You guys, I think I have a new favourite cake. 

Each year for my sister-in-law's birthday, it's assumed that I will make her Nutella cake; it'll be choc hazelnut cake, with bucketloads of nutella buttercream frosting and extra Nutella just because. So you can imagine her surprise (shock? alarm? mistrust?) when I informed her that this year's cake would, in fact, NOT involve nutella in any way, shape or form. She graciously accepted this turn of events, trusting that I would never do her wrong when it comes to cake, but I still was in the recipient of a frequent 'It's just not Nutella' chant throughout the birthday celebrations leading up to dinner, clearly re-writing the age old Australian idiom

However, this was abruptly silenced when this year's flavour choice was brought to the dinner table (complete with mandatory sparklers, obvs). Ladies and gents, I give you choc-hazelnut semi-mud cake with salted rosewater frosting + black sea salt toffee shards:

I wanted something that would have a bit more density and richness than a regular chocolate cake, but still light enough to work with the buttercream frosting. It's also a good halfway point if you want something pretty chocolate-y but sadly don't have any cooking chocolate in the house and can't be bothered with the 90 second walk down to the grocer (yes, I'm lazy; some would say resourceful?). Hence, this recipe was born!

*Disclaimer: the batter was so yummy, both my Taster-in-Chief and Chief Tasters (roommates/friends who begrudgingly share any new tastings with the other) were devastated to have missed out; apparently I now owe them a cake each. I have warned you.



For the cake:

250g butter, softened

1 & 1/2 cups caster sugar

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

4 eggs

2 cups plain flour

1/2 cup cocoa

1 cup hazelnut meal

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup milk

1 tsp instant coffee powder

1/3 cup hot/boiled water

For the frosting:

600g icing sugar

150g butter, softened

1 & 1/2 tsp rosewater

1-2 tsp salt, depending on your flavour preferences (I went the full 2, plus some. But I'm greedy like that)

2-3 tbsp milk

For the toffee shards:

1 cup caster sugar

1/2 cup water

1-2 tsp sea salt (I happened to have this gorgeous black stuff on hand, thanks to this lovely friend of mine - you can usually find it in store at Simon Johnson)

1-2 tsp sprinkles (if you so fancy. I ALWAYS fancy)



Yield: One double layered 8" cake, plus around 4 tablespoons of batter for 'tasting' (yeah that's right, I've planned for eating the batter. Don't say I never do anything for you.)

For the cake:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees. Grease and line 2 x 8" cake pans.
  2. Combine your boiling/hot water with the instant coffee in a cup and set aside to cool (in the fridge for a few minutes should do).
  3. Cream your butter till it's slightly lighter in colour, then add in both sugars and mix for around 2 minutes until the mixture starts to lighten and become a little fluffy.
  4. Mix in the eggs one at a time, ensuring you scrape down the sides of the bowl after each one. It's up to you whether you follow that religiously, but I find if you get good lift/even fluffiness at the egg-mixing stage it has good outcomes for your cake texture in the end.
  5. Every recipe I've read says to sift flour. I rarely do (unless it's a sponge, or something similar) and as we're going for a slightly denser cake this time around you can just combine your flour, hazelnut meal, baking powder and salt in another bowl. But by all means sieve them if you want!
  6. Combine your coffee mixture and milk. Yes it will look like a boring-ass coffee you made at work that day you forgot your wallet so couldn't get your regular skim latte, but trust me here people. Have faith.
  7. Alternate adding your flour mixture and your boring-ass coffee mixture into the mixing bowl; I tend to start with the flour mixture, and end with the flour mixture (3 parts flour mix, 2 parts milk, if you get what I mean?). Mix it until it's well blended, I did it for around a minute or two.
  8. Now is a great time to eat some batter. You will enjoy it and you don't have to share with anyone. Cook's rules. Feel free to text pics to your envious friends.
  9. Pour the mixture evenly into each of the two pans, and pop in the oven for around 25-35 mins depending on the strength of your own. Mine is temperamental at the best of times, so it's around the 25 min mark that I start checking it with a cake tester/slim fork to see if it's cooked.
  10. When the pans have cooled a little, run a knife around the inside of the pans and overturn onto a cooling rack or two. If you want/need to even out the layers a bit, wait until the cakes have completely cooled (if you want to be particular about it, even freezing them/cooling them in the fridge for a while can help avoid extra crumbs at this step) before using a bread knife to slice off the slight rise in the centre. 

