December 6, 2016

Cake Design – a beautiful transient art form

Cake, an art form? I hear you question….REALLY! Well yes, beautiful, designed and decorated cakes come into existence using the same design processes and considerations as say the latest collections on the London or Paris catwalks. I am a cake designer and for me, cake is my canvas and sugar my medium. I have always been creative and when I was younger I wanted to paint, but never found the time. Through creating birthday cakes for my children however, I discovered I had a flair for design. This spurred me onwards and upwards. It has not always been easy and as Elizabeth Gilbert says:

“It’s difficult to create things, if it wasn’t difficult, everyone would be doing it and it wouldn’t be special or interesting”

I find that people are generally fascinated by my work and frequently ask where my ideas and inspiration come from.

Retro circle cake inspired by a an old embroidery book and trip to Liverpool

Retro circle cake inspired by a an old embroidery book and trip to Liverpool

Looking for Cake Inspiration
I spent a very pleasant afternoon a couple of weeks ago, sitting in the warm glow of my wood burner, designing a wedding cake that will ultimately be published in a cake decorating magazine next year. It’s impossible to design in a vacuum, like all true artists and designers I need inspiration and this can come from absolutely anywhere.

Developing an Idea
You may think it sounds rather unlikely, but the idea for this particular design came from a chance overheard, rather negative remark that a bride had chosen fuchsias as her wedding flower. Now like the bride, I love fuchsias. As a young teenager I collected cuttings, propagated and grew many beautiful fuchsias. I carefully over wintered the plants in my mothers greenhouse and was very proud of my interesting collection that flowered so profusely each and every summer. I know this may well seem a little weird to today’s teenagers but I grew up with no television in a rural area with little going on…. it was long before the distractions of the internet and mobile phones. Fuchsias held a certain appeal for me and still do, which I guess is why this chance remark stayed with me and why I felt I needed to give the flower my ‘support’.

Drawing on Multiple Sources for Inspiration
Designing is a process with an unknown outcome, so where to start? For me, I like to create a context for an idea. I start by researching and collecting design references. I love this part of the process, it is where I look through my photographs and design reference books, I have collected quite a library over the years. Search the internet for trends and any additional inspiration particularly current colour palettes. I open myself up to ideas, let my eyes feast on the beautiful details and allow one idea or spark another. For me, it’s like picking sweets in a sweet shop, ultimately I have to make choices where one choice often leads to another. Once my bag is satisfactorily full, I begin to sketch.

In this instance I started by sketching a late flowering fuchsia from my garden as this was to be central to my design. I sketched details from the design references that appealed to me, art nouveau patterns, historical ornament details, large fabric ruffles inspired by trends on the catwalk and a touch of gingham. To you, these may sound rather a mishmash of ideas but yesterday these were golden nuggets from which a cake design emerged.

Fabulous fringes cake inspired by a red and black Latino dance costume from 'Strictly'

Fabulous fringes cake inspired by a red and black Latino dance costume from ‘Strictly’

Fairy Dust
In her book, “Big Magic,” Elizabeth Gilbert likens this creative process to ‘fairy dust’ and says “I can feel myself being gently propelled by some external force, something is carrying me along – something powerful and generous and that something is decidedly not me.”

I feel exactly the same and its a wonderful. It doesn’t always happen, sometimes I can’t make an idea work no matter how hard I try, it’s like grouping around in the dark for a light switch and not finding one. Conversely very, very occasionally a fully formed design pops into my head by magic and I have to grab it whilst I can!

Cake may not be essential to our lives but it certainly enriches our experience. If I was a painter I would fill canvas upon canvas and they would probably sit in a pile in my loft – I’ve no idea if I would be a good painter – but as a cake designer, my art is very much admired but it doesn’t last long. I like it that way, it means I can continue to explore ideas and see where my creativity takes me next – how exciting!

Where do you go to find creative inspiration? Do you think that cake designs should be considered art? Please leave your comments below and share your creative experiences.

Sweet wishes

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