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.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

General Update

Now that I’m briefly between major cake projects I keep remembering all sorts of little bits and pieces that I’ve forgotten to mention along the way, so I’m going to sit down and rack my brains for a bit and see how many I can come up with. A pretty major one is that I’m now a member of the Cake Decorators Association of NSW, and I went to my first meeting last weekend. We had two visitors doing demonstrations; one did lisianthus and the other did cattleya orchids. It was nice to see something other than roses being done, because apart from the little filler blossoms, I haven’t tried to make any other type of flower yet.

I’m also doing another four Hunter Community College classes this term. I start the first one this week (four Tuesday evenings again) which is to make a novelty Christmas cake, then the one after is called Christmas & More (the next four Tuesday evenings, so eight weeks in total). Next Saturday morning is a one-off Children’s Birthday Cakes class, and two weeks after that is another Saturday morning for Christmas Cupcakes. Thankfully I don’t need too much more equipment for these ones, now that I already have the basics from doing the beginner class.

I’ve also stepped up my job hunting effort due to a change in family circumstances, and I am now looking to get into a Pastry Chef apprenticeship next year if possible. I applied for a job at a café in Hamilton this week, but again, no luck. The job title was ‘Baker/Pastry Chef/Cake Decorator’ and said they were willing to take someone wanting to start an apprenticeship, so would you not assume that they wanted an apprentice pastry chef? Apparently not… it seems like they actually want an apprentice chef that can do their cakes and pastries and then go off and do other stuff elsewhere in the kitchen as well, so I was turned down because I want to do the Patisserie certificate, not the Commercial Cookery one that apprentice chefs do. Having said that, the lady I spoke to about the job was very impressed with my application, and she even suggested a few places to send resumes to that would be better suited to the kind of work I want to do.

In the meantime, I’ve made up another batch of flower paste and I’m starting to work on making some rose sprays to (hopefully) sell. I decided to give the recipe in my book another chance, in case the problems I had with the batch from Mum and Dad’s cake had something to do with the way I made it up. I don’t have a saucepan small enough to sit my little bowl over to warm the gelatine, so last time I just boiled the kettle and sat it in another bowl of hot water. Since then I came up with the idea of sitting my gelatine bowl in the steamer over a saucepan, which worked much better for melting the gelatine and combing it properly with the glucose and copha. I also added the icing sugar to the wet ingredients rather than the other way around, so there was no loss in transfer this time (the chemist in me rears its head once more!).

A hint from one of the demonstrators at the Association meeting was to not add all of the icing sugar at the time of making so you have a bit of leeway later. This is especially handy if you need to colour the paste... if you’ve already made it up to the right consistency and then have to knead in colourings, you still have to keep adding more icing sugar as you knead to stop it sticking, and it could end up too dry. So far this batch of paste looks much smoother and softer than my last effort.

So at the moment I’m looking for work, about to start more classes, making roses to sell, and apart from the Christmas cake in the class that starts this week, my next big project (unless something else comes up sooner) will be a Playboy Bunny cake for my sister-in-law-to-be Amie’s birthday party at the end of November, and then my birthday is the week after hers… I’ve been wanting to try a Gift Box cake ever since I took up decorating, so I think I might just make myself one for my own birthday!

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