International Cake Collaboration: Festival of Lights (Part 1)

The Sweet Life by Julie, Julie Tenlen

Social media has been awash with anticipation this week with “Festival of Lights” cover photos appearing one-by-one on the Facebook pages of top cake designers across the internet. Something big was happening on October 1st….and indeed it was unveiled today: a brand new international collaboration of cake stars all working towards a shared theme to celebrate their art. Their chosen theme: the Hindu “Festival of Lights” being celebrated around the world tonight.

Masterminded by Candace Chand of Beau Petit Cupcakes in Vancouver, 37 cake artists from around the world were brought together to collaborate on a special cake art project to shine a light on their art and the spirit of multi-culturalism.

Candace elaborates on the theme: “The Festival of Lights also known as “Diwali” is an ancient Hindu festival celebrated in autumn every year. The festival spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, and hope over despair. Hindus celebrate this festival with cleaning, decorating, saying prayers to deities, sweet making, family feasts and gift giving.

“With this collaboration, we wanted to represent this beautiful holiday in cake form. Each of us designed our cakes based on the gorgeous colours and decorations, cultural aspects of the festival.

So what motivated Candace to put this collaboration together? “I have made some of the most amazing friends in the cake world – friends who all come together because of cake and rejoice no matter what the occasion. Hence I thought what better way to show the world that cake brings all cultures together and drives cake artists to learn about new cultures and create cake designs.”

We’re delighted to showcase the Festival of Lights collaboration on Cake Geek this week, starting with Julie Tenlen of The Sweet Life by Julie’s incredible design above.

Inspired by the goddess Lakshmi, Julie depicted her in an elaborate temple setting wearing the traditional gold embroidered red sari and jewel encrusted mukut (crown).

Julie explains: “I began my creation with an amazing PVC pipe and wire structure mounted on a plywood base. This huge display piece took me physically 2 weeks to produce, with 16 hour days.”

“I thought about her for months in advance to work through the bugs in my mind. Just the overwhelming size and detail involved in this piece was a monumental undertaking for me and certainly, my largest to date. The board measured 4 foot by 4 ½ foot and stood 3 ½ foot tall.”

“Using all mediums, the goddess is sculpted primarily of modeling chocolate with realistic fondant finishes and hand painted golden accents through out the piece. Gumpaste, fondant, and modelling chocolate are all used to complete thel temple design. I used wafer paper to create the lotus flowers perched in her hands and floating in the surrounding waters.”

Shannon Bond Cake Design left, The Baking Sheet Loren Ebert right

Shannon Bond Cake Design created the beautiful hand-painted creation (above left) representing light overcoming darkness. According to Shannon, “this was my first painted cake, so the entire painting was a new experience and challenge for me! It took several weeks to narrow down a design and about 3 days to complete the painting.”

Loren Ebert of The Baking Sheet explained her striking blue creation, above right: “In preparation for the Diwali Festival, the Hindu children draw beautiful rangoli (Indian folk art) patterns with chalk on the walkways leading to their houses.  These colorful drawings are meant to be sacred welcoming areas for the Hindu deities.”

“My cake, especially my cake board, is inspired by these chalk drawings and rangoli designs, which can be simple geometric shapes, deity impressions, or flower and petal shapes.  I chose the paisley shape as it is also seen throughout Indian fashion, décor and art.

“My cake also features the lotus flower – a traditional Hindu symbol, meaning beauty, fertility, prosperity, spirituality, and eternity.

“The cake board took approximately 3 days to create. The paisley design was made using several different sized cutters.  The shapes needed to be trimmed and molded to look like they overlap.  It was challenging to get them to fit like a puzzle.”  Check out Loren’s Facebook page later this week where she’ll be posting a picture tutorial of her paisley board design.

Kara’s Couture Cakes’, Kara Andretta chose the Hindu deity, Lord Ganesh as her inspiration for her remarkable Diwali Festival of Lights collaboration piece below – a fitting choice as Ganesh is revered as the remover of obstacles, the patron of arts and sciences and the deva of intellect and wisdom.

According to Kara, the back board was most challenging: “there is so much symmetry and geometry in the design it would have been very obvious if something wasn’t attended to carefully.”  The back board took a whopping 60 hours to fully create with the entire project taking an amazing about 100 hours to complete.
All of the gems are made from isomalt sugar, cast by Kara in advance in the months prior to completion, with every gem, jewel and dragee individually hand placed in this truly phenomenal piece of cake craft.

Kara's Couture Cakes, Kara Andretta

Rachel Morris of Three Tiers for Cake drew her inspiration from “the amazingly beautiful women I saw in all of the pictures I came across while researching Diwali.  The lanterns shimmering off of the water also greatly played into how I wanted to portray my piece.

“As soon as I settled on a design I even asked my poor dear friend Candace Chand to be my head model! Unfortunately, the cake didn’t look as much like her as I wanted but, for my first attempt at a bust cake and internal structure, I was thrilled.

