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Cake off: Who are the best small scale bakers in Karachi?

Cake off: Who are the best small scale bakers in Karachi?

Ernestine Ulmer knew what she was talking about when she said, "Life's short, eat dessert first!"

Boy, did we take that seriously!

There is just something comforting about the thought of home food, even if it is made at someone else's home. Many home bakers have sprouted up in Karachi recently, providing delectable options ready to be devoured at a few hours notice. With greater room for customization and most ventures delivering right at your doorstep, what's not to love?

Thanks to the internet, it's become relatively easier for small scale bakeries to get their name out there via Facebook pages.

From housewives transforming a hobby into a part-time gig or couples turning their passion for the craft into a full-throttle business, the past year has seen the exponential rise of the home baker — and the team at Dawn decided to find out who comes out on top.

For the past couple of weeks, we at went on a dessert sampling marathon to narrow down who the best bakers in the city are.

We rated the participants on a scale of 1-10 in the following categories: taste, presentation, delivery and value for money. The best baker overall gets the number 1 spot!

Read below to see who made the cut. Now you'll know who to order from on a rainy day when you're craving chewy brownies or want to dig into a slice of fresh fruit pavlova at brunch.

Bushra Motiwala started B's Bakery purely by chance. She baked a cake for her sister's in laws and started taking orders casually from friends and family.

When it came to our order, B's Bakery suffered an unfortunate fate: the chocolate malt cupcakes we received were smushed because the delivery guy had been a little careless.

We weren't particularly excited to try out the cupcakes because they had been destroyed. There was icing everywhere, bits of cake stuck to the box. That being said, the taste was impeccable!

Verdict: What we did get to taste, we loved! Out of all the cupcakes we received, these were our favourite. Smaller than the other cupcakes, the sponge was sturdy but soft at the same time and the icing was airy.

Growing up watching her mother bake (who she credits for teaching her the skill) inspired Aysha Jamil to start Sprinkles. We tried her cupcakes: Red Velvet, Chocolate and Strawberry. Given that this was the first dessert we received, we were all pretty stoked to say the least.

A dozen of these will cost around Rs. 1,500, which seems to be the standard price for a dozen artisan cupcakes.

Verdict: The chocolate cupcakes were declared the best among the lot. The frosting was thick and gooey but the sponge could have been better, more moist. The strawberry cupcakes caused a divide — some people thought that it had an authentic strawberry taste whereas others thought it was bland.

Although I personally liked the red velvet because it didn't taste like a generic one, it wasn't the most popular choice.

Trying out new recipes, seeing and understanding how different batters rise and are made was very exciting for Sheena Khan from a young age.

"Cookies have been a massive weakness for me all my life," divulges Khan. The thought of a giant cookie was really exciting to her and she decided to venture into creating something that she said wasn't available in the market — a cookie cake.

Verdict: This got mixed reviews. Some of us really enjoyed it. It was luscious and not too sweet but that was also one of the flaws — a lot of people thought it didn't have enough chocolate chip cookies and was a bit bland.

It was more a cake than a cookie so if you prefer softer textures, this might be for you!

Mahwish Aziz tried to do the conventional thing. She completed her undergraduate studies from Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture and started working at an agency and suppressed her inner baking goddess.

One day, she decided to quit her job, take the path less travelled. She headed to culinary school for eight months to pursue her passion and so, Sugaries was born.

We received gooey brownies courtesy of Aziz early in the morning. They arrived at the office warm and had us salivating at first sight. Then again, pretty much all the desserts we received had that effect..

Verdict: These brownies got an interesting reception; whoever tried them enjoyed them. However, after a few bites, we all needed to sip some water. They were rich, perhaps too rich. Some people complained that the bottom was a bit burnt so there was lack of consistency.

That being said, the problem with these was the size, not particularly the taste. They were good old chewy, gooey brownies. Maybe if they were smaller, we wouldn't have felt so overwhelmed.

Amna Iqbal started thinking about baking as a profession when she started taking orders for cupcakes and cakes in her summer vacations.

Wanting to fine tune her skills, Amna headed to the esteemed institute Le Cordon Bleu to do a course in patisserie, which was evident from the chocolate tart we received from her. She is the brains and the whisk behind Brick Oven.

