From Gauripur in fareast of India, she is earning kudos in the southern business capital as the megapolis’ HeartThrob of Home-Baking. And she still craves for her native land
‘Canvas on a cake’? Say like Claude Monet mounted his huge estate with landscaping of towering, drooping trees and small lakes with aquatic plants and shrubs. Or the Sunflowers of vintage Vincent van Gogh… she does things like that.
She does it differently, though, for her canvas is different.
You will find it unbelievable at first.
Her canvas is cakes!
Mounted dolls, favourite hobbies, Disney characters– just place your request and she waves her magic bakery-wand and creates the birthday, anniversary or special event cakes!
For children’s birthdays. For anniversaries. For corporate events.
And this Assamese girl sells her bakes like, well, hot cakes, literally, and is prized for that.
Yet, Priyanka Barkakati is not the character shaped in the hustle bustle of a megapolis.
She came from a beatific tiny town, Gauripur, in Dhubri district of Assam. She had in her childhood, as she remembers now as the emerging Diva of home bakery in the much less idyllic Bengaluru, loved her city’s river Gadadhar, as a child.
There is a lake on its north-western side named Laokhowa Beel, and there is a small hill-top called Matiabagh, on which sits the palace “Hawakhana” erected by the princely family of Gauripur – the Baruas.
Please read this edition’s Cover Story: “The Gauripur Baruas”
But let us get back to the brass tacks.
She is a beautiful small-town girl who braved the odds to complete her Masters in Sociology, and later, a hands-on mother of two little kids, a doting wife, a teacher, painter… some of the lesser known facts about Priyanka’s life.
For as I said, she is a highly acclaimed person, both for her art of doing ‘canvases on cakes’ as for the success she has knitted as a highly successful businessperson in this extremely competitive southern business capital of India.
She is one of a kind home-baker, whose passion for weaving creativity into her cakes and giving shape to her clients’ imaginative cravings– all on a one-on-one basis as per their dreams and demands ‑goes behind each baking.
As a youngster, she visited Bangalore, her family abode now, to attend the wedding of her sister, when a shopping trip to a mall caught her attention towards a Barbie-themed cake that someone had brought in for their birthday celebration.
Priyanka pondered about the baker who created this piece of sweet art and she dreamt of becoming one someday.
She was also greatly inspired by her neighbour in Assam who baked for special occasions for relatives and friends.
In a Cookery Competition held for raising funds by an NGO for underprivileged children in 2010, Priyanka Barkakati bagged the first position by cooking an Eastern India vegetarian cuisine made out of pointed-gourd, or potol or parwal.
She named the recipe “Potoleshwari”, and the unique stuffing, flavour and blend of spices won the heart of the event’s judge, the culinary stalwart, Naren Thimmaiah, then Executive Chef of Taj Gateway, Bangalore.
But life takes crazy turns.
At an after-party for volunteers, she baked a party-themed cake, decorated it with fresh flowers, as a good will gesture, and that received rave reviews from all the other volunteers
Soon, Priyanka got busy in raising a family, looking after her parents at the same time, but continued to win hearts at family gatherings for her culinary skills. Call it ‘cakery skills’, if you please!
The year 2017 brought about a fresh wave of change in Priyanka’s life and an unexpected start to her dream of being a home baker, a parallel to her role as a home maker!
From being a new mother to her second son to the sudden demise of her beloved father, Priyanka was caught in an emotional turmoil and needed to get involved inthings that would have a balmy effect in her suddenly transformed life, something that would both savour and devour her passion!
She volunteered for a sports event held on the Independence Day for children at her society, where she actively taught small children to play various games and compete for the event.
At an after-party for the volunteers, she baked a party-themed cake, decorated it with fresh flowers, as a good will gesture, and that received rave reviews from all the other volunteers.
That meet encouraged her to make her first social media announcement to take baking orders of cakes for all occasions. “Frostybite”, Priyanka’s own brand and Facebook page was thus born out of the passion of a woman to do what she loved most.
Her journey as a home baker had finally taken wings, and soon she received two orders for a birthday, one floral and another Pikachu theme cake, from a noted sportswoman and fellow resident of the same society where she and her family lived.
Since then, Priyanka never looked back, for the last three years were witness to her innovative and creative touch at baking for birthdays, anniversaries and corporate parties.
Her ideal clients are garden-lovers, bookworms, techies, art and antique fans, and the children-special popular animation characters.
Her ability to bake and design cakes with personalised emotional images won her a faithful list of clientele ranging from friends, relatives, neighbours, corporates and sports personalities.
She experiments and creates flavours well suited for Indian seasons that appeal to the taste buds of her clients.
Priyanka has won several accolades and has been recognised as one of Bengaluru City’s Top 50 Home Bakers in 2019.
She has won the first prize for creating prawn flavoured savoury cake, as well as the Popular Choice award for culinary expertise in presenting Daab Chingri.
That latter is an extremely tough recipe, where large prawns are marinated, and with the marination, put inside freshly cut green coconuts, with their inner creamy layer, and baked in oven by Priyanka over the traditional wood and charcoal fire..
It is just too exotic a recipe from the Eastern part of India, and she did it at an event named Bhogjora, a cookery completion organised by the Assam Association of Bangalore in 2018.
She has also conducted several workshops on baking‑one such was the “Eggless Cupcakes and Frosting Workshop” conducted at IndiQube, a Bangalore based startup.
Mostly self- taught, Priyanka’s finesse in the art and science of baking stems from her love and passion for the ever growing and evolving craft.
This dedication has earned her repute, trust and cake orders from many famous home bakers, last-minute requests from her fans as well as an opportunity to bake for Indian cricketer Mamatha Maben’s birthday.
And yet, despite all her moolah and acclaim, she remains a Gauripur girl at heart.
Ask Priyanka about her childhood in Gauripur, and you will see a twinkle in her eyes.
She reminisces fondly the Bihu dance performances, for which she travelled widely with her Maa across the district, on lazy noons listening to Pratima Pandey’s Goalpariya lokgeet(folk songs).
Or the adda hours with her friends at Matiyabag Hawamahal, enjoying road-side phuchkas (panipuri) and egg rolls.
Priyanka could take you on a virtual tour to her home town when she describes Durga Puja at the Mahamaya field, where the Goddess is welcomed as a married daughter who visits her parents’ home
Or the annual Charak mela and Oshtomi- mela that brought many sadhus amongst other visitors to her town.
A little town that had practically died after the tremendous British-era aura of the Barua Raj Parivar.
She still craves to celebrate almost all the Eastern India festivals like the famous Rath Yatra where she tugged at the rope of the chariot carrying Lord Jagannath.
She proudly says her experiences and life in Gauripur has taught her life lessons that has helped her to face all the storms in her life with a smile.
Is it her eastern roots in Assam that has given her the powers to her elbows to carve out a solid playing field of her own in Bengaluru?
While departing after meeting her that afternoon, I couldn’t stop smiling and basking in the glory of Assam, my motherland!
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Nandini. The lady who loves reading, travelling, dancing, and gardening was born in the old, romantic Guwahati, now the capital city of the northeastern state of Assam.Her addiction, after being a biotech researcher, is science writing. Now she resides in the tech capital of India, Bengaluru. Hubby and two daughters make up her personal life. And by Jove, can she write stories about theromance of the northeast!