Hummingbird cupcakes & Babka loaves: Meet Tazeen Kapadia who creates soul food
Tazeen Kapadia is only 28 years old but she is already an entrepreneur with vision and flair. As a baker, mother and adventure seeker, she manages to juggle all her responsibilities and interests with ease. Her patisserie ‘Lagom’ in Frazer Town should be on top of your must-visit list this year, if you want to taste delicacies that are gorgeous and full of flavour.
What is unique and special about Tazeen’s baking is that every item she creates, right from her healthy carrot cake to her double chocolate and hummingbird cupcakes to her Japanese milk breads, Babka loaves, layered wedding cakes and cinnamon rolls, are created with great precision and craftsmanship.
All the ingredients are sourced by Tazeen and her husband Saad, who jointly run the patisserie. All are measured to perfection and blended with care. Even the name of her bakery ‘Lagom’ is Swedish for ‘Not too little, not too much, just right,’ which is the maxim that she believes in.
Founders of Lagom Tazeen Kapadia and Saad Siraj with their daughter Inara.
Though she had never stepped into the kitchen till she was 19 years old, she was able to create a patisserie that is the talk of the town.
In an exclusive interview with YS Weekender, Tazeen talks about how she ventured into baking, her passions, early inspiration, and how being an entrepreneur isn’t as rosy and glamorous as it looks.
YSWeekender: Where did your culinary journey begin?
TK: I studied in Imperial College in London and was a complete science nerd. I discovered my love for baking somewhere along the way, and every time I went into the kitchen it was very exciting because it felt like I was in a science lab, with many experiments happening around me.
I then went to study at Le Cordon Bleu to fine tune my skills in baking, and spent five years practising how to curate the recipes that I make today.
YSW: When did you launch Lagom?
TK: We founded Lagom in early 2018, and the reason I gave this name was because of my science background. When I started to design these recipes, I discovered that I had to be very accurate about the measurements of each dish. That was when I realised that I needed to learn to find the right balance of ingredients in order to bake well.
When you eat desserts, you might find that they are sometimes too sweet or not sweet enough. I wanted to get the balance just right, and that’s why the name came up. The word “Lagom” suited my style of baking as accuracy and balance was my focus.
I found that when I looked around at other bakeries everything looked so shiny and perfect and that’s just not what Lagom is. We focus on rustic, soulful food.
YSW: Can you tell us about the major influences in your life?
TK: I started baking when I was 19, but before that I hated the kitchen. It was out of sheer boredom that I first started to bake and then I started to realise that I enjoyed it, as it helped shut off everything else around me. It helped me de-stress a lot.
My mother and grandmother have always been baking. In the olden days my grandmother would bake for our entire street and share her baked goodies with all our neighbours.
I’ve always travelled since I was young, so a lot of different cultures have definitely inspired me. Some of the bakes we create have a lot of Middle-Eastern influences as well, and that comes from my mother and my grandmother’s side.
We are originally from Kutch, so ingredients like rosewater are sometimes used in my cakes, for instance, in my Rosewater Cake. I also used garam masala in my Christmas cakes last year.
So, culture, travelling, and reading have inspired my baking.
YSW: Who were some of your early culinary heroes?
TK: I would say, Heston Blumenthal. I really love him because he follows molecular gastronomy. I also like Paul Hollywood, because he talks extensively about his breads and why he is doing what he is doing. He says that it’s not only simply about mixing ingredients, but also about the reaction between ingredients. Mary Berry also inspires me because her recipes are very traditional. Stella Parks is also one of my favourite bakers.
YSW: What were some of your early challenges as an entrepreneur?
TK: The biggest challenge was definitely building a team, because you realise that it is the most important thing to do. Once you start your business, retaining people and training people are a crucial part of your work.
A lot of my recipes are extremely technical and need precision. We don’t take shortcuts. Many of the staff members in my kitchen don't have a baking background, and I have trained them from scratch.
YSW: How many team members do you have and how do you source your ingredients?
TK: We have 6 team members currently. I believe in sourcing ingredients locally. I know a lot of people don’t like to buy cream from the Indian market, but I don’t feel that way. A lot of the ingredients, such as the cinnamon, is ground fresh, and we have some special vendors for chocolate and other things. We don’t use compound chocolate in our baked items, but real couverture chocolate.
Freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.
YSW: What are some of your personal favourite items in Lagom?
TK: For me the most comforting food is the chocolate muffin. It is very basic but I really enjoy eating them. The cinnamon rolls too are delicious when they are fresh and warm from the oven.
Cinnamon Rolls with freshly ground cinnamon.
YSW: What are some of the items on your standard menu as well as seasonal creations?
TK: On a daily basis we do around 18-20 items and that includes an assortment of gourmet cupcakes, which have special fillings. We also make breads every day and cookies too. Seasonally, we use a lot of strawberries, mango, passion fruit and fresh fruit for our fillings. During Diwali we make Rosewater cakes and we keep introducing other items, like the Raspberry Chocolate cake and more.
We also hold workshops for adults and baking classes for kids. Children come to Lagom to celebrate their birthday parties and we usually carry out baking activities for them to learn the art of baking, decorating and creating something new.
YSW: Is baking more challenging than other forms of cooking?
TK: Yes, I do feel baking is more difficult, because it involves weighing the ingredients very carefully and accurately. If you bake anything for a minute longer than required, the entire dish can be ruined, or can turn too dry.
With cooking you can go by your eye, and if you make a mistake or mess up you can add salt or fix it later. You can’t do the same with baking. If you mess up, you would probably need to redo the whole batch. Baking requires a lot of focus and precision.
YSW: What are some of the special occasions you have baked for?
TK: Our customers have really pushed our creativity so often. We once created a Unicorn cake with many different elements and a huge princess cake for a child’s birthday with an edible crown. Sometimes I feel that when it comes to building these cakes it’s a lot like architecture. However, the cakes I enjoy creating the most are the rustic, tall, semi-naked cakes that we create for weddings.
The sticky toffee and carrot cake are our best sellers for weddings and the hummingbird cakes (with pineapple, banana, and coconut) have now also become very popular.
(From left to right) Rustic Victoria sponge cake with strawberries and a Unicorn themed cake
YSW: What is your advice to aspiring bakers/entrepreneurs who want to start their own patisseries?
TK: Launching a patisserie requires an immense amount of patience, and you will find that your patience will get tested constantly. You need to be really headstrong and thick skinned to survive.
When you start a business, there will always be about 50 % or 60% of people who will tell you that you can’t do it and that it won’t work out. You will hear so many negative comments, that you really need to develop a thick skin as there is no other way out. The food industry is cut throat and brutal, and if one thing goes wrong, people may never come back.
I also take feedback constructively and don’t get too offended by negative remarks, but I try to improve if possible. For example, some people said that my red velvet was too different from what they liked and that they didn’t enjoy it. So, I actually went back and changed the recipe.
I think taking feedback and having the right attitude is extremely important.
I think it’s also important to realise there is always a risk in business and it might fail, but you need to keep going. Don’t quit.
YSW: What do you enjoy doing on the weekends?
TK: My family and I love to travel. We are quite adventurous, and we go on a lot of camping trips. I also take short trips whenever I can. I enjoy reading, listening to Sufi music and going to concerts too. Spending time with my husband and daughter is extremely important to me.
(Edited by Asha Chowdary)