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Meet Hajra Khan

Today we’d like to introduce you to Hajra Khan.

Hi Hajra, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstories with our readers?
My love for baking began as a young child, around the age of 10. My mom made the best chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting and sprinkles for all my school events, and baking with her was always my favorite pastime. Later, throughout my university studies, making a cake or brownies was how I relaxed during my time off. After finishing law school, I wanted to stay connected to baking while continuing my legal career, so I started my custom cake business, Just Us Cupcakes (“Just Us” being a play on the word “Justice”).

While I value and love my legal profession, my baking career, lets me explore my creative side through bold color palettes, interesting flavor combinations, and edible art forms. I make custom cakes, cupcakes, cake pops, decorated cookies, and many more delicious, beautiful treats. Working as a practicing lawyer, while running a baking business, has been able to provide me with the best of both worlds.

My small business has grown significantly since I started, both in my clientele and the kinds of products I offer. I have had amazing opportunities to work with internationally renowned brands such as Wilton Cake Decorating and have been featured in various media and print publications.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Starting any small business is always the hardest part of running a small business, particularly when you are trying to figure it out on your own as a solo entrepreneur. I’ve been lucky to make some great friends both in and outside of my local area from the baking industry who I can call on for great advice.

One of the challenges I faced was pricing my products to reflect the value, time, and effort that goes into making them. The custom desserts, I make are made with the utmost attention to detail. Every aspect of the final edible creation must not only taste delicious, but it should be a work of art my clients are proud to show off at their events. An important aspect of my role as a custom cake and dessert designer is the education of clients with respect to the cost of custom desserts and the work that goes into producing them. I was always confident that I was able to produce beautiful and delicious items; it was the marketing, figuring out who my ideal clientele was, and knowing how to charge what my creations are worth that was the challenge.

As the saying goes, “experience is the teacher of all things” and much of my business success comes from learning from my mistakes, just as much as my successes. I’m proud of my creations and what I offer my clients.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
My signature style is bold, colorful, and vibrant! Popping color palettes are especially important for me in my creations that involve my Muslim faith and its traditions. My signature Hijabi doll cookies always have brightly colored outfits (I always change the style of outfits depending on the client’s request) and represent different races. In addition to making desserts for holidays like Easter and Christmas, I also make special creations to mark the significant months and occasions of the Muslim faith, such as Ramadan and Eid. Similarly, my Ramadan and Eid-themed cakes and cookies combine traditional Islamic symbolism with Western cake decorating mediums like buttercream and fondant.

What sets me apart from other bakers is my love of experimenting with different flavor combinations, bold color palettes, and my embracing of various aspects of the cultural identity of myself and my clients. I incorporate these and other client requests into my custom creations. My clients enjoy trying out my flavor pairings. Some of these combinations are pretty common in other parts of the world, but not often experienced by the average North American palate. My cinnamon-chili chocolate cake is very popular. The red chili powder gives an unexpected kick of heat in a pleasant way without being overpowering. My mango lassi cake, with its flavors of mango and cardamom, is always a big hit! Top it with mango buttercream, and it tastes just like a popular drink! Hot chocolate bombs have exploded in popularity recently, but I like to put my own twist on them and make Kashmiri chai bombs and other flavors inspired by various tea flavors.

Recently, I also added South Asian sweets such as Jalebi, Barfi, and Nankhatai cookies as custom desserts I offer clients, as well as colorful chocolate bonbons. Some of my bonbon flavors include Mango-rose and chai spice. Treat boxes with customized treats such as chocolate-covered Oreos, sugar cookies, and cakesicles have also been very popular! Clients love choosing their color themes and the treats they want to fill them with. My creations are a way for me to express myself, and to provide my clients with beautiful and unique items that celebrate their diversity.

Last year, Wilton Enterprises, the global leader in cake decorating inspiration, instruction, and products, featured me and some of my creations on their social media channels. This feature led to Wilton inviting me to collaborate with them and create a cake for their Winter/Holiday Campaign. A huge milestone for me was Wilton again inviting me earlier this year to collaborate with them to make a creation for Eid-Ul-Fitr. I was also asked to write a blog post explaining the significance of this Muslim holiday and sharing a recipe for a traditional South Asian dessert, eaten on this special occasion.

This was a proud moment for me, and the Muslim community, as it was the first time Wilton had commemorated the holiday on their social media channels and website. For me to be a big part of it was quite memorable and exciting. It really showed me how far I’ve come in my baking journey. For me, my baking business isn’t just a business; it’s a way for me to truly collaborate with a client and to turn their dessert vision into a real-life stunning piece of edible art.

Can you tell us more about what you were like growing up?
Growing up, I was a very studious child but also very creative. Coming from a family composed of mostly medical professionals, education in the math and sciences was very important, but I also really enjoyed art, and in my spare time, baking. Before I went to law school, I completed my Bachelors of Science with Honors in Biochemistry.

Chemistry was a subject I excelled in and in a way, my love for baking was an extension of my love for science. The combination of various chemicals, their reactions, and the beautiful changes that could be made were always exciting for me. Similarly, in baking, there are always chemical reactions going on and the most amazing, delicious creations to be made. As a child, art class was always one of my favorite classes in school. Painting, drawing, clay work; I loved it all.

I never lost this love and it is a big inspiration for me and in my never-ending love of learning new cake decorating techniques and mediums. Studying new things, whether it is different recipes and why they work how they do or the use of new materials in cake decor, is always fun for me and is all part of the journey in becoming better at my craft.

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Hajra Khan of Just Us Cupcakes

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