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High Life

An iCake for the birthday boy

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Cakes in the shape of cameras, video games, iPods and even printers are as cutting-edge as they are creamy.

For her son's 16th birthday, Neeru Bhalla wanted to do something novel. Rohan had already outgrown his Superman and WWE phase, and Bhalla was trying desperately to think of something suitably hip when an image of her son plugged into his iPod popped into her head. She knew at once that she had the answer. She popped into her neighbourhood bakery and got a two-kilo chocolate cake that looked like the 160GB iPod Classic, right down to a reproduction of the album cover of her son's favourite band. It cost her a small fortune, Rs 3, 500, but the ecstatic smile on her son's face was worth every rupee.

Birthday cakes have always been markers of social trends, and cakes shaped like gadgets, though not new, have suddenly seen a surge in popularity. Cake makers like Ipshita Chakladar and cake studios like Angels in My Kitchen and Home Chef/ The Cake Studio in Mumbai get at least one order for a camera - or laptop-shaped cake every week. "Gadgets are very, very popular, " says Aditi Kamat, who co-owns Home Chef with friend Niketa Rampal. "We make a minimum of two such cakes each week. Ipods, Iphones, laptops, you name it and we've baked it. We even had a man order a printer cake. He was very particular about every detail. He wanted it to be just like the one he had in his office. A little weird, yes, but we do whatever we're asked to do. " When Aditi Sahay wanted to surprise her cameraobsessed boyfriend Gaurav Kodesia for his birthday, she turned to Chakladar for help.

Her only instruction : do whatever it takes to make it look like a Canon 5D. Which is exactly what Chakladar did. "She did such a brilliant job, " says Sahay. "Gaurav was stumped when he saw it and just didn't want to cut it. " The 1. 5-kilo cake took a back-breaking eight-andhalf-hours to assemble. Luckily, Chakladar's husband Anamitra also happens to be a Canon 5D fanatic, so when he declared that the confection was looking good, she knew that she had delivered. It was only a few months ago that Chakladar decided to quit a successful 14-year career at a television channel to pursue her passion of baking. She recently created a cake shaped like an elegant period dresser for a 13-year-old girl, complete with an ornate mirror, a little stool, mirror, hairbrush and jewellery box.

The mother of the teen had just one request: make sure there's an iPod on the dresser. And there was. "These requests are for people who want a special cake that is also an extension of their personality, " explains Chakladar, who specialised in patisserie at the Institute of Hospitality Management in Bangalore. "Every time a gizmo hits the market, I get requests asking if I can make a cake shaped like it. I once had to make a PS3 cake and in order to make it as real as possible, I had to get even the font right. And the client was very happy because it didn't look like a cake. " Indeed, the exclamation of "I can't believe it's a cake" is the compliment that every baker secretly hopes for.

Bijoy Kr Majhi, director of Angels In My Kitchen, one of Delhi's most popular bakeries in Delhi, also gets his share of gizmo orders. "We did a replica of the Samsung Galaxy Tab for someone's 30th birthday complete with 3D icons, " he says, "There are even people who want us to create an iPhone5 in anticipation of what it might look like. "

Video games and iPhone apps like Angry Birds are also favourite cake themes, even for occasions like Valentine's Day. Tanvi Mahajan, who runs the Viya Cupcakery, gets at least one Angry Birds cupcakes order every week. "Even BBM emoticons are very popular with the youngsters, " she says. For someone's 18th birthday, she baked 18 cupcakes, each with a different motif. One of the cupcakes had a 3D laptop and another an iPhone along with the menu icons.

It comes as no surprise that most of these sugary treats are for boys and men. But what is surprising is that the recipients aren't teenagers but men flirting with 40. "A lot of these special cakes are for 40 and over 40-year-olds. They're very particular about how the screen should look and how the buttons should be placed, " says Aditi Kamte. In fact, she gifted her own husband a Wii cake. "He's on the Wii the whole day and it was the best gift for him, " she smirks.

These labours of love take time and effort and, not surprisingly, are not exactly pocket-friendly. With moulds not easily available, each cake has to be manually sculpted. And then there is the artwork. The colours and shades have to be just perfect. You can take your pick from raspberry pink, sunset orange, electric blue, sunshine yellow, lime green, black or blue. And for that touch of glamour how about a liberal dusting of edible gold?

The figures on the cake or the detailing on the gadgets has to be done by hand. Some popular techniques which facilitate sculpting and sugarcrafting involve the use of fondant, marzipan, gum paste and royal icing. While some bakers opt for edible printed images, others painstakingly paint or pipe the images. Most of the food colours are imported and that pushes up the cost. A three-gram bottle of edible gold dust costs between Rs 900 and Rs 1, 000 and the minimum price per kilo for a theme cake usually begins at Rs 1, 500.

And all this for someone to plunge the knife into the chocolatey heart of this work of art. "Sometimes I feel awful that people are just going to cut up what I've slaved over for hours, " sighs Kamte. "But I guess if you can't afford to buy the real deal then this sugary concoction is good enough to make someone happy. "

These cakes are more than just drool-worthy desserts. They're a platform for artists to show off and for trends to take off. Animated 4D cakes - sound, light and even some steam - are apparently the next big thing. "I once saw a cake, " says Majhi, "where there was smoke coming out of the back of the car, just like the exhaust of a real car. "
ruhi. batra@timesgroup. com

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