Ali’s Bombay Birthday Cake

1 Aug

Happy 25th, Ali!


Frosted with a classic white vanilla butter cream, this cake’s secret weapon is a layer of spiced summer fruits hidden between two levels of fluffy white birthday cake.  A little coconut on top adds a tropical twist and some texture, and still maintains its pristine appearance.  


Zoe and I set out to make the perfect Bombay Birthday cake for our new friend Ali.  Ali just moved to town from NYC and is an alum of Zoe’s alma mater and the school where I used to teach.  Coincidentally, her boyfriend, Daniel, is my old roommate’s childhood friend.  Sometimes it surprises me how small a city of 19 million can be—everyone seems to

Zoe’s masterpiece: salad bowl + cake plate = rickshaw ready travel contraption

know everyone else.  As Daniel explained, “In India, there are four people plus a billion people.”

This recipe comes from a cookbook that I stumbled upon called The Best Recipe.  Having tried a few recipes over the last couple of weeks, Zoe and I decided to give their “Birthday Cake” recipe a go.  The cake turned out beautifully and then we set out to deliver it to Ali at 10 PM on Monday night.

Zoe managed to rig up a portable cake carrier using a plate and the bowl of a salad spinner (see photo below) that worked brilliantly as we zipped around the Bandra streets in a rather reckless rickshaw.  The cake survived the journey and Ali was delighted with the birthday delivery.  Check out Ali’s blog post about our birthday adventure on her fabulous “life in Mumbai” blog, Bagels and Lahks (


Naked cakes, fresh out of the oven...


1 cup room temperature milk

¾ cup egg whites (about 5 or 6 eggs)

2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 ¼ cup plain cake flour

1 ¾ cup sugar

4 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

12 tsp. (1 ½ sticks) softened butter


Classic buttercream frosting

2 sticks butter

4 cups icing sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract

2-3 tbsp. milk


1 mango, diced to ½ inch pieces

2-3 peaches, peeled and diced to ½ inch pieces

1 pear, peeled and diced to ½ inch pieces



Ground ginger

Ground cloves

2 tbsp. butter

2-3 tbsp. maple syrup

Dash of brown sugar


Shredded coconut for top of cake

Oven temp: 325º F /170º C


Cake: mixing bowls, sieve, electric mixer, measuring cups, two 8” spring form cake pans

Frosting: mixing bowl, electric mixer, measuring cup

Filling: small skillet, wooden spoon, cutting board, knives



  • Preheat oven to 325º F /170º C.  Grease two 9” cake tins.
  • Mix milk, vanilla, and eggs in a two-cup measuring cup with a fork until just mixed.
  • Mix butter, flour, sugar, baking powder with an electric mixer.
  • Add butter and continue to mix until mixture resembles a moist crumb with no powdery ingredients remaining
  • Add all but ½ cup milk/egg mixture and mix for 1 ½ to 2 minutes.  Add remaining ½ cup of milk and mix for 30 seconds.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes or until tops of cakes are just starting to turn golden brown.  A toothpick should emerge clean when the cakes are ready to come out of the oven.


  • Cream butter and sugar together with electric mixer for about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add vanilla and milk until frosting reaches desired (ie spreadable) consistency.


  • Melt butter in skillet.
  • Place chopped fruit in skillet.
  • Add maple syrup and generous amounts of spices (probably less than 1 tsp. each)
  • Cook on medium-low heat until the fruit is soft and infused with spices (5-7 minutes).

Frosting Ali's bombay birthday cake


  • Place one layer of cake on a cake plate or large serving dish.
  • Spread a thin layer of frosting on the top of the first half of the cake.
  • Gently spread the fruit filling on top of the frosting layer.
  • Place the second layer on top of the first.
  • Frost the top and sides of the cake, being careful not to put too much pressure on the top of the cake (as the filling may then start to spill out the sides!  Yikes!)
  • Sprinkle shredded coconut on the top of the cake.

This recipe is an adapted version of the following recipe:

Editors of “Cooks Illustrated.”  “Classic White Layer Cake With Butter Frosting and Raspberry-Almond Filling.” Recipe.  The Best Recipe. Brookline, MA:  Boston Common Press, 1999.  472-473.


Brooks’ High-Five Peach Salsa

28 Jul

The winning salsa, some fresh guacamole and Brooks' imported blue corn tortillas: best mexican food in India.

“There are 1 billion people in India right now.  And the best Mexican food in the entire country is in this house tonight.  …Even the guys at the Mexican Embassy are probably eating take out Indian food right now.”  – Brooks


Roasted red peppers, juicy mangoes, and sweet peaches are a tour-de-force in this fruit salsa.  Roasted and seasoned with salt, lime, and jalapenos, they combine to form an outstanding salsa unmatched in quality in India.   Though this recipe technically doesn’t belong on a baking blog, it’s a worthy exception.


