By The Good Newspaper
Carina Birch, a life-long lover of the culinary arts, and owner of Carina’s Bakery which she operates from home in Somerset West, has been honing her craft throughout most of her life. Born as one of twins, Carina’s parents, two schoolteachers, (one being a principal) could see from an early age where her interests lay. Where her sister was sports-orientated, Carina was creatively at work in the kitchen. She has a fond memory of herself at two- or three-years old with a wooden spoon and a bowl, mixing away at any ingredients she could find, sometimes this would even include things like shampoo – nothing was off limits to this daring, young, and adventurous artisan.
By the time she was 9 years old she was already managing to bake cakes and a few other sweet and savoury foods for family events, such as get-togethers and birthdays. When she was a teenager in high school, she would often spend her time baking, trying out new and unique recipes, and with a keen intuition would start adding her own ingredients. She also took Home Economics as a subject, which was one of her favourites alongside biology. When it came time to choose a career, her mind had already been made up, and she ended up studying Home Economics for four years at Stellenbosch University, along with a teaching degree (BEd). Carina mentions that while she enjoyed her studies, it was all so generalized that she was not able to go into a specialized career path, such as a food scientist or dietitian.
After University she decided to start teaching home economics in high school but realized that her passion lay elsewhere – in the act of baking. During this time, she would only bake for her own children’s birthdays, or that of their friends. When her eldest child matriculated, around 2013, she decided that it was finally time to turn her passion into her career. Since then, she has focused on speciality cakes such as birthdays, and weddings, but still does the occasional catering for events as well. “This was exactly ten years ago” Carina says, enthusiastically, adding that she is “Incredibly grateful to all my loyal customers who return annually, and especially seeing their faces - or that of their children - light up when they see the uniquely handcrafted delicacy.”
Carina’s design philosophy is a simple, yet effective one: “What’s the use of having a good-looking cake that tastes like cardboard?” - and so, she makes sure to use only the tastiest of recipes, buying top-quality ingredients to make sure that her cakes are the cream-of-the-crop. She also mentions that often she not only spends hours creating intricate figurines as toppers for her cakes, to add that special touch, but also tries her best to create novel designs based on the customers’ needs and desires. Whilst she has a business profile on both Facebook and Instagram, she finds that often word of mouth still works best, as after every delivery, there is usually at least one new client who contacts her.
In discussing the pros and cons of creating a career from her passion, Carina divulges that whilst there are challenges which continually arise, the fulfillment lay in finding creative ways in dealing with them. Some of the stressors she deals with daily come in the form of planning as far as is possible due to interference such as load-shedding, adjusting the prices of the cakes due to the ever-inflating cost of ingredients whilst attempting to keep her prices affordable, as well as logistics, where transporting such fragile products can be difficult depending on the weather and the icings used, (as some are more prone to melting than others).
In terms of the positives of transforming her career path, Carina says that she gets to work from home, cutting out the expenses usually reserved for renting property for her bakery and saving time in general, as she chooses the hours that she works. Furthermore, she points out the fact that she is constantly learning new methodologies, techniques, and recipes, and that her orders are so varied, that, as such, “There never seems to be a dull moment!”. Finally, she states that one of the best parts of her job is meeting and connecting with new and interesting people, some who eventually become friends.