Remember those boring afternoons in the classrooms, where the only thing that went through the mind was ‘how much longer till the lunch break’? Well, I sure do, even though lunch was not always a grand affair to write home about. Yes, Mom did send Frankies, egg rolls, and luchi-aloo dum once in a while, but it was mostly sandwiches, boiled eggs, and a tiffin cake. To be honest, as a kid I loved the Bapuji cakes and didn’t really mind having them for tiffin.
As I grew up, I saw the city move on to chocolate chip cupcakes, Madeira cakes, or cakes filled with jams and dry fruits. Even after the city evolved it taste buds to those fancy pastries and confectionaries, I can say with much conviction that the love for this cake remains the same for me and many other Bengali kids growing up in the eighties and nineties. It will always feel like my bit of nostalgia in the form of a cake.
A bit of history about these square-shaped delights
As Amitava Jana, the present owner of the bakery, proudly claims, Bapuji cake has now become synonymous with tiffin cakes in Kolkata, just as chocolate bars are simply called ‘Cadbury’s’ by the Bengali folks. He, along with his brother Animesh Jana, runs the bakery now which was started way back in 1973 by his father. The bakery has a number of production units in Pallabpukur, including two more workshops at Lake Town and Serampore. It is still quite a small operation and the cakes are mostly made manually.
A quintessential presence at roadside tea stalls and tiffins
The New Howrah Bakery, which is the manufacturer of the Bapuji Cakes, still holds its ground amidst all the competition from the fancy goodies. From the youngest age, I have seen these cakes adorn the roadside tea stalls. In fact, it makes glad to this day when I get to see these cakes kept in glass jars at the stalls, and I can’t help but reach for one. And, trust me I am not the only one to do that!
Bapuji is still a middle-class Bengali’s favorite companion to evening tea. The bread, eggs, and banana combination is mainly a preferred companion for the morning cup, but the evenings are for the biscuits and Bapuji cakes. In fact, these cakes were a Bengali mother’s savior as they packed these in the lunch boxes of their fussy kids.
The fact that these cakes are such nostalgia for me is also because of the taste. Sure, it is a bit drier than the other fancy cakes in the market, but it is still absolutely delicious to my taste buds. And, taking off that greasy wax paper and to take a bite is sheer delight too.
Given that over 50,000 Bapuji cakes sell on an average in a day, I would say many other taste buds share the same nostalgia that I do! And, it makes my heart so happy to know that, thanks to its immense popularity, the humble Bapuji cake is here to stay.