The naughty little business injecting humour into dessert.
Sam Fitzpatrick had never really baked before 2017, but now she is the proud owner of two bakeries—Cakes ‘n’ Sh!t in Bakery Lane, Fortitude Valley and Enoggera—that she puts a unique twist on with her strong personality and often-profane sense of humour. Language warning: if you’re familiar with Cakes ‘n’ Sh!t’s “curse cookies”, you should know that Sam speaks the same way she bakes!
Prior to starting Cakes ‘n’ Sh!t Sam spent a decade climbing the corporate ladder; first as a real estate agent working in sales and property management before landing in the big time.
“I was always miserable—I hated it. It was work,” Sam said.
“And I worked my way all the way up and I ended up being the state manager of this trust accounting company and I thought, ‘this is definitely it—I have made it’”.
Alas, Sam was still miserable, and it flowed over into her work.
“I was a terrible employee, and they fired me, and they were right to do so,” she laughs.
But rather than an ending, Sam’s sudden unemployment revealed her true passion in an unexpected way. About a month prior, her partner (also named Sam!) had opened up his first café in Spring Hill, Brisbane— about a block away from Sam’s corporate office—so after being fired, she walked over to the café, put down her bag and said, “I guess I work here now”.
“I thought I’d work there until I figure out what I want to do next, and he only had it open for about a month and we knew we wanted to make good, home-cooked stuff for the cabinet,” she said.
“We didn’t want to buy that mass-produced shit-wrapped-in-plastic; we wanted it to be home cooked.”
Her partner’s grandmother had been doing the cooking, but couldn’t keep up with the demand and popularity, so Sam stepped up to the plate. Despite having only ever baked cupcakes from pre-packaged mixes, she dove right in.
“I thought, ‘look I’m not an idiot; I’m sure I can read a recipe and pop it in the oven’, so I started doing that as required and discovered that I really loved it and the feedback was really nice.”
From there, Sam’s cakes gained popularity and she started receiving orders for whole cakes, which she made out of the café for two or three months until someone suggested she open her own shop.
“I thought ‘well shit, I don’t really have anything else to do and this seems to be getting good feedback from everybody so I may as well give it a crack’,” she laughs.
And in typical Sam fashion, there was no way her cake store was going to be in any way typical. “I’m not a girly-girl, and every cake shop I’d ever walked into was the same—it was all pink and white and girly and cupcakes and frills—and I can’t be surrounded by that day in and day out,” she said.
“If I’m going to open my own place, it’s gonna have to be a place that I want to spend time in.
“We were having a joke about how when you put the word ‘shit’ at the end of everything it automatically makes it sound more gangsta.
“We were just going around the café saying ‘chairs and shit’, ‘coffee and shit’, ‘cakes and shit’, and I was like ‘that is the name of the store!’
“I knew that it would have to have swearing; it would have to be a little bit in your face and a bit rough around the edges.”
When it came to making the moniker official, though, Sam said ASIC was having none of it, which is how the exclamation point in “sh!t” came to be.
“I don’t know whether I’ve flown under the radar slightly or if it’s just abstract enough to be allowed, but in my logo it’s not an “I” either, it’s a whisk, so people obviously read it as “Cakes n Shit” and they have a little giggle,” she said.
“No one’s ever been horribly offended by it, not to my face, and no one’s ever sent me an email saying, ‘I’m horribly offended’. Most people laugh, and that’s the whole point – it’s a little bit shocking and makes people giggle.
“And once they get in, I think they realise that it’s all in good humour; we’re not just swearing for the sake of swearing, and we’re not trying to swear and say something gross to shock you.”
In fact, “curse cookies” have become one of Cakes ‘n’ Sh!t’s most popular products. The sweet treats are hand stamped with various naughty, cheeky, and sometimes insulting slogans, and can even be custom ordered.
“Every single person that walks in here beelines straight for the cookies. It’s weird; they’ve kind of become our signature product. It’s fun to watch people lose it a little bit,” Sam said.
“Everything we stamp on the cookies is a slang phrase; it’s commonly used when you talk to your mates.
“It’s something you’d all have a giggle about if you were sitting around a barbecue on a Sunday afternoon, but apparently if you pop it on a product and have it available for people to purchase and give to their friends if they want to, it becomes a bit risqué.”
Asked where the inspiration for the phrases on the cookies comes from, Sam says it’s a team effort, with the younger women in the team often coming up with phrases Sam herself has never heard of.
“They’re 21 and I’m 33 now so the generation gap has never quite been so apparent to me except when I read a cookie and I’m like ‘what the fuck does that mean?’ And then they have to explain it to me or I have to Urban Dictionary it and I’m like, ‘there’s another phrase that I’m not cool enough to understand’.”
As for the most popular curse cookies? They’re definitely not ones to buy your grandma, unless Gran is very open-minded!
“We have one that’s just a picture of a middle finger giving the bird; that’s always super popular,” Sam said.
“Anything with the word c**t on it goes fucking mental! There’s one we have that says ‘put a baby in me’ which is really popular.
“I don’t know if there are a lot of people secretly wanting that.
“I try to make a really good mix between sexual stuff, gross stuff, and then mean and insulting stuff.
“Everyone comes in and normally gets one for themselves, but a lot of the time people are coming in to buy these for their mates, or their co-workers, or they’re giving it to someone else, so it’s always nice to have a good mix so there’s always going to be a cookie in there that speaks to you.”
Sam and the crew at Cakes ‘n’ Sh!t are also behind the Bakery Lane Bake Off, a festival they decided to put on this year at their Fortitude Valley location after being inspired by some of the other laneway festivals they’d seen.
“It wasn’t just a whole bunch of people trying to sell you their stuff; you could come and sample a little bit of almost everything, but the rest of it was just party stuff.
“I think it went really well, all the vendors were happy. That’s the most important thing, that everyone in the laneway and the stallholders were all happy with how it went.
“The feedback has been really good and we’ve had a few people in and around the baking community that have reached out to us and said that they would love to collab on some events moving forward and inject that same sort of vibe into thing that are already established.
“Next year we’re wanting to make it bigger and better, and Queen are with us all the way on that one which is amazing because they’re crazy-awesome sponsors. Now that we know there’s definitely a lot of interest in it, we can go a bit nuts with it.”
Sam describes the Cakes ‘n’ Sh!t team as “a bit of a rag-tag bunch of people” but they all complement each other in their unique talents.
“(Baker) Kayla used to work for Le Bon Choix and is so amazing at all the little technical things that need doing,” she said.
“Then there’s Mariah who used to make wedding cakes. She’s the one that does all the sculpting, so when you see torso cakes (like the stripper cake), that’s her. She has this amazing ability to just look at a picture and then carve it.
“Then there’s me—I’m not the greatest baker in the world but I have an okay sense of humour and I can pun.”
In the day-to-day running of the business, Sam says that connecting with her customers is an integral part of Cakes ‘n’ Sh!t’s success.
“I like to get people involved in stuff,” she explained.
“Especially in business these days, it’s not good enough to just make a product and sell it. You have to provide an experience and people need to be able to connect with you.
“Your product is secondary; if they connect with you and the personality you’re putting out there, then they’re going to buy your product.”