In today’s Student Spotlight, we’re bringing you Noorhaniya Popal from Mina’s Kitchen!
Noorhaniya has loved baking for as long as she can remember, but it was just boxed mixes or simple cookie recipes. She loved the satisfying feeling of seeing how happy desserts make people feel and was obsessed with baking videos on Instagram. For her birthday she decided to decorate her own cake for the first time and it turned out better than expected. Her friends and family loved the cake so much that they pushed her to start her own business.
With baking a side hustle at the moment, she says she’s lucky to have two kitchens, a family kitchen and a baking kitchen. She’d love to one day have a steady flow of orders to justify having her own studio but for now, her basement kitchen is where she’s realized her full potential!
What’s your business?
Where are you from?
What’s your background?
Growing up, I always loved baking, Betty Crocker box mixes of course, and more than anything it was because of the joy it brought people. I never really had any interest in mainstream jobs and when I realized I could study travel and tourism and become a flight attendant I was all in. Turns out, you don’t need to complete any extra studies to become a flight attendant but I did so anyway and it gave me some lifelong friends and amazing memories. Somewhere along the way, I decided I want to get into baking again because those Instagram videos made it look so easy. It wasn’t easy but the progress I’ve made has been sooo amazing and I’m so proud of myself. So now I’m a full-time flight attendant and I bake on my days off!
What role does cake design play in your life?
To me, it’s a business I’m so proud of. I started off just wanting to try new things and when a friend offered to pay me to make a cake for her party I said no way because I thought there’s no way I’d be able to pull it off. I have to admit it was sooo ugly but it was the first step to pushing my boundaries and I’m so grateful for that friends trust in me. I hope I can have my own studio one day but for now I operate from home.
Tell us your story! How did you get into cakes?
I always loved baking but I definitely didn’t make cakes from scratch until just around 4 years ago. My brothers and I all have major sweet tooths and I was always just the designated baker because I made the box cake better than my mom apparently. I truly loved and still live how cakes bring people together. For my 22nd birthday, number cakes were really in so I made one for myself and filmed myself making it too. People really seemed to love it and the rest is history!
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
Proving myself wrong. Every time I think I won’t be able to make a better cake, I do. I love being able to look back and see how far I’ve come.
Where do you see the future of your business (or cake-making)?
I definitely want to be able to do this full-time one day. I’d love to have my own studio with bigger, better mixers and ovens because again, time is money. Maybe if that doesn’t go well I could try my hand at content creating. Either of those sound like something I’d love for my future.
How has your business evolved since Covid-19?
In March 2020 I was laid off. Throughout lockdown I continued baking, making mini cakes and cupcake bouquets. To my surprise, my business took off. I’m now back at my full-time job now and have returned to fitting in baking on my days off.
How do you find working with buttercream in your climate?
I live in a cold climate so the DTC buttercream is ideal. I’ve made it a couple of times and it comes together so quickly and it’s absolutely beautiful! My customers prefer American buttercream but DTC is so amazing to work with and truly gives you a flawless finish.
Tell us a cake disaster story!
A customer picked up a 2 tier cake from me and somehow it managed to fall apart on the 5 min drive to their house. Like completely fall apart! They sent a picture of it at night inside their house so I’m not sure if it actually happened in the car or from mishandling when they were bringing it inside. I felt horrible but they have ordered from me again multiple times since so I guess I did something right.
Do you have a favourite cake you've decorated?
I do! It’s funny actually because I just realized it has all 3 of my favourite elements. It was an engagement cake that I made recently for a childhood friend. This one’s extra special cause it was the very first time I made a perfectly leveled 2 tier cake!
How about a favourite cake decorating style?
Contrary to what typical DTC cakes look like, I absolutely love a raw edge. I sometimes find it hard to make a cake top look complete, but raw edges take that away. It also saves time when you don’t have to worry about a crisp straight top. Stenciling is also very fun especially when you get the hang of it and anyone who knows me knows glitter is a must .. I really have to hold myself back sometimes
Besides cakes, what other types of bakes do you enjoy creating/making & decorating?
I love making cupcakes! The possibilities are endless. My favourite cupcakes to make these days are cupcake bouquets. They’ve been soo popular and I got so much business after I started making them. I love how the possibilities are endless with just a few tips. I really like making cakesicles too but they are so time-consuming.
What made you decide to take an online course?
Not just any course, specifically DTC! I mean a recipe with 5 ingredients?! I couldn’t say no!
I didn’t care much for the sharp edges, concrete finishes, or buttercream (my clients prefer American buttercream) but I LOVE the cake recipe. It’s perfect EVERY time, SO simple, foolproof; everything your cake dreams are made of.
I love baking but I am VERY lazy so having someone meticulously figure out all the details for me and then just having to mix five ingredients was something I couldn’t say no to. I am so soooo grateful for that small investment that paid off itself 100000 times!
Had you taken other baking courses before?
This was my first! I first purchased the buttercream mastery and then a few more DTC ones after that. Since then I’ve learnt that it’s really just money that I’m investing into my own business because every technique I’m able to apply to my cakes brings me so much attention and more customers.
Why a course and not just self-taught or researched?
Because I’m lazy and the efficiency of DTC cakes sold me. If there’s a quicker way to do anything I’ll do it. I hate recipes with 10+ different ingredients and I would always just go look for another recipe no matter how many people swore by it. I was getting tired of the whole baking from scratch thing and not loving the amount of time and dishes, or the taste. I couldn’t find a recipe that seemed to simple anywhere else so I decided to purchase this course.
Also, time is money so why spend hundreds of hours trying to understand the science behind it all when I can just pay to get someone to share all their research? Thanks Thao 😉
What DTC course have you enrolled in and how have they helped you?
Check out Noorhaniya's work
What advice do you have for people starting out in their modern cake making journey?
Things won’t always turn out the first time and that’s okay! You can learn from those mistakes and make yourself better for next time. Speaking of which, paying for all the courses in the world won’t make your work any better- constantly practicing your techniques will! While I definitely recommend the DTC course, your passion in what you do will come through with or without you paying for a course.
And make sure you’re charging your worth. It’s annoying but you need to sit down and really evaluate what you’re charging and profiting cause chances are, it’s next to nothing and that will make you burn out really quick. Your work is special because YOU made it and anyone who wants to support your business will do so. Don’t take a loss just so you have more customers.