The divine maker
A delicious mouth-watering piece of cake with soft buttery icing is something you can enjoy at any time of the day. Does ‘Divine’ situated down Greenpath in Colombo, ring a bell?
The Divine cakes are well-known but Manel Fernando, the person behind it all prefers to stay in the background. The idea came from ‘Green Cabin’ she says which had a really good chocolate cake. She wanted to make chocolate cake like that and that is how it all started 22 years ago, with her friends encouraging her. She had all the equipment necessary for baking but needed a bigger oven if she were to take on more orders. So she invested Rs.30,000 for this oven which, in fact, she still has.
The business expanded by word of mouth, she says recalling how she used the money she made to buy more equipment needed.
She started off on September 25, 1985 and as Christmas was approaching, she also tried her hand at making Christmas Cake. At the end of the season, she had made quite a profit and was more than thrilled with what she had accomplished, “I never though it’d be big – I was really thrilled with the first profit,” she said.
It was Alagi Muthukumaru, who taught her how to bake cakes and make puddings and courses, she says, and in fact, she had advised Mrs. Fernando to be careful because making profits when running a business at home was not very easy.
“I can’t say I had a great flair for cooking,” she adds modestly but recalls how she used to watch her mother baking the Christmas cake and help out when there were dinners at home. “I can’t believe it myself that it’s come this far,” she says, adding that she started off at her parents’ home and operated from there for around five to six years.
Last September Divine also opened up a new outlet at Rajagiriya, which is doing well it seems, and Mrs. Fernando says it is mainly thanks to her new chef, S.M. Lameer who has worked abroad and also at Trans Asia Hotel.
Chef Lameer has added to the line-up of goodies with design cakes, dessert cakes, tiramisu and cut pieces of cakes because there are those who like to take a few pieces instead of a whole cake.
There are éclairs with various toppings, meringue, lemon cake, Swiss rolls and date cake with butterscotch topping, just to name a few. “People want variety,” and “now we have quite a variety,” she said.
With business growing, Mrs. Fernando is glad that now that there is someone to take over the business - her son Nalin. He wants to expand from cakes to pasta, lasagne and other items and has already got a chef for this purpose. They hope to put these in supermarkets in convenient packs that can be taken home, warmed up and eaten, like in the West. "He's got plans!" she smiles.