PDBY recently spoke to final year consumer science student, Nicola Venter, about a cake demonstration she baked and donated to UP Moja Gabedi community garden.
What was the brief/inspiration for the cake?
In 4th year we do demonstrations of various food subjects – like you would see on YouTube. We shoot videos of our projects professionally. Each student gets a different topic to demonstrate. My topic is celebratory heavy cakes. “Heavy” cakes is a term used to describe cakes that will last very long and will thus be very heavy in weight because of the ingredients in it. A typical “heavy” cake is fruitcake. The cake contains a lot of dried fruit and is soaked in alcohol to preserve it. The cake is covered in marzipan and fondant to further preserve the cake. These cakes were often used as traditional wedding cakes and would often contain very elaborate sugar work. The cakes were very large and would last for months! It was the showpiece of a wedding, along with the bride’s dress of course! Nowadays, couples prefer fresher, more simple wedding cakes. Since it was difficult to find a bride who would like a 1m high, fruit cake wedding cake we thought it was best to look for alternatives at UP. The Moja Gabedi community gardens offer wonderful initiatives to uplift the community. Since fruit cake is often given as a gift at Christmas, we thought it would be wonderful to give the people at Moja Gabedi gardens an early Christmas gift. We wanted to celebrate truly South African flavours and flowers for the cake. We used indigenous ingredients such as dried Cape Figs, golden sultanas, Marula, sour plums, wild apricots, and Mozambique cashews- a South African twist on the traditional! For the decorations we took inspiration from the flowers in the garden. The garden is absolutely beautiful this time of the year! We also included flowers such as magnolias and of course our beautiful proteas!
How was the experience baking such a big project as a student?
I was in charge of a cake demonstration in my first semester too where we baked cakes with very elaborate decorations with wafer paper, spray guns, chocolate moulds, gold leaf and buttercream flowers. But this was a whole new challenge! Just the leaves took me four days to make. The cake took a total of seven days to complete. It was definitely challenging but the end product was so worth it!
Which organisation was the cake donated to?
The cake was donated to UP’s Moja Gabedi community gardens. The guests were students and educators from the botanical society, agriculture department, department of consumer science, but most importantly, the people who rely on the Moja Gabedi gardens. This includes people who live in halfway houses and shelters in Hatfield. The gardens have made such a difference by not only providing food to the people of those establishments, but it is also a place where they can work on their skills and emotional wellbeing to re-enter society.
How was the reception to the cake where it was donated?
The reception was wonderful! The turnout was great! I think we served around 80 people. Everyone from the shelters and halfway houses were incredibly thankful and could not believe that the flowers were not real, let alone edible!
If you could do it again, what would you do differently?
If I could do it again, I might change the colour scheme, but that is just my perfectionism creeping in! I wouldn’t change who we donated the cake to, that was the most rewarding.
Does this measure up to any practical you have done in the past four years?
This doesn’t measure up to any practical we have done before! We do a lot of challenging practicals, like molecular gastronomy and sugar work, but that is not nearly as large a project as this was!
What do you see yourself doing after graduating?
I would love to work in a creative environment such as creating recipes for Woolworths Taste Magazine or U-cook. I would love to write my own recipe books one day. Consumer Science is such a broad study field that it is often difficult to know exactly where you will end up. But if it involves food and people, I am happy!