September just HAS to be the busiest month of the year for birthdays! If you ask me, I’d say half the world was born in September – the other half just got scattered into the remaining 11 months, maybe just so that June and July could feel a little less unloved!! Alright alright, Geminis and Cancerians, don’t kill me… yet!
So in this one month I’ve been running from one birthday party to the next – binge-eating-shopping-planning – all the time struggling to wish the birthday boy or girl on Facebook and Twitter and SMS and Watsapp and Viber and Skype… or, incredibly getting through on an actual phone call, an incredible rarity these days, and therefore that much more special! Through it all, the one thing that’s kept up the eager excitement is that one true symbol of continued love, trust, joy and togetherness – the ubiquitous Birthday Cake!
From a humble, round sweetened disc made of flour, corn or maize, dedicated to Artemis, the Moon Goddess in ancient Greece, to multi-layers and impossibly tall stacks, decorative icing and intricate sugar work, shapes from rounds to rectangles to guitars to football fields to boots to toilets, blecht! Even themes ranging from the cutesy-flowery to the downright ‘naughty’ – no ‘Blurred Lines’ here 😉 When you think of it, the cake truly has come a long way. Not just in the last few hundred years of its evolution, but also in the last couple of decades and much more in the last few years.
Flashback to my childhood, and one of my fondest memories is receiving a mom-made cake, delivered on the day of my birthday to the hostel warden – a large, round sponge, with beautiful pink and white icing, still intact from a 3-hour flight, packed in a red leather box with brass studs. Sigh! I’m sure each and every one of you will have at least one special memory of a birthday cake that thrilled and delighted your heart and soul. Take a moment to nibble at those fond memories…
Ever since, there have been many, many cakes at birthdays, farewells, milestones and successes, slowly and sadly moving away from home-made to brands like Monginis, Flury’s, Kookie Jar, Merwan’s, Croissants, and Taj Birdy’s and then, with more foodie experiences, awareness and a spirit of adventure, on to the designer cakes made by pastry chefs and bakery owners who with their beautiful and delicious creations encourage you to have not just a sweet tooth, but all 32 sweet teeth!
Today’s cake eaters are a generation spoilt by the breathtaking sight of Evil Patissier Adriano Zumbo’s Croquembouche Tower. They can claim to have lived in the year when the stroke of pure genius Cronut – part Croissant, part-Doughnut creation by New York Chef Dominique Ansel – was invented! And closer to home, they are spoilt for choice with dessert queens like Pooja Dhingra and her Le 15 Patisserie, Kainaz Messman and her Theobroma, Tabassum Hassan and her Guilt Trip and so many enterprising, skilled and go-getter bakers whipping out delectable creations in the city. So people can’t be blamed for expecting more than just Chocolate Fudge, Dark Chocolate, Butterscotch, Mousse Cakes and Dutch Truffles, now can they? That’s the reason the mushrooming boutique bakeries are churning out such gorgeous creations that look every bit as amazing as they taste. Tiramisu, Red Velvet, Blueberry Cheesecake, Mango Moussecake are flying off the counters. The traditional vanilla buttercream icing is just not cutting it any more… people want the richer Cream Cheese frosting, the fancier Fondant Dressing and even elaborate figures and delicate sugar work on their birthday cakes today.
So on the one hand where a Fresh Mango whipped in with Fresh Cream and piped into a dome of wonderfulness created a kind of a gold rush with people clamoring for more at one of the birthday parties, at another, a rich Red Velvet with a gorgeous Cream Cheese and White Chocolate Frosting from Oberoi Patisserie was just pure luxe in your mouth, grandly delivered by our ‘Cake Specialist’
Pradeep who becomes the most sought-after cake chooser on all birthdays and ALWAYS comes up trumps! A few days ago, I breathed in the candied air of one of the cake landmarks of the city, Goriawala, where Mrs. Goriawala has been making her deliciously simple chocolate cakes and handing them out in humble brown boxes for the last 30 years. Also a few days ago, I cut into my own tall, white, wonder of a birthday cake – a rich, dark and gooey chocolate cake with a brilliant white fondant covering shaped into a MasterChef hat and a little ‘mini-me’ with curly hair lounging casually on its side! Ooooh the delight 🙂