Beginner Chocolatier Sarika
When you see the chocolate masterpieces Sarika Alvekar creates, it is hard to believe that she’s self-taught. What’s even more amazing is that she just began to design “dessert art” three years ago. “I started watching cooking shows and competitions, like The Great British Baking Show and Zumbo’s Just Desserts, and I wanted to try it,” Sarika said.
Shockingly, Sarika had never even baked in an oven until ten years ago! “I was raised in Mumbai, India, and we didn’t have an oven. Back then, it just wasn’t part of our culture to bake, although it’s fairly common now. When I was a kid, if we wanted a pastry, we either bought it from a bakery or we took our ingredients to the bakery and they would cook it for us.”
In 2004, Sarika came to America to work as a computer engineer. She moved to Oklahoma in 2009 and became a stay-at-home mom to her twin boys. Sarika began delving into her artistic side, focusing mostly on portrait painting. While submitting paintings for competition at the Oklahoma State Fair, she became aware of the cooking categories. She felt creatively inspired. “I started checking out cookbooks from the library and realized I had an interest in the history of how desserts evolved over time.”
Sarika put away her cake box mixes and started to experiment in her home kitchen. She checked out cookbooks from the library and compared recipe ingredients. “I’d try a recipe and then write notes about what I did or didn’t like. Then I’d make it again and again with minor changes. I have a college-sized notebook full of my notes.”
Her experiments became growingly-complicated as Sarika tackled French pastries, mousse and meringues. Sarika entered the Chocolate Extravaganza at the State Fair in 2018. Her nervousness was enhanced as she saw the huge cakes and pies she was competing against. She felt almost embarrassed by her tiny dessert in a glass cup—but extremely proud when she won first place.
The next year, she won the Chocolate Extravaganza again, and added a “Best in Show” win for her Chocolate Hazelnut Delight. She describes the preparation for that competition as “not delightful.” The joconde cake kept failing because of the summer heat and humidity. After two tries, she fell back on a familiar chocolate cake base. Then she dropped the cake on the floor. In tears, and with a few hours to go, she made yet another chocolate cake, rushed the kids to school, and raced to the fairgrounds. Her beautiful, award-winning submission is now a symbol of both pride…and stress. Nonetheless, Sarika is hooked on competitive baking, and she has begun entering national competitions.
Sarika’s family, the benefactors of her weekly baking experiments, enjoy tasting the desserts and also helping her bake. “Last Christmas, I checked out a book on Christmas cookies from around the world. The boys and I made a different kind of cookie nearly every day in the two weeks leading up to Christmas. It was so fun, and we made so many memories. Baking is a never-ending journey of curiosity for me, and it challenges me as an artist. I’m amazed that four main ingredients can create such a variety of desserts.”