Working with sugary confections at Miss Ladybird Cakes, Gina sets out to tempt us with her imaginative range of treats, and beautiful cakes. As well as beautifully decorated weddings cakes and special event cakes, Gina can create small treats for a dessert table – macarons, fruit tartlets, cupcakes and much more. And for the real sweet tooths amongst us – did I mention her caramel slice? If you’re in Melbourne, drop in to her cute little shop and have a coffee and something scrumptious!
Where did your interest in baking and all things sweet start?
Like most bakers I found my love for baking through my grandparents. My granny had so many mouths to feed. 6 kids plus their friends, a husband and any workers off the farm that day. There were always people dropping in. She would make huge trays of creamed rice that were sticky and chewy on the edges. Her pumpkin scones were my favourite. Dark orange, hot from the oven and sprinkled with nutmeg, and soaking in melted butter. I still remember the day we visited and she had piped all these tiny little lace shapes and very delicately attached each one around a cake.
Where did you learn your craft?
I completed my chef training in New Zealand, while working full time at night in a restaurant. It was crazy times, studying all day and working all night. But no matter what I did I always came back to the pastry kitchen.
Do you prefer cooking sweet treats rather than savoury items?
I have always loved making sweets. To me it’s where my creativity goes wild. I find when I cook savoury I spend the whole time second guessing myself and I don’t feel overly inspired. But when I’m making sweet things it’s like my favourite song just came on the radio and I’m dancing along with it.
Can you describe favourite or most popular cake flavours that you make?
The most popular cake we make is the Snickers cake. Our classic chocolate cake, with peanut butter meringue butter cream and peanut toffee. I think I will be making these for the rest of my life! Raspberry and White chocolate mud is super popular but my favourite is the Caramel mudcake.
Do you suggest a different flavour for each tier of the cake? Or should there be a cohesiveness throughout the cake?
Depending on the situation. If the cake is for dessert then I usually suggest to have one flavour or 2 flavours, so that the guests don’t have too much choice. If its canape and roving then having different flavours for every tier makes it fun and you can cover all bases of guests. The chocolate fans, the fruit fans and the wild cards.
Can you make wedding cakes that cater for those with food sensitivities?
Absolutely! Dietary requirements are very common these days and we do the best we can to help with that. You should have your cake and eat it too! We also love making little mini cakes that are gluten free, dairy free etc and we like to decorate them in a way that they suit the main wedding cake. Nobody should be left out.
What has been the most unusual or challenging wedding cake request you’ve had so far?
I recently got to make a “day of the dead” style engagement cake. Bride and Groom skulls on top with dripping blood and red roses. It was a whole lot of fun to make and I’m so excited about making their wedding cake! People that came into the shop that day who saw it were very divided in their opinions… but the bride and groom to be loved it!
Is there a trend that you see in wedding cake decoration?
Rice paper flowers are a huge trend at the moment, and such a beautiful simplistic way of decorating your cake. I think cake design has started to become more simple where different heights in the cake tiers, use of block colour, neutral earthy tones, simplistic patterns and flowers create a very effective presentation.
What is your favourite way of decorating a wedding cake? Do you have a signature look?
I like to combine different uses of texture and shapes with my cakes but in a clean and simple way. I love doing things different and using classic “old school” techniques. It is almost too easy these days for people to buy a mould and stick it on a cake, I like to pipe and cut and mould and tweak… all from scratch!
What services can you provide for brides?
We make wedding cakes, dessert tables, kitchen teas, high teas and bonbonniere. All can be tailored to any theme or idea.
What has been your greatest business challenge to date?
My greatest business challenge would have to be opening my shopfront. 6 months of learning everything to do with the local council, the permits I need, how to obtain them. The physical construction of the shop was done by my brother and me. I learnt to grout tiles, bog walls, paint, use power tools and everything in between. We have been open for 6 months now and I am still learning something new every day.
Would you please describe your café? Where can we find you?
My cafe is a little wonderland. There is floor to ceiling shelving all cut up and pieced back together in higgelty piggelty fashion using furniture we bought second hand or found on the side of the road. The shelves are covered in old tea pots and trinkets from my childhood and of course cakes! I have pictures all over the wall in repurposed frames and old dressers displaying cakes. On the wall is a big painting of a girl with cupcakes in her hair designed by my sister. We are located in 256 McKinnon Rd, McKinnon, Melbourne.
What sorts of things are on the menu for morning tea? (I know someone who had the best doughnut he’d ever bought, from you!!)
We have good classics like Chocolate brownie, Caramel slice, wagon wheels, Peanut butter nougat, passionfruit yoyos, friands, blondies and so many more. On the weekends we do freshly baked doughnuts with fillings like passionfruit curd or salted caramel, our “weekend” cake which we have different flavours, and tarts like lemon meringue.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I lack in spare time these days so I am all about quality not quantity, mostly it is hanging out with my puppy, her name is Vinyl. Cooking dinner for friends with a nice bottle of wine.
My favourite home cooked dish is……..
Mince on toast….Its a Kiwi (New Zealand) thing! Slow cooked mince with carrots and peas and loads of pepper on grainy toast. Add a couple of poached eggs on there and I am in heaven!
Thank you Gina for telling us all about Miss Ladybird Cakes. To find out more about Miss Ladybird Cakes visit the website.
All images from Samara Clifford Photography