My summer housemate Brooks makes a mean quesadilla.  In fact, Mexican night with Chef Brooks is hands-down the best Mexican food you can find in Bombay.  As if the combo of the perfectly melted cheese and a light flour tortilla was not enough, last week Brooks served his killer quesadillas with a jar of Trader Joe’s Peach Salsa.  The meal was unparalleled.  The only part of the evening that was anything less than perfection was the grave realization that I might have to wait weeks, or months to repeat the experience, as decent salsa in Mumbai is absurdly hard to find.  I was unwilling to accept a reality in which satisfying my mexican food cravings rested entirely on the willingness of some visitor to schlep a jar of salsa across an ocean and a couple of continents.

So, I set out to discover how to make peach mango salsa right here in Bombay.  I started where any food detective worth her salt would:  Google.  Alas, after scouring my favorite recipe websites and conducting a number of peach+mango+salsa+best+ever+seriously+wtf?!? type searches, I was unconvinced that any of the recipes I found were going to produce anything palatable, let alone awe-inspiring.  When I stumbled upon one that suggested that the “perfect” peach salsa recipe entailed chopping up some tomatoes and peaches and tossing them together with lime juice, I realized that recipes were not going to solve this dilemma.

So, convinced of my culinary capabilities and driven by the awesome potential for greatness that rested with the solution to this conundrum, I transformed the kitchen into a peach salsa laboratory.  Pots roared on the stove, peppers broiled in the oven, and I played with oils, vinegar, maple, sugar, garlic, and chives, adjusting and tinkering until four different versions of “peach mango salsa” emerged.

When Brooks arrived home tonight, he graciously signed on to be the salsa taste tester.  He opened an outstanding bag of blue corn tortilla chips (imported from Canada on his last jaunt overseas) and dug in.  A solid high five and a big smile told me that the recipe below was the clear “winner.”*

*Note: each of the three “loser” batches contained some combination the following:  tomatoes, onions, vinegar, sugar, parsley, and chives.  Much to my surprise, tomatoes do not combine well with peaches/mangoes.  Red peppers turned out to be the key to home run, high five salsa.

Four varieties of peach-mango salsa (and some guacamole). Only one of them was superb, but the not-so-great ones were necessary steps that eventually lead to the final delicious creation.


2 red bell peppers, seeded and quartered

2-3 peaches, peeled and halved

1 mango, peeled and sliced

3 tbsp. oil

1 clove garlic (chopped)

1 tbsp. maple syrup


2-3 jalapenos (a few slices of jalapenos from a jar), diced finely


More salt

Oven temp: 220º C (Max temp, set to broil)

Supplies: cookie sheet, lots of small bowls, cutting board, pastry brush, knives, paper bag, yummy chips (highly recommend blue corn)


  • Preheat oven to the maximum temperature and the broil setting.  I’m sure you could also use a proper gas or charcoal grill.
  • Peel and cut mangoes and peaches.  Place on cookie sheet.
  • Wash and cut red peppers.  Put aside.
  • Mix oil, garlic, maple syrup and salt together and brush on cut mangoes and peaches.
  • Broil mangoes and peaches until soft and light brown.  This took 5-7 minutes in my oven.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
  • Place peppers peel-up on a cookie sheet.  Broil until the peel starts to develop black, charred patches (this means the skin is separating from the peppers and they’ll be easy to peel).  This took me about 10-15 minutes.
  • Once the peppers are done, place them in a paper bag for 5 minutes to cool.
  • Chop mangoes and peaches into ½ inch chunks.
  • Peel the peppers and chop into small pieces.
  • Mix the peppers, peaches and mangoes in a bowl.
  • Finely dice jalapeno peppers and mix into salsa.
  • Add lime and rock salt.
  • Mix everything together and then refrigerate for a few hours before serving.
  • Pair with fresh guacamole and blue corn chips.
  • Serve.  Let the good times, and the high-fives, roll.

This recipe is a Bobo original.

Proof of a good night: bowls where there were once salsa and guacamole, and the last of our nacho chips.

Neel’s Peanut Butter Goodbye Cookies

25 Jul

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies, straight out of the oven.


These are pretty standard peanut butter cookies, with a generous handful of milk chocolate chips thrown in to spice them up.  Their appearance is rather fetching – they’re round, smooth, and rise really nicely.  They are a kid friendly cookie that adults love, too!


Grown men aren’t technically supposed to like juice boxes.  Or peanut butter sandwiches.  Or cartoons.  Or so the “real world” seems to think.  (Notably, once they emerge from bachelorhood and kids come into the picture, these habits innocently return under the auspices of “being a good dad.”)  But in the mean time, grown men don’t like juice boxes and kiddie sandwiches.

