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The ingredients for a happy occasion

Teagan Brunner  |  19 August 2020

When you think of major celebrations, what is the first food that comes to your mind? For one of our young editors, Teagan Brunner, it’s a scrumptious and beautiful cake. Teagan has been working at her aunt’s business for a number of years, helping bake and deliver creations to celebrations around Melbourne. She sat down with her aunt Gabby to discuss her passion and the demands of the cake business.

Q Can you talk a bit more about your family and their influence in your baking?

I remember my grandma helped me make my first cake. We prepared it on the kitchen counter. I was on a chair, cranking the batter with a manual cake beater. I remember not caring about measurements and hygiene, it was all about being able to lick the spoon! Her amazing Christmas trifle was adored by the whole family.

I grew up around cooking enthusiasts, like my father’s dad. Gramps would make the most amazing apricot dumplings. Such a huge treat for the kids. Traditional ways were kept in the family, with twists that I use now.

Q What is the weirdest request you have been ever been asked for?

If I could make the frosting with NO sugar, which is quite impossible considering sugar is the stabilising ingredient. I could see where they were coming from, as for many diabetics, and children, too much sugar is not ideal. I was able to deliver a cake with a sugar supplement so that children still think they’re getting a super sweet treat for their birthday!

Q Can you describe the worst aspects of the job?

The physical labour. I absolutely love it but the job itself is quite physically demanding. I am usually hunched over the cake for hours working on details. One of the biggest cakes I made was a dragon cake. Each of those dragons took upwards of two hours because of the details; wings, scales and intricate faces. They turned out awesome!

Q Can you describe where you find joy in your work?

When I deliver a cake, faces light up. This is what motivates me to keep going and power through.

One story that stands out was a first communion for a daughter of a lower-income family. The other girls at the communion all had cakes and the family wanted the same. They were given my details and I was able to provide a cake that was beautiful, and something they could afford. I will never forget the little girl’s ecstatic expression when she saw it, and her claim that ‘it was better than the other girls’ cakes’.

Q Can you tell me about a time when you felt a real sense of accomplishment in the job?

When I was able to say ‘I made that cake’ for the first time. It was for my 30th birthday.

I set out hunting for cakes, only to meet with the fact that the ones I liked were way out of my price range. I had noticed awesome creations my friend made, and approached her for help. Together we scoured the internet and found a castle cake I fell in love with.

She had helped me cover my first cake, and taught me the basics. But the rest was up to me; the piping, butterflies and leaves on the vines. When it was done it was amazing to be able to answer the question of where I got my cake with, ‘I didn’t buy it, I made it.’

Q How do you balance your everyday job with your passion?

I am lucky enough to work in an understanding environment, so my employer allows me to take time off for this job. Normally if I have an order for a Saturday event I would wake up first thing in the morning and bake the cakes, put in a full day’s work and see to the cakes later. Thankfully this helps the cake fully set as well, helping me on both ends.

On bigger orders, I am able to take a week off and fully focus on the celebration. I flew to Newcastle for a weekend party for my close friend’s daughter, which was such a fortunate occasion to attend.

Q What is the most memorable occasion you’ve catered for?

My brother’s wedding was such a significant moment in the business. My team and I made upwards of 500 macarons, 250 profiteroles, three cheesecakes and, of course, the wedding cake.

The cake itself took seven hours to paint and three hours to airbrush. I had taken time off to tackle this, as well as balancing my own health, which was a little hard. But seeing them cut the cake was totally worth not sleeping for three days!

Q Can you describe your first funny fail to do with baking?

One time, I had the first tier ready to go for covering. I was carrying it to the back fridge when all of a sudden I tripped over my cat, covering him in caramel mud cake frosting and completely destroying the cake. I rushed around re-baking both layers and calling my client explaining why I would be late. Adding to the chaos, the main character was supposed to be sitting on the cake, apparently he was too butt heavy, as he leant and fell over. I made five different models to secure him. It truly was a nightmare cake!

Q Out of everything you like to bake, what is the most exciting for you?

Something new and challenging. It’s so awesome to go through the process of trial and error, figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Like when the first caramel mud cake broke my stand mixer, I learnt quick enough to keep an eye on the caramel before it set. This reason is why I would prefer at least a fortnight's notice to when a cake needs to be delivered, so I have time for test runs, and taste tests! 

> You can find more of Gabby’s creations at the Cakes by Gabby Facebook page, @cakesbygabbyau.


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