If you have no bread eat cake. And if the cake is gone, bake some. You also have the option of cookies and cinnamon rolls and lemon tarts. Baking at home is in vogue now, finds Catherine Rhea Roy

Twelve curly, soft rolls sat in the oven; the elastic dough had been twisted, egg-washed and was slowly browning in the controlled, even heat while students paced impatiently waiting for their bread rolls to bake just right. It was a weekend bread baking class at the Lavonne Institute Of Baking, and the students were sponging in everything they could about baguettes, breadsticks, the magical properties of yeast and the warmth of freshly baked bread.

Vinesh Johny, a partner at Lavonne and a member of the faculty, does the symbolic breaking of a loaf of multigrain bread and urges us to take a whiff. “A lot of people think that baking is easier than culinary art, but that’s not true. Baking is just as hard as cooking, if not more complex. Most people think baking is a lot of fun, which it is. If you are creative and have an artistic bend of mind baking is something you can have a lot of fun with.”

No longer a chore

Baking for that matter is no longer a chore. People bake to relax; it is a leisure activity that people indulge in over the weekends, and when they want to make something special. “The Internet is a great place to pick up recipes and tips so that they can experiment at home. We also host a lot of baking and dessert workshops that are received very well,” says Natasha Aggarwal, CEO of Mama Mia, gelato ice cream store.

“The press and the media have had a huge role to play in this significant shift in interest towards baking at home,” says Manish Gaur, who has been in the baking business for over two decades, as the Director of Training at the Institute Of Baking And Cake Art.

“We have had difficult times trying to convince people to bake at home, but now there is a sudden interest that has been fuelled by what people see and read in the media. There are also a growing percentage of people who are health conscious and concerned about the ingredients that are used in their cakes and breads. The availability of better ingredients and tools in the market makes baking at home simpler and more accessible.”

“Did you know Betty Crocker is not a real person?” asks Rose incredulously. An enthusiastic baker, Rose narrates her first memory of baking, which was a hardbound Betty Crocker book of cakes and cake decoration. “I was amazed by the things this woman could do with a piping bag and a 3mm nozzle. Imagine the betrayal I felt when I found out that she wasn’t real but fiction, the product of a home economists’ vivid imagination. But the seed had been planted. Baking had become a passion that I fuelled and kept alive for over two decades. Today it is so much simpler to find everything you need in the market that it has become mechanical. Food colouring, silicone moulds, cream cheese… you name it and it is available.”

The trend began with baking cakes and cake decoration but now experimenting has crossed the safe zone and goes on to include puff pastries and healthier breads.

Vinesh corroborates, “I would say that the idea of bread has gone beyond the milk loaf and now people are getting excited about it and look at bread with a more international perspective. But we still have a sweet tooth, so cake and cookies will always take precedence.”

Manish Gaur says that as testament to this phenomenon are the umpteen number of independent patisseries and confectionaries that have been born. “I started baking because I was passionate about it but when it seemed like a viable option to make some pocket money, I did not think twice. I love baking and now I get paid to do it,” says Treasa, a medical student.

Then there are 18 year olds, Tessa Vellara and Natasha Remedios who together founded Cuppycakes, a miniature business enterprise that began at the heart of goodwill when they started baking for charity at Christmas. “Slowly we decided to take a risk and make some money in the bargain, so we started baking cupcakes and All Saints’ gave us a platform where we could sell them and we sold 80 cupcakes in 40 minutes,” says Tessa. While the girls use existing recipes, powered by hand beaters and ovens at home to bake, Tessa went to Dubai for a one-month course in cake decoration.

It’s a therapeutic exercise you might discover — you can knead, slap, mould and shape your sweetmeat anyway you want. But, “Try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless and above all, have fun,” quote-unquote Julia Child.