International Cake Collaboration: Festival of Lights (Part 2)

The Custom Cakery, Melanie Williamson (left) and Sugarpot, Priya Maclure (right)

Continuing our Festival of Lights collaboration (see Part 1 here), The Custom Cakery’s Melanie Williamson’s exquisite cake features Lord Ganesha. “As the God of wisdom and newbeginnings, he seemed the perfect choice for my very first collaboration,” Melanie tells us.

“The green & gold colours (above left) were chosen to represent the journey into light, with the pink lotus flowers were added for their sheer beauty. I purposefully kept these small as I wanted Lord Ganesha to remain the focus if the piece.

“Many hours went into this piece, despite it not being the most complex design. It’s hand painted, including the gold, and I was anxious to make each part as I envisaged, especially being in such hallowed cake artist company!

Priya Maclure of Sugarpot explains the background to her amazing piece (above right): “During religious festivals like Diwali, most Hindu households conduct poojas (devotional prayers) within their homes and at the temples. The ringing of the bell is an important symbol in Hindu worship with priests or devotees ringing bells within the temple during worship in order to invoke the gods.

“I wanted my cake design to be as realistic as possible and that meant trying to get my cake to hang. This was the most challenging part of my design. After a few trials I was able to work out the internal structure to suspend the cake.

“From carving the cake to covering and applying it with fondant and adding the 2D handmade fondant  idols onto the cake, took me 3 days. The next steps of painting the cake and brushing it with gold and lustre dusts to give it the aged brass look took over 2 days. In all the cake was ready to be set up and photographed in 6 days.”

Pavani Kaur of Firefly India incorporated intricate sugar diyas and the symbolic lotus flower, representing the spirit of creation and prosperity, in her very pretty Diwali design below.

The most challenging element for Pavani was the handpainting on the top tier. “It’s probably the most intricate painting I’ve done yet, taking over 5 hours,! Pavani says, “and was inspired by my favourite “Good Earth” mug. In total, the cake design took over 14 hours to create.”

Firefly India, Pavani Kaur

Avalon Yarnes of Avalon Cakes’ uniquely crafted design (below left) was inspired by “all the beautiful lanterns that line the streets and homes during Diwali. I loved the idea that the light is a symbol of the good over coming the bad, the light overcoming the darkness,” Avalon tells us. “The lanterns that are created for Diwali have so much detail and color, they caught my eye right off the bat and the child inside loves to see things that light up! I thought it would be the perfect way to capture the essense of the city lights.


“The middle tier was the most challenging – creating and figuring out a structure that would allow it to illuminate the way I invisioned.

“It took about 8 hours to create, between experimentations with the wafer paper! I live in a dry climate, so it had it’s difficulties!”

Man Bakes Cake’s, Rudy Martinez talks to us about his intriguing 3D creation below right: “My piece represents the goddess Kali who is one of the many goddesses to whom people pray to during the Diwali celebration.”

For Rudy, the challenging part of his design was taking “an icon that is sometimes depicted as scary or violent and present her in my more cartoonish and caricature-like style,”  with the piece taking the best part of three days to complete.

Avalon Yarnes of Avalon Cakes (left) and Man Bakes Cakes, Rudy Martinez (right)

Thea Heussner of Bakermama Cakes tells us about the inspiration behind her fabulous Diwali-inspired cake below: “Hindus believe that during Diwali the Hindu goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, will visit their homes if they are lit, clean and beautifully decorated. Therefore, I wanted my cake to represent the light, with it’s bright and golden colors of copper to gold, while also being clean and beautifully decorated.

“The most challenging part was the piping of the rangoli designs with royal icing. I had painted the cake with a paste made of crisco and petal dusts, which never ever dries.  Therefore, I couldn’t draw or trace my design on the cake before I piped it. That, combined with the fact that If I touched it or nicked the cake while I piped the paste would smear, made it very challenging! I had to have a very steady hand and a LOT of courage to pipe that design freehand!

