Updated Jan 08, 2017 11:10am

Food Stories: Bombay Bakery's Coffee Cake

Nostalgia is a beautiful thing — it comes with editing, and our brain selectively remembers only the very wonderful. One memory I cherish is the legendary coffee cake from the famed Bombay Bakery in Hyderabad.

Abu was a marketing executive at a German multinational, the times were the glorious '70s and '80s, and every trip to the Hyderabad depot (a few times a month) meant the coming home of the coffee cake, followed by Ami’s exclamation, 'Let them eat cake,’ in imitation of the famous words by Marie Antoinette.


Discovering the history of Bombay Bakery

The Bombay Bakery is over 100 years old and was the brainchild of Pahlaj Rai and his Swiss wife who famously sold bakery delights out of her home. The bakery was named after the city by the sea, Bombay. Pahlaj Rai is believed to have enjoyed the aura of the wonderfully cosmopolitan city and decided to name his bakery after it.

Or is there a deeper connection?

Also read: Bombay Bakery —100 years and going strong

My research led me in many directions, but I did connect the dots somewhat, throwing in my experience of cake tasting and knowledge of the history and similarities of cake making in cities like Bombay, Karachi and Hyderabad, all cities belonging to the wonderful province of Sindh.

The book Darjeeling: The Colourful History and Precarious Fate of the World’s Greatest Tea by Jeff Koehler says the following:

"In gardens of hill stations during the summer social season, and in the sunny winter down on the plains, tea was served along with sweets – tiffin cake, dholi buns, Bombay golden cake and Gymkhana cake."

Reading the same led me to research on Bombay golden cakes, which led me to the fact that the Parsis of Bombay have been baking cakes for the longest time, as have the Parsis of Karachi. Armeen’s and Mrs. Mistrey’s cakes were the rage of the '80s and '90s in Karachi, not to mention the Persian Bakery in Saddar, Karachi.

This led me to research Persian and Parsi cookbooks. I came across the name of an exotic one named Vividh Vani, published in the year 1903, before the opening of the Bombay Bakery. Dan Sheffield, a lecturer at the Dept. of Near Eastern Studies at the Princeton University, U.S, says about the book:

"By this time the Bombay Parsi cuisine had already been Anglicized. The book, which is around 1500 pages, has recipes for 57 varieties of cakes, ranging from coffee cake and cherry cakes to things with exotic names like cake Napoleon, Chantilly cake and Bakar Khani, etc."

Vividh Vani narrates other interesting stories leading me to my next conjecture. It says the following:

"The second spate of Irani Zoroastrians that fled from the Islamic Qajar regime were mainly bakers, sweet makers and café owners."

So perhaps it was the delicious baking of Parsi experts in early 20th century Bombay that inspired Pahlaj Rai to name his bakery Bombay Bakery, and maybe the coffee cake is inspired from Bombay baking and is a twist on the coffee cake recipe from Vividh Vani.

When it was time for me to try my luck at baking, I stumbled upon a recipe online. Needless to say it was a slice of heaven from the past. However, the sugar I used for icing was turbinado sugar. It tastes just like white sugar but is brown in colour. So the colour of my icing was a tad darker but the taste was just the same. This heavenly slice of cake took me to the sweetest time of my life, its aroma, taste, texture, presentation was as I remember, and here it is, from my kitchen to yours.


How to make Bombay Bakery's famous Coffee Cake at home

Cake ingredients

7 oz. flour

4 eggs

1 ½ tsp. vanilla essence

1 cup castor sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

8 oz. butter

Method

1) Cream butter and sugar with a cake beater.

2) Sift flour and baking powder, adding 1 tbsp. of the dry mixture and 1 egg into sugar/butter and beating it using cake mixer until all four eggs and vanilla essence are added.

3) Add remaining dry mixture and mix with spatula.

4) Divide batter into two 8-inch cake pans and bake in a pre-heated oven (350 degrees F. or 180 degrees C.) for 20 to 22 minutes.

5) Cool completely on wire rack and ice.

Icing

1) In a pan, melt 6 oz. butter and ¾ cup white granulated sugar. Set aside to cool.

2) Add 3 beaten eggs to butter and sugar and cook on lowest heat until sugar dissolves and icing has thickened. Set aside to cool.

3) Once cool, add 1tbsp. coffee (dissolved in 1tbsp, water) to icing.

4) After setting the icing in the fridge for 20 minutes. ice one cake, then top with the second cake and ice it on top and all around. Set in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Your cake is ready for devouring and sharing!

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Comments (33) Closed



kalhori Jan 08, 2017 11:14am

Or else ask your hyderabadi friend to bring after spending weekend's

Ricky Jan 08, 2017 11:36am

Easy yet so wonderdul! I envy their cakes, thanks for the recipe Bisma!

Helping Hands Jan 08, 2017 11:42am

Bisma, do you realize that you are an angel! Thanks for sharing the recipe.

