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Julie’s Edible Art
Text: Ankita Jain
Julie Pradhananga and her partner in work and in life, Jyoti Nakarmi unfold the story behind their popular cake brand: Julie’s.
Flour, fondant and edible gum fill in for pencils, watercolour and oils as cake artist Julie Pradhananga’s baking table becomes her canvas. Her deft fingers knead, pleat and sculpt till the likes of Tinkerbell, Ariel, Nemo and Lightning McQueen, bumblebees, roses and carnations, come alive in 3D, all in delectable detail. That’s why Julie’s cakes are edible art, a feast for the eyes as well as for the senses, since 2003.
The cabin crew-turned-baker has quietly been making a name for herself with her skill in creating customised cakes. “Earlier, cake decoration in the valley was done with fresh cream, butter cream or royal icing. Now, it’s becoming all about fondant, a type of icing, the pliable texture of which allows us to create highly detailed decorations. Fondant, gum paste, food colouring are all now readily available in the valley,” explains Julie.
Well, it didn’t happen overnight. It took the couple ages to establish the brand in the market. “It all started with a passion for baking and professional baking classes in 5-star hotels. I used to club my holidays and leaves to take these classes to pick up a few techniques. And later after marriage, my husband encouraged me towards opening an outlet and we together worked it out,” she recalls.
“We started with a small outlet and were aggressive regarding promotions. 15 years back we were spending around Rs 30,000 in promotion which helped create awareness about the brand. Soon word of mouth started spreading amongst our clientele about our high quality that could match any 5-star hotel; the only difference was the price variation. People who wanted high-quality cakes and pastries and couldn’t afford 5- star prices came to us,” says Jyoti Nakarmi who takes care of the management and marketing of Julie’s.
Talking about the current trends, he explains, “Customised cakes have been doing the round and working with fondant in our climate is challenging because it melts quickly in the heat. And here we are sticklers for perfection and we pay a lot of attention to detail to get that perfect look.”
With the holiday season approaching, Julie’s also has special offerings for Christmas. “We are already done with the cake mixing for the traditional Christmas plum cake, Julie’s special chocolate ginger cake and chocolate caramel bar,” quips Julie.
Over the years they have received several orders and the most unusual request that they were asked to create was for an infant who was eager to play with the cake. “The order was placed by a regular customer for her two-year-old. Since the child wanted to smash the cake and not eat it, the mother wanted a customised cake in one kg whereas any customised cake order is for two kgs minimum. But we didn’t want her to return unhappy, so we agreed. After all, it’s not only about client satisfaction; it’s about satisfying my creativity too. I am most happy when I am creating something totally new,” she shares.
The couple prefers to hire raw people over experienced ones as they believe these are the people who stay in the long run. “In any business, managing staff is the most difficult thing. In our 15 years of experience, 60% of our staffs are still the ones with whom we started off and the rest 40% come and go. Baking is a skill afterall. That is the reason why we hire freshers and groom them to become the finest,” says Jyoti.
Dealing with the cut-throat competition in the valley, Julie’s is planning to increase their online presence and outsource a company for delivery options. Currently, Julie’s has its outlet in Kupondole and Lainchaur. The brand is looking for further expansion. “Looking at the growing demand, we are still contemplating on opening a few more outlets. But we haven’t given this a major thought yet because it will entail more time and engagement. Also the fear of failing to serve the same quality holds us back,” concludes Jyoti.