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September 27, 2022
Words by Genevieve Phelan.
One of the greatest ways of saying ‘I care about you’ is giving someone a cake. (Especially if they’re on their period). We’re unsure where it comes from — is it the time, effort and sugar that goes into that bowl, or the sheer sensory-takeover of seeing (and smelling) a freshly-decorated sponge madeespecially for you? On birthdays, milestones and other ‘just because’ occasions,Proof Bakehouse is a place where one can transform their love and care for another human into a beautiful, edible creation.
If you’re not the baking type, or just want something extra special, Matilda Chambers (founder of Proof) is your sweet-toothed saviour. She’s got the whole baking and business-running thing down thanks to talent, passion and drive. In the realm of modern careers, building a unique and cleverly-branded bakehouse is something we see a lot of ‘moxie’ in.
It’s becoming more and more of a norm to pursue something that drives your heart first, and the rest second — you’ll find Matilda is the embodiment of doing just that. We caught up with the genius behind the whimsical, vivid, multi-tiered cake marvels herself to rehash small-business highs, valuable blunders, and a special Moxie 17th birthday project. Look at you, already licking your lips.
Matilda, it's such a sweet treat to have you here. We have a deep love for baked goods in common, especially while PMS-ing. Can you tell us a bit about Proof Bakehouse and what your role is in the biz?
Pleasure to be here! Proof Bakehouse is a cake and bake shop offering cakes, cookies, brownies, and other fun treats. I’m the owner and head cake decorator at Proof. As I’m sure other small biz owners can relate to, my role can vary daily, from baker, cake decorator, delivery driver to dish washer.
What's your earliest baking memory?
I was a bit of a late bloomer to baking actually! I had always loved cooking and being in the kitchen, so when it came to the year of 18th birthday’s amongst my friends, I was the first point of call to make the cakes. I would theme the cakes to the person and really enjoyed the crafty process and personalisation I could add to each cake. It was these joyous reactions that really got me hooked on bringing a cake to every occasion!
Your cakes are works of art. Where did you hone your skills, and who taught you everything you know about baking today?
Why thank you! I started following so many amazing cake decorators on Instagram in 2012. There have been so many fun trends in the cake world since I started out. At the time, the drip cake and ombre cakes were where it was at. I’d watch YouTube tutorials, attend workshops done by my favourite cakers and eventually studied patisserie to learn all the things I couldn’t online. My lovely Mum is also an amazing cook and I have her to thank for my delicious sticky date recipe!
On low energy days in your cycle, how do you find the motivation to get up and go to work?
It can be hard during those low energy days! I make sure I be kind to myself, skip exercise if I’m not feeling it and definitely have a couch night when I get home from work. I do try and pre-plan where possible to have smaller, less energy-exuding days when I know I’ll be feeling weighed down by my cycle. This may mean shifting things around and being extra productive when I’m feeling energised. I’m all about doing things your future-self will thank you for!
You recently crafted the most Moxie ever cake to celebrate our 17th birthday. It was epic. What other projects have you worked on recently (or have coming up) that made your heart sing?
I must say it was very exciting creating the Moxie cake — the brief provided was right up my alley! Another moment I can’t go past would be making a cake for Zoë Foster Blake. As a longtime fan, I was so thrilled. The best part was she recommended my cakes in her“best of Melbourne” blog. Now whenever I doubt myself, I think back to this. If they’re good enough for Zoë, I must be doing okay! She had our chocolate with dulce de leche filling cake for those playing along at home.
How long does the one-off cake-making process take? And what steps are involved? Perhaps walk us through the Moxie cake in full.
It’s definitely a whole process spread out over at least a few days. You’ve got the baking and cooling of the cakes, crumb-coating, and then my favourite part: the decorating! I like to plan the design by gathering some inspo images and having them printed out in front of me. I’m very visual and find this helps me bring my vision to life! I’d approximate 2-3 days to get the finished product. The baking and crumb coating can be done in a streamline process, but when it comes to decorating, each cake is unique and requires some one-on-one time. I like to treat each cake like it’s for someone special, as I’m sure each are!
How important is flexibility and creative autonomy to you in running your own business?
It is everything! The autonomy and flexibility of owning my own business is why I stay owning one. Knowing I have total control of what my day looks like and what I am creating keeps me feeling authentic and provides the freedom a 9-5 wouldn’t. I’ve always thought the 9-5 thing was a bit of a scam and quite male-centred. Choosing hours that work for me, my body and lifestyle is extremely important to me. I don’t think I could ever go back!
Speaking of business, what are some blunders you've had or lessons learned along the way?
There have been a whole lot of blunders, for sure! I have only really gotten into a good flow as of the start of this year as I had a lot to learn as a young woman in business. Pricing has always been tricky for me in that I want my cakes to be affordable, while also charging appropriately for my time. There was a stage where I was not charging enough and this took a toll on my finances and work life balance. I’d be working crazy hours to make enough cakes to make a profit. This caused me to lose a lot of nights sleep and I had to call in for some outside help from my business-oriented Mum to get things back on track. Luckily, I am surrounded by very supportive family and friends who have helped me through and taught me to charge my worth.
The joy of being gifted a cake is unparalleled. There's something inexplicably special about receiving a birthday cake, or blowing the candles out to mark a milestone in life. What's a standalone story or magical impact you've heard that Proof has had?
It would be hard to choose a standalone moment. I receive so many lovely messages and each one means so much to me. From people receiving a “just got dumped” cake to brighten up their day to frontline workers sharing one of our cakes with their hard-working team. I absolutely love being sent photos of cakes in the wild with their happy recipients!
Tell us, what's your vision for Proof in the next year or so?
My goal is to keep working with amazing people and brands that I love. I want to grow my little team as I love having inspiring and passionate people around me. It makes the long hours so much more bearable when you’ve got a great team around you, so I’d say my current focus is on expansion.
Where can we find you eating in Melbourne when you're not having dessert?
You might not believe it, but I’m a savoury girl at heart! I can’t go past Poutine at the Tramway in Fitzroy North, the AMAZING focaccia with brown butter at Logatto (also in Fitzroy North), or an avo and haloumi bagel from Bissel B in Richmond.
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