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
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.’