“It all started with a lot of bad cakes,” says 22-year-old Shivesh Bhatia, who began baking at the age of 16 and soon turned it into a living. He isn’t a chef, though he did think of attending pastry school once. But he soon dropped the idea because, “I can’t imagine standing in a kitchen in isolation for 12 hours.”
Shivesh is now out with his first book on baking. With a foreword by friend and fellow sweet-treat lover, Pooja Dhingra, the simply-titled Bake With Shivesh (HarperCollins) book has 54 recipes with tips and tricks (ranging from why the top of a cake cracks or burns, to why the cake is dense and not fluffy). “These are things I wish I had known when I started,” he says.
After developing over 100 recipes, styling them and photographing them, only the best were picked: those that looked and tasted great. “There was this fancy dessert I’d done with Choux pastry. I’d filled it with pastry cream and topped it with berries, but I just couldn’t shoot it right. Sometimes it’s just a bad day,” he says, never ‘cheating’ by putting in anything that is not food, that you cannot simply pick off the styling table and eat.
If you don’t already know him, Shivesh is a blogger (bakewithshivesh.com, and @shivesh17 on Instagram with 1,23,000 followers), that catch-all phrase for people who put out content online. And an influencer, the logical corollary for those who accumulate followers and can then work with brands for a fee, to integrate content, create standalone products (like a recipe booklet), or do styling or shooting campaigns.
Shivesh started working with food companies such as Britannia, Foodhall, Epigamia, Kellogg’s, Mother Dairy, and many more, but more recently opened up to lifestyle brands such as Canon, Starbucks, and Whirlpool (for their microwaves). In fact, he’s even done a workshop with Kiehl’s, using the natural ingredients in their products — oranges, cranberries, honey — in a styling and baking workshop.
Ironically, his baking journey also started with a brand he did an association with: Betty Crocker. It was a day in Gurugram, when his naani (grandmother) was ill, and his three cousins and he were gathered around her. Inspired by her chocolate cake, they decided to give it a shot, with a Betty Crocker mix. “We stood in front of the oven all the while, and still managed to burn it,” he says laughing. But because he enjoyed the process so much, he worked at it. “I was whipping up one disaster after another; everything was inedible!” he says. “But I couldn’t give up on it.”
His aim, whether through his blog or book, is to “make baking simple and more accessible”. The idea is to get people so tempted with the way he styles and shoots his creations, that they “pick up a whisk and get baking”.