As a child, Amoni Nyanabo had a flair for tasty treats. She would read through glossy magazines with colourful pictures of cakes and desserts to try out new recipes.
Today, Amoni who holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English Education from the Iganatius Ajuru University of Education, Rivers State and a post graduate Diploma in Human Resource Management leads the creative team at Carter’s Pastry Ltd, a Port-Harcourt based confectionery business. Prior to establishing Carter’s, she has worked in Customer Relations and has been involved in Creative Writing. Amoni, 29, clearly a woman of many talents, tells us all we need to know about running a baking business.
How did you become a baker?
The first cake I ever baked on my own was tasty but in retrospect a disgrace to the baking world. I took steps to learn by volunteering to help a number of experienced bakers. I worked for them without pay so I could learn the ropes and be mentored by them.
After my first degree I worked briefly in a financial institution before making up my mind to pursue my passion for baking fully. I enrolled as a student Chef at the Food and Beverage Institute (Pastry Academy) in Johannesburg, South Africa and graduated as a Pastry Chef with a distinction from the City and Guilds of London Institute. I am a member of the South African Chefs Association. I still enroll in cake and pastry courses here in Nigeria as time permits and intend to visit Paris and Italy to attend other courses.
How easy has it been running your own business?
Running a business anywhere comes with its challenges. From my experience, breaking into the Nigerian catering market requires a consistent in-depth study of clientele demand, availability of raw materials and electricity, and the “modus operandi” of certain health and food bodies and your competitors.
The mind-set of returning home to take over businesses is one that never really prepares the young entrepreneur who has gathered skills outside shores of this country for realities.
How big is your clientele now?
The food industry is one that thrives on referrals and by word of mouth. Marketing and giving out free samples is a strategic tool I have used many times to build a consistent and growing clientele in the cities of Port Harcourt, Abuja and in Bayelsa. One can never do too much in this area.
How do you determine what flavours your customers want?
At Carter’s Pastry we put the customers’ needs first and spend time with the customer to determine their best flavours and tastes. This is usually my favourite part because we create wonderful and innovative varieties based on our discoveries of a client’s likes and dislikes. That’s one basic value at Carter’s Pastry.
Are there any firm favourites with your customers, in terms of flavours, colours, styles?
When our customers realize the whole range of unending flavours which we offer, they become ecstatic and most times, they want to try everything. One staple is fruity cakes which are based on any kind of fruit you can imagine. If you can think it, we will bake it.
Do you have a signature style?
Nigerians are great lovers of fruits so we incorporate real fruit into our cakes. Working with fruity options is our major signature style and we also work that into our desserts and sweets. Chocolate is another major sinful indulgence we do not deny our customers.
Do you bake other pastries or is it all about cakes?
We make all kinds of pastries, cookies, brownies, cupcakes and breads. Our most demanded pastries are our Cinna-buns, Hot cross buns and fluffy doughnuts.
Walk us through a typical day at your bakery.
A typical day at Carter’s Pastry begins the night before by compiling all our orders for the following day. Certain products with yeast like breads are left overnight. Baking begins bright and early so that the products can cool off after baking. Icings and creams are made while the products are baking.
Then, we move on to decorating and packaging then deliveries/pick-ups are made to respective clients. On certain days we plan out of bakery parties and events
What inspires you? How do you remain motivated?
I am motivated and inspired firstly by the expressions of joy on the customers face when we have nailed their orders. The second motivation is the compliment(s) we receive when the product has been tasted. These are priceless and can never be quantified. It gives me utmost satisfaction when the clients’ needs have been met and surpassed.
Our customers remain our greatest motivation because we encourage them to be broad minded with their demands. They push our limits and keep us on top of our game. To us the customer is everything.
Have you experienced any setbacks in business so far? If you have, how did you overcome it?
We have had a couple of setbacks which resulted in customer dissatisfaction. These were mostly delivery hazards owing to the erratic traffic situations and bad road conditions. With time, I have learned to take extra precautions to ensure that orders arrive on time and in one piece especially after all the work put into it.
What is the most critical element when it comes to baking the perfect cake?
At Carter’s Pastry we believe that a perfect cake is baked from the most carefully developed recipes, the best of ingredients and lots of time and patience.
Here’s a simple Recipe: Carter’s Pastry Bana-nutty Cake.
INGREDIENTS (double ingredients for a 6″ cake)
Butter, for greasing pan
1 cup flour, plus more for pan
¾ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
½ cup canola oil
⅓ cup buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
2⁄3 cup chopped Almond/cashew Nuts
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
1. Heat oven. Grease a 4 inch pan with butter and dust with flour; set pan aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
3. Whisk together sugar, oil, buttermilk, vanilla, egg, and egg yolk in a medium bowl until smooth. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and whisk until just combined. Add nuts and mashed bananas and whisk gently to combine. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, 60–65 minutes. Let cool for 30 minutes before slicing and serving.
Carter’s Pastry can be reached here or +234 806 031 4117, firstname.lastname@example.org