Grown men except Neel Odedara.  Neel, my brilliant and goofy colleague, makes no effort to conceal his kid-like behaviors and habits.  He embraces them.  So, with Neel departing India after a year of service as an American India Foundation (AIF) Fellow, the only befitting dessert seemed to be peanut butter cookies.  The addition of chocolate chips makes them an especially child-friendly treat.  Eat with a large glass of milk and a large group of friends.


1 stick room temperature butter

½ cup granulated brown sugar

½ cup white sugar

1 egg

1 cup crunchy peanut butter

1 ¼ cups flour

½ tsp. baking soda

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

Chocolate chips (approx ½ lb.)

Oven temp: 325º F / 170º C

Supplies: large bowl, wooden spoon, cookie sheet


  • Preheat oven to 325º F and grease cookie sheet (or line with parchment paper)
  • In a large bowl, cream sugars and butter together until fluffy
  • In another bowl, mix flour and baking soda.
  • Mix egg, peanut butter, and flour mixture.
  • Add butter mixture and mix all together.  Add up to one tbsp. oil if the mixture is not cohesive enough.
  • Add chocolate chips.
  • Taste the batter and make sure it’s delicious.
  • Roll the cookie dough into 1.5 inch balls and place cookies 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet.  These cookies do not spread much, so you can place them close together on a cookie tray without worrying.
  • Bake for about 10 minutes. Cookies should be soft when you take them out of the oven.

Golden brown and full of chocolate chips

This recipe is an adapted version of the following recipe:

Vanstone, Philippa.   “Peanut Butter Cookies.” Recipe. 500 Cookies. Portland, Maine: Quintet Publishing, Ltd, 2005.  23.

Bec’s Hungry Girl Peanut Butter Brownies

17 Jul

These brownies are decadent, fudgy, and delicious.  The brownie recipe is an adaptation of “Audrey Hepburn Brownies” made famous at Phillips Academy Andover by Mrs. Vimala Mohammed.  The regular recipe provides a great base for tinkering and adding treats – my favorites include peppermint, raspberries, white chocolate chips, and, in this case, peanut butter.  I didn’t love peanut butter until I started travelling outside of the US.  As an American travelling in Asia, peanut butter became not only a familiar reminder of home, but also a badge of national pride (especially true when our other globally recognizable brands don’t share PBs popularity!)

This week these PB brownies were whipped up one morning as a treat to take over to my friend Rebecca’s house.  Bec hails from Australia and has two simply delightful daughters, Emma, aged 7, and Rachel, aged 4.  Her house is always full of toys, dress up clothes, storybooks, and peals of little laughter, and she always has a latte and a good story ready.  This week we were catching up on her trip to NY with her husband Ben and the girls, my roommate Elise’s imminent departure to NY, and my recent return from London.  After a six-week hiatus, we were in fits of giggles as we devoured these delectable treats.  I thought our delightful afternoon couldn’t get any better when Emma, Rachel*, and their two friends (who had their brownies for dessert at their cute little kids table) burst into the sitting room hand in little hand proclaiming, “Thank you for the brownies Alana!” in unison.  On Tuesday there were two generations of “hungry girls” enjoying these brownies!


160 g. 60%-80% unsweetened chocolate (I can get Cadbury’s Bourneville easily here and use two bars)
1 stick/125 g. butter
½ cup white granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1/3  cup flour
3-4 tbsp. peanut butter (preferably crunchy)
½ small bar (approx 10 g.) of milk chocolate

Oven temp: 325º F / 170º C
Supplies: small saucepan, large bowl, wooden spoon, 9 x 9 inch pan (or 8 x 8 inch)

1.    Preheat oven to 325º F and grease square baking pan (or line with parchment paper)
2.    In saucepan melt 160 g. dark chocolate and 1 sticks of butter for 3-4 minutes or until well-mixed (stir during melting process)
3.    Remove from heat, pour into mixing bowl, and stir in ½ cup of sugar
4.    Add 2 eggs and 1 tbsp. vanilla and continue to stir
5.    Stir in 1/3 cup flour
6.    Taste test batter.  If it passes, eat a little bit more then pour the batter into the baking pan.  Set aside.
7.    In saucepan, heat peanut butter over medium-low heat.  Melt in milk chocolate.  When warm and melted, pour over the brownie batter.  I like to pour the peanut butter in parallel horizontal rows (about 4 or 5) and then drag a knife in vertical lines to make a pretty swirl pattern.
8.    Bake for 30-35 minutes and take out just before they are finished for a fudgy, delicious brownie.
9.    Find a friend, or some adorable little hungry girls, and enjoy!  If they last long enough, these brownies are delicious when cold (they become very fudge-like.  Mmm.)

