Shah Rukh Khan stands stall in a golden tux sporting that famed dimpled smile and striking a dance pose with his costar, the stunning Deepika Padukone who is adorned in a shimmering vintage outfit, a plume of red feathers gracing her unique headgear. The iconic scene the stars are replicating is from their 2007 blockbuster Bollywood period drama, Om Shanti Om.
But there is a twist in the plot. These two stars are actually life-sized cake figurines created by Dubai-based cake artist Tina Scott Parashar.
Made of chocolate, fondant, modelling paste and wafer paper, the Shah Rukh and Deepika Padukone cake was part of a Bollywood-themed entrance display at Cake International 2022, one of the largest cake shows in the world, that was held from November 4 to 6th, this year in Birmingham, UK.
‘The movie and this pose in particular, is an amazing representation of the colour and glamour of Bollywood through the ages. I wanted to introduce India to a global audience, through my preferred creative medium of edible art and cake decoration,’ Tina tells Friday. After spending a month in the UK executing this delectable project, Tina is now back in Dubai.
Cake International (CI) attracts thousands of cake artists from around the world. Tina, a former multiple gold prize winner at CI (in 2015 and 2016) was invited to not only create the entrance display this year but to also be one of the judges at this world class competition.
The entire Bollywood display comprised three life-sized cakes made jointly by Tina and a team of international cake artists. Giving Deepika and Shah Rukh Khan company was Katrina Kaif in her Sheela Ki Jawani avatar, sporting a white shirt and a black hat. The stars were paired with a colourful tuk-tuk. Creating this cake, from conceptualization on paper to execution, took six months.
But it all started with a sketch that she shared with CI, says Tina. ‘Once the design was approved, I invited a select group of cake artists to join me in bringing this alive,’ she says. Her team included Iranian cake artist Samaneh Karimiyan, Dorothy Klerck from South Africa, Jane Lashbrook of UK and Ashwini Sarabhai, who is Indian.
Using their deft hands, and after many hours of painstaking work, they created edible magic. ‘As a sculptor works on clay, we work on chocolate - sculpting, designing, layering and structuring every minute detail of the figurines, delicately crafting their face, their outfits, even jewellery and shoes,’ says the Indian expat who moved to Dubai in 2017.
For the final touches, edible paints and colours are used in fondant cakes. Large-sized cakes such as the Bollywood-themed one that was over six feet tall, need to be mounted on solid frames of stainless-steel rods.
The cake making process, especially when it involves large figurines, can be extremely daunting. It also requires a lot of co-ordination between the artists. ‘For the display pieces, I had to make sure that, all the figurines were proportionate to each other and meshed well into the theme. Between us - the artists - there had to be complete harmony,’ says Tina.
Each artist in this project was assigned a segment of the cake-making and in the end, in a span of two days, it was assembled at the venue. ‘The final few days before the display cake was completed were physically exhausting and quite literally backbreaking. There were many sleepless nights and we were working for over 22 hours at a stretch to build this beautiful creation,’ she says.
A few debacles
Despite all the coordination, she admits, there were also a few debacles enroute. For instance, in the Deepika Padukone cake, the face needed a lot of reworking. ‘I had many moments of self-doubt, but was determined,’ she says.
Eventually, all the sweat and toil behind the making of the stunning cake paid off. It was a stellar success and went viral on social media, earning Tina applauds from far and wide. Overwhelmed by the public response, the cake artist says she’s most happy that she succeeded in showcasing contemporary Indian art through cake decoration.
Tina stumbled upon her cake artistry skills only about a decade ago and quite by chance. On her son’s first birthday in 2012, while living in her hometown, Delhi, India, Tina could not find a baker who could create a vibrant jungle-themed cake. ‘Finally, we had to settled for a giraffe head on his first birthday cake. But that led me to explore the world of fondant cakes. I wanted to make sure we had a better cake, for his second birthday at least,’ she reveals.
Those days, Tina was working in the corporate sector, but decided to enrol for baking and fondant cake classes. Soon, she discovered that she enjoyed making edible figurines and had an eye for detail that helped her carve the intricacies of the human face. After several trials and errors, the first grand cake that she baked was indeed for her son’s second birthday - a mammoth chocolate car cake with bright lights, that was much appreciated by all the guests at the party.
‘Looking back, my child gave birth to my career as a baker and cake artist,’ says Tina. ‘I now follow it as a hobby and focus on projects that give me an opportunity to display my skills and challenge myself.’
Since making that second birthday cake, she has made an M&M cake, a Face cake, a Thor cake and is slated to make a Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) cake for her son’s 12th birthday.
Professionally, her tryst with cake competitions began while they were living in South Africa in 2012, when she entered a few contests and greatly benefited from the critique she received from the judges. As her confidence grew, she entered CI for the first time in 2015 and won the gold prize. ‘It was still early days in my baking career and I was living in South Africa at that time. My cake was based on the global icon Nelson Mandela. Winning the gold gave me tremendous confidence to continue my journey and improve my decoration skills,’ she explains.
The following year, she again entered CI competition, this time with a cake showcasing a Rajasthani villager and his daughter with their camel. This cake too won Tina the gold prize. ‘Participating in CI has always been a great learning experience; getting critical feedback from the judges helped to me re-examine my work and strive for perfection. I also got to learn from, and meet some of, the best cake artists in the world,’ she says.
In 2019, Tina was invited to create the entrance at CI, making her one of the few cake artists at this prestigious event to create a display twice. That year, she made an ensemble of human and animal figures with the theme - Incredible India. The welcome display was made with the select team of cake artists. This display included a woman in a red saree, standing with a man in a traditional Indian dress, both showing the greeting of Namaste, along with a magnificent peacock, two elephants, a Ganesha cake and a fondant lamp. ‘My home country India has been a recurring theme in my work. The Namaste cake was yet again an attempt to show the vibrancy, warmth and hospitality of Indian culture,’ she says.
Besides CI, Tina has also been named as one of the top 10 cake artists in India for two years, consecutively in 2017 and 2018, by Cake Masters magazine, UK. Her work has been featured in various international cake magazines, including Cake Central, Cake Masters magazine, American Cake Decorating, and DIY Weddings. Even as we speak, she is in Russia nominated for the Cake Artist World Awards, 2022.
A few years ago, she decided to provide other cake artists a platform to showcase their work through the Incredible India cake collaboration. Launched in 2018, she invited over a hundred Indian and international cake artists to send their recipes and pics of their cakes, which were all published in a book in 2018, 2019 and 2021. She is also the editor of The Incredible India Cake magazine, an annual feature with a strong FB presence of over 75K members.
So, what makes a great cake artist? ‘Patience and a combination of technical and artistic skills,’ answers Tina. ‘As a cake artist, you would be working with a range of materials, be very creative and ready to put in many hours of hard work.’
To budding cake artist, Tina suggests, ‘There is no substitute for hours and hours of practice and getting the basics right. Your customers deserve quality work for the money they spend on such customised decorative cakes.’
And does she often treat her family to her signature cakes? ‘Unlike what everyone thinks, my family does not get to eat so much cake,’ laughs Tina. ‘My home baking is reserved for very special occasions. With Christmas round the corner, I will definitely be making many batches of our traditional family recipe of a plum cake, made without any artificial flavours or colouring.’