Ode To Abu

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Baker Brigade - Nanditha Sashidharan

"HBG is one of my proudest accomplishments and both KP Balakumar and I intend to see this through till the end come what may," says Nanditha Sashidharan. She is the co-founder of the Home Bakers Guild and owner of 2-year-old enterprise, The Sugar Hut. She is also the Agony Aunt on the forum for new bakers and the Mother Hen for nervous bakers at the Showcase events! Her behind-the-scenes work at HBG often times goes unnoticed, despite all the hard work she puts in. Her own business has at times taken a backseat when she focussed on her new baby, the FB forum.

On the progress of the Guild, Nanditha says they had intended it to be a bonding space for home-bakers. Their desire was to create a platform for home-bakers and show the world that home-based talent could be on par, if not better, than commercial bakeries. Its sudden stupendous growth has pleasantly shocked her. She jokes, "We've created a monster! But its a cute li'l monster" :-)

Blueberry Cheesecake

Despite all of the above, her baking talents remain in the limelight. Reams of newsprint and TV show specials have waxed eloquent on Nanditha's baking journey. A rocker chick and a rocking home-baker, her life is quite the roller coaster ride. Her experiences in the male-dominated rock music industry have toughened her up. Front-woman and lead singer of the rock band 'No Idea', Nanditha attributes her domestic skills to her grandmother and mother. Her mother Girija Menon (part of the Soul Food Sisters team at the Showcase) in turn says she learns a lot about being single-minded and focussed from her daughter! This is one cool duo who are best friends first and related by birth next.

With mom Girija Menon

Before The Sugar Hut opened its doors to the public, Nanditha's guinea pigs were family and friends. She considers herself her harshest critic. It helps her push the bar higher each time. What scares her most is feedback from her biggest customers - children! She says, "Kids are very hard to please. If they don't like what they're eating, they won't hesitate to chuck cake at you!" She finds birthday orders the most challenging as it is a gathering of young and old alike, so pleasing all palates is a lot of pressure. The cake can't be too sweet, neither can one go overboard with dark chocolate. Maintaining this balance is like walking a tightrope, according to her.

I throw a googhly at her with my next question. "Never trust a skinny chef - what do you have to say to that?!" She laughed and responded that the battle of the bulge is one she is extremely proud of having won. Plump as a child, she lives on an adrenaline rush as an adult. Running a home all by herself and zumba dance workouts keep her fit and slim-trim, as they say! Falling in love helped her cause further! :-) She comes from a family of dancers; her mom was a Bharatnatyam dancer before marriage. 

She has dabbled in theatre and won western music cultural competitions in school. 'No Idea' was  awarded the Best Rock Band at the Great Indian Rock held in Delhi -- considered the Grammy Awards of Indian Rock. The 1st South Indian band with a female vocalist, they were an unusual win. The band toured Norway, which was an unforgettable experience for Nanditha. They have even done a song on AIDS awareness for UNICEF called 'For A Better Life'. 

As she spoke, her unbridled passion for baking is evident. She endeavours to make each cake different as she believes opening a box of cake is a lifetime experience. It is a surprise for not just the receiver, but also the sender/gifter. A memory that stays in people's minds for a long time, if not forever. Momentous occassions such as birthdays, weddings, and anniversaries fuel her creativity in designing each cake and giving it a new identity. She tends to get carried away during the baking process and her cakes usually end up larger than the size of the order placed! She sometimes has to play the game '20 Questions' with clueless customers and even take on the role of a shrink to understand her customer's cake requirements! All in all, she loves pushing the envelope and believes a home-baker really needs to use her head to stay on top of the game. She is grateful to her customers who travel from opposite ends of town to pick up her cakes. She does a lot of vegan cakes as well. Her USP is that she makes absolutely no compromise on quality of ingredients and most of her creations are all handmade. She does not own a mixer!

Chocolate Ganache Rose Cupcakes

Nanditha shared many interesting tips about managing a baking business that would be super useful to newbies entering the baking arena. She talked a lot about the challenges that home-bakers face at various stages of their business. We'll save that info for another day!

Kiwi & Strawberry Chocolate Cake

Fun Facts

Easiest dessert to make - Brownies, Cheesecakes and Roses made from buttercream or ganache (her specialty)

Dessert she is yet to master - Macaroons and other elegant French desserts

Fave dessert - Anything with exotic berries, nuts such as almonds and pine nuts, and cheesecakes

Family's fave dessert by her - Customized birthday cakes

Fave dish - Italian food. She finds it easy to make one-pot dishes that save time given her crazy schedules.

Fave ingredient(s) - Vanilla; mascarpone; exotic berries (she wouldn't mind having this on toast for breakfast every morning!)

Fave kitchen gadget - Her beaters! She says whipping cream by hand would be her worst nightmare! :-)

Dream - To open a cafe that houses both cake & music

Fellow Showcase participants goodies she would like to try - She says everyone's goodies look very appetizing and she can only admire and appreciate the wealth of talent. She is happy to see a lot of 'soul food' items in Edition 3. As a baker she understands the hard work that each baker is putting in. She would love to try something from everyone!

Strawberry Cheesecake 

I couldn't agree more. Something from every table sounds divine :-) On that sweet note, I'm headed for sweet dreams that will hopefully be realized at the Showcase tomorrow!

Showcase Specials
  • Cheesecakes
  • Raspberry Curd
  • Ferrero Rocher Tarts
  • Quiches
  • Lasagne and much more

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