“From start to finish, it took me about 20 hours to decorate the cake, and make the gumpaste lotus flower.”

Bakermama Cakes, Thea Heussner

Violet Lin Tran of The Violet Cake Shop explains her intricately crafted piece below: “I enjoyed reading all about the vibrant drawings people would make from coloured powders on the pavements in front of their homes called rangolis and I and wanted to centre my piece around that.

“There were a lot of other elements I discovered which also featured significantly in the Diwali celebrations, such as diyas or candle burners, henna tattoos, the use of vibrant and rich coloured clothing and lanterns. I included all of this in my inspiration board and tried to incorporate as much of it in my design as I could.

“In my piece I have wafer paper lotuses, a rangoli/henna inspired decal on the middle tier using rangoli inspired colours and a candle burner, made from gumpaste using the awesome christmas bauble tutorial by Couture Cakes by Rose.

“I tried to represent the rich colours and textures of Diwali with the lustred middle tier, gold trim and the rustic, brushed gold highlights. I wanted to merge modern trendy techniques like wafer paper and naked ganache, with more traditional techniques like cake lace and quilling.

“This cake was not without headaches (one being the topper breaking several times and taking over 6 hrs to complete!) but this is the closest I’ve ever come to re-creating my vision perfectly, so in the end I’ve learned to love her (yes, she’s become a “her” through the long process!) .”

Violet Lin Tran of The Violet Cake Shop

Veena Azmanov of Veena’s Art of Cakes tells us that being of Indian nationality, Diwali is very close to her heart. The four things that fascinate her most during the Diwali celebrations are the colourful rangoli, the delicate henna patterns, the brightly lit earthen lamps and colorful fireworks.

The top tier of Veena’s cake is piped in royal icing with one of her favorite henna patterns, taking about six hours to complete.

The bottom tier features a colorful rangoli inspired pattern, crafted from fondant pieces in various colours and layered to look like puzzle pieces. The design is lit by traditional diyas/lamps to light the fire of Diwali.

“”I truly enjoyed making this cake and being part of this collaboration,” Veena say. “It took me home though being away from home.”

Veena Azmanov, Veena's Art of Cakes

Cake Therapy’s Yanira Anglada tells us the touching story behind her beautiful Diwali cake below:

“I immediately felt drawn to this collaboration theme – a festival that celebrates the victory of light over darkness, hope over despair. This has been the most challenging year of my life so far and it’s great to close this period with a project that represents these triumphs.

“As soon as I started reading and learning about Diwali, I fell in love with the idea of creating a piece inspired by Diwali Padwa, the fourth day of the Festival of Lights, that celebrates the love and mutual devotion between husband and wife.

“I decided to create this piece in honour of my wonderful partner, Ivan. I used a colour scheme very similar to the one we had on our wedding 11 years ago. I also added cushions and a wedding mala, traditional in Hindu weddings.  I wanted to represent the brightness, comfort and beauty that my husband brings into my life and honour his amazing and resilient spirit. He makes the dark days brighter, lighter. He’s my support and comfort and the bravest man I know.

“One year ago today, Ivan suffered a massive hemorrhagic stroke at only 34 years of age. Today we celebrate his life and our life together.”  (Our best wishes to Ivan on his road to recovery. Let’s hope it is a speedy one for him.)

Juliana Jensen of Cakes by Julie chose the “Om” sign as the focus for her sparkling collaboration piece. “Growing up in Trinidad, where Diwali is a national holiday, one of the most visible signs throughout the island, signaling Diwali was near, was the Om sign.

“The most challenging part of the cake,” Juliana tells us, “would have to be the Lotus flower. I’m still working on mastering the art of sugar flowers.” But it looks like Juliana has the art well mastered!

