Christmas time for many British Indians means a blend of Indian and British flavours and spirit, complete with Father Christmas, stocking fillers, mulled wine, and turkey roasts or indeed vegetarian options. On a sweeter note, of course, there’s milkshakes and cookies, fruit cakes and yummy bakes, and all the oh so yum treats that bring many smiles over the festive period.
Cakes are indeed a big part of all Indian celebrations. In search of some such childhood memories harmoniously blended and swirled with the magic of Christmas in England, iGlobal connected with a cake boutique in Manchester, aptly named Sweetnothings.
"To me, Christmas in the UK is all about spending quality family time with cakes and bakes to enjoy and be merry. And though people like to bake their own traditional Christmas cakes, there's now increasing demand for something distinctive and individual," said Paramita Samanta (Sarkar), the force behind the Sweetnothings creative bakery.
"My signature offering this year is a hand-iced 25-cookie Advent calendar for Christmas. It accompanies boxes of treats, cookies, homemade chocolates, and Christmas cakes," she declared.
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Born and brought up in Kolkata, the gastronomic capital of India, Paramita is a qualified Chartered Accountant. She was working in a large multinational when she moved to the UK with her husband, a Management Consultant, in 2005. And then habitually took up another job as an Accountant in Cardiff.
However, life had other surprises planned for her.
She reflected: "My convent-educated grandmother was a home chef par excellence, and I was brought up on frequent servings of roasts and pies – tastes which were at a confluence of the simplicity and robustness of British cuisine and the flavours of Kolkata's rich style.
"Baking was introduced to me by my mother and aunt at an early age, and playing with their cookie cutters and decorating cakes and tarts used to be a regular holiday pastime as a young child. As earning a livelihood took precedence, baking took a back seat.
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"As you'd have it, it was in the UK when my love for baking and cake decorating was rekindled while creating my son's first birthday cake. Since then, countless hours have been spent browsing cakes and bakes from various parts of the world, learning intricacies, gaining and honing my skills."
She registered Sweetnothings4all as a business as requests from friends and families started coming in.
"I carried it on as a side hustle while crunching numbers through month-end and year-end in my full-time Accountant job. Eventually, in February 2020, I decided to pluck up the courage and dedicate full time to my passion. The response, so far, has been phenomenal as I try and continue to offer unique products, not the usual fare from the high street," she said.
Now, 15 years later, talking to iGlobal while decorating her latest creation – a gravity-defying Rubik's Cube cake, for her son's 15th birthday, Paramita basked in a very proud moment in her baking career.
She noted: "It was a few years back when I was asked to make a cake for none other than [footballer] Marcus Rashford for his 21st B'Day celebration with family. Although the cake was a simple one, I was over the moon for being asked to bake that!"
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"Another two of my recent signature cakes has been a Bollinger bottle cake which pours out a glass of champagne before you cut it, and this gravity-defying Rubik's Cube cake. Recently, I have also started dabbling in chocolate creations like this shoe made of pure Belgian chocolate and hand-painted animal prints. I had always wanted to create that since my 1st visit to the Cadbury World, so many years ago."
And there, at that very moment, marvelling at the size four golden colour leopard print stiletto, I knew just what I wanted this Christmas!