If there’s a food item that will always stay relevant, it’s Bombay Bakery’s coffee cake that has its loyal customer base standing in long cues for hours which extends from the bakery’s counter to the main road outside, facing the Hyderabad Cantonment Board.
As per the description printed inwards on their package lid, Pahlaj Rai Gangaram Thadani and his Swiss wife, who notably sold baked treats out of their home in Saddar, Hyderabad, established the Bombay Bakery in 1911, which is over 111 years old. It was due to his persistent approach that the Hyderabad Cantonment authority gave Gangaram permission in 1924 to sell his treats from a bungalow in the area.
After Gangaram passed away in 1948, his three sons, Shamdas, Kishinchand, and Gopichand continued his legacy of selling high quality confectionery items of bread, biscuits and cakes. The bakery is currently run by Sonoo, Kishinchand’s great-grandson.
Bismah Tirmizi, Dawn’s Food Contributor, quoted a paragraph from the book, “Darjeeling: The Colourful History and Precarious Fate of the World’s Greatest Tea” by Jeff Koehler which read: “In gardens of hill stations during the summer social season, and in the sunny winter down on the plains, tea was served along with sweets – tiffin cake, dholi buns, Bombay golden cake and Gymkhana cake.”
Connecting the dots, Tirmizi points out that the Parsis of Bombay, as well as the Parsis of Karachi, have been baking cakes for a long time now, “Armeen’s and Mrs. Mistrey’s cakes, as well as the Persian Bakery in Saddar, Karachi, were the rage in the 1980s and 1990s.”
The iconic coffee cake:
Upon digging a little further, Tirmizi discovered ‘Vividh Vani,’ a 1500 pages-long Persian cook-book containing recipes for 57 different types of cakes, ranging from coffee and cherry cakes to Bakar Khani. Pahlaj Rai named his bakery ‘Bombay Bakery’ as he was inspired by the exquisite baking of Parsi confectioners of the early twentieth-century, and perhaps the coffee cake is a variant on Vividh Vani’s recipe.