Monday, September 03, 2012

The joy of baking cakes

I love to bake cakes. It's such a joyous and feel-good thing to do. But, sad, I manage to do it only occasionally - not because of reluctance or lethargy, it's more to do with insufficient time for planning while working on other priorities. How I wish baking was my profession and not just a spare time activity!
Chocolate vanilla marble cake with strawberry icing

Busy day chocolate cake with chocolate icing
In fact, I love whole lot of baked stuff - cakes, muffins, breads, buns, cookies and pizzas. Actually, I often dream of baking all of them at home, though I've tried out only cakes and muffins (because of the limitations with the oven size and shape and scheduled and unscheduled power cuts in Hyderabad). In my college days, some of my friends not only shared my  interest in baking but they've always encouraged me by sharing interesting recipes. Padma Tamirisa and Aparna Tamhane - you are always in my thoughts when I bake! Padma's recipes "Golden butter cake" and "Busy day cholocate cake" and Aparna's recipe for cookies have remained my eternal favorites. Over the years, when I got confident with the basics, I started exploring marble cakes, carrot-orange-walnut cake and banana-walnut cake.

Of late, I don't miss any opportunity to try out my skills at the oven. Thanks to Shreya, my ten-year old niece, I get constantly motivated to not only bake but also try out different types of icing/frosting. Earlier, I would feel lazy to go an extra mile and explore decoration options and hence I'd leave out the icing part of it as that proverbial 'icing on the cake' that remained a wishful thought. Now, I find immense satisfaction in 'messing' my fingers with the butter-cream-icing sugar and enjoy the colors and flavors, eventhough the icing doesn't turn out consistently well all the time. Shreya often helps me and gives ideas for icing and decoration while I learn to improve my knowledge and skills in frosting.
 Chocolate vanilla marble cake
Chocolate cake with vanilla icing and strawberry flowers
Vanilla sponge cake with chocolate icing (Maansi's b'day)
It's difficult to resist the temptation to bake when we have such a wealth on information, videos on the Internet,, and on TV, shows hosted by Rachel Allen, Nigella and of course the popular Masterchef Australia series and others. The content and presentation is simply irresistible. Even the most reluctant person would want to try out the recipes. Well, sometimes, it may be little frustrating because all the ingredients that are used in these TV shows may not be easily available in India, we may have to get them from abroad or order them online. Nevertheless, one can always learn and improvise with new ideas to accomplish the impossible.

Baking is different from regular cooking - this is what is nice about it. It demands accuracy and precision in everything - measure of ingredients, heating, cooling, decorating etc. And the best part of it is that you never know how the cake comes out after it's pushed into the oven - and I heard from the most seasoned bakers that they also have this feeling of 'suspense' till the time the cake is in the oven. For someone like me who cooks Indian vegetarian stuff all the time, it's a different experience. Normally, I don't need to use an oven for any of my regular cooking, nor do I store eggs in my fridge. Often, not having the key ingredients like eggs and butter at normal room temperature make me put off my baking plans. But whenever I plan to bake I enjoy the creative satisfaction I derive from the process of doing it and it is so very  pleasurable and de-stressing! And the best compliment I got for my cake was from my niece Maansi. Sometime, last year when she visited us, I had baked a carrot cake and I wasn't sure if she would like it. But, to my surprise, she not only liked it but found it difficult to believe that it was home-baked:) And of course, Shreya had often suggested that I start a cake shop and sell cakes in my apartments:) Well, not a bad idea!

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