The ‘Stop to Smell the Roses’ Cake

Not that a chocolate or an orange flavoured cake doesn’t entice me substantially, but that winter morning demanded a distraction from the familiar. I was fortunate Sumayya Usmani’s ‘Mountain Berries and Dessert Spices’ had sailed from it’s confines of the store and landed amid the cozy comforts of my living room. The author is driven by authenticity and her recipes are brimming with tradition. She paints the book with dishes showcasing the magic of rose petals, cardamom, berries, pistachios and other produce native to her homeland.

The love for baking isn’t new. You know that. Let’s just say this cake is a product of inspiration, madness and wild curiosity. For the sake of nostalgia, accompany me on a trip down memory lane, will you?
In Kannada, there is a phrase – ‘MaTa MaTa MaDHyana’. It refers to blazing afternoons when the sun is at it’s peak, the air warm, the roads desolate and the atmosphere blanketed by laziness. These breezy summer afternoons in the 80’s and early 90’s meant mom-made orange candy set in little ice cube trays or mom-made lemonade with pungent hints of cardamom and a tinge of salt. They were special treats stored away for school breaks only. These drinks were rarely(I mean, really rarely) punctuated with a rose drink that many of you are familiar with, RoohAfza. The cool hit from the floral notes of rose intertwined with sugar and hued in a deep fuschia-red was nothing short of a celebration on lackadaisical Banglaorean afternoons. Then there was also the coveted, ‘Rose Milk’. Another blush toned concoction that got the tastebuds singing.
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Finally one morning , in the present day, I wondered why I have absentmindedly ignored this mellifluous flavour. If anything, my cakes deserve to feel special! The previous evening was spent scouring for rose petals. A Chinese market bottled thousands of tiny rose buds meant to be steeped in tea. I bought a handful and chalked up a simple recipe.
This egg free cake is entangled with rose petals and mildly laced with cardamom. Dousing the cake, is a simple sugary rose glaze. Bear in mind, this cake is brimming with the rose flavour. Like an opera singer’s high pitched chorus. Beautiful, at the same time, strong. Hence, I suggest you to feel free to play around with the Rose water measurements. We were happy with the outcome but take it down a notch if you like.
This cake takes me back to a simpler time and parallelly transports me to an ethereal one. One that my taste buds are familiar with and yet oddly, not. I hope you like this as much as we did!
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RECIPE FOR : The ‘Stop to smell the roses’ CAKE (for a 6 inch EGGFREE cake)
INGREDIENTS
For the Cake
3/4th cup Self Raising Flour
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 cup of Granulated sugar
2-3 green cardamoms powdered with a pinch of sugar
1 tsp Rose water
3 tbsp Oil (I used canola)
1 tbsp + 1/2 tsp Vinegar
1/ 2 cup Milk
Dried organic Rose Petals (Optional)

For the Glaze
2-2.5 tsp of water/milk
3/4 cup of icing sugar
1 tsp of Rose water(optional)
A drop of Pink food colouring (optional)
For the Garnish(Optional)
Chopped Pistachios
Dried organic Rose Petals

METHOD
1. Preheat the oven to 350F
2. Cut a round piece of parchment the size of the base of the cake pan and keep aside. Grease the entire cake pan and place the parchment to cover the floor of the pan. Then dust the sides with the flour.
3. In a medium sized bowl, bring together the dry ingredients and give it a whisk.(Self        Raising Flour, Baking Soda, Granulated Sugar & Powdered Cardamom)
4. To the dry ingredient mix, add, Oil, Rose water and 1/2 tbsp of vinegar.
5. In a small bowl make buttermilk by mixing milk with 1/2 tsp of vinegar. Once it curdles, add it to the remaining ingredients.
6. Mix well to ensure there are no lumps.
7. Add rose petals(optional)and gently fold it in and pour into the prepared cake an.
8. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
9. Meanwhile, prepare the glaze by mixing together, icing sugar, rose water(optional)    and milk/water. Add a drop of pink food colouring if you like and keep aside.
10. Once the cake is out of the oven, keep it on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Gently slide a        knife along the sides to loosen it from the pan.Then carefully turn the pan upside down onto a tray to make sure it comes out in one piece.
11. Once completely cool, pour the glaze on the cake and garnish with rose petals & pistachios.

