Promoting the Cake Industry

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The need to recognise and promote cake making as a viable source of income for budding entrepreneurs was re-echoed at the second edition of the Lekki-Ajah International Cake Fair held recently in Lagos, writes Peter Uzoho

As already known, cake is that sweet food predominantly made with a mixture of flour, eggs, butter, margarine, sugar and the like, coated with cream and icing as beautifiers. It comes in varying shapes and sizes and used for different occasions. There are such cakes as plain chocolate cakes, red velvet cakes, carrot cakes, sponge cakes, guinness stout cakes, cinnamon swirl cakes, amongst others. Equally, there are bridal cakes for women’s weddings and birthdays; minion cakes for children; lipstick cakes; naked cakes and many more, and all are designed to reflect the purpose.

However, unlike foods that are eaten to quench hunger, with extreme formality and stern disposition, sometimes in a hurry, cake is eaten with fun, smile and relaxation. Eating cake calls for jovial disposition, sense of merriment and celebration. To eat and enjoy all the dividends of cake, it must not be a one man show; it must be eating while having some times together with some loved ones, friends and associates.

Cake, not minding its cost or selling price and the quantity, is eaten with a sense of honour and dignity. Little wonder everyone struggles to have a share of that “small” chunk at ceremonies to “feel among”.

The postulation among cake enthusiasts that ‘a no cake event is a no event’ apparently tells more about the place of cake among people. In Africa, cake is alien. It’s imported from the European world, and since, has become an integral part of African culture but with some restraints as it does not feature in traditional African ceremonies and festivities.

However, beyond being an edible item and an ornament of celebration, cake making in itself is an industry that in all ramifications has proven to be a viable source of revenue to individuals, corporate and government. The cake industry is replete with economic potentials which when harnessed has huge impact on the Nigeria’s economy, particularly now that the country is going through recession. To leverage from the opportunities that abound in this hitherto unnoticed sector, stakeholders in the industry demand support, recognition and promotion of the industry by the government to complement their efforts as they continue working towards bringing innovation and creativity into the sector. At the Lekki-Ajah International Cake Fair 2 held recently in Lagos, over 300 stakeholders comprising cake bakers, cake vendors, cake tutors, cake artists and cake enthusiasts converged at the Oakwood Hotel, Lekki, to exhibit what they have, share ideas and information, gain new knowledge and to connect and network.

According to them, cake has come to stay as an industry capable of competing with other industries and therefore should be given its deserved place. Interestingly, cakes of varying shapes and sizes artistically designed by cake artists, with their alluring fragrance, rent the air. The event offered buyers of cake items and accessories the opportunity to buy directly from their suppliers at a reduced price. In between the programme, were lectures and workshops where cake bakers and new comers in the industry were trained in different areas in cake making. Speaking at the event, the Chief Executive Officer, Cakes by Somchez, Mrs. Eniye Okoye, said the essence of the cake fair was for people to come and test good cakes, learn what it takes to make good cake and perhaps improve their businesses.

“The Theme is ‘The Test of Haven’. Cake shouldn’t just be a beautiful cake; a beautiful cake has to be tasty and nice. It has to be well baked. So the whole idea of bringing cake bakers, cake vendors and cake enthusiasts is to let them know that there is more to cake making than just mixing margarine and sugar. We want them to come and look at how quality cakes are baked and how beautiful cakes are decorated.

“We want them to come and meet with the vendors and manufacturers one on one. When you’re using a particular cake ingredient you should be able to know who the manufacturer is in this fair. So the whole idea is to bring everybody in the industry under one roof to meet, share information, network and encourage one another especially the budding and cake enthusiasts,” Okoye explained.
“I noticed that recently cake making has taken a nose-dive. People are not baking quality cakes. They are not well schooled for baking cake and I begin to wonder why if you are not trained to bake why you would get into the business. In anything you want to do you need to go for training. I want to train people. I want to sensitize people on how to make good quality cake,” she added.

Okoye noted that funding such large event was very difficult adding that “We still have to think out of the box so as to generate money to fund it. Usually, vendors who come to exhibit their products normally have to pay a certain amount of money for them to be allowed to sell. They have to pay for a stand and from those monies we fund the event. We also have sponsors who volunteer to provide certain materials needed for the event.”

