Dilek Topkara in front of her cake shop Dilekerei in Berlin.

Dilekerei – cake minus the “chi-chi”

When you watch Dilek in her pastry shop, you realise quickly that this is about far more than just fulfilling a mission. The composition of the three-storey wedding cake she is creating is almost artistic choreography. Very little “chi-chi” as she puts it, is injected into her creations. Above all, she values natural ingredients, such as fresh fruits from her parents garden.

Building something delicious with your bare hands and with just a few, simple ingredients, and then to finally have a concrete product in front of you, “that’s fascinating,” says Dilek. She carefully places the next chocolate layer onto the base of the cake. The wedding cake has been ordered for the coming weekend and will be decorated with lavender and leaves from an olive tree. 

But the hardest part of banking is not the baking or the decorating at all, says Dilek. It’s the delivery. With the sending off of every treat, precise preparations have to be made to ensure her cakes arrive safely in the hands of her customers. 

All wedding cake orders Dilek and her colleague Franzi receive are sketched out and document in great detail what the customers want.

But it isn’t just wedding cakes they produce on a daily basis. They make everything from small cakes, to tarts that they sell on weekends at Café Dilekerei on Eulerstraße, just a few steps away from their bakery. 

However, it wasn’t always easy and it took a lot of hard work for the business to become as established as it is today.

After completing her studies and working in England for several years, including London and Essex, Dilek decided to move back to Berlin, "I thought I had to come back and give something back to my hometown." Despite being a multicultural city, Berlin is still far behind London and New York in that regard. The city is slower.

In 2013, for example, the Dilekerei Café - a pun on the name Dilek, pastry and bakery - was born. The goal being to create a space for people both young and old, who all come from different backgrounds and parts of the world.

The clientele is a wonderful mix of people from everywhere - the Turkish community, international guests and Germans or neighbours all come together for the atmosphere.

The business started by taking baby steps and constantly having to overcome financial challenges. Dilek rented rooms for baking with a friend and even purchased modest equipment. With each cake she sold, she invested a little bit more towards her Dilekerei dream. "It all originated organically, we are very proud of that." It has always been about quality and not quality with Dilekerei, from the outset and throughout. 

Dilek wanted the same atmosphere in her shop to be reflected in her bakery, and a priority of hers was to create a working environment in which women felt comfortable. Her employee, Franzi, for example, has just returned to her job as a baker after her maternity leave. Her working hours are flexible and divided up so she can have a comfortable work/life balance. Ensuring these women have a secure job is crucial to Dilek. "We are a modern company that takes into account modern problems. Especially as a woman."

As a so-called Host-Entrepreneur for the Erasmus program for young entrepreneurs, Dilek focuses specifically on supporting young female candidates. A young entrepreneur from Istanbul will soon spend a few months in the pastry shop to gain professional experience.

Dilek, who herself was a participant in the program a few years ago in England, wants to support the program however she can. As a program alumnus, she also lectured as a female entrepreneur on events in Strasbourg, Brussels and Washington.

"I want to encourage people to do what they want to do. If you have an idea, believe in it and bring the necessary skills to the table, then you have nothing to be afraid of.” You can only learn when you try and you’ll gain a great deal of knowledge and experience along the way.

Dilek believes that self-employment gives you a lot of experience that you would otherwise find difficult to acquire. But having other people around you who also believe in you and your idea is crucial. "I had many mentors and people who believed in me. The project only got on its feet because they supported me.”

Her sister, for example, did the photography for her book "Torten Törtchen Tartes". She also helped her to set up her Instagram Channel at the very beginning. Nowadays, Dilek photographs and shares her creations to a following of over 6,000 subscribers.

Accepting card payments in her café wasn’t clear from the outset. She envisioned an old-fashioned cash register, that fit the decor, to be more appropriate. But when she switched to SumUp she noticed how everyday business life because instantly uncomplicated. Customers were jumping to buy more cake, or even her cookbook as a gift because they weren’t concerned about having enough change. 

Back in her bakery, and the wedding cake is almost ready. After brushing every layer with a coat of cream, she places it in the fridge. In the end, all that’s missing is the decoration – lavender, leaves from an olive tree, currants, raspberries, blackberries and plums. Once again proving that “chi-chi” isn’t necessary. The natural play of colours from the fruits is fascinating enough.

Dilek owns Café Dilekerei located in Berlin’s Gesundbrunnen area. The café is open on Saturdays and Sundays and serves up some seriously delicious cakes and tarts. Café Dilekerei uses the SumUp POS Pros system and can be found on Instagram.

Julia Maehler