A Handy Little Wedding Cake Guide

When you book a venue for your wedding in Bombay, it tends to be a parcel of most essential wedding requirements – the decorator, caterer, sound and light, wedding car, etc. As well as for the economically worried, this service by the venue providers is excellent for those who don’t want to spend much time fretting over the nitty-gritty. There are of course options for different budgets – usually ranging from platinum to silver packages.

The caterers who are included in this contract system also provide the bridal couple with the wedding cake, and it is usually complimentary. The cake you end up with is in direct relation to the catering package you select. If you aren’t pleased with what you see, you can always opt to buy (or make) your own wedding cake.

Sample these cakes – most of them taken from the wedding albums of East Indian couples I know.

Concept - Silel, Cake artist - Lindsey (~9820293430~)

Concept - mine (flowers from Crawford Market & topper by Shawn Lewis), Cake artist - Aunty Glenny, Vasai

Concept & artist - Trudy, Bombay (~+912226770649, +919833417776~)

Concept and cake artist - Aunty Glenny, Vasai

Concept & artist - Aunty Glenny, Vasai

Concept - Ashley & Aster, Cake artist - Aunty Glenny, Vasai

Aren’t they beautiful! Do send me pictures of your wedding cakes, I would love to put them up out here.

One of the limitations most cake bakers I know face when crafting a wedding cake in Bombay is the lack of decent food colouring. You get the standard red, blue, green and yellow and any daring colours can only be attempted via the mix-and-match method. Even then, the colour you end up with is a watered down shade of the one you need.

For instance, for my own wedding cake, I had an entirely different style of cake in mind and plum purple was my choice of colour for the layer of icing as it would have totally swinged our theme. I had to reverse the combination though and make do with (artificial) plum purple flowers that I plucked out of a bouquet I purchased at Crawford Market. Regardless, I was told people had a good time sticking them all in the cake while decorating it, so it turned out fun in the end *grin*

For my sister’s wedding we are better prepared and I am going to do my darndest to arm Aunty Glenny with bold food colouring like the ones I saw on Baking Pleasures.

If you would like to go the cupcake way (like the second cake from Project Wedding), there are many cupcake bakers cropping up in good old Bombay these days. A very hunger-inducing glance through some Brown Paper Bag archives led me to these lovely folks:

~ SOS Cupcakes – for whimsy cupcakes

~ Dolce – for Luxe cupcakes

~ Recipe Mobile – for cupcakes and cheesecakes

~ Cake it Away – for creative cupcakes

And then again, there are professional bakers who specialize in wedding cakes like:

~ Joyce Fernandes – +912226423613 / +912226436805 / +919820139370

~ Desireé Cake Studio – +912226454962 / +912226458998

~ Tart Cakes – they are not as dodgy as they sound (not unless you want them to) and they even make cupcakes

~ The Baking Tray

And if you happen to be a groom or bride who wants to go that extra mile for the aisle, try out something as novel as a cake baking class that allows you to take home the fruit of your labour. Reema Prasanna’s Bake You! not only provides you with an expert one-on-one baking session, but you also get to use her kitchen and equipment. For a couple that would like to make their wedding extra memorable (and have some time on their hands), I can’t think of a better way to do so than indulge in an activity like this!

So there you have it, my handy little guide to the best websites, spots and people to hit for a wedding cake in Mumbai and even in Vasai. Let me know if you know of any interesting ones. You could shoot me a mail at haellii at hotmail.co.uk or simply comment on this post.

In Need of a Wedding Gown?

The other day, I received a comment from Joyce – a bride-to-be in Mangalore. She ties the knot in a few months and is hunting high and low for Christian bridal gowns in Mangalore. If any of you people reading this are from Mangalore and know how to help her out, it would be highly appreciated.

An update: Buttercup, a reader, has kindly contributed a website that should be of help to brides looking for a bridal gown tailor in Mangalore. Visit Concetta Bridals to view the beautiful gowns up there.

