Pooja Bhave has always loved to bake. Currently, she is running her own home-based bakery Cakes and Frostings. Based in Nashik, she caters for all occasions. For Pooja, quality is key. And she does whatever it takes to deliver. This is evident from the large volume of orders and catering requests pouring in every day. Of course, it helps that her cakes are breathtakingly beautiful and beyond delicious.
So, what’s her story? How did she begin, how does she manage? Is there more to baking than we think?
As I promised you earlier, let’s find out.
Tell us about Cakes and Frostings
Cakes and Frostings is my home-based bakery where I make cakes, cupcakes and cookies for all occasions: themed birthday parties, bachelorettes, weddings, anything the client asks for. I work against order and so, everything I use is fresh. Apart from catering, I conduct baking workshops. Especially for kids. But that’s occasional, when the kids have their summer or winter vacations.
Interesting. So you teach them to bake simple cakes?
A bit of this and that, yes. Also baked pasta. Easy stuff they can make at home.
Right. Let’s talk about how it began. What got you thinking about starting your own venture?
Well, I was studying at the Institute of Hotel Management (IHM) where I was introduced to the basics of baking. I was hooked. In fact, it was then that i decided to specialise in Patisserie. I worked for a while after graduating; first in Udaipur and then in Pune. But then one day I quit my job. And I started to wonder what it would be like, working for myself and starting something of my own. Soon after, we went to a career counsellor and we brainstormed my options. That put me on the right track. I always knew I wanted to do it, just wasn’t sure when.
We had a spare kitchen where I set up my mother’s oven, and got started.
Just like that?
Just like that (smiles).
Do you think this is better than doing a regular corporate job?
No, I wouldn’t say that. There are pros and cons to both I guess. I do miss working in a team, hanging out with colleagues…finally it’s about what suits you personally.
It’s been 2 years since you started. How has the journey been so far?
It has been great! I can see a lot of improvement in my own work. There are a lot more orders coming in. Fortunately, the response has been good. Mainly because of word of mouth and social media. But one thing that hasn’t changed is that I still use my mother’s oven (laughs).
Have family and friends been supportive?
Oh yes. In a big way. In fact my first order came from my aunt, who then told her acquaintances about it. My friends were also extremely encouraging. They ordered for themselves, for others they knew…
But I never took it for granted. I valued it, and had to prove myself through my work. They had enough faith in me to bake for their birthdays, weddings, bachelorettes. Times when you want everything to be perfect.
Coming to the cakes – they are absolutely gorgeous!
Haha…it’s quite a task making them though.
Sometimes the clients give grand designs that just cannot be implemented on a small 1/2 kg or 1 kg cake. So I have to alter the designs, try to fit it in, or talk to them about it (grins).
And there must be the health-focused clientele?
Yes, for the diet conscious we have cakes made of whole wheat, Ragi, jaggery and honey. But some just want it all- low fat, low sugar, low oil…that’s not possible (chuckles).
Correct me if I’m wrong, but pretty cakes = fondant?
Fondant makes a cake look good, undoubtedly. But I avoid using excess of it. Bakers tend to throw in a lot of fondant, but people don’t really like the taste. So it ends up getting wasted. And, it’s expensive. I use fondant for the wrappers, to shape figures and animal stickers. For the icing, I use cream.
Are things always under control?
I wish! Rarely, in fact. Some or the other issues crop up close to delivery time. Also right now, I’m pretty much a one-woman army. I am now looking for someone to handle light logistics and admin work so I can focus on baking. Then sometimes it gets really busy. I attended a few weddings recently, and fatigued as I was, I had to get back to work. But I guess that’s the small price you pay.
What are plans for the future?
Hmm…if I get the chance I’d like to travel outside India for a year or two and learn to make exotic cakes. But it should be hands-on, I should be able to experience it live. That is crucial in order to learn.
Of course, a dream for the near future would be to own a bakery or patisserie of my own.
Have you considered studying abroad? At say, Le Cordon Bleu?
It’s a great school. The only problem is the difference in market tastes. I can’t expect French cuisine to connect instantly with customers at home. It’s important to know your audience.
Could you tell us how non-professionals can start baking seriously?
Sure! It’s not difficult. You could start by following a few websites: Stephanie Jaworski’s http://www.joyofbaking.com/ , Yolanda Gampp’s https://howtocakeit.com/ , Rosie’s http://rosiesbakery.com/. They have respective YouTube channels too.
Baking tip #1
A very simple resource we tend to ignore is the free cookbook that comes with any oven. So when you start baking I suggest going through some of the recipes in the book. They have been tried and tested on that particular oven, and following them shouldn’t be too hard.
Baking tip #2
A personal advice is to assemble all ingredients together before you begin baking. Even on TV, cook show hosts have it all in front of them, measured and put in place, before they start the process. It makes it a lot easier, and keeps your interest alive in the process.
Your best work so far?
The shirt cake:
That is indeed impressive! Before we call it a day, do tell us how to get in touch.
You could find pictures of my cakes and my contact details on my Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/cakesandfrostings/
Dear Readers, that’s it for now. But hold up, I’ll be back with another story soon. Until next time.