What started as a hobby has since become a phenomenon for Jordan Rondel, a.k.a. The Caker, who’s taken over the Auckland baking scene with her own brand of cake cool. With her space on K’ Road and a book deal under her belt, she’s one smart cookie who’s taken her fascination for all things sweet and turned it into some healthy dough.
I chatted to Jordan about her recent trip overseas and her work experience with some of industries best, how she manages her business, and her favourite places to eat and drink in Auckland. And lucky for you she’s shared one of deliciously guilt-free recipes too. Enjoy!
On your travels…
Let’s talk about your recent trip overseas. Where did you go and what did you do?
My boyfriend Stefan and I do a big trip every year to load up on inspiration and take a break from our busy jobs. This year we travelled to London, Paris, Barcelona, New York and LA. I worked at the amazing Meringue Girls in London, saw my grandparents in Paris, ate like a gourmand in Barcelona, assisted an incredible pastry chef and made pies in NYC, and hosted a cake making class in LA. Aside from work I explored, researched, made new friends, and walked my feet off.
What were your favourite food experiences from your travels? Savoury and sweet…
There are so so many. In London I loved the food markets – Broadway Markets and Borough Markets were my favourites; in Barcelona I loved all the fresh seafood and delicious tapas; in New York I loved my 23 course meal at Blanca; and in LA I loved In-N-Out Burger!
I always learn so much when I work in other people’s kitchens. I have such particular ways of doing things in my small and humble kitchen, so it’s great to see how other bakers manage their time and deal with stress. My favourite experience was assisting the pastry chef at Roberta’s in New York because I got to learn skills that I’d never had the chance to practice before. We made crazy things like porcini panna cotta, pink peppercorn candies and smoked ricotta ice cream.
How did these placements come about?
I just emailed all the places I wanted to work at and these were the ones that said yes. It helped that I have a good website, a decent following on Instagram, and a recipe book…these things all give me a bit of credibility I guess.
How do you think working alongside these other bakers helps with your business in New Zealand?
It makes me think big. All the bakeries that I worked at are extremely successful, super busy businesses and it makes me realise what The Caker could eventually become
And what about traveling, how do you think this inspires The Caker?
In so many ways. It’s impossible not to get inspired when you travel to such gastronomic cities. I tasted all sorts of cakes, desserts, pies, cookies and tarts, which gave me inspiration for new recipes and ideas of how to branch out and make The Caker the best bakery in Auckland!
You recently hosted a cake baking class in Los Angeles, tell us a little about what this entailed…
I was so nervous that I’d only sell 2 or 3 tickets to my class, seeing as I’d never been to LA before, and as far as I knew, nobody had ever heard of The Caker there. But surprisingly the class sold out, which I was ecstatic about. Basically I demonstrated how to make three of my favourite cake recipes in front on 25 people.
On The Caker…
As a young, small business owner, how have you found the process of setting up and managing The Caker? Do you have any advice for other young entrepreneurs?
I started The Caker in 2010, so I was just 21 when it all began. It was hard in the beginning, juggling a part time job and uni, but I chose to stick with it, and put everything into it. So that would be my advice…follow your passion and work ridiculously hard to achieve what you want to achieve, don’t give up no matter how difficult and stressful it gets.
How do you manage the baking and the day-to-day running of your business?
I usually get up at 6am, start baking at 7am, finish in the kitchen around 4 or 5pm, and then spend a couple of hours catching up on business related emails and cake orders. Most of the time it’s like this 7 days a week, so it’s pretty full on. But I thrive on being busy, and I recently hired my first employee, who helps take some of the pressure off in the kitchen.
Who do you look up to as a baker and where do you find inspiration for new recipes?
I look up to my good friend Eleanor from Petite Kitchen and London based bakers, Lily Vanilli and Amber Rose. I find inspiration for new recipes from what seasonal fruit I see at markets, my favourtie foodie blogs which I check every week, and of course cookbooks.
Your cakes have always used high quality and organic ingredients where possible, and you’ve always been a fan of gluten free and healthy recipes. What are your thoughts on the whole raw vegan movement which seems to be sweeping Auckland?
