I could make a case for the cakes at Smith the Grocer in the Old Bank Arcade being the absolute best in Wellington. No exaggeration, and that is all down to the amazing Miranda-Bakes (real name Gulland). With her beautiful decoration, deeeeee-licious flavour and the fact that her baking is fresh every day and covers all dietary requirements, she is difficult to beat! Miranda’s cakes are a MUST for anyone in Wellington.
Despite their prowess, it wasn’t only the cakes that enticed me to catch up with Miranda. I heard that she is from Scotland and I was keen to learn how a gal from Scotland ended up in Wellington baking the best cakes in town!
Thinking YOU might be interested in this too, I interviewed Miranda for Migrant Story #2 here on the bloggy. Here is what she had to say…(if you are able to peel your eyes off those delectable cakes for a just a second)…
Lost in Silver Fern Migrant Interview with Miranda Bakes
How long have you been in NZ?
I’ve been in New Zealand for four years extraordinaire
What inspired/prompted your move to New Zealand?
I stumbled upon New Zealand by accident. Visiting my sisters in Sydney in December 2012 , I made a last minute decision to extend my trip and visit a friend in Wellington for a weekend thinking I wouldn’t get the opportunity to visit this corner of the world again. I was blown away with everything New Zealand had to offer and couldn’t resist the temptation to return and make the most out the working holiday visa before I turned 30.
What is your visa story?
I am now a Resident of New Zealand. :-). I originally traveled and worked here on a working holiday visa before being sponsored by a former employer after which I eventually secured residency.
Was this an easy or difficult process and why?
Anything to do with immigration requires focus and patience. You have to provide documentation from a number of sources including overseas contacts living in different time zones so you have to factor other people’s schedules into the equation. Medical examinations need to be factored in from a budgeting and time perspective too.
Why did you choose to live in Wellington?
I have a massive soft spot for Wellington and all it offers: it’s zesty and spicy, fast and slow, hip and chill, rural and suburban. A city that’s alive with everything you need – you just have to be proactive and get out there and find it.
Did you bring belongings with you or just pack up a suitcase and go?
I moved to New Zealand with the world’s smallest backpack bringing only essential items and a random pillow I quickly ditched. I’m quite a free spirit so the less I take, the better. Having decided to then stay in New Zealand permanently, I shipped some belongings over with a company called Crown Worldwide who I couldn’t recommend more. Crown was reliable, helpful and affordable – they managed all the logistics and removed the stress out of what could have been quite a daunting process.
What are the greatest advantages of living in NZ for you?
For me, New Zealand living means relaxed living. It means working your prescribed hours and at a sustainable pace. Being active at the weekend and getting out and about into the great outdoors and soaking in the breathtaking scenery. In fact, I’ve never been so fit! It means eating quality food. Getting out onto the road for mini adventures. Being courteous and kind and open hearted. It also means not judging crazy kiwis who walk around barefoot in shorties in the winter months!
And the biggest disadvantages?
The obvious draw-back is the time and cost it takes to travel to other countries. But you can’t change that so I won’t complain and sometimes it’s nice to be a little removed from the rest of the world.
How expensive do you find it compared to home?
Food is a lot more expensive here but you do get good quality of produce. Rent is cheaper although I find public transport limited and expensive.
What are your favorite things to do in Wellington?
Get outside – walk, run or swim around the bays; get active at my local Crossfit Central Wellington gym on Taranaki Street; hit up some of the brilliant bars or cosy up in one of the city’s many cafes; take a walk up Mount Victoria; mosey around the weekend markets; go for a drive around the bays. The list goes on…
How easy is it for you to go home?
It’s not very easy as it’s so expensive to travel to the UK and you need to take at least three weeks off work in order to make the journey worthwhile.
What do you miss, apart from family and friends?
British media – especially BBC Radio 4. Proper tea. Architecture. Fashion. Long train journeys. Cheaper wine. UK politics. Europe on the doorstep. I’ll stop before I get homesick!
If you could give those moving to NZ one tip, what would it be?
Go woofing! It’s an amazing way to experience another side to New Zealand living. And be open minded and embrace every opportunity that comes your way. It doesn’t matter what your age, budget or focus – woofing is for everyone.
What are the top 3 things you would recommend for people to do when they come to Wellington?
Get out and about as much as possible: visit Zealandia, go up the Cable Car, get to a weekend market, stroll up and down Cuba Street, try the coffee, compare the scones, and make the most out of the quirky craft beer. Sorry, that’s more than three!
Now…Tell me about your amaaaazing baking?
I didn’t have a conventional childhood per se. Growing up, I was only allowed TV on special occasions but was given free reign to experiment in the kitchen so my little sister and I would bake up a storm (quite literally), pretending we were television presenters teaching our audience how to bake. I’m pretty sure there was more uncooked batter on our faces (and probably the walls) than what went into the tins…
This kick-started a natural passion for food and so I wrote a baking column, Miranda Bakes, for my university magazine and cooked sweet treats for my dad’s wholefood cafe in Scotland while studying. After graduation and during my twenties I pursued a corporate career in London and Canada. But deep down, I knew this laptop-living, desk-sitting lifestyle didn’t suit and something had to change. Because I’m all or nothing I packed my bags, ditched my stilettos for an apron and moved to the other side of the world and worked hard to establish myself as a baker in Wellington.
Is this what you have always wanted to do?
Yes. I’ve always loved how baking brings people to life: whether you’re whisking up a recipe or indulging in the final sweet treat fresh out of the oven – baking requires us all to use our senses – touch, taste, smell and more. This opens people’s eyes and sometimes melts their hearts, even just a little.
Baking, like eating, is an emotional experience. And when you get it right, it makes people happy. There’s nothing more rewarding than bringing someone joy from something you’ve made with your own two hands. Even after a busy shift at work (at Smith the Grocer’s in the Old Bank Arcade) I feel lucky that I have a natural passion for my job.
And finally, Who are your favorite bakers/chefs inspirations for us to check out?
I love my job at Smith the Grocer and I’m always looking for inspiration elsewhere. I’m in awe of the amazing cafes you find dotted around New Zealand and the work they do by creating beautiful, interesting food. In particular, I love what Rae Ellis has done with Vudu Larder and Bespoke Kitchen in Queentstown and am so grateful for all the recipes they share with their fans.
Similarly, Kim Evans, founder of Auckland’s Little and Friday cafe has some beautiful recipes and presentation ideas. And I’m always, always, always inspired when I visit Ripe Deli in Auckland and its founder Angela Redfern has written two really good cook books which any foodie should get their hands on.
So, Miranda has shown us it is possible to try delicious and beautiful cake all the time, and also be a cross fit rock star. The proof is in the pudding!
But seriously, its so nice to see someone who has followed their dreams in NZ and made it work. When Miranda and I were talking about how she used to work in PR back in London, I asked her if she would have made the change to baking, had she still lived there. She said, definitely not as it wouldn’t have worked financially. I thought that was really interesting and its something I have noticed about life here too. There is much more opportunity for creating amazing businesses and making your dreams happen, as cheesy as that sounds.
If you enjoyed reading this Migrant Story, you might like also like to check out the interview i did with You Tuber Jen Morris in Migrant Story #1. And watch out for more coming up in the future.
Thanks for sharing your story Miranda!
Head to Smith the Grocer in the Old Bank Arcade for the real deal and check out Miranda Bakes on Instagram for more mouth watering photos:
Also, thanks to you for reading! I really do appreciate you being here and sharing.