Cake is celebratory, playful, fun, indulgent, totally unnecessary (but also extremely necessary) and a means of creative expression. But it’s also serious business. Two people who understand this better than most are bakers, cake artists and Aussie baking Instagram celebrities, Alice Bennett and Alisha Henderson.
The pair – who first met over Instagram and then in person years later at a day-long pastry class where they were the only two wearing pink dresses and sneakers amid a sea of professionally trained pastry chefs in chefs whites – have teamed up to open Co Bake Space in Richmond.
A former bakery with a small shopfront on busy Swan Street and a commercial kitchen out the back, Co Bake Space is a big departure from the tucked-away commercial kitchens in Footscray and Hillside Bennett and Henderson were respectively working from previously.
Save 20% when you buy two or more Broadsheet books. Order now to make sure they arrive in time for Christmas.SHOP NOW
The space, designed by Dot Dot Dash, has an all-peach interior with warm lighting, touches of gingham, and a sign over the kitchen door that reads “Caking in progress” that lights up like an “On air” sign.
The idea is that creatives, brands and anyone else can use Co Bake Space as a place to host workshops, pop-ups, classes, tastings and stage shoots. It’s a blank enough canvas that guests can add their own flourishes, but they can also activate the space without bringing anything but themselves and their goods.
Co Bake Space had its grand opening on Mother’s Day with a collaboration between Bennett, Henderson and floral designer Ross Jenkins of Bloom Boy. This weekend Henderson will use the space to sell her cakes – which are usually only available to purchase as whole cakes or through her online “cake mail” club subscriptions – by the slice for the first time.
Up next is Bennett, who will be selling vintage cupcakes and fairy bread sandwiches, and already on the books for winter are collaborations with former Attica pastry chef and creator of the Attica Summer Camp dessert trolly Rosemary Andrews, Fig & Salt’s Cassandra Morris and the team from Melbourne florist Wild Flos.
Both Bennett and Henderson have the kind of loyal Instagram audiences most brands and bakers can only dream of. But, as young women who grew their base on the platform, it can be hard to get taken as seriously as other culinary professionals. But Bennett and Henderson prefer to let the doubters drive them. “You prove them wrong,” says Henderson. “Just because it’s cake and it’s fun, it doesn’t mean that I’m not a serious businesswoman,” she adds. The duo are working “full-time and overtime”, as Bennett puts it, to run their businesses – and the creative community is better for it.