Pâtissier de Kashmir  

In 2009, after finishing her 12th standard exams, Farah Tanki, a young girl from Nishat locality, moved to Delhi for vacations where one of her cousin suggested her to take up cake baking classes. She did her diploma in cake decoration at an institute and soon returned to Kashmir with a renewed interest in cakes, and opted to study Home Science in her graduation.

The fever of baking cakes and giving them distinctly attractive shapes and designs gripped Farah. Soon she started making them for her friends, family members and relatives.

“But I had never thought that my hobby will turn into a full-fledged profession for me,” she says.

Farah is a tall girl sporting blonde hair. She belongs to a well to do business family from Nishat. Her father runs a handicraft business while her elder brother is a pilot. When she was pursuing graduation, Farah started receiving orders from her friends and relatives, especially on birthdays or weddings.

“I devoted my initial three years to learning and gaining expertise in the field. But the kind of appreciation I received from people was a morale booster for me, making me think that I should devote full time to it,” she explains.

I met Farah at a local convention centre in Srinagar where she was invited as a young entrepreneur. She had prepared a chocolate cake for the event, which was beautifully decorated with crumbs of chocolate and biscuits. The design of the cake impressed the chief guest, the district development commissioner of Kashmir, so much that he personally congratulated her.

“It took me six hours to prepare that cake. It requires a lot of sweating,” she quipped.

Farah is now pursuing her masters in dietetics and nutritional sciences from University of Kashmir and has grown into the professional, receiving numerous orders from people and some big business houses too. She has no business unit or a workshop. Her kitchen makes up has been the factory of her cakes over last five years.

“My customers include big business bigwigs like Trumboo’s and even Mirwaiz Umar Farooq,” she claims, “Recently I made a cake about eight kilo for the Indian Air Force who were celebrating their 81st anniversary.”

Her business is spread by the word of mouth. One impressed customer or eater attracts more customers. If people have to place their orders, they have to call Farah two or three days prior to the event or the function. The cost of her pastry cakes depends on the size, type and the designs.

“It starts from Rs 400 to Rs 1200 a kg,” she says.

Ambience and food, they say, go hand in hand. But most of the time we end up dejected, swayed as we are by the décor and style. But as the number of cake lovers is growing, so are the designs of Farah.

“Now for the first time, I am planning to introduce ‘Photo Cakes’ in Kashmir. They are generally made on birthdays with a sketch pasted on the cake,” she explains, “Previously I had included the logos of football teams and many cartoon designs. I keep on experimenting and learning from the mistakes of past. It has been a good experience for me and my business,” she says.

Some of her cakes are 8-15 inch thick. Double cakes feature one layer of yellow and one layer of milky chocolate. She bakes chocolate cake, truffle, German cake, fresh fruit, cheese cakes, red velvet, blueberry cakes, mousse cake and fondant cakes.

“My friend has made us proud with her achievement and without any experience or family background. She has carved out a niche for herself,” her friend Novneen Malik chips in between our conversation, “Her customer base has reached to a point what every business person dreams of.”

“She is our cake queen,” Novneen chuckles.

Although her orders revolve around mostly Eid or the wedding functions, she says she baked 25 cakes in just two days on last Eid.

“This is business and we must not refuse orders from customers. I worked hard and didn’t upset my customers. Sometimes I take help of my family members as I don’t have any employees to fulfil the demand,” she says.

About her plans to expand her business, Farah is optimistic of opening a café in future in Srinagar city to cater to the greater demands of her customers.

“Mom and dad have been very supportive throughout. I was allowed to do whatever I wanted to do. Normally in Kashmir our parents would suggest to take up medical or engineering as a career but my parents didn’t say anything when I opted for home science,” Farah says.