Categorized | International

Michelle Wibowo: A Famous Sugar Artist in Britain

Michelle Wibowo wants people back in Indonesia to know one very important thing: She has not been asked to bake the wedding cake for Prince William and Kate Middleton on April 29.

“It was a bit embarrassing, because family and friends from Indonesia were asking about it, and I had to explain to them a million times,” Michelle said by email Tuesday of an erroneously translated article that spread like wildfire on Twitter last week.

While she may not be making the big cake for that big day — the honor traditionally goes to a unit of the British armed forces — the cake decorator originally from Semarang, Central Java, has numerous prizes to her name. The most distinguished of these was gold in the International Culinary Olympics in 2008, representing Michelle’s adopted homeland of Britain.

Her latest distinction was triumphing in a royal wedding cake-decorating contest last week at the Ideal Home Show in London, in which Michelle sculpted and decorated a cake in the form of Kate and Will — hence the misunderstanding in the report.

She notes wryly that the chances of the royal couple — or any couple, save for a very narcissistic pairing — ordering a wedding cake in their own image would be “…pretty slim, that is why I did it for the competition”.

“This was my first attempt at making a 3-D likeness of busts, so it was a bit experimental. I didn’t expect to win at all,” said the 33-year-old.

“I thought this was a good opportunity to create something different.”

Despite winning the title of Ideal Cake Decorator of 2011, Michelle was not entirely happy with the results, saying she wanted the likeness to be more realistic.

“It could have been better if I had more time to do it. I know that it took 80 hours already, but I did it for four days straight, some days without sleep at all. And I did Will’s face twice, but it’s still not spot on,” she said.

“Anyway, I managed to finish it at the last minute, just an hour before submission.

“Creating a likeness is really a challenge if you only have pictures from the Internet as references.

Michelle says she has enjoyed baking from the age of nine, trying new recipes and experimenting on her own. But because baking was not considered a “promising” career in Indonesia, she followed her father’s advice to study architecture. Michelle met her husband Michael at Parahyangan University in Bandung, and after graduating they moved to the UK to continue their studies.

After spending the past 11 years in Britain, she has chosen to become a UK citizen because Indonesia does not permit dual citizenship. She misses her family and friends back home, she says, and also the “fabulous” food.

“Growing up in Indonesia was tough, but living in Britain is also tough when you don’t have family and relatives here,” said the mother of a young daughter.

“Luckily I have my own family, my husband who supports me endlessly and friends who are like family to me.”

Sweet Success

Michelle is also getting to do something she loves. She discovered in the UK that the world of baking could provide a comfortable living after all. She studied baking science for two years while working part-time as a cake decorator, and then established her own company, Michelle Sugar Art Ltd.

The company produces cake creations for birthdays, weddings and advertising and PR campaigns. These have included representations of a snoozing baby, a pair of sneakers, candy bars, toys, gadgets, a stuffed pig — and anything else that piques a client’s fancy and fantasy. She also once produced a 3-D “Loro Blonyo” Javanese wedding couple for the Indonesian Embassy in London.

Michelle draws on her architectural training in determining the precise measurements to produce her cake sculptures, and also in her attention to detail in decorating them.

“I prefer to call myself a sugar artist than a cake decorator, because I mostly do sculpting rather than decorating, like most cake decorators,” she said.

“Most of my requests are unusual, but making an almost life-sized, 120-kilogram cow cake for a wedding was pretty bizarre.

“Each cake has its own complexity, but in general, creating a human likeness out of cake is really challenging.”

The many honors Michelle has won in Britain, and receiving coverage on TV and in the print media for her achievements, are in many ways the icing on the cake for her. Her proudest achievement was taking the Olympic culinary gold medal in the Patisserie Showpiece section in 2008. Michelle’s cake sculpture of a floppy-eared hound was inspired by Elvis Presley’s song “Hound Dog”, she said at the time.

In the contest, bringing together more than 1,600 culinary specialists from 50 countries, she also took a silver medal for a cake of the young Elizabeth I of England. It was singled out for recognition despite having been damaged on the long car journey from her Sussex home to Germany.

“I entered all the competitions just for fun. It’s not just about winning awards,” she said.

“It doesn’t matter if I win or lose, because I get to make what I want to make, and that’s not always the case if I do it for a client. I also get to brush up on my skills, and challenge myself to become better and better every time.”

With her “William and Kate” creation, however, it turns out that Michelle did not get to have her cake and eat it. “It was just for display,” she said.

But what if the well-meaning but misguided Twitter frenzy somehow led to a call from Buckingham Palace to turn her talents to the royal cake?

“It’s unlikely, but I would really be thrilled,” Michelle says with a laugh.

Taken from The Jakarta Post

Popularity: 1% [?]

Share this Good News!
  • Print
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Mixx
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Reddit
  • Technorati
  • Twitter
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Tumblr
  • LinkedIn
  • MySpace

This post was written by:

Farah Fitriani - who has written 205 posts on Good News From Indonesia.

a single young woman full of spirit in making a better Indonesia, Bandung citizen, Law UNPAD'09 student, english teacher and a shopkeeper.

Contact the author

Comments are closed.

2010 Year End Charity Project

GNFI Network

ShoutMix chat widget


GNFI on Twitter

Good News by Month