Raju Das, Ashok Chhetri, Rajesh Roy, Bapi Das, Sanjay Sarkar- all specially-abled, run one of the most flavoursome bakeries in Kolkata. BE went out for a bakery hunt and noted that Shuktara cakes are highly popular among Kolkata’s cake lovers.
Initially, Shuktara was home to these special children. It was few years ago when Alain Cojean, a French restaurateur, and pastry chef Fabien Rouillard came to Kolkata and visited the NGO and decided to start a bakery for these children. Shuktara cakes started in March 2013. The boys were later trained to bake French specialities and surprisingly, it took them only a handful of days to master the art of baking. All the children take equal responsibilities. While Raju, Ashok, Rajesh, and Bapi are engaged in mixing and baking, Sanjay takes care of packaging and deliveries.
Currently, Shuktara Cakes is tucked away in a bylane in Behala, Kolkata and operates out of a small workshop. The bakery is divided into four dedicated rooms, one for packaging, one for baking and the other two for mixing. It is sheer magic to see the specially abled bakers at work in harmony to bake some of the most delicious cakes in the city.
Shuktara delivers the cakes to major cafes in Kolkata and also does home delivery for online orders and accepts
party orders. However, prior booking needs to be done for large orders. Somnath Sardar, Manager, Shuktara Cakes, told BE, “We have managed 80% sustainability until now. This is an achievement for us. Although we don’t have any
established retail outlet of our own, we sell through cafes like
Sienna Café, The Whistling Kettle, and other cafes in Kolkata. Our clients also include many corporate houses, noted
artists, and we cater mainly to home delivery services.”
Somnath added, “Alain Cojean came for an Asia tour for twenty four days. I met him when he was in Kolkata. I took him to the NGO. Being a restaurateur, he thought of starting a bakery with these children. Later, chef Fabien Rouillard flew down and gave them hands-on training in baking.”
Shuktara cakes boast of unique products like financiers and madeleines. Financiers are extremely juicy, small rectangular shaped cakes, crispy on top and soft from the inside. They have added cookies to their list lately. The bakery has 10-12 types of cakes currently available. They are chocolate cakes, chocolate marble cakes, fruit cakes, and certain unique cakes like mosambi poppy seed cake made with fresh mosambi juice, ginger walnut cinnamon, eggless caramel cake, financiers, madeleines and others.
“As we work with these children we don’t foray into the customised bakery section as it would become difficult for them. In the organic sector, we have started baking with organic honey. At present, the ginger walnut cake is among our top selling items,” Somnath added.
Talking about the business, Somnath said that around `12-13 lakhs are generated per year. We wish Shuktara grows and more people are aware of Shuktara cakes. The sale of these cakes doubles mainly during Christmas, New Year and other festive season. We have our individual client base through which we get maximum orders during the festive season.
Raju Das told BE, “I am very happy that Shuktara cakes have employed differently abled children like us. I am here from 2013. I get to learn new items regularly and gain a lot of experience. We were taught step by step about the cake making process and we started baking gradually. I love working here.”
The team behind Shuktara cakes is small yet mighty.
l Ashok Chhetri is deaf and severely impaired by cerebral palsy but perfect with his work.
l Raju Das, also attacked with cerebral palsy has a severe | disability in his both legs. He is the youngest of the lot and communicates extremely well with the other children in the bakery and has held them together.
l Bapi Das have a severe hearing impairment and seems quite matured. He also communicates effectively with signs.
l Rajesh Roy too has hearing impairment and works with the help of sign communication.
l Sanjay Sarkar is deaf and communicates through signs.