by Iyath Adam
Cakes by Shafa – by Mariyam Shafana (Shafa) is well-known for making realistic-looking 3D cakes of all shapes and sizes.
For this interview, we sit down with Shafa to discuss how she got into cake making and decorating, what her process is, and the awards she has won for her cakes. Read on!
Lonumedhu: First things first, tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into cake making?
Shafa: After I got my second child, it was very difficult for me to continue to work while looking after my children. So, my husband and I decided that I would stay home and do something to earn money. At first, my sister and I started sewing baby clothes. But it was really difficult as I wasn’t used to sewing and I didn’t really like it. Then, my sister suggested that we take part in a cake decorating course from Efes Institute. And I completed all cake courses from there, from basic to Masters.
During the advanced course, I was introduced to fondant work which really sparked my interest. At the time, people were not really making cakes with fondant or figures – mostly just undecorated, buttercream cakes. But I wanted to start creating very different cakes. My first cake order was an ‘Angry Birds’ themed cake for a family member – a two-tiered one. I was very apprehensive while making it, but I got really good feedback on the cake. After that, I slowly started taking orders, first for family members.
Lonumedhu: How did you get into making 3D cakes? We’ve seen your cakes and they look so realistic!
Shafa: Thank you! I’ve never been interested in making plain cakes. I love to challenge myself and create different things. I’ve always watched YouTube videos and Pinterest tutorials on how to make different types of cakes like 3D cakes. I thought that it would be a good thing to have a go at– and you don’t see a lot of it here either – and started trying on my own. That’s how I started making 3D cakes.
Lonumedhu: What kind of cakes do people order the most?
Shafa: People order decorated cakes a lot. I take a lot of wedding cake orders as well as birthday cakes with cake figurines. I think a lot of people know me for cakes like that – I don’t usually take orders for simple cakes either because I prefer making decorated cakes with figures.
Lonumedhu: Are all the components of your cakes edible? What ingredients do you work with the most?
Shafa: For tiered cakes, all components will not be edible. For wedding cakes usually only one tier will be edible. Otherwise, it will be very pricey and also very difficult to transport from one place to another.
All decorations are made with fondant, gum paste, wafer paper and/or rice paper. Wafer paper and rice paper are used a lot for edible flowers.
Lonumedhu: What flavours of cakes do you offer? How are your cakes priced?
Shafa: The cake flavours are butter and chocolate cake with a filling. For butter cakes, I use vanilla buttercream and chocolate ganache for chocolate cakes. For fondant cakes, I don’t make yummy cake flavours like red velvet etc… because they go bad relatively fast.
Pricing depends on the cost of materials and the amount of work and time which goes into making the cake. For example, cakes with flowers require a lot of work as all my flowers are edible and made from hand, which takes a lot of time and effort.
Lonumedhu: What is the most challenging part of what you do?
Shafa: I would say that the most challenging part is time management. I have to allocate my time very carefully because I do this work while looking after my children and maintaining the household, without any outside help. So, to give enough time for my kids and family and also to work is something I find very difficult.
Lonumedhu: From the cakes you’ve made so far, which one was the most challenging?
Shafa: The most time-consuming cake I’ve ever made is a wedding cake made in the shape of pillows. What made the cake so difficult were the regiform pillows which had to be cut by hand – I couldn’t find a single place that could cut them in the shape I wanted. So I cut, shaped and sanded the pillows myself, which was very difficult and time-consuming. It also had a lot of fondant work, all of which was done by hand. The cake was also eight tiers, which was a lot of work; the tiers had to be transported to the venue separately and then assembled.
It was very difficult work but at the end of the day, the outcome turned out great and the client was very happy as well.
Lonumedhu: A cake design that you’re really proud of?
Shafa: I made a fish (raiymas) cake – it’s a very simple cake but I think it went very viral for a while. It was a very small two-pound cake I made for my brother-in-law. He goes fishing a lot, so for his birthday, I thought I’d make a cake for him in the shape of a fish. I decorated the cake in only an hour. And when I put it on my social media page, I got a lot of compliments regarding it which made me very happy. I get a lot of orders to make the fish cake as well, but I don’t really like to make it now (laughs).
Lonumedhu: Is there any design that you really want to try making, but haven’t had a chance to?
Shafa: There are so many designs like that! I would really love to make gravity-defying cakes. But you can’t really get the necessary tools here – they require certain types of tubes that need to be bent and fit into the shape of the cake and these are not available in Male’.
Lonumedhu: I know you’ve won some awards for your cakes. Can you tell us a little bit about them?
Shafa: Right after I finished my cake decorating courses from Efes Institute, there was the Hotel Asia Exhibition. The instructors encouraged us to compete in the fair, and I made an entirely edible mannequin cake. It won third place from the whole competition, which made me really happy. It was the first time I’d made a cake too; back then I hadn’t started taking caking orders yet.
Recently at the Fannu Fair, I won second place for a life-sized rooster cake. It was a lot of work, made with edible flowers, and a crow as well.
Lonumedhu: What’s your vision for the future? What do you see next for yourself through ‘Cakes by Shafa’?
Shafa: It’s a big dream of mine to open my own bakery. Insha Allah, I get a lot of orders even now – and I usually can’t take on as many orders as I’d like to. But I also worry that I can’t maintain the quality of my cakes without that individual attention for each cake – but opening my own bakery has been a long-time dream.
Before COVID-19 I used to teach cake courses as well, which I would like to get back to. I get a lot of requests to teach courses in islands as well. So in the future, you will hopefully see a bakery and teaching space from me!
Lonumedhu: Anything else you want to add before we end the interview?
Shafa: I want to say a big thank you to my husband, my family and friends, without whom I would not be able to continue doing this work. And a big thank you to my clients and social media followers as well!
Lonumedhu: Thank you so much for your time, Shafa! We wish you great things ahead.