A slice of your favourite cake has the power to drive away those worries and if coupled with a fine cup of tea the fatigue of a hard day’s work is out of the window in a jiffy.
That’s what a freshly baked cake can do to us – bring a smile on our face with a dash of good old memories from our childhood.
The very aroma of cake being baked at home is so soothing and why not, the entire process of baking a cake at home is so enjoyable as it brings the family together.
Here’s one such lady who after a long stint in a lucrative career in banking opted to go back to her first love – baking home made cakes and spreading smiles.
From sweet and innocent birthday cakes to engagement parties and naughty anniversary themes, you’ll find it all there at Expressions Cakes. Each of her cake is a unique piece of art and at times you will be in a dilemma whether to sink your teeth into such creative and brilliantly designed cakes because they look so good!
We chatted with Sugandha, the founder of Expressions about life and the journey with her love for baking and cakes!
Her favourite theme is wedding cakes and the ‘Dress’ cakes. She says, “Wedding cakes gave me the opportunity to make sugar flowers, which I simply love; while the ‘Dress’ or ‘Jewellery imitation’ cakes are a unique concept and require a lot of attention to detail to match the respective dresses.”
She also enjoys baking and designing cricket themed cakes, as she’s an ardent fan and simply loves conveying the myriad of emotions that people attach to it.
It all started 11 months back, on 12th August when 30-year-old Singapore-based Sugandha a BTech and an MBA, had just finished the first league of her contract with Standard Chartered.
All this while, she was juggling between household chores and office work and felt that she was not getting enough quality time with her two and a half-year-old son, who however was doing his best to adjust to Mum being away.
“However being at home wasn’t the easiest of time. I was keen to pick up an activity that would help me dissipate my energy and keep me engaged. Being infused with the habit of preferring homemade items, I started baking cakes. Having baked my first cake at the age of seven, I hadn’t been able to pursue this hobby in the past decade owing to various other engagements. To make up for it, this time I went a step further and explored cake decorations as well. It was a pleasant feeling when my friends started to compliment me on my work, supported me and egged me on to pursue this hobby further – and maybe even go commercial,” recalls Sugandha.
Initially, she did not take it too seriously, but when somebody actually called her up to place an order – that was the day when she thought of giving a serious shot at starting her own venture.
“‘Expressions was born out of dedication to my family and constant support of my friends and parents. They were my biggest inspiration. Today this passion has become one of my means to remain happy and celebrate life,” beams Sugandha.
“If watching my mother bake cakes at home can be called formal training, then yes I have been formally trained in baking,” smiles Sugandha.
She adds, “Most of my recipes are my own experiments with old recipes and tips passed on to me by her. My kitchen is my laboratory where I attempt, fumble, then beat myself about it, try again, triumph and deliver.”
In fact she picked up most of the cake decorating skills through all her experiments. Some months later Sugandha also went on to complete a Diploma in Cake Designing & Decoration from the Knightsbridge School of Cake Decorating and now she is working towards achieving a Master’s Certificate, which will enable her to teach as well.
“Baking can be an expensive hobby if one decides to use sophisticated or professional equipment, ingredients and methods to ensure good quality products”, admits Sugandha.
However since she started with pre-existing professional baking equipment from her early baking days, her initial investments were not all that skyrocketing.
Sugandha explains, “To be honest, not much thought went into conceptualising the name. I always believe that every person has some attribute or talent that defines the person. Mine is to express myself in ways more than one. For me, EXPRESSIONS was initially a means to express myself other than just as a mother or a wife.”
From another perspective, she adds that people find it difficult to express themselves – maybe they are too conscious of getting unfavourable reactions from the other side or from the fear of being judged.
“When I get calls to discuss designs for the cakes, I usually encourage them to talk their heart out about why they want the particular cake design and it’s amazing to hear their stories. And in most cases, it is even more heartening to watch people’s reactions to the cake in its final form. So I guess, though born out of my need to express myself, the name Expressions finds justification by standing for a means of helping others to express themselves as well,” smiles Sugandha.