I have never been to Mangalore, and know less about how weddings proceed out there. When I think about the difficulty in finding the right accessory, fabric, decor, caterer, etc. over here in Vasai and even in Mumbai, I wonder what Christian brides and grooms who are looking for all these things and more go about it in other parts of India.

I wore a bespoke gown for my wedding

Sure, we have the internet these days for everything, but some of the best wedding vendors out there are unlisted in wedding directories and barely a small fraction have websites of their own. This is very sad, as it would be of tremendous help to Christian couples looking for quick, affordable and quality solutions to their wedding if all these wedding vendors were listed somewhere on the Indian interwebs.

Christian brides in India almost always go for a bespoke bridal gown. Not many prefer vintage or second-hand gowns as they are viewed as hand-me-downs. A pity, since lace and fabric back then were divine as were some of the styles.

If you would not mind a second-hand or vintage wedding gown, I would suggest you try a place like David & Company in Dhobi Talao at Marine Lines, Mumbai. I remember a dreamy concoction of flowing pink lace fading into white I once came across out there. I wowed to wear a gown like that for my own wedding but yes, I eventually went for a simple number.

If you don’t find what you are looking for there, you could always ask them to direct you to other retailers who stock second-hand gowns. Do take a quick stroll down Crawford Market before you try elsewhere and pay close attention to the shops that line the start of the lane. They stock ready-made gowns and if you are lucky, you may find a seamstress who will agree to stitch one for you in a short time.

From what I hear, Inspirations, the bridal and floral accessories boutique at Amboli in Andheri West is another place that has recently started stocking ready-made gowns. The quality maintained at Inspirations is fantastic and along with a gown, you will find yourself stocking up on button-hole flowers, tiaras, corsages and some exquisite wedding jewelry.

Silver Pages, a Christian wedding information directory dedicated to listings of wedding-related services is another brilliant resource you can consult. I am not sure about their website, but I have been told that you can obtain a copy at Snehalaya at Mahim West in Mumbai.

If a trip to Mumbai is impossible, I would suggest you ask any women’s group in your local parish for pointers on the best bridal gown tailor in your area. Never doubt the solid information to be found in a group of women I say!

Failing that, I list down some excellent dressmakers abroad that you can check out if there is no other solution but to order a wedding gown online. These are Indian pocket-friendly, and I know of a few brides who have been happy with their gowns:

David’s Bridal

Pre-Owned Wedding Dresses

Once Wed

Be wary of purchasing a wedding gown from websites that offer wholesale wedding gowns or discount gowns as returns/alterations/shipping etc. could turn out to be a painful process. Unless you know of anyone who has made use of the service, it would be inadvisable to get a wedding gown via them.

Mmm… Marzipan!

For as long as I can remember, cooking marzipan has always been a woman thing. When Nana was alive and mobile, she would gather my sister and me around the dining table and make us help her and our mum out with the Christmas sweets. Kal-Kals had to be curled up a particular way, stuffing for the nevris had to have the right ratio of ingredients and stirring the cashew paste for marzipan was a shared activity.

A platter of traditional East Indian Christmas sweetmeats is a wonderful sight. Kal-Kals, Nevries, Dahl sweet, Coconut burfis, Coconut canapés, date pudding/cake, Jejubs, Fruit cake, Milk cream, Marzipan, Date rolls, Butterfly wafers, etc. are just a few that find their way into houses and bellies at Christmas-time. Back then, Christmas was when the women of the family came together and shared cooking tips with the younger girls. Us young ‘uns for that matter, loved being around vessels that had to be licked clean, so it was a great deal everything said and done.

Which is why when I made marzipan yesterday, I couldn’t help but feel a bit teary over how odd it felt to be making it by myself. It was the first time for me but surprisingly, it turned out quite delicious in the end.

Most cultures make home-made marzipan using almonds, but a small chunk like us East Indians make it using cashew nuts. Even if both are primarily dried fruits, there is a vast difference in taste. Marzipan made of cashews is far richer and involves lesser ingredients than marzipan made out of almonds.

