Amrit: Food for the Gods

Budding entrepreneur Amrita Dhillon bakes a burnt cheesecake that’s right out of culinary heaven

(This is the second instalment of our Budding Entrepreneur Series to help upcoming or struggling Singaporean entrepreneurs.)

Not everything about the Circuit Breaker (aka lockdown) has resulted in a litany of woes. Every now and then, happy and inspiring little stories have glimmered through the pandemic gloom.

If you’re an inveterate foodie like me, you’ll know what I mean when I say that one of the nicest things that has happened to me during this recent Circuit Breaker has been the occasional gift of home-made cakes, biscuits and bread from a few close friends and well-wishers.

One particular gift that instantly revived a particularly moribund afternoon was a decadently delicious Burnt Basque Cheesecake from a young woman entrepreneur – a baker called Amrita Dhillon – whose mother (full disclosure) I know. We had spoken casually about my fondness for baking and she had mentioned that her daughter shared my passion and I should taste her cakes one day. I said I looked forward to it and, as is the way with so many good intentions, I forgot about it until a few days later when said cheesecake arrived just in time for tea.

Its deeply caramelized, almost blackened top surrounded by a flutter of parchment paper and tiny bouquet of fruits and flowers tantalizingly hid a centre the texture of smooth, firm custard and tasted so sinfully good you could tempt a saint with it. With Its over-tanned, almost burnt, mildly cracked top crust, gooey centre and lacking a biscuit base, it could be easily mistaken as a baking attempt gone wrong. But looks couldn’t be more deceiving. The sensory experience that exploded gently in my mouth was deliciously complex, like a combination of salted caramel crème brulee and burnt butter.

Burnt cheesecake for the uninitiated is a cheesecake which originates in the Basque region as it name suggests, has no crust and its creamy centre resembles a slice of gorgeously gooey Camembert cheese.

As all foodies know, burnt cheesecake is a trend that has been sweeping Singapore and the rest of the dessert loving world these past two years and it seems to have reached its height during this lockdown. I received three burnt beauties as gifts over the past four months but Amrita’s won hands down. In short, it was the best cheesecake I have had this year – burnt or not.

But before I wax eloquent on Amrita, let me pause and ponder on a question that might be central to our post-Pandemic lives: What gives real meaning to it beyond the fleeting and indulgent creations of the lockdown period? What will make you take that flying leap across your comfort zone to give life to your dream?

For some, that passion to accomplish one’s goal begins in the warm comfort of a happy childhood. For Amrita, the catalyst was the cakes her mother baked in her grandmother’s kitchen.

Amrita’s baking isn’t just a hobby to pass time during the pandemic, it is her life. The 33-year old graduate of Nanyang Technological University was a successful primary school teacher with the Ministry of Education for seven years and could have continued on the upward trajectory that her career was taking her, but she gave it all up to pursue her passion – baking.

“It took a lot of courage to quit a stable government job,’ she admits when I thank her for her cake, prodding her to tell me more about her business which she runs from her home. “But my family was very supportive with my decision to follow my dreams.”

“My passion for baking started as a hobby in my grandmother’s kitchen when I was 14 years old. Watching my mum bake for the entire family, I realised how baking and love went hand in hand. From there, my passion grew, and soon enough, my mum got to rest as I had taken over baking for the family. I would spend hours scouring the internet and cookbooks for new recipes to try out.”

As she grew older her passion galvanised her to take an even more active role in developing her baking skills. She invested in professional baking courses, including the one at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York run by the famous Julian Angel. Realising that most of her time outside of her job as a primary school teacher was devoted to baking, she took a “leap of faith,” as she puts it and with a little bit of help from family and friends, “quit my day job so that I could make baking a way of life.” The result – Amrita’s Artisan Bakeology.

Amrita intends to eventually conduct her own baking classes while running her home bakery business “so that everyone has the opportunity to eat delicious cakes made fresh at home,” she says. “With all these plans and a business to run, every day brings something new and exciting and I’ve not looked back since starting!”

As I take another bite of her outrageously delicious cheesecake I can’t help thinking, here’s one young woman who, because of her single-minded dedication, can have her cake and eat it too!

P.S. Amrita’s cakes can be seen on her Instagram page: amritas_sg as well as on Facebook: Amrita’s Artisan Bakeology. She can also be reached at: 90610064


Shobha Tsering Bhalla

Shobha Tsering Bhalla is the Editor-in-Chief at India Se.