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Lime & Tamarillo Cake, recipe below.

Before setting up her bespoke cake business in Christchurch, Anna Worthington (29) cooked at a French chateau, sold cakes at a Brussels market and walked the entire Camino de Santiago trail in Spain for 42 days. ‘I was quite displaced after the February 2011 earthquake, I had finished my Fine Arts degree and was working seven days a week in order to save up for travel. It was good timing to be overseas at such a disruptive time.

‘I loved the Camino trail, especially the heat and the simplicity of it all; I had a small canvas bag to carry, slept and ate, there was nothing else to worry about! It helped clear my head and gave me time to think about my next career move.’

Anna returned to New Zealand with the intention to move to either Auckland or Wellington, but on her return she saw distinct opportunities in hometown Christchurch. ‘I was living at home and started baking cakes. I set up a stall at the Riccarton market and sold all four cakes the first day. The next week I sold 12 cakes, and since then demand has been insane!’

Today, Anna is baking day and night to fulfill orders from her commercial kitchen just off Colombo Street. ‘My parents’ house was getting swamped, so I moved twice before finding the current premises which I share with Grizzly Baked Goods. I love separating home and work, it’s more time efficient.’

Anna studied Fine Arts for four years but knew she didn’t want to become an artist, yet loved the idea of doing something creative. ‘I use the knowledge from my degree daily, I enjoy the fact there is a scientific side to cakes and that I need to perfect each recipe and think up new exciting ingredients constantly. Decorating the cakes is the best part, I love taking photos for Instagram; it’s the best marketing tool.’

Oozing with creative ideas, some of the latest cake concepts are Lavender and Earl Grey Tea, Chocolate, Pinot Noir and Pear, and Lemon, Peach and Schnapps; outside the norm of traditional cake baking. Her most popular cake is the lemon – filled with zesty lemon, dripping with lemon butter on top, it’s simply delicious. And for those seeking gluten-free options, the Flourless Chocolate or the Banana and Banoffee are made with ground almonds.

‘I like to avoid anything that doesn’t taste real, for instance in my tamarillo cake I’ll use tamarillo flesh in the buttercream icing or lemon curd for the lemon cake. I detest marzipan and colouring additives,’ she explains. ‘Summer time is the hardest; I often have to start baking at 3 am, or double-bake through the day to keep up with all the wedding orders, so no late nights for me! Though there is the odd exception,’ she laughs.

When planning a wedding, young brides are treated with 10 cake choices, with Pear and Date, Salted Caramel, Chocolate and Stout, and Citrus amongst the samples. Once decided, it’s a matter of choosing the flowers. Each cake looks and tastes different from the last. ‘I love making wedding cakes, you have more opportunities to push the creative boundaries. Sometimes I have up to six weddings to do on a Saturday. It’s crazy, but I do adore it!’

Eat, cake, love

A few notes on icing & decorating cakes

I’m a self-taught cake maker, so my icing techniques are pretty unorthodox and help to make my cakes have a unique, organic feel. My biggest piece of advice with cake decorating is to relax and have fun with it. Don’t try and make the cake look perfect, and if it does end up looking dreadful, find a rose and plop it in the middle. Here are some other tips on how to make a good looking cake:

Buy an offset spatula. I didn’t own one until about two years into my cake making, and it made my life so much easier.

If your cakes are domed at the top, you can level them with a bread knife, although it’s a bit wasteful. If you flip the cakes out onto a wire rack while they are still warm, you’ll find they level out naturally. I always ice the bottom side of the cake, which is the flattest part.

Don’t spread the icing right to the edges of the cake. Especially on the bottom layer, as the top layer will push the icing further to the edges.

Most people have something pretty and edible growing in their garden which can be used for cake garnishes. I love using roses which I forage for in the summer months. I grow pansies, calendula, ranunculus, geraniums, snapdragons, and nasturtiums in my kitchen garden, as well as thyme, sage, and rosemary. I love discovering new flowers and foliage to use. If you’re unsure whether they are safe to put on a cake, ask Google.

Lime & Tamarillo Cake

Lime & Tamarillo Cake

This is such a versatile cake that can be made with any kind of citrus fruit. When tamarillos are in season I like to make the most of their tart flavour and beautiful colour. You can use fresh or frozen berries instead, or chopped stone fruit in the summer months.

300 g caster sugar
zest + juice of two limes
2 eggs (free range, always)
1 cup rice bran oil
1 cup natural unsweetened yoghurt
280 g flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
flesh of two tamarillos, scooped from skins and broken up with a fork.

Add one tamarillo and the zest of one lime to the buttercream recipe.

Fresh As freeze-dried raspberries.

Preheat oven to 160°C or whatever temperature you usually bake at. Grease and line 2 x 8 inch cake tins.

Combine the sugar and lime zest and rub together with your thumbs and fingertips. Imagine you’re pressing the zest flavour and fragrance into the sugar grains. Add wet ingredients, except for the tamarillos, and mix well. Sieve in dry ingredients and mix until there are no lumps. Pour mixture into tins, divide the tamarillos between the two tins and swirl into the batter with a fork. Bake for 25 minutes or until cake is lightly golden and springs back when gently prodded. Cool for 10 minutes before turning out on cooling racks.

To make the tamarillo and lime buttercream, add the flesh of a tamarillo and the lime zest to the butter and icing sugar mixture while it is still crumbly. Mix on a medium speed, and slowly add the milk till you have a beautiful pink, fluffy buttercream.

Dollop about a third of the buttercream on the bottom cake layer, and spread evenly. Top with the second cake layer, add remaining buttercream and enjoy swirling this pink buttercream about. Sprinkle over freeze-dried raspberries and some beautiful flowers from your garden.

For more recipes make sure you grab a copy of our Oct/Nov issue, phone 0508 528 488 to order a copy.

[ WORDS Georgi Waddy, IMAGES Charlie Jackson RECIPES Anna Worthington ]