The reason Alice Bennett started baking is simple but sweet: “I love sugar”.
How many of us can say we’ve followed our hearts into a full-blown profession like that? I’m betting not many.
So, how exactly did Alice create the cake brand Miss Trixie Drinks Tea after a decade of working as an experiential producer? We chatted with Alice to find out — and steal her tips for baking the perfect cake because we need all the help we can get.
LH: Hey Alice! What first pulled you into the world of baking?
Alice: I think I just wanted to make the stuff that I enjoyed eating. I grew up in a family where food is absolutely our focus. My mum is professionally trained, not that she works in it now, but when she was my age, she had a deli and so she’s always been really into food. She was very happy to take the time to show me.
It was also just that pure love of experimenting. I loved trawling through different recipes, like back in the day when mum and dad used to get the paper, the first thing I would do is pull out the Sunday Life and read Karen Martini’s recipes.
How did you teach yourself to bake? Did it take a while to hone those skills?
In terms of the actual baking and cooking, that was very much a case of trialling different recipes. I learned very quickly what recipes tend to work better than others.
I was fortunate enough to go to a private school in which we had a really great hospitality department. One of the subjects in Year 9 was French patisserie, so I think I was just exposed to levels of cookery that you probably wouldn’t be exposed to if it wasn’t for the education that I happened to have. In saying that, I feel like I’m still honing the decorating side of the craft.
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How did this love for baking evolve into a career?
I started Miss Trixie Drinks Tea as a little side hustle. I just wanted an excuse to make different sweets and was experimenting with everything from crumbles to making my own jelly.
I was doing one or two cakes a week maximum while I was still working full-time. It was very small and honestly, I don’t think I really ever had any intention of Miss Trixie going full-time. I had other sorts of ambitions and things that I wanted to do.
I lost my job and then I was like, right, well, if I can’t do cakes because there are no weddings, there are no birthdays and I can’t do production, what on earth am I going to do?
I thought, why don’t we make the cakes a bit smaller and put a cute message on them that’s light and funny and we’ll do like a really simple decoration so that the price of the cake is reasonable. That’s when the pun message cakes were brought on board. That was the idea that took it full-time. Slowly I was doing like 10 orders a week and that felt really intense at the time, and then it was 15 and then it was 16, 17, 18, 19, 20…
What is the secret to baking a perfect cake?
Have your milk, butter and eggs at room temperature — anything that’s liquid, particularly butter — definitely have them at room temperature because when you go to mix them if they’re cold, they’ll look as though they’re separating and curdling in the bowl and it’s just not a fun thing.
Take your time and slow down. It’s like the classic tortoise versus hare. If you just slow down, look over your recipe, prep all your ingredients, and make sure you put a timer on when you set the oven, the result will be much better than you just bulldozing through and getting to the end. Slow down and read over what you actually have to do.
Oven temperatures — once again, low and slow wins the race. We bake our cakes at like 140 degrees whereas most recipes will say 160, so we go a little bit lower and a bit slower.
What has been your favourite cake creation so far?
That’s a tough one, I feel like I’ve done so many over my time. I made this big vintage wedding cake that was this big three-tier vintage wedding cake. It was blue and white and absolutely stunning.
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What advice would you give someone thinking about turning their dream into a career?
I think the biggest and most helpful thing as you’re navigating this is just always reaching out and asking people questions because 95% of people are typically willing to share information and help others — especially if they’re in a position where they have gone through the journey. Like, if you don’t feel quite right about something, just check in with another person to be like, “Is this normal?”.