Satisfy your cravings for beautiful desserts at Sunny Bakehouse.
Subha Nasir Ahmad is a neuroscientist living in Sydney, Australia. She’s also a baker creating exquisite works of art in her home kitchen. Baking sweet treats for weddings, birthday parties, and dessert lovers in her area, she creates beautiful designs with mouthwatering arrangements of fruit, candy, popcorn, flowers, gold leaf, and multicolored frosting that looks like paint on canvas. Her luscious cakes and sunny disposition are a winning combination, even for fans following her progress halfway around the world. In an interview, Subha shared the sweet ingredients of her artistic life at Sunny Bakehouse.
What’s your artistic background, and how did you develop your cake design skills to this point?
For a long time I felt like I didn’t have an artistic bone in my body. I don’t have any traditional artistic qualities: I can’t draw, paint, or sing. As I learned how to bake and cook, food became my art. I developed my perception of art by experimenting with the flavors and textures available in food. I was in uni, and Instagram and social media were becoming quite a force, and I discovered “cake design” through that. Up until then, to me a cake was something that had to taste good but didn’t necessarily have to look pretty (especially because I’ve always hated fondant and didn’t consider fondant cakes as “cake”; to me they were just designs). My first attempts at making a cake look pretty were not amazing but downright terrifying.
Around the same time, I was doing one of my visual neuroscience courses and we had a lecture on color theory. The lecture was all science, but I realized I needed to study the concept of design.
As much as I would like to say I was a natural, it wasn’t like that. I studied colors and compositions. I learned about flowers and floral arrangements and the science behind baking too. I was lucky enough to work for six months with a cake designer, and in that role I observed how to ice cakes and dress them. The cake designs I create now are a skill, and that skill has come from persistence and learning.
What was it like to transition from hobbyist to building a business with your cakes?
I haven’t found the transition from hobbyist to small business that traumatizing. It evolved into a business out of necessity. I wanted to keep learning, growing, and the only way to do that is to do more. There are of course challenges, but you have to see each challenge as an opportunity to grow not just your business but yourself as well. I am about 100 times more organized in life than I was five years ago.
Sunny Bakehouse is not my full-time job yet. Ultimately, that is a goal but I am on the slow and steady bandwagon. I have many other responsibilities in my life and can’t afford the risk of going full-time just yet. However, I’m not stopping when it comes to growing this little hobby of mine.
You also have a background in visual neuroscience. Does that knowledge base play into your design work?
Aside from that initial lecture that pushed me to learn color theory in context of design, no. I do find inspiration from science, especially some of the imaging techniques we use in neuro, but it’s a different facet of me entirely.
What are the biggest artistic influences on your cake designs?
Ceramics and embroidery. It sounds strange, but both mediums have a rich spectrum when it comes to the colors, shapes, and textures that can be achieved, and I take a lot of my inspiration from that.
You mentioned in your bio on your site that you’re hoping to teach your mom to bake. Any luck?
Not just yet, but she is starting to take an interest. I’d like to say it’s because she’s interested in baking, but it’s actually because she just wants to learn so she can help me (which is very sweet, and I really can’t complain).
Does she like to cook (but not bake)?
My mum is an artist when it comes to cooking. Seriously, her hands are magic.
What’s your advice to other people who want to learn to bake?
I would encourage you to learn the science behind it, because once you understand what is happening when you bake, you can manipulate it. It really teaches you the intuition that I think is a required skill in baking.
Before we go, what’s one truth you’ve learned as an artist?
It’s easy to get caught up and feel lost in what others are doing creatively. You have to work hard to maintain your unique identity.
You can keep up with Subha’s beautiful cake designs on Sunny Bakehouse’s Instagram, and find exclusive recipes on her blog. And if you’re lucky enough to live in the Sydney area, you can order beautiful sweets from her shop!