Winning an award at Cake International is a huge achievement and Neetha Syam from Buttercream Petals did just that!
Neetha Syam from Buttercream Petals - Cake Art School recently won gold and first in class for her cupcakes at Cake International, we spoke to her about her journey and her award. When did you first start decorating cakes? When I was about 21 years old, for my office’s charity bake sale. I bought a box of cake mix, some ready-made buttercream, sprinkles and tadaa! My cakes were the least sold item, but that was the year when I got hooked on baking and cake decorating. How did you decide to make it your career and what made you decide to focus purely on decorating with buttercream? Actually, Buttercream Petals is one of my two careers. I am a huge fan of portfolio careers (yes, it is a real thing J), where you do two or more careers on a part time basis. I also do a bit of scriptwriting and I work with my sister, Nathalia, who is a filmmaker. It all started when I left my full-time job as an accountant following the arrival of our baby. I was so excited to try and make a career out of my passions – baking and writing. Buttercream Petals was just a page initially where I would share pictures of my buttercream cake projects. I just kept on building my portfolio and after a lot of quiet times and initial hiccups, I conducted my first class a couple of months after starting the page. I can now proudly say that over 100 students have attended my buttercream classes in the past year! The reason I use buttercream as a decorative medium is because I personally love the taste of a good buttercream cake. My aim is to create cakes that look great and taste even better. Where do you get your inspiration from? Nature is my biggest source of inspiration. I love to create life-like buttercream blooms and birds, and you will see a lot of my cakes featuring women wearing floral dresses. I love when my cake designs convey a message or kindle a spark in the viewers mind. I particularly enjoyed designing my recent cake for Women’s Day, which featured women of different races coming together. What’s your design process and how long does it take you? Normally, my design process is what takes time. I like to brew on ideas for a little while before doing the project. I like to sketch my ideas on a piece of paper, the same size and shape of the cake, then I colour it with some good old crayons. It helps me decide on the colour combinations. However, once I start the project I prefer to decorate the cake in one stretch. What are your secrets to achieving the perfect finish when piping buttercream? A steady hand and a steady buttercream! A steady hand comes with practice and a steady buttercream comes with patience. I would advise not to rush the buttercream making process. My top tip is to beat your butter well for about 4-5 minutes; this makes the butter stable and easier to work with. What are your top three essential tools? My Wilton and PME nozzles A palette knife (the one you use for painting) to smooth the buttercream A toothpick to correct any piping mishaps We hear you recently won a Gold award at Cake International, can you tell us more about your achievement? I get so nervous when it comes to competitions and I am a strong believer that you should keep out of anything that distorts your peace of mind! So I have stayed well away from of competitions for a long time! This year I just took the plunge and enrolled. And I am so pleased I did! I won the Gold award and 1st in category for my floral cupcakes (based on design and taste). I made marble cupcakes topped with my signature vanilla buttercream. I also won a Bronze for my celebration cake. I am over the moon with the results! The only problem is that I have got a long list of friends and family expecting a sample of the winning cupcakes! Have you got any tips for someone who’s thinking of entering their creations at a show for the first time? I would recommend starting off by reading all the requirements for the competition carefully. Like can a dummy be used, does it all have to be edible, will they mark you down on certain things etc. It is painful to see some really amazing cakes disqualified just because they didn’t adhere to the guidelines. I feel like in competitions, what they are really looking for is your creativity and quality of work. So applying skills you are confident with and have experience doing would really help you stand out. What’s next for you? At the moment, I conduct cake-decorating classes in the UK, mainly in the Midlands and London. I would like to expand my classes to other places too. I am doing my first set of classes in India this December. Tell us about the classes that you offer? I have classes to suit all levels of bakers. In all my classes, we will learn to make our signature cloud-like buttercream. Then we will learn a variety of petal piping skills, colour toning and shading skills for realistic looking blooms. I also have classes on painting with buttercream, cupcake bouquets etc. To see more of Neetha’s creations go to www.buttercreampetals.com If you would like to attend one of Neetha’s Buttercream Cake Decorating Classes or would like to host one of her classes, you can contact her at [email protected]