Living on the sweet side

15-year-old baker from Ongwediva continues to impress

03 August 2021 | Youth

Mariselle Stofberg

With just a few ingredients, heaps of imagination and a touch of elegance, 15-year-old Ndapanda Shiyagaya is able to bake and create sweet masterpieces through her business, Karolina’s Bakery.

Shiyagaya is a learner at Gabriel Taapopi Senior Secondary School in Ongwediva.

What makes her happiest in this world is spending time with family, going shopping, for which she would ideally love to have a whole week, and celebrating the small moments in life.

“My love for baking has become a part of me whilst growing up, because as a little girl, baking was a habitual thing at home. My cousins who were at boarding school would bake just before going back to school, and that meant almost every second weekend was full-on baking time,” she says.

Her favourite part of baking and decorating is working and listening to music in the background. “Another part I enjoy most is when clients ask for cakes I’ve never tried before. I love to challenge myself to do more than I have been asked for,” she says.

The thought of starting her own bakery business began when she was about in fourth grade in 2015, because the image of a businesswoman to her at the time was that of an innovative, intelligent, strong-minded, hardworking and wealthy woman. “This was what I aspired to become. At Karolina’s Bakery we make cakes, cupcakes, malva pudding, cake pops, cakesicles, brigadeiros, which is a famous Portuguese chocolate dessert, the newly introduced dream cake and candy buffets on request,” she says.

“The hardest part about having a bakery must be turning down orders due to overwhelming schoolwork or when I am writing examinations. This is mainly because I have to balance school and business. What helps me to stay positive is listening to worship music, as it gives so much peace and serenity,” Shiyagaya adds.

Attention to detail

Her favourite thing at her bakery is creating the details on cakes. “Be it figurines or just some detail to complement the theme of a cake, I love it all. My go-to baked good must be a vanilla sponge cake or our dream cake, because it has quite a fascinating process.”

What drives her daily is the idea of who she wants to be when she grows up. “Every time contemplate if something is worth it, I remember just how my younger self was so determined and I can’t stop here. I believe in the phrase by Robin Sharma, ‘be willing to do what’s hard now to enjoy what’s beautiful later’. For Karolina’s Bakery, my plans and dreams are only to get better, bigger and even more resolute,” Shiyagaya says.

Strong support system

Shiyagaya has a strong support system that helps to keep her going every day. “I have so many people that support and show me love, but my mom and my cousin Maku support and help me the most.”

She adores the baking show Carlo’s Bakery, because Buddy Valastro’s determination and trust in himself inspires her.

“I am not planning on studying a course or degree in culinary arts, but might decide differently after completing my studies. I’ve had a few trainings focusing on different aspects of baking by the very best and I am so grateful.”

Shiyagaya’s very first training was a basic baking training by her aunt Aina of Aina’s Cake Land, where she had the opportunity to polish and improve her skills.

“I also attended Shiwa the Baker’s masterclass where I was equipped with entrepreneurial knowledge and it is from there I was able to better understand entrepreneurship. I then attended a sugar flower training which was instructed by the sugar flower guru Jeanette Pritchard from South Africa and then also had wedding cake training by Aina’s Cake Land and Maggy’s Bakery.”

Her journey, however, was not without some trials. “At the very beginning I didn’t use to time to control how long a cake should bake for. I always kept looking at the cakes to see and predict whether they are ready without opening the oven. However, my dad always advised me to start using a timer, but I always said to him I have mastered how to look and predict when they are ready and I have gotten the hang of it.”

One night while she was baking, without her timer as usual, she decided to take a 10-minute nap to pass the time. “I must have been exhausted and I unfortunately overslept, only to wake up to a smoky kitchen. I had burnt the cake! Oh, was I not embarrassed for my dad to even hear of this? This was my turning point to finally start using a timer.”

The weirdest thing she has ever had to make for someone was a sugar-free lemon cake, with not even a little raw honey as an exception. “To a sugar-free cake I had to add natural lemonade! My goodness, this cake was sour and had a dense texture because of the removal of sugar from the recipe, as all ingredients play a role in the cake’s end result.”

Shiyagaya says the highlight of her baking career was when she had the opportunity to bake a cake for retired Bishop Kleopas Dumeni’s 90th birthday celebration.

“I would love to tell my fellow young bakers to remember the quote of Nelson Mandela that the greatest glory in living lies not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail. Never forget why you started and always remember the positivity you had then, and why you can’t let all the efforts go to waste,” she says.

“In the beginning, I didn’t believe a bakery driven by a 10-year-old would even succeed, but as the late Nelson Mandela said, things always seem impossible until they are done.”