“I also learned a new technique via The Cake Illusionist on how to achieve the rather amazing water technique that I used for the first time as well. Overall between the water technique and the bust cake it took 4 days.

“Although the internal structure and the water took more time, I was far more thrilled with the way that my hands ended up looking,  holding the little wafer paper lantern, which actually lit up also.

This was Rachel’s first collaboration and gave her an opportunity to let her creativity loose and really push herself, which she enjoyed immensely.

Dot Klerck of Eat Cake Party‘s fabulous creation below right represents “the ladies behind the scenes.”  Dot tells us: “I haven’t ever experienced the festival, but when I look at pictures and scenes from Diwali I think of all the ladies working tirelessly behind the scenes to get everything together. I can see the older ladies passing down the traditions from generation to generation, all the excitement, and amazing smell of the food, the heat and fires!

The challenge for Dot was to get the look of age and wisdom in her older Indian lad, which she achieved perfectly.

Rachel Morris, Three Tiers for Cake (left), Dot Klerck of Eat Cake Party (right)

Gulnaz Mitchell of HeavenlyCakes4U talks to us about her beautiful collaboration piece below: “My Diwali inspiration is Sarah Travis’s art illustrations and paisley designs. The cake represents modern day Diwali and Indian culture with its henna tattoo, paisley print, fantasy lotus flowers and vibrant bright colours.”

“The most challenging part was to paint all the intricate details of henna paisley, taking two whole days to paint all of the details exactly.”

Heavenlycakes4you by Gulnaz Mitchell

The Cake Tin’s Sarah Clark’s splendid design (below left) depicts the orante lamps or diya which are lit by the front door of Hindu homes for Diwali.

The most difficult part of this wonderful suspended cake design was to inlay the inside of the lamp with the mosaic tiles in the same lotus pattern on the inside as the outstide. “Trying to get the tiny tiles in place with just my finger tips and tools was the most challenging part with just a 15cm space to work with”, Sarah tells us. Even manoeuvering a paintbrush to paint the gold accents proved difficult.

Nina Blackburn of Make Pretty Cakes was delighted to be invited to join in the Festival of Lights cake collaboration and make a return to cake decorating this part few months after having a difficult year recovering from a car accident

The piece she chose to recreate in sugar (below right) was the Goddess Lakshmi. Nina’s amazing goddess sits on an 8” chocolate cake, carved with an exaggerated bevel and ganached.

The top half was then covered with a layer of modelling chocolate petals painted in edible gold, and the bottom half with modelling chocolate mosaics in two different shades.

The Goddess herself is made from home-made modelling chocolate and hand painted with pale gold food approved pure lustre by Caroline’s Sugar Art Services.

“All the jewelled detailing on her outfit was created using a varietyof piping tips to either emboss or punch out. No effort was wasted as you can see her belt and trouser details made use of the punched out offcuts. The symbolic elephants and owl are totally hand sculpted.

What took the longest,” Nina tells us, “were the golden coins funnily enough, which were punched out modelling chocolate. I wanted all the texture to be uniform so it was worth the extra effort. I also wanted to have coins spilling from her hand, as illustrated in pictures of the Goddess – so I teased the idea of this with the help of a thin strip of acetate.

“The final piece was mounted on a large cake board to accommodate the candles which I placed around her.”

The Cake Tin, Sarah Clark (left) and Make Pretty Cakes, Nina Blackburn (right)

Amanda Hedglin of All The King’s Horses Cake Creations tells us about her remarkable design below:

“I wanted to create two hands decorated in Henna holding a lit diya candle, which are used throughout the celebration of Diwali. The gold ‘sprinkles’ on the side of the cake symbolize all of the individuals that have found the light in this dark world of ours.

“I adorned each wrist with gold bracelets because it is a time of gift giving as well.

“The most challenging element to create was undoubtedly the hands. That is why I chose this design. I have a very hard time creating realistic hands so I wanted to push myself. I first created the hands from gumpaste. There are internal wires in each finger. I then added the lines and wrinkles to make it more realistic. Next, I hand painted the henna on each hand before adding finger nails made from fondant. Lastly, I added the bracelets on the wrists. The most difficult part of this element was making the hands the same size and “match” each other.

“In all, the design took over 10 hours to complete, with a lot of drying time required for various elements.  The intricate henna designs were also time consuming and detailed to paint, as well as the details on the cake board.”

All The King's Horses Cake Creations, Amanda Hedglin

An wondefully elegant model in traditional Indian dress was sculpted by Sherin Rizwan of Cakes En Vogue for her collaboration piece (below left). Beautiful gold embroidered details adorn the sari, with the model in a seren praying pose captured perfectly in the facil features, and surrounded by festive lit diyas.

