Hamsa Cakes: An NYU student’s quarantine baking obsession turned business

CAS sophomore Meghana Kakubal didn’t know how to bake before quarantine. Now, she has a baking business inspired by Indian flavors and art that serves her community and those in need. 

After+NYU+sophomore+Meghana+Kakubal+took+up+baking+during+the+pandemic%2C+she+founded+Hamsa+Cakes%2C+an+online+baking+business.+For+her+desserts%2C+Kakubal+blends+Indian+flavors+with+popular+American+baked+goods.+%28Photo+by+Meghana+Kakubal%29

Meghana Kakubal

After NYU sophomore Meghana Kakubal took up baking during the pandemic, she founded Hamsa Cakes, an online baking business. For her desserts, Kakubal blends Indian flavors with popular American baked goods. (Photo by Meghana Kakubal)

By Juliana Guarracino, Staff Writer

You probably remember the baking craze that came with the beginning of quarantine. You might have baked banana bread or a sourdough loaf if you were looking for a challenge. Many people decided to hang up their aprons once lockdown restrictions were lifted. However, that wasn’t the case for CAS sophomore Meghana Kakubal, who started Hamsa Cakes with her sister and a friend during the pandemic.

Though she only started baking in quarantine, she continuously nurtured her skills, growing her love for the craft. Hamsa Cakes allowed Kakubal to pursue her passion for baking while serving her community in the greater Seattle area. She baked cakes and cupcakes for fun, making more sweets than she or her family could eat. Kakubal taught herself how to bake by watching cooking shows and researching various techniques, from piping to intricate icing designs. One 8-inch cake took her five to six hours to complete. Soon, she started making cupcakes for family gatherings and community events that did not want to outsource food.

Once they tasted her desserts, guests at these events began requesting orders from Kakbual.

“The reward after they said they enjoyed it, that was really exciting and fulfilling — to know it brought happiness to someone,” Kakubal said.

Although Kakubal never intended to start a business, she, her sister and her friend took the opportunity and ran with it. They organized a website, created social media accounts and perfected recipes to start running their operation out of Kakubal’s kitchen. It is currently on pause while she is in school.

Hamsa Cakes decorates their cupcakes with Indian folk art. (Photo by Meghana Kakubal)

Hamsa Cakes sells cakes and cupcakes featuring Indian-inspired flavors and Madhubani designs, an Indian folk art. Hamsa in Telugu translates to swan, an animal with the elegance and grace Kakubal hopes to capture in her craft. Her desserts also aim to be light and refreshing, rather than heavy and excessively sweet, like store-bought cakes.

According to Kakubal, Indian cuisine does not include many baked goods, so she decided to take classic American desserts and transform them with Indian flavors. She draws her inspiration from Indian desserts like ras malai, cheese curd soaked in a milk base; mango kulfi, mango-flavored ice cream; and pista badam, pistachio almond flavoring. She began experimenting with spices already in her kitchen like cinnamon and cardamom. Not only was it an opportunity to experiment with her flavor profiles and develop a unique baking style, but it also allowed her to further connect with her culture. 

“It really felt like I was putting myself into my baking, my culture, my tastes, my time,” Kakubal said. 

Since Kakubal mainly wanted the funds to sustain her baking, rather than make her a significant profit, she wanted to give a portion of the earnings to those in need and aid an organization whose mission she already supported.

Kakubal decided to donate 10% of sales to an organization of the customers’ choosing. Her chosen organization was Sound Foundation NW, a community-based outreach project that builds transitional tiny homes for people experiencing homelessness. She and her team had already been volunteering with the project prior to starting their business. 

Hamsa Cakes is preparing to open its New York branch while Kakubal is in the city. She is seeking potential investors, gathering resources and gauging interest for the launch. She is excited to continue her baking journey and see Hamsa Cakes’ potential as it continues to grow. Hamsa Cakes is the perfect opportunity to give to her community, just as she did back home. 

Disclaimer: Meghana Kakubal is a contributing writer for the news desk. She did not view or edit this story prior to publication.

Contact Juliana Guarracino at [email protected]