was done with, so it's only fair... well, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!!!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Exquisite Cakes

After three long months of unemployment (it felt like three years!), I hit the jack-pot... six weeks ago, I starting working at Exquisite Cakes by Lennert in Cessnock. Being Newcastle-based it's a bit of a drive, but worth every minute to finally be doing the kind of high-end patisserie and cake decorating work I really wanted to do. I've even designed and decorated two wedding cakes for advertising in Your Hunter Valley Wedding Planner magazine, and very much looking forward to seeing my work professionally photographed for the first time.

And now that I have my Saturdays back (well, mostly... just a half-shift every third Saturday now), I'm joining the Cake Decorators Guild of New South Wales. I used to be a member of the Cake Decorators Association, but stopped going because I had to work Saturdays at my last job and couldn't make it to meetings. In the meantime, the Hunter branch of the Association had folded and the ex-members formed a Newcastle branch of the Guild. It was great to catch up with some familiar faces yesterday, and I look forward to future demonstrations and opportunities to broaden my range of decorating skills!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Tinker Bell's Garden

Happy 5th Birthday to my beautiful daughter Rebecca!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Position Wanted...

Now, that distraction I mentioned while writing up the posts about my Show cake...

On the 1st of August last year, I wrote a post basically "signing off" from my blog.  I had decided once and for all to stop taking private cake orders, as my full-time bakery job was very tiring and I didn't have the time or energy to come home and do even more baking and decorating. I stated that it would be my last blog post, unless circumstances were to change again in the future.

And so, if the fact that I'm posting again would suggest things have changed... that would be a yes. The bakery I was working at has experienced a down-turn in business, and when it came to job cuts, I drew the short straw. I am now an out-of-work 3rd year Apprentice Pastry Cook. I was happily working away on the flowers for my Show cake while on annual leave in late January and early February, and then went back to work only to have the rug pulled out from under my feet... finding out my last shift would be, most inconveniently, the day before my entry had to be delivered to the showground.

Part of me felt that for my family's sake I should have dropped everything and started intensive job-hunting the day I found out. But in terms of time and money, I had already invested so much in my Show entry, I didn't want to abandon it either. Display cakes aren't cheap to make... polystyrene dummies, kilos of icing,  colour/lustre powders, wires, ribbons, boards, pillars, supports, and the Show entry fee itself, it all adds up. And despite the impressive haul of trophies and ribbons I received there are no monetary prizes, so no way to recoup any of the cost... right at a time when my family could least afford unnecessary expenses.

Obviously, I decided to go ahead with the entry... but that doesn't mean I didn't feel guilty as hell for doing it. I might have bailed on last year's Show entry when I realised I'd left it too late to get started, but this year I'd already progressed much further by the time the job blow came... past the "point of no return," so to speak! It's been a tough few weeks, but what's done is done... and I think that the Best In Show result certainly proves I made the right decision.

Anyway, Show's over. Now to deal with the employment situation... I'm back on the job-hunting warpath! As for whether or not I start taking cake orders again, that will depend on whether or not I find a new job fairly quickly. If a couple of months go by and it's not looking promising, I will definitely consider it. Until then, I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Best In Show!

By now the Newcastle Show would be winding up for another year... and I was stoked beyond belief to receive not one, not two, but THREE ribbons and trophies for my cake entry! I was awarded first place in the Novice Wedding Cake class, the Champion ribbon for the Best Judged Novice entry, and because I out-scored all the Open Class entries as well, I was also awarded the Open Class Champion ribbon and Best In Show card!

Not a bad haul for a single entry, and only my second time ever entering the Show! However, I did cop a bit of criticism from the judges on the marking sheets, but it wasn't unexpected... I knew there were flaws, but considering the distractions going on around me at the time, I'm happy to have even gotten an entry together at all. And while I was a little disappointed that I only scored 78 and 80 (out of a possible 100) respectively from the two judges, it's also encouraging that I was able to pull off a Best In Show effort, and still have plenty of room for future improvement!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Forget Me Not!

Because I'm most definitely still around! This year's Newcastle Regional Show kicks off today, and once again I've put an entry in the Novice Wedding Cake class. After being awarded second place in the same category in 2011, and piking out in 2012, I'm BACK... bigger & better than ever in 2013! Here she is... a 4 tier 'Victorian' style tower of roses & forget-me-nots!

There's no denying I love making realistic sugar flowers, but in 2011 I learned the painful lesson that I can't rely on my flower making skills alone to get me over the line. The winning entry that year was a brightly coloured Indian theme wedding cake with no flowers at all, but it had spectacular piping detail on every tier and beautifully modelled bride & groom figurines on top. In 2012, I had an entry planned and got as far as starting to make the flowers, but crashed and burned when I realised I'd left my run too late. I visited the show anyway to see what my competition would have been, and the Novice Wedding Cake winner had just one flower on the top, but hours upon hours of work in drapes, frills, stencilling, and other detail.

So taking away what I'd learned over the last two Shows, this year I set out to prove that I'm not just a 'one trick pony.' I figured that if you need heaps of work on the cake itself to impress the judges, what if I do heaps of work on the cake and THEN pile it to the roof with gorgeous flowers??? Once again I stuck with roses, because that's still what I do best. The original plan also included freesias and baby's breath, but here's where I admit that time got away from me yet again. The forget-me-nots happened to be the first batch of filler flowers I made, so they had to play 'support act' to the roses on their own or I risked running out of time to get enough work done on the cake itself.

Having said that, I had a massive distraction crop up in the last few weeks (but that's a story for another day) and honestly, I'm stoked that I still managed to put up as good an entry as I have. Although the 'vision' came together pretty much as planned, the execution wasn't the greatest... much of the decorative work was a rush-job done just last weekend, and the 'casual' look of the flower arrangements was achieved by hastily poking semi-random holes in the dummies and sticking in flowers and ribbons wherever they fit the night before delivery to the showground.

As impressive as it may look to the untrained eye, I know how 'thrown together' it really was toward the end, and the judges will probably have picked holes in it too. Even so, this is still by far and away the most spectacular cake I've done since taking up the craft... and whether I've won a ribbon this year or not, I'm still seriously proud of what I've achieved!