Umer Jan 08, 2017 01:31pm

No coffee in the ingredients; so why it tasted like coffee?

Mr.T Jan 08, 2017 01:37pm

its great cake and even in many bakery's of karachi they are making copy which is also delicious.
I wish they open in karachi and other cities of pakistan as well.

Talha Jan 08, 2017 04:10pm

Being hyderabadi i had oppertunity to get bit of it every then and now.Bombay cakes are far better then those i have eaten in italy or france seriously

Riz Jan 08, 2017 04:49pm

nostalgia,, waoo amazing,, thanks for article.,,..

Aidan Jan 08, 2017 05:15pm

@Umer Read Serial No. (3) under the heading of "Icing".

Muhammad Jan 08, 2017 05:40pm

Thanks. Cna u also share the bombay bakery's chocolate cake?

B Sarkar Jan 08, 2017 05:47pm

Nice to know about Bombay bakery in Hyderabad,Sindh , Pakistan.One of the most commercially successful bakery in India is named "Karachi bakery",based in Hyderabad, India and their biscuits are extremely famous in different cities including Bombay . The Karachi bakery is also owned by Sindhi family which migrated from Pakistan.

edwardian Jan 08, 2017 05:49pm

In the nineties, while posted in Bahawalpur, one of the things eagerly awaited us, the day when Shalimar Express brought Capt. Nadir back from leave from Hyderabad. Bombay Bakery's Coffee Cake was always on tea break's menu.

Princess_of_DHUMP Jan 08, 2017 06:32pm

@Umer Re-read the 'icing' part

Sudha Jan 08, 2017 07:07pm

Interesting! We have Karachi Bakery in Hyderabad, India which is famous for its fruit biscuits and you have Bombay Bakery in Hyderabad, Pakistan famous for its coffee cake! :-)

Wajid ali Jan 08, 2017 07:49pm

Madam, I will be highly thankful to you if you please let me know how to cook Kabli pulao because I like it very much

Bisma @foodSTORIES Jan 08, 2017 08:41pm

@Umer coffee icing :), that's why it tastes like coffee .

Waqas Jan 08, 2017 08:53pm

@Umer pls read before commenting!

waheed khan Jan 08, 2017 11:01pm

Coffee is in the icing

Anonymous Jan 08, 2017 11:02pm

The most famous Bakery on our side of Hyderabad is Karachi bakery and it's famous for its fruit biscuits. These little coincidences keep reiterating that we're made from the same thread!

ga Jan 09, 2017 12:34am

@Umer - It says 1 tbsp of coffee. I too missed it the first time.

Sara Jan 09, 2017 05:16am

@Umer it's served with coffee traditionally, like normal cake is with tea. Do you find tea in other cakes?

Saira kalim mirza Jan 09, 2017 06:23am

Why Bombay I. The name?

Nadia Jan 09, 2017 07:36am

@Umer Coffee is added in the very last step of icing. I think you missed it.

Pakistani Jan 09, 2017 07:38am

Thanks. Sitting here miles away the name Bombay bakers melts my heart. I have been to so many countries but nothing can replace the taste of their cakes.

Acer Jan 09, 2017 08:40am

@Umer the recipe for the icing has coffee. You need to smell some coffee, then read it again!

Bisma@foodstories Jan 09, 2017 11:06am

@Wajid ali, I've attached the link to the Kabuli pulao recipe; http://www.dawn.com/news/1100061

Fali Engineer Jan 09, 2017 12:05pm

Was stationed in Hyderabad in the 1950s and became friends with the owners. Truly enjoyed their hospitality and integrity of the ingredients used for their products. Their reputation is well deserved.

M Yusuf Jan 09, 2017 02:05pm

Hi. If you could please let me know where can i purchase Vivadh Vani cookbook. Sounds like an interesting one!

Hina Jan 09, 2017 05:13pm

@Umer its there in icing!

Boolo Jan 10, 2017 11:19pm

@Sara it's there in the icing. You need to smell the coffee and read the recipe again. Good luck.

Jawaid Islam Jan 11, 2017 11:00am

Wonderful post.

Mahnoor Jan 11, 2017 08:28pm

Is the batter ingredient and the icing ungredient are different or the same ?

RB Jan 12, 2017 06:31am

This is anything but a coffee cake. Coffee cake's should not have icing on top. It is usually crumbly top.

Lahori from USA Jan 12, 2017 10:14am

Madam, I will be highly thankful to you if you please let me know how to cook Lahori Pulao, which has some garbanzos, possibly potatoes, and how to add matar so they are not sweet but salty. Second, if you can explain the food science of your recipes. eg, your coffee cake recipe confused many as seen from comments since it was not clear how the flavor would permeate it from the topping. Also, its not clear the gelling agent for the topping. and reason for adding it at the end, will it blend into a uniform emulsion? Cooking is a science and there are now university degrees in it based on theory of emulsions, additives and so on.