Up until 2007/2008, I wasn’t one to pore through a recipe book, choose something and cook or bake it. My limited cooking skills were focused on eating whatever I needed to, in order to survive in a city like Mumbai in an extremely hectic job. You know how it can be-eating out every day is not an option, a cook is too expensive and you aren’t exactly enthused about whipping up exciting food after a long day at work.
But, that was the pre-baking era. Move over to 2009-2010 when I shifted to Gurgaon and I started some extremely basic level of baking. Each person who has baked in the past told me that it was a science and an exact one at that. No scope for a pinch of this, a handful of that ! I had to look through recipes well and bake as per them.
So I put myself through the tedious task of sifting through recipe books and a ton of information online.
Now, I love reading – far more than baking. However, I love a good story that leaves room for imagination. I love the way characters come through, the manner in which a place is described. But somehow the beautiful books containing glossy pictures of the cakes and biscuits and detailed recipes, did not capture my attention.
Just as I was frustrated with the endless poring over recipes and baking terms, as if by telepathic intervention, my friend and then colleague, Jyoti gifted me a book – Icing on the Landour Cake: ‘olde Worlde Cake Recipes.
For those of you who might be interested, Landour is a small cantonment hill station close to Mussourie and this book contains recipes that the American missionaries settled here used, in the 1930’s. My excitement knew no bounds! This was a piece of history that got assimilated to the Indian flavours so seamlessly– it was just what I wanted – simple, precise and as you read it, it gives you a comfortable sense of wholesome, home baking along with a great story !
No exotic ingredients, no fuss or accessories to dress up the cakes or no fancy instructions. The recipes were truly old world and soulful…The book taught me that just like with life, the frills might add to the beauty, but the actual essence is in the taste.
I began trying the different recipes this book had to offer. One of the cakes I loved trying was the Banana Nut Cake. I made my own little changes like replacing the flour with wholewheat, replacing shortening with canola oil and excluding the soda.
Let me tell you the challenge here – the charm of the book lies in the fact that there are no pictures of the actual cakes. So you don’t know what to expect – that is, whether the appearance, taste and texture was meant to be as they were originally.