Techie who quit her IT job and plunged into cakes and sugar flowers
Rajkumari Sharma Tankha
Born and brought up in Mumbai, as a child, Ashwini Sarabhai excelled in academics though she had a deep love for all things art. That both her parents and elder sister were inclined towards arts worked as a big boost for her. But when it came to choosing a profession, she opted for engineering.
We know love always triumphs all else. And so it happened with her. After spending over seven years in IT industry, Sarabhai called it quits (in 2009), and devoted herself fully to cakes and started her venture The Dream Cakes.
Today, Sarabhai is a part of judges panel for India’s first cake industry awards – Indian Cake Awards, in association with Cake Masters Magazine, UK as well as in the I am a Cake Star-International Online Competition by ByBora, Turkey among others. Twice (in 2017 and 2018), Sarabhai figured in the Top 10 Cake Artists in India, by Cake Masters Magazine, UK.
An approved teacher at the International Cake Exploration Society, Sarabhai runs The Dream Cakes Academy in Hyderabad which offers various online and offline curses in cake baking and decoration. Excerpts:
How did a techie foray into baking cakes?
My mom baked super delicious cakes, seeing her I too got interested in these. Later, during my work tenure, I was onsite at Chicago, USA, and often visited art and craft stores. One store – Michaels – used to hold many short courses for all art related topics. Here I came across a short course on the basics of cake decorating by “Wilton”. I did this course and took photographs of the work I did here.
Soon after, I developed a website www.dreamdelights.com, and uploaded pics of all my art and craft works, including the photographs of the cakes I had decorated, there. Slowly the number of cake pictures bypassed all art pictures, which led me to create a separate site only for cakes. Hence was born The Dream Cakes.
I then did a Master’s Course at the Main Academic Center of Wilton at Darien (Near Chicago) and also attended some sessions by renowned Cake Artists. In 2009, I won two awards at the Connecticut Cake Competition for the New England Region which boosted my confidence. Back in India, I quit job to focus full-time on cakes.
How challenging was planting your entrepreneurial feet?
It was quite a challenge as few ingredients were available back then. I had to import many things and make so many things from scratch. Not many knew the fondant cakes. So, my fondant designer cakes were a hit. Slowly, many people approached for learning my art and I started holding workshops first in Pune, and later in Hyderabad as we moved there. The workshops were a huge hit. In 2012, I began holding online classes for out-station learners.
In 2014, we started Online Hands-On classes, where students would work along with me in class and I could watch them through their cameras. This method has later followed by many other tutors, especially during the pandemic.
What is it about sugar flowers that attract you?
I love to work with various cake decorating mediums like buttercream, fondant, royal icing, modelling chocolate, wafer paper, but my passion lies in making realistic looking sugar flowers. I find Mother Nature very intriguing. Seeing the beautiful colours, textures and shapes of various flowers brightens my day. This is exactly what got me to learn about sugar flowers. My passion now is to make them as close as possible to reality. No one can copy Mother Nature, but we can always strive for perfection from it.
How do you look back at the last 15 years of your journey?
My journey has been a fabulous roller coaster ride. I have grown so much in terms of knowledge and experience. I have no regrets of quitting my well-paid job and starting this venture. Entrepreneurship not only taught me to be strong during my low phases but also has taught me to strive for more and work hard towards success.
Also, the last few years have seen a sudden boom in the cake industry. The increasing number of bakers and easy availability of tools and ingredients has totally changed the game. It is now very easy to learn or work on something since things are readily available, including knowledge from the Internet. Advancement of technology has helped to connect with artists around the globe and understand new and upcoming trends in the cake world.
Any message for the budding bakers?
Practise, practise and practise! Do not stop till you are happy with your work. Keep learning! There is a whole big world of art to explore… we will never have learnt it all. So keep going!