Heat Things Up with The Caker

In defense of (this) boxed cake mix.

By Sarah Stark

Jordan Rondel has been mixing up the baking world since 2010 when she founded The Caker in New Zealand. With a flagship bakery based in Auckland, a made-to-order location in Los Angeles, five tasty cookbooks, and the most luxe boxed cake mixes this side of the grocery aisle, it’s no wonder she’s garnered a cult-like following.

Jordan, who now runs her business with her sister Anouk, moved stateside to Los Angeles in 2020 with the goal of introducing Americans to her special brand of at-home luxury cake-making. An approach that focuses on premium ingredients — think edible gold leaf, almond meal, matcha powder, ground lime leaf, and Dutch cocoa powder — and decadent decorations like crushed pistachios, toasted coconut, and freeze-dried fruits. The kits give the convenience of at-home-baking, but all the glory (taste and photo-worthiness) of a bakery-made cake.

The Good Sort spoke to Jordan about her upscale approach to baking and got the scoop on what’s behind the brand.

THE GOOD SORT: Your childhood trips to Paris first drew you to the magic of baking. What was it specifically about cakes that caught your heart?

JORDAN RONDEL: Yes, it was in Paris in the early years where my beautiful grandparents instilled in me my love for being in the kitchen, and for putting ingredients together to create a miraculous whole. They taught me how to make tarts, jams and clafoutis. But not really cakes. I later learned that I love cakes in particular because they are such strong symbols of celebration and no matter what, they bring joy. I really love the science behind cakes, but I also love that as a completely self-taught baker I learned how to push the boundaries and alter the traditional rules. Cakes are my creative medium.

Jordan baking with her grandmother.

THE GOOD SORT: You went full time and officially became “The Caker” in 2010. How did you get the business off the ground?

JORDAN RONDEL: I’ve known I wanted to have a career in food since I was a little kid, but there’s one moment that stands out quite clearly as the point in time I KNEW I wanted to be a professional baker. I was 19 and had gotten home from university, and as usual, went straight to the kitchen to bake a cake. This one was a caramelised banana upside-down cake, and when my dad ate it, he said “this is brilliant, and you should do something about it.” So, that afternoon I set up my blog called “The Caker” and the rest is history.

THE GOOD SORT: What inspired the move from Auckland to Los Angeles?

JORDAN RONDEL: After about seven years growing the business in Auckland, I started to set my sights on international expansion. Auckland is an incredible place to start and build a business, but because it’s so small, you do eventually reach a ceiling. I frequented L.A. because my boyfriend at the time would do a lot of work here, so I would visit him. I really started to love it on a personal level — I made some friends and was super inspired by the food scene. And ultimately I saw The Caker working well here.

THE GOOD SORT: Have you found Americans’ taste preferences differ compared to New Zealanders?

JORDAN RONDEL: Yes. When it comes to cakes, generally speaking, I think Americans love themed cakes, which are super sweet, fondant-covered, and laced with food coloring. These sorts of cakes are usually pretty light and spongy and don’t have a lot of flavor. My cakes are kinda the opposite of this — all my recipes contain almond flour making them moist and intentionally dense and they are famous for being packed with big chunks of fresh fruit.

THE GOOD SORT: What’s the most common mistake people make when baking at home?

JORDAN RONDEL: This is gonna sound crazy, but it’s following the exact baking temp and time on the recipe. Every oven is so different and when it comes to checking a cake’s doneness it comes down to a certain level of intuition and knowing what to look for.

THE GOOD SORT: Where do you turn to for inspiration when it comes to new flavors, recipes, and ideas?

JORDAN RONDEL: Now that I live in L.A., I find myself constantly surrounded by new inspirations. The farmers markets here are incredible and the fresh produce is out of this world — the glossy berries, enormous pomegranates, beyond juicy peaches, and incredibly fragrant herbs are the sorts of things that inspire me.

THE GOOD SORT: Your cakes are beautiful and delicious. We find a lot of bakeries sacrifice taste profiles for the sake of aesthetics. How do you balance this conundrum?

JORDAN RONDEL: Yes, I shamelessly value taste over looks. You definitely won’t find any fondant or food coloring in anything I make because that stuff doesn’t taste good and personally, I don’t see the need to theme cakes if it’s going to be a detriment to their taste. My cake recipes pretty much always contain almond flour in place of some regular flour for improved texture and added nutrition. I’m known for never compromising on the quality of the ingredients I use and love to play around with things you wouldn’t expect to find in a sweet setting.

Photo: Emma Bassill

Photo: Pictvre

THE GOOD SORT: What new ingredients or flavors are you into right now?

JORDAN RONDEL: New for a sweet setting: szechuan pepper, miso, gin, basil, and tahini.

THE GOOD SORT: You’ve got five cookbooks out now, and this may be like asking someone to pick their favorite child, but what’s your favorite recipe?

JORDAN RONDEL: That is a tricky one, but a current favourite is my avocado and pistachio cake with honey lime syrup from my latest book “Sunday Baking 3”.

Jordan with her new cookbook. Photo: Liz Barclay

THE GOOD SORT: Changing gears… we love so many fashion and home designers in New Zealand. And we love your personal style. Can you share some of your favorites that you think our readers should know about?

JORDAN RONDEL: Aw thanks! Some of my favorite NZ fashion labels are Jimmy D, Karen Walker, Zambesi, and Nom*D.

The Sort Six

  1. 1

    What do you collect?

    Eyeliners

  2. 2

    What’s one store you can’t visit without buying something?

    Sleeper in L.A.

  3. 3

    What’s the best gift you’ve ever given or received?

    My Cadillac

  4. 4

    What’s on your desk right now?

    To-do lists and 3 types of beverages!

  5. 5

    What’s your greatest extravagance?

    Getting my head massaged.

  6. 6

    We’re always interested in talking to cool people doing interesting things. Who should talk to next?

    My friend Saye Wuo who is an amazing photographer and dear friend!

Order The Caker’s new cookbook, Sunday Baking No. 3, here and follow Jordan on Instagram at @thecaker.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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