Who can resist getting lost in food blogs, drooling over stunning cakes and desserts, and simply admiring the mastery of patissiers and home bakers? Often we just leave it there, getting our sweet fix without consuming any calories, but sometimes you just have to break out the mixing bowls – and if you’re stuck at home following the global isolation measures, then it’s a good time to do just that.
We’ve asked some of the world’s most original dessert writers to share their takes on classic cakes, as well as a bit of insight into their lives as baking bloggers.
Apple Yogurt Cake
Recipe by Yossy Arefi of Apt. 2B Baking Co.
Through the lens of her vintage camera, Yossy Arefi offers a glimpse into her cosy Brooklyn kitchen, aka Apt. 2B Baking Co. Seasonal fruits play a starring role, which Yossy then turns into great comfort dishes. The blog is a celebration of the imperfect beauty found in the kitchen, at the market and in the fields.
Did you grow up baking?
“Yes! Both of my parents are wonderful cooks and we all (I have an older brother) spent a lot of time in the kitchen growing up. My mom grew up in the Pacific Northwest, but I think she really learned to love food and cooking when she moved to Iran with my dad in the late ‘70s. I grew up eating a combination of traditional ‘American’ food and Iranian food, and love both.”
What do you love so much about this Apple Yogurt Cake?
“It is simply flavoured, without any of the warm spices most people are used to being paired with apples. It is dense and packed with fruit, which makes it a perfect breakfast or snack cake, in my book.”
Ada Boni’s Eggless, Butterless Chocolate Cake
Recipe by Emiko Davies of emikodavies.com
Half-Japanese half-Australian, Emiko Davies has moved between 4 different continents but now calls Italy home. From Tuscany, where she lives with her husband and children, Emiko shares detailed narratives and pictures that capture the rich variety of regional Italian foods. She has a thing for historical and traditional recipes, often re-creating them with a personal twist. One example is this eggless, butterless chocolate “Bilbolbul” cake from Ada Boni, one of Italy’s most famous food authors, which Emiko has transformed into a completely dairy-free treat.
Do you have tips for parents who want to bake together with their kids?
“Now that my day revolves around the kitchen, my daughter and I bake all the time together. Ever since she was stable enough to stand at the kitchen counter with me, she’s been there by my side, rolling dough, mixing or cutting out shapes with her cookie cutters. Making pizza is a favourite, too, just handling the dough alone is a wonderfully tactile experience.
“I’ve never been afraid of making a little mess in the kitchen, and I think that’s where some parents might have trouble letting them go for it. Having an outdoor space can help; I set up her table and chair outside, and give her little bowls of ingredients and icing for decorating a batch of cupcakes or cookies and let her do her thing, then hose everything down later! The idea that making good food from scratch is something fun and rewarding is, I think, the start of a good relationship with food – something I am hoping will rub off on my daughter, too.”
Masala Chai Carrot Cake
Recipe by Nik Sharma of A Brown Table
Born into a food-loving family, Nik Sharma grew up with the North-Indian influences of his father and the Portuguese-inspired cuisine of Goa. Having given up his job in the pharmaceutical industry to follow his dream of becoming a pastry chef, he now works as a full-time food photographer. His recipes are a reflection of his experiences growing up in India and the United States, captured by beautiful, chiaroscuro-esque photography.
In your opinion, what makes your blog unique?
“It’s food from an immigrant’s perspective. I didn’t start a food blog only to share recipes, but to talk about the food I love to create, the food that no one was talking about, the food I cooked and ate influenced by growing up in two different countries.”
Why do you love to bake?
“It’s what makes me happiest in the kitchen. There’s chemistry and physics, it always reminds me of tinkering in the lab, playing around with ingredients and their ratios, swirling thick batters, aerating egg whites at high speed to build volume and texture – it’s an experiment every single time, with a potentially delicious, edible payoff!”
Ginger Jaggery Whole Wheat Teacakes
Recipe by Deeba Rajpal of Passionate About Baking
Typical ingredients for classic cake recipes aren’t always easy to come by in the North Indian city of Gurgaon. That doesn’t stop self-proclaimed “rabid baker” Deeba Rajpal from finding alternatives for her creations. “Healthy” and “delicious” are her perpetual mantras, but she strives for her creations to be visually pleasing as well.
Was there one defining moment that made you start your blog?
“I had already started writing my blog, but I changed its course radically after one day I was struck by something odd. Sitting at the bus stop, I began to observe the eating habits of locals and daily wagers as they walked up to a tea stall nearby. It slowly dawned on me that we were a world increasingly fed on refined flours and bad fats, and very little nutrition. I was guilty, too, of not giving it much thought. From that day on, food – especially baking – was a new challenge, an inspiration. I started stripping every single recipe down to the bare minimum, questioning whether it was good, questioning how I could make it better, experimenting. Practically every ingredient was made to count for itself, else out it went.”
Are these teacakes an example of this style?
“In my TEDx talk here in Delhi, I talked about how to ‘rethink our plates’, to try and include whole foods in our everyday cooking instead of ingredients with empty calories. It was also about rediscovering local native ingredients, and doing things from scratch in an attempt to reduce our carbon footprint. The recipe for these Ginger Jaggery Whole Wheat Teacakes is very popular here, and I merely rethought it and made it healthier, more local.”
Recipe by Flora Shedden of florashedden.com
23-year-old Flora Shedden from Scotland has been in the kitchen for as long as she can remember, and started blogging as a way to document her culinary endeavours. It was a way to keep busy, until her appearance in the Great British Bake Off suddenly thrust her into the limelight. Thousands of fans and followers later, she now spends her days writing, creating and photographing recipes, occasionally for her food blog, but also for her recipe books – the most recent of which was released in autumn 2019.
Can you tell us a bit about your style?
“I guess it is traditional British, but always with a twist. We have such great pastries and cakes: lots of fruit-based sponges, crumbles and scones. I let the seasons dictate what I use, but I generally try to play with recipes, adding spices like cardamom or nuts and seeds. I’m a big fan of poppyseeds.”
Tell us about your first cookbook.
“The title is Gatherings, and it’s all about encouraging my generation to get back into entertaining. I noticed that people my age just pick up a pizza when they have people over. We have more great ingredients available than ever before, but somehow it is a daunting prospect to invite people for a homemade meal.”
#staysafe #stayathome #selfisolation #selfisolationactivities #homesanctuary
[Portrait picture: Ciara Menzies]