Perpetua Mwangi, a lawyer by profession, has been passionate about baking since she was young. Watching her mother and aunties bake their hearts out, grew her love for pastries. She started a home-based business in 2016. The 24-year-old baker and cake decorator shares some of the secrets of her trade and misses.
When did you realise that you could turn your passion into a business?
People began to love our cakes more than we anticipated. In 2016, my sister (Rose Karren) decided to do a baking course. We started by selling our cupcakes for Sh20, then went big. That is how Delizia Kenya was born.
What is your all-time favourite pastry to bake, decorate?
I love themed cupcakes. Donuts and cookies are also fun to make, especially when my nieces and nephews decorate; they have fun doing it.
What is the most unexpected thing that has ever happened to you while on the job?
When I was new to the business, I was delivering a two-tier cake. Just as I was alighting the matatu to give the cake to the client, it tipped over and the tiers separated. I walked in town begging bakeries to help me repair the damage. I later learnt that tier cakes are assembled with skewers.
What is the most unusual cake design you’ve been asked to create?
A friend of mine was having an 80’s themed party and she loves music. We baked and designed a boom box, with a black and white theme checkerboard. It was fun trying to fit in all the small details to replicate an actual boom box.
Have you ever had a cake fail?
Our purple velvet experience was a nightmare. It sounds easy, but how can a cake meant to be purple not turn purple? It took four attempts to finally get the colour right. The cake was purple after mixing and before putting it into the oven, but it did not turn out purple after baking. At some point, it turned green and blue. We had to add some purple cream, to top it all.
What do you wish you knew when you first started baking?
The difference between baking powder and baking soda. At first, cakes would turn out bitter, with a soap-like taste. While both of them can be used as leaveners, each is different. Baking soda is strong and too much of it gives pastries a bitter, metallic taste. Baking soda has to be combined with an acid live vinegar or buttermilk to neutralise it. Baking powder has some bit of baking soda in it as well as an acid to neutralise it, so it is used in recipes that do not need an acid reactor.
What is the secret of making a perfect red velvet cake?
Buttermilk gives it that moist, fluffy texture. The hot coffee at the end also works magic in enhancing the chocolate flavour.
I don't have a stand mixer. Can I still make this?
Yes, you can. You can use a whisk or a wooden spoon. You may need to whisk it a little longer if doing it by hand.
What are your must-have baking tools?
Measuring cups and spoons; or a weighing scale; baking is all about precision, Good quality baking tins, (the material of the tins matters), a mixer, and a whisk or wooden spoon.
What baking item are you obsessing over right now?
The multi-purpose scrapper. It is a dough cutter, bench scraper, it may even come calibrated which then makes it a ruler and cake smoother.
Would you travel for food or cake?
I would love to go to Italy. It fascinates me how they can combine cheese and sweet dough, which is just incredible.
Would you take up baking as a full-time job?
I can. I love doing it. However, it easily turns stressful, since it involves doing the same recipes repeatedly.
Perpetua’s Fluffy Vanilla Cake
• 230gms of margarine
• 200gms sugar
• 360gms of self-raising flour
• 1 cup buttermilk/sour milk. If you have milk just add two teaspoons of lemon juice or vinegar to make buttermilk.
• 2 eggs
•2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
•Grease the baking tins with margarine and flour.
•Preheat oven to 170 degrees.
•Sieve flour and set aside.
•Beat the margarine and sugar until creamy and very light.
•Add vanilla essence followed by one egg at a time, mix thoroughly.
•Add 1/2 of the flour and mix well followed by buttermilk then the flour.
•You can toss in raisins but don’t over mix.
•Bake for 30-45 minutes. Use a knife or skewer and it comes out clean, then the cake is ready.
•400gms all-purpose flour
•220gms butter/ margarine
•150gms icing sugar
•100gms desiccated coconut
•1tbsp baking powder
•½ tsp coconut essence
•80gms desiccated coconut
•Beat the sugar and butter until smooth and light in colour.
•Add the egg and coconut essence and combine it.
•Add the rest of the ingredients and fold them with hands.
•Make sizeable balls and roll them into the 80gms extra desiccated coconut set aside.
•Place them on a baking tray and bake them in a 180 degrees.
•Let them cook for about 10-12 minutes until golden brown.