Taste: Tell me about yourself.
Nashee: I am Aminath Nasheedha. I am married with a son and 4 grandchildren. I have been carrying out my business, Nashee Cakes, for 35 years now.
T: What piqued your interest in cake baking/decorating and how did it start?
N: I was 9 when I saw a cake made by one of the Sri Lankan teachers living in Male’ at the time. I was so amazed by the decoration that I just stood there admiring it. This prompted me to ask my father to take me to Sri Lanka where I started school, and on weekends I did baking courses. I was always more focused on baking and other passions such as cooking, sewing, needle work, etc.
T: So who got to taste your cakes as you were learning back then?
N: My father would bring ingredients for me and tell me to bake cakes for his close friends. I got a lot of practice through that.
T: What was it like before you started your own business?
N: I had to come back to Male’ with my father because they closed the Sri Lankan Embassy. He was a cancer patient and his biggest fear was what would happen to me if he was not around. His last words to me were for me to make a name for myself and stand up on my own two feet. That was when I willed myself to move forward. I used to make donuts and sell them to a hotel when I was 16. I got pocket money from it. I was baking for close friends and family as well.
T: How did you start your business?
N: When I got married and had my son, I decided to quit my place of employment and stay home. As there was no prominent baking business in Male’ then and I was home all the time, I decided to start my own business and began on a small scale. I put up ads on newspapers and Television Maldives and as it was quite new, there was a lot of demand.
T: How did you manage after that?
N: A close friend of mine made me aware of the fact that i could order tools from Wilton Magazine and with the help of my husband and the money I earned from baking, I ordered the tools. I started a cake baking/decorating course with the knowledge I had acquired by then. The demand was unbelievable. I went to Sri Lanka again to join an advanced course, came back and resumed teaching. To this day, I think I might have taught around 3000 people. It has been 4 years since I discontinued the courses. After that, I went to Australia with the help of my close friends and family. With the help of Mohamed Waheed Deen, I also went to Singapore and worked at a hotel for a month. I learned a lot during my time there
T: Was it very difficult to get ingredients and tools?
N: It was. When I started out, there was no such thing as an oven either. When I was around 16, someone gave me an “alifaan undhun mathee bahattaa foshi gandu” (traditional method of baking) which I used for baking. The cake would be hardened but the decoration was nice.
T: How did you get the opportunity to participate in your first international competition?
N: When I was in Singapore, the hotel chefs did not know that I knew how to bake. There was a wedding one day and the chef was so busy that he could not finish the wedding cake. I offered to help but he refused. When I asked him again, he gave me one tier. When I finished it, he was so impressed that he gave me the full 5 tier cake to complete. After that, he suggested that I participate In the Hotel Asia Fair in Singapore the coming year. I won 2nd place! I was shy of just 2 points to get a gold medal!
T: That is quite impressive. Do you bake other things besides cakes?
N: Well, my most famous creation is my butter cake. It gets a lot of praise. But besides that, we are trying a variety of other cakes and pastries in our recently opened Hulhumale’ branch. Healthy juices and coffee are available too!
T: How many people help you with the baking and business?
N: There are 2 bakers in the Male’ bakery and 1 in Hulhumale’. There are around 25 staff members now. There is a girl and a boy I looked after since they were kids. The girl, Mariyam Shafeeqa, is in charge of the Male’ bakery. She does everything including accounts and managing. It is very easy for me because she is trustworthy. The boy, Siddeeq Ibrahim, is very good at baking; almost as good as me now. They have both won gold medals in in all competitions they have participated in.
T: Do you cater to events too?
N: We make dessert tables sometimes. We get so many cake orders that it is difficult to attend to functions and give them proper attention. It is a very intricate task, you know. In Hulhumale’, we are trying to start a beach party service with decorations and dessert tables.
T: How did you come up with your famous butter cake recipe?
N: I got it from a chef in Singapore but it was making the cake too soft. Through a lot of experimenting, I perfected the recipe. Everyone loves it.
T: How is the competition compared to before?
N: It is huge now. There are so many bakers whose work is so nice and sophisticated. In a way, it is a good thing because I consider it a challenge for me. But I feel like there is no challenge when it comes to my famous butter cake which I think is the reason for such an ongoing huge demand. I think most people do not work with butter icing because it is a little more difficult comparatively.
T: How is it like on special functions?
N: If it is a special day like Teacher’s Day, we have to make around 100 one pound cakes for the bakery. In addition, we get customized orders too. In 2-3 days, we make around 300-400 cakes.
T: That is a lot! What is your biggest achievement so far?
N: I won a gold medal in the Hotel Asia live baking competition in Singapore. That was the first live competition I took part in and I also had the honor of being the first Maldivian to get the chance. The rules and regulations stated that everything had to be mixed on the spot so I was a little nervous. I was shaking while working on my cake because there were so many people surrounding me and saying that I could not finish it. But in the end, I got my gold medal!
I also received the Rehendhi Award in Maldives a couple of years ago. In Dubai, I got a medal in the Hotel Asia live baking competition. In 2016, I got 3rd place in the same competition.
T: What kind of experience/advice would you like to share with bakers?
N: I feel very happy when I see youngsters’ work these days. They are so talented. If you work hard with determination, you will get far. Look at me; I started out with nothing and here I am now. I am here because I was strong willed and disciplined. Whatever I wanted to achieve has been achieved now. One of my biggest wishes was to work with international tutors which I did. I worked, saved and did courses in Australia, United Kingdom and even South Africa. I have even been able to make a birthday cake for my favorite Bollywood actress, Padmini Kolhapure, and attend the celebration at her own house.
T: Have you been trying anything new these days?
N: Sometimes I watch tutorials and bring changes to recipes. We have recently introduced a very delicious submarine to the Hulhumale’ bakery. So far, the feedback has been very good.
T: I hope it is a success. Before finishing up, who would you like to thank the most for everything?
N: My father was my biggest inspiration and support. My husband, Nasih Thaufeeq, has been a great help with the Hulhumale’ bakery. My son, Mohamed Nabeel, handles some of the deliveries. The interior designer was my stepdaughter, Maya Nasih. The Male’ bakery is managed by Shafeega. And of course, this was paved by Al Marhooma Annabeela Fathimath Ibrahim Didi, her son and his wife. Without them, I would not have had the opportunity and space to open the Male’ bakery. I would like to thank them a lot.
T: Thank you so much for your time. It was a pleasure meeting you and getting to know your story. We wish you the best of luck.
N: Thank you.
Words by Nashwa Saeed
Photography by Taste