Emma Paff always had fond memories of helping her grandmother make sugar flowers and decorate cakes as a child. But it was only after her grandmother passed and Emma inherited her cake decorating tools that her passion for cake decorating was re-ignited. It wasn't long before she'd given up her day job to pursue her hobby full time. She now runs her own cake decorating business in Ipswich called The Cake Lady.
"Before I started studying patisserie I was working in an office at QML Pathology. I was just decorating as a hobby, making cakes for family and friends, and then more people got to know what I was doing, so I decided to turn it into a business," Emma said.
While Emma's cake decorating skills were mostly self-taught, she decided to formalise and expand upon her skills with a patisserie course from TAFE Queensland.
"Coming to TAFE Queensland and studying patisserie gave me so much more confidence — confidence that my clients knew I had formal qualifications, and it just broadened my level understanding of cakes, patisserie, pastries; everything," she said.
While she was initially concerned about coming back to study, Emma soon realised her teachers were passionate about helping her and her classmates succeed.
"Because it was quite a while since I had been to school or uni or done any sort of study, I was a little bit concerned about keeping up with the computer work. But any issues, the teachers were always there to help, it wasn't hard," she said.
She was also impressed with how invested the teachers were in her success and the fact that they were willing to go out of their way to help her.
"I wanted to perfect my croissants before I left TAFE. So I approached my teacher and every so often I'd bring in a batch, and he would sit down with me, we'd cut them, we'd talk about them, he'd tell me what I needed to do improve them — so it was a great environment for me to try and perfect my skills," she said.
A standout experience for Emma during her course was mastering techniques that she'd previously been hesitant to try out on her own.
"I was always too scared to try any sort of chocolate work, but we had the most amazing teacher for chocolate and we did a one metre high chocolate showpiece and learnt how to temper chocolate — that was one of my favourite subjects," she said.
"It's so completely different from what I had done — sitting in an office to now running my own business, being on my feet all day, hopping up at 2am to do the baking, going to a market, interacting with customers, delivering wedding cakes, setting up at a venue. It's just a whole completely different world and I couldn't be happier. I just love it," she said.
Although running her own business comes with its own set of challenges, it has also proven to be an incredibly rewarding experience.
"It's a real achievement for me to say I own my own business. When I get lovely customer reviews and repeat customers that's when I know that I'm doing a good job, and it makes me happy and proud," she said.
Emma's advice to anyone thinking of studying patisserie, cookery, or anything TAFE Queensland offers, is simply to give it a go.
"If you do decide to come to TAFE, take full advantage of it. Get in there with a learning attitude, put in the hard work, and you'll reap the benefits from it," she said.
"I would definitely recommend TAFE Queensland, it's been the best thing for me. I loved my time here, I actually miss it!"