Home bakers cater to dessert buffs with customised orders, creative spin offs and the latest in international baking trends
Bake sales, flea markets, forums like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, all helped to make 2013 the year of the home baker. Industry insiders confirm that roughly 15 new establishments dedicated to cupcakes alone have mushroomed in the city, and estimate a figure of 200 serious home bakers who have fired up their passions and their ovens, channeled the cup cake revolution and began turning out everything from delicious macaroons to artisanal breads, cake pops and exquisite sugar crafts. We explore further.
Growing up in a family of bakers and talented chefs who always took the DIY route, from catering their own weddings to making their own wine, it came as no surprise when Niveditha Rao decided to quit her journalism job to take up baking full time. She set up The Dessert Island in early 2013 and says the response has been overwhelming. “I don’t just make desserts, I create characters and the concept is that they all live on The Dessert Island. I currently have four permanent characters on the Island — Stu the starfish, Bella the naughty nymph, Boo the gossipy ghost and Fae the fairy princess,” she shares.
Her signature bakes include decorated cookies – tedious to create but ultimately worth all the pain, cupcakes – special platters with customised toppers to suit the occasion, and macaroons, a dessert she describes as, “the most finicky to make.”
Moist chocolate cupcakes are her favourite treats and she makes them her own way with her special topping of dark chocolate and coffee ganache. “I like the creativity that comes with individual desserts versus big cakes,” she says.
Having a taste for dark chocolate paired with mint, Rao also favours the combination of dark chocolate and salted caramel. A dessert she would love to take up as a challenge is the flaming baked Alaska, layers of sponge cake, ice cream and meringue.
Perfect bake for
♦ A lunch date: A lemon cheesecake or a lemon meringue pie
♦ A romantic evening: Molten chocolate lava cakelets
♦ A pity party: Warm vanilla and cinnamon roll, triple choco chip and espresso cookies, chocolate fudge brownie pie
For Sunitha Anand, baking was a hobby she discovered after marriage and then turned into a passion and then a thriving home-based business – Krusts ‘n’ Krumbs. “I enjoyed making desserts and soufflés for the family so I started baking professionally. I now bake a wide variety of desserts and brownies,” she says.
Being a full-time home maker, Anand got baking professionally only later. “After my children grew up,” she says. Known for her Oreo and chocolate chunk brownies, Anand also makes a wicked strawberry cheesecake. But one treat she enjoys baking the most is a beautiful carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.
An ambitious baker, she would love to tackle the V8 cake by Adriano Zumbo, an elaborate vanilla concoction that had Australia’s very best masterchefs shuddering. For summer, she recommends a pineapple souffle and sweet corn pannacotta. The best tiramisu she had was at a small cafe in Venice, she reveals. Details: facebook.com/krustsnkrumbs
Perfect bake for
♦ A lunch date: Creme brulee
♦ A romantic evening: Strawberry cheesecake
♦ A pity party: Four chocolate trifle
Jeeva Anna George
Jeeva Anna George of Jeeva Glutenfreeliv.in took up baking seriously when she was diagnosed with celiac disease four years ago. She started baking gluten free goodies because she “could not get to eat anything she liked whether it was cake or bread.” An economist by qualification, George turns staples like brown rice, ragi and millets into delectable cupcakes, croissants, and gourmet breads to cater to people who suffer from celiac and for those looking for healthy alternatives.
Launched in September 2013, glutenfreeliv.in promotes a gluten free lifestyle with three areas of operation, Jeeva bakes – ideating, making and selling gluten free products, Jeeva guides – being a consultant to the Indian retail industry and Jeeva initiates – spreading awareness on celiac and spear-heading talks with government and policy makers in consultation and co-ordination with gluten free manufacturers, doctors and the celiac community in India.