On how the cake industry contributes to the country’s economy, she said “The flower industry, the sugar industry contribute to the economy. There are a lot of budding entrepreneurs in the cake baking industry. They contribute in one way or the other to the economy. Some persons are employed by already established cake bakers and they are being sustained by it. So the industry is really contributing greatly to the nation’s economy and should be encouraged.” Pointing out the major challenges they have, she said, “The price of sugar, flower and margarine has gone up. I don’t think we manufacture margarine in Nigeria; it’s being imported. So we want government to create an enabling environment for the business to thrive. These ingredients are the things that are used for baking bread, cake and other things. So government should allow importers to be bringing these things into the country for the cake industry to thrive. While thinking about other sectors, they should think about the baking industry in terms of helping manufacturers and importers in the industry,” Okoye added.

Commenting on the cake fair, the Sales Representative, Brian Munro Limited, Mr. Femi Odunaiya, said “the cake fair is really helping us because it provides an avenue for us to come and display and sell our product. It’s a great opportunity for us to let people who don’t know our product to know and then patronise us. “I give kudos to the organisers of this event, especially Somchez, for putting this event in place. The ambience is fantastic. Everything is well arranged and things are going on here smoothly. So I really commend them a lot.”

Speaking on the importance of the industry, Odunaiya noted “Cake business whether you’re into it as a baker or as a manufacturer of cake ingredients and accessories, it’s a lucrative venture. You can see young people entering the industry on a daily basis. People are making their money through the business. Families are being taken care of by the proceeds from the business. So it’s really a lucrative business. We’re begging the government to give more attention to the industry to enable it thrive because it’s also a source of revenue to the nation. Price of cake materials has gone high and it’s not helping us,” he added.

One of the instructors at the event and CEO, Bakewell Studio, Chef Kolawole Olagunji, said “It’s unique; well organised. It’s not as rough as some cake events that I’ve attended. The timing at which the classes are coming in is good. So I’m impressed by the packaging of the event. I commend Somchez and her team for putting up such a good event. “Actually, I was invited to this event to train cake bakers particularly the upcoming ones on how to pipe with nozzles, using of royal icing. It’s a process whereby you give people a sort of an eye opener on how to use nozzles aside just cutting and pasting that people usually do. Based on what we’ve done today a lot of them have been able to see that they can now have their cake more beautiful than before. They have seen that mere mixing the royal icing and using it to decorate their cake gives a unique and standard royalty look on the cake. It’s a way of improving on what they know and what they have been doing. It’s bringing innovation into cake making,” he explained. For Stacy Perekeme, a baker, “It’s been good. It’s a medium to connect with other bakers and have meaningful discussions. So far it’s been good. Actually I don’t have a stand here; I just came to see what’s going on, participate and generally enjoy myself and network. I was in the cake class earlier and there I got a new recipe for Red Velvet cake. Also I’ve seen and learnt how to package cake shows and stuffs like that. It’s been wonderful so far. Coming here I didn’t spend much time signing in; things are going smoothly; the atmosphere is so splendid. They really tried giving us a good show. In fact, they deserve much commendation. I give them thumbs up,” Perekeme noted. Advising on where to improve upon, she said, “I think they should try and reach out to more upcoming talents in the cake industry so that they can come and showcase what they can do. There are a lot of them out there and I’m sure it will give them a marvelous experience. It’s going to be an eye opener for them.”

Another instructor at the fair, Mr. Save Ohagwa of Bakery Craft also commenting on the essence of event said, “One of the benefits I think the cake fair has is the fact that we have a lot of upcoming people in the industry. The industry is attracting newcomers on a daily basis. The fact that they are new in the industry means they need this basic knowledge and they need mentoring and tutorship to be able to succeed. Also the fair is showcasing the rest of the world what we have here in Africa in terms of cake baking.” Ohagwa noted: “The innovation and the kind of people coming into the industry show the potentials it has. Cake always has something to do with almost every event here on earth. So that makes cake business very fantastic and lucrative.”

Relating cake with culture he explained, “Cake has something to do with culture. First of all, the idea of cake was sold to us by the Western world and we bought the idea wholesale from them, and here in Africa, we have been able to fine tune and work on the recipes we’ve got from them. And today we have cakes that are made with African cultural perception which has been one of the reasons why we have cake crafters. You’ve seen in the hall a woman that is carrying a baby; you would see some other characters that depict African cultures and the rest of them. So that’s what you expect to see when you talk about culture and cake. So cake has a lot do with culture.

“Cake has moved beyond consumption. I have a friend who always say that the eyes eat first before the mouth. So it has to do with what you’re seeing; you’re attracted to what you’re seeing, then your system and your appetite are also attracted when your eyes is attracted. So I think it has to do with cultures and visibilities and also your appetite as a person,” he added.