If pastries, the new addiction for Kenyan foodies, tastes different, that is probably because their taste has changed.
New-generation pastry chefs are redefining their recipes to meet the changing palate of well-travelled, experiential diners.
Kenyan pastry lovers want to eat a canelé (a small French pastry flavoured with rum and vanilla with a soft and tender custard centre and a dark, thick caramelised crust) just as they ate in Paris.
Bakery after bakery, pistachio shortbreads, cookies studded with sunflower seeds, to cinnamon biscuits sit alongside artisanal bread sprinkled with flaxseeds, and baklava.
In some bakeries, by 10am, the juicy oat breads are sold out. Pastries no longer have a traditional taste as Kenyans prefer playful and flavourful varieties.
Sanjit Gupta, the Group head Chef Sarova Hotels says Kenyans are coming out of their comfort zones of being limited to the black forest and white forest.
“Oh! Yes! Kenyans have changed their pastry palate. Look at every alternate cake house developing a keen interest in making pastries. Everyone is giving a try at baking cakes because of passion. There’s a huge demand in the pastries market. They’re no longer bought on birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, or graduation ceremonies alone, we are in an era where you don’t need an occasion to eat desserts, you can create an occasion and find reasons to celebrate with cakes and pastries,” he says.
Social media has played a big part in the growth of the pastry market, not only in Kenya but around the world.
“Instagram/Tiktok/Reels/Facebook have given many cooks to the world. Everything that you create has to be picture-perfect for Instagram because everyone is watching and with that, baking is not just limited to four walls of the kitchen.
People cook because they love to do it and share the experience online,” says chef Gupta.
Moreover, there is a huge investment in advanced baking technologies that have enhanced pastry-making.
High demand has opened job opportunities for pastry chefs.
Abdulrahman Adinan, a pastry chef at Mövenpick Hotel & Residence says growing up he always wanted to be a chef. He studied at Utalii College and has refined his art over the years, and now cooks for the who’s who in the city. He too says the pastries market is going through a metamorphosis.
“The designs and colours of Kenyan pastry have also changed. There were times when we thought of pastry we would think of black forest cakes, mandazi, bread with three ingredients,” says chef Adinan.
As bakeries and hotels compete to offer unique delights, some have found a new market in vegan and lactose-intolerant consumers.
“I introduced low-carb desserts, keto desserts for health-conscious diners. We have a regular guest who orders keto desserts at regular intervals. We also use dairy-free, sugar-free, gluten-free recipes for required orders,” says chef Gupta.
“Recently I have seen a rise in gluten-free cake customers. With the right balance of ingredients, a good gluten-free cake should not be difficult to differentiate from those made with traditional flour. One can make a fantastic, inclusive sweet treat to bring to a party,” adds chef Adinan.
While most chefs solely use sweet ingredients, chef Gupta who has been in the industry for 22 years says his must-have ingredient is pasty cream. Chef Adinan says he cannot do without vanilla.
“One thing I learned from my mentor is that to be a creative pastry chef, one must prepare his/her desserts with love, passion and focus. Don’t copy what others are doing, do something out of the box, and let them come and copy your ideas and presentations,” says chef Gupta, adding,” a good dessert a day keeps a bad mood away.”
What are the popular pastries in this era and why? “Apricot pistachio coconut which comes with a palate cleanser is the most selling. The nut fudge, and Seven Heaven, my inventions, also sell well. Cake lollies, cake pops, and cakesicles are getting popular and are back in trend. People love them due to their cuteness, bite-size and also due to playful flavours,” chef Gupta says.
“Sacher cake pops is one of my favourites,” he says, “ adding “if you ask me what I want to bring to Kenya, it will be a canelé. I want to do my version of Canele for Kenyan diners.”
For Mövenpick Hotel & Residences, chef Adinan says the most-selling is tiramisu. “Who doesn’t love Tiramisu?” he poses.