I hope you like this cake as much as we did: )
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A Love Story with New York City – 2

“One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.”
– Tom Wolfe
A journey
October 23rd, 2010. The cold, nippy air, despite bearing a stark contrast from the world I come from, spurred feelings of pure elation and I vividly recall, I wasn’t going to let a moderate amount of jet lag or a massive amount of “missing home” stop me from experiencing that.  Call me crazy but this was the land of ‘F.R.I.E.N.D.S’ after all and every red bricked building had me hoping it contained the purple walls of Monica’s apartment(don’t worry, I knew they shot the whole thing in LA). Call me silly but this was the land where Serena & Blair fought & made up but, through it all, granted alluring, scenic views of the city & a glimpse of the lavish, sequined & sparkling piece of the city, The Upper East Side.
Maybe that’s when the fascination began, 10000 miles away and was bottled up tight until this chilly morning, when it all came bubbling out…..the funny thing is, four years later and many miles farther, the fascination still silently continues. That would explain my undiluted love for books that allow me to indulge in the magnetism of this city:
Truman Capote’s, ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ where he so explicitly describes Holly Golightly & Paul’s horse ride amid a leafy , autumn ridden Central Park. The glamour of Tiffany’s still intrigues me although I only have my imagination to rely on.(On the Bucket List.)
Melanie Benjamin’s ‘Swans of Fifth Avenue’ where she takes the reader to a classy 1970’s New York, Bergdorf’s, tea time at the Plaza & Babe Ruth. “Delicious sounds of the city”, she so rightly narrates.
Wednesday Martin’s Memoir, ‘Primates of Park Avenue’ where she forays into the contrasting lives  of the West & the East Side of the city…Birkins, sprawling views of the Central park & Lulu lemon.
As we took our first drive in the hollows of the Holland Tunnel that chilly morning, encapsulated by the waters of the Hudson River, I failed to fathom the magic I was about to encounter in the coming couple of years. Here are some of those moments…..

Like the luminous Brooklyn Bridge spanning the East River. Admittedly, it’s not a smart idea to stand atop a bridge to admire the masterpiece that it is,  especially in the freezing  -1° winter of December whilst fighting cold winds. So, we waited for the warmth of spring. Decked in golden lights and surrounded by skyscrapers seemingly lit by glowing fireflies, the Brooklyn Bridge waterfront park promises a stunning view.
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Roosevelt Island is a little island in the East River and the idea of travelling in a cable car, speeding past the Queensboro Bridge while being able to appreciate the nonchalant waters & the hustle bustle of the city below seemed perfect. Unlike the history of this island which is far from perfect aka a harbor for asylums & prisons.


The unfurl of glitter that occurs in a Manhattan Christmas draws everyone like a moth to a flame. The flood of lights and bombardment of colors at every corner translates into warmth & joy regardless of the winter mayhem. Synonymous with a New York Christmas is  the Rockefeller Tree which has been spoken about enough & more in romantic comedies but allow me to share with you some other spots that scream & shine with colour & shimmer.


Travel back a month before Christmas & we have Thanksgiving. No turkey for me but I’ll have a big serving of Pumpkin pie & the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade please! While a giant Snoopy, Kung Fu Panda & Mc Donald’s soared in the skies, there’s a minute possibility I raced back to childhood and an innocent excitement got the better of me.


Talking about childhood, I have to make a mention of the Spider man Broadway Show, an indulgence but every penny’s worth. The mind fails to reason for few moments when Spider man uninhibitedly & undauntedly flies high above whilst shooting out fake webs…is there a one in million chance that he could be real? (Here’s hoping!)

The American Museum of Natural History aside from spawning memories of  Ben Stiller’s ‘Night at the Museum’ also makes for a fun day trip but beware of your legs falling off! (The museum is massive and a day is too short to explore). Although a little time at the butterfly conservatory can make one forget the turmoils of not just the long walks & the million photo clicks around museum but the trials and tribulations of life itself. Fearlessly, they flapped, fluttered & perched on my head, the husband’s bag and another’s dress & posed with utmost poise for the cameras around….
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Say hello to Rexy & Dum Dum!

