Frosting, fondant, naked. Whatever cake you desire, Christine Shaw will make it. This cake baker, or should I say cake artist, is extremely talented and can make absolutely anything.
Christine Shaw first discovered her love of baking and crafting cakes when she was studying as a mature age student at Emily MacPherson College, which is part of the Melbourne University of Technology. As part of the electives for this course in her fourth year, Christine decided that she would try her hand at the patisserie, continental chocolate work and cake decorating courses. And she was loved it from the start.
It was during this degree in her second year that Christine would meet her husband Michael. “I married him in the 3rd year and fell pregnant in the final year”, she laughs. And having children early was planned Christine tells me. This meant that she could specialise and work from home with children around and having a newborn baby didn’t stop her. She and Michael are now the parents of three sons and have one grandchild.
Christine was working at CRA Mining Company in their kitchens and had her first major project when she was asked to decorate 200 chocolate plaques for the entire International Olympic Committee during the Melbourne Olympic bid in 1989. She describes this as a dream job and was amazed with what she could do, even with having a newborn to care for.
From there, Christine’s cake artistry continued to grow and she now makes cakes for all different occasions at a very affordable price. With the process that Christine goes through to bake and then decorate a cake, I really am surprised that her prices are so modest.
I ask her about her cake process and how long one cake takes to make. 5 hours? 10 hours? Maybe 15 hours? No, it’s actually between 20 and 30 hours depending on the requirements. “The first thing I do is consult with the client to work out their requirements, flavour and vision.” Christine then tells me that her next step in the process with the client is to consolidate the cake design, quote and gain approval from the client to continue the process. “After the client is happy, I begin to source or make the required decorations,” Christine continues. Such decorations may be flowers, figurines, chocolate curls, biscuits, meringues and signage. Once these are sourced, Christine can then start baking the cake. “Because I rarely get asked to do a fruit cake nowadays, I have to make the cakes as close to the function date as possible. This usually means sleepless nights on the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights to ensure on time delivery on Saturday.” I ask her to go further into detail about what she does on these sleepless nights to ensure these cakes are perfect. On the Wednesday, Christine will bake the cake/s and allow them to cool. On the Thursday she will fill the cakes with whichever filling is required (usually buttercream or ganache) and do an initial cover of the cake. Friday is where the magic happens and the cake comes to life with the final covering, usually with fondant, and decorating. Then the cake is delivered to the clients ready to be enjoyed.
Christine, who has been baking cakes for 30 years, has had her fair share of unusual requests, but being the highly competent and amazing cake artist that she is, she delivered on all occasions. Christine was asked to model the bride, groom and their pet dog sitting on their favourite couch to top their wedding cake. As far as flavours are concerned, Christine says that the most odd one she has had was a caramel cheesecake filling for a cake. It was a first, but Christine assures me that it actually turned out to be quite nice. But the one that makes really makes Christine smile, and probably one that she is most proud of, is when her client requested a gluten, lactose and egg free cake. “I did consider giving them a lettuce leaf,” she laughs. “However it did turned out to be quite tasty. Who would have thought?!”
Like all artists, Christine finds inspiration from a few things. She draws inspiration from cakes she might see in a magazine or book; something she may findonline across various platforms; pieces of art; her own imagination; and the most easily accessible thing of all: nature. Inspiration can do great things for an artist like Christine and help make her cakes look (and taste) stunning.
What really draws people to Christine’s cakes, apart from the fact that her prices aren’t extreme, is the amount of flavours that she offers. Of course there’s the usual chocolate, caramel, vanilla, banana, strawberry and white chocolate, but there are also many other different flavours. Christine offers Greek Style Yoghurt cakes in chocolate fudge, mocha, chai and hazelnut flavours. She also offers lemon sour cream cake; sticky date; orange and coconut; orange poppyseed; lemon poppyseed; lime poppyseed; carrot; hummingbird; red velvet; caramelised apple cake; and pear lime and almond cake. She even makes a Nutella cake (my favourite). But she is always happy to experiment with flavours too, especially for the fillings. Christine offers a variety of fillings which can be tailored to your taste. These fillings might contain alcohol or may be just a standard chocolate or caramel ganache. Or you might prefer to be more traditional and go with jam and cream.
So what still draws Christine to baking after all these years? Passion. “It’s a sense of satisfaction that it looks and tastes great and the thought that people are excited to eat and enjoy it too.” Repeat customers and word of mouth ensures that Christine is always baking cakes.
Aside from baking, Christine also enjoys cooking. “I love creating and I love making food look appetising. I love making food that people will love eating and get great satisfaction out of it when they do”, Christine tells me. Among her favourite cuisines to make are Asian, Greek and Italian, especially pasta. With her cooking, Christine offers catering to parties and different functions. She also works as food tech support, canteen supervisor and breakfast club coordinator at St Mary’s Catholic College in Gateshead, a suburb of Lake Macquarie.
I’ve had the pleasure of tasting Christine’s cakes and they are very delicious. The mud cake isn’t too dense, and the fondant is just the right amount of sweetness. The filling is delectable and adds to the taste. Her cakes always look finished and she is capable of making anything you desire, which is why she has become so popular. Christine’s cakes are made with love which really shines through.
Christine Shaw is a talented and crafty cake extraordinaire. Nothing is too hard for her. However you like your cake, Christine can surely make it.