1 Feb 2024

Auckland cakery in liquidation, closing doors after 30 years

From Checkpoint, 5:37 pm on 1 February 2024

After almost 30 years in business an Auckland cakery has closed its doors for the final time, blaming tighter household budgets and the soaring cost of ingredients like butter.  

The City Cake Company in Mt Eden was run by the late Maureen Keene and her daughter Tracey Baird, but grief and compounding costs have taken over. 

With the company in liquidation owing $30,000, Thursday was the last day customers could get their sweet fix, with everything half-price in the hope nothing would be wasted. 

For almost 30 years Baird and Keene made cakes for every occasion. But after Keene passed away suddenly last year, Baird was forced to take on all responsibilities - something she admitted was too much in the end, the business owing creditors $30,000. 

"It was a baptism by fire. I was trying to do a lot of things that probably wasn't my wheelhouse and then trying to deal with grief and all those other sort of personal things all at once... it became a bit overwhelming."

It had been a death of a thousand cuts, but the main culprit was tight household budgets - with cakes the first thing to be sacrificed. 

Baird said there had also been a staggering price increase of ingredients. 

"At Christmas I was figuring out that it was cheaper to buy butter from Countdown than it was at our wholesalers, so butter for instance went up over a few years from about $2 or so a block to almost $7 a block."

One of City Cake Company's cakes.

One of City Cake Company's cakes. Photo: Marika Khabazi / RNZ

Shutting up shop for good was a hard decision after three decades. 

"I mean, I've had customers that have been buying cakes for all of their families' birthdays for 25 years religiously… I will miss it dearly."

With plenty of ingredients like Belgian chocolate and fresh cream left, not wanting them to go to waste, they did what they do best and got baking. For their last week everything was half price. Many locals turned up in support to say their last goodbyes, with queues out the door. 

Frances Loo from the Mt Eden Business Association said they were devastated City Cake Company had not been able to survive, reflecting on when the company first opened. 

"They had a long-term dream of having a cake shop, so when the space further up the road became available, they set up the City Cake Company, so quite pioneering in their own way." 

Tracey Baird

Tracey Baird. Photo: Marika Khabazi / RNZ

One customer told RNZ it was a huge loss for the whole of Mt Eden Village. 

"It's been one of the lovely spots that's been just part of this village and just the fabric of who's here and they've been around for so long."

Another customer said they had been shopping at the store for years: "I had my little boy's first birthday cake from here, it was absolutely beautiful… and I wanted to get my little girl's first birthday cake from here as well, so I was really sad to hear that they're closing down." 

Baird said almost all four staff had worked there since the business opened in 1995. 

"The head chef and cake decorator have been here 23 years, my kitchen assistant had been here 21 years. They become family, and that was probably the most difficult part for me, personally."  

The feeling was mutual for cake decorator Jessie Dezoysa, who became emotional when reflecting on closing the shop. 

"While driving here actually I was in tears thinking about the company, because I love the company so much." 

Baird was hoping a keen caker would snap up the business to carry on Keene's legacy.

"I'm honestly glad she's not here to see this. It was her mum's recipes, everything she cared about... it was her passion, and that would be sad for her."