Friends and neighbours of Powai resident Deepta Rao (30) eagerly await her visits since these are always accompanied with baskets of freshly baked goodies. What most people aren’t aware of is that Rao is a self-taught baker who began experimenting with her baking skills three years back.
“I worked as an HR professional for an IT company, got married, and moved to the USA. I wasn’t working and had a lot of free time. I realised that baking was my stress-buster. Initially, I made small batches of cupcakes and muffins that were distributed among friends and family (as we couldn’t eat all of them) who appreciated it,” she says, adding that dedicated food channels in the US and informative blogs spurred her on.
After a few years, she moved back to India with her husband and started looking for a job. “But the job market was too competitive, and my resume revealed a two-year gap. I baked whenever I was frustrated; naturally there were plenty of cupcakes that came out of those times,” recalls Rao, with a laugh.
Soon, she started the Little Miss Muffin blog, where she posts her recipes. It was followed by the Facebook page, which has fetched quite a few orders. “I am not into this for the profit and I prefer it to be small-scale; it’s a good way to spend quality time baking, and it gives me a lot of happiness. Plus, cupcakes are smaller in portion and are easier to make than having to bake an entire cake,” explains Rao, adding that while cupcakes have been trending in the USA for almost half a decade they have begun to appeal to Indians only over the last few years.
Working at her home-based bakery unit, Rao’s magic fingers whip up mocha, chocolate, mango, tiramisu, cheesecake and kulfi cupcakes as well as blueberry, cream cheese and chocolate muffins and cookies. She is open to customising her baked desserts and offers gluten-free options for the health-conscious. She doesn’t use artificial colours, and prefers to stick to naturally obtained colours instead.
“There was a lot of trial-and-error initially, and there were many batches that had to be dumped. Some flavours flopped and on other occasions, the cream didn’t set properly. That’s why I offer limited flavours that work well,” she explains.
She is, at present, a one-woman army and wants to keep it that way, “If I hire people, I will not learn anything as I will end up delegating. I love baking and showing my creativity in decorating the cakes,” she shares.
Rao can make batches of goodies in just four hours but she admits that there are challenges. “Cupcakes are smaller so the canvas is limited as compared to cakes but that’s how your creativity gets tested.” She now has plans to tie up with NGOs so that excess cupcakes can be donated to the not-so-fortunate.