Let Pastry Chef Malavika Raghavan Surprise You With Spicy Cakes & Dog-Friendly Popsicles
- IWB Post
- July 10, 2018
Do you think working towards your dream career is a cakewalk? Well, according to the Founder of Peace of Bake, Malavika Raghavan, it’s not. You have to briskly whip off the fear that’s deeply rooted inside you, chop off the negative thoughts, and add a dash of belief in your life so it gets dissolved in your determination.
Malavika further believes that kneading your self-doubts and greasing them with some self-love is another crucial aspect of winning the game. “You need to fall in love with your passion before you can bring it to reality,” says the baker.
Scroll down so you can garnish your day with some heavy-baking tips Malavika shared with IWB. This Indian-origin pastry chef, who’s based out of Dubai, also reveals how her home back in India and her doggo, Hugo, inspire her baking style. Excerpts below:
You are multi-talented – Pastry Chef, Food Blogger, Founder of Peace of Bake and The Spice Route, and Ceramics & Modern Watercolour Food Art Enthusiast. You learned all this after a nine-year-long career in marketing. How did you do that?
Honestly, it’s taken a couple of years, but I’ve now learned to embrace this multi-hyphenated descriptor of what I do for work. Despite early indications that I may have been cut out for more creative pursuits, I set out on the well-trodden path of someone poised to make it in the corporate world. I completed a Bachelor’s in Business Management and an MBA as well. After nearly a decade of working in brand management, the stress and monotony of marketing homogeneous food products at global FMCGs led me towards a new beginning, with a lot more creative freedom.
I stepped out of the rat race, joined a culinary school and became a certified pastry chef. My love for writing and baking found a new home in my blog Peace of Bake where I attempted to demystify the art of baking for home cooks. A year in, I was designing the dessert menu for an award-winning restaurant in the city, and nowadays also enjoy working on passion projects outside the kitchen – designing ceramic tableware and dabbling in modern watercolour food art. Last year, I launched a line of artisanal spice mixes called The Spice Route.
Do you think you’ve compromised in any way after you quit? What has it taught you?
We often equate success with having lots of power and money. I struggled with this initially when I gave up my successful corporate career. Pulling long hours working for myself, often without a clear way forward, it was important to remember that good things take time. It is tough work and often not a predictable road to success. And unlike a typical 9-to-5, you work all the time.
My advice though would be to bring in some of the rigour of a desk job. Keep a schedule. Set achievable goals and deadlines for everything from content development for social media, recipe testing and orders. Allocate enough time for all your projects. It’s vital that you remain self-motivated, resilient and that you hustle -because you won’t have that boss watching over you forcing you to be accountable. It’s all on you!
Is your passion for baking inspired by anybody in your family?
I’ve used baking as a way to express my creativity. My mom’s a designer and I knew I had a creative side to me, too. She honestly thinks she had nothing to do with my baking pursuits, but when I think back to those squares of homemade fudge, delicious cakes, melt-in-the-mouth doughnuts, and almond cookies she would make for us when we returned from school, I feel that’s where my inspiration comes from.
In that case, you sure have a secret family cooking tip that you swear by.
This is a family secret, but I will let you in on it. It’s a hack, really. In our family, we make Badam Kheer using marzipan and not by soaking the almonds. It’s rich, delicious and creamy and trust me, once you eat it like this you will never take the trouble of making it the more complicated way.
What makes Peace of Bake a unique experience for its customers?
At Peace of Bake, I love combining rich aromatic flavours from India with delicate French culinary techniques to create something new yet familiar. I think it’s this culinary journey of mine that my customers relate the most to.
Remember an experiment that went horribly wrong?
I’ve spent 21 years in Dubai, but if I’m honest, every time summer rolls around, I forget how warm it can actually get. We are talking of day-time temperatures upwards of 40 °C. On one such sweltering afternoon, a large buttercream cake I had made for a baby shower completely collapsed! Needless to say, I did beat myself up over it, but we learn and move on, don’t we?
We see a lot of floral art in your cakes. What’s been the most bizarre design you’ve ever created?
Floral cakes, drip cakes, and buttercream cakes are all the rage right now, and personally, I’m happy fondant-based cakes are seeing a decline. Most of my clients trust me completely with the design, but I do have some pretty hands-on customers, too. I’d probably be the same (winks).
I did have an unusual request from a customer of The Spice Route range, specifically a fan of the Sichuan (Chinese 5 Spice) Blend, who wanted a spicy cake. So I made her an orange cake with Sichuan chili-infused chocolate buttercream and chili caramel shards. It sounds like an odd combination but has been one of my more requested flavours since.
Could you explain a little more about The Spice Route? Is it about the regional masalas that you blend together and sell?
The Spice Route from Peace of Bake is a handcrafted range of authentic spice and nut mixes made locally with ingredients that are as well-traveled as the maritime voyagers from centuries ago. These flavours are inspired by the traditional spice routes that spanned the Far East, traversed North Africa and eventually reached the shores of Europe.
The range today consists of Provencal – Herb Mix, Sichuan – Chinese 5 Spice Blend, Dukkah – Middle Eastern Nut & Spice Mix, Haldi – Turmeric Latte Mix as well as seasonal specials like Autumn – Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix and Gingerbread – Christmas Spice Mix.
Share the recipe of a traditional Indian dessert that you’ve given a successful twist lately.
Growing up, I found traditional Indian sweets singularly sweet and unappealing in appearance. Over the years, on trips back home, I have rediscovered our flavours, sights, and sounds. Things I once found overwhelming have found a way to coexist alongside the cakes and desserts I bake. I have since been able to successfully design contemporary Indian desserts for restaurants including Gulab Jamun Rose Cheesecake, Spicy Pineapple Jalebi, and Chilli Chocolate Brownies.
(Orange Almond Tres Leches (Milk Cake) with Saffron Badam Milk)
On this note, what’s your favourite Indian dessert?
Jalebis, for sure! I have this amazing childhood memory of summer evenings in Delhi walking to the market with my grandmother, and waiting for fresh hot jalebi. Wrapped in brown paper bags with syrup oozing through, the jalebis were the perfect accompaniment for our walk back home.
On another occasion, when I was much younger on a trip to Jaipur, I had terrible food poisoning. The manager of a heritage hotel we were staying at told me to eat jalebis as they would help with my tummy ache. I’ve been hooked since.
Lastly, what’s your dog Hugo’s favourite from your detailed menu?
Hugo, our 3-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback, is quite the character. A total hipster dog, you will see him sporting a cravat and enjoying raw organic cold-pressed juices. He does have quite the sensitive tummy so we do pamper him and know what fruits are good and safe for him to consume. I will make a batch of 100% fruit popsicles for him to enjoy as a treat on hot summer days. His favourite fruits are watermelon, blueberry, and mango. You should try them for yourself or your kids.
(Images are Malavika Raghavan’s own)