Resident of Yarraville, business owner of Finesse Cakes by Ingrid
I was born in Footscray and brought up in Altona North. I’m 11 years younger than my brother Joseph, who got married when I was 12. In some ways, I felt like I was the only child as Joseph left home to start his new life as I was still growing into a spritely teenager.
My parents are from Malta and had moved to Australia in the early 60s, settling down in Newport for three months before moving their brand new home in Altona North. Back home in Malta, Dad was an upholsterer by trade and couldn’t make ends meet after having Joseph. After failing to get into the local police force – they claimed he was too short! – and just able to make ends meet on an upholsterer’s wage, they decided to make plans to move to Melbourne.
Back then, everyone was coming to Australia and communication was done by letters. He had received a letter from my Uncle advising him to come here. Dad wanted a better life for Mum and Joseph so he made the necessary arrangements to make the big move to Melbourne, leaving all his family behind.
I loved living in Altona North but Mum && Dad wanted a new home so we moved to Altona Meadows when I was 12 and it took me a while to adjust as I didn’t have my cousins in the next street anymore. I was only 18 when I met my husband Chris. We married when I was 22 and waited eight years before we had kids.
We bought an ex-display home in Altona Meadows, which I loved at first and then I began to struggle with my surroundings. The area was up-and-coming, with no character and we were located on the main road. A shopping centre was then built and the main road became noisy and dangerous with hoons speeding, strangers knocking on our door. I told Chris ‘we need to move before we the Inner West becomes out of our reach.’
Chris worked most weekends, so I thought I would take matters into my own hands and start searching for homes in Williamstown and Yarraville on my own. Williamstown was crazy expensive so I passed through Yarraville and immediately fell in love. I dragged Chris out the next day, with nothing suitable within our price range we felt disheartened. We decided to go home and drove past Severn Street. We saw a Hocking Stuart sign and thankfully we were in time for the open for inspection.
This home was the best we’d seen and within our price range. I knew this house was the one! Thankfully it was a private sale and the deal was made. We were moving to Yarraville! Inner West and eight minutes from the city; I was absolutely thrilled!
We moved into our home in December 2003. I was heavily pregnant with Ethan at the time. He was born in March 2004.
Yarraville is perfect for a new Mum. I walked to the Village every day with Ethan for a coffee, meet friends at Beaton Reserve as Ethan got older and it would be bubbacinos while we watched the trains go by. I love Yarraville’s diverse community, the move was the best thing we’ve done. I wouldn’t be who I am today if I had stayed in Altona Meadows. I feel so fortunate.
After a year at home with Ethan I decided to go back to work as an Executive Assistant to a finance broking company. I had always been in the finance industry but was never passionate about it. After Reuben was born in 2007 I went back to finance, which I despised, for three months. I tried fashion retail for 18 months, which I loved but the hours and income just weren’t working. Moving back into finance, I worked four days on St Kilda Road and I was 2IC in the car finance division of the company.
I was juggling two kids under six back then, and really disliked what I was doing. I needed to find a passion. One day, I came across a book ‘Planet Cake’, by Paris Cutler. I picked it up and was in awe of the amazing cakes I could create. I studied the book from back to front. At that moment I had a light bulb moment – I love to cook and create so why not try cake decorating? I began making cakes for the kids and family whenever an occasion arose.
Once, my cousin Allira posted on Facebook that she was after a Hoot the Owl cake. I thought I’d give it a go. On the same week, a friend asked for a football cake on Facebook as well.”
After awhile I thought ‘Alright, let’s just do this part-time.’
I realized I had to get the kitchen registered. I went about that and began teaching myself how to execute a cake a whole lot better than I was currently doing so. I began doing my own research and did a few courses, but I am basically self-taught after watching plenty of tutorials on Youtube. I found it mesmerizing!
So here I was, working four days a week in finance and making cakes when I would come home. Things were going well but then life took a massive turn. Dad became ill with cancer at the end of 2011. Life became busier – with finance, juggling my family, assisting Mum and Dad. I couldn’t concentrate on my finance career.
I had picked up running by then and never missed my 5am morning runs. I would end the week with an endurance run with my Yarraville running group, meeting at Beaton Reserve and running towards Maribyrnong or Altona. Running kept me sane.
Business was picking up and I told Chris how I felt about wanting to give up finance. Chris loved the idea and gave me his full support. I resigned from the job on 15 May 2013, and Dad passed away on 17 May 2013. Dad’s illness had put my life into perspective.
I went full swing with Finesse Cakes by Ingrid and loved it! I felt a little lost initially, but I have never looked back. These days, I don’t run anymore. I start the day off with a 1 ½ gym session, come home get the boys off to school before walking the dog around McIvor Reserve with Chris. I’d grab a coffee from Antipasti Deli Cafe – Yarraville thereafter and start my day.
I’m one of the first registered home-based cake businesses within the Maribyrnong council. I also have public liability insurance. People often question the price of my cakes and I believe I’m reasonable, not cheap but affordable and I want to keep it that way. I’m very personable and happy to accommodate those on a budget. I still get customers who are unaware of the price of cakes and all the hard work that goes into it. It all starts with the first email, design, correspondence, shopping, baking, icing, decorating, packaging, delivery, cleaning, preparation etc.
All my cakes are baked from scratch using real ingredients. No packet mixes allowed!
There are highs and lows to working by yourself. The lows – I’m a one-woman show and the workload can get quite overwhelming, mentally and physically. The highs – I am not being micromanaged and I get to stay in my activewear all day. If I don’t want to work, I don’t have to work. I don’t have to employ anyone and I don’t have to talk to anyone.
A pinball machine cake, a Millenium Falcon and a Semi Trailer would probably be some of my most challenging creations to date. Some of the stranger requests would be a torso and appendage for a Hen’s night, which I didn’t accept. I’m not into tacky cakes, but I did accept to make a boobie cake for a 74-year-old boob-loving Western Bulldogs fan. How could I say no? It was just after the Doggies won the flag and I thought the cake was very tastefully done.
I don’t mind sharing information about how to register a kitchen for council approval. I have been approached by another cake maker in the area and I was more than happy to assist.
Chris had worked at Toyota for 25 years, before being let go when Toyota shut down in 2017. Chris does a bit of casual work here and there and is at home more now, which I love. I am truly blessed to have him as a husband. We’ve been married for 22 years and we are still best mates.
It will be 15 years in December since we moved to Yarraville. We renovated the house in 2015 and it was such a horrible experience. I tried working from my mother’s kitchen which I got registered but it was too stressful. I shut the business down for six months and picked it up again once my home was ready.
I often get asked how I came up with my business name Finesse Cakes. Truth is, the word Finesse is within my full name – Ingrid Vanessa Formosa. ‘In’ from Ingrid, ‘Ess’ from Vanessa and ‘F’ from Formosa. I was born with FINESSE!