Searching for your next cake-fix for your next big event or something pretty to scroll through during those two-hour lectures? Look no further than Cake M, an Instagram-based cake business started by UNSW student Emily Shum! We chatted to Emily about her love for cakes, design and buttercream.
Firstly, how did Cake M start?
So basically my friends in high school were like, “You know what, Em? You should make a cake business!” and I was like, “You know what? I will!”. So then they started thinking of names like Shum’s Bakery and some other really bizarre names. I wanted to try making a funny pun, but we couldn’t think of one so I just ended up with “Cake M”, like “cake em'”, as in, “try cake em'”? Yeah, it’s so bad. I designed a logo on Photoshop and made an Instagram. I made a cake for my dad’s 60th birthday and everyone was like “this is so good, you should keep doing it”. My friends requested it, then my sister’s friend requested it, and then it started branching out slowly.
When did you get into baking?
I was probably 8 years old. My sister also really liked baking – she baked banana bread, muffins, some extravagant lemon cakes. From there I was just inspired. My dad really likes cooking in general as well.
What do you do after you receive a request?
I receive requests via Instagram DMs and I give my clients a quote after I ask them what they want. Then I receive a deposit and start gathering the ingredients. I usually bake the cake the day before or on the day depending on when they want to pick it up, and when they do I receive the remainder of the cost in cash.
As for choosing the cake itself, I’ve got a cake-costing menu that gives them a guideline for flavours like chocolate, matcha, lemon…you can either choose out of these or ask for other options if you want. Then there’s a choice for the type of buttercream – chocolate ganache, coconut, and so forth. The toppings get even more convoluted ‘cause there’s a lot they can choose from. As for the design, they tell me the gist of it or give me a photo of what they want, and from that I create my own design.
Aesthetic cakes, particularly drip cakes and multi-layer cakes seem to be all the rage now. What was your inspiration?
The cakes on Unbirthday Bakery on Instagram are so nice. Throughout Year 11 and the HSC, during my spare time or even in class, I would watch how to bake a cake videos, like Rosie’s Dessert Spot on YouTube.
You conduct your business through Instagram. How has social media helped you start up your own business?
I’m more into design, so social media has given me different options of creating my own cake designs. I get inspiration from one artist and then I watch videos and get inspiration from another. I’m also pretty much self-taught and I haven’t spent any money on going to lessons. I find it much easier if I teach myself.
You use buttercream a lot. Why do you use it instead of other icings?
Buttercream is made of butter and icing sugar and you can combine it to make different flavours. In cake layers, you can put one layer of buttercream in between and one layer on top and stack it as high as you want. Sometimes people use fondant, which I don’t really like, and it’s also really sugary. It looks more professional, but fondant is more for wedding cakes. Fondant also has a cleaner finish, but buttercream has got a more rustic vibe.
Rapid Fire Questions
Favourite cake you’ve made so far?
There’s two. For a friend’s farewell party, I made a watercolour, kind of pinkish-orange one-tier cake with chocolate sails on top with no chocolate drip. I also recently made my first two-tier cake and it had chocolate drips all around and geometric, triangular shaped chocolate and toffee shards with chocolate drizzles and rose petals.
Lustre dust. It’s like gold dust you can paint with. Making the chocolate shards is also the hardest thing in the world, but if it comes out nicely, it’s the best feeling ever.
Strangest cake request you’ve received so far?
An unusual one that I did was a request for a Paris-themed cake. So I used chocolate and piped it into an Eiffel Tower shape. To make it 3D, I piped four of them and stacked them together so it looked like an actual Eiffel Tower. That was scary but it worked!