Welcome to a new series on this here blog! It’s called Things We Used to Make. Semi-regularly I am going to send the same bunch of questions to someone I admire and they are going to answer them and tell us a wee bit more about their early creative days!
In this first episode I am taking to Nat Paull of Beatrix Bakes. If you don’t follow Nat and the Beatrix crew on Instagram … WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE? You totally should!
Nat’s just released her first book (that’s it above – more details below) so it’s the perfect time to get to know her a little better, don’t you think? Let’s do that.
Things We Used To Make with Nat Paull of Beatrix Bakes
Q1/ So glad you are here! Do you feel like introducing yourself? (Say yes!)
Thank you for asking me to do this Pip!
I was your classic suburban-batter-covered-beater-licking kid who turned an early love of cake into a career full of all things sweet.
In 2011, when I was thirty-eight years old and just recovering from being burnt out as a piece of toast, I decided to give caking one last roll (of the pin).
I started to create a business blueprint for Beatrix Bakes in a vacant shop near my home in North Melbourne that was just me, baking the cakes I loved to eat. Nice and small and close to home.
And for the last nine years, I have skippered that little cakeshop to a big and bustly business it is today- making so much cake for the those in search of a sweet spot. I still bake every day and also eat a little piece of cake or doughnut or salted caramel slice for breakfast every day.
The latest chapter of my life is that this year, a very long held dream of mine (but didn’t have the courage to do it earlier) came true! A bakebook I wrote is being released through Hardie Grant. It is called Beatrix Bakes and it is all my favouritest recipes.
Also, other things about me are that I love French fries, rom-coms and nice socks.
- Sage sun socks by Bonne Maison at Pinky’s
- French Fries vs French Kisses tote by Parisian Postcards
- Heartburn poster by Iconic Greats
Note from Pip: Nat did not choose these things. I did. Nat might actually hate them. I was just being thematic.
Q2/ What did you used to make? Can you tell us a bit about it?
Making cakes with mum was a weekly activity but man oh man, when I made my first one as a solo baker at age seven, it was a thunderbolt of baking love! I felt indescribable joy even though the cake was pretty horrible – thin, dry and heavy, close to burnt. It was iced with a lurid blue icing and crowned with lolly bananas.
From there I made peppermint chocolate slices, cheesecake tarts, chocolate baskets filled with strawberries and kiwi fruit for my parents dinner party desserts (hello 1987!)
I tried to convince school friends that I should teach them to make pies and cakes and would write out (what I imagined) cooking school notes to look like. I remember asking Elizabeth F. if she wanted to make a cake with me after the happiness I had found making the first one but she wasn’t into it.
In my teens, I’d bake the annual Christmas cake with Dad – a semi religious experience that followed strict dogma – the type of dried fruits, the brand of butter, how much rum the fruit was to macerate in and for how long.
I kind of liked the lists and rules and systems of the cake and it was my first (unidentified then) feeling of mindfulness and how good that is for me. To have a quiet focus on what I am creating. To follow procedure and be present to make something quite magical from butter, sugar and flour.
In my senior high school years, I took orders for Christmas hampers full of nougat, apricot and almond jam, chocolate truffles and lebkuchen spiced German cookies (recipe courtesy of the Australian Womens’ Weekly). I selected baskets, ribbon for the packaging. I loved it!
A few of the teachers were super supportive and bought them. I was so proud when they walked away with their cellophane swathed baskets. If I had the smarts to cost anything, I’d have realised the costs were greater than the money made but it was in that moment that I knew making food made people happy and that would be a very good job to have.
“1982. That’s me in the middle and I have always been this pumped when a cake is in front of me, even when it’s not my birthday!”
Q/3 What do you like making NOW?
Still and always the sweet stuff. I love making what we make because I decided to make what I love to eat. I love our custard crumble pies – a crunch/squidge/crunch sandwich of flaky pastry, custard, fruit and crisp streusel. I love my cheesecake soooo much and am still delighted to take a piece home for after dinner.
Even though I do it for many hours many days a week and hit all those hurdles of physical pain (like sore bun rolling wrists at Easter) or repetitive tedium at times (but for me that’s a joy and exciting discipline of a craft like baking). There’s always something to tinker with or learn and of course it’s the best treat to eat cakey offcuts.
“1992: That’s me on the far left, being shy in my first job at The Pheasant Farm Restaurant with Maggie Beer! She was such an inspiration for me to really search for that niche of career joy. It is also when I didn’t mind people seeing my knees (lol).”
Q/4 What do you WISH you could make?
Choux pastry! I want to make eclairs filled with pink grapefruit custard cream and iced with dark chocolate. I want to make those sweet little swans or St Honore gateaux but it is my baking Achilles heel.
I try to make it a few times a year but I just get flabby and flat, misshapen pastry logs. I will swap cake for a tutorial if anyone can help!
Meet me back here very soon for more of this excellent (even if I do say so myself) series.
Thank you Nat!!!
PS: I originally wanted to do this as a podcast series, but I didn’t do that, so at the moment it can be a non-speak-y series instead!
PPS: All images thanks to Nat.
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I am totally overwhelmed by my feelings here so I’m gonna do this in point form.. ?This is the Beatrix Bakes bakebook (‘cos baking and cooking are different dontcha think?) out in March 2020 by @hardiegrantbooks. It’s full of all the cakehouse favourites you love, plus some apron pocket secrets if things go wrong. And it’s totally freaking gorgeous!! ?I am so grateful and totally adore the team @hardiegrantbooks: @janeswillson @lozsm @roxymayryan @jessica__lowe that made it real! And worked super hard to bring it earthside! The best! ?Love to the Queens of Making Beauty in Books: Allison Colpoys, Kasia Gadecki, @weaving and @stephanie_somebody. Just touching the images on the pages is ? ?If anyone can explain what the feeling is when you hold a hard copy of your book for the first time is, then please DM me..it’s crazy amazing! ?I wrote it for you, you that love Beatrix Bakes and cake so much. Thank you for your love and sweet teeth! xoxo If you would love a copy, you can preorder via the link in the profile ??. ? By @homegirl_food (who you should ? because she inspired and propelled me every step of making the book!) and table by @softerstudio. I think my book looks beautiful on it, yes?)