CAKE and chocolate are two of life’s pleasures that Alesha Thompson has always loved to eat – and create.
She grew up learning the ins and outs of old-fashioned baking from scratch – scones, sponges and gingernut biscuits – from her grandmother Grace on the family’s farm property in the Hunter Valley.
She was hooked from the age of 10.
“My Nan was famous for her coffee sponges in the area and her gingernuts, too, so I started off with those basic biscuits and cakes,” Thompson says.
“All of her cooking was from scratch. She hardly ever used bottled anything.
“She loved creating, and loved cooking for the family and friends, and the community. It’s what she did. It was her passion and she really passed that, and those skills, on to me.”
Two years ago, Thompson decided to leave behind a career in business administration to embark on a career as a chocolatier with the launch of her brand, Madam Cocoa.
She runs the entire operation on her own, moulding and decorating 600 chocolates a week out of her commercial premises in Newcastle.
After studying under master chocolatier Dean Gibson at TAFE NSW Hamilton campus and Melbourne pastry chef Paul Kennedy at Savour School, Thompson ditched the idea of opening a cafe to focus on chocolate.
“Studying and learning to create chocolate, it just really sung to me and my personality, and my perfectionist streak,” Thompson says.
“I fell in love with it, so I’ve run with it since then. The process of making chocolate is just so precise and finite that everything about it has to be perfect. Everything has to occur in the perfect time, environment and space.
“It all has to align for the end product to come together beautifully. It’s a far more intricate process and it resonated with me at a core level a lot more than what a cake does.
“I love the artistic side of it and creating amazing fillings.”
I love the artistic side of it and creating amazing fillings.Madam Cocoa founder Alesha Thompson
Madam Cocoa’s entire range is packaged gift box-style and features 12 flavours in white, milk or dark using Belgian Callebaut couverture chocolate, including botanical mint, espresso, raspberry splash, Caribbean cherry, salt flake caramel, hazelnut crisp, vanilla smooth, lemon tang, Mrs Jones blueberry cheesecake and creme coconut, which is sprayed teal blue with flecks of white and gold.
Each morsel is meticulously decorated like a piece of edible art.
Another is the Valley Mango which is Thompson’s vision of summer encapsulated into a chocolate.
“When you bite into it, it has this beautiful mango jelly and this intense mango puree through that, and then the ganache has Hunter Valley Distillery’s mango liqueur through it. It’s a delicious absorption of summer on your palette,” she says.
“It’s not too intense, it’s just a beautiful blend.”
Thompson, who says she is a “dark chocolate fan, all the way”, is in the process of developing three new products in time for Valentine’s Day which will be available to order online or in-store at Pork Ewe Deli in Mayfield and Cooks Hill (online orders for Valentine’s Day need to be placed no later than February 10).
She already has plans for a Christmas range later in the year.
Her beloved Nan passed away in June last year. Fortunately, Thompson was able to spent time in the kitchen with her earlier in the year.
“She was a driving force behind my career change and she was very encouraging about me taking on a food-based career and being creative, so she was an amazing support. She loved taste-testing the new products and seeing how it all came together. She loved being a part of it, so it was great to have her as part of the initial journey.”