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Anyone for vintage cakes?

Japanese cakes were once a popular treat. These were available at Queens and Santha, popular bakeries in ThiruvananthapuramPhoto: Nivedita Thomas   | Photo Credit: Nivedita Thomas

When a cousin from Kochi visited me recently, she presented me with a box of cakes. I am not a huge cake fan these days, but I opened it obligingly. My eyes must have popped out in delight at the sight of half a dozen Butter Beans nestling in paper cups!



Memories of a happy childhood flashed by, and these little bean shaped pale green cakes were a part of it, having been the treat of all treats for me when I got a chance to feast on one of these. But sadly I had not laid eyes on this delicious cake for several decades. They had vanished from bakeries in the city by the time my kids were growing up.



How many of you reading this can identify with Butter Beans? Ever heard of Japanese cakes? What? Japanese cakes in Trivandrum! How about fancy cakes or tea cakes? Bean biscuits, animal [zoo] biscuits, tea rusk…the list goes on.



If you grew up in Thiruvananthapuram in the 70s like me, I know you’ll get what I am writing about. When I posted a picture of Butter Beans on my Facebook wall, many delighted responses from my contemporaries greeted my post, and this in turn led me on a memory trip, reminiscing over little pleasures of my childhood such as Butter Beans.



There was a time when the city was dotted with small bakeries in every nook and corner. Sadly many of them disappeared over time, with the advent of modern bake houses, pretty much like corner shops closed down when super markets started flourishing here. Two prominent bakeries in ‘Trivandrum’ used to be Queens Bakery and Santha Bakery in M.G Road. In my childhood, if we expected guests, my mother would say, someone get “fancy cakes” from Queens' or Santha’s.



What she called fancy cakes were small slices of vanilla or chocolate cake sporting icing of different colours in pastel shades. Calling them “fancy cakes” would seem to be a misnomer by today’s standards since those simple cakes had none of the grandeur of today’s Black Forest or a Chocolate Gateau turned out by the modern bake houses. Oh, but the taste!



Those cute little cakes used to be so sweet and soft and the gentle icing melted in your mouth as you smacked your lips with satisfaction.



On the contrary, I cannot bear to eat any of those rich cream cakes dished out at parties today – I take just a bite and I am revolted by the sticky cloying sweetness.



The cakes baked back then were bite-sized and one could consume it and remain dignified and lady-like, whereas it is difficult to eat the huge chunks of cake available in modern bakeries without getting fresh cream icing all across your mouth!



Another favourite with me from that era was the Japanese cake. No one knows why these cream-layered soft cup cakes were called Japanese cakes, but this was available in both Santha and Queens.



I remember both bakeries favoured distinctive shapes for their brand of Jap cake – one was round and brown and the other was cream coloured, in a slight conical shape.



This confession from a glutton will not be complete if I do not include the heavenly aroma of freshly baked bread from Santha Bakery. It was so soft you could roll it into a small ball if you wanted! Not sliced bread; therefore we tore off chunks while the bread was still warm from the bakery, and I was partial to the crust.



I believe Queens' bakery closed down long ago, but fortunately for old world bakery lovers like me, Santha Bakery is still around. And to my surprise, I found Japanese cakes there recently after a long gap.



But for some reason, they don’t make Butter Beans anymore. I think I know why. The present day Black Forest generation will not buy it, sad lot! My kids could not understand what the fuss was when I started eulogizing about these little cakes.



“Believe it or not, I always get a box of Butter Beans from Cochin Bakery to take back to America,” posted my friend Shiny George on my Facebook wall in response to my picture of Butter Beans. Is it not sad that people in the city have to make a trip all the way to Kochi to buy Butter Beans…


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Printable version | Sep 17, 2021 6:32:30 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/anyone-for-vintage-cakes/article6249208.ece

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