*The following night I babysat for Rachel and Emma.  I brought over cookie dough so we could make cookies together.  I’ve had a few less-than-stellar attempts to bake with kids before, most of which ended with tears, eggs everywhere, and total disaster in the kitchen.  So, I thought I my decision to make cookie dough in advance was absolutely genius.  Emma, a textbook oldest child, shaped the dough into perfectly round cookies and placed them on the cookie sheet (which she found in the cupboard, lined with parchment paper before we got started).  Rachel, the spirited younger sister, took a different approach and instead of directing the dough to the cookie sheet, covered herself with the cookie dough.  Thirty seconds into our baking adventure, I looked over at her only to see a big smile hiding behind a cookie dough spa treatment.  “I have cookies on my face, my hands, and my feet!!” she exclaimed proudly.    Later, she managed to eat one cookie, sneak two and finish half of her sister’s cookie, leaving her so full of energy and sugar that she was literally bouncing off the walls (and from bed to bed) when it was finally time for bed.   Lesson learned:  cookie baking is now an afternoon-only babysitting activity!

Bobo’s Rules for Baking (and life)

17 Jul

Bobo’s Rules for Baking (and Life)

These are taken from the first section of a collection of recipes I put together for my former students at Phillips Academy Andover as they graduated and I left for India.  I love hearing back from my adventurous young bakers as they test out recipes for themselves and inevitably either end up with delicious successes or hilarious failures.   (Celia Lewis ’10 just told me about a particularly successful batch of  “Tessa’s Chocolate Chip Banana Bread” that she smuggled up to her younger sister at summer camp!).

1.    Taste the batter.  Trust the batter. (Then don’t forget to actually bake the batter!)  If it tastes good in the bowl, chances are good that (as long as you don’t over bake it) it will taste good as a baked version of itself.   Growing up, my dad always told me, “Bobie, just follow your heart.”  While that was infuriatingly vague advice when trying to choose a college, figure out what to do afterward, or decide whether or not to break up with a boyfriend, he wasn’t totally crazy.  I would only add, “follow your stomach as well.”

2.   Take risks often. Oatmeal-raisin cookies didn’t turn into Raspberry white-chocolate-chip chocolate-chunk cookies because a recipe was followed to its exact specifications.  Sometimes things turn out well, and sometimes they don’t.  You usually learn more from the things that don’t, and, luckily, you guys will eat pretty much anything, “bad” experiments included!

3.   You do not need to follow the rules precisely. I rarely measure one and a half teaspoons of baking soda or a quarter of a teaspoon of salt.  I don’t always sift flour when I’m told to and never measure how many chocolate chips go in a batch of cookies, but everything works out in the end.  I’ve found that (as long as you’re willing to take ownership for your actions and get yelled at every once in a while) this applies excellently to life as well.

4.    Bake for your friends and you’ll always have friends. If you bake a batch of cookies and share them with friends you win twice: a) your friends think you’re awesome and b) you no longer run the dangerous risk of eating four dozen cookies by yourself.

Welcome to Bobo’s Bakery!

3 Jul

Welcome to Bobo's Bakery!

Look out for more scrumptious pics soon!

Welcome to Bobo’s Bakery.  Inspired by the hundreds of lovely friends, family members, office-mates, students, and strangers who have indulged my love of baking over the last few years, this blog dedicated to bringing you highlights of the best treats to come out of my oven and the stories of what happens when people come together to eat them.

A few weeks ago my roommate, Pip, asked me, “So, what’s your specialty…the one thing you’re known for, the thing you like to make most?”  I think I muttered something about lemon bars or cupcakes and quickly changed the subject.  I was appalled that I couldn’t think of one thing that I loved to make best.  What kind of baker am I?  A few days later as I tinkered with a coffee cake recipe (ditched the apples, added cinnamon, maple, walnuts, etc..) I realized that my favorite recipe, and my specialty, is the one that doesn’t exist yet.  I love to create.  When I turn on the oven, pull out the mixing bowls and measuring cups, and begin to create something delicious and beautiful from otherwise plain starting point (eggs, milk, sugar, flour, and so on) I think it must be akin to a painter’s first steps towards a blank canvas.  Luckily for me, it’s easier to score a place in the good graces of my friends’ and colleagues’ stomachs than on the walls of the Louvre.

Check back each week for a new recipes, photos, and tales.  I usually use recipes as a starting point and get creative, so I always welcome new inspiration and challenges (some of my favorite recipes have been the result of baking for people who had [shocking] aversions to ingredients like chocolate or sugar).  Comments are always welcome, and if you find yourself in my neck of the woods let me know what you’re craving, give me an hour as a heads up, and join me for tea and treats….