Natasja Sadi’s Cakes Are So Gorgeous, It Will Break Your Heart To Eat Them
When our minds freeze on an image of a white wedding, we immediately conjure up fanciful images of pristine white gowns (lace, ruffles, embroidery, pearls…the works!) and sparkling diamonds. But what is conspicuous in its absence in our imaginations is the wedding cake, which has, for the longest time, been looked at as customary furniture at a wedding. However, it has now taken on a life of its own, with individuals showing as keen an interest in cake themes, colours, flavours and decorations as they would in picking out the right kind of lace (Chantilly or guipure?) for their gowns. Moreover, customisation has become the rage, with couples rushing to depict their love stories on their wedding cakes and leveraging it as a more intimate storytelling medium. It’s not the number of tiers that’s cause for great debate anymore. Picking out a theme (geode, unicorn, galaxy…the possibilities are endless) and figuring out whether an ombre or watercolour effect will work is the new dilemma.
Natasja Sadi, a 42-year-old baker based in Amsterdam, with an affinity for all things matrimonial, transitioned to the baking sphere from fashion designing in December 2015. Today, the mother of two is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after bakers in Europe, whose clientele extends as far as India! Probed about how fashion designing differs from baking, Sadi quips, “The biggest difference is that there are no fitting sessions! Other than that, the approaches are pretty much the same. I’m always striving to make my clients’ dreams come true.”
Her Instagram page, Cake Atelier Amsterdam, is flooded with images of cakes overflowing with a medley of flowers and vines…almost instantly transporting you to a forest in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Elegant and whimsical, Sadi’s cakes bear the distinction of being decorated so neatly with their bas-relief work and trademark sugar flowers, that they seem unfathomably real. Once you’re through admiring them, and when you finally do muster up the heart to cut yourself a slice, you can be guaranteed that they will fully satisfy those with a sweet tooth.
Baking cakes for my children’s birthdays was the starting point. I have always enjoyed entertaining and making pretty things. Baking cakes and preparing desserts for my friends has always felt like the ultimate gift to them. And when I decided to go professional, they had no qualms helping me by being judges and, quite often, even guinea pigs!
It’s been two years since sugar has taken over my life. Little over a year ago, I put in place the finishing touches to my last wedding dress, as a designer. It is true what they say…sometimes you really do have to close a door to fully embrace new opportunities.
Baking is a science. I don’t experiment while working for clients. I have taken out excess sugar from all my recipes. My cakes are never too sweet, but are still full of flavour. It’s not just about the aesthetics of the confection. I believe that the inside should taste good too because it’s such a bummer when a cake looks amazing but tastes horrible.
If I had to label my style, I’d say it’s edible art. My love for flowers is never-ending. Maybe that’s what gives my cakes their vintage appeal. Even with wedding dresses, my style has always been classic, with a touch of humour. I take my work very seriously, but feel that we should never take ourselves too seriously.
The time taken to create a wedding cake — from inception to completion — totally depends on the number of guests and intricacy of design. I could complete and deliver a cake for 100 guests, with one signature flower, in five days. On the other hand, a design for 300 guests with multiple extravagant sugar flowers can take up to five weeks to complete.
The most thrilling part of the entire cake baking process is that I get to be a part of a couple’s special day. It is a tremendous honour. So much thought goes into the atmosphere and style of a wedding, and I’m always delighted to see cakes getting the same attention as, for instance, wedding dresses. And what’s special about the cake is that unlike the wedding dress, friends and family can get a slice and taste of the beauty too!
I have visited India once, when I was a young girl. I was in Mumbai for only a few days, but have never forgotten the colours and rich culture. It would be lovely to do some masterclasses there and teach others how to create sugar flowers. I do have a few Indian clients. It means so much to me that someone living miles away, who hasn’t even met me, puts that level of trust in me. The love Indians have for family is inspirational. One of my best friends living in Amsterdam is from India, so I know black is a colour one mustn’t use for Indian celebrations.
India has influenced my design sense in many ways. For my wedding dresses, I would use quite a lot of Indian silk fabrics. Paisley motifs, rich colours, gold scrolls…these are cornerstones of most of my cakes as well.
Unfortunately, I don’t ship to India…yet. Quality guarantee is most important to me. Fresh ingredients need to stay fresh and I would feel sad if my sugar flowers — which are extremely delicate — did not survive the journey. However, if you ever visit Amsterdam, you can take home some of my sugar flowers since they can be carried in hand luggage!
With baking, there is always a dilemma when it comes to choosing between taste and design. I always make it a point to discuss the balance with my clients, right at the outset. For example, if a client wants cream cheese frosting, I tell him/her that it will be a risk because for one, cream cheese frosting will never harden as well as a buttercream or ganache frosting and two, heavy sugar embellishments on a cream cheese cake are challenging and not always possible.
Oh, it’s so tough for me to choose a favourite type of sugar flower. It’s like asking me to choose a favourite child! I love everything nature creates. Peonies are always beautiful. Poppies and roses, too. Tulips are special and dramatic on every cake. So you see why it’s impossible for me to choose! That said though, Holland is a flower country and I find plenty of floral inspiration around me. I always try to make my flowers look like flowers and not like sugar. I always think of them as objects that can be kept as keepsakes long after the special day. Away from direct sunlight and humidity, sugar flowers stay well and can be cherished for years.
I don’t have a favourite colour scheme for a wedding cake. Whatever is the couple’s favourite becomes my favourite. I must mention however that when mixing colours, white is always the starting point, following which the desired hues are then mixed in. Grey is always the last colour that’s added in. That said, I do prefer slightly faded colours on cakes.
My baking tip… well, it involves weight measurement. If you want even layers when baking layered cakes, try to weigh the batter in each tin. And for this, try to get your hands on a digital scale — I highly recommend it!
Nibbles With Natasja
Best compliment That my cakes are too beautiful to eat.
Idols Peggy Porschen and Alan Dunn.
Would love to collaborate with Kitchen staff at any royal court!
All-time favourite Lemon cake.
Vanilla or chocolate My chocolate cake with plenty of Madagascar vanilla extract.
When not baking I’m spending time with my children, visiting museums and arranging real flowers.
Favourite ingredient Sugar, without a doubt — the possibilities are endless!
Indispensable baking tool My KitchenAid Stand Mixer.
A life without cake is Not a very sweet one.
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