Sweet Art

Inspired by her favorite artists, VB food stylist, Kara Mickelson, designs some stunning, picturesque cakes. Here she shares some of the baking and icing “how-to”, if you dare…

  • Category
    Eat & Drink
  • Produced, styled & photographed by
    Kara Mickelson

Sculptured Butterfly Apple Cake

Fondant cake and insects on a base display of “painted” tiles


Inspiration: Surrealist Vladimir Kush’s Butterfly Apple painting

Technique: Custom cake sculpturing and painting

How To Do It:
To recreate an artist’s work, source any accent props that will help create the visual story. For this project, adding the knife and “painting” two surface tiles with colored frosting helped set the scene.

Make two copies of what you’d like to create—one for reference and another to make a pattern and use as a guide. Make a printout that is the same size as the cake you want to create.

Create cake layers and secure pieces together with buttercream in order to get the right size base to carve. Refrigerate to set frosting.

Once the cake is chilled, use a paring knife to hand carve the butterfly apple. Toothpicks can help set the shape before carving.

Use your fingers to help form the cake shape. Pound cake will be easy to mold with light pressure. Crumb coat the cake with buttercream and chill to set.

Add colored fondant and food coloring gels to get the correct shade for the apple exterior.

Roll out fondant or marzipan to ¼ inch or slightly less for the front of the apple. Marzipan is a little sticky and harder to work with than fondant, but it has a nice almond flavor. Whether you use that or a mix of product (fondant/marzipan), the covering should be thin and pliable enough to drape over the cake but thick enough not to tear.

Mold and smooth round shapes with clean hands and trim excess product as needed with culinary scissors or a paring knife. Use a cake smoother to work out bubbles or imperfections.

Add any accent lines for the butterfly wings with an edible sketch pen.

Use fondant to create the butterfly body, insects and floral cake stems for the butterfly antennas, and the feelers on the caterpillar and fly legs. Color stems with black edible ink before using. Add edible marker and cake paint to add dimension to fondant pieces and create a painted look. Secure accent pieces with edible glue, royal icing or frosting

Success Tips:

  • Use a cake with a tender but dense crumb, such as pound cake. It will be easier to manage and shape.
  • Fondant cakes can be refrigerated, although some fondant is temperamental and will get sticky or sweat once removed. Just let the condensation dry a bit before handling.

Heart-Shaped Cake with Red Mirror Glaze

Colored frosting on canvas with iced sugar cookies and royal icing


Inspiration: Surrealist Joan Miró’s Ballerina II painting

Technique: Mirror Glazing

How To Do It:
Savour Chocolate & Patisserie School on YouTube has great video tutorials. One of them focuses on pastry chef Kirsten Tibballs’ recipe for marble glaze. For this heart cake, I eliminated the other colors and only used red.

Order hard-to-find items online such as sheet gelatin, neutral glaze (if using), high-quality coverture white chocolate, glucose and flexible silicon mold.

Success Tips:

  • Be mindful of temperatures. Gelatin’s setting power will diminish if overheated (above 140º). Use the type of gelatin suggested in the recipe.
  • Plan to have extra glaze to cover the whole, completely smooth cake.
  • The glaze temp should be between 95º and 98º.
  • A mousse-base cake or cake covered with marzipan or fondant works best for shaped cakes.
  • Freeze cake before glazing.
  • Set up pouring station. Don’t use a grate or cooling rack if you don’t have any support under your cake.
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