It was interesting being in Europe, particularly Barcelona, because barely anyone has even heard of leading a gluten free diet, let alone having a raw vegan diet. And everyone there seems extremely healthy and relaxed! Being French, I could never be gluten free or vegan myself, and while I respect the way that people choose to live their lives, I think this raw veganism movement can be taken too far by some. But in saying all that, I decided to take my baking down a more healthy and nutritious road, not because I’m vegan or gluten free myself, but because I discovered that I much prefer the taste and texture of cakes which aren’t packed full with white sugar and refined flours. I love replacing these ingredients with things like honey, maple, ground almonds and spelt flour, because they lend a more complex flavour and often the cake is more moist and delicious. So this big craze for gluten free, raw and vegan food, has worked in my favour, and I’ve managed to take advantage of it by creating more wholesome cakes, which also happen to be extremely delicious and guilt-free.
You’ve always had such exceptional branding (everything from your packaging to advertising and promotional videos). How important do you think your creative marketing has been to the success of your business?
Thank you Sam! I think it’s crucial. In this day and age, creative marketing is everything, it helps create a story behind a brand and, for me, getting it right has definitely aided the success of my business.
You’ve also become such a well-known face. Do you think having this personalised angle has helped The Caker grow?
I think from day one I’ve had some pretty great contacts which has definitely helped kick The Caker off the ground and get it known and loved by the right crowd. Being involved with the fashion industry for as long as I can remember, meant some of my first customers were fairly high profile people, so yes I think being somewhat in the public eye as an individual, has helped the success of the business. But right now I am The Caker, so at some point I may need to step back and separate myself from the brand a bit.
Tell us a little about your baking classes at your store on K’ Road…
My little spot on K’ Road is a beautiful ex-art gallery space with high ceilings and wooden floors. I knew as soon as I started baking there that I didn’t want to run it as a cake shop or a cafe, because I love having my own space too much, and love putting my music on really loud! So I had to think about how to best use space and decided that I’d make all my cake orders there during the day, host intimate cake classes in the evenings, and lovely afternoon teas in the weekends.
You talked about opening your cake store up as a little café at some stage, is this still on the cards?
Nope! I’ve gone full circle on that idea.
What’s next for The Caker?
Quite an exciting project actually, but it’s too early in the game to reveal!
What’s your all-time favourite sweet treat?
Weirdly enough, I have to say that a delicious bowl of granola with banana, almond butter and yogurt is my sweet treat of choice! But I also love liquorice, and need my chocolate every now and again.
Where are your favourite places to eat and drink in Auckland?
In no particular order, The Engine Room, Mondays Wholefoods, Coco’s Cantina, Lucky Taco, Dear Jervois, and Janken (my favourite Japanese in Auckland).
When you’re not in the kitchen baking, what do you do to relax?
I’m not very good at relaxing. But I actually like to cook to relax. Even after a massive day of baking, I still love to come home to cook dinner. Other than that, I love watching movies with a good glass of pinot noir.
You’re throwing a dinner party, what’s on the menu?
Bulgar wheat tossed with butter and parsley, roast seasonal vegetables, grilled haloumi and dates, tahini dressing and a big salad. For dessert I’d serve cake, of course!
And if you wouldn’t mind sharing a recipe with us that would be wonderful. Perhaps something indulgent without the guilt, your specialty…
GLUTEN FREE RASPBERRY, ALMOND ROSEWATER MUFFINS
These muffins are lovely and moist and since they aren’t overly sweet or buttery, you could even eat these wee cakes for breakfast!
Makes 12 muffins
250g ground almonds
pinch sea salt
½ tsp baking soda
1 cup raspberries (fresh or frozen)
2 large organic eggs
50g coconut oil, melted (or you could use butter)
1/4 cup runny honey
Rose Water Glaze
150g gluten free, golden unrefined icing sugar, sifted
2–3 tbsp water
1 tsp rose water
fresh or dried rose petals to decorate
Preheat the oven to 180ºC fan bake. Line a 12-hole muffin tray with paper cupcake cases.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine all the dry ingredients.
Gradually mix in the melted butter and honey, being careful not to over mix.
Evenly divide the batter between the cupcake cases.
Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until golden in colour and springy to the touch. Transfer the muffins to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the rose water glaze. Mix the icing sugar, rose water and red food colouring with a whisk. If mixture is too thick, add more rose water; if too thin, add more icing sugar. The glaze should be pale pink, shouldn’t be too viscous and should fall slowly from the whisk.
Spoon on a small amount of glaze onto each muffin. Top with rose petals and refrigerate for 20 minutes to allow the glaze to set.
Store in a cool, dry place in an airtight container for up to 3 days.