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Tiers of tradition

Home baker Bindhu Hephzibah’s 11-layer cake narrates the story of Aadi masam in fondant, frostings and figures

Published: 12th August 2021 04:51 AM  |   Last Updated: 12th August 2021 04:51 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

CHENNAI: The Tamil month of Aadi (mid-July to mid-August) brings with it a lot of cheer and celebrations. While every Friday during Aadi is no less than a mini-festival in several households, specific days of this auspicious month hold extra significance. And one among them is the Aadi Perukku, also known as Aadi monsoon festival, on the 18th day of Aadi.

Last week, when Tamilians from rural and urban parts of Tamil Nadu were revelling in celebrations, home baker Bindhu Hephzibah from Avadi was busy adding refreshing flavours and colours to this day. And was born a glorious 11-tier cake to highlight the social relevance of the festival.

True to the spirit of Aadi, the design was themed around water’s life-sustaining properties. “I’m a Christian and I see Aadi as a celebration of nature. It’s the month for sowing, rooting, planting of seeds and vegetation since it is peak monsoon time when rain is showered in abundance. Beyond its religious values, the month signifies the pressing need to protect and preserve our natural resources. I wanted my cake to take this message to people,” shares Bindhu.

Baking knowledge

Every decadent layer of the 11-tier cake spells auspiciousness and symbolises an aspect of nature. The figurines are meticulously sculpted to perfection using edible fondant. “It took three weeks for me to design and execute this. I had to ensure all elements of Aadi were incorporated into this single piece of art so that it does some justice to how Aadi is depicted in Tamil literature,” she notes.

From bottom to top, each layer specifies a tradition performed or element associated with Aadi Perukku. The bottom-most foundation layer depicts a theppakulam or temple tank where lamps are left floating as a tribute to waterbodies. Tiers 9-11 portray sculpted images of village deity Ayyanar, surrounded by terracotta horses. Tier eight features the Tamil calendar marking the beginning and end of Aadi month. Tier seven appreciates Kaezhvaragu (ragi), the natural coolant and the staple of the celebration. Tier six throws light on veppilai or neem leaves that are the acclaimed festoon of the celebrations.

Bindhu Hephzibah

Tiers five to three depict decorative items such as lamps, kolams, and flowers used to adorn houses. Tiers two and one mention poosani poo decoration and mulaipari (sprouting of nine grains or navadhanyam in a basket or mud pots) which is then carried by women and dissolved in the river. The highlight is the topmost layer decorated with a kalasam.

“Generally coconut and mango leaves are used in kalasam. They have been replaced with earth and trees representing the need to save the world. I’ve used verses from Thirukkural to emphasise my message. It says, Neerindri Amaiyathu Ulagu, translating to ‘When water fails, functions of nature cease; thus when rain fails, no men can walk in its ordered way,’ reiterating the need to take notice of global warming and climate emergency for our own good and for the generations to come,” she shares.

It’s been Bindhu’s dream to use cake as a medium to convey meaningful messages to people. “I’m working on a cake themed around North Madras to break stereotypes attached to the area. With more financial support and infrastructure, I can make bigger projects. I’m glad that my work has been creating an impact among followers and they’ve graciously been reaching out to me with encouraging feedback,” shares the home-baker. Bindhu is also planning to conduct virtual baking classes soon. 

Spirit of Aadi
True to the spirit of Aadi, the design was themed around water’s life-sustaining properties. “I’m a Christian and I see Aadi as a celebration of nature. It’s the month for sowing,” she says.

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