The proof is in the pastries

What started as a joke has become a Brandeis smash hit! Lydia Begag ’22 started That Bitch Baking, found at @thatbitchbaking on Instagram, as a joke back in September 2020, but she has made a lot of progress since then. The idea was simple: Begag bakes and donates half of her proceeds to Brandeis Mutual Aid. When she first spoke with The Brandeis Hoot, she had donated about $200 in her first two weeks. Currently, over 100 orders have been placed and Begag has donated $1420.80 to Brandeis Mutual Aid (BMA), as Begag continued to donate even as her business unexpectedly expanded. 

“It’s kind of crazy still to think about,” Begag said in a follow-up interview with The Hoot last weekend. “It’s expanded in a lot of ways … ways I didn’t expect.” Proceeds aren’t the only aspect that has grown: Begag has learned so much in her experience with this, even updating her menu for the spring semester, changing the menu and experimenting with new flavor combinations.

“I’ve learned a lot about mass-producing desserts and still entertaining good quality,” she mentioned, before adding that she has also gained insight to preferences of customers. 

She also learned “the importance of just being gracious and easy on [herself].” The COVID-19 pandemic is a constant threat, making “intense times when things are so malleable.” Even despite these challenges, Begag was “so glad” to have started. She enjoyed making an impact for BMA and the little thrills of her hard work being recognized or acknowledged in chatter around campus, she told The Hoot. 

When we spoke last, her favorite recipe was for her flourless chocolate cake. While she still loves that classic, her lavender blackberry (cup)cake(s) has become her new favorite. She described the baking process as infusing lavender into the batter, adding lavender syrup to the baked good and then adding lavender flakes to the frosting in order to make sure the taste is present among the sugar and sweetness of the pastry and fruit. Her most under-appreciated pastries this semester are her pies, but she relates that to the changes in the weather, saying they were very popular in the fall, but recognizes that seasonal changes make a huge difference.

Though Begag is booked through the end of the semester, a few lucky people were able to snag her cookie jar kits, part of Gifted Givers in this year’s Festival of the Arts. Ingrid Schorr, the director of the Festival of the Arts, reached out to Begag this past winter about participating and Begag recalled being excited, calling Gifted Givers “an amazing thing.” Begag made a dozen cookie jars filled with everything one needs to make Lemon White Chocolate Chip Cookies, a “fun and interactive” baking project.

According to an Instagram post from @thatbitchbaking, “These 32 oz mason jars are layered with all the dry ingredients — flour, sugar, chocolate chips etc. Just add oil, eggs, and fresh lemon juice/zest to mix and follow the recipe for a delicious batch of cookies! Finished with a designed recipe card to hold onto, decorative lemon print fabric, and That Bitch 

Baking brand stickers, these jars will make the perfect gift for any baker at heart.” 

Despite the huge success of her year running That Bitch Baking, Begag is still deciding on whether or not to continue. “That’s the question of my every day,” she joked when asked about continuation. She mentioned that she hopes to work in a bakery this summer to further learn about the craft and “build on the joy” of baking. Potentially, Begag may take “orders by request only” if customers reach out to her over the summer, but she is not planning on being open like she’s been during the semester. As for her senior year, she knows that her schedule may not allow her to continue. Next year is “all up in the air right now.” 

“It’s senior year,” she commented, “there’s going to be a lot of change.”

Many Brandeisians already got to try her pastries, with 108 orders being placed. Begag had 46 orders in the fall and 62 orders this spring, an increase of 34 percent. She also worked with various campus clubs, like Relay For Life at Brandeis University and the Campus Activities Board. Whether or not Begag continues, her impact on Brandeis is clear to see. The proof is in the pudding … or rather, the proof is in the pastries! 

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