On a Decadently Sinful Dessert Trail

In a conversation with Svetlana Lasrado, Chef Joonie Tan and baker Sonya Balasubramanyam talk about their passion for baking their favourite creations and recipes you can try at home

Published: 12th May 2014 08:01 AM  |   Last Updated: 12th May 2014 08:12 AM   |  A+A-


Chef Joonie Tan, Lavonne, Academy of Baking Science and Pastry Arts

How did you start your career in baking?

I started my professional life as a marketer in Malaysia. But, baking has always been a passion for me, ever since I was a kid. My aunt is a very good baker and I used to help her in the kitchen. Hence during my marketing days, I took up a course in baking and started taking orders at home. I moved to India two years ago when my beau Chef Vinesh asked me to join Lavonne, Academy of Baking Science and Pastry Arts as a pastry artist and that changed my career’s course.

What courses does Lavonne offer? What is your role at there?

Lavonne offers a Diploma in Patisserie, certified by City & Guilds, London. We also have one day weekend courses in baking and cake decoration. This is where my role comes in to play. I teach students cake decoration and sugarcraft. Apart from this,  I also bake and design customised cakes.

Your favourite food memories

During our baking sessions, my aunt and I used to experiment a lot. Of the many interesting things we did, we created a bun which looks like a Durian, the tropical fruit. We used a pair of scissors to snip and create the thorns. It was fun! I feel these sessions with my aunt got me interested in artsy cake creations.

What’s the trick to make perfect cake decorations?

I usually take two days to make the perfect cake! It is a lot of hard work. Cake decoration is an art. You master it with lots of practice, patience and perseverance.

 You are famous for your Gravity-defying cake. Tell us more about this.

Gravity defying cakes are all about a hidden support structure in a cake. This is a very new concept in cake decoration in India. It mimics a gravity-defying position and looks like its going to topple anytime but it is edible! A lot of carpentry work goes into creating this cake.

Your favourite dessert?

Banoffee Pie is my all time favourite! It’s a combination of Banana and Toffee with custard at the bottom and pie crust. Usually, it is made like a cake. But I prefer the pie-based version.

Sonya Balasubramanyam, Pâte Sucrée

 How did you start your career in baking? What were the challenges you faced?

I just woke up one morning, found a bread recipe on the Internet that sounded easy enough to bake. The bread turned out great, and I haven’t looked back since.

I’ve realised that it takes a lot of self-discipline to run your own outfit, however small it is. There’s no one breathing down your neck to meet a deadline, it’s just you, and your own sense of responsibility, accountability and passion that will help you follow your North Star. I guess the other very real challenge you face is not getting a regular paycheck.

Tell us more about Pâte Sucrée

I started Pâte Sucrée in August-September of last year, after completing Certificat de Pâtisserie de Base at Le Cordon Bleu in Bangkok. At school I realised that I really loved working with pastry - and so when I started Pâte Sucrée, I decided to focus on what I enjoyed doing best. My focus is mainly on tarts, pies, galettes and other items that separately fall in the viennoiserie category. Like many home-bakers, Pâte Sucrée comprises just me doing everything, with the support of my family.

 Your favourite food memories

I’ve always had the most unrelenting sweet tooth. I remember my mum adding a pinch of sugar to anything that I didn’t really like eating and I’d wolf it down without a peep, and quite happily, I might add. I’ve even eaten sambar-rice with sugar as a little girl.

What’s your top baking trick?

Mise en place - this is not really a personal baking trick, as much as it is something that I follow as a baker. It loosely translates to “everything in its place” - which means having everything prepped, measured and ready, before you start baking.

Your favourite dessert ?

My favourite is probably the Plum Galette. To me it epitomizes all the great things about pastry - a buttery, flaky crust topped with fresh fruit that sits atop an almond meal base. The flavours are honest, simple and delicious.


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