As an ode to love, you can’t find a fault with the Taj, the white of the marble is gleaming, the domes are impeccably shaped, the turrets flawless, the recesses of the windows perfect, and the flowery scrolls carved on the walls, simply beautiful. It is no surprise that this monument to love took two months, yes, two whole months to create! And, hang on, it is edible to boot. The Taj Mahal cake, crafted by Sydney’s Rashmi Uttarkar, won second place at the recently concluded Royal Easter Show.
“Just having my cake there on display amongst the finest, was an honour,” Rashmi told Indian Link. “When I found out I had won, I thought it was a mistake. I refreshed the web page over and over again just to make sure!”
She added, “I never considered winning as the goal. I was just too busy making the cake! It takes several years to find out what appeals to the judges. Overall impression, presentation, cover/texture, creativity/originality, execution of design skills, degree of difficulty: each aspect of the art is closely marked. The cake that stood first was a ‘cottage’. The precision, the neatness, the attention to detail in it was impeccable”.
It was this love of cakes that inspired Rashmi Bedarkar to start her own cake business in Sydney, which she calls Cakes by Rashmi. Established in 2011, the business has been carving a name for itself with its beautiful, unique and delicious cakes, cupcakes, cake pops and pastries.
Baking is something that has always come naturally to Rashmi. “I loved baking since I was a kid”, she said. “Growing up, my cakes were so popular amongst my cousins that most birthday cakes were made by me!”
But the decision to go professional came much later.
“At my daughter’s first birthday, I ordered a cake that cost me a small fortune and yet failed to impress. It was then that my husband Shai suggested I take up my hobby of baking to the next step, cake decorating”.
She hasn’t regretted it.
Trained under Planet Cake, Australia’s top cake decorating school, Rashmi is a true artisan who loves her work.
The Taj Mahal cake took two weeks only in planning. Rashmi started by cutting out the body using polystyrene foam since a real cake cannot remain fresh for the two weeks of the Easter Show. But the real artistry was in the decoration. Once the body was cut out, the next step was to cover it with a layer of sugar just like a real cake. Talent, skill, creativity and experience were all required to knead and mould the sugar dough.
“For this project, I had to cut, shape and decorate 58 individual panels and shapes which were then pieced together,” Rashmi revealed. “The final step was managing the whole structure with utmost care. The pieces were so delicate that they could be easily damaged with one wrong move. The panels are prone to attracting moisture and ‘weeping’. And if they get too dry, they are prone to warping and become brittle”.
But Rashmi is no novice at this kind of thing. Last year, her first ever entry in a cake decorating competition, organised by the Cake Decorators Guild of NSW got her a Third Place win. Her cake represented her Indian roots and was unlike any other cake in the Novice wedding cakes category. The bottom tier of the cake showed different henna designs in royal icing, while the second tier was a painting of an Indian wedding procession complete with a bride in a doli and dancing baarati. The third tier represented Indian jewels and to top it all off was a hand crafted Indian bride, wearing a traditional lahenga and a nose ring, all completely edible.
For Rashmi, every cake is a “creation” with its own set of challenges. Her method of dealing with those challenges is to thoroughly understand the client, their needs, what appeals to them and what touches their heart. This in turn results in every cake being unique and exquisite.
From the colour to the design to every intricate detail, Rashmi plans everything out even before cracking that first egg.
“I feel that the cake is an important part of any occasion and should represent the occasion as such. But at the same time, the cake should accomplish its primary purpose as being a delicious dessert and its taste should surpass its looks”.
Ad what stimulates her creativity?
“Everything around me, really! My two children, my friends and my heritage are all a source of inspiration. My biggest critic – and my biggest support – are the same person, my husband Shai. He helps with the engineering aspect of the cakes and also keeps me motivated”.
Rashmi also talks to the other veteran cake makers for ideas, inspiration, tips and tricks and she feels that she would never have won if she hadn’t had support from her cake decorators community.
What makes Cakes by Rashmi different from every other cake shop in town is the fact that the customer is dealing directly with the owner of the business. This elimination of the middle man offers the customer a better service, at a better price. It also means that unlike other establishments, Rashmi can offer unparalleled flexibility, whether it’s making an egg-less cake or even a dairy free one.
“When you love what you do, you don’t work, you create,” says Rashmi.
No doubt the emperor Shahjahan – and the artisans who created that other Taj – would approve!