When Computer engineer, ATHASHREE SWAPNIL baked a cake for her husband’s birthday three years ago; she didn’t realize the twist destiny had in store for her.
Starting out at an IT firm, Athashree always had the urge to start her own business. Post a stint as a freelance graphic designer wherein she discovered her latent talent for colours and designs, she quit her job and in due course of time started CUPCAKE NATION.
Becoming a baker
“It was only three years back that I actually tried my hand at baking. I decided to bake something special for my husband’s birthday. I remember I made a chocolate cake but it was obviously a disaster! I love challenges so I took it up as a challenge to bake a moist beautifully frosted cake. I somehow couldn’t bring myself to looking up recipes on the internet and preferred to journey down developing my own eggless cake recipes.” Athashree had kept a diary with recipes and the result jotted down. After a month of experimenting and tweaking, she baked a black forest cake for her mother’s birthday. The result was a lovely cake that looked and tasted quite professional! That was she recalls the moment she fell in love with baking.
Falling in love with cupcakes
The love for cupcakes in specific came about after an order for a birthday party. “I was asked to bake a cake for a birthday. I had been introduced to cupcakes recently and decided to give them a try. I made my first mini cupcakes in small silicone moulds on the gas top as I did not have an oven. They were a hit! I kept practising and took my first order outside my family and friends circle for Valentine’s day. After delivering them myself I was quite anxious about the result. I was thrilled when I was informed that the cupcakes were amazing and a positive review went up on my page. More orders started coming in, mostly custom and soon I gained confidence in my ability to bake my own cupcakes!”
Work started on a myriad of flavours and designs. Athashree also developed her very own buttercream recipe one that was not overtly sweet. Cupcakes thus became her forte.
Cupcake Nation takes flight
Thanks to word of mouth, orders started pouring in. “I had not named my brand Cupcake Nation yet. When I decided that cupcakes were my forte, I wanted a name that showed exactly what I made and was simple enough for people to remember. I thought up French names but my husband insisted they were sometimes tough for people to pronounce and so we decided on Cupcake Nation. I loved making those little custom cupcakes that brought so much joy to celebrations!”
Remembering the first unique cupcake
Athashree’s very first unique cupcake was a Choco Max cupcake and as the name suggests, it was a most chocolate sponge with hazelnut filling and dark chocolate ganache frosting. “It was a much loved flavour. I had people ordering it with no occasion in mind. To this day I get messaging recalling how good that flavour was. This inspired me to create many more such combinations. Filled cupcakes were not a trend in india two years ago so this was something special!”
Inspiration, favourite designs and hobbies
“Whilst I don’t have a special person who inspires me, I have a long list of talented people from the Industry whose work I adore! I like to drawn inspiration from them.”
When Athashree is not baking, she can be found curled up watching movies and drama series. A complete foodie, she surprisingly prefers savoury dishes to sweet ones! Severely bitten by the travel bug, Athashree is a wanderer and often draws inspiration from the places she visits and the people she meets.
Lemon is flavour she cannot do without! “I love making cupcakes which include lemon in them. Classic combinations of Strawberry Lemonade and Blueberry Lemonade are my favourites.”
Inclined towards making glamorous cupcakes, you will never see a product from Cupcake Nation sans sprinkles, gold foil or beautiful pastel frosting. Mango roses atop cupcakes is Athashree’s favourite design.
The baking scene and being a baker
The Indian Market is now acclimated to customized baked goods. “Which is good of course because we see a lot of beautiful work happening around us. The only sad part is that a lot of work is copied with no due credit given to the creator. I stand strongly against this.”
How Cupcake Nation stands apart
As a rule Athashree refuses to use fondant on her cakes. “I personally hate eating fondant and only use it to make figurines or toppers that one can simply remove and then enjoy the actual cake.” Her attractive and gentle pastel coloured buttercreams and cakes are another major factor that sets her baking apart “I love working with pastel colours. You will rarely see me using darker tones.”
Special stories and special flavours
Athashree fondly remembers the 3 kg earth shaped cake that was a custom order! True to her policy, she didn’t use fondant to cover it. “It was a massive globe and its layers were held together with just buttercream! It was transported in a bag by my delivery person who was travelling by bike! Thankfully it reached the customer in perfect shape! It was a huge risk but it was worth it.” Needless to say, the cake turned out brilliant and was thoroughly appreciated.
And speaking of exceptional cakes, a meetha pan flavoured cupcake is a unique flavour that Athashree has been itching to try.
Present and Future
To those aspiring to be bakers, Athashree has this to say “Start by baking for your friends and family. develop your own style and stay true to it. It takes time for people to understand your work so do have patience!”
And what of Cupcake Nation and its future plans? “I am not much of a planner. After shifting to Bangalore, I started taking beginners workshops in both Bangalore as well as Pune, so I have my hands full as of now. Even though I have stopped taking orders, I keep working on new flavours and designs and this is something I absolutely enjoy doing!
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