Home made yummy cakes from Steffi’s Box
Stephanie Dawn Sweeney takes you down a baking trail in this season of cakes, cookies and chocolates!
• Why did you turn to cake baking? Was it just a passion?
I really got put off by the cakes we were buying from shops. They were sickeningly sweet, and many times dry and stale. Not to mention, the prices quite steep. So, one day I decided to try my hand at baking my daughter’s birthday cake. It came out well, and the family and friends enjoyed it. Next thing I knew, I was baking for my family occasions and friends’ birthdays and so on. It may not have begun as a passion, but has very much turned out to be one.
• How do you define the journey of cakes in Kolkata? From Nahoums to Flurys to Cakes, Kookie Jar and innumerable big labelled cake shops?
My parents used to tell me that the BIG cake shops and the place to be seen buying them were Nahoums and Flury’s. Anyone who was anyone got their cakes from these two places! For me growing up, first with Nahoums and Flury’s, then the likes of Kookie Jar and Cakes, and now a plethora of confectionery shops some of which I have never visited, only heard of, it seems the cake industry in Kolkata has really taken off. I’m sure they do justice to the cakes, they have loyal customers. So that would be an indication that people find their products good and are repeat customers.
• What about single players, home delivery cakes? Like the one you run. Are they more cost effective and of better quality?
I think people like me, who mostly work out of our homes, are able to give customers more individual attention. Sure, you can get customised stuff at big shops, but still it’s all very impersonal. For me, I work alone, and most of my customers are family, friends, and friends of friends who have tasted and then wanted to order! I do this part time, and happy with the results, both on the customer satisfaction front, and the profit front. My customers know that for sure I'll be using only the best products.
• What kind of cakes do you specialize in?
My best-sellers are the marble cake, chocolate chip cake, and fruit cake, the latter throughout the year! The marble cake comes in the traditional chocolate-plain sponge variety, plus I make a rainbow marble cake which seems to have been quite a hit! My USP is not so much the decoration but making sure the cake itself tastes good, is light and not over sweet. This last point, the sweetness, is what my customers are happy about. They say they can have big pieces of cake without feeling a sugar rush coming in after two bites!!!
• What are the recipes you use? Are they your own and ones handed down generations?
No one in my family really baked regularly, so there are no family recipes! I got most off the Net, and once my hand was set to the basic sponge cake, I began improvising, or tweaking things here and there. For example, I don't use ready-made chocolate chips in the chocolate chip cakes (or in cookies). Instead I chop up chocolate and use that. It makes a huge difference!
• Do you think cake manufacturing has turned into a sort of entrepreneurship these days? If so why?
I haven't really thought about this. But yes, a lot of people are going into this business. From opening actual brick and mortar shops, to online ones, to small ones like me who work out of the home.
• Which cakes sell the best this season?
Fruit cake tops the list. Then I get a lot of requests for red velvet and chocolate chip cakes. Cookies, brownies and chocolates are the other best sellers.
• Who are your primary clientele?
Literally my family, friends, and friends of friends. And I’m happy this way.
• Is Kolkata Christmas synonymous to cakes?
Of course!!! Firstly, EVERYONE wants to be in Kolkata for Christmas! And everyone wants the cakes from here... Nahoums, Flury's, the local bakers ---- all are in high demand! You think Christmas cake and you cannot but help think Kolkata!!