Turkish chef Tuba Geçkil is making jaws drop on Instagram with her hyper-realistic cakes, modelled after everything from Crocs to kernels of corn. The founder of Red Rose Cake goes through her journey – how it all began, what goes behind making such deceptive designs, and her most challenging project yet. By Sumeet Keswani
The novel coronavirus pandemic has been unkind to most people and businesses around the world. But for some creative individuals, the extra time it offered at home proved to be a blessing in disguise. One of these people is Tuba Geçkil. In 2020 the Turkish ‘cake and sugar artist’ went viral on the Internet for her hyper-realistic cake designs that ranged from busts of famous personalities to inanimate objects commonly found around the house, classic paintings, and animated characters.
Geçkil isn’t new to the art of making cakes that make your jaw drop. While her Instagram fame may have come in 2020, her first hyper-realistic cake was baked 15 years ago—on her son’s birthday. Back then, most of today’s social media forums were non-existent or in their infancy. She posted pictures of her cakes on Facebook, but they did not generate enough likes or shares. “Years later, I discovered why. Since I wasn’t cutting them [on video], no one believed they were real cakes!” says Geçkil. One look at her Instagram page and you know she is not exaggerating.
Among her recent posts are cakes that look deceptively like a fish with a slice of lemon; a mango; a table lamp with a notebook and pen; a smoking kettle replete with edible cord and plug; a hand-wash dispenser; a plate of ramen and an iPad with a photo of the said ramen; a kitchen sink with water tap, toilet paper, and sponge; a bunch of grapes; a Bluetooth speaker; and a life-size wedding dress. And yes, there are videos of each one being cut! In fact, Geçkil has upped her game by devising contests for her followers, like one in which she invites you to guess which melon out of three on a table is actually a cake—few get it right. It’s no surprise then that the account has 335k followers (at the time of press) and counting.
Geçkil started when she was little. “Since my childhood, I have been examining everything around me: the objects I use, animals, people, nature; everything in detail. Then I realised that I have a talent for painting and started to paint everything realistically.” But going from the two-dimensional art of painting to the three-dimensional one of cake-making requires a plethora of skills. “In addition to good observation skill, it is necessary to have experience in many arts, even if it is for a short time. For example, sculpture, hairstyling, designing, visual arts, etc. I attended certificate programmes,” she states.
Apart from her online fame, Geçkil has also collected many awards on the international stage where she represents Turkey. In fact, she won four gold medals and one silver medal at the fiercely competed İKA Culinary Olympics in Germany in 2016. One of her gold-clinching works was a set of busts that looked like Donald Trump, Angela Merkel, and Bob Marley.
Among the chef’s most challenging projects was an edible staging of the Beauty and the Beast for a festival. “We revived this fairy tale in an eight-square-metre area. All the characters were made from cake, chocolate, and sugar. The Beast character was two metres long and weighed 250 kilograms. It took days to build,” reveals Geçkil. Another crazy bake was a scaled-down, albeit incredibly detailed, replica of the MINI Cooper car. “The steering wheel, turn signal lever, all the buttons, seats, and the outer surface of the car were handcrafted from cake with the finest detail, without any moulds,” clarifies Geçkil, adding that all hyper-realistic cakes are crazy, only limited by her imagination. And that imagination is not very limited if you see her floating and flying creations—in the form of a pool float and a drone, respectively.
Under the banner of Red Rose Cake, which she founded, Geçkil not only takes custom cake orders but also teaches courses in cake designing, including hyper-realistic bust-making and figure-modelling. Geçkil also travels around the world to teach. “Since 2016, I have been giving workshops in many countries—USA, Brazil, England, India, France, Dubai, Bahrain, etc. Many of our students have won awards in competitions, and many are now teaching. I am very proud of them,” she says. So, where does she find the best food, especially pastries? “[I liked] The pastries and croissants I ate in Paris, the delicious cakes I ate in Russia, and the sweet jalebi that I ate in India.” Unsurprisingly, Geçkil reserves the highest praise for her home country. “Turkey, where Asia and Europe meet, has very rich pastries and desserts. Turkish cuisine is at the intersection of cultures and histories; therefore, it is at the forefront of food tourism.” She has even borrowed traditional dish designs for her cakes, including Turkish pide, kebab, baklava, and sarma. At the end of the day, Geçkil’s unique approach to cake-making can be surmised from the message in her personal Instagram handle: ‘Everything is a cake’