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Monday, May 17, 2021

Life’s what you bake it: Reece Hignell’s recipe for success

The secret to a good cake is its texture and how long you bake it for.

That’s according to MasterChef Australia alumni and Cakeboi founder Reece Hignell.

The much-loved Novocastrian opened his first cafe and cake shop in February and the response has been phenomenal – thousands of cake slices have flown out the door.

Located on Lindsay Street in Hamilton, Reece says he could not be happier.

“The reaction has just been incredible, every day it’s just so busy which we are really grateful for,” he said.

“I was saying before the opening day I hoped it would be a sell-out, that was my goal, but I didn’t expect to sell out every day for a month – it’s been really grounding to know that what we decided to do was the right decision and is working.

“There is a lot of baking done every day, we make every little thing in our shop from scratch.”

What cake lovers across the city may not realise though is that Cakeboi came about because of Reece’s nan.

“It’s been an online business I’ve had for a while; I have my Instagram account and have been selling cakes through there,” he said.

“I have always loved baking but last year my nan passed away, she passed away while we were recording MasterChef and during filming I was speaking to her a lot to get advice about how to cook her sponge cake.

“Her sponge is my favourite cake she ever made and the year before for my 30th birthday, I got her to make her sponge for my big birthday party.

“I had like seven birthday cakes and I got nan to cook me her sponge and it was the centrepiece, it’s just the best cake ever.”

During his time away for last year’s season, MasterChef Australia: Back to Win, Reece was trying to perfect his nan’s sponge cake but each time it never turned out as he hoped until one cooking challenge on the show.

“We had a challenge where we opened up our Mystery Box and there was a photo of us, it was like a memory challenge,” he said.

“[My photo was] of me at primary school during a bake sale and [my nan’s] sponge was there so when that happened, I decided I was going to try to make her cake.

“At this stage I tried to make it constantly and failed every time, but I had never stuck strictly to nan’s instructions, so I went into the challenge and made it and it worked perfectly.

“I think that moment created the idea of me running this shop, it all evolved from a [email protected]%*ty situation, but it’s created this cool concept that is dedicated to her.”

Reece has spent years perfecting the art of cake making, and I think he has nailed it. 

“For me, the perfect cake needs to have the right texture, and that’s what’s really special about ‘old school’ cakes, all of these newer cakes are a bit too sweet like chocolate mud cake,” he said.

“Making sure that it has a beautiful texture, flavour and bounce.

“I think the cooking is the most important step, if they are not cooked properly you are going to get a horrible cake.

“I take them out the second they are done.”

Reece adds he is very grateful for his time on MasterChef and says he is very lucky to have been on it twice.

Reece Hignell during a challenge on MasterChef Australia.

He first appeared on TV screens in 2018 – it was the next step in his plan.

“I was working in a job and I did all of the things that were my goals,” he said.

“I had a career aspiration that I wanted to achieve before I was 30 and I did that, so I was like: ‘why can’t I change it up?’

“I’ve never been the type of guy to just stick to the same repetitive thing, so that was my chance to try something different and I went for it.”

He says returning for a second time was surreal.

“I think because of COVID a lot of people were stuck at home in isolation, so MasterChef was like a little beaming light in a way,” he said.

“It was received really well, and everyone had the best time, it was incredible, so so incredible.

“I think all of us who went on that second season realised the impact and the power of it.”

With the latest instalment of MasterChef airing this Monday 19 April on Network Ten, Reece has offered some sage advice.

“Don’t compare yourself to anyone else,” he said.

“It’s really hard not to think about what everyone else is making around you but when you compare yourself to others you are setting yourself up to do something you may not be able to do.

“All you can do is what you do best.”

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