Written by Charlotte Burns
If you want a deliciously decadent cupcake that’s full of sweetness and free of guilt, Baked By Us gives you the perfect excuse.
When you buy a cupcake from Baked By Us, you’re helping to provide opportunities for young people who have a disability to gain kitchen and workplace skills.
In 2019, Jess Robinson came up with the idea and continues to put her soul into every part of the business. She noticed a gap in the market, not just for cupcakes, but for a support service in Geelong that doubled as a way to gain further employment. As someone passionate about her community it seemed like a no brainer to open Baked By Us.
Some of the skills the staff learn include professional cupcake-making, learning commercial kitchen skills, serving customers, delivering orders and most importantly, working as part of a team.
“When we started Baked By us, it was about providing people with employment opportunities and skills that they could take onto future careers,” Jess says. After almost two years of business, it is still selling out of cupcakes every day.
“I want it to be more acceptable and for people of all abilities to be working in cafes. I wanted to show that it can be successful. They (all abilities people) don’t have to be hidden in the back packing boxes, they can be doing the whole role. I would love for it to be more of the norm.”
Spreading the Joy
They recently made the news on television for their Pay It Forward campaign, which is exactly like it sounds. You buy a box of cupcakes for someone who you think deserves them and each week they deliver one of those boxes to a recipient.
“We just want to spread a bit more joy,” Jess explains, “it started because we wanted to give cupcakes back to the people who were impacted by COVID.
After they featured on TV, they received a heap of nominations for the Geelong Police Department and Tuckers Funeral Planners. If the stack of orders in Jess’s drawer is any indication, the Geelong community is right behind her, happy to give back to people affected by COVID-19.
“Things like that don’t just happen, you have to have the community behind you,” Jess says, “we wouldn’t be anywhere without the Geelong community. We feel like we have a cheer squad behind us.”
When you step inside, you will find a range of bright personalities working hard, and all of them will greet you with a smile and a wave as you walk through their bright pink door.
Team member Steph is a total extrovert who will happily help you choose a cupcake if you are having trouble deciding. Baked By Us has given her an opportunity to be independent as she is able to take public transport to and from work.
“They are the best cupcakes, especially the chocolate ones, and it’s different when we make them for others…they taste better,” Steph says.
Star baker Dan says Baked By Us has given him the opportunity to follow his dreams of being a baker.
“I used to make cupcakes as a kid, and I’m like you know what, this is gonna be my dream job. I always wanted to be in the baking industry, because it’s fun and you learn new skills and make lifelong friends,” Dan says. With his positive attitude towards baking, it comes as no surprise that he and the Baked By Us team were able to bake over 400 cupcakes for Mother’s Day this year which led to a line around the block for almost two hours.
Cal never expected to be a baker, yet he loves every minute of it. Initially, he wanted to join the Jamie Oliver program to be a chef, yet he finds decorating cupcakes to be relaxing.
“I really like symmetry and making things look the same, the OCD part of my brain finds (decorating cupcakes) relaxing,” Cal says. “My favourite one to decorate is the popcorn one because it is the trickiest. Odd shapes don’t really work in my brain so it takes some more questions as to how many pieces need to go on the top of this cupcake. And that’s where my brain really gets going.”
As Cal and Dan will tell you, these cupcakes are made with love and by legends who all do their part each and every day.
For the first two years, Jess didn’t have any signage on her Ryrie St shopfront, building up her business on Instagram, enticing people with colourful cupcakes.
“People come in here aged from 1 to 100 and their expressions are always the same – they light up. They like picking and choosing. It’s like a lolly shop for cupcakes for them It still feels surreal every day and it’s amazing because I haven’t burnt out yet. I still find it exciting to come to work every day.”
To Jess, it is something she hoped would happen when she was posting on Instagram but there was always a sense of humility that it may not. So why cupcakes? Jess lists a number of reasons, such as being the perfect treat to have without feeling guilt; you can give them as a gift, you can choose from a range of ever-changing flavours and they can offer cupcakes at a low price point.
Baked By Us also bake brownies. Throughout the various lockdowns, they have baked and packed “Lockdown Boxes” that have an array of treats to help people through the tough days. With such a creative idea, some happy faces and contactless pickup, it shouldn’t be a surprise that they sell out within hours.
So if you want some decadent sweetness with added happiness, pop down to Baked By Us, but get in early before they sell out again! Or pre-order online to beat the rush.