Food & Drink

Boxed cake mixes don’t have the most glamorous reputation, and that’s precisely why Jordan and Anouk Rondel think the Caker stands out. The two sisters have expanded the baking business from their hometown of Auckland, New Zealand to Los Angeles with the goal of introducing consumers stateside to their own special brand of at-home luxury cake-making.

The pair grew up visiting their grandparents in Paris and baking with them, but the love for creating in the kitchen resonated most with Jordan Rondel. “She knows how to cook and bake, and I only know how to eat,” Anouk Rondel says with a laugh.

Jordan Rondel, the Caker’s creative director, started the brand in 2010. It was originally a recipe blog she did on the side while working a few part-time jobs and studying business at a college in Auckland. As she puts it, she was “obsessed with baking” and did it every day after school.

The blog caught on with people very quickly and became a “vehicle for selling cakes,” she says. She eventually quit her other jobs, graduated and started to bake full-time out of a leased kitchen in the back of a small cafe.

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For Jordan Rondel, a self-taught baker with no prior professional kitchen experience, this was a dream come true. “It was basically a passion turned into a job,” she says.

Things took off from there. Within the next two years, Jordan Rondel got a book deal, pushing the Caker brand to new heights. To keep up with the growth, she opened her own bakery and hired staff. She also brought on her sister as a business partner—a move that changed everything for the Caker, she says.

Anouk Rondel left her career as a lawyer to take on the role of COO in 2015. Since then, she has been pivotal in expanding the company past its humble beginnings as a local bakery. Under her operational leadership, the Caker started selling boxed cake kits after the sisters recognized that their store wasn’t the most scalable business.

Their line of the Caker mixes found success in New Zealand, opening doors for the pair to launch another bakery location in a larger space. They also grew to a team of 18 people.

The Rondel sisters are now ready to showcase the Caker on the global stage. They both moved to Los Angeles last year with the intention of introducing their brand to a new market.

According to Jordan Rondel, even though she and her sister have traveled to other places in the U.S., they found themselves drawn to Los Angeles due to the similarities it had with Auckland. The culture and lifestyle of the two cities are a lot alike, she says. Because of this, she and her sister felt confident that the Caker could succeed in the West Coast city.

Entering the U.S. market hasn’t been a cakewalk, especially since it’s just the two of them expanding the business outside of New Zealand. In addition to undergoing the long process of obtaining visas and incorporating the company, the Rondel sisters have had to adjust their operations. “I think that my hair has gone grey overnight,” Jordan Rondel jokes.

Launching the Caker in the U.S. meant finding new distributors and suppliers for ingredients, setting up warehouses on both coasts and adjusting to different parameters such as minimum truck loads.

They also had to change their business model. The pair initially planned to follow what they had in New Zealand by launching a brick-and-mortar store in Los Angeles, but the Covid-19 pandemic forced them to switch gears and focus on their e-commerce business instead. Their U.S. website launched on October 15.

The Caker’s American debut looks different from what they expected, but Jordan and Anouk Rondel both see the circumstances as a potential stroke of good fortune. Though they didn’t launch during the height of the quarantine baking frenzy, interest in baking at home is still high.

In the U.S., the Caker currently offers three cake kits: matcha cherry, lemon strawberry poppy seed and flourless dark chocolate gold leaf. Each is priced at $25 online for nationwide shipping. 

A kit comes with a recipe card and dry ingredients that are pre-measured and individually bagged. The recipe includes a list of wet ingredients needed to bake the cake, such as butter and eggs, and suggestions for those who want to make a vegan-friendly version.

“The recipes that the cake kits are made from are ones that I’ve perfected over the course of my entire career,” Jordan Rondel says. “They’re actually recipes that we sell as fresh cakes on the menu at our Auckland bakery.”

The Rondel sisters say that since opening in the U.S., American consumers have been pleasantly surprised with their kits, which are a far cry from processed cake mixes such as Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines. The pair have gone to great lengths to make sure their ingredients are top-notch.

They have tried fifteen different types of matcha to find the right one. The chocolate for the flourless cake is the same Belgian couverture chocolate that the brand has been using for the past ten years. And when they couldn’t find the same quality of freeze-dried fruit and fruit powders here, they decided to import them from New Zealand. “We just couldn’t compromise on that at all,” Jordan Rondel says.

The Caker’s upscale approach to home baking and its sleek, modern branding caught the attention of Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters

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. These two retailers now sell these cake kits at their stores.

The sisters have not abandoned plans to open a bakery though. While they currently can only create cakes for private events, Anouk Rondel says that a storefront in Los Angeles will be important to take the brand further and enable her sister to continue writing recipes and being creative in the kitchen. “We’ve always seen the bakery and making fresh cake almost like the couture, and having those in baking mixes as like the ready-to-wear,” she says.

As the Caker’s presence grows in the U.S., the pair are hoping to collaborate with different brands, even those outside of the food world, just like they did back home. As an example, they previously launched a cake kit in partnership with Karen Walker, a New Zealand-based fashion designer. In a similar way, the Rondel sisters plan on teaming up with brands in beauty, fragrance and fashion, and releasing new recipes.

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