Meet Katherine Sabbath, the Creative Master Behind the Decade of Fringe Cake
Imagine the Sagrada Família of birthday cakes. A complex, many layered structure, different from every angle but unified by a common thread. Shards of translucent multi-coloured toffee refracting the light and perfect swirls of pastel fondant bedazzled with chocolate chunks encasing a light and heavenly sponge. It’s a work of art; an architectural, gastronomical achievement. It’s also what Katherine Sabbath does every day.
But she wasn’t always a professional baker. While working as a high school teacher Katherine filled her spare time with kitchen experimentation. Desserts were a passion project; something exciting and challenging. But after joining Instagram in 2013 the creativity and precision shown in her work began to attract a following. As her dazzling confections increased in scale so too did her audience, and so at the beginning of 2015 she made the decision to pack up the classroom and dive headfirst into the Cake Life for good.
Since then she has gone from strength to strength writing and publishing a decadent pop-up cookbook titled Katherine Sabbath – Greatest Hits, already on its second reprint; travelled the country running workshops and collaborated with a number of acclaimed chefs and well-known brands.
We spoke to Katherine, one of our 2019 Fringe Faces about finding joy in cakes and life as one the country’s most celebrated bakers.
What do you love most about baking?
I adore baking because you have the ability to create something delicious, beautiful and thoughtful as a special treat to share with others. It’s a fantastic way to make friends, and show people that you love them!
What have been some of the challenges of turning your love of baking into a career?
Anyone who is self employed will understand the risks associated with not having any sick leave entitlements, a reliable salary, as well as the many other financial and social benefits which can come with working for a larger institution. I try to manage my savings wisely and at the moment, I take very limited time off in order to make the most of every opportunity. It can be pretty tiring, but with practice comes efficiency! I hope that in time I will learn how to work smarter (focusing on long-term and more meaningful projects that develop my skills) rather than harder (filling my calendar with cake orders for the same design) with my business.
Who are your biggest creative inspirations?
Locally, I LOVE and deeply respect the work of artists, Frida Las Vegas, James Jirat Patradoon, Louise Zhang, Romance Was Born, Jenny Kee, Art Simone, and Doodad and Fandango. Internationally, I love Discount Universe, Violet Chachki, Iris Van Herpen, Bjork, James Jean, Eli Rezkallah, and Camille Walala.
Cooking is a very ephemeral art form in that it disappears as soon as it’s eaten; are you ever reluctant to give your cakes away?
EATING the cake is always the best part! Haha, but I can definitely see why it would feel like an injustice. I think the worst thing that could happen to someone who enjoys cooking, is to not have anyone appreciate your food. I also hate food wastage, so I want to see every crumb gone!
You’ve amassed quite the social media following, what do you think it is about your work that resonates so much with your audience?
This has always taken me by surprise, and when I think about it too deeply I become quite overwhelmed with emotion, haha. I’m incredibly grateful to be a part of such a supportive community! I think it’s because I’m honest in everything that I do, and I’m happy to share what I discover with others. The only person I compete with is myself, and I love learning new things, as well as trying out new ideas, so I think this has helped foster a community of creative people who enjoy the ride!
What have been your favourite collaborations and why?
Well, creating the 10th Birthday cake celebrating Fringe Festival is definitely a career highlight! Five, multi-coloured-buttercream and funfetti-sponge-cake tiers of PURE JOY. I was also lucky enough to take on the role of guest judge, and design the “Pressure Test” for MasterChef Australia, which was a wonderful experience. Contestants were given the challenge of recreating my “Birthday Cake” and I spent the rest of the day eating the freshly-baked rewards!
What’s next in your baking journey? What frontiers remain to be crossed?
I have a few fun things cooking away! My second cookbook, “Bake Australia Great” is now available for pre-order (in bookstores Oct 1st). I’m also quietly working on a small business that is focused on supporting the creative food community, so please watch this space!
What’s the best baked good you’ve ever eaten?
Anything baked by Andy Bowdy (of Saga in Enmore) is the best baked good I’ve ever eaten. His masterful balance of saltiness, crunchiness, lusciousness, chewiness and sweetness, is awesome.
What do you love about Sydney?
We are home to some of the world’s most beautiful landmarks and natural environments, our creative community is dynamic and pioneering, and we are fortunate enough to have access to the best food!
What does the Sydney Fringe mean to you?
To me, it symbolises the celebration of unique creative expression, diversity, and community. Everyone is welcome and invited to celebrate in art culture, in their own unique way.