For the frosting:

  1. While your cakes are in the oven, get a crack on with the frosting. As we've discussed, I'm lazy so don't bother sieving the icing sugar - a cheat's way is to put the sugar into the mixer (using a whisk attachment, if you have one) and let it churn away on low speed for 30-40 seconds or so.
  2. Add the butter while the mixer is on low speed (if you have a pouring shield I highly suggest using it; if not just make sure it's on very slow), but be aware it may look a little like crumbly sand until the milk goes in.
  3. Add the rosewater, followed by the milk - depending on the warmth of your kitchen/how softened the butter is, use as much of the milk as you see fit and add more if necessary. Just add a touch more sugar if you overdo the milk.
  4. At this point, season to taste with the salt - but be careful! It's much better to keep adding it in tiny bits than oversalt it and ruin your batter*.

*should you accidentally over-salt it, and believe me this can happen, the best thing to do is add more sugar, and then add additional corresponding amounts of butter/milk/rosewater as required. It will give you lots of extra frosting, but hey it will taste a lot better and now you have an excuse to bake another cake!

For the toffee shards:

  1. Lay some grease-proof paper on a lightly oiled baking tray. I verrry lightly greased the paper on top too, because I'm paranoid about those type of things.
  2. Next, put the sugar and water in a medium sized saucepan, but ***before*** you're turned the heat on, make sure the sugar is mixed evenly with the water as once it's on the heat you can't touch it otherwise it will crystalise and become horrible/useless/annoying.
  3. Turn your stove onto high heat and let it bubble away for a few minutes. The sugar will dissolve, it will boil, and then it will start to turn gloriously caramel-coloured and you will high five yourself because you've just made toffee. 
  4. Take it off the heat while it's still medium coloured (toffee will keep cooking and darken off the stove); you can obviously have it darker if you like but I prefer it mid-range, flavour-wise.
  5. Holding the baking tray with a oven mitt on (that's important - don't burn yourself), pour the toffee onto the tray and quickly move the tray around to get an even coating across the paper. Give it about 10 seconds to settle, then sprinkle your salt and sprinkles across the toffee. Wait for a few minutes for it to set, then crack it as you so wish (I always try and aim for lovely long shards, and then get to eat the leftover stumpy bits)

At this point, you can now assemble your glorious cake; this is another great opportunity to eat the leftover cake crumbs from your layer-evening step with any leftover frosting and toffee pieces. No-one will know.


NB: I never did find out if she still prefers the Nutella cake, though. Let me know what you think of this one!

Piggies + Nostalgia.

Sorry it's been a while since I've posted; I've turned into the cake-blog version of George RR Martin with wait times, without the promise of nudity and world conquering, so my apologies y'all.

Part of it has been a busy few months of orders + life admin requiring some attention, but I also have to admit I've been trying to refocus what is I'm doing here. As with any passion project, it's always a (delightful) surprise when it actually seems to work and that's been no less the case here. Doing all the work on my own (like so many other small businesses) does mean I can get bogged down in the making of the same recipes on repeat/dealing with inconsistent suppliers/forever trying to solve the transport challenge of ensuring the 120 serving cake you've just painstakingly and lovingly put together makes it to the wedding in one piece (so far, full success on the latter! *knocks on every piece of wood in sight*). 

However, a recent order I made really invigorated me (photo below; I promise I'll bring you more in the future!), and reminded me of the fun of creating something new I've not done before. In so many cases a client will ask for a recreation from something they'd tasted somewhere, or a Pinterest pic, or to bring back a childhood memory. And this for me is where the fun lies - how can I bring this all to life, in the tastiest way possible? 


For me, cake is an indulgence - something associated with a celebration and joy; I'm sure I'm not alone in that a particular meal, dish or slice of sugary heaven can evoke memories and emotions. Despite my own insistence that I'm not a creative person (ask me to paint, sing or write a work of fiction and you will quickly agree I'm right), I've realised that in the kitchen this is what I most enjoy - bringing nostalgia to life, and creating new memories in the process.

I see this so often when I celebrate with friends, and particularly my family - I have a 5 yr old niece and 2 yr old nephew, and getting to make their birthday cakes brings back such feelings of delight and excitement from my own childhood, when my mum used to do the same for me. Getting to create new memories with them and seeing the delight on their faces is second-to-none!

I could speak of dozens of food-related moments that still bring about a smile, but there's always a few that stand out. I still have vivid memories of the Humpty Dumpty cake my mum made for my 5th birthday barely (read: not at all) surviving a stinking hot Sydney summer day in the local park. Sadly, and despite multiple rescue attempts by my father, old mate Humpty simply could not survive a wall made of cake bricks and buttercream mortar. #neverforget

Just last week, my 31 yr old brother was extolling the virtues of a gorgeous little Italian pasticceria in Burwood named Mancuso's that has remained unchanged since we used to be taken there every few months as a treat in the early 90's. We both remembered in great detail the black forest cake, the 'horseshoe' choc dipped shortbread and the towering wedding cakes on display - not to mention the beautiful women who served us, and always treated us so nicely as if we were their own. I still remember walking in and seeing their faces up over the counter! I wasn't surprised that I remembered, given my affinity for all things candy-coated, but to hear my brother speak of them so fondly so many years on makes me excited for how one day his kids will no doubt say the same thing about memories they're creating as a family.

