One staple of common wisdom is that to be successful you should “follow your passion.” If that’s true, one enterprising young woman in Middlesex County is surely on the path to success as she’s combined three passions in her new business.
Rachel Saper grew up in Clovis, California, a town with very few Jews. She recalls that her family would say, “There are five Jews in Clovis, and four are in this family.” There were so few Jews, in fact, that she couldn’t form a Jewish club in high school because she couldn’t find five members.
When she graduated high school and went off to the University of California at Berkeley, Rachel soon gravitated to Chabad on campus and grew close with Rabbi Gil and Rebbetzin Bracha Leeds. She gradually cultivated a passion for observant Judaism.
While participating in the observant Jewish community on campus, she noted an absence of local kosher options. She decided to remedy that by drawing on a lifelong passion: baking. As she recollected, “I’ve always loved baking with my family and we’d do so often.” At UC-Berkeley Rachel started baking and hosting events for the frum community, which were a big hit.
Along the way, she met an observant graduate student, Noam, who was studying for his Ph.D. in chemistry. They became friends; later started dating; and in 2018 they got married.
Noam completed his Ph.D. in January 2020 and quickly got a job at Exemplify BioPharma in Cranbury, New Jersey. He and Rachel moved cross country and settled in Highland Park. They quickly joined Congregation Ahavas Achim and began to meet local families.
And then COVID-19 arrived in the area, the shuls closed, and everyone sheltered at home.
Noam’s job was secure but Rachel’s job hunt was constricted by the new conditions. (In Berkeley she had been a recruiting coordinator for a healthcare startup.) She was faced with a dilemma: What to do with all that time?
Rachel decided to draw on her passions for baking and serving the frum community. She began weekly bouts of mass baking of exquisite desserts and pastries, which she would announce on social media. She began delivering samples to different families she had gotten to know in town, which got her out walking and let her see people, from a safe social distance. (Full disclosure: I was one of the people who received some of those deliveries. They were always awesome.)
Friends encouraged her to start selling her pastries. And she said, “That’s ridiculous!” Rachel was fortunate to land a great job in May, as HR specialist at the Jewish Association for Developmental Disabilities, based in Paramus. Yet she kept baking, kept delivering, and kept hearing her friends tell her, “This is great! Start selling it!”
In February, Rachel decided, “What the heck.” With the support of Noam, who assists with the online order forms and creating a social-media presence, she launched Baked by Rachel, and the response has been very gratifying. She received nearly a dozen orders in the first week she started the business, with additional custom orders as well. In the week before Purim, the number of orders was steady, but the volume per order increased.
Each week, Baked by Rachel announces through its Facebook page (Baked by Rachel), Instagram page (baked.by.rachel) and growing email list two pastry menu items available for order, one dairy and one parve. Orders may be placed via an online form and pickups are available on Thursday night in the lobby of Rachel and Noam’s apartment building.
Noam is delighted to see his wife’s business take off, and sees it as reflective of her best midot. “Starting Baked by Rachel has just been one additional avenue for Rachel to achieve and fulfill her passion for helping others,” he said. “I think it’s safe to say that she has inherited the classic Jewish grandmother gene of ‘Are you sure you’ve eaten enough today?’ It is clear when I see her kneading challah early every Friday morning or piping fanciful designs onto cookies and cupcakes that she imbues every dessert with her utmost love and attention.”
Her clients are equally delighted to see her start her business.
“When Rachel moved to our community, she made her presence immediately felt by both her warmth and incredible baking skills,” said Sara Haarburger of Highland Park. “Rachel would constantly drop off her newest creations. and each one was better than the last. I am so happy that she is taking her skills to the next level and opening up shop for all to enjoy.”
“Rachel prepares her pastries and baked goods in custom bags and personalized notes, which make us feel like she’s baked our treats just for us,” said Daniel Moritz of Highland Park. “My wife and I really enjoyed her Russian tea cookies and hamantaschen, which both were delicious!”
“Rachel’s industrious spirit is matched only by her kindness and unfettered love of people,” said A.J. Berkovitz. “It must be these qualities that she bakes into every dessert, because her cakes and cookies are just about as close to perfect as I’ve ever tasted. Each heartwarming bite is just as good as the last, and leaves me hungry for more.”
To get on the mailing list for Baked by Rachel, send an email to: [email protected] and browse the weekly order form: tinyurl.com/bakedbyrachel