(April 18, 2022) Growing up, Prachi Dhabal Deb was enchanted with Enid Blyton, dreaming of castles and royalty and magic. “My mother would laugh and tell me that life wasn’t a fairytale,” she recalls, smiling during a conversation with Global Indian. Today, when her mother sees her creating those castles with their regal inhabitants in the cakes she bakes, she tells her daughter, “It all comes from the imagination you had as a 10-year-old!” The Pune-based, international cake artiste has just made it to the World Book of Records, London, for a 100-kilo replica of the Milan Cathedral. Towering at well over six feet in height and three feet, ten inches wide, the cake is also completely vegan. But then, this is only the latest achievement in a long and highly decorated career – in 2019, Prachi was awarded the Cake Masters Royal Icing award in Birmingham. Her achievement – creating the highest number of vegan, eggless, royal icing structures.
Prachi has been featured in Forbes India among the WBR Corp UK Ltd 45 Under 45 – India edition list. She was felicitated by the governor of Maharashtra at Bharat Leadership Awards (2020). She has also featured as Femina’s Most Powerful (2021). The cake artiste has been honoured among top 10 cake artists of India in 2017 and 2018 by Cake Masters Magazine.
Prachi’s fascination with European, Victorian and Indian architecture has only grown with time. She studies the monuments and meticulously replicates them by hand. Her hard work has paid off. Her business is 10 years old but Prachi has already established herself as one of the country’s leading cake artists. She specialises in traditional Victorian icing – with her own twist – it’s completely vegan. This is worth noting because traditional royal icing, which dates back to the 1600s, is also known as ‘Egg White’ icing. The meringue-style frosting is made by gradually sifting sugar into egg whites and a dash of lemon juice and beaten until stiff peaks form. Prachi’s vegan variety is made in keeping with traditional Indian food choices and the market.
The year 2022 marks a decade in the industry. “When I began, being a cake artiste was not really considered a proper career choice, so it has been quite a journey for me. My graph has gone up and I have received so much appreciation,” she says. “Since it’s a special year, I want to celebrate my journey and see how much I have accomplished as an artiste,” she adds.
That wasn’t all. Prachi also wanted to put her product to the test. Victorian icing is known to harden after it dries, making it ideal for cake design. Prachi was keen to see if her vegan variety would “endure massive execution.” That is why, she says, she “replicated the Milan Cathedral. The idea was just to celebrate but eventually, the structure became so impressive in terms of its size and shape that friends and family coaxed me to apply to the World Book of Records, London.” The recognition has only made her milestone year that much more special.
The royal legacy…
Victorian icing took on its regal flavour when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert. “The icing used on their cake became known as royal icing,” she says. “It’s a simple-looking white icing, just like most other varieties but the interesting part is that it sometimes dries up and hardens, giving the cake a special crunch.”
Prachi’s vegan royal icing has fetched her many awards, all of which have been placed in her studio, a testament of her milestones. “I could have created structures with cake inside but the shelf life would have been reduced to 10-12 days and I wanted to preserve the memories for years and years,” she says.
The icing structure that brought her a place in the World Book of Records, London, took about a month to complete. “A lot of planning and a lot of geometry done on paper happens first,” Prachi explains. “Only then does the execution happen.”
The only child of Anuradha and businessman Rajan Singh, Prachi’s early career inclinations were towards finance, accounts and economics. It resulted in her spending a short stint as a financial analyst in a multinational firm. “The artist in me soon came to the fore and I knew I had to switch careers,” Prachi says. “I had been very creative as a child, I loved to paint. And I have been baking since I was 10 years old, when I would make cupcakes during my summer vacations,” she reveals. The doting daughter-in-law of a Rajput family with a royal legacy (Parmar Dynasty) in West Bengal has established herself as one of the leading cake artists in the country.
Her talents didn’t escape the attention of her supportive friends and family, who advised her to take it up as a career. “That’s how the shift happened,” says the cake artiste. She made her foray into the cake industry in 2012, with a diploma in baking in confectionary in India. She went on to study specialised sugarcraft courses from Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Thailand. “I was exploring different genres of cake decoration and was attracted to royal icing,” Prachi says. She went to London, not once, but twice, to learn from Sir Eddie Spence, MBE, a master of the craft. Sir Eddie has decorated cakes for the British Royal family. “His encouraging words instilled great confidence in me.”
The teacher, collaborator, and judge of cake competitions
Prachi has a product collaboration with Sugarin (authorised seller of cake décor products). Her hand piped cakes are available across popular online platforms, nationally and internationally. She also teaches cake and cookie decorations and has thousands of students.
Prachi looks up to her mentor, Sir Eddie Spence MBE as inspiration. Whereas other stalwarts like Chef Nicholas Lodge inspire her too. “I learn something or other from everyone I come across, even my nine-year-old teaches me so many things,” smiles Prachi.
Times, they are a-changing – for the better
Ten years ago, everything was a challenge, Prachi says. “Getting raw materials and resources in India was so tough. Huge import duties were imposed, making the whole venture prohibitively expensive,” Prachi says. Companies have emerged over the last few years to fill the gap, Sugarin being one of them.
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“Everything is now made in India, which has drastically brought down costs and added more variety. Not only this, the product manufacturers listen to the feedback of what we cake artists give them. That’s why many people are coming forward and taking it up as a profession,” she adds.
Life around loved ones
Prachi feels fortunate that people around her have been very appreciative of her craft. She holds her late father-in-law, who passed away a few months ago, in very high regard for being supportive of even her little achievements throughout.
She loves traveling and short getaways with her husband, Pranabesh Dhabal Deb, an employee of Infosys, and son, Shrihaan. “Music, and spending time with loved ones is very refreshing. I am a good cook much to the surprise and excitement of my friends and cousins who associate me only with cake,” she smiles.
“My job is quite sorted when it comes to my son’s birthday as he is particular about what taste the birthday cake should have but hardly has any demands of design or decoration,” chuckles the creative mom.