The flavour of Kolkata

The flavour of Kolkata
The city is known for its old alleys. One such is shot by Atanu Pal.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

The home baker experience- Sweta’s Bakes

Home bakers in Kolkata have got prominence in recent years, thanks to social media including blogs. Some of the city’s known names among food bloggers are home bakers themselves. The advantage of a good home baker, i.e. products that match or are better than the stuff one gets at his/ her favourite cake shop, proximity (say, a neighbourhood baker) and most importantly their ability to make customized cakes which is a cutting edge over the catalogue-based offerings at the cake shops have worked in their favour, I presume. The honesty that goes into a home baker’s fare vis a vis the commercial approach in even the best cake shops is bound to be noticed.

It was my first visit to a home baker and I was looking forward to this Saturday evening invitation last month. When I arrived, my blogger friends were already settled down. There were Indrajit, Manikuntala of Food Rover, Soumya Shankar Ghosal- a passionate photographer who runs the unique photography group Streets of Calcutta with Indrajit, themed on street photography. The group has a Facebook page and its website. There also was Subhajit who’s in charge of IT and digital initiatives at Oxford Bookstore. Mrs Sweta Kumar (the baker) and her family welcomed me to their apartment in Hiland Park, a posh housing complex on EM Bypass in extreme south Kolkata. Sweta operates from here under the name Sweta’s Bakes.

The welcome drink was the refreshing Blue Lagoon. It was followed by freshly fried vegetable spring rolls served with chili Schezwan sauce. The filling was wholesome and tasty and it went well with the tad sweet, runny chili sauce, though I thought the crust could be a bit thinner.

Veg spring roll

Some of the offerings for the evening were laid out on the table. The pretty kiwi cake, the blueberry muffin, the gorgeous Red Velvet cake and the beautiful tarts. I do not have a sweet tooth and I am pretty much a dry cake person. So I got off the mark with the English tea cakes which followed. It was delicious. With a masterly balanced sweetness and the generous dollops of butter used in it, it struck the right chord with my palate with its smell and taste. Indrajit recommended one of the tarts.

 (Clockwise from the top) Chocolate truffle cake, blueberry muffin, kiwi cake and red velvet cake 

Kiwi cake

Chocolate truffle cake

Red velvet cake

English tea cake

Next came the chicken quiche. It was different from the one we see in the cake shops. The filling was inside a tart shell. There was molten cheese on top of the filling. The ingredients were top notch, however, it failed to appeal to me. For quiche, my vote goes for the classic recipe of a soft pastry cup filled with baked chicken with cheese, which is best made at Cakes, the chain shop.

Chicken quiche

I also sampled the blueberry muffin. It was well made, like the tea cake. Sweta was telling us how she became a home baker in a self-taught manner. She attended bakery workshops by chefs but found it difficult to replicate the same cakes baking at home with the same ingredients. We were munching on her special dry chili chicken. It had bell peppers which I like, and the pungency was such that even children would like it. Unfortunately, as I found out, it was not on her menu card, as it takes more effort than baking. Her family supports her endeavour and takes pride in it. While her elder daughter helps her a lot, she also happens to be her toughest critic. And I think it’s bliss to have a sharp critic at home.

Blueberry muffin

Dry chili chicken

We now cut the red velvet cake. And the very first bite got us hooked! We were bowled over by it by the time we finished our slices. Even those who don’t have a sweet tooth will like it. The sponge, the frosting, all were perfect to the core. The frosting tasted better as it was fresh, and the sweetness was just right. The chocolate truffle cake came after this, but I was not in a much of a mood to let the wonderful feeling of the red velvet cake be spoilt by it. I nevertheless tried a small slice, and it was good too. Not overwhelmingly sweet again, with good quality chocolate.

The red velvet cake slice

The chocolate cake

Sweta conducts workshops at her residence (suitable for freshers). A range of cakes, muffins and tarts is taught over 3 hours and participants can take home their baked stuff. It costs Rs 1500 per participant.

Anybody who has a thing for dry cakes can mentally bookmark Sweta’s Bakes. The other cakes and muffins, including choco walnut brownie, are top notch. By the way, she makes pretty good chocolates too. I sampled all this later thanks to her gift hamper.

The homamade chocolates in the brown box

Sweta (Second from left) with family

As the countdown for Christmas has begun, Shweta is preparing to bake plum cake (which is a personal favourite and symbolizes this time of the year to me, among other things) and other Christmas cakes.

The menu says, her dry cakes cost Rs 300-400 per pound (Choco chip cake, date walnut cake, fresh fruit cake, plum cake, rich Christmas cake, brownies, marble cake etc), which is not expensive given the high quality. Cream cakes (Rich chocolate, Black Forest, chocolate truffle cake, red velvet cake etc) also come in the same range, with few costing Rs 250-275 per pound. Other than this, she bakes tarts (Rs 15-25 apiece for an order of 12), cookies (Rs 120-150 for a pack of 12) and muffins (Rs 18-35 per piece for an order of 12). There’s a special red velvet cupcake too, at Rs 40 apiece (for an order of 12). Orders are to be placed one day in advance. ‘Sweta’s Bakes’ is on Zomato (where you can take a look at the complete menu) and a Facebook page by the same name (where you can find latest updates).

For ordering from Sweta’s Bakes, call 9830974709 (If you are a Hiland Park resident, the intercom no. is 48073). There is no home delivery as of now.

Here’s hoping a great Christmas of baking to Sweta.

#HomebakerKolkata #Sweta’sBakes #CakesinKolkata

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