When Jordan Rondel, aka. The Caker, started blogging her baking escapades in 2010, little did she know that she was laying the foundations of a New Zealand business success story. After her blog blossomed seemingly overnight, she opened her self-titled store, The Caker, located on Auckland's K Road. Almost a decade later, The Caker is still going strong, making hundreds of cakes a week in a larger space just a few doors down from where it all started. Since day one, Washtech has been their dishwasher of choice, so we decided to catch up with the team at The Caker as they finally upgrade to their second Washtech dishwasher.
We asked The Caker's store manager, Eli Christy-Munro, what he thinks has driven the popularity of their cakes. "A lot of cake shops are focused on decoration," says Eli, "they'll pile coloured icings and fondants, that use a lot of artificial ingredients, onto a cake that is pretty average." A key factor in The Caker's success he says, is their focus on making great cakes that use only natural ingredients. This focus is evident in their minimalist decoration style, one that largely sticks to the use of icing and freshly cut flowers, clearly intended to complement the cake underneath rather than steal attention from it. "We only offer icing colours that can be achieved naturally, usually by grinding freeze-dried berries into a powder," Eli tells us. Another key point of difference is The Caker's strong alternative offerings, such as their flourless and vegan cakes, that they claim are just as good as their traditional counterparts. "Some flavours actually work better as a flourless or vegan cake, so sometimes you'll see a cake that only comes in that option."
With the infamously high rental costs associated with central Auckland retail locations, another key to The Caker's success is its impressive output from its relatively small kitchen. "A typical weekly number for us would be close to 500 orders," says Eli. When asked what they can pull off in a day, he tells us "Friday is the biggest day for us as we also do cakes for the weekend, for example we did about 120 cakes last Friday." This poses a challenge when it comes to keeping up with washing. "We're washing mixing bowls, blades, utensils, baking trays, racks, everything." Due to space constraints, The Caker chose a refurbished Starline GM when it first opened, a compact undercounter model that at first glance seems like an unusual choice for The Caker's application. However, despite its roots as a glasswasher, it kept pace for almost a decade.
This year, The Caker has finally upgraded to a Starline GL, Washtech's premium compact undercounter that features more advanced technologies and high-end features. We asked bakers' assistant Sacha Bridges, the main operator of the machine, how their new Starline GL compares to the decade-old Starline GM. "The new machine does a really great job, nothing is left behind and the dishes basically dry themselves," says Sacha. "The big thing for me though is how much nicer it is to use. The electronic controls are clearer and more intuitive. My favourite feature is AutoDrain, not having to reach into dirty water and pull a plug to drain the machine is such an improvement." Sacha also noted how items "stay in the rack and don't fall over", a key benefit of Starline GL's SoftStart feature designed to protect delicate items.
"My favourite feature is AutoDrain, not having to reach into dirty water and pull a plug to drain the machine is such an improvement."
Sacha Bridges - Bakers' Assistant
But there are two more improvements that even those who don't operate the dishwasher have noticed. "The new dishwasher puts out a lot less steam," Sacha tells us, a key benefit of Starline GL's full thermal and acoustic insulation intended to keep the working environment pleasant. On top of this is a feature unique to The Caker's particular example. The custom front panels feature a unique pattern that is pressed into the stainless steel. "The new machine is much more beautiful to look at," says Sacha. The textured design is just one of the 400+ custom colours and textures of Rimex stainless steel offered by Washtech on our premium undercounter models. Rimex uses intensive processes such as PVD and bead blasting, not paint or films, to achieve a finish that can stand the test of time.
We also asked Eli how The Caker has fared in the aftermath of the COVID-19 lockdown. "Business has actually been pretty good," he says, "the only noticeable drop-off is in wedding cakes. A lot of couples seem to be postponing their weddings as friends and family from overseas can't travel here right now." Eli agreed that New Zealanders appeared to be getting behind local businesses, and noted that The Caker has relationships with many local suppliers, including Washtech. "Being New Zealand made was another good reason to stick with Washtech for our new dishwasher."
The Caker is open Mondays to Saturdays at 446 Karangahape Road, Newton, Auckland. To find out more about The Caker and shop for cakes, cake kits and Jordan Rondel's recipe books online, visit thecaker.co.nz.