UC Irvine freshman and cookbook author Sahana Vij

Credit: Steve Zylius /UC Irvine

“Family is a really big part of my life – something I can rely on – and I go visit them throughout the country a lot,” says UCI freshman and cookbook author Sahana Vij. “Each ‘Bake Away’ recipe comes from a different city and a different experience I’ve had with my family.”

Sahana Vij has always been surrounded by food. The granddaughter of Indian immigrants, she grew up in a Seattle home with a bustling kitchen full of spices. Her mother taught her to make garlic bread and French toast when she was 5. Now 18, Vij is a self-taught baker who’s sharing her recipes with the world through her new cookbook, Bake Away.

The UCI freshman intends to major in literary journalism and minor in environmental science, but baking is in her blood.

“I want to work at newspapers or magazines and write columns, specifically about the environment. I love to write, but my dream job is to own my own bakery,” Vij says. “That’s really my passion.”

Featuring 20 of her original recipes, Bake Away has been in the works since her first year of high school. It hit the shelves Oct. 26.

Each recipe in the cookbook is tied to a location. The first, for citrus poppy seed bread, is inspired by Vij’s memory of picking fruit in her grandfather’s garden in Temescal Valley, about an hour away from UCI. In fact, the proximity of her grandparents was a large factor in her decision to become an Anteater.

UCI “was a good fit for me because of how much family is around me,” Vij says. “Family is a really big part of my life – something I can rely on – and I go visit them throughout the country a lot. Each Bake Away recipe comes from a different city and a different experience I’ve had with my family.”

Her favorite is the U District chai-infused cake, influenced by the tea she used to share with her mother on their monthly trips to Seattle’s University District.

“It’s my whole family’s favorite recipe because it just tastes so good and because we’ve been making it more as a family over the past year. It’s kind of become a family recipe, and we’ve started to mold it. Right now it’s a cake, but we’ve molded it into cupcakes, so you can change it, which I think is really cool!” Vij says.

The proceeds from Bake Away will go to No Kid Hungry, a nonprofit working to end child hunger that provides 10 meals for every dollar donated. All of Vij’s author royalties as well as certain percentages of book sales, depending on the vendor, will be donated to the organization. Already, Vij is getting attention for the book. People magazine recently selected her as one of the “Girls Changing the World in 2021.”

“Growing up, my mom and my family were really involved in volunteering, and we went a lot to women’s and children’s shelters. We were very involved in the community, and I always wanted to give back,” Vij says. “I decided I wanted to partner with [No Kid Hungry], especially because the book involves food. I wanted to work with them because of how dire the situation is, especially during the pandemic.”