“Alaya Manik; The Intricate Baker”

Alaya greets me by the door and leads me into her kitchen, which she calls her “domain”, with a friendly smile. Large windows invite the sunshine into the vibrant kitchen, with its bright red furniture, and lights up the large island dining table that dominates the room. The quaint little tea set on it captures my attention and I eventually notice the warm batch of Chocolate Crackle-Top Cookies that sit invitingly right next to the mugs. My stomach growls in anticipation.

Alaya has an aura about her, both warm and inviting and we sit chatting for a while, sipping hot tea and munching on the cookies which, apparently, she had whipped up just for me. They are the best Crackle-Top Cookies I’ve ever had. The taste of chocolate is rich and indulgent and they are soft and crumble easily in my mouth.

Photo by Alaya

Born to a large family, Alaya is half Swiss and half Maldivian, and baking has always been something close to her heart. A designer turned full-time baker, Alaya did her degree in Visual Communication in Switzerland and moved back to Maldives in 2012, after which she pursued designing for a couple of years. She eventually gravitated towards wanting to work on a project of her own and as such, began experimenting with baking.

She laughingly shows me the cakes she had baked in the beginning, joking about their “amateur” look but to my eyes, they are really nice cakes. She then shows me her current work and I realise what she means. The cakes and cookies she bakes now are neater, smoother and more professional. Intricate is the word that comes to mind as I skim through her mandala cookies and cakes. The detail on her work is precise and gorgeous.

Photo by Alaya

At the beginning, she had experimented with the cakes, given her tendency to love meticulous work but her skill has developed greatly over time with practice. And she got plenty of practice as her cakes and cookies swiftly acquired a demand. Alaya started her business “Munch Me” in 2014 and is now a well-known baker around town.

I ask her which product has the highest demand and without hesitation she tells me, “Chocolate”. Anything, be it cakes or cookies, if it’s chocolate flavoured, is a favourite among her customers. The Chocolate Crackle-Top Cookies I am munching on prove it. They are indeed, delicious.

Photo by Nashwa

Adamant about not taking credit for other people’s designs, Alaya points out which ones she had designed on her own and which ones she had imitated, as per the customer’s wish. Her desire to be original leads to her making little tweaks here and there and proposing those changes to the customer, which is mostly approved and appreciated.

Alaya is an old soul, who enjoys DIY projects in her spare time. A crafty and creative individual, Alaya has carved a name for herself within the local community as one of its elite bakers.

Photo by Alaya

Words by Sama Nasheed
Illustrated by Fathmath Azleena