Prachi Dhabal Deb, who began her career as a financial analyst, but found her heart in the field of confectionery art.
The construction of Italy's Milan cathedral tells a story of faith and art spanning over six centuries, and the making of its 100-kg architecturally detailed replica, in royal icing medium, over a period of one month by this Indian cake artist was also no mean feat.
Meet Prachi Dhabal Deb, who began her career as a financial analyst, but found her heart in the field of confectionery art.
In the last ten years, she has set two world records and wowed experts and ordinary people alike with her body of exquisite works, endowed with smallest of details, all in fully edible medium.
Pune-based Deb says creation of the replica of the Milan cathedral is by far her biggest, in terms of scale, and it fetched her a place in the prestigious World Book of Records in 2022.
Work on the construction of the Milan cathedral began in 1386 when the style of Gothic cathedrals had reached its peak.
"It was a labour of love, creating a replica of this architectural masterpiece in royal icing medium with Gothic details.
"It weighed about 100 kg, and all 1,500 pieces of piping that went into it were carefully done, single-handedly.
"The creation of this artwork also helped me evolve as an artist, as a woman and as a human being," Deb told PTI in an interview over the phone.
The confectionery cathedral, striking in its art work and details, much like the original Italian landmark, has also stunned viewers online, for its stunningly aesthetic look and as much for the art and ingredient that has gone into it.
"Every single piece of this royal icing is edible, including the supporting structures that rest inside.
"But creating it was not an easy job, it took about one month, planning it, then putting the imagination on canvas, and eventually translating it to the royal icing medium," she said, adding that none of her work uses egg as an ingredient.
The carefully crafted vegan confectionery structure, spanning about 6.5 ft-long, 4.5 ft-high and 3.9-ft wide that currently resides at her studios in Pune, had won the record in the category of 'biggest vegan royal icing structure'.
In 2022, Deb also set another record for the maximum number of vegan royal icing structures. She says she is contemplating setting another record now.
Deb, 36, who began her journey into this "sweet confectionery world" in 2012 after quitting her financial analyst job, says she followed her heart and then took the plunge.
"After finishing my higher education at Calcutta University, I took up a job, and I was doing what I wanted to do, but somehow, it was not feeling rewarding.
"So, I took a break and started dabbling in bakery and my canvas artwork.
"And, since 2012, when I got my first order at a party, there has been no looking back," she said.
"And, I am extremely lucky to have the support of my husband, son, my parents and in-laws, who have stood by me through this journey," said Deb, whose birthday is coming on March 31.
"Ironically, I do not bake cakes for my birthday," she says with a laugh.
Deb, who grew up in Dehradun, says due to a certain medical condition, she cannot eat cake and many other items, "but I get the biggest joy in watching others feeling happy after seeing my work or consuming it".
She recalls that for the first-ever order she received, she had created a cake based on the theme of a farm with farm animals.
The cake artist says she has been baking since her school days and books of Enid Blyton fired her imagination to dream of castle or palace-themed cakes for events.
Deb's body of work, beside the 'Milan cathedral', includes several other heritage buildings, from India and abroad, and has earned her the moniker of 'cake queen' or 'royal icing queen' among her admirers.
"I am fascinated by Indian palaces, but I want to be sensitive about its portrayal in confectionery medium, as many of these families are still residing in it, and I do not know how they would feel about it," she said.
Deb says the Lakshmi Vilas Palace of the erstwhile royal family of Baroda particularly fascinates her as a cake artist.
Recently, she had created a cake with an icing, inspired from the Benarasi saree and 'sindur daani' (vermilion box) of an Indian bride, which had gone viral on social media, as also an ornamental peacock cake.
"Most of my work is in white colour, and I choose it so as it is the colour of harmony and also goes with other requirements.
"But in future, I would love to play with colours on my confectionery canvas," Deb said.
She says her message to women, especially young girls, is to "dream big", but start from scratch.
"Get an academic degree first, whether it is science or arts stream or even in bakery, if you are interested, but lay a firm foundation first by finishing your education, and then follow your heart, and do not feel afraid to take the plunge in going after your passion," Deb said.
Balancing the happiness and joy from work and spending quality time with family, she adds, is "the best icing on the cake of my life".
Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/Rediff.com