SITI Nur Nabilah Lutfi fell in love with 3D jelly art cakes after taking the first bite and it led to her desire to learn about the art and her journey of crafting clear jelly cakes, consisting of stunning flowers and coloured fish.
Her beautifully designed jelly art (made from seaweed) appears like flowers blooming underwater or from a pond, rising from the bottom of a glass case. It looks like a garden inside water-filled globes.
“I love cakes but I always pondered whether I should eat healthily or indulge in desserts to satisfy my cravings,” said 27-year-old Nabilah.
“But when I took a bite of a 3D Jelly cake for the first time, I fell in love, not only because of the beautiful look but also due to its refreshing taste. I found the answer to a guilt-free way to satisfy my cravings for desserts, and the art is beautiful,” gushed Nabilah.
Besides, eating jellies also brought back sweet memories of her grandmother, who passed away in September 2016.
“I love jelly not only for the taste but also for the fond memories I shared with my late grandma. Colourful jelly was my grandma’s signature dessert. I remember the time when I helped her to prepare traditional colourful jelly for our family events.”
“It feels amazing to know that my childhood memories paved the way for my career and just like my grandmother, I am happy that I am making jelly cakes, my signature dessert for family events, now,” she said.
A dessert to remember
Nabilah, who has a degree in Biomedical Engineering and is currently pursuing a Masters in Engineering Science at University Malaya while working as a research assistant, began to make jelly cakes after attending a class in Shah Alam.
“When my mum turned 50, my sister and I decided to do something different for her birthday. Instead of celebrating with a feast with the usual cake, we planned an activity together.”
She stumbled upon a 3D jelly cake class advertisement and the three of them enrolled in the class together in 2016. At the time, jelly art was relatively new in Malaysia.
“We had fun in the class and jelly cakes sparked my interest in its edible art form. I decided to sign up for more classes to hone my skills before turning my passion into an online business through my Instagram page @sugarcoastermy,” she said.
Crafting flowers in jelly cakes has also taken over Nabilah’s love for flower gardens. She enjoys gardening but the lack of space to pursue this hobby while living in the city left her feeling stressed.
“Life in the city makes me want to break away and get out and so, jelly-making is the best way to destress myself,” said Selangor-born Nabilah.
The art of jelly cakes
The process of making jelly cakes begins by boiling the jelly granules in hot water and pouring it into a round or heart-shaped mould and leaving it to cool.
A syringe and special carving tools are used to inject coloured jelly by applying a slanting flowers technique to create 3D flower petals, one by one. It is a bit of a tricky process as the injected jelly needs to be soft and hot, since it needs to be in liquid form. But it is her favourite and most challenging part of the jelly cake making process.
“I love to see different colours mixing at the base. It gives me great pleasure and happiness ... it’s beyond words.”
She also carves on the jelly cake. Then, another layer of flavoured jelly is added on the crafted jelly. The entire process takes 2-4 hours to complete, depending on the complexity of the design.
Once the jelly is set completely, the chilled dessert is ready for tasting.
The completed jelly cake has intricate flower designs in vibrant colours. Her best-seller is the creamy coconut lychee, made with fresh lychee fruits and coconut milk.
“My customers love multiple flower designs and the goldfish (coloured fishes) design,” she said.
One customer loved Nabilah’s Koi Fish pond themed birthday jelly cake made for her father’s birthday so much, she ordered one more.
She makes various flavoured jelly cakes, including for the health-conscious or those with diabetes who crave for sweet desserts. She uses a sugar substitute and feels it is suitable for vegetarians, as jelly is made from seaweed.
“My plan is to organise classes for jelly art lovers. Hopefully, the year 2021 will be a milestone for me to achieve success in the jelly art-making industry,” said Nabilah about her future plans.