the cake queen
It’s Homebaked’s Crystal Morrison shares her sweet story…
Vanilla bean, red velvet, chocolate treats, topped with lashings of perfectly piped buttercream in fun flavours like peanut butter and jelly, Twix, and lemon meringue – these were just some of the cake creations that Crystal Morrison, founder of It’s Homebaked, sprinkled up and down the Coal Coast over the past year. Creations that gained a cult-like status among the Illawarra. So much so, that when the self-taught baker from Fairy Meadow announced she was giving up the baking biz as a full-time gig, there was an outpouring of love from the community. Although Crystal isn’t in the kitchen every day anymore, she’s still selling ‘cheeky six-packs’ through her Instagram page (look out for them – they go fast!), and considering different ways to continue It’s Homebaked, so as she says, “Stay tuned!”
When did your love of baking begin?
My earliest memories of baking were with my Nanny. Every Christmas, we’d make sugar cookies, shortbread and fudge. I absolutely loved having that time with her and baking all her traditional classics. I can still remember her teaching me that it was very important to always get your measurements correct. She showed me to level off my spoons and cups with a knife. It’s a baking lesson that stuck, and I have learnt it to be very true.
You first started selling your cupcakes at Balgownie Hotel?
I was working as a manager at Balgownie Hotel, and every year the Leukaemia Foundation ran a charity event through pubs called The U.G.L.Y Bartender. I wanted to do something a little different to get the patrons to donate, so I decided to bake cupcakes. A couple of years prior, when I’d just moved to Australia and was waiting for my defacto visa to be granted, I couldn’t work, so I started baking again and realised how much I enjoyed it. When my boss at The Bally told me that the pub would pay for my ingredients and that all the money I raised would go towards the charity, I baked. The response was more than I could have imagined and really, the rest is history.
Your business took off… when did you choose to dedicate your career to baking?
After my start at Bally Pub, I was approached by Sassy Catering and asked if I could be one of their cake vendors. I’ll never forget my first wedding. I got back from the Southern Highlands, looked at my hubby and said, “I just delivered cakes for a WEDDING!” I burst out laughing. It was such a crazy thought that people actually wanted one of my cakes for their big day.
For years, I did this casually, but it was when I found ‘my style’ that It’s Homebaked became something. I stopped saying yes to every request and only took on cakes that I’d be proud to make. I started having fun with flavours and piping styles, and that’s when my cakes started getting noticed. I was approached by Bread, Espresso & in Thirroul after they saw an Instagram post. I dropped them off some cakes and they were keen to stock my little treats. Another milestone for this baker! The thought that my sweets would be on display in a cafe was so amazing! I went on to supply many beautiful cafes on our coast.
It was just over a year ago that I’d decided to try this cake gig full-time. I was working a 9-5 job, and with the orders I was getting for It’s Homebaked, I was practically working two full-time jobs. Something had to give. I knew this was my time to see if my cake business was my future.
The decision then to stop taking orders must have been tough…
I want to say it was, but the reality is, it was a relief. I have always considered myself a hard worker, but this past year was a kind of hard I never anticipated. I love baking, but I was not in love with running a business. I take a lot of pride in my work and this is something that made me feel like I was constantly trying to keep up. When you work for yourself, there is always something you could/should be doing. I was missing so much time with my husband, family and friends, that I decided I needed to make some changes. Another big reason for my decision, and one I’d never considered when I made the move in the first place – I was so lonely. I love talking to people, and while I was baking full-time, some days I was spending 12-18 hours in a kitchen alone. It was an easy decision with many tears.
Was the reaction from the community overwhelming?
The community reaction was completely overwhelming. While my decision was easy, the public response certainly made me think twice. The messages I received from people locally and around the world was so humbling and made me very grateful for everything I’d accomplished. This chick definitely went out on a high.
You’ve said you won’t be able to give up baking completely – what does the future hold?
Right now, I’m trying to get my body back into good shape. This past year had a massive effect on me and my wrists, to the point that they were going completely numb at night. I don’t plan to give up baking all together, as I really do love it. I may look to enjoy baking in a different way and have considered starting a blog.
fast five favourites:
Favourite beach in the Illawarra…
Fairy Meadow beach where I can take my pups.
Favourite place to grab a coffee…
At the risk of offending, I have to say from my Canadian brother from another mother, Frank, from The Happy Barista.
Favourite thing to do around town…
Going out for a punt with my ladies at Towradgi Beach Hotel.
Favourite cupcake flavour you baked…
Without question, chocolate peanut butter.