Take Ashima Chawla for example, who started baking cakes for friends’ birthdays after she moved to Mumbai for college. Their love for her cakes paired with Pooja Dhingra’s success story inspired Ashima to take the leap into home baking: “It took me a couple of years to convince my parents to let me pursue baking along with my Economics degree but, eventually, it paid off.” Today, Ashima’s Instagram page is filled with her creations. From bacon cookies to Star Wars-themed desserts to cakes that could tempt even the most sugar averse, her creative streak is apparent in all she does, but where does she get her inspiration from? “I get inspired by absolutely random things. Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and, most of all, my sister and friends when they ask me to make something new for them. The bacon cookies happened around the time I realised everyone was going crazy for bacon. Savoury comes easy, but I really wanted to try it with my favourite chocolate chip cookies!”
Then there’s Colaba-based home baker Rhea Bharucha, who donned the apron early on: “I’ve always been surrounded by fantastic chefs and bakers in my family – from my grandmothers to my grandfather, aunts, and especially my mother, who has been home catering for over 25 years now. I’ve woken up most mornings with the amazing aroma of cheese flans (her speciality), freshly baked cookies, and cakes.” Cooking, you could say, is in Rhea’s blood. So what’s on the menu? If you’re crazy for brownies, Rhea is your go-to girl. A few of her popular items are her white chocolate brownie called White Magic, the Nutella sea salt caramel brownie, the Kit Kat cheesecake brownie, hamburger cupcakes, and the ‘Peace Love & Chocolate’ cake.
Rhea is constantly dreaming up fun desserts that you aren’t likely to find at a pastry shop. Her latest creation is the pancake cupcake. Inspired by her favourite flavour of pancakes, blueberries, it’s a blueberry cupcake topped with butter cream icing and two mini pancakes with either blueberries or maple syrup on top: “Since breakfast is the most important meal of the day, why not have it in the form of cupcakes, a universal favourite! I’ve experimented with a whole lot of flavours and ingredients which are different yet yummy, and that grabs the attention of the people around me. I love a challenge so the crazier the idea, the more inspired I am to try it out. Besides, I love experimenting with desserts that look drool-worthy and yet taste amazingly good. I’ve got plenty of clients who are always ready to try out the new things I come up with and I always want to “wow” them with the look as well as the taste.”
Dessert chef Alyssa Chesson of Caramel Carousel saw her opportunity after studying at Le Cordon Bleu in London: “I realised there was a niche to be filled in the Mumbai food scene, which is saturated with places doing the usual stuff. I wanted to introduce people to something different and thought profiteroles would be perfect! To take things to the next level, I decided to start creating the croquembouche, a traditional French wedding cake consisting of a tower of custard-filled profiteroles bound together with caramelised sugar.” Alyssa’s profiteroles go beyond the usual flavours though, with fillings like mango passion fruit, raspberry, the deliciously refreshing lemon curd and, of course, her signature salted caramel. “The desserts I create are the ones I would love to eat myself,” Alyssa says, “and I think that’s very important as a chef, to believe in what you create. I see my creations as an extension of myself.”
Now it’s one thing to create innovative desserts, but how do customers react to them? Ask plenty of chefs working in Mumbai and they’re quick to bemoan the “unadventurous Indian palate”. But is that really the case? Aishwarya Jalan and Shruti Jalan of Cheesecake Republic don’t see it that way: “People nowadays are always looking for something new — if a product is tasty and innovative, it becomes a bestseller!” Inspired by their travels, love for good food, and a passion for feeding people, one of their biggest hits has turned out to be Cheesecake Republic’s adventurous baked savoury cheesecakes, which you can get in flavours like pesto, mushroom garlic, Wasabi, Piri Piri, and bell peppers and jalapeno. On the sweet side, we’d say run and place your orders for their mango cheesecake pies while you still can — season’s almost over!
For Ashima, too, people have been very receptive to her more innovative desserts: “Apart from the bacon cookies, the ‘Popcorn, Salted Caramel and Brown Butter’ macaroons I offered up at The Li’l Flea, were a massive hit! A friend who absolutely detests popcorn and caramel together couldn’t keep his hands off them!”
Rachana Shah Sony of Second Helping knows a thing or two about the Indian palate (“People are always asking me: ‘What’s new on your menu?’”) and desserts. Her Gulab Jamun Cupcakes, Mithai Cake, Pistachio Saffron Mousse and Shrikhand Mousse have been quite a hit, leading to her upcoming Kalakand Cheesecake, Halwasan-Thandai Mousse Sandwich, and Eggless Turkish Lamingtons. One of her signatures is the Dessert Crostini, the perfect treat for carb-lovers with a sweet tooth: “It fascinated me — bread and chocolate together — and I threw in some fruit, some lemon zest, some cake. I got our signature range of dessert crostinis — with flavours that include lemon-white chocolate and strawberry and dark chocolate, all served on delicious bread!”
From mini pancake-topped cupcakes to popcorn-flavoured macaroons, cookie cakes and cheesecake pies, mithai cakes and lemony profiteroles, it’s a sweet, sweet world out there – the outlook? Delicious, innovative, and, best of all, homemade! Yes, it’s a wonderful time to be a dessert lover in Mumbai.
Phone: +91 9820941023
Website and Facebook page to be announced soon
Phone: + 91 9819758593
Phone: + 91 9820401012 / 9820302204 for order.
Website: coming soon
Phone: + 91 9167366770
Instagram and Twitter : @houseof_cookies
Website: coming soon
Rachana Shah Sony’s Second Helping
Phone: +91 9920220940 / 9967656878