On her first Mumbai trip, Verusca Walker discusses the excitement of creating cakes you can walk into, carry and ride
Verusca Walker waits in the lobby of a Juhu five-star, looking more athlete, less cake decorator. “I am a runner,” she confesses while our gaze travel from the blue sleeveless top she’s wearing to her toned upper arms. “You need strong arms to make structured cakes,” she continues in her heavy, Portuguese accent.
The Brazilian, famous for her 3D cakes, was in the city last week to hold a series of workshops, including one that taught participants the art of making her infamous KitchenAid mixer cake.
Born in Sao Paulo, Walker moved to Sydney with a degree in Secretary Bilingual 15 years ago in the hope of mastering English. “I enrolled in a Fine Arts course, majored in photography and enjoyed sculpture. But things turned around for me when I made a Noah’s Ark themed cake for my daughter’s first birthday. Friends and family went crazy; they wouldn’t believe this was my first shot at baking,” says the 43-year-old.
A diploma in baking from TAFE university, Sydney, followed. Six months into the course, her professor recommended her for a job where she worked for three years before branching out to set up her own business. Walker now dishes out 40 cakes a week, priced at $500 onwards.
Walker, who conducts workshops across the world, says because she can’t keep up with the travel, she wrote Structure Cakes with Veruska Walker, a guide to baking like her that will be out in November. “It teaches you to make a structure cake from scratch, whether a handbag that you can pick up or a guitar you can strum,” she says.
Her husband, Shawn has played an important role in the journey career. “A 3D cake needs a base to sit on. My husband, who is an architect, came to my rescue, when he made a simple wooden board to place my bag-themed cake. He erected two sticks and attached a leather strap to it. Since then, there has been no looking back. He continues to make all my stilts,” says Walker, who recommended that participants use a sunboard for base.
The life-size chapel cake
In 2014, she created a life-size chapel cake for the Australian Cake Decorating Network (ACDN), within which a wedding was held. “It took us three months to design, but we had three days and 30 volunteers to put it up,” says Walker, who has also designed edible sofas and chandeliers. “On the last day of the show, we cut it up into slices and fed it to the attendees.” Walker says it’s important to gauge ambient temperatures while making giant cakes. “In Sydney, temperatures shoot up to 40 degrees. I tweak my recipes accordingly. The base cake is important, and you cannot use fruit or cream. It cannot be crumbly either. You need a moist cake that will hold fort,” says Walker.
Fondant is her best bet as it holds the cake together. “Brazil has been introduced to fondant only recently, and I plan to go back home to popularise its use,” says Walker, who often adds spices like cinnamon and ginger to her creations. Which brings her to her Mumbai shopping list. “Indigenous spices is what I must remember to pick up.”