Jaya bakes it better
by Annalisa Merelli
23 February 2009
Contact Jaya Kocchar at (+91) 98180-77161.
If you need a cake, there's many ways you can go about it. You can bake it yourself, if you are confident enough in your skills. You can walk in a good patisserie, and buy one of the ones for display. Or you can even order one from your favorite bakery, to make sure you get it just as you want it.
But, if you are in Delhi, none of these options will ever be able to compete with the jaw-dropping surprise that you could generate by getting a custom-made cake from Jaya.
Jaya is not the name of a bakery, or of a patisserie. Jaya is the ultimate one-girl-cake-show. She works in a tiny kitchen where, with the only help of two assistants, she bakes at least 12 kilos of cakes and desserts every day. And - which is what makes her really special, she decorates them.
By decorate, I'm not talking about flowers, chocolate curls and whipped cream icing. Sure, Jaya can make that, if you want. But, and I really suggest that you ask her to go wild instead, because when you do, she can make your cake look incredible.
Like, I asked her to make me a chocolate cake that looked like a bowl of noodles, and she did. She made the cake in the shape of a china bowl, and covered it with marzipan noodles and tiny carrots. I watched her at work. With velocity and perfection, colored marzipan dough was shaped in the most improbable shapes under my eyes, with no failed attempt.
I hung out with her in her kitchen for a couple hours. While she was telling me about how she decided baking was her future, not only did she make the above-mentioned noodle bowl, but she also turned a plain rectangular cake into a soccer field with marzipan players, done in full details, teeny-weeny eyebrows included.
Jaya decided to turn her passion for baking into a profession after finishing college. "I majored in History," she explained to me, "And once I was done I had to find an answer to the question: What now?. At the time I used to make a bit of money baking for a couple of cafés in Delhi, and I decided I could turn that into a fun job. So I took a one-year course at PUSA institute for hotel management, and then to perfect my skills at Napa Cooking School, in California."
Jaya's "cake designs" have been featured in newspapers and TV shows. Once she recalls, after a national newspaper wrote about her, she received three hundred phone calls from people ordering cakes. But yet when I asked her what was the most successful moment of her career, that is not the episode she mentioned. "When I started my activity, back in 2004", Jaya told me, "I said to my dad that no one made cakes as I did, in Delhi. He answered that I sounded very arrogant, and it wasn't good to think that much of myself. But last year, after I showed him one of my most complex "creations", he told me: 'No one in Delhi makes cakes as you do'. That is by far the most important compliment I have ever received.".
Wondering about the craziest order she has ever received? Well, it's crazy enough. Once, for a wedding, she was asked to replicate an entire neighbourhood: bride and groom used to live ten houses away from one another, and they wanted their cake to be in the shape of the colony where they'd grown up. Sure enough, Jaya made the neighbourhood cake. In four days and three night of work, she created fifteen kilos of chocolate goodness in the shape and texture of houses, windows, streets.
Thinking of challenging her with something more extreme? Oh, she'll be more than happy to bake it for you.