Elma D’Souza, a dentist by profession fell in love with baking in the year 2013 after she came across the beautiful creations from Cake Canvas. She was practicing at a private clinic in Mangalore during that time. Elma relocated to Dubai a year later and started her home baking venture “The Oven Affairs by Elma D’Souza”. She dreams of getting nominated for the prestigious Cake Oscar Awards hosted by the Cake Masters Magazine at Birmingham. Her story is inspiring. In this session, Elma D’Souza tells us her story. She reveals more about her dream venture “The Oven Affairs by Elma D’Souza”.
Hi Elma, welcome to our platform conflating Visions. Would request you to introduce yourself to our readers.
I am Elma D’Souza, a Dentist by profession residing with my husband in Dubai, UAE currently managing my Home baking venture “The Oven Affairs by Elma D’Souza after a dedicated practice of three years in India.
What inspires you to bake?
I still remember from my school days, Dr. Palash Sen, lead singer of the popular Indian band “Euphoria” in an interview saying, “You may want to explore your creative side but make sure you do so upon completing your education”. I have always had an inclination towards art which was never encouraged at home, perhaps for the same reason as he remarked. His words echoed in my head years later as I gazed at the creations by Anna from Cake Canvas on the computer screen at a private clinic I was practicing in Mangalore during early 2013. The words gum paste and Fondant in her descriptions were oblivious to me, but the one thing that struck me was her God gifted hands which miraculously shaped stupefying caricatures on artistic cakes. I never knew a thing about baking until 2014. Neither did I come to Dubai with a mindset to have anything to do with it. But Anna’s unique talent got me curious and I began looking for answers to all that I saw about novelty cakes on the internet. Amidst my erratic exam preparations in Dubai to acquire a Dentist’s Licensure, I began to find time to read about baking and decorating. Being new to Dubai with a restricted monthly budget my resources to learn baking were limited which disappointed me at first but kept me in the loop till I finished my exams.
For the first time in life, I felt inspired to pursue my creativity or in plain words, inspired to bake edible Art.
Tell us about your venture “The Oven Affairs by Elma D’Souza”.
So, it was an exciting period of nine months of exam preparation interspersed with baking trials and I cleared my exams giving me the eligibility to get employed in a stipulated time of one year. It was the worst year of Dental market recession landing me and many other dentists on the streets hastily looking for a placement. I was in the lowest of spirits and that was when my friend Reena Roy inspired by my concepts came forward with the idea of baking a fancy cake for her birthday. My husband said to me…”Come what may, just go for it because if you fall I will be there to catch you”. And, that was my first order shortly after which I began to receive more orders and launched my venture via an official page on Facebook by the name “The Oven Affairs by Elma D’Souza”. Although that crucial year went by leaving me unemployed, I did not lose heart and began to focus more on developing the venture. I am still trying my best to reappear for the Licensure exams to get back into a part-time Dental practice which will enable me to focus on the baking as well.
What are the signature items of “The Oven Affairs by Elma D’Souza”?
German Chocolate cake, Red Velvet with Cream cheese in White Chocolate Ganache, Ultimate Chocolate cake with Malt frosting, Spiced Chai cake with Ginger buttercream, Vanilla Milk Cake with Seasoned fig filling, Chocolate Date with Cardamom Pistachio Ganache are my signature cake flavors. Customized Cake pops, Hand painted cookies, Designer cupcakes & Chocolate eggs are the small business week orders we cater to with great success. “German Chocolate cake with toasted coconut pecan custard filling” is one cake flavor that has always been a crowd pleaser bringing back splendid reviews consistently.
How do you blend creativity with baking?
Blending creativity into Baking is one of the toughest yet intriguing parts of my blueprint for the cake. Every creation I dispatch has a story to tell through its elements, colors and textures which I meticulously sculpt and paint. In order to make it happen, I spent quality time with the client via meetings, phone calls or even mails to get as many details as possible about the person/theme/occasion the cake is intended for. This becomes a point of departure to construct my color palette, ideas and themes which I commit to paper with a sketch. Upon approval of the Cake sketch the creation takes flight in various dimensions starting from sourcing raw materials to planning and execution. The whole process may take a week to even months depending on the trials and experiments prior to deciding on apt the technique of decoration.
How do you promote “The Oven Affairs by Elma D’Souza”?
