Manveen Singh must have been in her early 20s when she breezed into her mother’s Bakery JDs (Just Desserts) and demanded that she wanted to eat a Red Velvet cake.
“I don’t make it… neither does anyone else in Nagpur Sweetie. If you want to eat it, make it yourself – you are welcome to use my kitchen.” Little would Nita Singh, who ran Nagpur’s only exclusive Dessert place then, have realized that Manveen would take the challenge and the invitation literally !
Manveen had not the foggiest idea how one made a Velvet cake. She had just returned from the famous Leeds University in UK with a post graduation in Communication Studies. Cooking, baking etc. were far from her priorities.
But that red velvet cake had to be made that day; it was part of a larger scheme of things – that first cake was to change Nagpur’s ‘Cake Destiny’!!!
So Manveen got into the kitchen with her I pad and her cell phone – she researched the internet on how to make it, she called friends and friends’ friends – and a few hours later a decent cake was on the table. Which impressed her mom Nita and the entire afflicted with sweet-tooth family too.
That day the germ of an idea was born in Manveen’s mind. She had had great fun baking and she had seen how hungry Nagpur was for good cakes and cup cakes just as it had been for desserts when her mother had opened a little ‘sweet shop’ in one corner of her dad’s petrol pump. (Lamba petrol pump).
“Why not make this my future?” Manveen thought to herself.
The plan took a little time to get implemented though. It was when she gave up her job in a metro and decided to come back to Nagpur, ‘to her roots’ ( for a while at least) that firm plans of running a gourmet cake place firmed up.
Manveen wanted to do it professionally right from the beginning. She did not want to be a Home Baker. So she set about getting a little ‘studio bakery’ for herself in the Nelson square area. Just Desserts or JD, named after her grandfather actually : Joginder Dheer, had already made a name for itself. Manveen decided she would make the best cakes Nagpur had ever seen! (She holds workshops for baking enthusiasts too now).
Cheese cakes, Coffee cake, lemon meringue cake, chiffon vanilla cake, death by chocolate, Molten Chocolate, Strawberry short cake and now when they are in season, even Mango cakes! Popcorn and candy cakes, cakes with Nutella and chocolate ‘syinges’ -Manveen makes them all, and she decorates them also in style.
She is probably the only one in Nagpur to make edible ‘Gold’ and ‘Silver’ cakes!
“But appearance ( of the cake) is only one small aspect for me; I pay great attention to my ingredients. They have to be pure, wholesome and natural. Commercially, many bakeries use ‘compound chocolate’ which is full of hydrogenated fats, but comparatively cheaper. I use pure chocolate which is over Rs. 550/ a Kg as against compound which can be obtained for Rs. 200/. ”
There are details that a customer may never know, but which the taste of the cake reveals.
For instance, Manveen uses real fruits to make fillings: for a Kilo of strawberry cake she can use 4-5 boxes of strawberries since she does not use ready made fruit crushes, preserves, flavours, jams etc. When jam has to be used, she prefers to make her own.
Manveen may be modest about the ‘look of her cake’ but it’s a fact that not just her cakes, even her cake shop is always smartly dressed up! Whether it is New Year’s, Christmas or even Holi, Diwali, Valentine’s day etc. her shop has that seasonal look! As do her cakes…
“My background in advertising and communications is a big help in designing my cake and my cake shop both” Manveen admits.
Her focus is on pleasing the youngsters of the city. She knows they understand quality and are ready to pay for it.
Her Freak Shakes, her own invention, are the rage among ‘youngies’.
“They love the over the top, crazy dessert based shakes” says Manveen.
But you look at this Czarina of cakes in Nagpur and you marvel at her svelte figure.
“Isn’t she one baker who eats her own cakes?” We ask.
“I have to occasionally taste them to see if we have got it right, also when I am experimenting with new ingredients, new flavours, I have to be satisfied myself, but I am very conscious of the calories I consume this way. I work out regularly and eat very healthy stuff otherwise!”
Candy and chocolate are not on the dining table at Nita and Manvin’s house… believe it or not, this mother-daughter duo are big fans of Maharashtrian ‘jowar bhakris’ and methi ki sabzi…. but they do add a dolop of ghee to it!
…. Sunita Mudliyar ( Associate Editor )