Han Lei, a skillful fondant cake maker from Suzhou city, east China’s Jiangsu province, has ingeniously integrated traditional Chinese cultural elements with fondant icing techniques, making cakes that gain increasing popularity overseas.
The 36-year-old cake maker has participated in eight international competitions and won over ten world championships.
After a long journey of development, fondant cake, which originated in England, highlights characteristic decoration as much as flavor. More and more people have involved themselves in the business and created unique fondant cakes, gradually turning them into a kind of cultural creative product.
“When I was little, I grew fond of traditional Chinese opera. I was really interested in the costume and stage props used in opera performances,” Han said, disclosing that he often thought about how to incorporate exquisite traditional cultural elements into fondant cakes and combine Chinese and Western cultures skillfully in delicious cakes.
Over the years, Han has taught himself sketching, claborate-style painting, paper cutting, clay figurine making and other crafts——all for making more creative fondant cakes, according to him.
Han once baked a cake in the shape of embroidered shoes. To make the “silk threads” of the shoes on the cake look more layered and exquisite, he not only bought and studied embroidered shoes, but learned knowledge about embroidery at a workshop.
During the 2015 Japan Cake Show Tokyo, Han took his cake in traditional Chinese style onto the world stage for the first time. The fondant cake he brought to the event combined cake baking with dough modeling techniques and was infused with ten kinds of traditional Chinese cultural elements, including facial makeup in traditional opera, embroidery, blue and white pottery and peonies. It stood out among many entries and eventually won the highest award in the cake show.
Since then, Han’s cakes featuring traditional Chinese cultural elements have frequently received awards in international competitions.
At the World Trophy of Pastry Ice Cream Chocolate held in Italy in 2019, Han, as the head coach of a Chinese team, led a team of three members making a large chocolate sculpture named “The Monkey King”, a legendary mythical figure in China, on site within eight hours based on their one-month-long planning and training. The chocolate sculpture scored the Prize for Best Artistic Sculpture and the Prize for Journalistic Criticism.
Believing that flavor is crucial to creative and distinctive cakes, Han and his team members tried adding seasonings such as star anise and pepper to dough, and developed a fondant cake with an unusual taste. Besides, they have developed flower- and tea-flavored fondant cakes, continuously making innovations in the flavor of cakes.
Han is convinced that what’s unique for a nation is also precious for the world. Now He is spending more time and energy on teaching his fondant cake making techniques to more people.
Over the past few years, Han has trained three Gen Z world champion cake makers. He has always shared his formulas, innovative materials and techniques without reservation, hoping to cultivate more Chinese fondant cake masters, introduce traditional Chinese style to more people, and pass on the craftsman spirit embodied in the fondant making skills.
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