Dalgona coffee, sourdough bread and focaccia loaf gardens – these were some of the indulgences that made their way to Instagram and Facebook in April 2020. With a nation-wide lockdown imposed in March last year, we suddenly found ourselves with some extra time on hand and some decided to hone their culinary prowess.
One such lockdown baker is Shweta Joshi, a resident of Noida in Uttar Pradesh, who ran her own venture called Artventure Educraft where she worked with various schools providing children with hands-on experience in art and craft. “It was something I loved doing but unfortunately the pandemic brought my venture to a screeching halt,” the 42-year-old tells The Better India. “The reason I started my venture was to slowly steer kids away from screens and the pandemic took them all back to it.”
Not one to sit idle, Shweta started to think of what she could do next to keep herself busy and earn an income as well. “Up until then I would make simple tea cakes and breads for our own consumption. It was on the insistence of a friend that I decided to explore baking as a career option,” she says. In May 2020, just two months into the lockdown, Quarantine Bakers, Shweta’s new venture took shape. “It was a name that my son came up with and it stuck,” she says with pride.
Recalling the early days, she says, “It was anything but easy. We had no help at home, which meant that the responsibility of managing the house, cleaning it, cooking and then baking fell on me. Those were some back-breaking days as well but I never felt like complaining through it all. I was enjoying this new-found passion.”
Access to Bakers, Globally
Shweta decided to use WhatsApp to promote her work and created a group with people from her own society. She then started sharing pictures of the breads and tea cakes she would bake. “The business in the beginning was an experiment and I found that my initial customers became my biggest cheerleaders and marketers. They would promote my products and I started getting business via word-of-mouth.”
Shweta adds here that most of her customers have ordered from her more than once and some have even become long standing customers and friends today. While initially Shweta did not see much sense in investing in equipment, as the orders started growing she started feeling the need for the same. “There was a time when I was using a hand mixer to whip up the cream and by the time I was done with it, my arms felt so numb, I just couldn’t feel them. That is when I decided to upgrade the tools in my kitchen.”
Today, Shweta is making close to six to eight orders every day and is catering to customers all across Delhi/NCR. She makes upwards of Rs 1 lakh every month. Speaking about one of the most challenging cakes she has made so far, she says, “A 10 kg five-tier wedding cake was one that kept me on my toes. It wasn’t the cake as much as the delivery that had me worried. Transporting all the elements of the cake from Noida to R K Puram in Delhi and then assembling it at the venue was a huge task for me.”
From tea cakes and regular breads, Shweta has started baking elaborate cakes.
She talks about a ‘divorce cake’ that she recently completed.
“This was for a couple who had just formalised their divorce and wanted a cake for the occasion. It both surprised and shocked me,” she says. Capturing moments and emotions through her cakes is what Shweta has been trying to do.
Shweta has continued to experiment with the ingredients that she uses and says that she has a very wide range of healthy breads on offer as well. “Sunflower pull apart bread, pesto infused bread and using beetroot and spinach for colour were some of my own additions. Other than that, I have become a pro at using YouTube to find new recipes,” she says. As someone who had no experience in baking, Shweta says that having access to other bakers from all across the world was a huge advantage.
From Fiasco to Success
It hasn’t been all rosy and easy for Shweta. Describing a few instances when everything fell apart she says, “Those are the moments when one is really tested. After having made a beautiful Crème Brulee for a client, just before delivery it just fell apart and I stood there wondering how to salvage the situation. I called the client and mentioned what had happened in all honesty and offered to give her a Tiramisu instead. Thankfully, she accepted and the dessert was loved by her guests and today she is one of my most frequent clients.”
Yet another time, a birthday cake order was ruined by the delivery boy and Shweta took responsibility for it and managed to bake a fresh cake in record time for the birthday boy. “I would have felt horrible if the birthday boy had no cake to cut. I was so glad to be able to salvage the situation that day,” she says. Each message Shweta receives after she delivers a cake makes her happy and pushes her to try and better herself.
“I now have clients telling me to go with my own ideas and creativity when it comes to the cakes. Over the last year and a half I have managed to establish my credibility as a baker and that has brought me a lot of happiness,” she says. Shweta continues to manage her home and her home bakery single-handedly and says that there are days when she misses having a team helping her.
In conclusion she says, “Whether it was one cake I would send out in my early baking days or now, when I am sending out close to six cakes a day, the one thing that remains constant is the work that I put in and the freshness of all the ingredients that I use.”
If you are in Delhi/NCR and would like to place an order with Quarantine Baker, click here.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)