This NJ Home Baker Turned Her Indian-Inspired Recipes Into a Small Business

by Abby Montanez

If you thought you were the only one baking their way through quarantine, guess again. Weehawken resident Priyanka Poddar was hard at work in her New Jersey kitchen, balancing life as a full-time architect and now, small business owner. She launched Knead Some Love NY in September of 2020, which offers handcrafted, artisanal Indian-inspired doughnuts and bundt cakes. Through her company, Poddar pays homage to the flavors and spices of her home country with experimental combinations such as Ras Malai Rabdi doughnuts dipped in saffron milk and caramel bundt cakes with a lavender doodh glaze.

While the idea for Knead Some Love NY might’ve come to fruition during the coronavirus, Poddar’s venture into baking was not a newfound hobby. She had always dreamed of one day turning her passion into a thriving business, even before the pandemic. When stay-at-home orders went into place in March, this was a welcome change for Poddar who had previously lacked the time and inclination to focus her efforts due to her day job. Overjoyed by the response from her friends and family, she began recipe testing and reaching out to local cafes with product samples. 

In a few short months, Poddar has been able to sell and deliver her baked goods to over 25 states across the country. To stay afloat, she still works full-time as an architect but hustles around the clock to balance her newest business venture. I recently got a chance to speak with Poddar, who expressed how baking her Indian-inspired treats isn’t just a way of providing her family with additional income. In the interview below, Poddar shares the story of Knead Some Love NY and how it not only fuels her creativity but brings a taste of her culture to local communities. 

1. First off, do you want to start by telling our readers where you’re from and what you were doing prior to starting Knead Some Love NY?

Knead Some Love NY was born in my little apartment kitchen amidst the global pandemic, with a desire to build something unique and an obsession to bring a piece of my culture to the world through my unique fusion pastries. 

I grew up in Mumbai, India and draw my inspiration from authentic Indian flavors. I’ve taken my love for quintessential Indian desserts and married them to traditional American pastries. It’s the perfect confluence between the East and West, and that’s my biggest differentiator from a typical donut/cake. Additionally, I’ve also been a practicing architect professionally for over a decade and strongly believe my aesthetic and eye for detail is drawn from my formal education.

assorted Indian desserts knead some love nj

Assorted box of Indian-inspired donuts and bundt cakes / Photo courtesy of Knead Some Love NY

2. I read that you’re a self-taught baker. How did you get into baking and when did you realize that this was your calling?

I’ve always just loved experimenting in the kitchen, especially baking! It’s something that has always bought me immense joy. I’ve often been called out for cooking up a storm in my tiny apartment kitchen and it quickly became my passion. Having lived in New York for almost a decade, I often found my American friends making trips to Indian neighborhoods to enjoy authentic desserts. I strongly felt there had to be an easier and more convenient way for people to enjoy those delicious treats in abundance. That was my aha moment!

 While I was still working as an architect, I devoted weeknights and weekends to learning more about baking, recipe development, while also drawing inspiration from my heritage and building my business from scratch. To be honest, I’m grateful for the fact that I started this business while having a full-time job. It has taught me the value of time, management and how to maximize productivity with fewer hours of sleep while still being efficient. 

I strongly believe that everyone has a purpose in life. For me, my purpose is to provide people of our community with unique and the BEST tasting desserts/pastries, something so unique that with every bite you’ll be craving for more. I’m forever grateful to have found my purpose!

 3. Why did you pick the name Knead Some Love NY?

“Knead” in baking is known as the process of making dough or batter by mixing specific ingredients together. I named my brand “Knead Some Love NY” because I wanted to emphasize the importance of combining simple ingredients. It’s the process and consistency of the batter that makes a dessert a winner and that process begins with kneading. 

I also strongly believe that everyone needs some love. Especially since I launched this business during the pandemic, people need love more than ever. 2020 was quite a year to say the least, and the name of the business is a direct vision of its mission: food that loves you back!

indian spiced bundt cake knead some love ny

Vegan Spiced Chai Tea Latte Bundt Cake with Maple Roasted Walnuts / Photo courtesy of Knead Some Love NY

4. Currently, you offer handcrafted doughnuts and bundt cakes—with an Indian twist. Has your heritage always informed your baking? What made you settle on those two desserts?

There are very few foods that delight the senses or evoke heart-warming feelings. Indian desserts are one of the very few and I can confidently say a large part of my inspiration is drawn from my culture. My baking flavors and techniques have always been drawn from where I grew up and I’m grateful to be able to share that with the world. 

Donuts are desired globally. Bundt cakes or fluted cakes are a fairly new concept that owns a unique shape and has been receiving a lot of recognition lately. We live in a society where we can enjoy these 12 months a year. Having that makes people want them, makes people eat them. 

I wanted to choose and work with traditional American pastries like donuts and bundts which really helps bring out fusion with Indian desserts! Knead Some Love NY’s desserts are handcrafted with real Indian flavors and spices to give you the real fusion taste. Trust me, it’s not your typical donut!

