Mouth watering cakes that are as good to eat as they are beautiful to look at – Sharyn of Blackbird Cakes’ mission is to provide ‘lasting memories of times worth celebrating’. Using only the finest ingredients, Sharyn makes her cakes from scratch and aren’t they things of beauty? Whether they are simple and semi naked, or stunningly adorned in inky black fondant, or delicate gold and watercolour Sharyn puts her heart and soul into every masterpiece. I can’t get over the cake created to look like wood with peeling bark (perfect for a woodland themed wedding!) or the simple white cake tumbled with fresh flowers – each just perfect and reflective of the bridal couples’ personalities. When you know that Sharyn has created and perfected your cake especially for you, there is a thrill and a feeling of humility that she honoured your occasion by creating something so beautiful. Here is Sharyn’s story.
Your journey to opening Blackbird Cakes is an interesting one. Would you share it with us?
Baking has always been in my blood. No matter what I have done in my working life, baking and dessert making has never been far from my mind. I spent time early on in my career studying and conducting research in the field of Psychology, along with dabbles in the study of Mediation, Art and Myotherapy. However, when it came to crunch time, returning to the workforce after the babies were at school, my heart yearned for the kitchen. So back to TAFE I went where I obtained my Cert III in Patisserie, and the courage to step out on my own. It was then Blackbird Cakes was created.
Image by Hello Darling Photography
What or who inspired you to take up baking?
I never really thought of myself as taking up baking, as it was just something that I was obsessed with from my early years. Memories of childhood parties seem to centre around what cake was served, and creating fiddly pastry creations was my weekend pastime as a teenager. This all stemmed from watching and helping mum and nan in the kitchen, from the slow and precise folding of a sponge, to the apple pies and puddings created for family meals and get togethers. I only found out at my nan’s funeral, that she in fact worked in a bakery in her teens. Baking is deeper than just a vocation for me, as it seems, it is in my blood.
What is your specialty?
At Blackbird Cakes, we operate without a catalogue. So when you order a cake from us, it is your cake… not Cake A, B or C. Each cake is tailored specifically for the recipient or the event. We also only use the finest ingredients and bake everything from scratch, which provides a premium product for our clients. And we have an open studio, where you can watch us work from behind glass panes.
Image by Qlix Photography
What is the joy for you in creating the perfect cake?
So many joyous moments are experienced along the way of creating the perfect cake. Would you believe me when I said that I still love the baking process (even after baking thousands of cakes!). Torting the cake, filling and layering, getting the straight edges or carving an amazing shape all are joyful. Watching our creations come to life as each layer of decoration is added, to the final look on the faces of our clients when they first see their cake, are processes I never tire from.
Where do you find you day to day inspiration to create/design unique cakes for bridal couples?
Inspiration is a constant journey. Of course places like Pinterest, magazines and blogs are never ending sources of inspiration. But I like to look further beyond and am inspired by art in many forms, from galleries to street art, patisseries and bakeries, and funky retail spaces and architecture. Mother nature is also a never-ending supply of inspiration.
Image by Blackbird Cakes
Please describe some of the more popular cake and filling options you offer?
We are baking our famous White Chocolate and Raspberry cake for many of our clients at the moment, which is filled with our white chocolate ganache (made with couverture chocolate). We also find that the Gingerbread and our Chocolate, Raspberry and Coconut cakes are sneaking up to the number one position… though they still struggle to de-throne our Chocolate cake from top position.
Images by Qlix Photography
Do you work on adding new cake and filling flavours regularly to keep your cake offerings up to date and different?
The beauty of my job is that I get to taste cakes and pastries as “research”! So yes.. I am always ‘researching’ new flavours and we are keen to supply our customers with custom flavours too.
How long do you have to work on new cakes and fillings before you feel they are perfect for presentation? What does that involve?
We have a tried and true set of base recipes, which have been tweaked and tested, and tweaked again over many years. We always experiment on ourselves and our families, with never a complaint I might add! Our golden rule is that if the cake is not right, it doesn’t go out, so we will test and taste for however long it takes.
Do cater to gluten free or other food allergies with your cakes?
We can offer most of our flavours that are made with gluten free ingredients, and we do have a couple of Vegan options also.
We notice that you offer both ganache and naked cakes as well as cakes covered in fondant. What is more popular for 2018?
At the moment, we are providing many ganached and nearly naked cakes to our customers, as they are not only very popular, but particularly gorgeous when dressed. We are seeing an increase of requests for marbled fondant cakes and quite a bit of gold leaf effects coming into play. I must say that rose gold seems to be the big hit for 2018.
Does the florist supply the fresh flowers for a cake and do you arrange them on the cake to follow thorough with the bride’s vision?
We work with our brides’ florists to produce a beautiful product for their big day, whether we dress the cake with flowers supplied by the florist, or assisting the florist to dress the cake. With fresh flowers, it is of utmost importance to keep the cake from being contaminated and spoiled, which is our equal priority to the cake looking its best.
Image by Kim Selby Photography
How do you keep up with the latest trends in all things cake?
The internet is the most amazing way of keeping abreast of all things trending in cake – Pinterest, blogs, Instagram, videos etc… Along with armchair surfing, we also attend cake shows and classes regularly.
What are some new ideas you’re seeing on the horizon in the world of cakes?
I am in love with hand-painted cakes at the moment, from watercolour effects, abstract shapes and bright features, to leaves and anything from nature adorning a cake. Bold colours and designs, and cakes that are entirely black are my favourite cakes to make.
Image by Shaun Guest Photography
Transporting the cake to the venue must be one of your most nerve-wracking journeys. Any funny stories to share?
Not many funny stories, as you are 100% right in saying that it is the most nerve wracking part of the process… and I may have used the old psychological trick of burying in my sub-conscious the two ‘accidents’ we have had delivering cakes… Thankfully we are super organised and enacting our contingencies did not impact the delivery deadlines – phew! Now, ask me something else… I’m breaking into a sweat J
Away from your daily profession, do you like to cook and experiment with dishes?
I just LOVE cooking… I love the challenge of cooking from my garden and the pantry. I LOVE cookbooks (and yes, they have pride of place in my home!). I have managed to install a steam combi oven in my home, so I make bagels regularly, along with hand made pasta, pies and other assorted pastries. I love cooking days with my beautiful friend Jo, usually where we cook up a feast to share with our families. My favourite dish.. this is just too hard of an ask to decide on just one… oh, okay then… Jamie Oliver’s Green Chicken Curry in his 30 minute meals book (which takes me well over an hour to make!).
What do you like to do when relaxing on your days off?
I love the big smoke…so trips to Melbourne (and beyond when I can) to explore everything from food to art is my favourite thing to do. At home, it would be potting around the garden and a long soak in the bath, and of course – baking!
Thank you Sharyn for sharing your story. It seems almost a pity to cut these cakes – they are so pretty, but cut them we must, to enjoy even more sweetness inside. To find out more about Blackbird Cakes visit their website.
Headshot by Fiona Handbury – The Garage Studio Photography,