Take us through the process of making a jelly cake.
The first step is cooking the jelly, or what I call the clear canvas. This is in fact the most important step. If it is not on point, then all the piped artworks will turn out distorted and the final product will not resemble a glass ornament. It involves mixing the gelatin powder in a pot of water, and then letting it bloom. After ten minutes, turn up the heat and boil the mixture. Remove the foam on the surface to reveal a very clear liquid. Next, add in the sugar and flavouring essence and continue cooking over low heat. Flavouring essence tends to leave a bitter aftertaste, so it is important to let it evaporate fully. After which, pour the mixture through a sieve and into a food-grade clear container and let cool. The purpose of using a clear container is so that you can check your work as you go along.
Next is the piping stage: you’re actually doing it upside down. I usually get my students to reference my artworks. Flowers are also the easiest motif for beginners. First, you insert the needle straight down to form the style of the flower. This serves as the middle marker. Then, insert the needle at a slanting angle and go around it in a clockwise direction to form the petals.
As somebody who isn’t that dexterous, the piping step is stress inducing to me.
Many students during my live classes are fearful of this step because they feel they are not artistically inclined or do not have a creative mind. But what I teach them is to approach it from a technical way. ‘Don’t overthink it; just go’ is my motto. It’s what I always say: the jelly will reflect your fear. It’s all about being confident and taking decisive strokes. If your hands tremble, you will make many cuts in the jelly. The flower will become ragged.
While this is your own business, doing the same thing day in day out can get repetitive. How do you keep things fresh for yourself?
I come up with themed creations for different occasions. I’m constantly looking to improve myself, and I take inspiration from different things such as flowers and even cream cakes: I look at their colours and designs to see how I can incorporate them into a jelly cake. I’d also experimented with different flavours, such as popcorn and chocolate – those did not taste good. There were instances where customers requested certain colour combinations that in my mind would not work. But when I started working on the cake, I was surprised by how well the colours complemented one another. And this colour palette became inspiration for my next design. Such discoveries keep things exciting for me — otherwise, like you said, there is no joy in doing the same thing every day.