Aeronautical engineer-turned-baker Joedy Ramjith on changing lanes

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Aeronautical engineer-turned-baker Joedy Ramjith on changing lanes

It’s not every day you hear of an aeronautical engineer shifting gears to join the food industry, but Joburg-based baker Joedy Ramjith did just this. The self-taught entrepreneur shares what inspired this change, and what advice he has for others looking to do the same.

Let’s start with a little intro. Can you tell us about yourself and where you grew up? Did food play an important role in your life growing up? Please also share what initially led you into engineering.

My name is Joedy Ramjith and I was born in Lenasia South in 1985. I’ve always been surrounded by cakes and desserts from a very young age, as my mother was an avid baker of sweet treats and always trying something new. I guess that’s where it started, me watching my mum in the kitchen always making a cake or biscuits or something sweet. Diwali was always a busy time for my mum in the kitchen, she would make up to 27 different types of goodies for the Diwali trays, from biscuits to sweetmeats and cakes.

I learned how to bake and do a few things here and there, and even had a small recipe book of my own in which I would write how my mum made things. If I had a fight with one of my brothers, I would make a batch of pancakes or bake a cake or éclairs and eat them in front of them and refuse to share. My revenge desserts started it for me, this was my stress relief and a way to focus my energy in a different direction.

What inspired you to move away from engineering and into food? Tell us about this journey.

From a young age, I was fascinated by aircraft. I dreamed of flying one of those massive commercial aircraft all over the world. For my 21st birthday, I was gifted the opportunity to do a private pilot’s licence, and it was amazing – I loved flying. However, I was born with some hearing problems, which persisted over the years, and I decided to stop flying and focus on studying aeronautical engineering. It took me five years to get my bachelor of science in aeronautical engineering and another three to get my master of science. Being in such a specialised field, it took me over two years to land my first internship at SAA Technical. During that time, I had started up a small business doing cakes, with my mum as my right-hand person. My mum has the skills to create her own recipes and I have been using quite a few of them for my business.

Six months later I was offered the job at SAA and took it, but I was still running my cake business on the side. I found working within this engineering environment wasn’t as challenging as making a cake was! I’m not saying that engineering is easy, but the job didn’t fulfil me. The part-time baking gave me more satisfaction and the difference I am making in someone’s life, and it’s always been positive. Two years later I was headhunted by Denel Aviation in a designer engineer position, but was later was reassigned to a different position, which unfortunately was not the right fit for me. I had come to a point in my life where I decided to do something that makes me happy that I enjoy, so I decided to run my baking business full time. From the moment I made that decision. I have never been happier and I have no regrets.

Deziner Cakes

What does work look like for you currently? Do you have anyone helping with the baking side of things?

I currently still run the business on my own, but my family does come together if I ever need their help. I’m very grateful for the amazing support from my parents and brothers. There has not been a single moment that they told me to stick it out in a job I wasn’t happy in.

Tell us a little about your cakes. What are some of the classics? What are some of your most popular cakes? What other things do you offer?

One of our most popular is our red velvet cake as we use beetroot to give that authentic and amazing red velvet cake flavour and texture, which is soft, moist and delicious. The latest trends do pop up, which means orders change from customer to customer. Some people want fresh flowers, others want fondant, or fresh fruit or sweets or chocolates. In recent years we’ve had an increase in orders for speciality cakes, which are made for each clients’ dietary requirements, from vegan to banting to gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, sugar-free and combinations of these. Our vegan cakes are currently also very popular, so we’ve started making our own vegan dry cake mix, which only requires oil and water. We also do various desserts and treats, such as macarons, milk tarts, chocolate tarts, custard tarts, lemon meringue, lamingtons, snowballs, chocolate eclairs, croquembouche, decorated sugar cookies, shortbread cookies, cupcakes, mini cupcakes, muffins, meringues, burfee and many more Indian sweetmeats or desserts.

How did you perfect the art of decorating? Was this something you’d learned previously or did you learn on the go while getting the business up and running?

Perfecting the art of decorating is a long process of repetition until you get it right. Every cake has its own challenges, but that’s what makes it enjoyable. You need to think of ways to get it to work. Everything comes together with practice. I’m a self-taught baker and decorator. If you want something badly enough, you will get it right.

Deziner Cakes

Having made such an incredible shift in your career, what advice would you have for others who want to do something similar?

My advice to anyone doing anything is to make sure you find joy in it. It helps to make it easier and it motivates you to do it better. Be happy doing what you want to do is all I can say. Venturing into the baking industry from the engineering industry has been one of the best choices I have made in my life. Sometimes the right choice for you is not your first or second choice. My life is based on happiness, do what makes you happy and let life show you your part.

What’s been the best thing about starting this business? What’s kept you going during times of doubt or uncertainty?

Covid has hit us hard, but with the support of my incredible parents, we are still going strong and pushing forward in any way we can. We’ve also added a gifting business to help boost sales, which has helped. In any business word of mouth and the way you communicate with clients is key. Always try to go beyond the client’s expectations, a positive review makes a big difference and brings in more people to your business.

What else are you working on now? What can we look forward to seeing you do next?

We hope to get our vegan dry cake mixes into stores soon. This is one of the new directions we are going in and we hope to have many more products coming up soon.

To keep up with Joedy, follow him on Instagram.

Jess Spiro Article by: Jess Spiro

Jess Spiro is a freelance food writer, chef and restaurant critic based in Cape Town, who can often be found in search of the next great plate of food. Follow her on Instagram @jess_spiro to see what she's eating.

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