Her thin frame makes it hard to believe that she spends most of her time baking sugary goodies like cakes, breads and cookies. But one bite of her ‘healthy’ cupcakes later, it’s easy to see why Rithika Ramesh can have her cake and eat it too.
Always an avid baker, 28-year-old Ramesh started The Green Stove in February 2010 when she realised that vegans in the city had barely any choices for their desserts. While eggless cakes were available in the market, to expect desserts to be devoid of dairy was a distant dream. “After I turned vegan in 2009, I started looking for alternatives to continue baking. I looked up substitute ingredients on the internet and realised that I can make good dairy-free desserts,” she says.
Today, The Green Stove serves cupcakes in interesting flavours like banana walnut, roasted almond, orange zest, vanilla spice, chocolate and even cookies, breads and savouries like vegan cheese spreads, quiches and dips. “Substitute ingredients include vegan margarine and vegetable oil. For instance, for chocolate icing, I use a mixture of soy cream and melted chocolate,” she says. In fruit cakes, she avoids sugar completely and uses jaggery instead. For diabetics, there are options like date-walnut and oatmeal cakes, which eliminate the need for sugar.
What makes Rithika’s desserts scale higher on the health chart is the use of organic whole wheat as the base ingredient. “The only thing unhealthy is the icing, only added if customers demand it,” she says. I try three of her cupcakes — apple-cinnamon, date-walnut and chocolate. While they aren’t as fluffy as most cakes, they’re delicious. Just one suffices my craving. “The wheat flour makes it more wholesome,” she explains.
Ramesh has been careful with the pricing too. “Wherever I travelled, I’ve found vegan items to be a lot more expensive,” she says. Cupcakes are priced at Rs170 (for 10 mini cupcakes) while the breads start at Rs 55. “I wanted to show that you don’t have to pay through your nose to eat healthy.”
Given that Ramesh bakes only vegan stuff, it’s surprising that 70% of her customers are non-vegan. “There are probably just 400-500 vegans in Mumbai. A lot of my customers are lactose intolerant,” she says. The other lot, she adds, are the health-conscious who prefer whole wheat and other natural ingredients.
Jaggery Banana Loaf