“I try to see the analogy and symbolism of various ingredients when creating something new,” says Nadine Ingram, owner and baker of Sydney’s Flour and Stone.
A good example of this is a cake called Lucky, named after the son of chef Kylie Kwong, known for her Cantonese-Australian restaurants.
Ingram first came up with the idea for the dessert in early 2022, but was unable to present the cake to Kwong until September. It turned out to be a significant moment: it was the tenth anniversary of Lucky’s death.
For this cake, Ingram decided to use fruits that are considered lucky in Chinese culture, such as grapefruit and tangerine.
“I tried to incorporate all those flavors into something meaningful, first and foremost. And then after that comes the textures.”
Different textures were created from layers of ‘Rocher’ macadamia, tutti frutti curd, luscious lemon pudding, kumquat and mandarin compote. Finally, marigold petals were added, for healing.
“Lucky is now the inspiration for Kylie’s restaurant called Lucky Kwong, and the work she continues to do within her community. I think when you walk in there, you can feel the energy from her. When light finds its way through the cracks, it can reveal hidden blessings. I wanted to make a cake to celebrate that.”
Ingram offered the Lucky cake at Flour and Stone throughout September, followed by a creation inspired by the passing of Queen Elizabeth II the next month. The baker wants to continue with these tributes to confectionery next year.
Ingram says that her life as a baker was her destiny.
“I think it was only as I got older that I realized that baking has been a way of expressing who I am. And I didn’t realize that when I was younger.”
It all started when Ingram left for London in 1993. He had already been apprenticed as a chef for four years when he arrived.
“They always put me in the pastry section, because that’s where they put the girls. And when I went to London, they were testing me in the main part of the kitchen, and they quickly realized that I wasn’t up to speed,” says Ingram.
“They asked me, ‘Did you apply for a position in the bakery, or in the main kitchen?’ And I said, ‘Oh, it doesn’t really matter where you put me. I just want to be here. And then they put me back in the pastry section.”
“When light finds its way through the cracks, it can reveal hidden blessings. I wanted to make a cake to celebrate that.”
For those new to baking like she once was, Ingram has some words of wisdom.
“Don’t worry so much that it won’t turn out right the first time. I know that’s not necessarily very encouraging, but I think it’s important after you’ve failed and been discouraged to go back and try that recipe again.”
“I have 30 years of experience and things still don’t work, for whatever reason. I find it amazing, when people say, ‘Oh, I tried this recipe and it didn’t work,’ and they’ve never tried it again.”
“It takes time to build a relationship with a cake, with a recipe. Be patient to be able to understand that you may not get it right the first time, but try again and open your intuition. Stay in sync with your intuition and trust your gut.”
If you trust your instincts enough, you will eventually develop a sense of taste and know what you like to do.
“I really like making cakes that feel and look like they belong in nature. I always reference that when I’m in the kitchen now, when I teach people how to put together a cake and what to put on it.”
“If you saw that cake in nature, what would it be like?” ask her students. “I wouldn’t have large amounts of drizzle on top. I just try to keep everything very, very natural, like you might stumble across these cakes in nature.”
Ingram attributes this respect for nature to his upbringing in the Hunter Valley, NSW.
“It was about staying very humble and not being too flashy. And try to be true to yourself, and not put up all these pretenses and airs and graces.
“I really feel like I bake that way. I try to keep everything very authentic. I always question providence, where the ingredients come from, in the same way that I question where I come from. I try to be true to that.”
Making sense of the past and finding symbolism in the ingredients are two things that have emerged over time, experience and reflection.
“I think when you’re in the first half of your life, you’re on autopilot. You are building your career and you are learning. I’m reaching the second half of my life now, and I’m trying to figure out the path I took, why I took it, what might be next, and what role the cake played in that.”
“I think the cake has given me my connection to the people, and it has identified my service to the people as a guardian, that I am there to guide and encourage me. And wisdom, up to a point. That is what pastry has given me”.
‘The Mostest’ is a column on SBS Food that sees comedian and foodie Jennifer Wong as its guide. Read on as she seeks to discover who we are as cooks, who we are as eaters, and what we enjoy the most. Expect history, awesome tips, must-have recipes, and anecdotes, all surrounded by food. Do you love history? Follow the author here: Twitter @wojenniferFacebook @jenniferwongcomedian, Instagram @jenniferwongcomedian.