All photos courtesy of Katherine Sabbath
Meet Katherine Sabbath, Heisenberg of the sugar-sphere. High-school teacher by day, sweet sorceress by night, this self-confessed “bake-aholic” creates the craziest of cakes for her beloveds (and since last year, a good chunk of her home city of Sydney), sharing her designs with an 171k-strong, utterly tantalised following with a video series and cookbook on the horizon. All thanks to her hobby and the power of a ‘like’.
We caught a whiff of what’s cooking…
Did you ever dream of making a career out of desserts?
Actually, not at all! I always thought I’d be a high-school teacher until the end of my days. It wasn’t until I started sharing my work with others and the wider Instagram audience that I realised there was a huge market of creatives out there who enjoy my sweet hobby.
What are your earliest memories of baking?
I developed my wild sugar lust at a very young age. As soon as I could be trusted with an electric beater (I never earned my pen licence in primary school but oh boy, I practiced beating those egg whites!), I would attempt a baking project. Triple-chocolate brownies are where it all started for me. I could never find a chocolate brownie decadent or gooey enough, so I made my own delicious monstrosities and it snowballed down a candy-coated, molten-caramel mountain from there.
What inspires your work?
For me, inspiration comes from absolutely everywhere! To rein it in a little bit, a favourite source of inspiration close to my heart is the 1971 film, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. I remember seeing that movie at a very young age and just being completely blown away by the fun and wacky possibilities of desserts.
Where does the magic happen?
I’m still creating everything in my humble, one bedroom apartment that I share with my longterm partner, Esjay. I’d love to work with more space and also have a home suitable for all of the kitchen equipment I’m constantly lusting over these days, but it’s also been a worthwhile learning experience creating within my means. I’ve learned to be very tidy and efficient.
You’ve stepped down from full-time teaching. Was it a big leap?
It was the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make in my life, but so far, it’s also proven to be the most rewarding and exciting. I think taking on board these kinds of risks and challenges prevents you from becoming complacent. Don’t get me wrong, teaching has always motivated me, but I’ve also always had a very strong creative streak that only dessert making has been able to satiate. Those kiddos will be in my heart forever, and it’s been very valuable for me to realise that teaching and learning doesn’t just happen in the confines of a school classroom.
When did you realise this could be more than a hobby?
I always thought I’d be a high-school teacher until the end of my days. I started taking my baking seriously when, instead of receiving the normal inbox spam, I began receiving lots of exciting emails and other cake-related inquiries. It became a little impossible to ignore after a while. [Now] the bulk of my time is spent teaching cake workshops and working on recipe developments which are at the moment my main sources of income.
What role has Instagram played in your journey?
I’ve been seriously gobsmacked by the amount of support I’ve received through Instagram as well as all of the wonderful people I’ve been fortunate enough to connect with over the last two years. Most of the incredible opportunities I’ve been able to partake in have been because someone, somewhere, has seen my work on Instagram. I try not to take it all too seriously and still treat it as though my parents (my biggest supporters) are the only ones paying attention to what I post.
Being self-taught, did you ever feel left out of the ‘dessert clique’?
Yes, I do in the sense that being entirely self-taught means my desserts stray from the techniques and aesthetics used by properly trained, accredited pastry chefs and bakers. I feel like a bit of an imposter at times because I struggle to pronounce the fancy French terms pastry chefs use! I have such a huge amount of respect for pastry chefs and bakers and you know, sometimes it makes me quite uncomfortable when I see my name associated with theirs or even being considered in the same league, because I feel like what I do is so different to their discipline. My flamboyant creations happen organically, without rules, strict temperature settings [or] French words. However, I’m working on brushing up my French.
Any advice for others hoping to turn their hobby into something more?
Hone your skills and evolve your craft by constantly experimenting with new ideas and methods, seek and reflect on constructive feedback and only work on projects which you truly believe in and love. If you pursue what you love, you’ll never have to ‘work’ another day in your life.