What if you could bake your cake and eat it, too? Image: Facebook
Studying English Honours at Jadavpur University (all the plays, prose and poetry... phew!), dealing with a rebellious 11-year-old sibling at home, and battling FOMO (on social media and IRL) – quite an uphill task, right? And then to find out time for hobbies seems almost impossible. But, where there's will, there is a way. And where there's a cake, one needs to bake it too.
Well, at least I do so. That's how I chill out, you see.
Unusual for an 18-year-old? Well, maybe. When asked about their hobbies, most of my friends' list would include reading, painting or playing some musical instrument. For me, however, in addition to these, the answer includes baking. It's not been a cakewalk, pursuing this hobby, but hey, nothing good in life comes easy.
As a 12-year-old, saying this would get me many a raised eyebrow or various expressions of disbelief as the customary response. Yet, baking has been an integral part of my life since my pre-teen years.
The reason behind me taking up this seemingly uncommon hobby was my mother, a veritable cook in her own right. The first time I realised that one could bake a cake as delicious as those sitting prettily on the shelves in cake shops, in fact even more so, at home was when my mother decided to bake a huge chocolate cake for one of my play dates. She was brave enough to involve a bunch of five-year-olds in the process and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
I was in awe of the final product, so much so that I almost refused to eat it, almost being the keyword here. My mother still likes to talk about how I bragged about the cake that "I had made" for days afterward!
I was 12 when I baked my first cake, a simple yet delicious chocolate affair. There was no stopping me after the success of that first attempt. I had the advantage of easy access to the Internet and indulgent parents. They would buy baking ingredients and tools to encourage my hobby while the Internet provided me with all kinds of recipes and tips.
It was not long before I became the designated baker of the family. That year saw the last time we bought a birthday cake. In fact, I was baking my own birthday cakes until my 11-year-old sister took over some years ago.
Surprisingly, I have had very few baking disasters. However, I failed miserably the first time I ventured into cooking something beyond a cheese omelette. This made me stick to baking, and only baking different kinds of cakes and cupcakes at that.
Soon, I felt the need to break out of my comfort zone. Today, I can create several different kinds of desserts and savoury food alike.
But why this special love for baking you ask? Perhaps, I prefer baking because that's what I started with. Even though I can cook quite a bit now, cooking fails to give me the kind of happiness that baking does, perhaps because baking is my first love.
My baking skills matured along with me. Unfortunately, that also meant an increased pressure, with school demanding my attention more than ever before. Before long I was only baking for birthdays or Christmas but I never gave up on baking.
Even the strain of board examinations or competitive tests was unable to squash the relentless baker in me. Baking became the much-needed outlet for stress. Being able to create something delectable from mundane ingredients like flour or eggs never ceased to amaze me.
Baking is a time-consuming process and you may wonder if other aspects of my life are affected by it. Do I miss out on outings with friends as I create some delicious chocolate mousse? Nope, I don't. All it takes is some effective time management (something people think millennials can't do!). I make time for this hobby around my usual routine so my studies or social interactions don't suffer because of it.
Baking being a precise science requires a great deal of concentration. Too much or too little of any ingredient can ruin the entire recipe. Concentrating on something else when upset helped me clear my mind and the satisfaction that comes with baking uplifted my spirits.
Did I choose baking to gain attention for such an unusual pastime? At 12, I didn't have a social media presence and, hence, social media validation was never the reason for me taking up baking. Now, I often post pictures of my creations on social media if I bake something new, but the number of 'likes' is never the motivating factor. I bake because I enjoy it and have been doing so long before I was active on social media.
My friends take full advantage of my hobby. Their demand for my baked goods often trumps my capacity to make them.
If you like singing, you are expected on stage sometime or the other, the same goes for dancing and other hobbies as well. Do I see myself taking my hobby to a commercial plane? TBH, I've often contemplated selling my baked goods or birthday cakes to my friends and acquaintances. However, that's not happened till date and I have no idea whether this plan will ever take shape.
One thing is for sure though. I loathe commercial cake mixes. Baking from scratch provides a level of satisfaction that using prepared mixes never can. The smiles you get to put on people's faces with your creations are completely worth the extra work. All you need is some practice, and soon you'd be able to bake your cake and eat it too!
(As told to Devlina Ganguly)