Canberra's bakers: Camille Young, Anthea Cheng and Jo Binkin

Natasha Rudra
Cupcakes and eclairs from Camille Young of Pip and Lou.
Cupcakes and eclairs from Camille Young of Pip and Lou. Photo: Supplied

It sounds like a dream job - spending your days surrounded by baked goods andĀ getting creative with cake. We talk to three Canberrans who turned their love of cake into thriving small businesses.

Camille Young

Camille Young's all about the perfectly imperfect. She's the brains behind Pip and Lou, whose "beautifully messy" cupcakes and cakes have been a hit on Instagram. They've now gone into the Green Shed cafe in Civic and she's fielding requests from other cafes to stock her little treats. Within a month, she says, we'll be seeing Pip and Lou in a few more spots around town.

It didn't start that way. Young started baking more for friends. "The demand just grew very very quickly and I thought that pursuing a small business might be a good idea for a while. I didn't have a view at the time that it would be my fulltime career," she says.

Her daughter Evangelique gives her inspiration. "Kids see the world in a different way, their eyes appreciate colour combinations in a way that we don't see," Young says. "Pip and Lou is the opposite of the safe option."

At the top of her hit list? "At the moment I'm loving eclairs, I'm having a great time filling eclairs."

Best tip: "I literally whip the living hell out of everything. To get a really good cupcake they need to be fluffy and moist and I whip them to the point of the colour changing. For cupcakes in particular, I tend to drop the oven temperature down a little bit. You get a flatter cupcake and you don't get that crunchy top, so it's good for decorating."

Raw choc mint ice cream cake by Canberra vegan baker Anthea Cheng of Rainbow Nourishments. Photo by Anthea Cheng.

Raw choc mint ice-cream cake. Photo: Anthea Cheng

Anthea Cheng

The growing trend for vegan and raw cakes has led blogger Anthea Cheng to her own small business, Rainbow Nourishments.

"To be honest, I just made one cake for a friend and I started getting orders from that so it's all snowballed," she says. On her blog, her cakes are beautifully shot and styled - elaborate creations filled with flowers. They don't look vegan, as one fan puts it.

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Cheng grew up in Sydney, where her parents owned a restaurant and cooked everything from steak to pasta to Asian food. She moved to Canberra several years ago to work in the public service - and it was then that she began to move to plant based diet.

"All my cakes are raw vegan, there's not many people who make raw vegan cakes in Canberra. So I'm probably one for the few that's exclusively vegan," she says. Cheng uses organic ingredients wherever possible and is looking to make all her cakes gluten free.

"Over time, with lots of trial and error I've developed recipes that had an edge to them, that were a bit quirky," she says. "They're things that I would like to eat at home and I would be happy to serve to non-vegans. Basically all the people in my life are non vegans! It's nutritious food and it's very colourful."

How would she advise bakers who'd like to try their hand at raw vegan cakes? "I would probably say look at your pantry and minimise the amount of processed ingredients that you use," she says. "Minimise sugar too - but don't put a complete blacklist on anything because you'll just feel really guilty eating it. I tend to use coconut oil which has more fibre. Substitute olive oil or coconut oil rather than butter. Don't even use flour, use oats."

Best tip: "I'd say experiment a lot and don't be afraid to fail. You have to play around with proportions - once you've got the right proportions [the cake's] not gritty, it's not too dense and it's just right."

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - MAY 07:  The Train cake by Jo Binkin's on display at the PANDSI Cake Off at Hyatt Hotel on May 7, 2016 in Canberra, Australia. The event was held to raise funds for PANDSI, a Canberra not for profit organisation providing support for people with post and ante natal depression and anxiety. First published in 1980, the Australian Women's Weekly Children's Birthday Cake Book quickly developed a cult following. Before its reprint in 2011, the book sold more than half a million copies worldwide.  (Photo by Martin Ollman/Getty Images) The Train cake by Jo Binkin's on display at the PANDSI Cake Off at Hyatt Hotel on May 7, 2016 in Canberra,

The train cake by Jo Binkin. Photo: Martin Ollman

Jo Binkin

If you were one of the thousands who flocked to the Hyatt Hotel for the PANDSI Australian Women's Weekly Cake-Off, you might have seen Jo Binkin's train cake on display. And it's the cake that got her started as a baker nearly 12 years ago.

"The very first cake I made for my son when he turned one was the Women's Weekly train cake," she recalls. Binkin had made the cake using a combination of recipes from her mum's original Women's Weekly birthday cake cookbook, and her newer edition. But she still wasn't happy with how it turned out. So she went looking for inspiration. "I was in the cake shop and I saw this book by Debbie Brown that was 50 Easy Cakes and I thought, 'Oh this looks alright.' It got me into fondant cake decorating and I was hooked - and just haven't looked back since."

Binkin's kids had the best birthday cakes as she practiced techniques and decoration. "I was just basically making cakes for my children and it just kind of went from there. People said, 'You should make and sell them.' For a few years I went, oh no, I don't want to do that." But five years ago she took the plunge - and now her business Eat Sleep Dream Cakes is thriving. She does custom cakes for birthdays, weddings and more, creating gleaming fondant muscle cars, an elaborate cinema movie reel, and a bottle of Penfold's Grange.

And her kids' expectations have grown accordingly. "My now 12-year-old, when he was 10, told me he wanted a life size storm trooper," she laughs. "And I said no. And he goes, 'But mum you could probably do it.' And I said, 'Yes, I probably could - but there's only five of us to eat it.'"

Best tip: "Just have a go - honestly, if kids have asked you for something and it looks even remotely like it, they'll be so stoked because mum [or dad's] put all that love and attention into a cake. Think outside the box. You don't have to make your toppers, you can buy little plastic toys and stick them on top and the cake looks awesome, it hasn't caused you too much grief at all and the child gets to play with the toy afterwards."