I believe that for the majority of bakers, the love of baking extends beyond simply creating delicious treats in order to satisfy a sweet tooth. Baking is an experience that allows one to explore our creativity, fill our homes with comforting aromas and evoke warm memories of years past. From a young age I found myself drawn to baking for these very reasons. Amongst my earliest memories of baking is observing my mother and grandmother working side by side, thoughtfully peeling whole pistachios and stirring a sweetened milk mixture for the rice pudding that would be customarily prepared and enjoyed at family events.
When I grew old enough to independently venture into the kitchen, I was immediately drawn to the exactness of baking. Carefully following a baking recipe would always yield the same delicious results, unlike my often-failed experiments at cooking. My family and friends were very encouraging of my early forays into baking as they got to enjoy the fruits of my efforts. Soon, baking also became a way for me to express my feelings for those around me. I found that a plate of warm cookies or chewy brownies could make someone’s day or provide a simple comfort during a rough time. Taking a break from the hectic pace of daily life to craft something with my own hands also had a calming effect on me. While cooking meals had to be done regardless, baking had an undeniable leisurely element to it that made for a truly enjoyable experience.
Fortunately, once I married, I discovered that my sister-in-law, Sadiya, shared my love for baking. We had quite different but complementary skills. Sadiya would fashion beautiful and imaginative cakes for all occasions, while I favoured making cookies, brownies and squares. We would frequently coordinate the dessert for birthdays, showers and religious occasions such as Eid for family and friends.
I feared though, that by turning my most treasured pastime into a business endeavour, it would lose all the elements that drew me to baking in the first place.
Others’ interest in our baking initially began with a comment or two about how we should consider going into business. Before long, we began receiving regular requests from friends and family members for custom-order desserts. I was baking one to two orders on average per week and the baking was beginning to encroach on my other responsibilities.
One night as I sat around carefully piping the details on about a hundred multi-coloured butterfly sugar cookies for a children’s party, I realised it may not be sustainable to continue to devote so much time to a hobby which had started to feel a lot more like a job. I then started to seriously consider the suggestions from friends and family to think about establishing my own business, with my sister-in-law as my partner. The landscape for dessert had undergone dramatic transformation in recent years with reality television and cooking shows elevating the once-humble cupcake to iconic status and featuring cakes that could easily rival art pieces. Whereas a few years ago a standard grocery-store slab cake would suffice for a party, these days significant planning and money goes into having a custom-made cake to go with the overall theme and décor of a party.
I feared though, that by turning my most treasured pastime into a business endeavour, it would lose all the elements that drew me to baking in the first place. How could baking be a way for me to express that I care for someone if I was now being remunerated for it? How would I indulge in the simple pleasure of kneading and rolling dough or allowing the aromas of caramelising sugar to carry me back to my childhood if I was on the clock trying to finish a customer’s order?
From my deepest concerns, the groundwork for our company was formed. Sadiya and I decided that our dessert business would be a labour of love for us. We would attempt to pour our heart and souls into crafting delicious treats for our customers and hope that this would set our products apart from those found in grocery stores and bakeries. Today, as we work to get our fledgling project off the ground, my sincere hope is that it can come to embody all the elements that have drawn me to baking in the first place.
Hena Tyyebi is one of the bakers behind http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Dessert-Table/ . When she is not baking, she is busy completing her PhD in Political Science.