Verdict: The pastry. Oh, that pastry. The crust was a clear winner! It was light and flaky, with just the right hint of salt. The chocolate wasn't overly sweet and complemented the base perfectly! It was the perfect mixture of milk and dark chocolate.

When housewife Najia Marchant had some free time on her hands, she decided to turn a hobby into a full-fledged business. She says she bakes because she enjoys it and hopes Big Bang Baking will only grow bigger with time.

Big Bang Baking is a no frills joint -- it's simple, soul food that thrives on taste over a flashy presentation.

Verdict: You know how they say appearances can be deceiving? That's pretty apt to describe what happened when we got these brownies. The presentation wasn't particularly extravagant; something Najia had told me she doesn't do.

Nevertheless, what matters at the end of the day is taste and she delivered on that front exceptionally. The texture of the brownies was spot on. They were soft and were deemed a better version of the infamous Hot Spot brownie.

After Yasha Siddiqi moved back from Australia, he had trouble adjusting to the substandard quality of food available in the market. He started The Poached Pear, which put a dessert like pavlova, among others, on the map in a city which was largely oblivious to it.

What started from Siddiqi's house has rapidly exploded due to word of mouth and social media. Having heard so much about it, we had to give it a try.

On a particularly hot day, seeing a fresh fruit pavlova, coupled with a kransekake, was enough to make the Life&Style desk go "Hallelujah!".

Verdict: The pavlova was a big hit in the office! Things like "It reminds me of my time in Paris!" and "It makes me feel so fresh" were overheard. There was a sour tinge to it, which was not enjoyed by people who had tried traditional pavlova before. The wide assortment of fruit on top makes it the perfect summer dessert!

The kransekake was deemed a dessert that would compliment your coffee/tea. A few thought it was a bit too dry whereas others enjoys the chewy texture. It doubles as an eye-catching centre piece for a get together!

When Sumeira Waseem ordered a designer cake for her daughter's wedding, her expectations were not met. It was expensive and the design and taste were simply not upto par, which propelled her to take up baking classes.

With the support of her husband, who now has come on board full time to expand the business, Waseem created Sam's Cake Factory!

Probably the most prompt delivery out of all the desserts we received, this dessert got the most attention from all of the staff in the office, not just the ones with a sweet tooth.

Verdict: This was one dessert everyone seemed to agree on. It was meticulously crafted, creative and well-themed. It's also notable that it didn't fall apart, even though it was outside the fridge for hours.

Often, desserts that look so good fall flat on taste. Well, not this one! The chocolate cake inside was fluffy and decadent; slightly rich but just right for those who like their chocolate desserts to be moderately sweet.

P.S: Sam's Cake Factory included a sparkling candle too!

"I'm proud to say that I am the pioneer of cookie cakes. Maybe not globally but at least in Pakistan," states Ammara Khan, the founder of Crumbs.

When Ammara started baking cookie cakes back in 2009, it was a new concept locally. She created a hybrid between a cookie and a cake: crisp from the top and soft on the inside.

What we received at the office was her signature classic Cookie Monster creation.

Verdict: Ten seconds in the microwave and this cookie cake is what your dessert dreams are made of! Packed with a generous but not overpowering amount of chocolate bits, the cake was scrumptious and everyone who tried it came back for seconds! If only we had had some ice cream to go with it!

Simply Delicious is run by the dynamic mother and daughter in law duo of Neelofer Ibrahim and Ayesha Yousuf. Although the page is doing a lot more savoury items now, they started back in 2009 focusing mainly only on desserts.

We tried their strawberry and kiwi pavlova, the dark chocolate cupcakes with toasted marshmallows and the chocolate mousse.

Verdict: The mousse took the cake (pun intended)! Chocolate mousse is a tricky dessert to nail and this one was a star. It was light and creamy but rich at the same time. The cocoa used shone through and the texture was spot on!

The pavlova was sweet and light. The kiwi strawberry combination was a treat for the taste buds and something I'd order again myself!

The cupcakes were a miss. They were a bit bland but after that pavlova and mousse, we were feeling forgiving for this one shortcoming!

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