Bring home the season’s flavours: Here’s how to make baking a cakewalk

Bring home the season’s flavours: Here’s how to make baking a cakewalk

Namrata Kohli | New Delhi

Among the indoor hobbies that became most popular during the Covid-19 pandemic was baking. And it wasn’t just a passing fad.

Baking as a hobby almost united the world, as people brimming with ideas turned to social media to showcase their skills with cakes and bakes. Come Christmas and New Year, and kitchen pros around the world get creative with cakes, cupcakes and pies.

No wonder, in anticipation of the New Year, many bakeries in your city are unveiling their special offerings. To get a flavour, sample this: ‘Angels in my Kitchen’, a retail bakery and patisserie chain is set to unveil a strawberry-themed menu that will be available till Valentine’s Day, followed by Mango cake!

A shift in preference

“We noted a shift in the Indian market’s preference towards natural and authentic ingredients,” says Sumedha Singhal, marketing head at ‘Angels in my Kitchen’. She adds that the bakery chain, in response, elevated the recipes by incorporating fresh dairy cream, real fruits and in-house crafted chocolate into cakes. Its 500 g cakes are priced between Rs 500 and Rs 800, while 1 kg offerings range from Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,500.

Ferns N Petals launched its latest offering, Bento Cakes, weighing between 250 g and 300 g. Priced at Rs 449 onwards, these come in flavours like butterscotch, truffle, chocolate, black forest, red velvet and pineapple.

This year the brand is reportedly experiencing a surge in its cake business, with 22-25% growth in orders. Bento cakes represent the perfect fusion of innovation and tradition, says Udyat Gutgutia, Director Category at FNP. “A huge hit in Southeast Asian countries, these fun-sized, visually appealing cakes have become a global trend. We’re gearing up for over 500 daily orders. And that’s just the beginning,” says Gutgutia.

Growing demand

The size of the Indian bakery market has reached $12.6 billion in 2023, according to market research and management advisor IMARC Group, which expects it to grow to $29.4 billion by 2032. That’s 9.6 per cent compound annual growth rate between 2024 and 2032.

The growing population and changing consumer preferences, driven by influences — such as Western food trends, increased consumption and expanding retail and e-commerce sectors — are fuelling the growth/demand of the Indian bakery market. This, in turn, is prompting bakers to introduce healthier options and invest in R&D to meet the evolving consumer demand.

Joy of cake mixing

Five-star hotels in the national capital prefer to officially begin the Christmas season with cake mixing brunches. It’s an annual event at JW Marriott Aerocity, Eros Hotel at Nehru Place, The Lalit at Connaught Place, and Crowne Plaza in Okhla.

The cake-mixing ritual is said to be an age-old tradition, where elaborate ingredients like dry fruits, nuts and raisins are mixed with a combination of spirits and soaked for the Christmas cake.

Mandeep Bawa, a Delhi-based influencer who participates in the ritual, says: “Ten litres of alcohol combined with 45 kg cherries and 150 kg of prunes, cashews and raisins with batter, and so on. It brought the child out of me and there was so much fun and laughter.”

Baking tricks and tips

Baking a cake can be fun at home too. Many take up baking as a hobby or a way to relax. Some even find it therapeutic. But how does one get the recipe right for a modest cake at home? They say there’s one genius base recipe of a cake, and if you can master flavour, you can make six — just by adding, not subtracting or swapping ingredients.

Here is the basic recipe of a Sponge Cake, shared by Omkar Dabanee, head chef and R&D at Paul & Mike Chocolates, India-based cocoa farmers and fermenters who make cakes and chocolates.

Keep the basic ingredients ready for a simple sponge cake.

Ingredients: 1.5 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 cup of castor sugar, a quarter tbsp of baking powder, a half tbsp of baking soda, one-eighth tbsp of salt, 1 cup of milk, 5 tbsp of melted butter and 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar.

Method: Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Line a baking tin with parchment paper. In a bowl, sift together all dry ingredients to eliminate lumps. Mix milk and melted butter in a separate bowl, then pour over the dry ingredients. Carefully mix the batter with a spatula or whisk, avoiding over-mixing. Add apple cider vinegar and mix gently. Pour the batter into the lined baking tin and bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 25-30 minutes.

Variations: Once you get the basic recipe right, you can try any number of variations. For Vanilla Sponge, simply add 1 tbsp of vanilla extract to the milk or one scraped vanilla bean. For chocolate sponge cake, add 3 tbsp of cocoa powder to the dry ingredients. For berry or Fruit Sponge cake, add chopped berries/fruit or reduced puree/jam to the milk. For nut-based Sponge Cake, add roasted and chopped nuts or nut butter/paste to the ready batter. For orange and cinnamon Sponge Cake, add 2 tbsp of cocoa powder, orange zest, and one-fourth tsp of cinnamon powder. For Coffee Cake, add 2 tbsp of cocoa powder and 1 tsp of instant coffee powder to the dry ingredients. For Lemon Cake, add lemon juice and lemon zest to the batter.

Baking equipment & essentials

Baking is an art and science at the same time. Although people notice and appreciate the creative part of it, they often miss the science behind. Talking of science, three important things make baking possible: Right ingredients, equipment and skills. If any of these does not perform up to the mark, we will end up serving a disaster on the plate.

Chef Nikhil Rastogi of UNOX India believes the minimum that a home baker should have are superior quality ingredients like flour, leavening agents, flavours and toppings, a good oven that distributes the heat evenly and a multipurpose dough mixer. Skills, again, need to be appropriate for the product you are trying your hands on.

And then there are some baking tools that are not mandatory but are recommended for good overall effect and presentation. These are a bread proofer or retarder unit, bread or cake slicer, dough sheeter, dough divider, bread moulding unit, specialised trays and accessories for baking in the oven, premixes and concentrates for baking ingredients, small tools like fondant cake tools, silicon matts, piping nozzles, etc.

Often the batter thickens after adding cocoa powder or nuts. Dabanee of Paul & Mike Chocolates has a quick tip: Add 2 tbsp of milk, if needed. Use only room-temperature ingredients. Ensure the oven is preheated to the right temperature. Use extracts to balance flavours and zest fruits directly into flour or sugar to preserve their flavours.

Price chart

A few baking essentials and equipment for the aspiring master baker:

Baking tools Price range (Rs)
Stand Mixers & Hand Mixers 54,000
Baking Ovens 12,449
Cake Turntables 2,500
Non-stick cake moulds  1,100
Palettes & Knives 450
Sprinkles & Sparkles 425
Hand Tools 350
Measuring Tools 290
Nozzles & Piping Bags 170-750

Source: Market Research

Source: Business Standard

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