Taking the pride of place at the table before the joyous bridal couple is a lovely two tiered cake. Its ivory fondant surface is decorated with painted roses and flowers, and it is topped by a tight bouquet of peach sugar crafted roses in different stages of blooming. While the roses match the flowers on the wedding invitation, a sliver of sugar crafted lace, matching the bride’s gown, gently drapes one side of the cake, giving the young couple, on the throes of a life together, an endearing connect with the cake.
If the gorgeous cake and the flowers look too good to cut, their beauty speaks of the effort that Gevan Hoogewerf-Abreu, Mumbai-based home baker and sugar craft expert, who has learnt techniques from acclaimed experts in the UK and New Zealand, has put in over weeks to design and craft them to create a beautiful, customized wedding cake for the couple.
One of Gevan Hoogewerf-Abreu masterful wedding cakes.
Creating a wedding or special occasion cake typically involves interacting with the client to understand their specific requirements for the cake from the number of tiers to the look of the fondant base (matt or with a lustre) and the sugar craft details of the flower type, colours and any additional elements such as stencilling, lace, ribbon (flowing or inserted), ruffles or frills, bows, which determines the overall look of the cake that may be bold, stately, dainty or elegant.
Flowers – with their beauty and symbolism evocative of tenderness, love and innocence – are invariably selected for decorating wedding cakes. While Gevan hand crafts a variety of sugar flowers – roses, dahlias, hydrangeas, daisies, orchids, peonies, poinsettias, tulips, lilies and calla lilies – for wedding cakes, roses are a favourite.
Creating sugar craft flowers starts with striving to replicate the flowers as botanically correct as possible in sugar. A design is composed and then sketched to give the client an idea of the final creation. Once the composition is finalized, hands-on work begins! The cake is baked and kept aside for its flavours to mellow and mature; a fruit cake is ideal as it compliments the marzipan and fondant icing which cover the cake and offer a base for the sugar craft decoration.
The flowers are crafted with gum paste (gum tragacanth) that is worked into pliable dough, rolled out and shapes are cut with cutter. Then the artistry comes to the fore: the flowers are hand-crafted by very slowly building up the flower in layers, by carefully curving and cupping the petals, by furling the edges, and pausing between each layer to allow the petals to dry. Each flower is of a slightly different size and stage of blooming to create a natural look.
All flowers have their own challenges: large flowers like roses and peonies have to be built up layer by layer though a cake may have only a few of these `statement flowers’; smaller flowers like lily of the valley or hydrangeas have to be delicately handled and several crafted as a cluster or sprays; and exotics like orchids require detailing for their unusual structure.
Further, their colouring has to be natural, which is achieved by blending premium food grade colours judiciously in the dough. To bring in an element of shading, the flowers are finally colour dusted by hand. The flowers are then carefully affixed on the cake with posy picks, and additional decorations (lace, frills, piping) are worked.
It takes a love for the art, an inherent artistic and creative inclination, immense patience and years of practice to get the flowers just right.
Even after taking courses in baking and sugar craft from the best cake makers it takes a love for the art, an inherent artistic and creative inclination, immense patience and years of practice to get the flowers just right and the composition harmonious with the right balance of elements. While the exquisite flowers are edible, many couples opt to save them as a precious memory of their special moment. Weather permitting, the sugar craft flowers will stay for years if kept in a tight lid box as a celebration of their most memorable day!
Gevan Hoogewerf-Abreu takes orders for Mumbai and Goa and can be contacted by WhatsApp at +919869409122. Her work can be seen on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/gevan_cakecraft/