Baking with heart

By Wallia Khairi
Tue, 09, 22

This week You! is in conversation with young and passionate baker Sanya Zahid who owns an online, home-based bakery ‘The Sugar Shack’…

Baking with heart


Surrounded by cakes, cookies and frostings, Sanya Zahid found her calling at a very young age. Her mother and elder sister are both bakers, hence, it came as no surprise when Sanya decided to open her own bakery ‘The Sugar Shack’. “I started with simple cakes and cupcakes but then my younger sister, Alisha, who is absolutely brilliant with edible figures and sculpting reality onto cakes, joined in and we tapped into the decorative side of baking and started making bespoke cakes and desserts,” she explains.

Sanya is a communication designer by profession. She graduated in 2019 from Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture with a bachelor’s degree in communication design, where she majored in graphic design and film/video. Currently, she is a management executive at a pharmaceutical company and work as a freelancer with clients on copywriting and design projects. Always having a knack for baking in her, her passion eventually turned into a serious business when friends and family convinced her to take it up seriously. And what was next? Orders just started pouring in and she embarked on her sugar craft journey. This week You! is in conversation with this young, passionate baker…

Baking with heart

You! Have you done any professional courses in baking?

SZ: No, I have not. My mother, as I mentioned earlier is absolutely amazing at baking and I’ve practically grown up seeing her experimenting with flavours and techniques. I learned everything from my mother and sister. Cake decorating is always evolving and has changed so much hence we are always up for the challenge of creating new designs with cake.

You! What motivated you to take it up as a profession?

SZ: It was a very gradual process, started by friends and my teachers (I was in O-level back then) asking me to make cakes and cupcakes for their families. The business then grew organically by word of mouth. I made my social media pages and it was only then when I started catering properly for events with new people calling and asking me about my work, and before I knew it, it became a full-time job!

You! How would you define your style?

SZ: It’s been almost ten years since The Sugar Shack came into existence. My style is classic yet experimental. While I am always in search of new baking trends and recipes to diversify my baking palette, I always tend to go back to the classics as a starting point.

You! Do you have a sweet tooth?

SZ: Oh yes! I love everything and anything that is sweet! My mother and eldest sister, Nida, are amazing bakers hence you will always find something sweet in our fridge.

You! What has been the biggest order of your professional career?

SZ: I had to do a dessert spread for a wedding event for over 600 people and that was pretty early back in my career which was nerve-wracking but oh-so-rewarding!

Baking with heart

You! What is the most challenging part of your job?

SZ: One of the hardest things about creating cakes is making sure that my vision and my client’s vision align. The next would be the transportation of the cake, especially of big ones in Karachi’s unforgiving heat. Cakes are extremely fragile and heat sensitive and if you couple it with riding in a car on a bumpy road – there’s just so much that can go wrong! It takes nerves of steel to make it happen, and you only get one shot; no backup cakes hanging out at the bakery.

You! What is the best part of your job?

SZ: The reward of making it to your destination and seeing the happiness it brings far outweighs the stress. Cakes are for celebrations and always bring a smile to everyone’s faces. It’s beautiful seeing families grow, getting cakes for birth announcements, wedding giveaways, or celebrating personal and professional milestones – it’s like being a part of so much joy and for that, I feel very blessed.

You! How do you stay up to date in your profession?

SZ: Social media! With baking and cake decorating trends evolving around the world, it’s hard to miss out on much when you’re following pages and profiles of cake designers and bakeries that inspire you. The ever-continuous stream of recommendations keeps us up to date without even trying.

You! An ingredient you can’t live without?

SZ: Butter! I can’t process if I don’t have enough butter in my fridge.

You! What is your signature cake?

SZ: My classic chocolate fudge cake. It’s light, yet rich in flavour. You’ll love it!

You! The cardinal rule of baking is…

SZ: Preparation, precision and a whole lot of patience.

You! What is your all-time favourite dessert?

SZ: Crème Brûlée. But, I have this rule to never learn to make something that I love to eat because once I start making it, I don’t love it anymore – with the exception of chocolate éclairs which I make and still love!

Baking with heart

You! In this age of fad diets and fitness regimes, do you have customers asking for sugar-free or ‘healthy’ cakes?

SZ: Yes, I do sometimes. However, I haven’t tapped enough into the sugar-free range as our cakes and baked goods are mostly customised and themed which, in my opinion, is not entirely possible in the sugar-free range. But we do offer sugar-free options in teacakes and pies. My definition of healthy is good quality ingredients along with a balance in cakes and desserts.

Our product offerings are more indulgent in nature at the moment. However, we do offer sugar-free options in our teacakes and pies.

You! Have you ever had any culinary disasters?

SZ: Yes. I once had an order for customised Nikah cookies that were meant to be distributed to the guests at the event, which was around five hundred in number, and had to be delivered in the afternoon. We made and heat-sealed them at night, but since it was mid-October when the weather was extremely hot and humid, the edible ink which was used to write the names had bled through the cookies and created an utter mess! Thankfully, we were able to redo all of those in time but it was a very long day!

You! Do you give baking classes?

SZ: I don’t, yet, but I hope someday I gather the courage and feel enough confident in my teaching skills to be able to teach people.

You! What kind of challenges do you have to face as a woman in a male-dominated society?

SZ: Surprisingly, there hasn’t been much as the baking industry in Pakistan from the scope that I operate, is pretty much female-dominated which is so empowering. Similarly, our supplementary industry which is male-dominated, that includes material vendors and delivery partners, has been nothing but supportive.

You! Who is your favourite celebrity baker?

SZ: Yolanda Gampp! She’s the queen of cake decorating.

You! Your top tip for amateur bakers?

SZ: Don’t give up! Baking is an art that requires time, patience, and a lot of practice. Precision is key and you just can’t ignore it. It’ll take time but you’ll be there.

You! What are your spare time interests, and what do you do to relax?

SZ: I write. I love to write. It’s my outlet of expression and I scribble with words whenever I want to relax.

You! Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

SZ: As I continue to explore options to expand, hopefully, a physical location near your neighbourhood. It’s been my dream to have a little bakery of mine.