I started baking at the age of 11 when I chose to do home economics classes in school. The excitement of seeing my first Victorian sponge cake out of the oven was an exceptional feeling. From then on baking became part of my life as a hobby, I enjoyed it so much that I wouldn’t take a penny for it. Try me! I’m not even tempted.
I have baked for every birthday of my daughter, for friends and family too. Often when I visited my friends, they would ask me to bring a cake, with specific demands such as vanilla flavoured, crusty tray bakes, smooth chocolate and fruity cream cakes.
My Asian values tell me to show courtesy when visiting others, usually expressed by way of a little gift. My friends and family members say: “What’s better than cake?”
Baking became special when I signed up for a competition in my local Islamic centre in Manchester during an Eid al Ghadeer event. After the competition baking for Islamic occasions became my passion. I would bake for the birth anniversary of the Prophet Muhammad(s), the infallible Imams(as), Eid days and Ramadan gatherings.
What differentiates between baking for family or friends is that when it comes to Islamic baking every aspect has to be taken into consideration. The task has to be completed with the utmost respect for our beloved prophet and his progeny as this is a gift on behalf of my fellow brothers and sisters in Islam.
To do so I have developed a method of preparation. For example, I first search for ideas online. Then I make sure the ingredients are halal. I ask repeatedly from different sources to ensure that all ingredients that go into the cake and its decoration are permissible to consume. I even consult a knowledgeable person in regards to the design I intend to use such as the writing of hadith or Quranic verses, or designing a dome. Finally, I simply buy the ingredients. After this preparation, I get on with ensuring that my daughter will be the egg cracker and first critic.
People frequently ask why I emphasise the decorative aspect of the cake when I could simply make a plain vanilla or chocolate. However, I find that art has a special meaning in Islam. One can tell this from the way our mosques are built, shrines are designed, poems and eulogies are written. The least I can do is to form a creativity that can be associated with an Islamic occasion.
Is this my way of serving Islam, you may ask? Well. I love to bake and I yearn to serve God in any possible way. This is just a tiny offering.
On the other hand, if providing a delicious cake to people at events or gatherings, leads to inspiring the young ones, as well as non-Muslims, and brings warmth to hearts, then it means that I’m doing something useful with my hobby. I feel lucky that people love cake! I suppose it is my way to serve Islam. It’s an incredibly small step towards showing gratitude to God, for the blessings of placing me in the path of the prophet and his progeny.
A few tips for Islamic baking:
1. Dedicate your baking for a good purpose,
2. Use edible ingredients to avoid waste,
3. Have an egg cracker,
4. Consult a knowledgeable person in Islamic laws,
5. Have strong hands to carry the cake