Circumstances push us to bring out the best in us – an oft quoted saying. And if you also carry a strong motive to egg you on, then you will invariably achieve success. While the toughness of the journey varies, the steadfastness of the individual ensures that the journey itself keeps moving on.
Meet Shagun Rathi who runs Soufflant Bakes and is well known in Mumbai circles for baking soft, beautiful and delicious cakes. Originally from Jodhpur, Shagun did not start off as any prodigy in the kitchen. On the contrary, she developed this talent over a period of time, propelled by her intent to ensure that her daughter, who is allergic to market foods, enjoys cakes and cookies like any other growing child.
Here is my short tête-à-tête with her.
Jayanti: Shagun, your cake is delicious! Let me begin with the most elementary question. Why baking, considering it was not considered a viable business model until a few years ago?
Shagun: Well, believe me, I never thought that I would get into cooking or baking! In my younger years, I used to simply run away from the kitchen. Kitchen was not my domain. After my wedding, I got an opportunity to travel the world with my husband, and along with this came the responsibility of cooking without anyone around to help. And, in the US, at the Wilton Baking MasterClass, I learnt cake decorating as a hobby, just to avoid getting bored at home. Eventually we moved back, but then I did not really practice what I had learnt until my daughter was born. She was allergic to all the outside cakes and cookies and would fall ill as soon as she ate them. It was for her that I started baking. I got a lot of appreciation from friends and family, and slowly I started doing cakes on order. It gives me immense pleasure to bring happiness on someone’s face and being a part of their special occasions. Cakes are a blank canvas for me, where I bring out my creativity!
Jayanti: What were the main challenges you faced? How did you manage to achieve your dream with two children and a home to run?
Shagun: I did face a lot of problems initially. There were a lot of trials and errors, the recipes were not always foolproof and not all the end results were perfect. I began with cake jars. Though everyone around me liked them, it was difficult to convince customers to buy from a newbie. While I was not engaged full time, but when I had orders, it was an all consuming activity needing full focus and commitment.
My mother and husband have been my biggest support system. Both of them ensure that someone is always there to take care of the children when I am busy with my work. And today my elder daughter is my greatest helping hand; she makes sure that the younger one does not trouble me while I am preparing my orders!
My idea of working is not just producing on a large scale, but doing good and quality work without neglecting my family.
Jayanti: That is indeed an achievement, especially having courage enough to start with cake jars instead of the customary half or one kg cakes. But more importantly, seeing how you became a cake expert from someone who did not even enter the kitchen, anything you would like to tell our readers about not only achieving, but also identifying their passion?
Shagun: My advice to all the women is to follow your dreams. I truly believe that we women are not equal to men, but far more superior. Our generation is becoming so busy in proving that women are better than men that we are losing our uniqueness! So, ‘Be Yourself and Follow Your Dreams and your Passion.’
Jayanti: We have been seeing some great work by you in the last few years. Please share a basic recipe of your signature cake that our readers can try at home.
Shagun: What started as a hobby in 2006 transformed into a professional venture in 2015 as Soufflant Bakes. Here is my recipe for one of my very successful fusion creations that is very palatable for our Indian tastes – Rasmalai Cake.
- Flour – 125 gm
- Milkmaid – 200 gm
- Castor Sugar – 15 gm
- Butter – 60 gm
- Baking Powder – 1 tsp
- Baking Soda – 1/4 tsp
- Milk – 60 ml
- Cardamom powder – 1 tsp
- Cashews (broken in pieces) – 15 gm
- Whipped cream – 300 gm
- Rasmalai (homemade or store-bought) – 200 gm
- Kesar soaked in water
- Crushed pistachios
- Ground cardamom
Step 1 – Bake a basic sponge cake as follows:
- Sieve all the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda and cardamom).
- Whip the butter, milkmaid and sugar together till light and fluffy.
- Add the dry ingredients and the cashew pieces.
- Add milk.
- Transfer to the greased baking tin.
- Bake in a pre heated oven at 180 degrees for 20-25 mins or till done.
Step 2 – Assemble the cake as follows:
- Once the sponge cake cools down, cut it equally into three parts.
- Whip the cream until stiff peaks form.
- Soak one portion of the sponge cake in rasmalai milk, top with cream, rasmalai pieces, kesar, pistachio and cardamom.
- Repeat this for the rest of the two parts.
- Stack the other two parts on top of the first one.
- Crumb-coat the assembled cake to give a neat finish and refrigerate it for 30 mins.
- You can add more frosting with rasmalai pieces, pistachio, kesar and rose petals as per your liking.
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