Let Them Eat Cake

Take two cake lovers, a dol­lop of skill and cre­ativ­ity and mix well. The re­sult? Mag­i­cal cre­ations and a book full of mem­ory-mak­ing recipes

Food - - Contents - Words: Nicky Pel­le­grino

Two cake lovers cre­ate magic in the kitchen and a book full of mem­ory-mak­ing recipes

There is a cake that looks like a cas­tle, there is a trea­sure chest and a princess, even a monarch but­ter­fly. The 80 cel­e­bra­tion cakes in The Great New Zealand Birth­day Cake Book are mag­i­cal. And the story of how 25-year-old Jazmine Nixon came to cre­ate them has a fairy­tale qual­ity about it too.

Auck­lan­der Jazmine isn’t a celebrity chef or a fa­mous blog­ger; not so long ago she wasn’t even an es­pe­cially good baker. “I was al­ways the one who got the recipe wrong or for­got to put the lid on the blender,” she ad­mits.

Five years ago she re­turned to New Zealand af­ter a stint as a semi-pro­fes­sional wind­surfer and got into bak­ing the kinds of treats she hadn’t been al­lowed to eat while she was com­pet­ing, teach­ing her­self from books and Youtube clips. Then a friend asked her to cre­ate a 21st birth­day cake. “I look back now and think it was ter­ri­ble,” she says, “but we cov­ered the holes and scrapes with lit­tle daisies and it looked fine. And it was fun. I loved the feel­ing of giv­ing her a present that was re­ally worth some­thing to her.”

There were 10 more cakes that year as Jazmine’s close cir­cle of friends all turned 21. And then they started get­ting mar­ried, so of course she baked and dec­o­rated their wed­ding cakes. Still it might have stayed a hobby if not for the fact that Jazmine’s hus­band, Josh, is the nephew of Mur­ray Thom, cre­ator of best­sellers like The Great New Zealand Cook­book.

In­spired by an old Aus­tralian Women’s Weekly book from the 1980s, Mur­ray and his team had turned their at­ten­tion to birth­day cakes. And they had seen pic­tures of Jazmine’s amaz­ing work so she was the ob­vi­ous choice to be in­volved.

“I knew it was go­ing to be hard work, but also that it would be awe­some and I’d never get another op­por­tu­nity like it again,” she says.

So last year Jazmine spent two months dec­o­rat­ing 10 cakes a week in the kitchen of her mother-in-law Wendy’s house, while also work­ing full­time as a graphic de­signer for her father’s real es­tate busi­ness.

Her mem­o­ries of that time are lost in a haze of ic­ing sugar and lack of sleep, but she does re­call cakes ev­ery­where – all through the kitchen, the lounge and even the garage.

“I know I couldn’t have done it with­out Wendy,” she says. “She helped with ev­ery­thing. It was re­ally cool to have the chance to spend so much time with her.”

They wanted the book to have a Kiwi flavour, so there are lots of our icons

Her mem­o­ries of that time are lost in a haze of ic­ing sugar and lack of sleep, but she does re­call cakes ev­ery­where

trans­formed into cakes, like a rugby jersey and a kina shell. They also needed to cover the old clas­sics, like the cake train. “Those were quite in­tim­i­dat­ing to recre­ate with­out copy­ing,” Jazmine ad­mits. “I wanted to do some­thing fresh.”

While she was in charge of carv­ing and ic­ing, the cake base recipes were sup­plied by “Global Baker” Dean Brettschnei­der. But she doesn’t know what they taste like, be­cause she isn’t al­lowed to eat them. “Three years ago I was di­ag­nosed as be­ing coeliac,” she ex­plains. “It was dev­as­tat­ing. Mum and I were in tears in the doc­tor’s surgery and he had no idea why we were so emo­tional. I can still eat the ic­ing though and I love that.”

While she’s not plan­ning to give up her day job and be­come a full­time caker, Jazmine can’t wait for her and her friends to start hav­ing kids so she has a new gen­er­a­tion to sup­ply with her cre­ations.

“I love bak­ing,” she says. “I love the sugar and the joy and most of all the ex­cite­ment on the faces of chil­dren when they see what I’ve made.”

‘I love bak­ing. I love the sugar and the joy and most of all the ex­cite­ment on the faces of chil­dren when they see what I’ve made.’

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