Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Icing on the cake: Young lawyer finds sweet success with baking business

By Teo Kermeliotis, for CNN
updated 6:06 AM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
A lawyer by day and cake maker by night, Malawian Sungeni Mtalimanja turned her passion for baking into something bigger after launching last year Sweet Temptations by Sungeni. A lawyer by day and cake maker by night, Malawian Sungeni Mtalimanja turned her passion for baking into something bigger after launching last year Sweet Temptations by Sungeni.
Sweet life
Grab a slice
Celebrating life
Commercial hub
Yummy goods
Delectable future
  • Sweet Temptations by Sungeni is a cake-making business in Malawi
  • It was launched last year by lawyer Sungeni Mtalimanja
  • She says the cake making industry is currently booming in Malawi
  • Power cuts and sourcing ingredients are major challenges, says Mtalimanja

Every week, African Start-Up follows entrepreneurs in various countries across the continent to see how they are working to make their business dreams become reality.

(CNN) -- What does temptation taste like? For the sweet-toothed army of Sungeni Mtalimanja's clients, it's all about buttermilk and cocoa dipped in a sea of dark red.

"Red velvet [cake] -- that's a big thing at the moment," says Mtalimanja, founder of Sweet Temptations by Sungeni. "A lot of people actually like that recipe."

Based in the city of Blantyre, Malawi's chief commercial and industrial hub, Mtalimanja's baking business produces all sorts of custom-made "sweet temptations" -- from delicious red velvet cakes topped with moist cream cheese frosting to fluffy chocolate cupcakes full of rich flavor.

Sungeni Mtalimanja
Sungeni Mtalimanja

Driven by passion

Yet, crafting yummy baked goods was not something the young entrepreneur had ever envisaged. A trained lawyer, Mtalimanja had been working in the local legal industry for a number of years when one day in late 2012 she began helping her sister-in-law bake desserts.

Mtalimanja was instantly hooked.

"I never knew I had this passion for cakes," she says. "Sometimes a passion comes from the comments that people make -- if people say, 'this is great, this is awesome,' you're inclined to do more, you want to explore more and you want to improve on it," adds Mtalimanja. "I want to get to the next level; I want to be different," she adds. "I'm very passionate about what I do."

Thus, last year, Mtalimanja decided to turn her passion for cake making into something bigger. Without having any formal training in baking, she launched Sweet Temptations by Sungeni -- all the while keeping her full-time law job.

Moonlighting lawyer 'draws' on cakes
'African Starbucks' ups its game

"It wasn't easy," recalls the 30-year-old entrepreneur. "I worked late nights and was up very early for a period of six months."

'Everyone wants cake'

Yet, as word spread out and orders started piling in, Mtalimanja decided to make Sweet Temptations her priority and main source of income.

"The industry is quite booming at the moment," she says.

"Cakes are very popular -- It wasn't like that before; before you could only see those cakes when you were celebrating your birthday but now it's like for any kind of celebration -- whether it'd be a bridal shower, birthday, graduation or someone who is coming home for the first time after a long time, everyone wants to get into that mood of having a cake."

Bigger dreams

Yet, running a cake business in Malawi comes with its own set of difficulties -- a beautiful landlocked country in southeastern Africa, Malawi is one of the continent's poorest nations.

"You'd get power cuts at any time of the day, especially in the evening," says Mtalimanja.

Everyone wants to get into that mood of having a cake.
Sungeni Mtalimanja, Sweet Temptations by Sungeni

Another challenge, she adds, is finding all the ingredients required, especially as client orders get more diverse -- from superheroes and football logos to hen party cakes in the shape of a female body wearing lingerie.

"Now people want to go crazy," says Mtalimanja. "They want different shapes, they want different sizes, they want different types of icing and to find that in Malawi is quite challenging -- there's been a few people who have tried to bring stuff in from overseas but obviously to get it is very expensive."

Although still at the beginning, Mtalimanja has high hopes about her startup's future.

"I want a coffee shop," she says. "I want a nice place, a cozy shop where I can have my own coffee shop and serve the cakes that I make -- that's my future plan, that's what I want to do."

Read this: 12-tier cakes and VIP toilets

Read this: Building a better future ... with bamboo

Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:48 AM EST, Mon November 3, 2014
War long made Goma a difficult place to live in, but one woman has set out to change that -- and she's using soft croissants and fresh coffee.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
When you think chocolate, you probably don't think Uganda. But if two local entrepreneurs have their way, you will soon...
updated 8:46 AM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
If someone has shined your shoes in a South African airport, it's probably thanks to Lere Mgayiya.
updated 5:24 AM EDT, Mon September 8, 2014
Meet Kemi Kalikawe, the owner of Naledi Lifestyle Store which specializes in fashion and household items in Dar es Salaam.
updated 6:44 AM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
On the streets of the Ugandan capital of Kampala, scores of vulnerable children face uncertain futures.
updated 10:00 AM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
A student works on a laptop in Nigeria.
Five digital natives from five very different African nations have come together to transform the continent's approach to education.
updated 11:50 AM EDT, Wed September 3, 2014
Translating local charm into eye-catching designs, Definition Africa is a booming t-shirt retailer staying true to its Ugandan roots.
updated 6:46 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Janet Fredman Designs transforms modest materials such as seeds, wood and leather into high-end jewelry.
updated 6:06 AM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
A chocolate truffle torte cake is seen in Vienna on April 20, 2013. Cakes and pastries are a very popular feature of Austria's cuisine. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER KLEIN (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER KLEIN/AFP/Getty Images)
A lawyer by day and cake maker by night, Sungeni Mtalimanja turned her passion for baking into a business.
updated 6:44 AM EDT, Mon August 11, 2014
In Kenya's capital city of Nairobi, a group of craftsmen are transforming bicycles into eye-catching modern furniture.
updated 8:37 AM EDT, Wed August 6, 2014
Meet the ingenious entrepreneurs wanting to get a slice of Nigeria's wedding industry cake.
updated 1:06 PM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
The dandy look has long been associated with the style of the quintessential gentleman. But certain gentlemen in various parts of Africa have now taken the look to the next level.
updated 10:07 AM EDT, Tue July 1, 2014
A general view of the Hout Bay harbour covered in mist is seen on May 8, 2010 from the Chapman's peak road on the outskirts of Cape Town. Chapman's peak road is the coastal link between Cape Town and the Cape of Good Hope. When following the African coastline from the equator the Cape of Good Hope marks the psychologically important point where one begins to travel more eastward than southward, thus the first rounding of the cape in 1488 by Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias was a major milestone in the attempts by the Portuguese to establish direct trade relations with the Far East. He called the cape Cabo Tormentoso. As one of the great capes of the South Atlantic Ocean, the Cape of Good Hope has been of special significance to sailors for many years and is widely referred to by them simply as 'the Cape'. It is a major milestone on the clipper route followed by clipper ships to the Far East and Australia, and still followed by several offshore yacht races. AFP PHOTO/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA (Photo credit should read GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images)
A Cape Town start-up which offers tours of the city in 3G Wi-Fi equipped vehicles, allows clients to upload holiday photos instantly to social media.
See the full coverage of CNN's African Start-Up -- the show that follows entrepreneurs across the continent making their dreams become reality.