Baking is one of those professions which seems rather romantic – it's all too easy to ice over the early mornings, late nights and stressful hours in between that go into creating dozens of beautiful cakes each day. Based in Auckland, Jordan Rondel has turned her talent for making treats into a sweetly successful business. With two recipe books, many beautiful events and an ever-growing list of daily orders under her belt, she explains a bit about how The Caker came to be.
Can you explain a bit about how The Caker transitioned from being a hobby to your full-time job?
As a young girl I would bake constantly. The kitchen became my domain. This was my passion and it has gone on to become my business. Around my schooling, I would prolifically bake. I started to realise several things: first of all, there were few complaints at my early efforts.
In the final stages of my Auckland University degree in Marketing and International Business, I began to bake in earnest. During my studies, various circumstances meant I had a name for myself in the fashion industry. Many high-profile fashion figures were interested in what I was doing and particularly in the innovative ways in which I was creating treats that were provided for the then budding move towards health-orientated treats.
In 2010, upon graduation, I was working part-time. Increasingly, the rest of my time was spent baking and my reputation was beginning to require that I make a life-changing decision. In 2010, I went for it. I officially began "The Caker", selling cakes through my blog. I was 21 years old. Since then, The Caker story has been a mixture of surreal successes and the inevitable stresses of starting and sustaining a small business.
What’s been the biggest learning curve since starting your own food business?
Running a food business or a business in general is no mean feat. Over the years, the hours of sleep I get each night creep lower and lower and stress levels get higher and higher. I'm still learning a lot, but the biggest thing I've learned is that without immersing yourself fully and utterly into your business, and putting everything you have into it, you won't get very far. Hard work and dedication is the only way to truly succeed.
I’ve read your French heritage has had an influence on your style of baking – how does this come through in your recipes now?
The seasons are very important to me, which is something I believe I picked up from my French grandparents. They only cook and bake with fruits which are in season and I do the same with my cake recipes.
Your latest book focuses on "wholesome" cakes – what does this mean to you and why is it important?
I much prefer the taste and texture of cakes that aren't packed full of white sugar and refined flours, topped with toothache-inducing icing. I love replacing those ingredients with things like honey, maple, ground almonds and spelt flour, and interchanging regular milk with coconut or nut milks. I absolutely believe it: these options lend a more complex flavour and often the cake is more moist and delicious.
What are some of your favourite fresh ingredients to use at the moment?
Right now I'm loving fresh figs and limes.
What advice would you have for someone who’s just starting to experiment with baking?
Practise, practise, practise!
I’ve heard you don’t have much of a sweettooth any longer – what are some of your favourite savoury dishes?
I love each and every recipe from the Ottolenghi cookbooks, which is Middle Eastern cuisine. I adore any dish that involves hummus, dates, preserved lemon, fresh herbs and haloumi cheese.
It seems you’ve made it to some pretty dreamy locations in the name of research – how important is travel for gathering inspiration?
It's very important to me to escape the NZ winter for a bit each year and go to a warmer climate where I can find great restaurants and new food trends. Even just leaving the business for a short time helps with inspiration because it gives you some distance from the day-to-day operations and allows you to feel creative again.
Where are your favourite spots to eat and drink in Auckland?
Depot, Fed Deli, Beirut and Ima.
How are you planning on spending your Easter weekend?
Sadly I'll be working – we have four weddings that weekend which all require extravagant cakes. In my spare time I hope to get some fresh air and sun on my face.