Birgitta Koomen travelled the world for many years as an in-house personal chef and caterer based in the United States.
After returning home to Australia, she has been kept busy satisfying Potts Point’s Saturday morning sweet tooth with her hand made deliciously tasty retro cakes, brownies, muffins, and also her savoury treats. I stopped by to have a chat about her 13 years at our local markets.
You’ve been at the market for such a long time now, what keeps you coming back to Potts Point, year after year?
The friendliness of the stallholders and the diversity of our customers. People may think that being in Potts Point, our customers would be pretentious but they’re not! They’re the most gracious, friendly, diverse, down to earth bunch of people. You’ve got the fabulous gay community, the older people who’ve lived in the area for decades, and the new generation of young people, who’ve moved in over recent years. I’ve served judges, lawyers and detectives popping in from the police station, as well as the people who live on the streets. It doesn’t matter who they are or what job they do, everybody is welcome, and they all love a piece a cake!
You must have seen a lot of changes in Potts Point since you first started at the market?
There has been an enormous change in demographics. When I first started, we’d watch people stumbling home in the early hours of the morning when we’d be setting up our stalls. There was always something hilarious going on. You’d rarely see children. Since the lockout laws came into effect, the market is full of young couples pushing prams and expectant mothers.
How would you describe your baking style?
I classify myself as a good old-fashioned baker. My cakes are a reminder of the kind of delicious baking that your Nana or mum baked when you were a child. I bake classic recipes in small batches made with very high-quality ingredients. I used to cook a lot more brownies, now I’m making more cakes than ever before. Where I used to bake five cakes, now I bring in 12 cakes every weekend, and they all go.
What is your best selling item?
When I first started out, I’d bake cupcakes then I became known for my Dulce de Leche brownie, which is essentially, a caramel and walnut brownie. The recipe comes from Argentina. I boil condensed milk for five hours to make the irresistible thick gooey caramel. My passionfruit Madeira cake, date loaves, raspberry coconut slice, and carrot cakes are popular. My chocolate fudge cake with chocolate icing always sells out. As I lived in the USA, I love to bake cakes in the American style such as pumpkin spice cake, or, banana choc chip with peanut butter buttercream.
Then on the other side of the taste equation, I’m known for my savoury goods such as spinach pies, spanakopita and muffins. I’m very driven by my customers, who will often ask me to make cakes they love for the following week. I bring in new products all the time, I’d get bored if I weren’t continually creating new recipes. Current customer favourites are the flourless lemon almond ricotta cake, lemon blackberry sour cream cake or flourless mandarin choc-chip cake.
Yet the residents of Potts Point are known to be a very health conscious bunch! Saturday must be their treat day?
I can’t tell you how many people say that! They say, “You are the one treat I have a week” as they buy a piece of a cake dressed in lycra as they’ve come straight from the gym! I have a lot of gluten intolerant folk, so I also cater to them. I’m delving into the world of cakes that have less sugar and also dairy free cakes. I also bake a vegan-friendly cake.
So you must be very popular with everyone in Potts Point!
Being a part of the market for so long, I’ve become part of the fabric of the community and have gotten to know so many people. One of my dearest customers is 86 year old Vera, who has been coming to me for years. She hurt her back last month, so I took her cake to her apartment. A lot of my business outside of the market comes directly from my customers. I’ve catered private parties and made bespoke wedding and birthday cakes for them.
What other stalls should people not miss?
You can’t go past Jimmy Licks for Asian food, the yummy organic homemade chocolates from Cacaoette are amazing, and Brickfields Bread is simply delicious.