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Don’t be fooled by the contemporary ‘shipping container chic’ that seems to set Taupo’s Baked With Love premises apart. That sleek industrial façade disguises the soul of an old-fashioned farmhouse kitchen, where founder Kim Forsythe's tempting dishes and decadent special occasion cakes are scattered with violas, cornflowers and edible petals from her home garden.
Kim, who has been baking with love for most of her life, created the culinary business and retail store as a way of honouring her adored mother.
“For me, it all comes from here,” she says, tapping her chest.
The venture is built on memories of a childhood where pillowy scones emerged from an oven to feed friends and family gathered around a remote Central North Island table.
Gooseberries and plums from the garden, blackberries from the roadside were gathered then miraculously transformed. And Kim’s capable mother presided over it all, instilling in her daughter the same resourcefulness and a flair for both hospitality and hard work. Not to mention superb skill with a beater and bowl.
“Mum baked with what she had. There was a cow she milked and she made her own butter, we’d drink the milk and the cream went on the homemade pavs and pikelets and apple pies and crumbles.
“We also had pigs and Mum used to make her own bacon; she’d rub brown sugar into the skin and cure it. Nothing was wasted. She made tomato sauce, plum sauce and jellies. I remember the broomstick over the bath, with the blackberry and apple wrapped in muslin hanging off it, dripping, to make jelly. It was a two or three day process.”
Baked With Love evolved from a doughnut-selling stall at Taupo’s weekly market to become a back alley cakery before emerging as its current 330 sqm iteration with the help of Kim’s inheritance. When her mother, former New Zealand champion swimmer Helen Spillane died of a rare brain disorder in 2017, Kim resolved to expand the business and create a legacy. Her father Ken, an ex-butcher, died suddenly four months after her mother. Kim says looking after customers and 15 staff provides therapy on the run, that it’s a positive way to channel grief.
“I know my dad was proud of me too but the eatery’s always been about Mum, her energy and the way we do what we do, greeting our customers by name. I just feel her there, all her kindness and food and friendships. My mum was always a real giver, a really caring soul.”
Kim began her working life caring for people, too. Having eagerly left school at 15 – home economics was the only subject she enjoyed – she was a social welfare department employee for a decade before heading overseas. A stint in the Canadian resort town of Jasper was followed by hospitality jobs in central London, first in a bar beneath the Docklands railway station, then cooking in an ancient pub with a four-storey dumb waiter.
“Even there, I would cook and organise barbecues and picnics for friends, making everything beautiful with flowers and garnishing and matching crockery. To me, it’s the whole picture. I get so much joy from the beauty of food and you eat with your eyes so you’ve got to have beautiful ambience.”
Back in New Zealand, she met and married information technology whiz Scott Forsythe and the couple had two young children before leaving their Auckland city life for Taupo. They were drawn to the scenic location, with ready access to the mountain and to lake swimming as well as plenty of events on offer for IRONMAN and marathon runner Scott. The town was small enough for the boys to bike to a friend’s house and busy enough to provide sound commercial opportunities.
The pair owned and ran an existing café for two years. When it sold, the Forsythes cast about for a new project and Kim settled on doughnuts. She gathered willing friends to taste-test her fried brioche dough confections, crammed with roasted berries and lemon curd or salted caramel and booked a stall at her adopted town’s Saturday market.
The first weekend, Kim sold two dozen doughnuts from the boot of her car but demand grew and so did the product range; one weekend she and Scott sold 400 flower-strewn cakes and hearty savouries. So she opened a cakery in a service lane hidden behind shops, then a pop-up eatery in an arcade.
“But I always wanted a bigger and better place to take our business. I just knew we needed to share it with more people.”
It was Scott who translated her vision into reality and drew up plans to fit out an industrial building with three shipping containers. He took care of wages and accounts and built the website when the newer, much larger Baked With Love premises opened before Christmas 2019. And he also designed shelving when the retail arm of the businesses – flowers, hampers, jewellery and clothing – opened in June 2020.
“He’s one super amazing, supportive husband, dad and business buddy. I’m out front and he takes care of everything at the back end. He’s introverted and I’m extroverted so we make a great team.
“I’m a real people person and I love being able to say hello to people all day, every day. Maybe it’s the small town girl in me.”
As a child, Kim picnicked and camped on the western side of the lake with her family, always sustained by her mother’s homemade sandwiches, pies and sweet treats. Today, she continues the tradition with her own family, throwing lavish barbecues and picnics on the lake shore.
“In Taupo, there are lots of amazing, interesting people who’ve come for the lifestyle and they’re very supportive. I’ve made such good friends here.
“And my involvement with food has helped me build a real sense of community. We’re so lucky to have all that fresh air and sunshine and beauty here, it inspires me to make food that’s pretty and colourful and full of happiness. And made with lots of love.”
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