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.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Series of Unfortunate Events

So I'm coming up to exams in November, and the pastry cook I work with is awaiting the arrival of his new baby.  Waiting, waiting, waiting... theory exams come and go without incident, then it all comes down to my final practical assessment on the 29th. My boss had wanted me to skip TAFE when the pastry cook had his week off, but sorry... no-can-do this week.

The Wednesday before my prac exam, wet weather and slippery conditions caused a certain mishap on the road that left my car with an unfortunately remodelled bonnet.  OK, stay calm... it's my day off tomorrow, we can take it to get assessed straight away, then take it from there.  Ahhhh... nope. Later that evening I finally get the text I've been sweating on for weeks... pastry cook and his wife are coming close to heading for the hospital.  Goodbye day off, hello getting the whole family up at 3am to take me to work in what was up until now our back-up vehicle.

On my own at work, stressing about the sudden change in transport situation (yes, my poor old car got written off), AND trying to stay focussed on exam preparations... they say things come in threes!  Many thanks to my wonderful father, though, for volunteering to get up at crazy hours of the morning to drive from Morpeth to Mayfield to pick me up and take me to Salt Ash for my 4am start from the next day onward so we didn't have to drag the kids out of bed every morning... and as if that wasn't enough already, my dad also did the leg-work in finding us an awesome car to replace the one we lost.

All's well that end well, though... we now have a MUCH better family car than we had before, my prac exam went really well, and although we're still ironing out a few problems at work caused by a staffing re-shuffle that didn't quite work, life is slowly getting back to normal. Oh, except that the day we picked up the new car my computer chucked a wobbly and decided not to work the next morning.  And our lawn mower died yesterday.  But you get that... just when you think it's safe to back in the water, so to speak!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Last Christmas

And yet another month flies by... speaking of which, before the bells start jingling for THIS Christmas, here's what I made for my family last festive season.  I happened to catch an episode of Poh's Kitchen with Emmanuel Mollois, who made a gorgeous looking Yule Log... the recipe and video can be found at

The log had a heart of vanilla barvarois wrapped up swiss-roll style in a sheet of sponge with chocolate mousse and pistachio almond praline.  Unfortunately something wasn't right with the recipe for the chocolate coating that was supposed to go on the outside (you can find my colourful expression of annoyance at this in the comments under the recipe amongst those of others that had the same problem); suggested changes to the recipe have been added since, but I haven't tried it again.  I was still up at midnight on Christmas Eve improvising with a ganache that I made from the last of the chocolate and cream I had left in the house.  All's well that ends well, though... my logs (eventually) looked and tasted amazing, and were a hit with the family.

At the time I was still working at the now-defunct 321 Patisserie, and we had a French pastry chef working with us making yule logs (or Buche Noel, in his native tongue) for the shop.  He always put meringue mushrooms on them, and after a bit of Googling I found out that mushrooms were a traditional decoration for yule logs, as they are meant to resemble a log that's fallen over in the forest.  I added some holly made from modelling paste, and a dusting of icing sugar for snow.

Finally, a cross-section of one of the cut logs... it was most suitably rich and delicious!

And now that 2011 is three quarters over, that FINALLY wraps up 2010!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Now, where was I...

And just when I decide to make an effort to get back into blogging, my long on-its-way-out network card finally gave up the ghost.  Internet access... you don't realise just how much you've gotten used to having the world at your fingertips until the door slams shut on them!  Anyhoo, back in the dim dark final weeks of 2010, I struggled on while battling depression to finish the last couple of orders I had on the books before taking what was to be an indefinite hiatus.

The string of first birthdays continued with another combined birthday/naming in a fairly similar style to the previous one...

... and my third 'Upsy Daisy' cake  She is proving to be one popular little lady! I could have done a fourth by now, but declined a recent order because of the afore-mentioned work/family/health life-balance issues.

There was to have been one more cake before the year was out, a 60th birthday cake for the mother of an old school friend... however having also suffered the devastating effects of depression, my sympathetic friend offered to cancel her order to make my life a little easier.  You know who you are... thankyou.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Project McQueen: Part 6

One last thing just HAS to be done before he goes on the board...

... a comparison back to the toy I used as a reference model. Quite happy with the likeness!

And finally on the board... on his actual birthday, only a few hours before family were due to arrive!

Happy 5th Birthday to my favourite little boy!

Project McQueen: Part 5

OK... wheels & spoiler added, details piped... time to show off with a 360 rotation!

Project McQueen: Part 4

Now the REAL fun begins!!!

Covered with red icing ...

... and now with coloured cut-out for the main features.

Looking oddly Mater-ish again... must be the brown circle of the Rust-eze logo looking reminiscent of Mater's exposed engine!  Not to worry... he's about to look a thousand percent better once the piping and details are done.

