She is the Cake Boss and, no, she doesn't hail from New Jersey. Jade Halloran has officially been dubbed (by me) as Brisbane's very own Queen of Cakes.
Indulging in my first slice of cake (Plum and Sour Cream, to be specific) at Pearl Café well over three years ago, I added a new dream to my bucket list: before I die, I need to hang out with Pearl's maven of everything sugar, cream and pastry, while she works her magic.
Somewhat elusive, I had almost given up hope of ever meeting the mysterious 'Jade' who allegedly baked in the hidden space upstairs above the cafe. Spending copious (almost ridiculous) amounts of time at Pearl over the years, I had heard whispers and many a rumour, but never once laid eyes on this clever little cookie. Until last Thursday morning…
Young, blonde and strangely bubbly for the ungodly hour, I joined her well before the crack of dawn (a rainy and miserable 4.00am) to watch her get to work on decorating the Pearl countertop with the daily sweets, filling cake orders and my new-found favourite elevenses.
Jade is one busy bee between the hours of 3.30am and 7.30am, baking 6 cakes, 3 tarts, 12 danishes and 24 muffins, as well as the sporadic chocolate éclairs, mini quiches or sausage rolls that dress the front counter each day. On top of that, from 8:00am she cooks up to 12 cakes to fill the daily orders. If this hasn't opened your eyes to the mass scale of cakes and pastries she churns out solo, how does 15 dozen cartons of eggs or 20 kilograms of butter each week sound? Now I've got your attention…
A trained chef, Jade started her career at the well-known favourite, The Green Papaya, before taking up a four-year stint as a pastry chef at Jocelyn's Provisions. Having been at Pearl for another four years, she is also in charge of writing their dessert menu.
Her secret to success? "Good produce. It's expensive, but important." Using fresh, seasonal fruit sourced from the markets, quality nuts, Callebaut chocolate, good butter and bucketloads of skill, she masters some amazingly elaborate creations.
With rhubarb being the market pick of the day last Thursday, I watched Jade as she literally ran up and down the stairs and around the kitchen like a mad woman, whipping up rhubarb danishes and a rhubarb apricot cake, as well as a flourless chocolate raspberry cake, honeycomb cheesecake and apple and cherry muffins. Working with only one giant oven, everything baked each morning is incredibly planned out and immaculately timed.
She mentioned that she eats a hell of a lot of desserts (cakes from the Oxford Street Bakery and chocolate éclairs from Chouquette, as well as her own creations of course), but after seeing her whirlwind work in the kitchen you wouldn't wonder why she is so slender.
If you are now as eager to meet Brisbane's Cake Boss as I was, I'll let you in on a few little secrets... If the café is overcrowded during Saturday morning brekky, you may be fortunate enough to be led upstairs to the stools surrounding Jade's kitchen bench to enjoy your fare while watching her work. If you don't manage to snap up this prime pozzy, I've heard that monthly baking classes are in the works. So, keep your ear to the ground and your eyes on the Pearl.
In love with everything about Pearl Café as much as I am? Why not go along for a night of Beast and Beaujolais this Thursday?
This A List post was featured in our June eNews, June Winter Warmers and our 6 top finds in the first 6 months. Make sure you're ahead of the urban curve and sign up to receive email updates and exclusives.