Cake Day: Here's a handy guide on how to bake up a storm!

Nov 26, 2016, 10:52 IST | Shraddha Uchil

Bake up a storm in celebration of Cake Day today. If you don’t know where to begin, here’s a handy little manual

This was an engagement cake for a bride who loves the sea. The three tiers are each a different flavour — Nutella Hazelnut Crunch Cake, Salted Caramel Toffee Cake, and Coconut Cream Cake. Pic courtesy/Heena Punwani
This was an engagement cake for a bride who loves the sea. The three tiers are each a different flavour — Nutella Hazelnut Crunch Cake, Salted Caramel Toffee Cake, and Coconut Cream Cake. Pic courtesy/Heena Punwani

The first cakes are believed to have been created in Egypt and Greece, and started out as honey-sweetened discs of bread. Today, cake is eaten all over the world, in a myriad of forms. The United States of America even celebrates Cake Day on November 26 every year, a day that is now followed here in India too. If you are a home baker or thinking of becoming one, here’s a guide to help you get started.

Heena Punwani. Pic courtesy/Thomas Zacharias
Heena Punwani. Pic courtesy/Thomas Zacharias

From the pro: Heena Punwani
Having worked for six years as a software engineer, Heena Punwani decided to pursue her passion and traded her laptop for a chef’s apron. She trained at Ferrandi, a prestigious school of culinary arts in Paris, France, and honed her skills at a French patisserie called Carette. After returning to Mumbai, she worked as Pastry Chef at Ellipsis. Today, she runs a kitchen creating made-to-order cakes, eclairs and other sweet treats, and is also the Pastry Chef Consultant for The Bombay Canteen.

Tips and tricks
>> Mise en place (a French culinary phrase meaning “everything in its place”) is important. Weigh your ingredients and keep them ready before you set out to bake. This is not just something they do on TV shows; it’s crucial to follow this even in a professional kitchen or at home. It helps you be more organised, and saves you the panic that comes with realising halfway through that you’re missing something.

>> When you’re baking something new, read the entire recipe before you begin.

>> Use salt in your desserts — it helps balance out flavours better. When you’re making caramel, add a little salt to it.

>> Clean as you go. When you’re done with one task, clear the mess and only then begin with the next step.

>> If you’re attempting a massive baking project, don’t try to finish everything in one go. Break the process into a few parts and deal with them one by one.

Supplies and equipment
>> Crawford Market stocks all ingredients and tools you’d need to bake. Get equipment like moulds, blowtorches, weighing scales and piping bags from a store called Saria Stove Depot. Stec India, meanwhile, has equipment required in professional kitchens.

>> Another great place to look for high-quality supplies is amazon.com. The e-commerce website ships to India, and the shipping and handling charges aren’t too high.

>> Invest in Silpat (a silicone baking mat that can be used instead of parchment paper and greased pans). It’ll last you really long.

>> If you’re looking to go the professional way, it would be wise to invest in KitchenAid appliances. However, don’t think you can’t manage without this. A hand mixer works equally well.

What’s trending?
Galaxy cakes are the new big thing on social media. A lot of bakers are now experimenting with éclairs, too. They’re fun to play around with — I’ve made salted caramel eclairs and apple pie ones as well.

From the punter: Ankiet Gulabani
Ankiet Gulabani is a freelance food writer based in Mumbai. You can follow him on Instagram, where he posts stunning photographs of everything he bakes or cooks for his family and friends. For recipes, head over to his blog, Belly Over Mind.

Ankiet Gulabani
Ankiet Gulabani

Tips and tricks
>> Your ingredients should be at room temperature. I cannot stress this enough, because being slack with this has led to some pretty disastrous frosting in the past.

>> A good substitute for cake flour in international recipes: For every cup of cake flour, measure out an equal amount of all-purpose flour, then remove 2 tbsp from it and replace with 2 tbsp of cornflour.

This chocolate cake (centre) is moist, dark and crumbly with luscious swirls of buttercream that taste like mousse. I made these as mini tiered cakes, perfect for two. You bake this as a sheet cake, then cut out rounds with a large cookie cutter and pile them high with icing. Pics courtesy/Ankiet Gulabani
This chocolate cake (centre) is moist, dark and crumbly with luscious swirls of buttercream that taste like mousse. I made these as mini tiered cakes, perfect for two. You bake this as a sheet cake, then cut out rounds with a large cookie cutter and pile them high with icing. Pics courtesy/Ankiet Gulabani

>> The toothpick test to tell if a cake is done doesn’t always work, because with moist chocolate cakes or dense zucchini and carrot loaves, the stage where some crumbs stick to the toothpick is when you should take them out of the oven.

>> Treat your layered cakes to a soaking liquid, even if this means just sugar syrup, to retain moistness and help it continue tasting fresh. Pour this over the cake after poking it a few times with a toothpick.

The Japanese cheesecake is light and airy. It marries the bounce of an angel food cake with the smoothness of a traditional cheesecake
The Japanese cheesecake is light and airy. It marries the bounce of an angel food cake with the smoothness of a traditional cheesecake

>> Several cake recipes on the Internet call for the use of buttermilk, but I end up whisking an equal amount of watered-down yoghurt that we make fresh at home.

Supplies and equipment
>> Arife Lamoulde, which has two branches (Crawford Market and Bandra), stocks baking equipment and supplies. Certain equipment like bundt pans can be picked up at Cheap Jack in Bandra, where the quality is better.

>> Most ingredients are now easily available at stores in the city. When it comes to fruits, I use only seasonal ones when I’m baking, but if you’re looking for exotic fruits, Pali Market in Bandra is a good option.

>> Invest in a good quality balloon whisk, if you don’t have one already. This helps not deflate your eggs when incorporating them in your dry ingredients like flour.

>> If you’re going to be baking often, invest in a simple oven thermometer; at Rs 250, it’s a steal. But, at the end of the day, always know your oven’s temperament.

What’s trending?
Crepe cakes seem to be big right now. They’re exactly what they sound like — cakes made out of crêpes. The best part is that they’re ridiculously easy to make — stack crepes one on top of the other, and layer them
with cream.

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