AS far as eclectic ‘slash’ careers go, Olympian/baker/paramedic may just take the cake.
This is the title worn by one of the nation’s top kayakers, Jo Brigden-Jones, who splits her time between the paddle and wooden spoon as she trains for the Tokyo Olympics while running a sweets business, Elite Cake Co – in between shifts as a paramedic.
While decadent cupcakes and cookies may seem at odds with the elite athlete lifestyle, her intense training regimen was what enticed Brigden-Jones into baking. “When I was growing up, with all the training I was always getting hungry and had a massive sweet tooth, so I started experimenting in the kitchen,” says the 40 national-title-holding champion. With the postponement of the Tokyo Games, Brigden-Jones moved from her home on Sydney’s Northern Beaches to the Gold Coast, enabling her to continue training with her team without being at the mercy of interstate borders.
Launching Elite Cake Co in October provided cash flow while waiting for her paramedic transfer to come through, and remains a sweet side gig.
“With baking you have to be precise with ingredients and measurements, and it’s the same with training,” says Brigden-Jones, who made her Olympic debut in London. “Everything we do as athletes is planned and measured. We’re constantly looking at our data from races to make those little changes. It’s just like baking, where you have to be persistent and patient to get the recipe just right.” Among her gold-medal baking strategies is using room-temperature ingredients, adding a salty element to sweets, injecting cupcakes with surprise fillings, and deploying various piping tips for an intricate finish.
With just over four months until Tokyo, Brigden-Jones is counting down as excitedly as a kid watching the oven timer on a batch of brownies. “When it got postponed it seemed so far away, and there were so many factors we couldn’t control,” she says. “With COVID still around, there’s a lot of extra planning and preparation, but there’s also a feeling the end is in sight. It will be a massive relief once we land.”
As Brigden-Jones and the rest of the Aussie team gear up for the main event, armchair athletes can get themselves into green-and-gold mode with some Australian-themed cookies and cupcakes. These recipes, crafted by our homegrown Olympic baker, will set you off on a winning start.