In Conversation With 4 Delicious And Delightful Pastry Queens

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Amber Tikari

Profiteroles, crisp and airy, mouth-watering vegan creations, extravagant cream cakes inspired by Indian designers and the enchanting beauty of Victoria Gardens. Embark on a sweet journey with HELLO! as we introduce four exceptional pâtissières and their delectable creations.

Passionate About Profiteroles: Atvni Mehan

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The Lucknow-based pâtissier and founder of Macaron Patisserie traces her passion for the craft back to the tradition of baking birthday cakes at home. “As a child I’d watch the process around the table, occasionally asked to whisk the batter or help,” Avni recalls. As she grew older, she began baking herself and relished the appreciation her cakes received. After high school, pursuing courses in baking and pastry at At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy in Singapore and Le Cordon Bleu in London, along with internships at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, Clark’s and the Taj in Lucknow, the dessert dynamo started her own gourmet baking business.

Big Challenge: Finding and retaining good staff. We need skilled bakers who can master the art of fine baking. Finding talent capable of presenting Macaron products with aesthetic precision is not easy.

Greatest Creation: The salted caramel profiteroles and hand-painted fresh cream cakes at Macaron Patisserie. Our Malva pudding, an African dessert, is a sell-out.

Famous Clientele: Chef Prateek Sadhu recently sampled some Macaron products and the profiteroles were a clear favourite.

Best Pastry I’ve Sampled (not by me): This is going to be a long list! Chocolate and passion fruit macaron by French pastry chef Pierre Hermé; pistachio ice cream at Glace Bachir, Paris; hot chocolate at SAID dal 1923, London; sacher torte at Cafe Sacher, Vienna; tiramisu at Cafe Dali, New Delhi; old school rum balls and stick jaws at Elloras, Dehradun.

Masterpiece In The Making: High-quality bonbons. They must be blemish-free, velvety and perfectly sealed to hold the ganache or filling.

Cakes In Full Bloom: Myrra Jihunjhunwala

In 2013, while studying economics in Singapore, Myrra discovered the joy of cooking for herself and her roommates, making it the highlight of her day. “I found it to be experimental and adventurous, and as I delved into discovering new recipes and trying diverse flavours, my love for baking became palpable,” she shares, describing it as a life-altering moment. This led her to make a complete shift, enrolling in The Culinary Institute of America in New York to pursue Pastry Arts. After graduation, she gained experience in several Michelin-starred restaurants under the country’s best chefs before returning to India to establish Caramel Pâtisserie, with branches in Noida and New Delhi.

Big Challenge: When I first moved back from the US, one of my biggest challenges was sourcing ingredients of the same quality. However, I have been able to find ways around it and now I work with the finest imported chocolate, butter and other delicacies, complemented by my personal kitchen garden — my favourite place in the world.

Greatest Creation: Our signature Hazelnut and Chocolate Cake is crowd favourite. Other beloved flavours include citron and passion fruit, Swiss chocolate truffle cream with praline and amaretto cherries, blackberry and rose with champagne gelee, and pistachio and raspberry crème cake.

My best creation is the intricate decoration featuring edible flowers, micro-greens, seasonal berries and gold. It reflects my obsession with Victorian gardens, translated onto every cake. Famous clientele: I’ve had the honour of baking Katrina Kaif and Vicky Kaushal’s wedding cake — Katrina adored our Signature cake, ‘Victoria’, a five-tiered delight adorned with over one thousand berries and pastel roses.

Additionally, I’ve had the privilege of crafting scrumptious desserts for various personalities, including Kusha Kapila, Shilpa Shetty (Hazelnut Crunch Cheesecake), Kalyani Saha (Strawberry and Cream, a winter favourite), Barkha Singh and many more.

Best Pastry I’ve Sampled (not by me): Ube Velvet Cake by Posh Pop Bakery in New York. The best, best, best!

Masterpiece In The Making: I’ve been experimenting with plated desserts and it’s my dream to open a dessert bar.