Having tried her hand at chocolate flourless cake, which she says was a walk in the park, the most difficult thing she has baked till date is a gluten free croissant, but the thing that keeps taking her back to her oven are cupcakes because “they are cute and not very time consuming.” Idolising Nicole Hunn of Gluten Free on a Shoestring, George recommends strawberries and cream for a summer sugar fix and creme brulee for winter. Details: glutenfreeliv.in
Perfect bake for
♦ A lunch date: Any pasta bake
♦ A romantic evening: Baked chicken breast fillets with herbs and a salad on the side
♦ A pity party: Lasagna
For someone who discovered the joy of baking only three years ago, Purbasha Saha of Sweet Nothings is already at the top her game. Saha’s five-year stint in New York city exposed her to the decadent world of French desserts and cake art and once back in the country, she decided to channel her new found love into a business venture.
“Pushed by my near and dear ones I started home baking for clients,” she says. “Baking also helps me de-stress and rejuvenate much like my power yoga,” adds the lead space analyst for a multi-national retail company. Saha has created everything from two-minute microwave brownies – a ‘quick fix for midnight cravings’, to multi-layered, complicated entremets and New York style cheese cake to dark chocolate truffle cake – her signature bake. But what she does on a daily basis is customise cakes for special occasions like weddings, baby and bridal showers, birthday parties and corporate events.
“I am self taught. Much of my learning is the result of trial and error and many sleepless nights. There were moments of sheer joy and also tears and disappointments. But I believe this is the most exciting way to learn,” she concludes. Details: facebook.com/poohcakes
Perfect bake for
♦ A lunch date: A tart or pie
♦ A romantic evening: Cheesecake or mousse
♦ A pity party: Triple chocolate brownie
Bloosom Fernandez of The CakeAiry started off her journey into baking with a oven that her mum wanted to throw out at the age 10. Picking up tips from her mum, grandmother and aunt, Fernandez also attributes her success in the industry to her ‘obviously big sweet tooth’. ‘I loved the cakes my grandmom made at home. We never ordered from a bakery,” says the chic flight attendant.
Specialising in tea cakes, cupcakes, jams, marmalades, chutneys and sauce, Fernandez takes bake orders when she is not flying. Having attempted a complicated chocolate and raspberry mousse entremet with success she would next like to try her hand at the formidable snow egg dessert by Peter Gilmore.
But her personal favourite is her version of chocolate walnut brownies, which she’s known for, as well as a banana walnut chocolate chip loaf. Favouring the classic combination of white chocolate with orange, Fernandez says that lemon curd tart, strawberry trifle and peach crumble are the perfect treats during the hot summer months while bread and butter pudding, chocolate self saucing pudding and apple pie will do great to keep you warm during the winter. A dessert that has always stayed with her is a white chocolate salted caramel tart she tried in Dubai. Details: facebook.com/TheCakeAiry
Perfect bake for
♦ A lunch date: Blueberry or strawberry cheesecake
♦ A romantic evening: Tiramisu or chocolate souffle
♦ A pity party: A gooey chocolate fondant
Nowfaleena Ebrahim’s love for baking was fuelled by watching her mum turn out decadent treats at home. But she only took it up passionately after her second child was born two years ago and then she set up Sweetenof. Ebrahim enjoys working with fresh fruits and cream, experimenting with new recipes and flavours, cupcakes, cheesecakes, gateauxs and also customises her bakes as per request. Details: facebook.com/sweetenof
Taking it up to satiate her sugar cravings during her pregnancy, Ankita Sinha graduated to fondant decoration when she decided to bake a special cake when her daughter turned two and eventually set up Mummalicious along with her friend Madhvi Raj Kiran. Originally a banker, Sinha creates elaborate theme-based cakes like a pro, her most challenging being a Rapunzel cake for a client. Details: facebook.com/mummalicious.bites
Famous for her delectable Swiss rolls, Lynette Lai of Cake Me Out learnt the tricks of the trade from her baking idol, her mum. Originally from Kuala Lumpur, Lai has lived in England and Denmark, before she moved to India a year ago. Currently the head of her own company, Exchange-Ops Media, her other signature bakes are salted chocolate shortbread and carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. Details: facebook.com/CakeMeOut
- Rashmi Rajagopal