You might have liked the handiwork of Louie Digby without even realising. The Melbourne baker’s cake brand Digby Cakes became Insta-famous for its glorious rainbow shag cakes, vintage-style tiered wedding cakes topped with maraschino cherries, and others with incredible color and texture.
“My goal is that I want to make people want to touch the cake,” says Digby. “The texture and different piping techniques I use makes people curious and want to ask questions.” In 2021 she left her job in marketing to pursue her dream of baking full-time, and she now runs Digby Cakes from her own commercial kitchen in McKinnon, Melbourne.
We asked Digby how she creates her incredible cakes and the kitchen accessories she can’t live without.
For texture: Lots of different piping tips
Piping tips – loads of them, in different shapes and sizes – are a key feature of Digby’s kitchen. “I probably have over 150,” she says. “And I’m always getting new ones. I look on eBay or I’ll go to second-hand shops.” She uses shag tips to create her famous rainbow shag cakes, but she also loves open stars, frills and experimenting with whatever she’s got.
If you want to practice, Digby recommends grabbing a laminated sheet of paper, some ready-made buttercream and going to town (like she did in hotel quarantine for two weeks). “Test out all the different tips and nozzles so you can get more confident with what’s possible. Then you can just scrape it off and put it in the bin,” she says. “You won’t get an Insta-worthy cake instantly. It’s about forming your own style, not how you can replicate someone else’s design.”
For vibrancy: Food coloring from Color Mill pigment
Color is one of the first things Digby thinks about when designing her cakes. “Whether it’s pastels, monochromatic or vibrant, the colors on your cake need to be eye-catching,” she says. “They’re what initially draw people in.” Digby has “basically every shade” of food coloring from Australian brand Color Mill and says there’s a trick to get the icing to a stronger shade. “With certain colours, like red, if you add pigment to the buttercream it won’t be vibrant straightaway,” she says. “So I use a method of heating and cooling until I get the pigment as dark as I want it. What I’ll do is heat the buttercream, mix the color in, let it cool, mix it properly again, then heat and cool it until it’s as vibrant as you want it. If you heat anything, it will go darker. That’s basically the rule I use.”
For smooth edges: Cake scrapers
“I use scrapers to scrape around the cake and achieve a really smooth base and even out imperfections,” says Digby. “A perfect blank canvas to decorate on top of is key.” Depending on the task, she has scrapers that are rigid, flexible, big and small.
Another tip is to heat your scrapers gently in boiling water for better results. And once you’ve scraped around the cake, use a hot knife to create a sharp edge around the top – a small detail that Digby says makes all the difference in making a professional-looking cake. “Once you’ve scraped around the cake, there’ll be a lip of buttercream at the top. Refrigerate the cake until that buttercream is hard, then use a hot knife to scrape off the edge in order to get a sharp corner.”
For comfort: The right uniform
One of Digby’s key kitchen accessories is her work uniform by Cargo Crew: her dusty pink Riley Boiler Suit and a Boston Bib Apron, both embroidered with her own branding. “When I put it on, I feel more confident that I’m in the kitchen to work and get stuff done,” she says.
The apron also helps keep things clean throughout the day. “Messy hands make messy cakes,” says Digby. “I feel there’s a lot of moving parts in cake world. You’re baking and decorating, and [there’s] lots of lifting and cleaning involved. The boiler is my go-to most of the time. It’s unrestrictive and made from this firm but comfortable material that works,” she says.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Cargo Crew. Cargo Crew is an Australian-owned family business who make modern uniforms and aprons for chefs, home cooks and cake makers like Louie Digby, so they can feel great in what they wear.