Baking a Beautiful Destination


Please tell us what techniques are most important in preparing a baked item?

Lubna Gafoor: A baked item could either be a rustic bake, where the prepping process is all that is involved or a full-fledged tiered wedding cake. A decorated cake involves many processes and baking the cake itself is only a small part of it. If it is a tiered wedding cake, for example, a cake artist has to don many caps. We have to market ourselves to be able to sell our custom cakes before they are made. Designing the cake according to the clients’ requirements is a tough process. After that comes the actual making of the cake: baking (it has to appeal to tastebuds), frosting and covering with fondant which is quite a skill in itself, making the decorations which requires a lot of artistic skill, assembling the cake, which requires more nerve and physical strength than any skill, and then there is the question of engineering your cake and structures so that transporting it goes according to plan. Out of all these, I cannot honestly think of one process which would be more important than the others. They are all equally important in a successful cake.

You’ve been placed 7th out of 100 entries in Incredible IndiaContest for Sugar Flower kindly tell us, what interests you most aboutz making sugar flowers?

Lubna Gafoor: My entry for the Incredible India contest did not involve sugar flowers. It was a piece with a mother and daughter during the festival of Onam.

What I love about making sugar flowers though, is that it is as much about technique as about creativity. Sugar flowers heavily involve following certain techniques without which you cannot succeed. But there is also a lot of creativity and thinking that goes into making a flower that you have not made before and you do not have any tutorials to follow. The process of choosing a flower to make, figuring out how to make it, the actual process of executing the techniques, colouring to bring it to life, arranging it, and even taking the most pleasing photographs of the floral composition, they all appeal to me. Sometimes the techniques may not work and it doesn’t turn out the way you want it to, and then you are back to making it from scratch all over again, but you have still learnt something new. And sometimes, when you need to make a lot of something you have mastered, it’s a zen process: just the simple act of making them is very relaxing. My personal favourite is making hundreds of tiny filler flowers, and I could have the TV tuned into MTV, a cup of tea on the side and just enjoy the process. It is about the journey itself as much as seeing your work in completion.

What ingredient do you feel is underutilized?

Lubna Gafoor: I think the most under-utilized ingredient in the caking field is the talent of the cake artist. Indian cake artists are at par with international caking standards, but clients seem to just want the same stuff that is available in the bakery at the corner.

You’ve started your venture Buttercups six years back how do you keep you venture updated with changing trends and customers?

Lubna Gafoor: When I started over six years back, I started with very small offerings: cupcakes in a limited range of flavours and simply decorated. Over the years, I have learnt and tried out different types of cakes and designs and even some that involve never before seen designs or decorating techniques. For someone who is interested in being at the forefront of cake design, it is important to keep on updating yourself with new designs or by taking masterclasses from experts in a particular field of cake decorating. The cake decorating field is always evolving and coming up with new trends and new tools and you have to constantly keep yourself informed and keep investing in new skill-training and tools. It is a major part of the ongoing investments you need to make as a cake artist.

When it comes to customers, though, they are almost always under-educated and misinformed about cakes, cake trends, cake ingredients and especially the prices and timing involved in making a custom cake. Quite often they come asking for a custom-designed three-tier wedding cake for the next day and get frustrated when I have to refuse them since it is impossible for a home baker to pull off something like that at such short notice. It is the baker’s job to educate and keep the customer informed about everything, so as to keep up a healthy client relationship. Social media also helps in this matter since a lot of clients follow cake artists and come to know a lot of things that way.

You were the Finalist of India Cake Awards 2019, please share your experience with us.

Lubna Gafoor: I was chosen out of a huge number of nominations to be one of four finalists in the Sugar Flower Category in the first-ever Indian Cake Awards 2019, and I am amazed and tremendously grateful to have been a part of that. The ICA is affiliated to Cake Masters UK Awards and, by affiliation, one of the oldest and most prestigious Cake awards internationally. To be recognised at that level is an honour that I still can’t believe and feel extremely lucky about.

What according to you, is the underrated part about bakers and what growth do you see in the Bakery Business?

Lubna Gafoor: The most underrated part, from the point of view of customers, I feel, is the amount of talent and quality it takes for a home-based baker to offer the kind of cakes that they do. People, in general, do not understand that home bakers do, in fact, put out superior quality cakes than a run of the mill bakery, because we use high-quality ingredients, no preservatives, made fresh per order, with decorations that regular bakeries cannot offer, because for home bakers it is not just the profit margins, but also a matter of pride in the quality of our work. We work without the wholesale margins that full-fledged bakeries receive, and yet make cakes that we can readily feed our kids with without fear of unwanted chemicals and ingredients.

As a baker what all trends do you see forthcoming in 2020?

Lubna Gafoor: I can see there is a lot of interest in romantic, whimsical details like over the top floral decorations and edible metallic accents. Extravagant is still in. Multi cake trends, where there is more than one cake of the same theme is getting very popular. People do want more of unusual cakes than the regular fruit and fondant kind and love to see their personalities reflected in their wedding cakes.