 5. What are some of your favorite flavors or spices to use that people might not be familiar with?

Indian sweets enjoy a legendary reputation across the world. There is no denying the fact that desserts give a befitting end to any meal, and as a first-generation American-Indian, I undoubtedly have a penchant for sweets. Not only are desserts part of my staple fare, but they also vary from region to region.

A key spice I absolutely enjoy baking with is cardamom. Native to the Indian subcontinent, cardamom is recognized by their small green seed pods, but also widely available in ground powdered form. The versatility of baking with cardamom is immense since it pairs well with cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and even chocolate! Cardamom has a strong, unique taste and is intensely aromatic. I recently developed a new recipe flavor made with cardamom cream and white chocolate ganache and am super excited to launch this flavor in the new year!

One of my best selling donuts during the holidays has been the Kesar Thandai flavored donut! “Kesar” is also known as saffron, which are threadlike red stigmas imparting beautiful golden-yellow hues. As the name suggests, saffron is the key spice in the donut flavor infusing subtle and fragrant notes to the baked goods. It provides a luxurious taste and is totally enigmatic!

Fun Fact: Both green cardamom and saffron are known as two of the most expensive spices in the world.

 6. Your creations are so colorful and beautiful to look at as well. What do you enjoy more, the baking process or decorating?

“They’re too pretty to eat” is what I hear almost every customer say when they first look at my desserts. I believe it’s the process and the final product of what I bake that made me fall in love with baking. Decorating is like art and I enjoy making it look aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

knead some love ny donuts and bundt cakes

Indian fusion donuts and bundt cakes / Photo by Knead Some Love NY

When you scroll through Knead Some Love NY’s Instagram page, you’ll see more than just pretty desserts. You’ll see a color bust of donuts and mini cakes which are a delight to the eye. We currently offer authentic Indian inspired flavors like Gulab Jamun, Ras Malai Rabdi (which is my best-seller), Rose Pistachio, Vegan Toasted Coconut Praline Laddoo with Coconut Cream, Tiramisu Thandai, Malai Kulfi Tres Leches and last but not least the Carrot Halwa with Ricotta Cardamom cream. The Vegan Spiced Chai Latte Bundt Cake is a personal favorite!

My goal is to satisfy taste buds with something unique while baking the most beautiful looking donuts and cakes! Each batch is individually handmade and handcrafted by me. I’m constantly challenging myself and transforming my baked goods into beautiful works of art and am grateful to have turned my passion for baking into a small business.

 7. What has it been like running this company by yourself as a one-woman show? I’m sure there are pros and cons. 

Absolutely! Starting my own business has been a learn-as-I-grow process. But whether the business will be successful is dependent on important decisions made early on.

As a one-woman show, I’ve literally bootstrapped this business from scratch. As word of mouth spread and orders started pouring in, I spent a majority of my off-work hours calling customers, buying supplies and ingredients, recipe developing, handling my social media accounts, responding to inquiries and fulfilling orders. It can definitely get challenging and at times overwhelming, but when you love what you do these are good problems to have. Although I started this during the ongoing pandemic, I chose creativity over crisis. I had an idea, found a niche and ran with it.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received is to listen to what others have to say—your customers, your employees and fellow business owners. This has truly helped me. I’ve never ignored the power of advice from those who’ve been through the process. They’re truly the ones who know first-hand what works and what doesn’t.

I’ve strived hard to make my business the solution. Rather than thinking about how to sell, from day one I’ve focused on what it will solve. When a business idea solves an existing problem or fills a gap in a niche market, the customer base is almost always organic and solid and I’m grateful to have been able to achieve that.

Lastly, I started this business only because I’m truly obsessed with it. I mean, obsessed! I must love what I do in order to give it my all and more. 

bundt cakes knead some love ny

Kesar Thandai Bundt Cake with Cashew Praline (left) and Vegan Chai Tea Latte Bundt Cake with Maple Roasted Walnuts (right) / Photo courtesy of Knead Some Love NY

 8. I know you’re also operating as an online-only business, taking orders through DMs or email. Do you have any plans for a brick-and-mortar location in the future?

Absolutely! My goal is to expand this business to the greatest heights and continue to bring a piece of my culture of every single person. My vision is to have a couple of storefronts (both in NY and NJ, and hopefully nationwide) which will allow me to reach and meet with as many people as possible from different cultures. 

 9. Where in New Jersey can we find your desserts right now?

Currently, my desserts can be found in Weehawken, NJ and are available for local pickups in the NY/NJ area. I also ship these unique desserts nationwide (priority shipping) while being mindful of the delicacy and shelf life of the pastries. We’ve already shipped to over 25 states and hope to continue to spread the love globally!

To learn more about Knead Some Love NY (or for a visual treat), follow along on their Instagram page.

About the Author/s

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Abby is The Digest's Managing Editor. She spends her time looking at dogs on Instagram and eating her way around Jersey City.

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