Slices of tints and tastes

Bentos are basically lunch boxes with only one-two servings. With the right quantity and quality of ingredients, anyone can bake a small cake.
Bento cakes
Bento cakes

CHENNAI: Cute little colourful cakes, packed in a tiny box, just enough for two people — Bento cakes are slowly taking the city by storm. While bakeries and bakers in the city are offering this much-in-demand option on their menu, here is 46-year-old Jannathul Firdous who is teaching Chennaiites to make their own Bento cakes at The Gaiety Corner.

You do not have to be a baker to bake Bento cakes. Bentos are basically lunch boxes with only one-two servings. With the right quantity and quality of ingredients, anyone can bake a small cake.

A self-taught baker, Jannathul has her roots in Tuticorin and has spent 17 years in Saudi Arabia. On her daughter Ashra Farhat’s insistence, she ventured into the world of fluffy cakes and flavourful icing. “My daughter challenged me with a chocolate cake for her birthday. I immersed myself in learning how to make the best cake to impress her. That’s how it started,” she says. Countless hours of trial and error led her to perfect the craft. Now, she believes that anyone can bake, and age or any other factor is not a barrier to learning this skill.

Soon, this love for baking turned into a cloud kitchen and eight years later, she began conducting workshops to share her knowledge with others. “I chose workshops as a platform to teach the skills and nuances of baking, which I have perfected through the years. Bento cake appealed to me as it fuses the art of making delicious and visually stunning cakes. The idea of Bento cakes excites and inspires me a lot. South Korean lunch box cakes, popularly known as Bento cakes, are extraordinary as they are minimalistic with a burst of flavours and are equally appealing to the palate,” she shares.

Even these small cakes can be beautiful and flavourful. Quality and attention to detail sets her apart. Walking us through the process of designing and creating a Bento cake, Jannathul explains, “I teach my students not only baking from scratch but also how to craft a theme and technically execute the design with the final touch of packaging aesthetics, cut it into individual five-inch cakes, fill them with different flavours, and finally ice them with luscious buttercream.” In addition, participants also receive a recipe material booklet with elaborate instructions.

In the workshops this month, Jannathul will be teaching participants to bake a basic chocolate cake, Russian buttercream, icing techniques, and how to decorate and pack a proper lunch box Bento cake.

Crafting a Bento cake has its own challenges. “We need to make a proper assessment of the size and height of the cake so that it precisely fits in the Bento box. The designs should be simple at the same time intriguing and classy,” she says. Despite having some practical difficulties in giving a complete hands-on session within the stipulated time, she has designed the workshops differently. “They are open to innovate with their icing with their choice of coloured buttercream, opt for the piping nozzles and bag of sprinkles they wish to use. We try to introduce them to the world of decorating a cake like a pro and not making them feel like beginners,” she says.

The workshops are for everyone — beginners to experienced. Having conducted five workshops so far Jannathul is happy when a novice becomes a baker. “I feel fulfilled when the students leave my sessions confident enough to make their cakes professionally.”

Beyond her current endeavours, Jannathul dreams ambitiously. “I envision a space where people can design their cakes, akin to popular US baking shows,” she says, adding, “I’m working towards establishing an academy and a studio solely dedicated to wedding cakes. I want couples to come to me and share their cake dreams.”

To join the Bento cake workshop in July, visit her Instagram handle @thegaietycorner.

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