News / 02/23/2018

Pastry Artists: Turning Cakes into Edible Art

For the average baker, decorating a cake amounts to spreading canned frosting on an out-of-the-box recipe. For a pastry chef, cake decorating is an art form. A lot of people do not realize building a masterpiece of a cake requires vast amounts of time, effort, attention to detail, ingenuity, and creativity. Luckily, television shows such as Cake Boss and Ace of Cakes has helped publicize the degree of difficulty involved in this artistry, and has simultaneously given these bakers some long overdue notoriety. Nowadays you can find an elaborate cake in any corner store bakery or on almost every TV channel, but this was not always the case.

Cake decorating began sometime in the mid-seventeenth century in North Eastern Europe around the same time cake pans were introduced into the domestic kitchen. By giving families the tools to bake, they began to explore the possibilities. However, these cakes were made as decorative pieces for display at high-class aristocratic feasts rather than a tasty dessert.

This all changed in the mid-nineteenth century when the French began to serve decorative cakes as a separate course. These display pieces transformed into edible art. Furthermore, advances in baking technology made baking and decorating even more convenient. Originally, cakes were baked in the pans as separate buns and then stuck together with stick almond paste. The introduction of the temperature controlled oven allowed cakes to be baked as cohesive pieces and then stacked on top of each other. The popular “tiered-look” we all recognize today began with these innovative ovens.

In 1929, Wilton Enterprises began offering cake decorating classes for interested bakers. The “Wilton Method” became the standard for creating elegant cakes. This led to Joseph Lambeth publishing his book, The Lambeth Method of Cake Decorating and Practical Pastries, a step-by-step guide complete with over-sized drawings and photos on the intricacies of cake decoration. The Wilton and Lambeth methods laid the foundation for cake decoration as we know it today.

Cake decorating’s history dates back hundreds of years, yet it does not seem to garner the respect of other artistic professions. When someone tells you they are an “artist”, you are likely to think painter or musician, rather than pastry chef. The cakes that will be on display at our Let Them Eat Cake event will change the notion you need a paintbrush or guitar to create art. Sometimes all you need is some flour, eggs, frosting, and a lot of imagination!


by Matt Gregory