From banker to baker: How a busy NRI always finds time for cake



Have you ever considered taking some time out of a busy daily routine to pursue your passion? Many NRIs in the UAE tend to spend majority of their time at the office, even while trying their best to strike a balance between home and work life. Over the years, as they settle into a conventional routine and demand on their time keeps increasing, there might be moments when they yearn for something additional to define their existence and give them a sense of creative accomplishment.

For some, it is a beloved, often neglected, hobby that inspires a passion to do something more in life. It could be that guitar you haven’t picked up in ages, or a keyboard that lies forgotten in an unused corner of your home. It could be the book of sketches you made ages ago, or the memory of your first baking experiment, the moment you realized that cooking made you happy.

And, as we discovered when we spoke to Dubai-based NRI Valerie Reynolds Wallang, the prospect of juggling a day job with the pursuit of an artistic or creative endeavor is far from impossible; also, if you are inspired and focused enough, you can transform your passion into a commercial success.

Thirty-three-year-old Valerie, who hails from Pune in India, has always had a sweet tooth, which she eventually channeled into visualizing and baking lip-smacking cakes and desserts her family and friends could enjoy.

And when she started getting orders via Instagram for her artistic creations, there was no turning back.

The banking professional was only too willing to accept the challenge of diving headlong into her passion for baking whilst in a full-time job.

She describes herself as a “first generation baker” whose skills are continuously evolving.

“It happened very organically. I’ve always been curious about baking and tried my hand at it for a couple of years, with not much success. I still remember making a black and red ‘Deadpool’ themed cake for a friend’s birthday at work. She was the first person to notice my potential and give me my first order – a cake for her parents’ anniversary. I still remember her telling me how I was ‘very good at this’ and should take it up seriously.”

The inspiration to chase her dream came during the pandemic, when lockdowns changed perspectives on life, as millions of people looked for ways to fruitfully pass their time.


“When we were all forced to stay at home, I had more time in the evenings after I finished my day job. That’s when I really started to explore baking, which turned into a hobby, and is now a side hustle. I didn’t think I would carry on with it once I got back to the office, but I kept getting orders, and baking eventually became part of my day-to-day existence.”

She revealed that while the process of balancing her day job with her baking projects (a “very physically demanding side hustle”) was “definitely not easy”, she has never taken a day off to complete a cake.

Professionalism at work is key, she says. “When I walk into the office, I’m not a baker, I’m just a banker and that’s my priority until I leave for the day. Lately, I’ve made sure to take up baking projects only on the weekends, which has really helped me balance out my day job with my passion for baking and cake decorating. I guess once you’re passionate about something and have a vision for the project, it makes the process so much more rewarding and enjoyable. Some days baking is my absolute stress-buster.”

How has her life changed since she took time out to focus on her passion?

“Baking and cake decorating have become part of my identity, even though I have a long way to go since I don’t have any formal training. Some techniques take time and lots of patience. Nowadays, my weekends are busier than weekdays. When I have any free time, I’m either trying to make something new or planning for my next cake projects.”

Born and raised in Dubai, Valerie says she owes much to the city.

“It’s an extremely hardworking and resilient city. You come across people from different walks of life, pursuing their dreams, doing things out of the ordinary. Dubai motivates and pushes me every single day to keep getting better and to settle for nothing less than excellence. While I know I’m not yet where I want to be as a baker, I’m working on consistency, discipline, and just changing the way I see myself when I step into the kitchen and take up my next baking project.”

Dubai also offers some of the best baking products from across the globe, she admits. “It’s given me access to cacao from Germany, baking trays from USA, and sugar from Singapore – to name a few.”

Social media has played a huge role in Valerie’s success. “Whatever I am as a cake decorator and maker is because of it. YouTube has pretty much been my ‘guru’. Instagram keeps me updated on the latest trends and also helps me promote my craft – it is the medium through which my cakes first got noticed and I started getting orders from family and friends. It also helps me gauge my growth as a baker, and which areas I need to work harder on.” – Enid Parker is a freelance writer based in Dubai


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