It’s easy once you have the right measurements and equipment. Small wonder baking is gaining popularity among amateur cooks and in small joints

From a few odd shows, cooking has now spread to 24-hour channels, with dedicated segments for baking. Once a traditional annual birthday treat, cakes these days are finding a place in school lunch boxes, college outings, and office parties. No wonder there has been a mushrooming of small joints and home-based bakers.

“I started taking orders for cupcakes, brownies and desserts almost two years ago,” says Shivani Daga of Sweet Nothings. “It’s a rage these days,” she remarks. “People are inclined to eating fresh and natural food more than ever before, and there’s widespread awareness that commercial bakeries use old, frozen cakes made with synthetic ingredients, while home-bakers win hands down on counts of freshness, natural ingredients, hygiene and a personal touch,” she adds.

And the new media is a big help. Forums such as Home Bakers Guild on Facebook bring home-bakers together on a common platform, giving them recognition. This Guild organises Baker’s Showcases, a great way to reach out to audiences and form a customer base.

Though artisan bread-making isn’t gaining popularity, there’s amazing creativity and talent in personalised cake-making, she says. Designs range from iPhone replicas to a can balanced mid-air, pouring frothy beer into a glass mug! Her own products are the “simple-and-full-of-taste-kind; double-chocolate brownies, strawberry-filled cupcakes and Mississippi mud pie are some of my signature bakes,” Shivani explains.

For all ages

Her Sweet Nothings runs eggless-baking classes where you mix for a variety of cup-cakes, toppings and brownies, while your kids will make ‘no-bake’ cakes and chocolates in “fireless cooking”. “Married women and school / college students attend my classes,” she says. “Most want to bake for their homes. A few sign up to improve eggless-baking skills to start their own bakeries.” Baking classes for all — including pros — are booked weeks in advance at the Artisans Institute of Baking.

“Baking is different, fun, and who doesn’t like cakes?” asks Piyush, Frangipani Culinary Expressions. Restaurants serve baked dishes as both meals and desserts, and hotels have cake shops. Want to impress guests with “elite” cooking? Think of what you can do with an oven! Youngsters love to bake and have taken to it passionately, he says. They know that however bad the cooking, a fluffy cake in the end will dispel adverse comments. Though not everyone is a fan of Thai/Malaysian/Chinese/Continental cooking, it’s uncommon to find a person who doesn’t like a piece of cake.

Business potential

Baking is a profitable business too. “We combine quality, economics and good cause,” says Balasubramanian, manager,Winner’s Bakery. When Mahadevan of Hot Breads wanted to help school drop-outs of underprivileged families, he opened bakery classes for them, he says, tracing its background. The Rotary Club came forward to help, the city corporation allotted space at the Culinary Institute, and experts were invited to run classes. Skill in baking provides employment to these young boys and girls and the puffs/cakes/brownies they make during training are sold at Winners. “The profits go to charity,” he says.

Baking is easy; you can’t go wrong once you have the measurements and equipment, and it doesn’t need constant monitoring, says Piyush — which is probably why kids don’t have to be cajoled into joining baking classes.

“Almost every week you’ll find me baking vegetarian and vegan stuff,” says Maitreyi Sundar, a Class VIII student who has been baking for three years. With no formal training, she can effortlessly pull a mascarpone cheesecake off the oven. “I learned by trying and testing recipes from the Internet,” she says. Baking helped her raise funds for Blue Cross during their annual adoption event. “I am happy to put a smile on people’s faces; seeing my baked goodies disappear from the box gives me a sense of achievement.”