Julia Child in Delhi – Ayeshe Sadr’s “Awesome Chocolate Cake”, Mehrauli
The great chef’s life in Delhi.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
As the possessive owner of 50 gorgeous saris, a beautiful silver “sari-belt” and a much-loved cake recipe, Ayeshe Sadr seems to be enjoying a reasonably contended existence in our smoggy metropolis.
The 36-year-old illustrator lives with Koka and Tofu (cats), and Ishaan (“husband and roommate”) in a fourth-floor apartment in south Delhi’s Mehrauli. Ms Sadr, actually, had an equal likelihood of settling down in an apartment in faraway Tehran. She is of Persian origins—her name means ‘life’ in Persian.
Her father came as a young man from native Iran to study political science in Delhi University’s Dayal Singh College. “Baba was staying at a barsati in Golf Links, Mamma was his neighbour… they eventually got married,” says Ms Sadr, dressed this afternoon in a white cotton sari.
Her parents started their life together in Iran “but then the revolution happened, the Shah was overthrown and Mamma and Baba were forced to return to Delhi.” Ms Sadr has never been to her father’s homeland. Neither did she ever meet her Iranian grandparents, who, consequently, never got to taste her famous chocolate cake. Her Delhi friends are luckier. Though they often urge her to bring the cake for intimate get-togethers, those good people have no idea that it is not really their Ayeshe’s cake.
“It’s Monisha Maasi’s cake,” she casually discloses, recalling a school friend’s mother who wrote down the recipe for her about 20 years ago. “I have altered it a bit though… made it adulti-sh.”
The young woman is referring to spiking the cake with a dash of whiskey.
The best part of the recipe, she reveals, while carefully placing the baking tray in the oven, is its bankability. “It never gives a bad result and is technically a bit healthier than most other cakes.” The cake is made of atta flour instead of the usual maida. “It is the equivalent of having a simple roti smeared with ghee and cheeni.”
The cake also goes well with Ms Sadr’s dietary preferences. She isn’t really that much of a “meetha person” and rather like “cooking meat and chatpata food but this is one cake I truly love and it has become a part of my very limited baking repertoire.” Meanwhile, the cake is almost ready. Just at this moment a friend (Kavita) appears unannounced and is overjoyed to chance upon “Ayeshe’s insanely awesome cake.”
Monisha Maasi’s Chocolate Cake
For the cake:
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups atta (not maida)
3/4th cup oil (normal vegetable cooking oil)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup boiling water
1 cup curd
2 level tsps baking soda
For the Icing:
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup butter (normal Amul butter)
1/2 cup milk
A shot of Whiskey or Rum, optional but highly recommended
A generous pinch of salt
1. Before starting put on your oven at 180C to pre-heat.
2. Sieve the atta with the baking soda and salt and keep aside.
3. Measure out the curd in a bowl and gently mix till nice and creamy.
4. Measure out the cocoa powder, add the boiling water and mix well so no lumps are left. Add a pinch of salt.
5. Add sugar and oil in a mixing bowl and whisk well for a minute or so.
6. Add eggs one by one, whisking till mixture is nice and frothy.
7. Now alternate between adding spoonfuls of the atta, curd and the hot cocoa water to the mixing bowl. Fold all these ingredients well. The batter should be a little runny.
8. Pour in a greased baking tin and bake for 25-30 minutes at 180c.
9. Once the cake is out and is left to cool, make the icing by adding all the icing ingredients, except the alcohol in a saucepan. Cook on low to medium heat, while stirring continuously. Once it starts to boil, add whiskey and stir for a second or so and it’s done. The icing should be a bit runny so it can soak through the cake.
10. The icing has to be poured over the cake while it is still hot, so keep the cake ready. That is, out of the tin and sliced horizontally so you can soak the middle of the cake as well as the top.
11. And now it is done. Happy eating:)
PS: The cake is tastiest if left for a few hours to sit. So make it a day in advance.
The making of Ayeshe Sadr’s Chocolate Cake