As a medical coder, Bangalore-based Ashwini Hebbar had a successful run. After earning a Masters degree in Biotechnology, she worked for 3 corporate companies. However, in 2015, she decided to put an end to her 6-year long career as a medical coder to start something exciting. Her passion and love for baking cakes pushed her forward to realize her dreams of becoming a professional cake artist. In February 2015, Ashwini launched her own brand Icings – The Cake Boutique to delight the people of Bangalore with homemade customized cakes. The brand completed 2 years a month back and the journey has been quite satisfying and rewarding for Ashwini. The ambitious home baker from Bangalore now has bigger plans to scale up the operations of her home baking venture!
Ashwini Hebbar, the founder of Icings – The Cake Boutique joins us in this interview session today to share her inspiring story!
Hi Ashwini, welcome to this interview session of conflating visions. To start with, please tell us a few lines about yourself.
Hi, I am Ashwini Hebbar, a cake artist and the founder of Icings – The Cake Boutique. I am an artistic and a creative person who likes doing things differently, love travelling and adventurous things and I am a complete foodie.
Having done Masters degree in Biotechnology, I have worked as a Medical Coder for 3 different companies in a career spanning more than 6 years. I quit my job in 2015 to follow my passion.
How difficult was it to take the decision of leaving a corporate job to become a professional baker?
Not that difficult actually. I always wanted to do something different. I wanted to create a niche for myself and did not want an 8 to 6 kind of job all my life. My parents are firm believers of the importance of exposure in life and so they insisted that I work for a few years. I feel that is what helped me to be the person I am today. You learn a lot when you have a corporate job, right from handling a tricky situation to managing time/work, it teaches you everything the hard way.
How did you learn baking?
I just have a basic baking class in my kitty. I learnt baking from a fellow home baker and a very good friend of mine. However, I am a self-taught artist when it comes to cake decorating.
When did you decide to become a professional baker?
Like I said, I always wanted to do something different, although becoming a professional baker was not in my mind then. I remember watching shows on TLC like “Ultimate Cake Off” and “Fabulous Cakes” when I was young. I used to wonder how on earth would they do a cake like that. Back then, I didn’t even know a thing called fondant even existed. Then after I got married, I was looking out for someone who would do a Harley-Davidson cake for my husband’s birthday who is an avid biker. It was then I thought I will give it a shot myself.
At that time, I was a complete amateur and did not know a thing about fondant and cake art. After days of planning, I finally came up with a design and bought all the necessary things. It took me almost a week and 3 attempts to get the bike right. In the end, everyone at home was very happy about it. I guess that is when it all started.
Please tell us about your home bakery Icings – The Cake Boutique.
Icings – The Cake Boutique was born out of a natural love of baking and a passion for art and designing. All of our baked goodies are fresh off the oven and made from scratch using the highest quality and the freshest ingredients available. I do cakes and cupcakes for all occasions, be it birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, baby showers or simply to celebrate the small things in life. I specialize in eggless baking.
How was the feeling when you got your first order as a professional baker?
As they say, family is where it all begins; I got an opportunity to bake a cake for my Uncle’s 50th birthday. It was ordered by my Aunt to surprise him. It was a simple black forest cake with no decorations on it whatsoever. I was so overwhelmed with the response I got, that I was giggling like a child the entire day. No matter how simple it is, first orders are always special!
What are some of the signature products of Icings – The Cake Boutique? Which one is your personal favourite?
Some of the signature flavors of Icings – The Cake Boutique are Pina Colada, Raspberry red velvet and coffee-walnut. However, my highest selling is Pina Colada and Orange.
Personally, I am a big fan of Coconut cake with Cream cheese.
What are some of the challenging cake ideas that you have executed till date?
I feel every cake is a challenge in itself as no two cakes are the same. Having said that, there is one particular cake which I did a while back which was quite challenging. It was my first 3D cake in the form of trainer shoes. The client was very particular about the design and at the same time wanted a very small cake weighing less than a kg. The detailing on this cake took up a lot of time, but it was well worth the effort as I got an excellent feedback.
Being a baker, what are some of the challenges in life? How do you deal with them?
Since there is no fixed timing or limit to the number of hours I work in a day, managing both family and work is the biggest challenge I had to face so far. I single-handedly take care of everything, so I don’t over stress myself with any kind of last minute orders.
I plan everything beforehand and make sure everything goes on as per the plan. Also, I have been lucky enough to have a very supportive husband who helps me in all possible ways.
Please tell us about the growth story of Icings – The Cake Boutique.
Frankly, I don’t have an overnight success story to tell. I believe there is no shortcut to success. When I first started with my venture, there were only a few people who knew about it. So I would hardly get around 4 to 5 orders a month. Gradually through word of mouth, I started getting more orders. What made me the happiest was people coming back to me again and again to place orders. I once had a customer who had postponed a birthday celebration as I was not available to make a cake for them on that particular day. Instances like these are when you realize how far you have come. It is pretty overwhelming.
It’s been 2 years and I can now proudly say I do more cakes in one week than I used to do before in a month. Most of the time we are booked months in advance.
What plans do you have to scale up the operations of Icings – The Cake Boutique?
I want to start taking baking classes. As I mentioned earlier, my forte is eggless baking and getting the right texture on eggless cakes is very difficult. That is the thing I want to focus on and there is a huge market for it as well. I would also be taking private cake decorating classes in the future.
Ashwini, what would be your advice to those who are looking to establish their careers in baking?
Understand the basics, practice and build up your career from your experiences.
Anything else you want to share…
Baking is a science. You need to do a lot of trial and errors, experiments to get the desired end product. So don’t be disheartened if the first few attempts didn’t come out as expected. Practice. Patience is the key to success in this field.
And one last question of this session Ashwini, if you have had one wish…
It has got to be doing a professional baking course from a top culinary school in the world. Someday… hopefully!!
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