We had the good fortune of connecting with Hajra Khan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Hajra, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
My love for baking began 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. I never thought I would be working as a practicing lawyer while running a baking business, but here I am, and it’s great!
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
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, and incorporating all of these 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 palette. My cinnamon-chili chocolate cake is always a big hit. The red chili powder gives an unexpected kick of heat in a pleasant way without being overpowering. Another flavor combo I really like is mango and cardamom in my mango lassi cake. Top it with mango buttercream, and it tastes just like the popular drink! Finally, vanilla, orange zest and cardamom together elevate an otherwise plain vanilla cake into something truly special. 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 outfit depending on the client’s request) and represent different races. Similarly, my Ramadan and Eid themed cakes and cookies combine traditional Islamic symbolism with Western cake decorating mediums like buttercream and fondant. My creations are a way for me to express myself, and to provide my clients with beautiful and unique items that celebrate their diversity. I was always confident that I was able to produce beautiful and delicious items; it was the marketing, figuring out what 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. Recently, 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 was a proud moment for me and 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.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’m not a Denver area native, but having been here for some time now, there are some great places I would recommend visitors to check out. For a quick but delicious bite to eat, I always love going to Gyros & Kabobs. They have the best burgers, gyros and other Middle Eastern fast foods, like chicken shawarma. For a great experience in authentic Pakistani cuisine, I highly recommend the always delicious Naan Curry Grill. The Tandoori chicken is always perfect and their breakfast/brunch special of chana masala (chickpea, tomato and onion curry) with pooris (flaky fried flatbread) and halwa (semolia pudding) is an iconic dish everyone should try! Denver is perfectly located in the middle of lots of natural beauty. A short drive from Denver, in Colorado Springs, is the Garden of the Gods. This majestic park has stunning sandstone formations and hiking trails. The jeep tour is always fun to take guests on and there are endless opportunities for great photos. The U.S. Olympic Training Center, also located in Colorado Springs, is one of two campuses created as a training facility for the United States’ Olympic and Paralympic. It’s really interesting to take a tour (given by an athlete living on the campus while training for the events) and see what goes into the life of an aspiring Olympian.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would like to dedicate my shoutout first and foremost to my mother. She cultivated my love of baking and cake decorating with simple recipes when I was younger. Whether it was true or not, she always enjoyed tasting everything I made, always said it looked beautiful and inspired me on my baking journey. My husband and children have been great cheerleaders for me as well, supporting my endeavor in turning my love of baking from a hobby into a business and are always excited to see what I’m creating next. Finally, my siblings have also been there every step of the way with me, watching me grow in my baking journey and encouraging me through it all. They are always there with an honest critique of a new recipe or rave reviews of a family favorite!
All images property of Hajra Khan, Just Us Cupcakes.