Remember the times when, if someone uttered 'cake', we would readily assume it's either Shumi's iconic black forest cake or Cooper's Tia Maria or Mr. Baker's legendary vanilla cake? Well, those times have only changed as cakes today have taken on the Bangladeshi food and catering industry in a way that could never have been predicted as long as only 10 years ago.
Not only does there exist a wide range of new and exotic cake flavors such as red velvet, salted caramel, butterscotch, lemon, carrot, coffee and a whole set of flavoured cheesecakes these days, the idea of having cakes only to celebrate birthdays has also become redundant in our country; thanks to an array of newly realised occasions of outlandish wedding receptions, baby showers, bridal showers, graduation parties and even farewells!
Cake is the go-to dessert for every one-dish party or family gathering nowadays. Most interestingly, decorating cakes has taken its place as a form of art in itself which, not too long ago, was even pondered.
What is noteworthy in the evolution of cakes is that it is not the age of lockdown and uncertainty that paved the way for bakers to indulge in coming up with online cake shops; this line of business has been booming and prospering since 2016. The main reason behind the rapid success of cake businesses is the initiation of some unorthodox approaches to decorating cakes.
One such prominent approach is icing cakes with fondant which introduced the idea of sculpting cakes to resemble and have the exact appearance of real objects such as a purse, or, a football, or, even a camera; becoming the must-have skill to master for aspiring bakers in the country.
Speaking of skills, another expertise that is almost mandatory for any pastry chef to acquire at the moment is buttercream icing; particularly extravagant and intricate buttercream flowers. Mirror-glaze icing is another recent phenomenon in cake decoration.
Cakes today are no longer plain (pun intended!) and it is evident by the rapidly growing fad of using edible gold leaf to decorate cakes. Yes, we are living in times where eating actual gold in desserts is as real as it can get!
With the consumption of cakes, the passion for making it has also escalated and to the point that, in a household where you might struggle to find basic knife sets or ceramic pots, you will definitely find its kitchen cabinets filled with cake molds of various shapes, nozzle sets, piping bags, cake scrapers, tiers, and other fancy cake-making tools while its refrigerators stocked with whipping cream cartons, confetti, cooking chocolate bars and chocolate chips.
It is truly fascinating how online cake shops are competing neck-to-neck with predominant mainstream cake giants in Bangladesh and that too, only in a matter of a few years. This is made possible by home cooks constantly trying and inventing new ways to perceive cakes.
As far as my taste in cakes is concerned, I like it most when stereotypical cakes are reinvented with a twist. And the three that hold a special place in my heart are Butter - The Bakery, Secret Recipe and The Flourist.
Butter - The Bakery
Online dessert chain Butter - The bakery brought the idea of cake jars to light; making the cake a portable dessert (literally!) Another online venture Kitchen Diaries by Samia came up with an instant hit; budget-friendly and convenient - lunch box cakes.
Needless to say, this line of trade has encouraged most homemakers in our country to empower themselves and establish their own identities as well as channeling their passion for baking from the comfort of their homes.
Although lots of new online dessert outlets are currently available just a web search away, online cake businesses have rarely been observed to fail or shut down soon after its inauguration.
This explains why launching an online bakery has become the ultimate business move for potential entrepreneurs and has been construed as a staircase to quick success and glory in recent times.
While the cakeries enjoy a great deal of success online, its prosperity offline is just as remarkable. With the plethora of options available both online and offline, people are pickier and more experimental in choosing a favourite at present.
Secret Recipe is a Malaysian café chain serving cake and fusion food since 1997. It opened its international branch in Dhaka in 2017. It is the first franchise to present the decadent triple cheesecake in Bangladesh.
The first time I tried its signature Chocolate Indulgence cake, I felt like I was eating a slice of heaven. With the perfect balance between richness and lightness, this cake is an absolute crowd-favourite and the dish that put Secret Recipe on the Bangladeshi map.
Next in line is The Flourist. I came to know about it from a friend as I was looking for a sugar-free birthday cake for my mother who is diabetic and the best part is, the cake was so good that no one could tell the difference.
The Flourist was founded by Saria Ahmed, who trained as a pastry chef at Le Cordon Bleu, London. It started out as an online cake studio but due to its rising popularity in delivering nuanced gourmet cakes, went on to have its mainstream outlet in Gulshan 2, the hubbub of exotic food in Dhaka. The Flourist launched the theme of vegan cakes for the first time ever in Bangladesh.