Self-taught cake decorators are leading the industry into a hyper-feminine new era of layer cakes, over-piped with neon buttercream ruffles and topped with glittering maraschino cherries.
The visually spectacular desserts have captured the attention of Instagram users across Australia, turning small scale cake decorating businesses into social media success stories.
Avid home baker Javi Cerda put her corporate career on hold to open custom cake store Javi Bakes at Rushcutters Bay in June, after online demand outstripped the capacity of her small share house kitchen.
Her Instagram account @javi.bakes has amassed over 20,000 followers, propelled by social media influencers such as Sydney’s Lillian Ahenkan (@flexmami).
“When I realised I could make more money baking cakes full time, I thought I’d take the leap of faith,” Cerda explains.
Sydney psychology graduate Natasha Mavros picked up cake decorating during COVID lockdown as a way to pass time and lighten the mood with hand-piped messages (‘F— COVID’, says one heart-shaped cake with neon purple and orange ruffles).
After a little trial and error and a lot of YouTube tutorials, Mavros started the Instagram account Baked in Space (@baked_inspace). Private messages began rolling in, requesting cakes for birthdays, weddings and even divorce parties.
“I wasn’t trying to start a business … but it just blew up,” Mavros says.
“I had tens of thousands of followers within just five months, it was insane.
“When it was time to go back to work I realised I couldn’t, because I was fully booked with cake orders for the next month.”
Gen Z and millennial women make up the bulk of orders, which are usually priced between $180-$300 per cake, more for custom designs.
Cerda, who also began decorating during lockdown, taught herself how to pipe buttercream in the vintage style of renowned British pastry chef Joseph Lambeth.
In his 1934 cookbook, Lambeth Method of Cake Decoration and Practical Pastries, Lambeth popularised a centuries-old method of over-piping. The style returned to favour in the ’70s and ’80s, in part due to The Wilton School cookbooks.
“There’s something very nostalgic about it,” says Cerda, referencing the wedding cakes of her parents’ generation.
The cakes tap into society’s post-COVID attraction to nostalgia, explains Anna Le of Ginger Loves Cake.
“I remember seeing those cakes when I was growing up in the ’80s,” she says.
“If you were getting a wedding cake in that era, the piping was really over the top.”
Le, a freelance hair and makeup stylist, began decorating cakes for her daughter Ginger as a way to get out of a ‘creative rut’.
“I taught myself by watching Instagram reels,” she says.
“I thought I might do it for fun as a side hustle but … I didn’t realise it would be as popular as it is.”
Her Instagram-based cake decorating business @gingerlovescake quickly expanded. Operating out of her home kitchen in Marrickville, Le can only decorate up to 10 cakes each week.
“I went from one or two orders each week to doubling, and quadrupling that,” she says.
“It’s all through Instagram … Decorating these cakes is an over the top artform that really captures peoples’ attention.”
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