All those who visit ICCA, can’t help but stand and gaze at the exquisite flower creations showcased in the Coffee Lounge Area. What enthralls everyone more is that the bouquets and other pieces of decor are all made of sugar.
Yes, you heard right. Sugar.
Nasarene is the person behind the sweet surprises. She has been teaching in Dubai for over 22 years as a licensed Sugarcraft Instructor. One can find her diligently teaching the craft to her students as the class gets engrossed making miniature figures, flowers, and intricate laces as adornments that make you NOT want to bite into that cake that you so wanted to dig into.
Shagufta: Nasrene, let us first understand what exactly is Sugar-Craft?
Nasarene: Just as the name suggests… Art made of Sugar as a medium. You could design and create just about anything using sugar to decorate your baked goodies. We use liquid sugar for piping and sugar paste or rolled sugar dough to create the beautiful looking flowers and figures.
The added advantage is that once you have learnt the art, there are other mediums you can work with. You can make a vase full of flowers using another medium like cold air drying porcelain or non-edible clay & dough.
The tool familiarity, the techniques learnt here can be diversified and be used as a general skill to fashion the art anywhere. You learn to create things with better finishes and a far superior quality because we have the right techniques and tools to craft.
One more advantage if I may add is that the craft uses both lobes of the brain. The cognitive and the creative side of the brain are involved which improves hand to eye coordination, motor skills, creativity, etc..
Shagufta: How is SugarCraft different from a Patisserie Program?
Nasarene: Patisserie is the baking part and SugarCraft is the decorating aspect of creating those exotic and novelty looking cakes that you see nowadays. It is a specialised stream designed for those interested in creative Sugar Art styling & Cake Decoration, as an Amateur or Professional.
Most patisserie chefs can bake, but what’s the point in a plain looking cake. They do not know the higher aspect of decorating. In the Patisserie Program you would learn the basics of decoration say from 0-20. The Sugarcraft courses take you all the way from 20 to a 100, top of the line.
This program is for anybody who wants to put a better quality of cake on the table for their kids’ birthday, special occasions, and all human landmark occasions we celebrate. When u know how to decorate well, you put the WOW factor on the table and that’s what this program will help u do… in the domestic, business or professional arena.
Shagufta: Where did the craft originate?
Nasarene: I know Royal Icing began in England because the very first Royal Iced Cake, was made for British Royalty, the wedding of Queen Victoria as well, where liquid sugar was used and it was called Royal Icing.
The word Patisserie is of French origin, so I reckon the craft originated there, as the French are supposed to be the connoisseurs of fine dining. It is rumoured that a French baker decorated his cake to increase the prices of his product and that is how it all began.
Shagufta: And how has the craft evolved over the years?
Nasarene: Tools have evolved over the years. Tools were first hand made of wood or plastic. As the industry evolved and recognized the need of the cake decorator, higher grade tools were designed and now are made of food-grade materials.
Food colours vary, some are synthetic and made of chemical dyes and there are those made from completely natural sources – flowers, vegetables, wood, soil, plants, filtered charcoal, all derived from natural sources. With kids having so many allergies and hyper sensitivity, elders, adults with compromised immune system partaking and we certainly don’t want to compromise anyone’s health in any way, therefore we tend to use only the natural food colours.
Shagufta: How did it begin for you?
Nasarene: Having given up my previous career to start a family, my search and study began with how to decorate a child’s cake and that’s when I went to The British Sugarcraft Guild in England and equipped myself with the art. My then instructor saw it in me to be an instructor myself because he saw in me a level of finesse that is required for the craft.
I started with making cakes for friends, family and began teaching the skill too. I then got my certifications and approvals as an instructor from City&Guilds. PME Knightsbridge wanted instructors for their school and they sought me out and I worked as their certified instructor until recently. I now certify with City & Guilds certification for the Sugarcraft Program under the Sugar Craft Department at ICCA which is a City & Guilds approved and award winning Centre.
Shagufta: Why would you recommend students to come to ICCA?
Nasarene: ICCA has a dedicated sugar craft department and it is the only school in UAE which certifies people with the City & Guilds certification for Sugar Craft, which is the top of the line.
Here one can learn and understand the intricate skills, wide range of presentation techniques, product packaging, business essentials and pricing guidelines in addition to the art.
ICCA also provides the platform to students to participate in Competitions like BBC Good Food, Salon Culinaire, Taste of Dubai and The Gulf Food Forums which many of my students have gone to and won medals for their creations.
Shagufta: One piece of advice that you would like to give anyone pursuing the Art.
Nasarene: Always start from a position of Integrity and give your best and it will surely reflect in your work.