20 February, 2019

Meet the drinks staff’s in-house baker - Alison Herring

Meet the drinks staff’s in-house baker - Alison Herring

When Alison joined the drinks association last year, we had no idea she was a passionate baker.

She even has her own Facebook page, The Cakes Woman’s Weekly Rejected, to showcase her talents. 

Her baking career was born in 2001 when she started working for an organisation that was going through a cultural change as it transitioned from being government-funded.

“In an effort to build team morale, a colleague and I were given the responsibility of being ‘Monthly Birthday Morning Tea’ coordinators, with the strict instructions to keep costs down. So we decided we’d make the cakes ourselves,” Alison recalls.

“Keen to impress, my first few cakes looked like average homemade cakes, but as I became more comfortable in my role, I ignored basic baking principles and the presentation of my cakes descended into what can at best be described as culinary mishaps.

“As I presented the cakes to my co-workers, there was an air of anticipation and wonderment, ‘could it really be as bad as last month?’ We’d all have a chuckle and my fellow coordinator and I would laugh as we cleaned up, as there were never any leftovers.

“Then motherhood hit and I was exposed to the world of competitive cake making, where a weary mother living on three hours sleep and icing mixture presents a glorious theme-appropriate construction, only for it to be destroyed in a matter of minutes.”

Her first effort was the pink elephant cake from The Woman’s Weekly Birthday Cake Book for her daughter’s 3rd birthday party,

“I pulled the cake out of the oven just as the first guest arrived, and went straight into icing it. What resulted can only be described as a runny mess. I thought it was funny until audible gasps reverberated around the room when I put it on the table.

“A day later, when I picked Camille up from preschool, my embarrassment cleared when the teacher told me Camille had a great party and could not stop talking about the pink elephant cake. Ever since,  my focus has been on the intention rather than the execution. This has the added fun of people having to guess what the cake is, not to mention the fact I’m really not interested in being pedantic about its presentation.”

Alison also puts a lot of thought into theming her cakes with something that resonates for the birthday boy or girl.

“I have learnt from my early basic baking mistakes, sticking to packet mix cakes and outsourcing decoration to my seven-year-old twins. I consider myself to be the creative director and try to steer clear of the icing as much as possible.”

(She does admit her efforts have made one of her daughters cry two years running when she’s seen her birthday cake.)

So it was only natural that Alison would become the drinks association’s official staff birthday cake creator. Her first effort was to celebrate member liaison officer Kathy Sloan and general manager Hope McMurdy’s joint birthdays last November. Kathy and Hope had just been to the Melbourne Cup, so Alison decided to whip up a “birdcage” themed cake.

Since then, birthdays are always eagerly anticipated in the office because they will involve another of Alison’s unique creations. 

Click here to see more of her amazing cakes.