Cake imitates art in the case of my brother’s M.C. Escher birthday cake.
My brother Nik is one of those wild artist types – he paints, draws, whittles his own instruments from bamboo, but then I found him washing clothes without detergent when we lived together a few years ago. Nik has a very analytical eye so the bar was high for coming up with a design concept. “Cheap” is his favorite word for describing something lacking artistic merit and poorly executed, and I did not want to hear that word in relation to one of my cakes. My sister and I brainstormed ideas for days. We considered some type of optical illusion pattern but wanted some nod to fine art. That’s when we arrived at the work of M.C. Escher and specifically his awesome lithograph print “Reptiles.”
I ran the idea by Paige, and she was excited to make such an interesting custom cake. Little tessellation groups of three reptiles appear around the side of the cake.
Playing with the story from the print of the reptiles coming out of their drawing and into three-dimensional space to crawl over various objects on the desk, Paige made a little head coming from one of the flat reptiles. This is the entry point to the top of the cake as we begin to follow their path.
To further personalize the cake, I (yes, me!) made fondant items related to Nik for the reptiles to interact with. The tube of paint is obviously for his devotion to art. A veiled reference to Nik’s love for all things Spongebob Squarepants is the seashell. The print has a dodecahedron on it, but I’m not that talented so I made a cube to hint at the motif of exploring three-dimensional space. The Mozart music book refers to his piano talents and his nickname “Wolfy” short for Wolfgang, Mozart’s first name.
Nik was absolutely blown away by his cake!! He thought it was very clever and appreciated all the little inside jokes.
The cake itself is actually a vegan peanut butter cake with peanut butter icing and it’s sooo good you wouldn’t even know it’s sans dairy and eggs. Nik had an unfortunate incident with butter in his childhood and hasn’t consumed any since. It’s a shame but also a fun challenge as a pastry chef to make a new vegan cake every year.
xoxo Erin B, pastry chef