Cake Therapy, Yanira Anglada (left) and Cakes by Julie (Juliana Jensen)

Ivone Kartadinata of Sugar Penguin Cakery‘s stylish Diwali design (below) was inspired by the colourful designs of the traditional rangoli drawings, as well as the garlands of flowers sold on the street for the Diwali celebrations.

Ivone explains: “The challenge was to break out of my “pastels” comfort zone and incorporate the vibrant colours of the Diwali celebrations, creating a “clean” and modern design. This necessitated going back to the drawing board a number of times before I finally decided on a design.”

“The strung flowers took the longest to do as they had to be individually cut, thinned, ruffled, and strung on thin floral wires. It took me a good 8 hours to string the tiny flowers together to fit around the cake.

“Selecting a rangoli pattern was the most fun of all! I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of researching and designing a cake for the Diwali collaboration. It has culturally enriched me and helping me grow as a cake artist.”

Sugar Penguin Cakery, Ivone Kartadinata

Lou Tissier of Sugar & Spice Gourmandise Gifts thoroughly enjoyed being part of her first international collaboration and tells us how she put her cake design together: “The handpainted dappled-effect ranges in colour from a deep, rich blue to a golden haze, representing the victory of light over darkness, but I also wanted it to have a watery feel from which the main lotus flower would eventually blossom.

“The gilded petals at the base represent Lakshmi, Goddess of Wealth, and the main  symbolism of the Indian lotus holding the golden flame of enlightenment and goodness, brings the piece together.

“Getting the balance of dark through to light was definitely the most challenging part of the design. And as simple as it looks, it actually took several hours and multiple layers of stippling until I reached the point where I was happy with it.

“The golden petals, and the 8-petalled main lotus were all made from wafer paper, coloured with blends of flower dusts and lustres, and then it was finished off with hand piped royal cing golden pearls.”

Sugar & Spice Gourmandise Gifts

Jess Jones of Jonesin’ For Cake chose her “new found love in confectionary arts- decorated cookies” as her medium. “I usually am a cake maker,” Jess explained, “but decided to take a risk and offer cookies as part of my contribution to this collaboration.”

Jess chose sugar cookies as this gave her a closer connection to her canvas and she was keen to convey the intricate detailing, patterns and colours of the Diwali festivities as closely as possible.  Jess’s elaborate cookie art was principally inspired by the traditional candles (diyas) of the Festival of Lights.

“I think the most challenging part of this project was finding the exact colours to match my vision for the project,” Jess tells us
“All the cookies were decorated freehand, and so it was important that I used a fine brush to create thin and precise lines. I added extra texture and detail to the designs using isomalt gems, air brushed with gold, as well as dragees. Each cookie took about 45 to individually decorate, with the full collection taking about 5 hours work.”

Jonesin' for Cake, Jess Jones

Joly Diaz of Viva La Cake brought her signature fun and whimsical approach to her Festival of Lights collaboration piece, below. Centred around Indian goddess Lakshmi seated on a pretty 2D lotus flower, gilded gold details, piped flourishes, lace and rangoli patterns as a side design add a touch of opulence to this playful design.

Joly was inspired  by the excitement of children for the Diwali festival and their involvement in all the preparations.  The cake was designed to resemble a child’s drawing for the festive season and incorporates Joly’s favourite multi-dimensional technique that really makes the cake “pop out.”

Viva La Cake, Joly Diaz

Cake Heart’s Tanya Halas gives us the details on her spectacular design below: “My Diwali piece was inspired by the ethereal paper lanterns that are displayed on the second day of the Festival of Lights outside of people’s homes.  It symbolizes the inner light that protects us from spiritual darkness. I wanted to emulate light glowing through a lantern and applied a geometric pattern to convey that.  

