In today’s Student Spotlight, we’re bringing you Judy O’Connor from Distinctive Flavours! Judy has a home-based cake and cookie business which she’s been running for the past 2-1/2 years.
What’s your business?
Where are you from?
Tell us your story! How did you get into cakes?
I’ve always loved baking. I was raised on a dairy farm and I am the youngest of 10 children. My family lived on the land and my mum was a beautiful baker, making everything from scratch. I have fond memories of arriving home every day after school to a table laden with sweet treats – cakes and freshly baked scones. My mum wasn’t well for many years whilst I was growing up so I would often be in charge of cooking dinner, desserts and cakes for the family. I learnt at an early age the importance of using fresh goods as everything we ate was either straight from the paddock, whether it be meat, vegetables, eggs, milk, butter etc, we ate little to no processed food.
My love for all things sweet continued with my own family. I have made every birthday cake any of my children have ever had and I always ensured that the children’s lunch boxes were filled with yummy fresh cakes and biscuits. Baking is just my thing… I love it.
How has your business evolved since Covid-19?
To be honest I don’t think my business structure has changed really, other than not having as many orders. I have tried to be more active on Social media, and have spent a lot of time playing with recipes and techniques.
How do you find working with buttercream in your climate?
I find the buttercream easy to work with, the process is quick and it is very stable.
Any cake disaster story?
I made a rookie mistake when stacking my first two tier wedding cake. I stacked the cake and had it beautifully sharp and clean as Thao would say “sharp as shit” and I was in love with it. I was about to place the flowers on the cake (ready for delivery) when I realised that I had not put a board in the centre of the bottom tier nor any dowels as it was a six layer cake and should’ve had these internal structures to ensure the cake was stable. I was so frustrated as I had to pull the cake apart and put in all the internal structures and re-ice the cake, which I was not as happy with as I did a rushed job.
The thing I learnt most from this disaster was that everything can be fixed (so don’t panic) but you do need to make sure that you have enough time and spare buttercream. Whilst the cake did look lovely it was as smooth or “perfect” as my first attempt when I spent time doing it.
What made you decide to take an online course?
I love to learn and love every course offered by DTC. The skills and techniques I have learnt along with the confidence I now have for baking and decorating celebration/wedding cakes has been amazing. Not to mention the just “giving something a go” attitude since undertaking the DTC “in person” an “online courses”.
What DTC course have you enrolled in and how have they helped you?
I have completed the concrete cake course, watercolour course, stacking a tier cake, cake bundle/flavours, square cake, isomalt course, chocolate sails course and salted caramel course. I think I have purchased every DTC course available and love every one of them. The detail and information provided by Thao in these courses is extraordinary. I feel that anyone who has little to no experience in cake baking/decorating can learn these techniques with ease on any of the online courses.
Thao explains and demonstrates each step with such precision that she minimises the risk of doing something wrong. These courses have given me the confidence to try new techniques and to broaden my skill set. The concrete technique and watercolour technique would have to be my most requested styles by clients. Every part of a DTC course can be applied to any cake design, we are only limited by our imagination.
Check out Judy's work
What advice do you have for people starting out in their modern cake making journey?
Have good processes in place. Perfect your recipe testing and ensure you know quantities. Purchase the DTC courses as these have everything you need to launch your cake decorating journey. Have a good “ordering” platform in place so that it is easy for your client to place an order with as much detail as possible so that the brief is clear.