India's premier luxury lifestyle women's magazine
Wine & Dine
July 18, 2013

Centre Of Attraction

Text by Sonal Ved. Photographs by Poulomi Dey.

From cookies and candies to crudités – you can turn the look of your dining table around by glamming it up with artisanal and edible centrepieces. Sonal Ved speaks to three bakers who are creating these with much élan

  • Aashiyana Shroff, Tart Bakery
  • Aashiyana Shroff, Tart Bakery
    Cupcakes in a flowerpot: glamming up the dining table

When it comes to table decor, all eyes are set on the centrepiece. The towering glory of a party – a good centrepiece can make or break the vibe of your shindig. Made using everyday ingredients, these edible art pieces make up for pick-able party favours. While flowers – faux or au natural, vintage knickknacks and potpourri are passé, the fad is currently trending towards dining table artwork that can be eaten once the party rolls on…and on. Meet three chefs who have turned their mundane tables into wow-worthy ones.

FLOWER GIRL
AASHIYANA SHROFF
TART BAKERY

Aashiyana Shroff’s dessert-filled table is ideal for an urban hostess throwing a summer afternoon soirée. Full with cupcakes, cookies, pastries and cream puffs – all coloured in soft pastel hues, the counter looks like it belongs to the sets of a high-fashion brand’s summer catalogue.

Standing tall amidst this muddle of summery bakes is her edible centrepiece. About a foot in height, the cupcake-laden flower pot is set on a ceramic pot. The base of the vase comes filled with cake and its top is peppered with a sprinkling of cake crumbs to resemble faux mud. “The soft soil is then punctuated with green stem-like sticks that delicately hold the cupcakes like they were flowers, in flavours such as oreo, vanilla and chocolate,” says Aashiyana who operates out of Nariman Point and Bandra in Mumbai.

Her choice of centrepiece showcases one of her signature preparations – cupcakes in varying flavours, but Aashiyana has other fortes too. “Take for instance desserts such as creamy choux pastry, cookies, tarts, chocolate bars and other desserts that too can be customised to create edible centrepieces.” Aashiyana specialises in bridal cakes and also has a penchant for table decor. She says, “Centrepieces work to add a touch of uniqueness to your table and can be used to glam up any occasion from birthday parties, to weddings to baby showers.”

TOP TIPS
While working with edible centrepieces it is important that you work in a cool environment or cool the bakes well in advance so they don’t fall off while assembling.
While an edible centrepiece needs to be attractive, use colours sparingly and go with more real-looking shades as opposed to garish hues.
Elements going on top of a centrepiece should be as light and small as possible. If it’s too weighty, it won’t hold for long.

  • Kiran and Sandali Salaskar, Country Of Origin
  • Kiran and Sandali Salaskar, Country Of Origin
    Layers of goodness: sinful combinations

DESSERT TOPPERS
KIRAN AND SANDALI SALASKAR
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN

Napeansea Road-based couple Kiran and Sandali Salaskar are responsible for introducing Mumbai to the goodness of dessert jars. Back in March 2011, when their store Country of Origin opened shop, the couple layered cloying cookie dough, salt-hinted caramel and fresh cream in glistening Italian jars. This is only one of the many sinful combinations they put together.

According to Sandali, co-owner of the bakery, “Layered desserts not only taste good, they are also lovely to look at, especially when the colours on each level complement one another.”

Keeping this idea in mind, Salaskar’s edible centrepiece was served inside a large coupette-shaped glass bowl instead of a jar. Since bowls are more home-friendly. Here, they break down a traditional red velvet cake and supplement it with strawberries to create a dessert that is ideal for a luncheon. “This dessert essentially has red and white layers of fluffy cream, scarlet cake and berries, garnished with flakes of white chocolate to create texture,” says Kiran.

The edible centrepiece created by the duo essentially works for high-tea parties, breakfast get-togethers, engagement brunches and bridal showers. And considering their choice of colours, flavours and the dainty-look of the dessert, we think it is right out of Enid Blyton’s tea parties.

TOP TIPS
The key to get a layered dessert right is to ensure that all the layers are distinctly visible.
Ensure each layer sets well before you add another or the final centrepiece might get messy.
Playing with contrasting colours will make your centrepiece stand out from the rest of the food.

  • Pooja Dhingra, Le 15 Patisserie
  • Pooja Dhingra, Le 15 Patisserie
    Ice breaker: macaroon buffets

MACAROON PRINCESS
POOJA DHINGRA
LE 15 PATISSERIE

The first lady of the dessert world, Pooja Dhingra is responsible for giving Mumbai a taste of macaroons and turning the whole mithai culture around. If you love desserts, chances are you have already got a taste of her crumbly macaroons at various corporate meetings, birthday parties, product launches and other events where she sets up her sweet buffets.

Alumnus of the Paris-based culinary school Le Cordon Bleu, Dhingra feels that edible centrepieces are a good way to get the party going because they are great conversation starters. She says, “My macaroon tower is a hit at almost all parties where I use it to create height and a unique dimension to a tableful of bakes.” Keeping this in mind, Dhingra’s gleaming nine-storied structure came packed with macaroons in bright hues such as pop orange, mellow green and yellow. And it’s not just the good looks that she packs in with delicate flavours such as orange and chocolate, fresh green mint, beetroot and lemon, each piece tastes as good as it looks. What’s more, to create an artsy look, Dhingra hand-paints each disc with streaks of edible red paint.

TOP TIPS
If you want your centrepiece to shine through, it is important to pick colours and flavours as per the occasion. Like pastel shades for bridal and baby showers or brighter shades for birthdays and anniversaries.
Filling of the macaroon is the most crucial, if you are making them at home, ensure they are not too runny.
Unlike other desserts, macaroons don’t need to be picked with a tong. Just grab and go!

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