I’m not very sure about the cooking process though. Considering the amount of patience and energy required to make marzipan the East Indian way, I wouldn’t be surprised if the other type involves an equal amount.

When I set out to make marzipan here in my Australian home, I had a major problem. No molds and no Crawford Market or Vasai Bazaar at hand to procure them. Trusty rubber molds with assorted shapes like sea-shells, fruits, flowers and geometric ones are a staple in every Christian house-hold in Bombay and are available in stores in areas with a strong Christian presence. They are not very expensive either.

I expected to find similar cooking accessories out here, but no go. You would think in a country filled with Master Chef fangirls and women who seem to be aces at nearly everything they cook, you would at least find a decent marzipan mold. Sigh.

All I came across were some wacky Christmassy ice trays and jelly molds in David Jones and the local supermarket. The sales ladies advised me that the consistency of marzipan may not be suitable for the molds they had available. However, if you are of a mind to order some gorgeous molds online, then head to Baking Pleasures and if you happen to be in Mumbai, do make a trip to Crawford Market.

No molds and my own two hands resulted in me falling on the backup plan – creating whimsy marzipan shapes! Believe you me, this is as fun as mucking about with Play-Doh.

The internet is the frantic cook’s emergency kitchen and I found some terrific inspiration lurking in the most unlikeliest places. Take for instance, the eight-year-old genius who taught me how to make calla lilies and roses from marzipan and some more floral inspiration from a girl who seemed to have a lot of patience with edible flowers.

Cake Journal was another brilliant place where I came across a delicious recipe for marzipan bombs / balls (à la rum balls) and a handy tute on crafting wee little roses. Nonetheless, these paled in front of the stupendous recreation of Hagrid’s hut complete with a Hippogryph that I stumbled across on Gingerbread House Heaven! Inspiration for marzipan begins and ends there, I say!

Being a novice at marzipan makes you realign your designs and ambitions though and so I started with button-faced snowmen, some curiously warm snowmen and a few portly penguins. I gave a miss to the traditional marzipan sea-shells East Indians are notorious for making as well as the tried and boring marzipan fruits and flora. Cakeology had some scrumptious-looking marzipan cakes, but I have bookmarked them for future dexterity with marzipan. Mr. Hanky Poo too has been quietly bookmarked for a potential prank *wink*.

East Indian marzipan is a bit tricky to make. This will be surprising to some people, especially if I mention that all I used to make marzipan were ground cashews, rose-water, egg whites and sugar.

The hard bits are:

Making sure the cashews are ground not too coarse and not too fine. Apparently, the finer you grind them, the more oil they secrete.

Ensuring your stirring arm and back are up to the hour-long stirring session. Or simply have a mischievous elf or two around to share the burden.

Ensuring you have the consistency of the cooked dough just right.

Having nerves of steel when it’s time to knead the scalding hot dough. A colourful vocabulary has been known to alleviate the pain involved in this step as well.

 

Working on my own, I began with the preparation process at 2:00 pm and completed the shapes at 8:30 pm. However, I had a lot of marzipan (I used 500 gms of cashews – 150-200 gms is generally enough) to play around with, so the entire deal depends on how much you plan on making and how many people you have at hand to help you.

Trust me, it’s fun and infinitely better if you have company. However, classic Christmas carols and a fertile mind have been known to take people to experimental marzipan heaven as well.

At the end of my marzipan-making session, I had:

A monumental ache in my back.

An army of utterly bewitching penguins and snowmen.

A very, very dashing gendarme.

A grin as wide as Giriz talav.

Two very thrilled and happy men.

Extremely proud parents.

Hearty adulation from my peers.

S.A.T.I.S.F.A.C.T.I.O.N.

Oh yeah, marzipan sessions are fun alright. Ping me if you need the recipe. I charge photographs of your result and an exciting account of all the fun YOU have making ’em!

P.S: You can find the recipe for the Marzipan I made on my food blog, Fritters & Foogyas.