Baking up a storm in her kitchen every day, whipping up luscious cakes and churning up exotic desserts, it was surprising to know that despite her prowess in baking, her first love was stove top cooking!
“My passion for cooking started right from childhood. Both my parents loved to cook. Somehow I was most fascinated by the way my father cooked. He used to always have a handful of “magic ingredient” that he used to throw into the food with a wave and a flourish!” she says with fond remembrance “I guess it was the way he enjoyed cooking that made me fall in love with it as well!”
My lips smack as she describes quite ardently, the Kerala style pork curry that was her father’s signature dish!
Like some of the most gifted food personalities we know, cooking and baking was not an initial career choice for Anju. After completing her Engineering in Electronics and Communication, she worked with Wipro for three years, moving around Bangalore, Chennai and Pune. From city to city, she was able to try a variety of cuisines which helped spark her interest in food even more. To make things even better, she married Abraham, a complete foodie and shifted to the UK. “Abraham was always encouraging when it came to my interest in cooking. He always wanted me to try out new cuisines and dishes. He is my pillar of support!
With the plethora of fresh ingredients available in the market, Anju got to trying out a new dish a day. The vast number of recipes she complied soon found a way into “ANJU IN THE KITCHEN” a Facebook page that features all her tried and tested recipes.
With good news she returned to her hometown and soon her precious son Ayden was born. All throughout, she kept her passion for food and cooking flying high. Her recipes because so famous, she was featured in Mazhavil Manorama and Mathrabhumi News Channel.
By then, Anju’s focus had shifted to baking “I baked my 1st cake after marriage. And it had completely collapsed! I baked every day until I got it right! Once I got a hang of the basics, I started making minor tweaks in the recipe to make the cake even better!” She started baking both buttercream and fondant based cakes.
Anju feels that it is important that bakers understand the role each ingredient has to play in the process. She feels that once we understand that, baking would seem so much easier and unfussy. A home baker who takes the effort to appreciate this has the key factor with which to stand out in a market saturated with home bakers.
She makes sure every cake that leaves her kitchen does not compromise on quality in any manner. The quality of her cakes brought in an astounding number of loyal and recurring customers. This gave her the extra push to shifting from home baking (2-3 kgs daily) to a larger scale of production (12-15 kgs daily).
Anju started supplying non iced loaf cakes to her husband’s entrepreneurship venture CHAI NATION, a café dedicated to tea, based in Infopark. Through word of mouth, demand for her delicious cakes started increasing and CAKE NATION was born. Her best seller at Chai Nation is her chocolate banana cake. Tried, tested and loved!
Her enthusiasm for baking has rubbed off on her 3 year old as well! He already knows the names of ingredients, loves to help her stir the batter and roll up fondant as well! “This is the most rewarding part of having my own business. Flexible work hours and working from home ensures that I get to spend time with my son. To me it’s more than just money. When I work on what I am passionate about, my soul is at peace!”
I was surprised with a gift hamper of some of her best cakes. Everything was neatly wrapped with ribbon and cellophane paper, which for sure added that little extra!
(It gave my OCD a happy high!) There were coconut kisses, a slice of chocolate cake and a slice of dates cake. The coconut kisses were aptly named.
Sweet little balls of milky goodness, the desiccated coconut added just the desired amount of bite and texture! I moved onto the chocolate cake which was so light and fluffy! The best part was that it was self-saucing. So there was a top layer of moist chocolateyness followed by a pillowy soft cake that made me instantly crave a scoop of Vanilla ice cream.
|Self-saucing chocolate cake|
As always, i reserved the best for last! The dates cake. Now, forgive me, but i am not a fan of dates. I was cringing inward as i opened the pack of dates cake. I took my first bite and ny taste buds fell in love!
|My favorite dates cake|
Bells ringing, bulbs flashing, violins playing, the whole enchilada! It was the moistest, softest, sweetest, most luscious dates cake I have ever and I mean ever romanced! And those tiny bits of dates just waltzed beautifully in between a creamy topping of milkmaid (double the luck!)
With the smile of a girl in love still on my face, we chat about Anju’s future plans. “I want to keep learning. That is very important for a baker. Designer cakes is a vast arena and I am just a beginner. I would definitely like to use cake as a medium for edible paints. Painting on cakes would be something I really want to try in the future!”
“I want to start a baking school as well, where I can teach others how to bake with passion and help them discover their skill sets.” With this Anju leaves us with a fantastic recipe for Churros, a fried dough pastry, popular in Spain. They are usually dipped in chocolate and eaten for breakfast. However, they are so yummy, no one would wrong you for eating it any time of day!
SUGAR CINNAMON COATED CHURROS
Water: 1 cup
Unsalted butter: 3 tbsp
Granulated sugar: ½ tsp
Vegetable oil: 1 tbsp
Salt: ½ tsp
All purpose flour- 1 cup
Vanilla extract: 1 tsp
To coat the churros:
Cinnamon: 1 tsp
Granulated sugar: ½ cup
Combine the cinnamon and sugar together until you get a seamless mixture.
The chocolate dip
In a microwavable bowl, add some good quality dark chocolate and some milk chocolate and microwave for a minute, pausing to stir in between
-Add water, butter, vegetable oil, sugar and salt into a saucepan on a low flame and bring the mixture to the boil
– Now add in the flour and stir continuously until the mixture turns into a ball. Stir it for another minute
– Take the mixture off the heat and add vanilla extract. Keep stirring to cool down the dough and then add the eggs one by one. Incorporate thoroughly.
– Put the mixture into a piping bag with a large star nozzle. Heat oil in a frying pan and when hot, pipe in ropes of 4 to 5 inches. It takes hardly a minute for the dough to cook on both sides.
– Drain the excess oil on tissue paper and then roll them in the cinnamon sugar mix.
– All that remains is to dip the churro into the chocolate and enjoy!
All the very best for a bright future Anju!
To get in touch for orders and enquiries:
Anju in the kitchen: https://www.facebook.com/ANJU.IN.THE.KITCHEN/
Cake Nation: https://www.facebook.com/cakenationindia/