 “I was also inspired by the lotus for its serene grace and wanted to include both the petals and pod elements.
“The most testing element I would say was the geometric pattern on the barrel tier.  I had placed a paper towel, with this cool geometric print, gently onto the fondant and then took a blunt end tooth pick, and pressed it into each divet following the pattern in the paper towel.  It took which seemed like forever!   I then dusted dragees, and dabbed each with sugar glue and adhered them into each divet in the fondant creating the pattern.
“I didn’t keep track of the hours but I would say it easily took 14+ hours.”

Cake Heart, Tanya Halas

Rachael Skvaril of The Fondant Flinger takes us through the work behind her inspired piece, below left: “The design for this cake came from a few different aspects of the Diwali celebration.  Inspiration came primarily from an image of floating lotus lanterns in large ornately designed vessels. These elements became the basis for the design of the bottom tiers of the cake.

“The wafer paper lotus flower rests atop hand-painted “water” in a golden bowl finished with fondant embellishments and hand sculpted details.

“The cake board was designed to replicate the complex patterns of traditional Indian designs or rangoli, with a border of wafer paper flowers mimicking the floral garlands used for decoration throughout this holiday.

“The tiers lead up to the final design element and, perhaps, one of the most popular symbols of Diwali; a lit divas (oil lamp).”

“The most difficult element to make was the bottom vessel which I hand sculpted and decorated with a needlepoint, with the cake taking over 20 hours to total to complete.”

Laura Loukaides Cakes  based her pretty pastel design (below right) on the iconic Lord Ganesh, the God of wisdom, knowledge and new beginnings.

Laura explains: “I was drawn to the idea of new beginnings because it gives you a sense of freedom. The first thing that came to mind was clear blue open skies, so I wanted to create a clean, refreshing design which I linked back to the Festival of Lights with a handpainting of Lord Ganesh, surrounded by a lotus-inspired rangoli pattern, complimented with a large lotus flower on the top tier.

“The handpainted feature took about 4 hours to paint with another 4 hours to complete the remainder of the cake (excluding drying time for the lotus petals).”

Fondant Flinger, Rachael Skvaril (left) and Laura Loukaides Cakes (right)

Ashwini Sarabhai of The Dream Cakes tells us more about her architectural piece below: “The Tulsi plant (holy basil) is regarded as a reincarnation of goddess Mahalaxmi and hence is very sacred to the hindus and is also considered as a wife of Lord Vishnu.

“In many Hindu homes, the Tulsi Vrindavan (a special structure in which the Holy basil plant is grown) is kept in the courtyard and is worshiped on a daily basis.

“On the auspicious day of the Tulsi Vivah (ceremonial Tulsi Marriage), the tulsi vrindavan is painted and decorated as a bride. Rangoli is drawn around the vrindavan. Diyas and food offerings are lit around it during worship.

“My piece of work is a tribute to this holy plant “Tulsi” which not only has spirutual significance but also has many medicinal values. A marble tulsi vrindavan with rajasthani art work over it and surrounded with symbolic rangoli and diya.

It took Ashwini two weeks to create the design, after going through lots of design changes.

The Dream Cakes, Ashwini Sarabhai

Jacki Fanto of Blissfully Sweet’s inspiration for her wonderful piece below “was the beautiful women of this wonderful nation.”

“My focus was on the night of the Festival of Lights when beautiful Hindu women dress in their best outfits. The painting reflects this with a multitude of gold confetti surrounding the cake and on the board representing the richness of this tradition.

“I chose to find a different structure for the cake and decided on a free standing block of stacked hexagons. It suited the painting style and gave a modern touch to this ancient tradition.

“The watercolour painting is based on an original artwork by Kate Parr.

“Deciding on the design was the most challenging part of the project. I wanted to interpret my vision in a unique and modern way but to still remain traditional.  Once I had finally decided on the method, the rest was a lot of fun and quite therapeutic to create.”

Blissfully Sweet, Jacki Fanto

Congratulations to all the cake artists involved in the Festival of Lights collaboration on their amazing cake art, with special thanks to Candace Chand for her efforts in coordinating the collaboration.


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