Imagine biting into gooey brownies, chocolate pastries and delectable cupcakes, that are not only tasty but also nutritious.
If this is the stuff that your dreams are made of, you can thank Senthil Kumar Balu, a 33-year-old Chennai-based cancer researcher and home baker, for turning them into reality!
In his conversation with The Better India, Senthil begins by stating that he wants to change the narrative around desserts through his brand, Wholesome Rhapsody.
“I work towards challenging the idea that taste and health cannot go together, especially in the case of desserts. My cakes are designed carefully to include specific ingredients that are heavy on nutrients but not on calories, sugar or other compounds that could be harmful to some,” he says.
Senthil’s tryst with baking started in 2013 when he baked a healthy chocolate cake for competition and received great feedback.
“I was always fond of cooking, but when the cake received a good response, it got me thinking about the potential to use my expertise to create desserts for all those who miss the joys of it, only because of their medical condition. And, thus, I began experimenting with various nutrient-laden ingredients, that are usually not used in baking,” says Senthil.
He began with baking cakes that had a low glycemic index, and has moved on to ones that are carefully customised according to the dietary needs of people who suffer from serious ailments like cancer, diabetes or allergies like lactose intolerance.
Since then, he has customised cakes for customers with prostate cancer, breast cancer, kidney cancer as well as lung cancer.
The process begins with him getting to know his customers’ condition. From what stage of cancer they are fighting, the treatments they are taking, to all the do’s and dont’s to be kept in mind. Additionally, each product has a list of ingredients mentioned at the back for their benefit.
“My cakes are not alternatives to medicines but can help if taken along with them. They are a positive push both to the heart and the body. For instance, for customers with an oestrogen-positive subtype of breast cancer, I use ingredients that are rich in catenoid like a soy millet-based carrot cake.”
Are there any cakes or treats that he would especially recommend?
“Yes, of course. For people suffering from fatty liver disease, I would recommend my fat-free brownies with turmeric and green tea. Those suffering from prostate cancer could try my brownies with flax seeds and soy, which also contain additional ingredients like prunes, apricots, chickpeas, aquafaba, and homemade dark chocolate,” he replies.
Additionally, he recommends his Mammary Love brownies with almonds and brazil nuts, as a perfect low-estrogen treat!
“Many people suffering from serious diseases or even those who are trying to cut down on fatty foods complain that desserts are unhealthy. But, I am trying to change that idea. If you can eat your daily staples, then why not these cakes that can be more nutritious than them? Eventually, the goal is to make these desserts not just guilt-free but also therapeutic,” says Senthil.
In addition to his work as a baker, he is also writing a book which elaborates on the kinds of foods that cancer patients can experiment with and consume.
“There have been recipe books of foods that are good for cancer patients, but nothing regional is out yet. Several ingredients from this part of the world that are easily available and super nutritious can work very well in that diet, and I am trying to document them in the book,” he says.
Kudos to this home baker, who is uniquely blending science and the culinary arts to create desserts that are not only scrumptious, but also chock-full of health benefits!
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)