This month we've got two amazing artists sharing the spotlight at the Sugarworks blog! Our first is noted cake artist, author, and fashionista Elisa Strauss!
Before shaking up the NY cake scene, Elisa worked as a designer for Ralph Lauren. In fact, it was a cake she made for Ralph (in the shape of a Bugatti, his favorite sports car) and the heaps of praise it received from fashion industry notables that inspired her to bring her design talents to the kitchen full-time.
Elisa founded her bakery, Confetti Cakes in 2000 and has since published 2 cookbooks and appeared several times on Food Network shows, including Extreme Cake Challenge where she won the grand prize. Her creations have appeared on the Today Show, Sex and the City, The View, and Martha, and her bakery has been featured in InStyle, Martha Stewart Weddings, Marie Claire, Seventeen, Elle, Vogue, Modern Bride, New York magazine, BRIDES, Elegant Bride, and The Knot. In 2008, Elisa was even selected as one of America’s Top Ten Pastry Chef’s in Pastry Art and Design.
Today, Elisa is going to walk us through how she sculpted a life-size replica of her son for his 1st birthday cake!
I was planning on making a cute little cake for my son’s first birthday- perhaps his favorite lovey or the car he likes to play in, but then I saw a photo on my friend Sachiko’s Instagram feed from Mimicafeunion.
I told my husband I wanted to challenge myself. He looked back at me wide-eyed and in silence; I can only imagine what he was thinking. Most likely, “Oh, no” or “Here she goes again: shirking household and child-rearing duties on me.”
I had never sculpted a human head before and I thought this was the perfect opportunity…since I was the client. I have sculpted many animals in my time: dogs (check), cats (check), dinosaurs, monsters, even an alien, shark and fish (check,check,check,check, and yes, check)- but never a human. Plus, I thought it would be fun to look at my cute baby boy all day.
So I plopped him down in my studio and asked him to turn to the side so I could snap his profile. Luckily, he cooperated :-). I also took a photo of him in the position I wanted for the cake and blew it up based on the size (and amount of cake) I needed.
This cake took lots of planning. Aside from just the size and amount of cake to make, I needed to make a base for the bottom of the cake, a middle support board, a board for the bottom of the head, and cut holes through ALL the boards AND cake. I cut a hole through everything because I glued a dowel through the cake drum to hold all the cake together (in addition to internal support dowels).
Once the cakes were all doweled, sculpted, crumb-coated and finally iced with buttercream I was ready to start on the head. I will admit this part WAS VERY EERIE.
After carving the head, I decided it was going to be too heavy. I had enough cake to feed my guests (I baked a red velvet cake, too, because it was my cousin’s birthday and that’s his favorite!) so I opted to make the head out of styrofoam (I find Rice Krispie treats too heavy). I covered the head and made all the features out of Fondarific’s sculpting chocolate, and thank goodness for Innovative Sugarworks' Sugar Shapers…not sure how I would have done it without them! I also love my small ball tool and veining tool.
I covered the body with a combination of Satin Ice’s chocolate fondant and Fondarific’s sculpting chocolate. Then I THREADED the cake through the dowel and attached the cake to the board covered in pale blue fondant. Once I got the head pretty close to the shape I wanted then I attached everything together, the head was also threaded on dowel.
After a snow storm, a couple of sleepless nights, I finished the cake ONE HOUR before the guests arrived. And luckily for me, my awesome cousin, Jordan Pique arrived just in time to take professional photos.
I used an extruder to “embroider” his name onto the cake with Satin Ice’s pre-dyed gum paste.
On this detail shot you can see the texture I created on the “spots” with my Marvelous Molds impression mat and the zipper painted with gold dust and vodka.
My poor baby boy didn’t know what to make of the cake! I’ve already started thinking about his cake for this year.
We hope you've enjoyed this look into the challenges of sculptural cake making and how to overcome them! We can think of no sweeter tribute than to sculpt your loved ones out of cake, and Elisa did a phenomenal job with her son's likeness!
If you want to see more of Elisa's work, you can visit her website, www.elisastrauss.com or follow her on social media: