Patisserie architecture: the sweetest design
n 18th century London, a young apprentice pastry maker, who was in love with his boss’s daughter, wanted to impress her on her wedding day and created a cake inspired in the bell tower he saw every day. This was how St. Bride’s church tower, the second tallest in the City of London, became the template for all wedding cakes. Nowadays, all that’s left of that original cake is the shape and and sugar, the rest has been completely reinvented. As if they were straight out of Alice in Wonderland, cakes that don’t look like cakes, with unexpected flavours and crying out “eat me!”.
These days, when it comes to desserts, exaggeration is no longer a virtue, with edible flowers and geometric shapes decorating the new batch of cakes in which the natural look is gaining ground over the baroque. ‘Naked cakes’ are the maximum exponents of the minimalist trend that has been taking over recently. Cakes that do away with extreme icing and fancy decorations that don’t always match the flavour.
Instagram is the detonator of most cake making trends. This season, the unicorn effect, filling desserts with colour, joins its opposite, completely black desserts like ice cream made with coconut or almond ash. Cactus mania continues in cake shops and mermaid toast in watery colours is now all the rage.
The technology used in various artistic disciplines has joined forces with pastry making that uses modern baking, modelling and texturing methods. A good example of this is Ukrainian architect Dinara Kasko, who combines geometry and beauty to create cakes that wouldn’t look out of place in a design museum. Using 3D printing for silicon moulds she achieves perfect shapes containing fluffy sponge, chocolate mousse, blueberry preserve and meringue. In Vancouver, graphic designer and cake maker Kylie Mangles also employs technology to create unique desserts reproducing famous illustrations. To achieve the colours she uses a Nix Pro Color sensor, a device that can be adapted for kitchen use to measure the colour of any surface and transfer it to icing.
The new fondness for marble, now commonly found in interior decoration, is another unstoppable trend hitting the kitchen. Impossible icing designs inspired by stone and glass textures such as those dreamed up by Danish designer Kia Utzon-Frank. Her incredible cakes, cut with an icing printer, imitate heavy blocks of polished stone and taste of marzipan. Other cakes inspired by geology are ‘geode cakes’, which lay their insides bare to reveal precious stones and that have become, along with ‘ruffles cakes’ and ‘floral cakes’, the most popular commissions for weddings.
Apart from design, the latest trends have also been sneaking into the flavours lab. Extreme icing, chocolate earth, sugar mountains, pastry creams and colourful frosting are the raw materials in the dreams of any cake loving foodie. Curiosity for exploring new flavours and new cultures is taking kitchens by storm and producing some very original combinations. In Europe, more adventurous palates are trying out sweets made from matcha tea, while butter, the quintessentially traditional ingredient in western culture, is starting to appear in Asian products. All these ingredients are being joined by new ones like hemp flour, turmeric, moringa (drumstick tree leaves) and whey protein, which provide greater nutritional value to offset excesses and the guilty conscience that comes from eating these portions of ‘edible happiness’.