A Fascination With Cakes Sent This Indian Home Cook on a Baking Journey

Every week, we spotlight a different food blogger who’s shaking up the blogosphere with tempting recipes and knockout photography. Today, we chat with baking blogger Sonali Ghosh, who infuses her love of European-style baking with flavors from her Indian culture. Swing back all week for a new recipe from Ghosh every day.


Photos courtesy of Sonali Ghosh

Cakes were literally a foreign concept in Sugar et al. blogger Sonali Ghosh’s childhood home in Kolkata, India. There, traditional desserts like crumbly cheese-based sandesh and syrupy rasgulla were the norm, which alongside other sweets have given Kolkata a decades-old reputation for sugared snacks and treats.

But even amongst aficionados of local specialties like the caramelized yogurt dish mishti doi and cardamom-spiced rice pudding payesh, Ghosh’s sweet tooth stuck out. More than that, she was fascinated by European baking culture — something she’d only ever read about in books or seen on television.

Related: What Americans Totally Don’t Get About Indian Food


Dark chocolate mini cakes with lavender glaze.

As a child, Ghosh experimented with baking modest single-layer cakes, muffins, and cakes in her family’s small portable oven, which in Kolkata are far more common than Western-style oven ranges. It was a challenge, to say the least. “We had only choices of vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry [flavors],” Ghosh told Yahoo Food. Even worse, her efforts weren’t particularly well received.

“Generally people wouldn’t like it,” she said with a laugh. “I don’t have recipes from my nonna — for us, it’s more about curries and flatbreads and things like that. So everything was new to me.”

In adulthood, Ghosh married and moved to Bangalore, where her experimentation continued. Soon, she was making crème brûlées and multi-layered cakes, inspired by bakers on MasterChef Australia, which aired in India. “Seeing those people create things, it’s like, why not me? Why can’t I try it?”

Ghosh thinks she’s attracted to baking for a few reasons. The first is all about aesthetics: she loves making things look beautiful. “I think [a gorgeous] cake, it just automatically pleases everyone,” she explained. But Ghosh also relishes the deliberate and precise nature of baking, which taps into her inner student. “I was always very good at chemistry in school,” she said. “I was the top of my class. The reactions between molecules and things like that, it always interested me.”

Related: How to Make Fudge Stripe Cookies at Home


Chai-spiced ricotta doughnuts with salted caramel sauce.

Ghosh had long worked for banks in India, but three years ago, an opportunity arose. Her husband was offered a job in Sydney, Australia, and Ghosh’s family — which includes twin boys — jumped at the chance. “Me and my husband are always very adventurous as people,” she said. “We thought, ‘OK, why not?’”

Once in Australia, however, Ghosh had a lot of free time on her hands. She wasn’t working, and found herself spending more and more of her days baking in the kitchen. About four months after her arrival, Ghosh started Sugar et al. to document her recipes, which often combine European techniques and styles with Indian flavors, like saffron, cinnamon, rose, and pistachio.

Much to her surprise, the blog began to attract readers, who tuned in for delights like orange almond cake with rhubarb streusel, dense chocolate, chai, and beetroot cake, and Ghosh’s whimsical, over-the-top “ice cream lolly cake.”

Related: Overnight Orange Refrigerator Rolls from ‘Food52 Baking’


Double chocolate pancakes with poached kumquats.

“I’ve been very fortunate that my passion has now turned into a career,” Ghosh said. Her work has been featured in the Australian publications Styling Magazine and Spoonful Magazine, plus the German magazine Sweet Dreams. She’s also received mentions from BuzzFeed, the Kitchn, Self, Brit+Co, plus several shoutouts on Yahoo Food. She’s even been recognized by British food goddess Nigella Lawson.

“It’s phenomenal,” Ghosh said of her success. “It’s unbelievable — I’ve fallen in love with blogging.”

More delectable cakes to swoon over:

Coconut Bliss Cake from ‘Sweet Envy’

Epic Candy Bar Layer Cake from ‘The Sugar Hit!’

Pistachio and Pomegranate Cake from ‘Rachel Khoo’s Kitchen Notebook’