This blog is about Bengali cooking, but our home cooking history and account would be incomplete without a mention of baking. I love baking, and so does my mother.
When I was a child, the only Western food concept that was firmly set in our house was cake. My mother was an expert in baking simple cakes. I would be her assistant who gladly volunteered to stir the batter. I remember the frothy egg in a large bowl after vigorous whisking. I remember the gradual addition of sugar, butter (white, unprocessed and unsalted white butter), flour (mixed with baking powder), essence (usually vanilla), and, sometimes, nuts. She would put the batter in a pan and the pan into an oven that might have become an antique by now. It was a dinosaur. The oven was a big black iron box with a glass door secured with a little latch. The oven’s source of heat was not inside it; it would be placed on a chulha.
But the cake that would come out would be perfect.
Another way my mother would bake a cake was by putting smouldering coals on the lid of an aluminum pot with the batter in it set on a chulha. The cake would turn out just as fluffy, rich, and light.
Whether it was the low-tech gadgets or my mother’s magic I don’t know, but something worked well every time. The cake would be just right – light, moist, yet fluffy and flavorful. (The only thing my mother never learnt to do is icing. My father often urged her to learn icing from the Russian women who lived in Bhilai, but she never took active interest.)