Memories of the Festival of Lights from her own youth inspired Sasi Nesarajah of Cakes by Sasi’s  piece (below right): “When I was initially asked to do a Festival of Lights-inspired cake the memories of wearing new clothes and going to the Temple with my family was what first came to mind, as well as the rangoli patterns on the floor, the earthen lamps, the hanging bell, a girl doing the kolam, a black granite Goddess and a girl praying ( my dear friend Candace suggested that).

“I wasn’t sure whether I would manage to make all of these elements but I wanted to try and see where it led me. The design involved a lot of learning and ups-and-downs, including a lot of time trying to work out the structure, the hanging lamp and bell, the figurines and the photography. But this is what I have finally realised in sugar.”

Cakes En Vogue, Sherin Rizwan (left), Cakes by Sasi, Sasi Nesarajah (right)

William Tan of the Ipoh Bakery’s marvellous piece (below left) is inspired by the beautiful daughter of India, filmstar Aishwarya Rai.

“The most challenging element on the cake,” William tells us, “was the sugar gems and pulled sugar flame. It was my first time using sugar as element on a cake. The sugar flame was an accident and was not part of the original design. While making the sugar gems, I had left over sugar that was too thick to pour into the sugar gems molds. As I was playing around with the semi-hardened sugar, I had a lightbulb moment to make a flame shape out of it.”

As a former bharatnatyam dancer, Jamila Jankipersadsing of Pure Cakes by Mila knew she wanted to include classical Indian dance in her Festival of Light collaboration cake, inspired especially by the beautiful dance “Silsila Ye Chaahat Ka” from the Indian movie, Devdas.

The hand-painted “Dancing Divya” is holding a traditional diya in her hand while dancing and celebrating Divali. This element was the most challenging part of the cake for Jamila being only her fourth hand-painted cake design to date. In total, the cake took about 14 hours to perfect and incorporates three important Hindu symbols: the lotus, the star of Laksmi and the red saree with gold embroidery.

Ipoh Bakery, William Tan (left) and Pure Cakes by Mila, Jamila Jankipersadsing (right)

JT Cakes’ Jonathan Theuma was keen to incorporate the key Diwali theme of light coming from darkness in his striking collaboration cake (below) using black fondant to achieve this effect.

The design is based around a handpainted depiction of the Lady Kamakshi, known as “the one with beautiful eyes,” Jonathan tell us. “Holding the symbolic diya, she is coming out of darkness to bring bring the light. Using edible dusts and liquids, the painting took half a day to complete, with the entire design taking about 16-18 hours.

“Rangoli patterns, a lotus sugar flower and even a incence stick crafted from fondant all add key elements to the celebration of Diwali in this design.”

JT Cakes, Jonathan Theuma

The Festival of Lights has particular significance for Kriti Walia of Cupolicious, Frankfurt who was raised in India. In its entirety, Kriti’s eye-catching Diwali celebration cake took three days to complete.
Here she tells us the story of her inspiration: I was raised in India and have some very fond memories of Diwali. It was a magical time with lots of cheer and happiness in the air and a great buzz with the entire household preparing for the festival.
“One of the main preparations was to clean the house thoroughly and it always started with a white wash followed by dressing the windows and doors and walls with toran.
“Year after year there would be big discussion about the colours to be chosen and year after year my grand mom would veto all proposals and go for a combination of green, red and gold for she believed them to be ‘auspicious’ colours that brought in harmony, health and wealth.
“So when I think of Diwali I am immediately transported back to those days and I think of our house and how it used to look. Through my cake I presented a glimpse of those days, those magical days that are now a distant yet vivid and wonderful memory.”

Cupolicious, Kriti Walia

Below left, we have the collaboration coordinator Candace Chand of Beau Petit Cupcakes’ amazing Diwali tribute design.  She explains the symbolism behind her cake creation: “On the eve of the main Diwali day, Hindus light a diya (oil lamp) & place it in a clean area in their yard, preferably under a tree and facing south as yamraj is “the guardian of the south” .

“This ritual is precisely to remind us that no one is going to live forever. We are just like the diya which burns for a while and goes out when its time is over.”

Candace used mostly fondant for her piece. The decorative golden cake stand and symbolic tree are supported with rods and dowels and for the delicate falling leaves, Candace used wafer paper, cleverly suspended mid-air with fishing line.

Ana Remigio of Cupcakes & Dreams chose to re-create the iconic Lord Ganesh for her terrific piece (below right) – “the dancing, chubby, gentle and wise elephant-headed god, symbolizing auspiciousness and wisdom.”

Ana explains: “Every little peculiarity of Lord Ganesh has a deep spiritual significance in Hindu culture, from the ears, forehead, eyes, trunk, arms, stomach to the legs. I tried to be the most accurate possible.
“For me the most challenging element to create was the feet and the hands, but I really loved the end result. It took me 50 hours in total from scratch to finish, but so worth it!!” We have to agree.

Beau Petit Cupcakes, Candace Chand (left) and Ana Remigio of Cupcakes & Dreams (right)

Click straight through to Part 2 of our Festival of Lights Collaboration Special right here.