Rich fruit and lip-smacking cakes are a few weeks away but their preparation has already begun. Seeing a group of chefs dig their hands into piles of black currants, almonds, raisins, walnuts and rum or to get the smell of cake being baked at your neighbour's kitchen can be just too tempting for some. Perhaps why baking classes get more popular this time of the year. Christmas cake, after all, is not such an easy bake. It needs time and the right mix of ingredients that one has to master from an expert.

Aasiya Hasham, who mainly conducts non-vegetarian cooking classes, is surprised with the response that she has got for the announcement about her baking classes. “I was planning to restrict it to a batch, comprising 18 students, but I might have to take one more batch too,” says Ms. Hasham, adding that everybody wants to take advantage of the season to learn baking. There are many other reasons too. Baking your own cake and gifting family and friends is a matter of pride, the quality and hygiene are assured in homemade cakes and above all they are economical, particularly if one has a long list of well-wishers to distribute.

Manju Radhakrishnan, a resident of Anna Nagar, bakes some 15-20 cakes for the season, a few of which she even sends to friends and family members outside the city. “Butter is one of the most expensive ingredients and for homemade cakes we cannot do without it. I would save some 40 per cent just by baking plain cakes at home, plus to get credit for presenting my cake is something I can always be proud of,” says Ms. Radhakrishnan, who has enrolled in a baking class mainly to learn how to make almond and orange cakes.

The rising cost of items is, however, pinching many homemakers. Some of them, therefore, are innovating with varieties.

Sharmila Moses, a resident of Kilpauk, this time, is making lemon lamington – an economical variety of cake. “I cut down on coco and butter in this, both of which add to the cost of making a cake. It is cakey, not run-of-the-mill and the yield is also more,” says Ms. Moses.

However, those running cooking classes say baking is still at a nascent stage in the city as more people prefer classes on Chinese and Continental dishes.

“Last year, I had requests from people for a class on the traditional Christmas cake. But, these classes can be helpful for those who have some knowledge of baking and who come back to learn more,” says Lisa Isaac, who runs Artisans Institute of Baking. But, she agrees if one has time, baking at home is cheaper, “If you spend Rs.450 buying from the bakery, at home it would come to Rs.300.”

Keywords: cake baking

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Liffy ThomasJune 28, 2012