A Year in Review: Why I Started a Pop-Up Bakery

I started MelMoon Bakes at the beginning of 2018 with a modest goal: to sell cupcakes at the Renegade Craft Fair in Fort Mason Center. After forming an LLC, obtaining a tax ID number and multiple food permits, securing a commercial kitchen, opening a business bank account, developing our logo and branding, and completing numerous other administrative tasks, MelMoon Bakes sold cupcakes at the Renegade Craft Fair in July! We went to four other fairs, including TreasureFest and the Asian Art Museum’s Holiday Market, and we provided cupcakes for the Diwali celebration at The Wing and FitBit’s holiday fundraiser. We’ve started taking private orders and baked cupcakes for folks around San Francisco celebrating birthdays and other special occasions. Check out our Pop-Up Page to see where we’ve been! This has been a crazy adventure and, looking forward to our second year, I am excited to learn more about the business side of my side hustle, focus on private orders and special events, and, as always, explore fun new recipes mixing the delightful flavors of India and Kentucky!

A question a lot of people ask me, when I tell them about MelMoon Bakes, is why I started a side hustle when I already have a career and a full time job. It’s a very good question :) It started on New Year’s Eve, in 2018, when my husband and I traveled home from India to San Francisco. We had just completed our first visit with his family as a married couple. On the flight, I was swimming in memories of pink sarees swishing past bright orange rickshaws; women on scooters, in flowery kurtas, zooming between pistachio green buildings; and neon lights flashing over the pastel temples of Tamil Nadu. The colors and vibrancy of South India inspired me, and I wanted to tap into that excitement to create something. But what?

At the same time, I was reflecting on my new marriage, only six months old, and what it meant for me and my husband to bring our two families, and our two cultures, together. My husband grew up in a Hindu family in Chennai and spent his college years studying business and engineering in Singapore. I, on the other hand, grew up in Lexington, Kentucky, immersed in America’s evangelical Bible Belt, and went to law school. Starting on opposite sides of the planet, life led us both along winding paths to San Francisco. In 2014, we swiped right on each other and fell in love. Four years later, on the plane home from India, I started to wonder if our love story would become a relic of a bygone era. I think we married at an odd time in modern history—the first time I can remember when groups and countries were actively turning their gaze away from the future and toward the past, were championing exclusion instead of inclusion, and were seeking sameness instead of diversity. What did this shift mean for us? What did it mean for our future children, who, unlike their parents, would have deep roots in two different cultures? I needed to understand my responsibility, to myself and to my family, in the face of these shifts.

And, of course, all of my thoughts were shaded by the absence of my mom, Judy. We were very close, and she died only a few months before I met my husband. I think she sent him to me, to keep me going. Her death tore a giant hole through my immediate family, and, in many ways, I lost the family support structure that formed a big chunk of my identity. Her absence at big life events, like my wedding, leaves me feeling numb and detached when I should feel excited and present. On the plane home from India, I realized how much I had struggled, during that first visit with my husband’s family, to weave myself into the fabric of their family while I was mourning the unravelling of my own. I am still rebuilding and adapting to my new life without her.

So, with all these thoughts swirling around, we flew home to San Francisco. During the winter and spring of 2018, I decided the best way to approach these three big buckets of teaming emotions was to start a side hustle, a pop-up bakery that sells cupcakes and merch mixing the flavors of India and Kentucky. I called it MelMoon Bakes, from our wedding hashtag. Mel for me, and Moon for my husband (his name means “the moon” in Sanskrit). While no substitute for a good therapist, MelMoon checks several boxes for me.

  1. It gives me a creative outlet, a space where I can be playful, use my hands, and hustle purely for the joy of hustling. Often, it feels like running an adult lemonade stand, and I love it.

  2. It gives me a voice—a way to enter the public space and celebrate the diversity in my marriage.

  3. It lets me approach and explore all the wonderful parts of my life, new and old, in a low-pressure and playful context. Planning our wedding ceremonies left me numb and exhausted, but for some reason researching and planning for MelMoon is energizing and sparks joy. So I’ll keep doing it!

Thanks for reading about MelMoon’s first year in business, and we look forward to seeing y’all in 2019!

Highlight Reel

MelMoon Bakes: Year One

Melanie BeckwithComment
Amma's Rava Bonda Recipe

Happy long weekend, y'all!  It's time to Netflix & Bake in the MelMoon household.  We're watching Ibiza and frying up some rava bonda.  Chandra's mom sent me this recipe a few years ago, before Chandra's first visit to meet my family in Lexington, Kentucky.  The bonda recipe was a hit at my Dad's holiday party and we've been frying them up ever since.

Rava bonda are deep fried balls of ghee and dough wrapped around cashew nuts.  They were Chandra's favorite snack growing up in Chennai, and they aren’t so different from the fried pickles and biscuits I grew up eating in Lexington :)


Rava (Semolina) Bonda

Semolina: a little less than 3/4 cup (160 ml)

Plain yogurt: a little over 3/4 cup (200 ml)

Raw cashew nuts: approximately 25 nuts, chopped

Salt: 1 teaspoon or to taste

Red Chili Powder: 1 teaspoon

Ghee (clarified butter): 2 heaping teaspoons

Sunflower or vegetable oil: about 1 cup (250 ml) for frying

Step One: Mix the yogurt and semolina in a bowl.

Step Two: Add the salt and chili powder to the batter, then mix in the cashews.

Step Three: Add two heaping teaspoons of ghee and mix everything well.

Step Four: Heat the oil over a low flame.  When the oil is ready for frying, create little balls of dough with your fingers.  Drop the balls into the oil one at a time.  Fry until they are dark brown and transfer to a napkin.