Home baker Katherine Sabbath tells me that the contents of someone’s shopping basket can provide an insight into their lives, and how they treat other people. ‘If they buy organic free-range eggs, well you know they are a good egg.’
It’s not too much of a leap of the imagination to visualise Katherine’s own shopping basket – for the bubbly high school teacher-turned-dessert creative, it would be the brightest, sweetest basket in the bunch.
Such a combination has attracted hundreds of thousands of fans on social media, who drool over Katherine’s impressive pop-coloured creations, and gasp in awe when they find out she is self-taught.
‘It was never on purpose – I think people just stumbled across me, saw my cakes and realised, “Hey this chick is a high school teacher, that’s pretty unique.” That resonates with people because I’m not a professional, and that means what I am doing is achievable for anyone else.’
Just over a year ago, Katherine made the decision to pursue the ‘cake life’ full time. She now spends her days creating her colourful culinary creations for friends, family and carefully chosen collaborators, inspiring and teaching others along the way.
‘It was scary leaving full-time work, that safety, but it was so invigorating as well’ Katherine says. ‘You can look at it as a being frightening, but it was really exciting, it was a thrill and it still is.’
Having built her career around a passion for celebration, Katherine inspires us to find the small, sweet moments in life – and teaches us that we really can have our cake and eat it too!
Katherine Sabbath’s Extraordinary Routine
My partner is a cyclist, so he is up riding early and I do boot camp three days a week. I have to balance it out with the sweet life! The most important thing is my health, and if that goes awry then the rest of my life will as well. No matter how chaotic my days are, as long as I’m waking up at the same time, looking after my body, then the rest falls into place.
I come home, have a shower and then have a nice long breakfast with a cup of English breakfast tea. If I’m really tired or have a photo shoot I’ll have a coffee, but I try not to drink too much coffee because it gives me a lot of anxiety.
For breakfast I’ll either have eggs, avocado and really nice sourdough with maybe some capsicum relish or ricotta, or a homemade granola or muesli with full cream milk. It depends if I feel like sweet or savoury, but I always have a hefty breakfast.
I’ll get ready and start work. I like catching up on all my personal admin before people are at work.
Every day is different, so I look at my paper diary. I have Google Cal but I don’t use it – I like tangible things. This is the high school teacher in me – everything is usually planned a month in advance, and so if I lose this paper diary I am absolutely stuffed!
I also like to go on Instagram in the morning so I have time to read through the comments and be present with what is going on.
There could be a cookbook shoot, or I could be recipe developing at home – that is where I play around with new flavours and different combinations of cakes and decorating techniques.
I do all the testing at home, just so other home bakers can replicate the recipe with ease, and also to make sure that it always tastes good!
If I’m making a cake for a friend or a wedding, then I will have to go and buy my supplies from cake decorating stores in Sydney. I don’t have a big kitchen and I’ve only got one fridge and basically no storage so I can’t buy large quantities of things wholesale.
I tried selling my cakes, but I never enjoyed the commercial side of making cakes for other people. For me it was only ever a creative release, and making something delicious for people I love and care about, so I stopped doing that.
Instead I thought, what is it that I’m really passionate about? Really it’s helping people do what I do and supporting home bakers, and so I started teaching cake classes and demonstrations!
I love teaching and being around other people, that is where I get so much inspiration. It also means I am always learning so much from other people. I have been self-taught over about 15 years of baking, and there are a lot of foundational skills that I still lack. So when I’m around, say, a mother of five who is making a cake in class, I often find myself learning new things, like how to ice a cake more efficiently!
I love cafe food, so I’ll have chicken on sourdough or a cous cous salad with some good vegetables for lunch. If I’m at home I’ll have leftovers, because I like to cook in bulk.
After lunch, I don’t like to get straight back into work, because I need to digest my food. I will write down cake ideas, do a quick sketch or go online and take screenshots of visuals that inspire me. I don’t necessarily look at other cakes, I’m inspired by different designers and artists, that’s what really gets me going.
The shoots, the classes, the brand collaborations, the demonstrations – they can only happen if I have had heaps of discussions about the logistics of how everything is going to work. So a lot of the time I’m in meetings planning the next project.
In the afternoon I will usually get back on the emails. I’m still really bad at sitting in one spot and getting things done – I get bored when I am sitting down too long. I’m always one of those people who writes back to emails with, ‘Hi, hope you are having a good week, sorry for the late response…’
I aim to finish by six, but I find that I am always working away on cake related things up until I go to bed – can’t help it! It doesn’t bother my boyfriend because he is self-employed as well, so he works really hard too.
At the start of the week I do a big roasted veg cook up that will last me the week – lots of broccoli, sweet potato, pumpkin, capsicum, and garlic drizzled with olive oil and a balsamic glaze. I’ll eat that with, say, some black rice cooked in beef stock with roasted chicken, or have it with a Persian feta or hummus.
My boyfriend and I will watch TV, usually Cooked or other documentaries about food, art or design.
I know it’s really bad, but I just sit with my laptop and I don’t even know what I’m doing – I’m just refreshing Facebook or working on recipes. I might do some online shopping because I am naughty, but usually I just browse.
I try to get eight hours sleep every night, but I say try! When my boyfriend is not here I never get eight hours because he knows I like staying up late and always have – he has tried to train me out of it but I am a bit of a night owl.
For me, what makes life extraordinary is waking up and being excited for the day, and never wishing it to be over. That is when I know I am really happy in what I am doing.
This story was written as part of our monthly collaboration with Madeleine Dore of Extraordinary Routines.