The Birmingham-based pastry chef runs a burgeoning bakery business in her native Estonia, managing orders for handmade chocolates, cakes and desserts via the internet from her UK home.
Sandra balances her business interests with the demands of her university studies, a food blog – and has just published her second cookery book.
Did I mention she is only 21?
Unlike the “been there, seen that” format of far too many bakery books, “The Art of Pastry“ (or “Magusakunst“ in Estonian) is based on an innovative concept: Sandra has picked 20 of her favourite berries and fruits and devised three recipes for each central ingredient.
Each berry or fruit provides the inspiration for a cake, a dessert and kupsetis (which, I am reliably informed, roughly translates as “something baked”). Blueberry is brought to gastronomic life as a mojito-flavoured blueberry Eton Mess-style cake; as a rice pudding with a blueberry mousse and blueberry jelly; and as a coconut and blueberry cheesecake.
Elsewhere in “The Art of Pastry” there are sweet riffs on pomegranate, passion fruit, nectarine, pear, plum, lingonberry, rhubarb and so on. It is a beautifully photographed collection but, for now at least, it is only available in Estonia. So make some noise with publishers. With her undeniable talent, Sandra is a star in waiting.
During the Christmas break, she flew home to Tallinn for the official book launch but she will return to University College Birmingham in 2015 to continue a degree in Food and Consumer Management. The course, she says, will boost her skills in key areas such as recipe development and food styling.
Sandra says: “In the interest of development, one needs to step out of the comfort zone to discover, learn, and to gain experience.”
She turned to cooking with a passion when she gave up dancing, after 12 years. “My knees and my hips were broken,” she tells me over coffee.
“I started cooking when I was about 15 or 16. I would help my mum, rolling out the pastry. I took over from my mum when I was 18 and now I am the only one making the cakes and pastries.”
Sandra says she is fascinated by the process of baking, and the final taste, but doesn’t actually eat any of her own creations. “I enjoy baking for others,” she says. It sounds like a dream pastry chef, doesn’t it?
“I don’t have a favourite cake or dessert. I don’t like to make one thing and serve it all the time. When I bake something, I see it – and move on to the next one. I can’t tolerate routine. It kills my imagination.”
Sandra pays tribute to her lecturers at University College Birmingham for continuing to inspire and challenge her development as a pastry expert. “The passion of the chef lecturers really affected me at UCB. I felt I had so much energy and needed to do something. I had so many recipes that were waiting to have something happen to them.”
Needless to say, Sandra is already working on an idea for her third book as her company Sentjurin Food Production (sentjurinfoodproduction) goes from strength to strength. The business has carved out a niche providing small desserts at festivals in Estonia. Don’t bet against seeing a stall with Sandra’s cheesecakes, made with super creamy stark, at Glastonbury before too long.