How I went from home baker to teaching 100+ cake decorating workshops all over the world

I started hobby baking from home in 2012 while working in an office as an Owners Corporation Manager. Wow, that was over 9 years ago! After a year of doing that and totally loving it, I took the plunge and opened Don’t Tell Charles Coffee & Desserts – a specialty coffee and dessert house. 

Mind you, when we opened I only knew how to make macarons and cupcakes. Fondant cakes were still predominantly the shiz back then and over time, I generally dabbled in and out of it with little interest.

Don't Tell Charles Coffee & Desserts, 2014

The buttercream cake craze started in Australia around 2015

And that’s when I jumped on board the buttercream cake train. Fun, colourful, delicious and ‘easier’ – what’s not to love about them! Buttercream up until this point was seen as the cheaper alternative in cakes as it was less time consuming compared to fondant. Not to mention quite limiting in the design front. From this point onward began the revolution of buttercream cakes lead by Aussie rule breakers such as Katherine Sabbath. All of sudden, a buttercream valve opened in my heart along with a whole new buttercream lobe in my brain. Needless to say, that’s when my modern buttercream cake obsession began. 

Don’t Tell Charles soon became known for our super sharp buttercream edges, signature concrete finish and contemporary buttercream cake designs. In 2016, an Instagram DM from Singapore started my teaching journey. Yep, my first EVER cake decorating workshop was in front of 10 people in Singapore! That was April 2016. 

My first physical cake decorating workshop in Singapore, 2016

First ever cake decorating workshop in Singapore

When words caught on that I did a workshop in Singapore, enquires began flooding my inbox for Melbourne cake workshops. The cafe was still operating at the time so I could only take 2-3 students per class in my kitchen. I did this between April – October 2016. Due to insatiable demand, we closed the cafe in October 2016 and opened Don’t Tell Charles Designer Cake Studio & Workshop in December 2016 (same location). 

Since then, I’ve taught over 100 physical buttercream cake decorating workshops in our Melbourne studio as well as Sydney, Singapore, London, Auckland and Indonesia. I’ve also ran over 30 private workshops for students who flew in from all over Australia and the world including France, Nigeria, USA, UK, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Malaysia, Panama, Canada, Argentina, Singapore, Thailand etc. I’m still pinching myself listing these! 

Student results from one of our cake decorating workshops at the DTC studio

The Don't Tell Charles Online School launched in October 2017

And up to date the school has enrolled 10,000+ students from over 30 countries.

Wow, it’s absolutely surreal looking back on the last 9 years in less than 6 paragraphs! It’s been an extremely exhilarating experience – stressful at times – but overall thoroughly rewarding. There were many milestones & memories that I can’t possibly fit into words, so here is a video to celebrate our wonderful students and supporters who’ve been supporting and cheering me on every step of the way. 

Listen to my interview on Everything is Teachable

In this episode, we’ll learn how Thao taught herself to bake and decorate cakes, and how one Instagram DM launched her cake decorating workshop business. We also talk about how her business has evolved over the last six years, and most of all, we share why it’s so important to value your work and get paid for what you do.

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Cake decorating workshop

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For the first 4 months of 2020, we donated $17,000 AUD to organisations that helped, and continue to help, those affected by the devastating bushfires that ravaged Australia:

Foodbank NSW – $4316

Wildlife Victoria – $4317

Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal – $4316

National Bushfire Disaster Appeal – $2025

Vets for Compassion – $450

Foodbank Victoria – $1575

Between May 2020 and August 2021, we donated all proceeds to Foodbank Victoria who are doing incredible work to help with the COVID-19 Food Crisis.  To date (end of August 2021) we have donated a total of  $7251.00 to Foodbank Victoria. 

You can read more about the amazing work they’re doing here: Foodbank Victoria.


From October 2021, donations will also be made to Impact For Women, who are making a difference for women and children escaping extreme violence at home.

Impact For Women – $1587.55

Vinnies Flood Appeal – $777

Foodbank QLD – $663

Foodbank Victoria – $2350