The Vegan Baker: Naimita Jagasia

Naimita Jagasia©Hello

It was during her time at the University of London, when she discovered that she was severely lactose and gluten intolerant, that proved a turning point for Naimita. “I have a major sweet tooth and the lack of desserts that were safe for me to eat pushed me to begin experimenting in the kitchen,” says the culinary innovator, who began creating plant-based milks, cheese and cheesecakes. “Eventually, that got me exploring other desserts and made me fall in love with the art of pastry, and the innovation attached to it.”

Following short internships in Canada, she started Ode to Gaia in 2019 from a small little garage space in Mumbai. Big challenge Ode to Gaia embraces sustainability and ethics, using ingredients from small farmholders and fair trade businesses, maintaining plastic-free practices, and achieving carbon-neutral deliveries with in-house electric bikes. This has a cost attached to it, which is why the pricing of our desserts is on the higher end. Encouraging people to understand that farm-to-table extends beyond restaurants to patisseries is our challenge. The cost of being environmentally friendly and supporting local farmers is one we are willing and should bear.

Naimita Jagasia©Hello

Greatest Creation: I enjoy pushing the limits of plant-based pastry, especially reinventing traditional egg and dairy desserts. Mastering macarons was a years-long journey, and I’m confident we offer some of the city’s finest. Our French Entremet, traditionally filled with animal-based ingredients, now boasts the same delightful flavours and textures — arguably even yummier. Lastly, our celebration cakes may make anyone question their beliefs about veganism.

Famous Clientele: We’ve baked for Shilpa Shetty, and Genelia and Ritesh Deshmukh, who are our most regular clients and especially love our macarons. Other celebrities we’ve served include the compassionate vegan Amy Aela and Malvika Raaj, who trusted us with her wedding hamper invites, favouring our macarons and chocolates. Anushka Manchanda has been enjoying our cakes since our patisserie’s launch.

Best Pastry I’ve Sampled (not by me): My friend Jeena [J Billimoria] makes the most magical madeleines and you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t order them right away!

Masterpiece In The Making: Definitely choux pastry. I’ve attempted making these a few times, but due to their heavy reliance on eggs and sensitivity to humidity, achieving consistent results has proven to be quite challenging. However, innovating in pastry is my forte and I’m confident you’ll soon find them on my menu.

Cake Topper: Ipshita Chakladar

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During her school days, Ipshita first discovered her love for baking, crediting her mother for her early awakening. “She was an excellent baker. With very limited resources available at the time, she created themed cakes for birthdays, including mine and for family and friends,” says the baking prodigy. Ipshita recalls a Santa-shaped creation she baked for a family friend’s winter birthday in high school, which received much appreciation. Her passion took her to the Institute of Hotel Management, Bangalore, and eventually led to the founding of The Hot Pink Cake Studio in New Delhi.

Big Challenge: In the initial days, sourcing basic premium ingredients was challenging, but over my decade-and-a-half journey, it has become easier. However, certain equipment remains hard to find.

Greatest Creation: Selecting the best is like asking a mother to choose her favourite child. Every cake reflects a part of me, but my signature pieces are the Indian-themed ones — a trend I initiated. The first Indian topper I created, inspired by designer Sabyasachi, broke social media records, garnering over 15K likes in less than an hour. This was in the early days when social media engagement was entirely organic.

Famous Clientele: Over the years, I’ve baked for numerous public figures and royalty, but I prefer to keep their identities confidential.

Best Pastry I’ve Sampled (not by me): Baking today is more complex and technology-driven compared to traditional methods. For me, simplicity is key and one of the best I’ve had was on a trip to Berlin — a classic, no-fuss gateaux.

Masterpiece In The Making: I would love to master the art of solid chocolate display sculptures. Those are absolutely aspirational.

Text And Creative Direction: Amber Tikari; Photos: Abhishek Khandelwal (Myrra Jhunjhunwala & Ipshita Chakladar), Ryan Martis (Naimita Jagasia) and Deepak Gupta (Avni Mehan).

This interview is from HELLO! India’s January 2024 issue. Check out the latest issue right here.