With this in mind, I'd love to be inspired by hearing what cakes or desserts bring back these memories for you? 

Sugar-coated nudity (the cakes. not me. sheesh).

So the festive season is over, and for this lucky girl it was extra festive - my best friend got married!

To add to the fun of that occasion, I was honoured and delighted when she asked me long ago to make her wedding cake, and couldn't be happier to have been a part of her special day in such a special way (in addition to being a bridesmaid... eep! #stress).

This was my first foray into the world of what has become all the rage over Pinterest the past year or so - the Naked Cake! It was fun, gritty, and delicious to make; it certainly didn't hurt that the flavours I had to play with were chocolate and salted caramel.

We had a lovely taste testing at Wiley's Baths near my place in Coogee (champagne mandatory of course) and settled on a 6 layer, 2 tier cake combining choc mud cakes, salted caramel mud cakes, choc salted caramel frosting and cream cheese salted caramel frosting. And it wouldn't be a cake of mine without the obligatory salted caramel sauce layered in between as well (me and Manu; we love our sauce) with extra on the side. Just in case (read: because I wanted extra for myself).

After battling the summer elements - boy has it been a fun summer to spend in a hot kitchen - and paving my way through the largest mound of frosting I've ever worked with, I think it turned out pretty well, no?


Word on the street passed around pretty quickly too, as I received a request a few days later for a similarly styled engagement cake this past weekend (Choc and Vanilla, in this case). I'm loving the in-season Dahlias from Naomi Jones Flower Studio (who were amazing to deal with, btw) which really finished off that cake nicely, I think. The party was held at the Farmhouse in Rushcutter's Bay - I haven't eaten there yet myself but from the rustic decor to the seasonal (and vegetarian-friendly!) menu I can tell you it won't be long before I do. And I'm taking as many of you with me as possible (or as many will fit at their long lovely timber table).


So what do we think? Are naked cakes here to stay in all their glory, or will they move on quicker than you can say 'cake pop'? I personally love the visual of them when paired with a gorgeous floral arrangement (next stop: hydrangeas) so I look forward to plenty more birthday suited-cakes in the future.

Gemma x

Here we go!

Well, I'm not going to lie to you.

For a long time I never thought I'd actually start Baked by Gemma because that sneaky (as they always are) little voice in my head kept muttering 'but what if you fail?' rather convincingly. Luckily, the actual voices of real people around me who've been enjoying the gastronomical benefits of being my friend/being related to me/living with me (specifically and lovingly my longtime friend and fellow cake-eater Erika Rax) have finally drowned that white noise out, so here we go...

So who am I?

I'm Gemma, and I love food. I'll never be a size 8, I only enjoy exercise if it's social or in a pretty place and baking with my Kitchenaid calms me like nothing else. 

What do I do? 

By day I'm a research and scholarship fundraiser but by evening and weekend my sugar-laced superpowers emerge, to the effect of cupcakes, brownies, cakes, cookies, slices and basically any manner of baked good. I'm fairly sure I was French in a previous life, as my affinity with butter and cheese is second to none.

How did it start?

Unofficially, when I was about 4. It was mum's doing really - who could ever forget the excitement of getting a cake from the Womens Weekly Children's Birthday Cookbook (including the year I got this bad boy, who slid right off the wall in the aussie summer heat) and those enticingly colourful Kids Cookbooks (that I made my parents buy me while on holiday in Hawks Nest)? They literally changed my life, are still sitting on my bookshelf (because my dad has requested the same lemon cookies every birthday since I was 11) and frankly they began this whole shebang. 

What do I make at Baked By Gemma?

Any manner of custom cakes and cupcakes for the usual suspects - weddings, baby showers, christenings, birthdays. But that's not to say I haven't been asked to deliver to someone for a 'just because' kind of occasion!

What's that, you want to see some?

Sure! To kick things off I thought you might like to see some pretty little things I made for a client's baby shower recently. With a mint, coral and feather motif to work with I had great fun putting together bespoke cupcakes with a hint of gold - they went down a treat! Check them out below and then watch this space for upcoming projects, retrospectives on some of my favourites and recipes definitely worth sharing.

Gemma x