Anju Paul is a Thrissur-based professional home baker who started Creams n Flavours in 2014. Creams n Flavours is a place where Anju transforms her creative ideas and imaginations into beautiful pieces of edible cake arts. The freshly baked cakes that go out of her home bakery turns out to be so realistic that her clients often hesitates in cutting them! It seems, if given a way to preserve the cakes, then, most of the clients of Creams n Flavours would happily do so!
Today, Anju Paul, the talented cake artist joins us in this interview session from Thrissur to share her exciting and inspiring story!
Hi Anju, welcome to the interview session of conflatingVisions. To start with, please tell us a few lines about yourself.
Hi, I am Anju Paul, a Post Graduate in Computer Applications, wife of a Urologist and blessed with two kids. I am a person who loves all kinds of arts. I am also a trained classical dancer with a passion for baking.
Anju, you are an extremely creative cake artist and your edible baking and pastry arts are quite tempting! What is your memory of early association with arts?
I was an active participant of all the art fests during my school and college days. Though I didn’t learn the art of drawing, I, however, have painted a lot of pictures and have competed in many drawing competitions. My teachers were very encouraging and they appreciated my creativity.
What motivated you to become a professional baker?
I always wanted to pursue my career in something related to creativity. Even though my family is full of professionals, they didn’t force me to follow their ways and gave me absolute freedom to select mine. I started baking as a hobby. Soon, I started getting orders and got full support from my spouse and parents. My works were well appreciated.
I am perfectly happy with what I am doing now.
Did you attend any baking courses at a baker school?
Yes! I am always grateful to Laly Mookken, my first mentor and Subhashini Ramsingh from whom I learnt the art of making sugar flowers.
Please tell us about your home bakery Creams n Flavours.
Creams n Flavours is like a third child to me. Right from baking, everything is done by me. We provide home made cakes designed as per the request of the client to suit various occasions. Client is the king as far as I am concerned. All I need is 200% satisfaction from my clients.
I also conduct baking classes for all those who wish to learn the art of baking. We mainly provide fondant cakes for weddings, holy communions, baptisms, birthdays, etc. Sculpted cakes and edible figurines are Creams n Flavours’ specialities.
How was the feeling when you got your first order as a professional baker?
Oh! There is a story behind it. The first order I got was from my friend Remy for her birthday. She ordered a simple heart shaped cake. I was super excited when I got that order. An easy one too – just a heart shaped cake. The batter was ready and I was about to bake the cake. Then came the twist in the story.
The call came from her saying that she met with an accident and her leg got fractured. For a moment, I thought she was going to cancel the order. But what she said was to change the theme from a heart to a lady with a fractured leg in a hospital! I just had only a day for the execution and also I was just a beginner. The assignment seemed to be an impossible one, but I took the challenge. Without rest and continuous work, I was able to make the cake she had in mind. I personally went to visit her in the hospital with the cake. My work was well appreciated by her saying that it was much beyond her expectations!
What are some of the signature products of Creams n Flavours? Which one is your personal favourite?
Vanilla cake, chocolate truffle cake, rich chocolate cake, butterscotch cake, red velvet cake, marble cake, dutch truffle cake, carrot cake, pineapple cake are some of the signature products of Creams n Flavours. Being a fondant artist, I have restrictions while using flavours. If you want to have a neat finish in fondant, you can’t go for very moist cakes.
I am a great chocolate fan. So my personal favourite is rich chocolate cake.
What are some challenging cake ideas that you have executed till date?
I am a person who loves taking challenges in life. The biggest challenge is in dealing with last minute orders. My first cake order was a real challenge since the theme was unique and also a last minute order.
The other one was another last minute order when the client wanted four fondant tweeties balancing another cake. The venue was also very far away from my place. With very limited time, I executed that, and it reached the venue safely.
Another one was a three-dimensional pug cake for a boy who was very fond of pugs. I wasn’t sure whether I would be able to carve out a cake in the shape of a pug, but by God’s grace it came out well and later I came to know from his Dad that he refused to cut the cake since it was too natural.
Most three-dimensional cake ideas are full of challenges. I am happy whenever my clients say, “We never wanted to cut and destroy your cake since it was so beautiful.”
Being a baker, what are some of the challenges in life? How do you deal with them?
Balancing family life and career is the biggest challenge as far as an ordinary woman is concerned. I am blessed with a very supportive spouse and adjustable kids. I will never compromise any of my kids’ needs. All I want is to give them the best in all fields. If you want every side of your life perfect, you need to work really hard. Managing cake orders at the time of family functions and festivals is another challenge.
Some people are totally unaware of the hard work behind customized cakes. They expect a 100% perfect cake even if it is a last minute order. When I take up an order I want to give it the best because my clients expect that from me. Politely saying no to last minute orders is a challenge.
I maintain a diary in which I write each and every step of the work that I am supposed to do along with the time too. I make it sure that my work got over within that time. Then I leave the rest to God. That is how I attend all the functions and festivals of my family without fail and also the programmes at my kids’ school even if I have many orders to complete. Effective planning and time management a must!
Narrate some of your success stories.
Repeated clients are my biggest strength and therefore success too. When my clients call me saying that they are 100% satisfied and the cake was a real hit, I consider that as my success. Whenever I arrange parties for my kids’ birthdays with all homemade goodies, I can see the happy face of my kids – of course success! Whenever the client tells me there is a good design taken from the webspace, see if you can replicate it and when I see my own creation as the reference picture – truly a success! Whenever I can manage many cakes at a time without affecting my kids’ studies and co-curricular activities in school, it’s again another success story. And, it goes on. By the grace of God, I have so many success stories in my life!
Anju, what plans do you have to scale up the operations of Creams n Flavours?
As an artist, I know I am not perfect. I still have a long way to go and want to learn more. I would like to attend more baking classes to make my creations more perfect. Whipped cream is a medium that I want to learn more. I want to try a lot of new flavours.
I am not at all good in photography and would like to improve my photographic skills too. If you are a cake artist you should also have to be a good photographer. Most of my photographs are not doing justice to my work.
Your advice to those who are looking to make their careers in baking…
Never compromise in the quality of products you use because people expect the best from home bakers. Perfection should be given the top priority. Consider this as an art, love it, give 100% to it. Try to avoid repeated designs and come up with a new idea in every creation. Don’t bother about the price in the initial stages. Consider it as a learning curve. Once you are good in it, you can demand your price.
Anything else you want to share…
Whenever you do something with passion you won’t feel work load at all. I am enjoying each and every work of mine. I feel so happy to see the end product. That is, when my rectangle or round shaped cakes take the shape of guitar, pug, football, camera etc. When I was 9 years old, my Aunt made a cake in the shape of a house. I was fascinated to see a rectangle shaped cake taking the shape of a house. That day I understood that baking is an art. If you have a passion go for it. This is what I would like to share!
And one last question of this session Anju, if you had one wish…
I am a very practical kind of person who wishes things only if it is possible. I have a small wish. Being a classical dancer, I want to do a cake with Bharatnatyam or Mohiniyatam theme. I have seen such cakes done by other artists but till now I haven’t got such a chance and I am waiting for it. That will be the cake where my two passions for baking and dancing would meet. Indeed a lovely combination!