San Jose high school student Shrobana Sengupta was looking forward to celebrating her 16th birthday and participating in some exciting extra-curricular activities, when COVID struck and put a stop to all those plans.
But rather than languishing in disappointment, the enterprising teen started baking — for a cause. While the rest of us were popping cookie mixes in the oven for a dose of quarantine comfort, Sengupta was whipping up batches of home-baked macarons to raise money for charity.
She first tackled making the delicate French confection, a difficult-to-make cookie that her mother had warned her was “temperamental,” for Mother’s Day. Her success kicked off a tasty obsession.
“Before I knew I was baking macarons every night and thinking of unique flavors and fillings every waking moment,” Sengupta wrote in a Medium post in August. Soon, she was selling her macarons online and donating the proceeds.
Since then, Sengupta has baked at least 10,000 macarons, she estimates, and raised close to $6,000 for a variety of causes, including Sunday Friends, an organization dedicated to helping families in poverty, St. Jude's Children's Hospital, the Cure Alzheimer's Society and senior homes around the Bay Area.
“I bake every night," she says.
Customers can choose from an impressive range of flavors, from classic to cutting-edge — such as cinnamon toast, Harry Potter-style butterbeer, and maple bacon buttercream — in boxes of six or 12.
“Mango Tajin and my Indian fusion flavors (Gajar Halwa, Ras Malai, Chai and Gulab Gulkand) are very popular,” Sengupta tells Hoodline.
Sengupta tells us that she’s constantly coming up with new flavors. “For Valentine's Day I am planning red velvet cheesecake, orange creamsicle, dark chocolate ganache, rose and cream, and pina colada,” she says. “I will also have some savory flavors soon.”
The creative teen says she’s been baking since fourth grade, and her macaron endeavor isn’t her first foray into philanthropic entrepreneurship: She’s been selling handmade cards and donating the proceeds for years.
And she’s not about to rest on her laurels anytime soon, either. Upcoming projects include teaching classes, in order to raise more money to donate, and maybe even developing a book of recipes for fusion desserts, Sengupta says.
“I am learning the ropes of what it takes to be an entrepreneur,” she wrote on Medium.
“I don’t know if this would have happened if we were not in quarantine.”
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