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We are thrilled to be featuring one of our international customers this month. Located in the beautiful Polynesian Kingdom of Tonga, Vortex Cakes is making a name for themselves with their custom designed cakes featuring edible images. Lucinda Cocker is the driving force behind the business. A business born from love, her vast array of cakes for all occasions are now in high demand locally.
1. How did your cake/sweets/business journey begin?
Our cake business journey begun with our love for cakes especially my husband, back 10+ years ago. We would order cakes for tea, giveaways, family gatherings and so forth. I then realised how often and how much we spent on cakes and that's when we thought of trialling baking. It really began with my love for my husband, and the thought of putting a smile on his face, and him enjoying something that I've baked - this is happiness to me.
2. What has starting your own business meant for you?
It was a dream come true to finally start our cake business from scratch. It meant hard work to create simple, unique, beautiful, and most of all, homemade cakes.
3. What have been/are the biggest challenges you face(d) in regard to starting/building/maintaining your business?
The challenges were:
(a) EQUIPMENT: i.e. oven (here in Tonga, a really nice oven for baking would cost TOP$3,000 - TOP$4,000. We had to buy a cheap stove with an oven to start with, and adjusting to these oven temperatures was quite a challenge, as it would take a few burnt cakes, half-cooked cakes for me to finally get the right temperature.
(b) CUSTOMERS: Attracting customers was also a challenge. We had to bake for families, friends FOC to taste and feedback, and hopefully attract customers. It took a while which I assume is expected in every business.
(c) STORAGE: While finally starting to receive orders, we were baking from our home with not much available space store our cakes.
4. What do you feel are the benefits of using edible images?
The benefits we get from using edible images are:
(a) Easy and quick to use on a cake, especially theme cakes.
(b) Not many cakers here in Tonga have edible images, so that's an advantage for us.
(c) Customers are overwhelmed to learn that edible images are doable for their cakes, they’re new and sophisticated.
5. What is your favourite type of treat/design to create?
Well, we started with kids theme cakes (i.e., superheroes, favourite cartoon characters, photos on cakes). It's always a nice feeling to fulfil customers cake requirements. Customers would just call and order his/her kids birthday cakes and tell me what their kids like and I would print and decorate accordingly. And lately, we started using our Tongan tapa designs on our cakes, it sure looked so local and different. We get lots of positive feedback on our tapa design cakes and it's becoming my new favourite design.
6. What is the current trend you’re seeing in edible images?
I believe that we should look at creating more of our heritage, culture and history with edible images on our cakes as our next trend. I know it's a long shot, but my wishful thinking is a start.
7. What is the funniest/most unusual creation you’ve been asked to make?
I was asked by one customer to put some private part images on a cake and cupcakes for a friend's hens night. She ended up changing her mind for a different one, but that was the only weird image I was asked to make.
8. Do you have any tips you can share when either printing or applying edible images?
The only problem I've had with my edible printing system was that it came to a time when it couldn't print at all after few lines printing on top of images. So, I ended up buying a new bundle and learnt that I need to clean my printer at least once a week. I'm still doing that to the best of my ability. My printer is working magic.
9. What is your “can’t live without” cake/sweet making tool?
My straight and angle spatulas are my can't leave without tools.
10. What is your career highlight to date?
As far as I can remember, Tonga always run an agricultural show yearly, and all handicrafters, growers, bakers, fishers, small business owners are welcome to join, display and sell their products at the show. In 2015, if I remember it right, we won first prize for new creation/best wedding cake in which we made a border of our Tongan tapa design around the cake using an edible image.