Why I left uni to bake cakes

September 16, 2014
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Last year I decided to take a break from uni to pursue my dream of baking.

Cake always seemed to follow me around. Since I was a two year old sitting up on the kitchen bench instructing my father to put egg shells in our cake there always seemed to be some type of cake, slice or biscuits in a container up on the bench. 

When I finished school and had to decide what to do with myself, journalism sounded like a good idea. I’d always loved English and thought that it would be a good way to achieve the ultimate dream – being a food critic. Somehow I couldn’t think of anything better that I’d rather do with my life than get paid to eat. With that I enrolled in a journalism degree at UTS.

I liked the degree at first – I was writing stories that I found interesting and the word limits and deadlines were manageable in the first year. But over time the degree grew more and more draining and my dream of becoming a food critic was being drowned under piles and piles of newsy stories that I wasn’t as passionate about. By the middle of my second year I had lost pretty much all hope of having a career in journalism, so decided to take some time off. 

I originally wanted to just spend the time working and chilling out (catching up with the couch). After I spent my first day off uni baking a double batch of brownies, however, my mum suggested I look into some sort of baking course. I found a 6 month patisserie course at my local TAFE and immediately enrolled – nothing could possibly sound better than French desserts and butter, butter, butter (with a side serving of sugar).

On my first day of class I showed up like a 5 year old all excited for the first day of school.  I sent out a round of snapchat selfies to friends showing off my hot new chef’s jacket and hat and then went into the kitchen – it already felt like home.

Over the semester, I learnt everything from sweet breads to cakes, gateaux’s to petit fours and everything in between.  Week after week, cake after cake, I loved everything about food and the patisserie course – not even caring about the 5 hour exams in the kitchen or burns from being way too clumsy to handle a baking tray full of heavy cakes.

Despite spending over 22 hours a week in the kitchen, I never lost my passion and actually spent more and more time in the kitchen at home. By the end of the course I had made a whole new group of friends who loved food and everything about it almost as much as I do, a new bunch of recipes under my belt and a whole new look on the baking industry that my heart was now set on becoming a part of (as well as a few burn scars here and there). It was here that I seriously questioned returning to uni – I had the potential to make money selling cakes or to continue the course and become a more qualified baker, or just run away to Paris and learn from true patisserie chefs.

I finally decided to go back to uni, anxious about future job prospects if all I had was one certificate in patisserie. I thought it would be safest to at least get an undergrad degree to give me something to fall back on if I wasn’t making it baking. An added bonus is that I’m still able to sell cakes on the side, and I still spend more time baking than at uni anyway. While my current goal is opening my own bakery, the way I see it, when the long hours and hard labour become too much for my future self, I can get back to pursuing that childhood dream of getting paid to eat.

Maddie Shanahan

Maddie is a BA Communications (Journalism) student at UTS and loves to bake.


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