The Kitchen Thyme Blogger Spotlight Series is a way for you and I to get to know and support the wonderful Bloggers who share their delicious recipes on Kitchen Thyme.
Meet Veena Azmanov!
Check out Veena's recipes at Kitchen Thyme!
Kitchen Thyme: Thank you for being part of our Kitchen Thyme Blogger Spotlight Series! Can you tell us where you’re from?
Veena: I am originally from Mumbai, India. I currently live in Israel, where I relocated to with my husband 13 years ago.
Before relocating to Israel, I worked and lived in Singapore.
KT: How long have you been blogging?
Veena: I started blogging after my daughter was born, in 2010. My daughter was born prematurely, on week 31, weighing less than 2 lbs., and with a rare defect in her brain. She was hospitalized for two months in the NICU, and was later diagnosed as having significant delay in her development.
As a result, my husband took indefinite leave from his job and career and stayed at home with me to take care of our daughter. That also gave us the opportunity to review our lives and think about how we want to invest our time.
I’ve decided to channel my lifelong passion for baking and cooking into a cake decorating blog, which I called “Veena’s Art of Cakes”.
After a couple of years, I decided to add a second blog for food recipes, called “A Homemade Chef”.
In Aug. 2016, I decided to combine the two blogs into one – Veena Azmanov.
In addition to the blog, I also maintain a Facebook page, a YouTube channel, an Instagram channel, and Pinterest boards. (See below.)
KT: You are an amazing cake artist! I read that you are self-taught. How did this passion for cake artistry come about?
Veena: I grew up around talented women in my family, mainly my mother and aunts who baked and cooked effortlessly.
A lot of what I know today about baking and cooking I learned from my mom. She taught my sister and I everything she knew.
And the manner in which she did it made it a fun experience, and gave precious memories and lessons that I will always treasure.
I never really thought of it as a profession. It was only years later, when my daughter was born that I decided to turn this passion into a business.
KT: Did you get your love for cooking from someone special in your family?
Veena: Yes, my mom and my godmother. They both were not just talented bakers and cooks but did it for a living. My mom was a seamstress who sewed uniforms for the local schools. And she would take orders from people for her cakes, cookies and sweets.
Since my father passed away when I was only two years old, my mom was a single-parent and the sole provider in our family. She did anything she could in order to raise her three children.
KT: Do your kids enjoy cooking with you?
Veena: Very much. Both my kids love cooking with me. Their favorite is baking cookies, French toast, pancakes, and waffles. It’s a fun form of quality time for us, as well as an empowering experience for them.
KT: The holidays are coming up. What are a few traditional holiday recipes you always make for your family?
Veena: As a kid I grew up with fruitcakes, gingerbread treats, fudge and marzipan inspired treats. So that’s still the tradition in our home today.
KT: Where do you find inspiration to create new cakes or recipes?
Veena: I love exploring new ideas for cake designs and flavors. Pinterest is a great place to find inspirations. Often, I am inspired by a concept, or a flavor combination, which will send me into the kitchen to create my own recipe.
KT: You sell your beautiful cakes and products, give baking lessons, run your blog, take photos and videos and you have children. I’m exhausted just thinking about it! What does a typical week look like at your house? How do you do it all?
Veena: Honestly, often I will look back at my week and wonder how I managed to do as much as I did. It is hectic but much less now because this year I decided to do less cake orders and focus more on blogging.
Cake decorating is fun but it is very time consuming. Hence, I realized that I spend less time with my kids. So, I decided to shift my focus to blogging and less on taking cake orders. With blogging, I am able to be more flexible with my work hours, and be more efficient with my time. As a result, I don’t need to compromise on my quality time with my family.
KT: Do you have help with your baking business? Do you have a VA (Virtual Assistant) to help with your blog or social media?
Veena: Yes, I do have help. My husband helps as much as he can. I also have a VA who does social shares for me once a day.
I use Tailwind to schedule my Pinterest, and Crowdfire social share app that helps me share on social media.
KT: What are your top 5 favorite recipes or cakes on your blog?
