Mumbai-based Mini Menon took her first stride towards entrepreneurship in December 2014. With an objective to create her own brand of customized handcrafted cakes in Mumbai, Mini started The Baker’s Block. However, becoming a professional cake artist was nowhere in her career plans even a few years back. She holds a post-graduate degree in English Literature and has also worked as a lecturer in a college for a couple of years. Later on in her life, Mini entered the corporate world and rendered technical writing services to MNCs like Infosys and Alcatel Lucent before deciding to become a full-time professional home baker.
Till date, on this platform, we have shared many inspiring stories of successful home bakers in Mumbai. And, each story is different from each other. Today, Mini Menon, the founder of The Baker’s Block joins us in this interview session of conflatingVisions, to tell us her story!
Hi Mini, welcome to this interview session of conflatingVisions. Please tell us a few lines about yourself.
Hi, this is Mini Menon here. A post-graduate in English Literature, I have worked as a lecturer in a college for a few years before working with Infosys and Alcatel Lucent as a technical writer. I have always looked at people who could bake a cake with a lot of awe and never imagined at that point in time that one day I would be addressing myself a baker/cake artist.
When did you bake your first cake? How was the outcome?
I baked my first ever cake close to 4.5 years back because my daughter wanted me to bake her birthday cake. Absolutely clueless, I attended a short day-long workshop on basic baking and started with my trials and errors.
I managed to make my child happy with her birthday cake and thankfully none of my trials actually erred and I have had mostly positive critics around to cheer me up and motivate me all the way.
Did you ever attend any cake making classes of a pastry school or a culinary institute?
I have attended a few workshops by senior cake artists/mentors. It’s yet an unfulfilled dream to attend a formal baking course at a pastry school. Maybe, someday that will happen.
What motivated you to turn into a professional baker?
I couldn’t have started baking professionally without the steadfast support and trust of my ever loyal friends-cum-clients. The joy of bringing happiness to someone’s special day is priceless, and since you know that you have put your best into each of those cakes, makes it all the more precious. Most of my work comes through word-of-mouth.
Please tell us about The Baker’s Block.
The Baker’s Block is my little venture, which I operate from my home kitchen. Starting 2017, I have started using organic raw materials in my baking and I am happy that I could take this small step in improving the quality of my bakes. I use organic unbleached flour, sulphurless organic sugar, Madagascar vanilla bean paste and extract and try to use the fresh fruit extracts and pulp against the synthetic essences, wherever possible.
What are some of the signature products of The Baker’s Block? Which one is your personal favourite?
Non-fondant celebration cakes are the best-sellers of The Baker’s Block. The clients who are not too fond of fondant draped cakes come to us for creating their designer cakes frosted with coloured white chocolate ganache, whipped cream or buttercream. The eggless fudgy chocolate brownies are our best sellers too.
Personally, I love the teacakes and rustic cakes which are our regular clients’ favourites. I spend quite some time on each cake design because I feel if a client comes to a home baker for a celebration cake, we should give them a very clear advantage over a commercial bakery cake in terms of both Design and Taste.
What is your idea of an ideal baked cake?
An ideal baked cake according to me would be a rustic cake with the authentic flavours bursting out in each bite.
Mini, please narrate some of your success stories.
Each cake which goes out has a lot of stories to go with it, and each of them is valuable for me. In quite a few cases, the clients have become more of friends for me. A lot of instances when my little clients call me up even late in the night after their celebrations to thank me personally in their own cute language are the most special. It feels truly good when clients, near and far, without even meeting you once trust you blindly for their special and big occasions. I am thankful for all the lovely experiences.
What are your plans to scale up the growth of The Baker’s Block?
There are plans to incorporate cake delivery services of The Baker’s Block along the way because many a time, I have had to turn down many enquiries because I haven’t got a good service provider to deliver my cakes far.
As a home baker, what are the challenges that you often have to deal with?
There are quite a few challenges a home baker faces, especially if the baker is a single-woman army. Right from managing the family and the responsibilities to procuring the ingredients to managing the orders and convincing the clients with the costing and managing the logistics, it’s definitely a hard battle, but well worth it if you are passionate about what you do.
What will be your tips to those who want to start baking as a career?
Do the costing well. Never compromise on the quality of your raw materials. Each cake which goes out of your kitchen should reflect your style and passion.
Anything else you want to share.
A home baker puts in a lot of effort and love in each of the bakes. So before getting judgemental about the higher cost of home-made cakes, each of us should understand that it is not just the cost of plain raw materials which count, the hours spent in client communication, designing and drafting, costing, the time and money spent in acquiring new skills to enhance your cake experience, all these matter.
And one last question of this session Mini, if you have had one wish…
My only wish as a home baker/cake artist would be to be able to better myself with each and every cake and challenge myself in terms of new themes and flavours and give my clients a beautiful cake experience each time.