Gina Auger takes the cake
THE ADVENT of the internet has levelled the playing field for all rural women, according to Clifton cake decorator Gina Auger.
The mother of two and avid craftswoman operates her small business/hobby from her and husband, Rob's 156ha property at Clifton, where they run 45 Alberta Droughtmaster stud cattle.
Born in Warwick and growing up at St George where her family operated an earthmoving business, Gina has called the Clifton district home for the past five years.
"My dad, Robin, operated FG Loy and Sons, in both St George and Warwick, but passed away suddenly five years ago, and my cake decorating kept my mind occupied during a difficult time," she said.
"When I first started about seven years ago, I was doing it for fun, and started a blog called Top That Cakes, so friends and family could see my cakes.
The internet was great for me, as it opened up so many doors. It allowed me to learn from other decorators all over the world.
"Between my own family and their friends, things just grew and I started doing more and more cakes."
She operates Gina Auger Creations from the family farm and is self-taught however the talented cake decorator says she owes her success to the internet.
Gina believes the tyranny of distance has been overcome for rural women due to the internet.
"If you can't afford to go to Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne, which is where some of the best courses are held, you can access a lot of well-known decorators on-line and buy their tutorials," she said.
"Some international sugar artists come to Toowoomba but not many."
As well as making and decorating cakes for events including Open Gardens Australia's 25th anniversary, and the wedding of Australian Diamonds netball captain Laura Geitz, as well as a fundraising cake for the Jane McGrath Breast Cancer Foundation, Gina also dabbles in event stationery or printables, as she calls it.
"I have a little on-line shop on the website Made It, which sells hand-made items," Gina said.
Some of her work has been published in the hard cover book, Celebrate by Confetti Fair, featuring Australian food stylists.
"I enjoy graphic design and supply event stationery to a Sydney-based company, 3's A Party, which specialises in event supplies and candy buffets," Gina said.
"I do cake boxes, custom designed chocolate bar wrappers, labels, signs and lolly bags. I have also started doing party buffets myself," she said.
"The publishers of Celebrate, chose Australian event stylists to feature in the book and I was lucky I was hooked up with one that was chosen."
Gina said she originally started making birthday cakes for her two children, Caitlin, 10, and William, 7.
"I ordered a cake from a local bakery for Caitlin's third birthday and, when I went to pick up the cake, there had been a mix up. I was devastated," she said.
"So after that my mum bought me the Women's Weekly Party Cakes book and I still use recipes out of that book.
"Everyone was very encouraging and gave me compliments on my cakes, so it snow-balled from there."
Gina started out making cakes with cream icing, and then progressed to fondant icing.
"I became addicted to fondant icing," she laughed.
"The best thing is that you can eat your mistakes, not like other hobbies/jobs."
Gina began studying cake decorating through books, as she aspired to make fancy flowers for cakes.
"The internet was great for me, as it opened up so many doors. It allowed me to learn from other decorators all over the world," she said.
"I've never done an actual course but I've watched a lot of YouTube."
The creations that Gina makes can vary in intricacy.
She recently finished a five-tier wedding cake which took her three weeks to make and ice, as it was covered in hundreds of tiny flowers.
"I hand-coloured each flower with petal dust," she said.
"It can take from eight hours to up to two or three weeks to decorate a cake.
"It all depends on how intricate it is, and some figurines, like a bride and groom made to a likeness of the wedding couple, can be worth up to $150 alone, due mainly to the time taken."
Gina does all her cooking in her mum, Anne's kitchen in Warwick, and specialises in wedding cakes and special event cakes.
"Wedding cakes don't excite me like novelty cakes. I love doing kids cakes," she said.
Gina has created a lot of rural-themed cakes, including horses, dogs, and even a stump with an axe in it, for an axe-collecting relative, as well as a birthday cake for Warwick landscape gardener Clint Kenny, topped with a myriad of intricate vegies growing in a garden.
Her cakes have travelled as far afield as Brisbane and the Gold Coast, but are mainly sold in the local area.
"I'd be too nervous to send them any further afield at this stage. I take pride in my creations and I don't want to spoil someone's event if they opened the box and the cake was ruined," Gina said.
"My obsession with perfection can be a problem."
Gina said she helps charities when she can and has donated cakes for good causes.
For anyone interested, Gina has a Facebook page and can see many of her designs on her page.