Project McQueen: Part 3

Just a little more fine-tuning was needed to get him ready for icing...

Indentations carved out for the wheels.

The built-up roof needed a little smoothing, so I came up with the idea of mixing some cake crumbs from the off-cuts with a little ganache to make a sort of "chocolate putty" to spread over it.

Fully ganached and ready to rock!

Project McQueen: Part 2

At this point in time, there's only one thing for it... grab a knife and start cutting!

From a square block to a rectangular block... not too shabby!

Hmmm... looking like I heading for Mater rather than McQueen at this stage.

Ahh, curves make a HUGE difference!

A little extra height, and I was done for the day.

Project McQueen: Part 1

Well, Cameron's 5th birthday has now been and gone, and he was stoked with his Lightning McQueen cake! I was pretty happy with it myself, but if the lead-up to the big day hadn't been a 6 day work week, I could have done better... and the plans I had for decorating the board as a desert highway scene went out the window because I simply ran out of time. However, even with the time constraints, I did manage to take quite a few progress photos along the way.

First thing's first... this is Cameron's much-loved and slightly beaten-up Lightning McQueen toy, which I used as a model to turn the cake that he's sitting on into his likeness.  It's a 10 inch square chocolate cake, but I made the mix for an 11 inch square to give it a bit of extra height.  I cut down the bicarb in the recipe slightly, hoping for a slightly denser cake that would be easier to carve.  I also froze the cake, as I've read here and there that cakes are easier to carve when frozen.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Two Years On...

How time flies... it's the 1st of August once again, two years to the day since starting my blog.  As stated in my very first post, I intended to 'document my quest to become a pastry chef and cake decorator.'  While I succeeded in recording my early efforts in learning the art of cake decorating, blogging fell signifcantly by the wayside once the real journey of becoming a pastry chef began.  So far it's a road that's been a little bumpy and taken a few unexpected twists and turns... my first job at 321 Patisserie fell through unexpectedly, then I had a brief stint at Snows Patisserie, but that didn't work out either.  Life's little roller-coaster is finally back on the upswing, though... I'm now happily working at Saxby's Bakery in Salt Ash, into my third semester of Cake & Pastry at TAFE, and not too far off being a second year apprentice.

Although I tried to keep doing cakes from home, the pressures of full-time work and study quickly became too much to handle.  Bakery/patisserie work is more physically demanding than I had anticipated, and unexpectedly long days at work caused significant stress when I was already exhausted to breaking point and then had to go home and make more cakes for my own customers. My sincere apologies to those who have made enquiries recently... at this point in time, staying focussed on my apprenticeship, and time for myself and my family, are higher priority than 'cakes on the side.'

Having said that, I will still be doing a select few cakes for family, close friends, and competitions.  I started my blog in the lead-up to my first serious attempt at cake decorating... my son Cameron's 3rd birthday cake.  Now my boy is nearly 5, and even as I write, the cake that will become his long-anticipated 3D 'Lightning McQueen' is in the oven.  It should be an interesting project... if I have time, I'll try to take a few progress pictures during the week.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Show Time!

"Blue Moon" ... my first ever competition cake won second place in the Novice Wedding Cake category in the 2011 Newcastle Regional Show!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Valentine Cookies

Surprise the one you love this Valentine's Day with a gift pack of delicious home-baked cookies, beautifully hand decorated with strawberry and chocolate flavoured icing. Free pick-up from Newcastle NSW, or mail order anywhere else in Australia.

Half dozen:  $8 pick-up or $13 mail order
Full dozen:  $15 pick-up or $21 mail order

Payment by Direct Deposit preferred... please email or visit for account details and/or other payment options.  Orders must be received by 4th February for mail order, or 10th February for pick-up.

Happy New Year!

Well, January is nearly over already, but Happy 2011 anyway!  Yes, I know, I've been MIA for a while... let's just say life's little roller coaster took a few unexpected twists and turns over the last couple of months and leave it at that.

As usual, I have a bit of catching up to do... firstly I'm happy to report that I did REALLY well in my first semester of Retail Baking at TAFE.  Out of five subjects I passed the two ungraded ones, and achieved Distinctions in all three graded modules.  I'm still working at 321 Patisserie in Argenton (almost half-way through the first year of my Pastry Chef apprenticeship), and we have another store opening soon in Warners Bay.

I also have a few photos to add from late last year, but at this point in time I'm taking an extended hiatus from doing cakes at home.  Going back to full-time work took a bit more out of me than I had anticipated, so for health reasons I've stopped taking cake orders for now.  However, I'm thinking I might come out of hibernation to do a small run of Valentine cookies and see how I go with a 'one-off project' ... I'll post details soon.