What makes home bakers tick, even post the pandemic? Sugar Story’s Swati Arora has some insight
Is the uptick in customised desserts here to stay even as the world around us opens up? There's certainly something to be said about a bespoke bake that has been painstakingly curated for a single occasion or person. If nothing else, it’s at least more significant than a store-bought box of entremets and the made-to-order format is definitely sustainable as a business model, even more so than certain brick-and-mortar outlets.
But baker Swati Arora of Sugar Story suggests the relevance of home bakers goes beyond the need for personalised celebration cakes. “I think people, in general, haven’t been that keen to walk into a bakery in the last few months. So, the demand for my home-made brownies, cupcakes or assorted baked goods has also gone up. Moreover, since I offer healthy alternatives it’s helped me expand my base, a lot of my customers are older and people are really keen on healthy ingredients in the city,” Swati shares.
Incidentally, the need for healthier bakes is also what nudged the self-taught baker towards pursuing baking professionally. She started out with zucchini cupcakes for her son and baked occasionally for neighbours at her residential complex and quickly figured out the potential to go commercial on a small scale. “I think the fact that people can reach out and tell me what they’re looking for in terms of ingredients or taste is something that’s been useful to me and the customers. For instance, jaggery wasn’t a part of my line-up but now after people started requesting it, I offer that alternative as well. So it’s very easy to figure out what works and what doesn’t and observe what’s doing well. For instance, my whole wheat banana has been an all-time favourite with everyone and even my oatmeal cookies do well with certain buyers,” Swati says.
Since she started out in 2017 the baker has introduced quite a few updates to her menu, and her current line-up is easily one of the most diverse catalogues on offer by a local home baker. Besides a quirky range of tea cakes (upside-down pineapple cakes, lemon loaf cake with candied lemon zest on top) and buttercream frosted cupcakes, praline cakes, chilli walnut brownies, Sugar Story’s menu also has two elaborate sections devoted to whole wheat selections and frosted cakes.
Swati is also one of the few bakers in the city who’s making the trendy hot chocolate bombs (made with Belgian chocolate) that has found a lot of love among Gen-Z foodies. So, a big line-up aside, trending bakes, limited-time menus, festive giveaways, customisable portions and some topnotch Instagram-worthy ganache detailing, definitely check a lot of boxes for customers looking for something more personalised than a mass-produced recipe. “A lot depends on what I enjoy making; for instance, I have often opted out of making something I’m not very confident about. But I love that people like my recipes as well and get back to me with honest feedback which helps me curate my menu accordingly,” the baker remarks.
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