This past week I had the honor of participating in fashion week in an entirely new way: making an after-party cake for designer Anna Sui’s new VICTORIANNA collection launch. This season’s whimsical styles billowed like perfect buttercream and were as ethereal as poufs of drifting meringue. Sui’s designs were a nod to mid-20th-century fashion illustrator Lila de Nobili. Take a look at de Nobili’s illustrations, and you’ll understand their whimsical and gauzy allure. Cupcakes shaped like roses and succulents were part of Sui’s mood board for this season, so my role in creating a pastry pairing built upon her already sugar-inspired collection.
Focusing on Sui’s affinity for purple in both her designs and branding, I composed a watercolor two-tiered cake with three layers per tier, each tier featuring ombre lavender layers. Ultra-moist almond cake was the luscious vehicle for layers of snappy lemon curd and bright raspberry jam. Everything was topped with an eye-opening lemon buttercream with refreshing pops of zest. Frothy pink roses and edible wafer paper butterflies embellished the sides of the cake.
This cake brought me to some of my favorite places in New York. NY Cake, my second home, is a must-know for anyone who wants to up their own pastry game. Wandering though gives me so much inspiration! Another stop, the flower district, continues to take my breath away whenever I walk through… I first became acquainted with the flower district when I began food styling in 2017 and was smitten with the glamorous early-risers and their important missions of buying candy-bright flowers for Vogue shoots. The flower market opens around 5:30am, and shops begin closing around 10:30am; the early bird gets the bouquet.
Monday of fashion week was one long list of logistics, and I went into a headspace where I just power through one task after another. Even though my brain was in list-mode, I was able to appreciate the fact that every single cake process is a story. Every cake is a mini hero’s journey of highs, lows, trials, romance, magic, and ultimate triumph. I’m pretty sure I didn’t breathe for two days straight while this two tiered buttercream beauty was under construction!
The first challenge is coaxing the buttercream to a perfectly smooth state. With buttercreams that contain abnormal shapes like bits of lemon zest, it’s hard to get it perfectly smooth. Challenge ACCEPTED. Blemishes drive me crazy. Marbling icing colors for a watercolor effect was an especially enjoyable part of the process. Then, if you’re delivering (and I was), there’s always a tense Uber ride where you’re clinging to the cake for dear life, lurching when the car lurches to counterbalance any unfortunate inertia. I had a hard time even lifting this cake, so enlisted the help of my boyfriend and most trusted assistant. Putting the cake’s fate in the hands of anyone else is a terrifying prospect in and of itself. There is such relief when the cake is finally GONE, out of your hands, to its final destination!
This is truly a cake that I am very proud of… I love when art mirrors art, and it was a treat to channel Anna Sui’s ethereal shapes and dreamy colors. What artist do you most want to see translated into cake form? Be sure to comment with any suggestions!