It has bustling dhabas and sparkling restaurants,not homely neighbourhood bakeries. But there is something for all tastes in Delhi. The multi-coloured pastry for those who like it gulab-jamun-sweet,the plain bakes for those who like it healthy. A flaneurs search throws up an occasional surprise and a few treats.
Our first stop is Open Hand cafe in Paharganj. Its menu includes none of the Indian bakery staples. Our favourite pineapple pastry with more cream,less sponge and topped with red and yellow fruit,stands banished. As if in defiance,the pineapple cake here (Rs 65 per slice) arrives without a kiss of cream and with clean pineapple slices on a plain baked cake. With 80 per cent of its clients being foreigners,the cafe sticks to wholesome options like apple-cinnamon,banana-honey and fat-free fruitcake. Manager Rakesh Rawat says,Foreigners like simple baked goods.
With Christmas around the corner,cakes have started appearing in unexpected nooks and crannies across the city. Even Rama Stores,the quintessential Dravidian store of Delhi,is ringing in the merry. Amidst the pungent sambar podi sachets and Ambica appalam packets,a tower of Palco Christmas cakes soars high. At Rs 110 for 250 gm,these raisin-and-dried fruitcakes claim to contain no alcohol. Just right for teetotaller Mallus. In a quiet corner of Hauz Khas market,Sharda Pastry Shop is stocking up on plum cake. Made in its own bakery,they are stacked in a corner,to keep the view of the Black Forest and pineapple pastries unimpeded.
Many Delhi localities have their own cake story,be it the banana-and-walnut cake of Cafe Turtle in Khan Market or the mis-named milk cake of Chandni Chowk. The promise of the best Christmas cake in Delhi takes us to Bernados in Gurgaon. A bite of Cress Fernandes Christmas cake and you know it is truly special. My grandmother from Kerala used to make this recipe,which she found in an old Sri Lankan book. The original used to have suji. I found that too crumbly and have adjusted it over the years. Its a secret.