A new cake studio, ‘Cakes and Candles’, aims to change the conventional ideas about cakes and breads

Piles of snow white meringues await a luscious chocolate dip, there is a batch of oatmeal cookies giving company to granola cookies. It is chaotic at ‘Cakes and Candles’ on John Alunkal Road (Kochu Kadvanthra) as Sonu Pradeep gears up for a ‘re-launch’ of her cake studio with a summer fest.

‘Cakes and Candles’ is a tiny, corner cake shop which is a couple of months old. And Sonu is exultant, her black apron has a layer of flour and there are remnants of baking on her as she steps out of her ‘studio’ but she can’t stop smiling.

With this re-launch she hopes to make a ‘statement’. She makes the conventional cakes and pastries bit but what she wants to do most and ‘orient’ people here is to breads. She abhors the ‘jam treatment’ to her breads. “That is the worst thing you can do to bread,” she says.

She then goes a step further and says, “And everything (as in cakes and breads) doesn’t have to be soft. The accent is on softness and how do you think that happens. Sponge soaked in sugar syrup…” That, according to her, is the European take on baking. “If someone wants ‘soft’ cakes I bake those as well,” she says.

A Punjabi married to a Malayali, Pradeep John, she was based in Ireland for 15 years where she learnt her craft. She has a masters in sugar crafting and learnt baking under one of Europe’s top 10 bakers. When they returned to Kerala she knew she wanted to pursue her passion for baking, “and on a commercial basis.” For the IT professional, baking was a U-turn and she is glad she took the turn.

Sonu’s Facebook page lists what she does and there are cakes, wedding cakes, party cakes, cupcakes…all kinds of customised cakes, chocolates and confections. She even makes candles to go with her cakes, hence the candle with the cakes in the name. And then there is the elaborate bread section. Partybrot (which is a bread of German origin), plaited bread, Pane Italiano, Italian Ciabatta, Pane Altamura, Focassia, traditional Barm Brack (a bread with raisins and of Irish origin) and cinnamon bun.

She wonders about the popular concept of oven-fresh, soft bread. “The Europeans have a bread eating culture and they don’t eat bread immediately after it is baked. The flavours and the enzymes kick in only after a couple of days and it is never soft.” She goes on, “in Europe food is about keeping it simple but eating good quality food.” Her ‘Artisan Bread’ has many takers. Artisan bread, roughly, is handmade bread and baked in small batches. “I don’t bake breads very often because of the existing ‘bread culture’. But regulars have given me their contact numbers so that I can call them when I have a batch of bread ready.”

She is all for treating breads better, than butter and jam. “There are so many things you can do with breads. And there are so many varieties too…” She plans to start doing different things with bread and ‘orient’ people on how to treat bread and of course, eat it too, “seriously”, she adds. Getting stores to ‘stock’ her bread was tough, Sonu says. Constant pestering and shop visits resulted in one shop in Fort Kochi relenting. “Hey presto! It was all gone. I was told by the store the tourists took them.”

Be it cake, bread or chocolate, only the best ingredients will do and which is why, she says, her goodies are worth their price, “they start at Rs. 75 and go up.” Much as she would have loved to use ‘graded flour’ for baking, she cannot because “it is not available.” So she came up with her own version of ‘graded’ flour. “I mixed atta and maida and came up with ‘graded flour’.” She has talked a local company into providing her with the mix.

A fresh batch of baking awaits her and it is time to go, but not before “it is tough, but my day will come!”

The Summer Fest is on at Cakes and Candles on April 7 from 11 a.m. onwards to 7 p.m.

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