Dubai renders the same bustling life no different from other metropolitan cities in the world. Myself being handicapped without a car, job and hence a limited social circle, drawing attention to my creations seemed ill-timed. Despite the effervescence of social media my attempts to reach out to the masses kept drowning amongst the multitude of memes and satire videos across everyone’s newsfeed. Creating an official page on Facebook & Instagram made promotions a lot simpler and it got even better afterwards by word of mouth and business cards. I realized that my passion for photography could be put to use on the page where I learnt that Food styling with great Photography is another art altogether. With time it became a rule of thumb that I always put in that extra effort to style every cake I shoot which definitely turned many heads and brought in many followers and customers. On March 25th 2016, I was welcomed to do an Easter themed pop-up stall at “Arte-The Maker’s Market” which exposed us to the public in Dubai with a wide array of my artistic creations. Platforms like these I intend to keep up to as they encourage and help promote the artisans across the Emirates.
Narrate some of your success stories that you have achieved in your journey with “The Oven Affairs by Elma D’Souza”.
- The “Camera Cake” was the first success story I narrated on my page. I fell in love with Photography in 2011 in Ahmedabad & been chasing it ever since then. My life brightened up the most when my husband Joystan Dsouza gifted me a Canon 650D in 2013. Ten months ago, I was commissioned to create a sculpted Camera Cake for a birthday which delivered a near accurate creation resting beside my own camera and wooed many on social media.
- The second success story of The Oven Affairs was my privilege to cater to the celebration of Global Health & Safety Day at Hyder Consulting Dubai with a beaming number of 400 cupcakes in four assorted flavors. With an oven capacity of only 24 cupcakes at a time I completed the order in three days and two nights.
- The third success story was my very first three tiered fully fondanted art inspiration statement cake on New Year’s Day 2016 to commemorate the silver anniversary of Diana & Naveen D’Souza. My client Mrs. Diana fondly calls it the “The Tree of Life” as it was a sculpted impression of a family as a Silver tree in its glorious transition to the golden era. The cake was meticulously planned over a period of 8 months and it remains a masterpiece to me.
- The Fourth success story is of 500 Wedding themed Cake pops I dispatched for the nuptial ceremony of Kieve & Vanessa. I recall it being the most back breaking week in my journey so far bringing back the most impressive reviews from a multitude of over 300 guests who had flown in from different parts of the world to witness the wedding.
What are the challenges in this business?
Baking & Cake decorating as a business can bring home a lot of unhappy affairs before you begin to reap the real benefits. Being self-taught I face a multitude of problems; be it baking, decorating, sourcing of raw materials, last minute orders, customer grievances and the list can go on. The daily routine of being up on your feet for up to 12 hours can really wear you down both physically and mentally. With time I learned to find balance between the business and my household chores. However, I can never really say that I have derived the best time plan as yet. When it comes to this field, every day is a school day and even now there are certain cake projects which keep me up all night and there are mishaps which leave you with a mountain of dishes in the sink. It is a blessing that my husband lends me a helping hand after his work hours with the chores and is excellent at troubleshooting. With no prior experience in business and commerce, I had to say hello to a lot of new subjects- Accounting, book keeping, quotations.
Another major challenge I face is the delusion of this line being a fun pastime as compared to a 9 to 5 job. Many fail to appreciate the creativity, thought process and the man power that goes into each creation. Furthermore, there are countless hours of leisure and sleep being waived off just to make that cake dazzle on your special day. All of these misconceptions cumulate to my creations being compared to the cakes from the grocery or commercial bakeries in all dimensions. So, it often becomes difficult to make a statement or a signature of your own when the customers are not discerning of what you do.
How do you overcome these challenges?
I began to break down all the stages of creating a cake and improvised on the decorating styles where I could attain perfection without compromising on time. Self-training is all I have to lean on for mending my mistakes and evolving my decorating styles. However, despite all the voracious reading I do on various cake forums, blogs & tutorials I feel lost at times and seek professional guidance. Mrs. Vinita Lobo, a renowned cake decorator in Dubai is a teacher who acknowledged my strong points and guided me through working on my weak points with the utmost love and sincerity through three unique workshops. Through her I took my baby steps in several new mediums of art expression on cakes my favorite being the Royal Icing and Sugar flower workshops.
Cake decorating is a polymorphous line of art and I realized that in order to create an impact on every cake I need to plan ahead, read, experiment, daydream and of course sleep over it. I refrain from taking up last minute orders for the same reason as an unplanned hastily created cake results in a creation with a compromised visual appeal which no client would want to pay their hard earned money for.
What are your future plans for “The Oven Affairs by Elma D’Souza”?
Every time I leave the venue after setting up a celebratory cake I walk away with welled up eyes and an elated heart having known that I made it to the finish line to make someone’s day special. Hence, I wish to expand to the wedding celebratory cakes with an artistic infusion to mark memorable beginnings and great toasts.
And, one last question of this session Elma, if you have had one wish…
As every Cake Artist I too dream of being nominated for the prestigious Cake Oscar Awards hosted by the Cake Masters Magazine at Birmingham. It is a very long way from where I stand now but I count on the Almighty & my beloved partner to take me there someday.