The humble Mason jar has found new life yet again, as Brisbane entrepreneur James Willis and celebrity chef Philip Johnson launch their gourmet jar cake delivery service, The Mason Baker.
Billing themselves as “the Ben & Jerry’s of cake”, James and Philip will jam pack jars with cakey goodness right here in Brisbane and deliver them nationwide.
You’ve almost certainly heard of Philip Johnson — as one of Australia’s most celebrated chefs, he’s released six cookbooks, won a Restaurant and Catering Lifetime Achievement Award, and continues to run the award-winning E’cco Bistro — but James is something of an unknown quantity. The 24-year-old entrepreneur first came across jar cakes while travelling through the United States in search of business opportunities.
“I was over in the States when I first saw jar cakes, and I immediately thought about how successful they’d be in Australia,” James says. “I came back here and met Phil, and eight months later we started a business together.
“I had originally taken another idea to him. I didn’t know him from a bar of soap, but I called him up and went in there and met with him at E’cco. It was a good catch-up but there was nothing really sold there. I worked away at him for another couple of months and he eventually jumped on board with another idea we’re doing. Basically, once we had that trust down pat, Phil and I became quite close.
“Then I brought the ‘cake in a jar’ idea to him, and he said, ‘Mate, let’s do this, there’s definitely something here, let’s get going on it right away’. So from that day onwards, he started mucking around with cake recipes and testing things out, and I started working on the back end of the business. I was contacting companies around the world to try to get the best quality jars, and I think we’ve got that now.”
The jar concept allows The Mason Baker to stack freshly baked cake, separated by decadent frosting and unique toppings, without being spoilt. But there’s more to the appeal of the Mason jar than simple preservation.
“I think it’s the homemade aspect of it,” James says. “I always associate Mason jars with my grandmother; they have a very homely feel to them. To me, a Mason jar feels like quality.
“The reason why we chose Mason jars is because they’ve been around forever, and they fit the purpose, really, because at the moment you can’t send cake through the mail, but once we put the cake in a Mason jar and layer the frosting in there, the jar essentially preserves it. But it’s also just a classy looking container.
“We want our customers to use the jars once they’re finished with the cakes, too. They can put seeds in there, they can put their muesli and yogurt in there and take it to work. We want our packaging to have a life beyond its intended use.”
James and Philip are planning to launch The Mason Baker with seven flavours.
“We’ll unveil those flavours closer to the launch date, but to give you an idea, we want to stick with classy, classic flavours,” James says. “We want it to be viewed as a gourmet cake in a jar, as a high quality product. I wouldn’t expect to see any tacky flavours; just beautiful cakes made with high quality ingredients.”
The Mason Baker will launch online in early March, with same-day delivery for Brisbane, Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast. A Mason Baker pop-up at E’cco Bistro is expected to be announced shortly. For more information, visit themasonbaker.com.au, and keep an eye on their Facebook and Instagram pages.