Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Making Things of Beauty

Rumana Jaseel's intricate cake designs have received international appreciation

Photo by Ratheesh Sundaram 

By Shevlin Sebastian

Rumana Jaseel, 37, felt a moment of tension as she watched the legendary singer Yesudas tuck into a cake she had made. The occasion was Yesudas’ niece’s wedding at Tiruvalla. After he ate it, Yesudas said, “I have eaten cakes everywhere, but I have not eaten one as tasty as this.” The flavour was banana walnut, while the decoration was pink and white icing, with flowers. “I felt thrilled when Yesudas said that,” says Rumana.

She has been going through other thrilling moments. In November, 2015, Rumana was a finalist in the wedding cake category in a competition organised by the UK-based Cake Masters Magazine. This is regarded as the Cake Oscars. “There were 64,000 participants from all over the world,” says Rumana. “This number was winnowed down to four finalists in 15 categories.”

Some of the categories included the Royal Icing Award, the Cupcake Award, Sugar Flower Award and Wedding Cake Award.

The selection was done online based on the photos sent by the artist. “Cake designing is more about the looks,” says Rumana, who runs the ‘IncrEDIBLE Art – Artisan Cake Boutique’ in Kochi. “If it is a wedding cake, they look for the elevation, the arrangements of the flowers, the colour combinations and the perfection of the work.”

At the awards ceremony, at the National Exhibition Centre, in Birmingham, Rumana was able to meet the Indian-origin editor, Rosie Mazumdar, who said, “You have no idea how close you were to winning.” The eventual winner was Faye Cahill from Australia.

Asked the secret to making good cakes, Rumana says, “People look for flavour and visual appeal.”

To ensure she gets a good result, Rumana works closely with her customers. Kerala State Finance Minister KM Mani’s granddaughter Shruti wanted an aqua-coloured cake, for her engagement, to match the theme that she had on the stage at the Le Meridien hotel, Kochi. So Rumana made a cake with a dolphin ring on top that looked like a wedding ring, and the five-tier cake ran on a gradient from the lightest to the darkest shade of blue. “This represented the colours of the ocean,” says Rumana.

For the wedding reception of Mollywood star Meera Jasmine, she made an English-style cake. “I used pearls, vintage-looking flowers and pastel shades,” says Rumana. “Meera liked it a lot.” Incidentally, her prices start from Rs 1500 per kilo and goes up according to the intricacy of the design.

Customers are fulsome in their praise. “Rumana is an incredible cake artist,” says Susheela Stephen, who runs ‘Supermomskitchen’, a food and grocery store at Kumily, Kerala. “God has blessed her with talent and patience. All her cakes are perfect. And the finish is beyond words.”

But Rumana’s secret passion is for French pastries, which she has been making since 2009. “The demand is not high at Kochi as people still prefer the fresh cream style,” says Rumona. “I want to make them aware that pastry is not only about fresh cream cakes. There are so many tasty products that can be made using fresh and natural ingredients.” So, instead of chocolate loaded with hydrogenated fat, Rumana uses pure chocolate, and almond flour, instead of refined flour.

To increase her knowledge, last November, Rumana attended a masterclass at the Asian Pastry Forum in Kuala Lumpur. It was conducted by Stephane Glacier, who is one of the highest-ranked pastry chefs in France. “Doing the course was such a good experience,” she says. “I got some important tips.”

And Rumana generously passes on these tips during her regular classes in Kochi, as well as a recent one, at Bangalore, where she taught the Advanced European desserts workshop. And the participants were happy. Says Anita Pradeep: “I could not take my eyes off those beauties. I can well imagine the time and energy and love Rumana gives to each one of them. God bless her.” 

(Sunday Magazine, The New Indian Express, South India and Delhi) 

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