Spotlight on Monsoon Sweets

A friend of ours, Roopa Kalyanaraman Marcello, just launched her new company called Monsoon Sweets.  She was kind enough to talk to us about it and share some photos, which are in the gallery at the bottom!

RC: What inspired you to launch Monsoon Sweets?
Roopa: At the young age of eight, dissatisfied with cakes from local bakeries, I started baking cakes for my family members’ birthdays – including my own. As a budding scientist and musician, it made sense that I fell in love with the combination of precision and creativity that baking requires. Over the following years, I spent many hours watching cooking shows, poring over cookbooks, and making many cakes, cookies, and other treats from scratch. After I moved away from NYC in my mid-twenties, I found myself with a lot more free time, so I dove headlong into baking. It was at that time that I started developing my own recipes and incorporating the flavors of the foods I grew up eating – among them cardamom, ginger, coconut, and curry powders – and my friends and family loved these unique sweets.

Despite my day job in public health, I continued to follow my passion of baking, regularly coming up with new recipes, and sharing them with friends and family. Over the years, I’ve baked thousands of cupcakes, several wedding cakes, hundreds of birthday cakes and cookies, and even a 500-piece dessert bar for my own wedding!

Along the way, my creations have earned praise from respected voices in the food community. Several years ago, I was invited to create a cake for the restaurant Dirt Candy’s second anniversary celebration; this chocolate-Thai green curry cake is now one of my most loved flavors. My cakes and sweets have also won numerous prizes at the Brooklyn Food Experiments, including several first prizes from both attendees and judges, which have included Bon Appetit’s Andrew Knowlton, the New York Times’ Melissa Clark, and Food52’s Amanda Hesser. At those events, I realized just how much I loved sharing my baked goods with new people.

In early 2017, I finally decided to launch Monsoon Sweets. I’m so excited to share my distinctive sweets with people across New York City and beyond.

RC: You mentioned that you incorporate flavors that you grew up eating.  Are there any family recipes or especially nostalgic treats you bake?

Roopa: Sweets were rare in my house, as none of us has a sweet tooth and so my mom only made them for holidays and other special occasions. Furthermore, Indian sweets are made on the stovetop (no baking!) and are completely different from American classics like cakes and cookies. However, the flavors of these desserts really took a hold of me. As I grew older, I noticed that they were never used in cakes and cookies, so I started to incorporate them into my baked goods. My signature flavor, a pistachio-cardamom cake with rosewater buttercream, is a nod to the most commonly used – and my favorite – flavors in Indian sweets.
 RC: You created a chocolate-Thai green curry cake for the restaurant Dirty Candy. That sounds delicious and very creative!  Can you give us some examples of some of your other unique creations when baking?
Roopa: I’d say that all of my flavors are unique. I’ve never really seen any Indian or other South and Southeast Asian flavors incorporated into cakes and cookies, which is why I’m so excited to have finally launched Monsoon Sweets and share things like mango lassi and chocolate red curry cakes and masala chai and turmeric-ginger cookies!
RC: Many people think baking is very meditative.  Are there any rituals you follow when you bake, such as listening to a certain type of music?
Roopa: I actually enjoy working in silence. I love music and almost always have something good on, but I have two kids so I value quiet time! The silence helps me focus and I find that I’m more creative when I’m decorating when left to my own thoughts.
More about Monsoon!
Monsoon Sweets is currently taking custom orders for summer and fall 2017 and we would love to make a cake, cupcakes, or other treats for your next celebration. We’ll also be at the Hester Street Fair on select Saturdays through the end of October with petite cupcakes, cookies, and seasonal specials. Check our website for the most updated schedule and follow us on Instagram to see what we’re baking! 
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