And finally, every September 11th, some friends & us stood at the edge of the waters of the Hudson River in Jersey City and witnessed the Tribute in Lights, two columns of lights ascending heroically to the skies, much like the brave hearts the world lost on that fateful morning….IMG_8453.CR2

This ends my NYC series on the blog. I’ve pushed hard to try and recount my experiences, the byzantine thoughts that crossed my mind as I explored the choked up streets but for some reason I feel these articles will always be incomplete, something amiss like the missing piece of a jigsaw puzzle…maybe because some feelings can never be wholly described….

Do read the rest of the NYC series here…
Times Square, NYC
Highline Park, NYC
Cherry Blossom, Brooklyn Botanical Garden
A Love Story with NYC- 1

Next on our travel adventures, come with us to the glorious Canadian Rockies, where nature stole our breath, one mountain at a time!

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A Love Story with New York City – 1

The grey, cracked & decrepit sidewalks, the swarm of people scurrying past, their minds as crammed as the streets. The million food trucks & hot dog stands suffusing the air with wafts of warm food that  admittedly I’m not a fan of, being a vegetarian but saw myself yearning for the same warmth in the crisp New York winter. The roads choked with teeming traffic, the sunshine-bright-chrome-yellow taxis not just driving but blazing by, they probably imagine they’re part of a race car event. The subway stations: the most efficient of labyrinths so much so, we’ve ended up in the wrong destinations at times more than once. Having said that, they make for the best escape from the winter winds & will let you revel in the best musical entertainment in those few minutes of wait time. The steam grates aka plumes of steam arising from manholes. Throw in some rain, a man in a hat & trench coat and voila!, you’re on the sets of a 1950’s suspense thriller. Later I learnt that the steam is actually the by product of electricity generation. The Pizzas, oh the Pizzas!, slices as big as the  paper plates they come in but sinful, cheesy, greasy & divine.
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The glorious Empire State Building (West 33rd & 34th street). Aside from standing proud amid all the hustle bustle, also the reason for an everyday ritual at our home in Jersey City: spotting the colors it drapes on itself, red, pink, purple, the Indian tricolors on August 15th. If it happened to be a lucky day, then fireworks lit up the skies against the backdrop of the glittery New York skyline. We didn’t just admire it from afar, we rid the elevators to the 86th floor one afternoon & treated ourselves to sweeping views of Midtown Manhattan, the green of Central Park, the blue of the Hudson River, ant-people & toy-cars. Along with a burgeon of skyscrapers that compete to see “Who’s the tallest?” & conjoined with a sparse breathing space, there are some that stand out with hardly any effort aka, the ornamented spire of The Chrysler Building.
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If you’re visiting/live close to NYC, then you go to Central Park. You go in the 100 degree Fahrenheit summers to get some respite in the calming lush of greens. You go to ride the bicycle along it’s vast expanses and realize it’s so much bigger than your imagination can fathom, you realize by the end of it you’ve arrived at another corner of the city. You walk, jog, get some exercise and then go to listen to musicians whilst gulping ice cream after ice cream. Then, after 3 months of hot & humid, fall arrives and you had no clue the beauty of this place could triple in a trice. Seas of ochre & sienna brushed dried leaves cover the ground and the slightest breeze can beguile you into being on the sets of a Karan Johar movie.
(On a side note, if you to appreciate jaw dropping views of Central Park, watch Gossip Girl!XOXO)
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Image Source: Google
Summers in New York City are synonymous with outdoor movies at Bryant Park on the 40th Street. A weekday evening, with a couple of friends we sat back, relaxed & watched Audrey Hepburn in the Roman Holiday. Although, I have to confess, we arrived late because we had to have the Margarita Pizza from Pronto’s (obviously!) and were forced to sit way back. We spent the next 2 hours craning our necks trying to comprehend bits of the movie but we still had our fun and made a plan to visit again. Never happened. 3 years later, I watched the movie on my laptop & fell in love with Audrey.

The Grand Central Station on 42nd Street  as the name perfectly defines has never been a train terminal for us but rather a place to delve in grandeur & history. We would go to repeatedly admire the sprawling blue astronomical ceiling with stars & constellations,to whisper in the Whispering Arch, where whispers from afar can be heard crystal clear.( To learn more about the the secrets of the Grand central, go HERE )
One of these casual visits, we also witnessed a romantic proposal, the man organizing a mini flash mob to woo his lady into marrying him…needless to say, she said YES!
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Clearly, I can’t stop! The little things, the big things, there’s so much more. I can go on & on & I will…Stay tuned for Part- 2.