What makes Expressions so unique?
Sugandha shares three key aspects that make ‘Expressions’ stand out from usual commercial products:
Fresh and Synthetic Free
“Firstly, the cakes leaving my bench are as fresh and free of synthetic ingredients as they can get. I avoid using taste-enhancing chemicals and preservatives,” adds Sugandha.
The decorations are all handmade and edible as against the popular use of plastics and other non-food-grade items to adorn cakes and the icings are freshly whipped or rolled as per the requirement of the cake size and design.
She further adds, “I am not a big fan of refrigeration as I feel it alters the quality of the cake if kept for long. So I plan my production and delivery schedule backwards, i.e. based on when the client intends to collect the cake and the cake is finalised an hour before the scheduled collection.”
“In my style of work, I not only make the final product, but I also provide my clients with ideas and options for the occasion. I also share knowledge around the health aspect of the product and how any particular design/ colour/ component could be unsafe or inappropriate for children. I never push any product knowing the health ramifications. What I may not like to use for my child, may not be right for my client’s child as well,” explains Sugandha.
She feels that this is in contrary to the market practice where the clients are usually kept uninformed of such issues. The consumer should be kept informed to enable them to take the right decision. Based on this trust and word of mouth, Sugandha has begun consulting clients overseas as well on cake related matters.
“Finally, I lay special emphasis on the service aspects. After working in the corporate world, I realised that it is the service and responsiveness are what sets one apart from the competition. Your product may be world class, but if your service is not up to the mark, you go downhill. In my client interactions, I try to keep things simple and straight. I avoid beating about the bush about key issues like price, product quality, limitations, etc. I also follow up with the client for a feedback on the product before advertising the pictures on public forums,” adds Sugandha.
Inspiration and themes
The world around is the source of the ideas that Sugandha uses in her cakes. As a result, you will find that her design catalogue has just about anything under the sun. Since she loves experimenting with new designs and concepts and the challenges thrown which tests her skills and creativity.
Sugadha quips, “My thought process around cake designing is best described by a scene from a popular Hindi movie Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, where one of the girls tells the hero how she likes to imagine normal or drab looking items differently and how this brightens up her life. She shows him how 3 pieces of luggage kept on a trolley at an airport reminds her of a 3 tiered cake and goes on to describe the flavours and colours she imagines them to be. Likewise, whenever there is an object that catches my attention, I look at it from a cake design perspective.”
Lately, a beautiful wedding card in gold and maroon caught her attention and Sugandha can’t wait to replicate the design in the cake. She is also regularly updating herself on new techniques of cake decorating by experimenting, reading cake books and watching videos on cake making. In her spare time, she practices her thoughts in designing and then implement them in the next order.
In her initial days, Sugandha used to get orders like a day before the delivery date and she used to manage it. However, with time she has started getting confirmations on orders about a week to 15 days in advance that gives her time to spread her work over the 3-4 days leading up to the delivery day.
“I also ensure that I take only one order for a designated day. This gives sufficient time and mind space to work on the design aspects of the cake. I do baking and icing on the final day itself, but the preparation of the hand moulded decorations takes a few days before it can be used for the design. So usually for a cake that requires hand-moulded decorations, it will typically take me 3-4 days end to end keeping in mind that I would be working on multiple orders simultaneously,” explains Sugandha.
A large chunk of her clients include the doting mothers of little cherubs, who want the best for their kid’s special day. Sugandha has also created Dessert bars and Candy tables for many birthdays parties for young ones as well.
Another section of her clients include the corporate offices who order in for their corporate events and informal parties around festive seasons. Such events also provide a good platform for visibility across a larger section of people, who then order even for their individual requirements.
Get in touch:
To check out more of her exotic cake designs and themes and to place an order check out Sugandha’s Expressions Facebook page right here – https://www.facebook.com/Cake.Expressions2011