As you climb the stairs of this Safdarjang Enclave house mid-afternoon, it’s the fragrance of assorted currants and warm rum that first greets you at the door. “I’m about to start my Christmas cakes,” smiles Jaya Kochar, 30, ushering us in.
The petite chef is deftly completing colourful marzipan figures for birthday cakes in her ‘studio’ — her kitchen, as a clutch of domestic help in identical aprons mix batter, roll out fresh cupcakes in the spare-room-turned-baking-room or simply wait for her next instructions.
On Delhi’s wedding destination street — Chhatarpur — a new café gently twinkles in the setting sun. Inside, among the green-red confetti, Sonia Sareen, 46, is busy arranging Santa lollypops and plum cakes in a wooden basket. “Try some,” she urges. “It’s a special recipe, the fruits have been soaked in rum and cognac for a year!” It’s heady, you mumble, obliging with big bites.
Her clients include several celebrity fashion designers. “I’m designing a cake for someone’s birthday with a Munni and Sheela on his either side,” says Sareen, who uses a food printer to print edible photos on cakes.
Meet the capital’s growing brigade of designer bakers, who are making special occasions as personalised as they can get. These women churn out 10-20 cakes and dozens of cookies a day, with just a clutch of domestic help.
So, from Gucci, Louis Vuitton bags, Mac make-up, Victora’s Secret lingerie, 3D hookas to cartoon/pop figures, football stars, hair dryers, Rajnigandha packets… people are experimenting with their tastes like never before.
After suits and saris, the Delhi Aunties have found another outlet for their creative expression, and this one travels right up the tummy.
Arora, 29, who operates out of the her Preet Vihar residence, supplies gourmet cakes all over India. She manages flavour preferences after long chats with her clients and claims to have never repeated a cake. With a dedicated website, fan pages on Facebook, regular cooking tips on Twitter, Skype and Gtalk to talk to her clients abroad, Arora has become one of the most sought after in the last three years. Her highpoint was the 10-kg soft drink brand cake that she designed for actor Katrina Kaif and chocolate-hazelnut desserts for the soldiers at the Siachen border last year.
Golf Links resident Arshi Dhupia, 34, has been around for over a decade now. She has done Olympic rings cake for the Dalmias (her toughest cake she says), an ‘open book’ cake for MP Jyotiraditya Scindia’s relative, a Bingo-chips-and-Thums-Up shaped cake for the Modis and does writer Khushwant Singh’s favourite ‘chocolate swamp’ cake for his birthday every year.
“I still use my mother’s old oven, Kenwood mixer, and her pound butter cake recipe,” says this interior-designer-turned-cake-maker who also finds time to practice law in the evenings. “I have chocolate in my veins! Making cakes is like going back to childhood and playing with plasticine,” she says.
As Jane Asher, actor-turned-cake-maker and Paul McCartney's ex girlfriend said of the profession, ‘[...] it’s an extremely happy and pleasurable business to run because people are generally buying cakes for celebrations.’ And now add to that, Delhi’s homemade touch.