A homely crumble cake laden with edible blooms may be the epitome of joie de vivre, but achieving that perfect Instagram moment takes hours or even days of work. Just ask a cake designer or sugar artist how long it took them to design your made-to-order meringue and you’ll be shocked. In 2021, the world of artisanal production is more demanding than it’s ever been. With a bevvy of home bakers and independent kitchens mushrooming across the city, the seasoned pros need to work hard to stand out. We spoke to five cake artists from the city about their artistic priorities, preferred ingredients, go-to hacks and what exactly makes them tick.
Bit of Batter
Anindita Mitter’s label Bit of Batter specialises in fondant work, but the cake artist has had to devise quite a few hacks to work with this delicate icing of sugar and water since humidity can make rolling fondant quite sticky or too soft.
“Fondant is expensive, and the Kolkata weather isn’t fondant-friendly and it alters the taste. But fondant really works for themed cakes and makes them look great, so I make sure that the cakes are fresh,” shares Mitter, a self-taught baker who has a day job as a manager.
Some of her more elaborate masterpieces suggest that the 35-year-old baker has an eye for colour and form, and doesn’t shy away from complex designs. A good example would be her Japanese origami cake, for which the baker uses an actual mould and a palette knife.
“Each cake requires hours and hours of research and homework and I’ve spent many late nights browsing through ideas and colour combinations, and customisations to really make them special,” divulged Mitter.
This personalised Harry Potter cake transported us straight to Hogwarts.
Mon Petite’s artisanal, double-barrel cakes have a cult following in the city. This double-stacked cake trend is a hit on social media, owing to its sleek, stylised design, but is still a novelty in the city. “When we started Mon Petite in 2018, no baker in Kolkata was designing tall cakes. We wanted to focus on the texture and layers while maintaining the taste. We experimented with crunch, incorporating honeycomb, praline, crumble and biscuit,” says Manila Nad who met co-founder Radhika Kauntia at Lavonne Academy of Baking Science and Pastry Arts, Bangalore.
Cake artistry is almost as gruelling as it’s rewarding; at times it may just need hours of on-site work or transporting niche equipment on a tight schedule. “We flew down to Chandigarh to design a 40-pound cake for Gul Panag’s brother’s wedding party. It was crazy, to say the least, from carrying five suitcases with all the sponges and fillings, travelling for two days and assembling it all there at the spot, it taught us a lot about being in this profession,” recalls Manila.
Fun fact: Mon Petite lets you dedicate a song to your loved ones in the form of a personalised cake. Don’t believe us? This is how it’s done.
Cake It Away
The Great British Bake Off fans would know why the younger crop of bakers are steadily steering away from fondant and moving towards more versatile options that require less vigilance. Cake It Away’s Surabhi Birla is creating quite a stir with her no-fondant cakes. “I am not a huge fan of fondant, it alters the flavour and the experience of the cake. Our cakes are rich in mousse and covered in whipped cream or pure dark chocolate ganache,” says Birla.
This June the baker prepared a whimsical, 3-tiered, no-fondant wedding cake with signature 7-layered choco hazelnut filling and oversized florals. She has even designed a 7ft tall wedding cake with only four days to prepare!
The Le Cordon Bleu, Australia alum is exploring a number of bases and formats which is a big USP for her client base; a good example would be her pop-art cake, or her dual cake set, featuring bento-sized twin cakes, replete with flashy floral accessories and themed props or even her experiments with isomalt candy toppings.
The carriage piñata cake was designed for a baby announcement party. The cake is filled with a variety of mini goodies.
Butterfingers by Preetanjali
Preetanjali Pasari of Butterfingers goes for the most whimsical ingredients. Her Bailey’s cake, for instance, is brewed with Blue Tokai Coffee. She even reimagined a Merlot Sangria using strawberries and chocolates and used Twix and Maltesers for a single-tier chocolate cake.
“I don’t use fondant or buttercream. I want the layers and the fillings to be visible and all the elements used on the cake to be edible. None of my cakes are too sweet, I source the honey from my farm in Assam. Everything is 100% organic and chemical-free,” says the 27-year-old Pasari, who is a Le Cordon Bleu alum. The former film student also revealed that her cakes are often homages to fashion, film, and art.
No one in the city does sugar peonies and edible blooms quite like Pasari; her Instagram suggests how sharp, colour-conscious food styling can elevate a brand presence. But it’s not always about picking the right Charlie stand or lighting, food artisanship needs several last-minute fixes and intelligent glam-ups. For instance, cascading macarons or mini meringues is a signature styling for Pasari especially when it comes to tiered cakes.
“An extremely memorable experience in my baking journey was when I designed a marvellous table set up for an afternoon tea decked with a gorgeous arch of handcrafted sugar poppies and an array of delectable petit fours inspired by our favourite fairytale characters from Wizard of Oz,” the baker shares.
Whisked And Baked By Harshita
Whisked And Baked is known for its show-stopping and artsy cakes.
Founder Harshita Chandgothia is an Academy of Pastry and Culinary Arts, Bangalore alum. The 23-year-old full-time baker grew up watching her mother bake and credits her as the inspiration behind her label. Some of her signature bakes go for deconstructed visuals that add significant polish to her recipes; like the vanilla passion fruit entremet from her August menu that features a tart filled with passion fruit jelly topped with milk chocolate mousse dome that has been made with vanilla sponge and fruit jelly.
“I am a very creative person and the thought of a regular nine to five job never appealed to me, this works for me because baking has no fixed hours and I am constantly brainstorming ideas and taking up new challenges,” shares Harshita.
The home-baker offers a range of designer cakes loaded with scrumptious fillings. Our favourites include the Chocolate Caramel Truffle, Nutella Hazelnut, and Baked Mango Cheesecake. Harshita’s also makes gluten-free brownies that are loved by her clients.
This unique four flavour cheesecake in one is ideal for those of us that can’t choose and want a taste of everything. The cake comprises the classic baked NYC cheesecake, Nutella cheesecake, Biscoff cheesecake, and Blueberry cheesecake.