What does it take to bake a hyper-real loaf? With the #everythingiscake trend back on the Internet, three cake artists decrypt the “can’t-tell-illusory” factor
An Onam platter cake
When a video of three identical apples dropped on the web a week ago, netizens were befuddled. How could they tell a cake apple from the real fruit; all three had water droplets and shadows at their stem-ends with flecks of russet showing clear. From elaborate food platters and ‘living’ creatures to lone objects such as a hairbrush, lock, a shrivelled mushroom or dish-washing liquid — bakers have widened the repertoire of cakes. City-based cake artists discuss a few points that they follow to ace an edible optical illusion.
Push the envelope
Aditi Garware, @sweetboutiquebyaditi
Cake art is no more a niche; it is growing with each passing day. I feel patience, perseverance and planning are key to nailing the overall look. I call them the three vital Ps. Since this genre of art caught pace on social media, it is important to come up with extraordinary ideas and stay abreast of trending or interesting innovations across the world. As a baker, I have had requests for themed birthday cakes from five-year-olds, too. One must continue to challenge oneself for young and adult cake-lovers. The realness of your cake can be conveyed with the help of a professional photographer, but some knowledge about angles and lighting will allow you to hone your creativity independently. I use a high-resolution phone camera and try to take pictures in natural light. You have to also understand your client’s psyche. For cakes based on an Indian context — like saree or jewellery cakes — the golden hue enhances the rich detailing. Try to use quality food colours and mediums.
Bake it till you make it
Gauri Kekre, @cake_ed_
Vintage car cake
Nobody gets it right in their first attempt. After years of practice, I can now complete the intricacies on any hyper-real cake in 10 to 20 minutes. One has to keep at it. After some 100 or 200 cakes, you will know the tricks like the back of your hand. I have worked on gravity-defying cakes and I reckon it is essential to be aware of every minute part of the process. If someone is making a cake using whipped cream, the cream must not be beaten fast. Instead, aim for a medium speed and beat the cream for 10 to 12 minutes to achieve the right texture.
It is also not true that gravity-defying cakes can’t come in small shapes and sizes. With the right technique, it can. For those of you trying to sharpen their craft, watching YouTube video tutorials can go a long way. It has helped me personally, too. Of all the real-looking cakes I have baked, the most difficult one was a tree house.
Balancing the house on the tree and adding every tiny detail to its interiors was challenging for me back then. I used the right kind of tools, though. For cream cakes, use flexi plastic smoothers for a plain layer. To bake a hairbrush, the bristles on top have to be handmade separately to their exact measurement.
Tech it right
Rushali Mehta, @cocoapanda.in
A bad product can’t give you realistic pictures. So, always focus on the basics of baking and the details of a subject to master that final look. Before attempting to recreate, an artist must observe the article in question. Learning from case-specific challenges is also crucial. If your cake requires the use of technology, try to plan ahead.
Some food technologies might need to be sourced from outside the country, and at times, an innovation might fall through. Once we had planned for a four-tiered cake to be leveraged with a hydraulic machine, but a glitch occurred and it didn’t materialise. After some quick thinking, we mapped the shadow of an animated fairy tale on the white cake. It proved to be a hit.