Veena: This is my husband’s favorite cake. I often make it in our home because we love chocolate. It’s also one of the most popular recipes on my blog.
Veena: My kids’ favorite recipes are shortbread cookies that just melt in your mouth. They are also very popular on the blog, especially with my Indian followers.
Veena: A family favorite that gets made at least once in three months. It’s so delicious, and it’s a very popular recipe with my friends.
Veena: I love bread, and growing up my mom made sandwiches with perfect square sandwich breads. Now it’s my kids’ favorite and always in the freezer ready for a quick sandwich.
Veena: One of the things I learned from my mom is how to make macarons. I love eating and making macarons. This no-fail recipe has now become a popular recipe with family, friends, and my blog visitors. Raspberry is one of my favorite flavors.
KT: You have created such a popular website. What advice would you give to new food bloggers?
Veena: I consider myself lucky that my blog is popular. The truth is that I am still learning how to blog.
My purpose is to make cake decorating and cooking a fun and empowering experience for people. I try to give them simple recipes, methods, and tips that will enable them to experience success with their baking/cooking. To do so, I work on creating quality content that’s authentic and relevant. As a self-taught baker and cook, I can relate to my readers and talk to them at eye-level.
I blog what I am good at. I blog about my passion. I put up a recipe not because it is trendy but because I like it and do it well. I make a point that all my recipes are tested and proven several times before they go on my blog.
I think the only advice I can give a new blogger is to find your passion and tell your story. Be genuine and authentic. Do something that you really believe in and love. Don’t start a food blog because everybody else is doing it, or because someone told you it’s an easy way to make money.
Start a blog about something you are passionate about. When you write about it with passion your audience will connect with you, and follow you. Success may come slowly but it will come. And if your readers become your fans, they will stay regardless of the social media platform that you happen to employ.
KT: You have a great following on social media! How much time do you spend on Social Media each day?
Veena: I’m not really a people person. Being an introvert means social media makes me nervous. I think there is a lot more that I can do on social media in terms of interaction with my followers.
However, it’s important for me to maintain direct connection to my readers and followers. So, I spend an hour or two making sure I read and reply to all their comments, messages, and questions.
KT: Do you do a lot of sponsored blog posts? Do you have a long relationship with any particular Brands?
Veena: Sponsored posts is still something I need to get into. It’s been on my list of things to add to my business portfolio. Living away from the US makes it more challenging, since most US brands prefer working with local bloggers (for obvious reasons).
Also, I’m very picky with the products I use. So, I will lend my name (my brand) only to a product that I really like, or use frequently. My reputation is my most valuable asset. I want to make sure that products and brands I work with don’t detract from it.
For example, I have a long relationship with Marvelous Molds. They make the best quality molds for cake decorating and I have been working with them for several years now. Furthermore, they are very responsive and treat their partners well.
KT: What is your favorite cookbook? Any plans to write your own cookbook?
Veena: I love cookbooks and I buy a new book almost every month. My favorite book is one I purchased years ago called “Best Ever Baking”, by Carole Clements. It’s still the book I pick when I want to create a new recipe or go back to basics.
Writing my own book has been on my mind for a while but it’s a project that needs time. Currently, I have so much on my work plan that it will have to wait a bit longer.
KT: If you could cook with a famous chef or celebrity cook, who would it be and why?
Veena: Actually, there are two: Martha Stewart and Merry Berry. Having not been to culinary school, I grew up watching and learning from their TV shows and books. Even today, If I see them cooking on a TV show I will stop my work (no matter how busy I am) and watch.
KT: You are constantly working with food. What are a few ingredients you cannot live without?
Veena: Ginger! I love ginger and I can eat candied ginger all day long. I use it in most of my meat recipes, Indian chai and sometimes in my baked treats as well.
KT: Thank you so much for joining us on the Food Blogger Spotlight and for sharing your recipes at Kitchen Thyme! I will link to your blog and social media networks below.
Veena: Thank you so much for featuring me on your ‘Blogger Spotlight.’ I’m humbled and honored that you thought of me.
BLOG: Veena Azmanov