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Cake Stories: The Bittersweet Taste of Old world Bakeries

Bakeries have  an essential part to play in the tales of India’s metropolises that have trodden down the paths of colonial heritage into modernity. They smell of the lost charm of bygone time that have left their traces through gastronomic lineage, age old recipes and keepers of that memory. Let’s go down the lane of nostalgia tracing  cake-stories of some of the oldest Indian cities still retaining their old-world charms:

Goa

One of those seaside towns reeking of heritage and nostalgia, it’s hard for Goa to shed away its Portuguese colonial roots. And food ,especially the savory afterdish or dessert quite often bears the prominent marks of the shifts and turns of history. The Confeitaria 31 de Janeiro, nestled in a silent corner of Panjim, Goa,is one such lost world charm that swears by tradition. The bakery was founded in 1930 by Andre Mascarenhas whose daughter-in-law currently keeps guard at the counter and is the present host of the eatery. The bakery is a like a cosy little secret hideout that can accommodate at most three patrons at a time. The bakery is popular for its Chequered Cake that looks like a chocolate and vanilla chessboard, the  golden puffed Cream Rolls with toppings of magenta sugar crystals, and the signature Swiss Roll that is recommended by the host herself. The bakery owes its lot mostly to its stream of loyal patrons.

Mumbai

One of the oldest Indian cities to carry the western colonial legacy imprinted on its architecture, culture and food habits. Desserts and Mumbai are old sweethearts. Kyani Bakery & Co. is old world charm retained through culinary endeavours . Apart from its British colonial history, Mumbai has a rich cultural history it owes to the Iranian Zoroastrian community. Several cafes and bakeries in Mumbai have been founded and are owned by Parsis and Iranians adding the distinct touch of the culture to the sweet dishes made. Kyani & Co. was founded in 1904 by an Iranian gentleman named Mr. Khodram. The interiors of the bakery give the vibes of an old-world coffee-table-talk culture with vintage photographs hanging from the walls and long wooden benches and tables meant for a leisurely savouring of snacks and sweets. The café is famous for its signature Mawa cakes alongside other distinct Parsi dishes.

Chennai

This 300 year old Indian city has a long history and several stories to tell. Mylapore is a very old part of Chennai that retains most of its material remains from yore including its houses and shops. One such relic is the old Crown Bakery on Bazaar street, easily hidden and gone unnoticed owing to its quaint presence. However the taste of anything made here can never escape the long term memory of your taste buds. It was founded in 1905 by Kanthasamy Mudaliar but is run by a family descended from one of Kanthasamy’s helpers at the bakery who was adopted as a three year old by Mudaliar. The bakery is very small and operates on a miniscule scale but is one of Chennai’s oldest functioning . They keep very few items everyday to avoid usage of artificial sweetners  but all of that sold is surely worth a visit while you are in the city.

Kolkata

The story of the city of joy and the sweet tooth it was born with is famous. Although several well known slices of colonial Kolkata exist in the public eye, this is one bakery that escapes easy notice. Nestled in a pretty much obscure corner of the city, the Saldhana Bakery is housed inside a residential premise and a peek from inside the door leaves one confused as they find themselves standing at the threshold of an old colonial styled residence.( There is a mighty big piano right within view standing at the door). This one plies very unconventionally. There are no places to sit but you can see stacks of highly luring desserts kept on trays and can even ask to have one if you have the money to pay. This place mostly takes orders that have to be collected from the spot but the brownies, macrons, walnut cakes, and sweet buns (to name a few) are some of the finest you will find in the whole city. 

Shillong

This touristy town laden in the hills is a grand preserve of colonial sophistication. Cafes and bakeries are always a popular attraction in hillside towns and the Mahari Bakery of Shillong has preserved traditions for over a century. The Mahari kitchen has yeilded some of the finest bakes in the country over the years. Their plum cakes,English cakes, scones, cookies and Butter biscuits exude the warmth and joy of the hills and are a must try. As with a lot of colonial era cafes, inside this one too, you can savour your tea and snacks to the tunes and rhythms of soft jazz classics. Sadly, the reputation of the cafe has worn down over the years due to deterioration in its quality of services.

Guwahati

This beautiful North Eastern metropolis occupies a lesser–known stature in mainland India. Of the soul serving eateries in Guwahati are the Shaikh Brothers in Panbazar. The cake   shop  was established in 1885 British era and has been producing mouth watering delicacies ever since. They make the most amazing designer cakes pre-ordered according to the occasion they serve. Their puffs, sandwiches and munchies too are to die for. Giving equal competition to the Shaikh Brothers is the Eggs’O’tic Bakery. It is one of the oldest patisserie shops with the most beautiful of decor and interiors to savour your food in the company of.  Founded much later in post modern times, in 1989, this ‘exotic’ cafe and bakery has been handing out the most sumptuous fresh bakes. The Black Forests, rumballs, cream rolls, doll pops, chicken patties  and cupcakes taste heavenly and if you still happen to go to Guwahati and leave without trying them, don’t blame us for those regretful sighs later.

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