The Caker: “I Wish I’d Accepted Help Sooner” PLUS Her Top 5 Tips for the Post-Lockdown Baker

Jordan Rondel started her cake business in very humble beginnings – a tiny kitchen on Auckland’s Karangahape Road, to be precise. Since then, it’s been 10 years of hard work, grit, passion and a hell of a lot of cake, and now Jordan, who is better known as The Caker, is set to make her mark in the United States as she launches the second international chapter of her business.

Chatting to Capsule from her base in Los Angeles, where she’s currently stuck with her sister and business partner, Jordan says she’s missing home, but is excited at the opportunities that the States can offer – pandemic be damned! We spoke to her about starting a business, the lessons she’s learnt, why she doesn’t really like being her own boss and her top five tips for the beginning baker.

Hey Jordan, thanks for having a yarn with us! So, with the state of things at the moment a lot of people are considering starting up their own businesses, or turning their side hustles into their careers. As someone who has been there, done that, what would your biggest piece of advice be?

I think one piece of advice that I wish I had taken earlier on in my career, is to accept help sooner than I did. I was so hesitant to hand over any part of my business to anyone else in the early stages because I wanted control over everything.

But I was slowly but surely running myself thin. Because I was doing literally everything myself, I didn’t have enough time to be creative and I actually started to lose my love for what I was doing. It wasn’t until I finally hired some staff who could bring new skills and experience into the business that it really took off and my creativity could thrive again. 

When was the first time that you thought to yourself ‘OMG, I’ve made it?’ 

I think part of my success is that I haven’t allowed myself to have that moment yet! I don’t know if or when I’ll ever have that thought because I don’t think I’ll ever be truly satisfied with what I’ve achieved – I’m someone who always strives for more.

A lot of us have either re-discovered, or just discovered, a love of baking over the last few months – any advice to a beginner who’s just learning the basics of cake-making? 

Here are my top five tips for making a successful cake at any skill level:

  • 1) Use the best quality ingredients that you can get – it will undoubtedly affect your end product. 
  • 2) Invest in high quality equipment – using a Kenwood kMix will 100% help in making your cakes the best they can be.
  • 3) You must take your time with creaming your butter and sugar together, but never overmix your dry ingredients – always use butter at room temperature to help the creaming process and when it’s time to add your flour, only just incorporate it, especially if it contains gluten. 
  • 4) Get to know your oven – every one is different! Once you know your oven well, you can make sure you adjust its temperature as needed, bake for the right amount of time, and rotate your baking as necessary. Ovens should always be set to fan bake when baking.
  • 5) Have fun with it! Baking is totally a science, but being a self-taught baker has allowed me to find my own creativity with it and figure out how to push the rules and boundaries. Next time you bake, I urge you to take a recipe and play with it a little by switching up the fruit, adding your favourite spice or some finely chopped herbs.

What has been your biggest learning in the 10 years you’ve been in business? 

I’ve learnt SO much in the last 10 years, but probably the biggest and most important thing I’ve learnt is around what makes a brand successful. This is something that I don’t really believe can be taught, I think it’s best learnt through first-hand experience in creating a brand. I’m still learning about this and always will be, because things evolve, tastes change and new competition arises, so you constantly have to be on top of it.

Um, yes we definitely would buy that

In the past, you’ve said that your personality doesn’t necessarily cope well with the fact that you’re your own boss – how do you overcome this? 

Yes there are certainly days where there’s so much to do and it’s all on my shoulders and the pressure is all encompassing. But to combat this I’ve become a chronic list writer, and it really helps! Every morning I sit with my coffee and I write my list for the day, usually in order of importance or urgency. I find that it’s not until I have these tasks written down that I can find clarity or structure to my day. Also, evening wine helps! 🙂

You’ve now expanded into the US, where you are now – how different is that market to New Zealand? 

The main difference is the size of the population in the US compared to NZ. There is just so much opportunity for scale and volume in the US simply because there’s that many more people. I’ve set myself up in Los Angeles, where perhaps the culture is a bit more similar to NZ than the rest of America.

Californians have a similar taste in cakes to Kiwis because they seem to really appreciate what I do, but somehow there’s nowhere here that I’ve come across, which makes cakes quite like mine. I find it’s either raw, vegan, gluten free, grain free stuff, or the complete opposite – highly processed, sugary and laden with food colouring. There’s definitely a nice little niche for my cakes and cake kits to slot into here. 

Images/ Liz Barclay

What are the big goals for the future? 

I plan to achieve world domination with my cake kits and to become a household name!

We love the ambition! Your cakes are wonderfully, quirkily different – what’s your favourite flavour combination right now? 

I’m super into using what are traditionally savoury ingredients in my baking to create unique flavour combinations. So I’m loving incorporating ingredients like tahini, miso, herbs and black pepper into my recipes right now. 

Can you spill some tea – what has been the most interesting commission you’ve been tasked to make? 

We recently got asked to cater the cakes for a Billie Eilish x Beats Headphones shoot in LA. She released five new colours of headphones, and we were tasked with creating five vegan cakes to match the colours in the range. But a couple of the colours were not ones that are normally associated with food (namely black and blue) and are not super easy to achieve without food colouring, which I strictly don’t use.

For the black one we made a very dark, rich chocolate cake and coated it with icing mixed with edible charcoal powder, and for the blue one we made a blueberry cake and used a mixture of butterfly pea powder and blue spirulina to make the icing a beautiful deep blue!

Check out the recipe for Jordan’s Raspberry and White Chocolate Cake with Sumac Sprinkle here

Jordan is a brand ambassador for Kenwood New Zealand who are currently celebrating the launch of their new limited edition range of kMix Metallics.

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