Postcards from the Cake Frontier

As longtime readers of this blog know, I have a sort of fascination with the excesses of cake decorating (I’m not immune to decorating excesses myself, but my weakness lies on the cookie front).  Anyway, every once in a while I like to visit the far frontiers of cakery to see what the natives are doing.  

This week’s excursion was inspired by the arrival of Amanda Rettke’s  Surprise-Inside Cakes, which is exactly what it sounds like – cakes baked with some tricky layering inside, so that when you cut open the cake you see a slightly blurry, food-dyed, cross-sectioned shape hiding in the center – a heart or house or cowboy boots. As crazy as it seems, I suppose it’s only to be expected in a world where 10 Speed Press’s  Modern Art Desserts could be the sleeper hit of the urban holiday-cookbook season.  

Meanwhile, the cake-pop trend continues to defy gravity.  Here’s the latest one, if you haven’t seen it: Amazing Cake Pops: 85 Advanced Designs to Delight Friends and Family, by Noel Muniz.  Yes, we have reached the point in our confectionery evolution that there are “advanced designs” in cake pops. Polar bears, flying pigs, football helmets, beehives – at this point, the question is: what can’t you turn into a cake pop?

 I’m the last person to be amazed at the human capacity to go kitchen-crazy.  But I guess what surprises me is the broad reach of these books, which often go on to be bestsellers, which in turn suggests that we’re not just talking about 1 or 2 home bakers in dye-speckled aprons with sugar stuck to their flyaways (no doubt I looked a bit like that myself last week).  Lots of people are trying to pull this stuff off.   How much further can it go?  And when we look back in 50 years, will the fancy-cakes movement look as callow and gee-whiz as the aspics and jellied salads of the 60’s look to us now?

Only time will tell.

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  • darcie_b  on  February 18, 2014

    I just saw one of the Surprise-Inside cakes (featuring a rainbow heart) online yesterday. Even though I'm an avid baker, I've never tried anything more exotic than a checkerboard on the inside of my cakes. I'm not sure how I feel about this concept. I don't care for the taste of cakes with a lot of food coloring (no red velvet cake for me), so I doubt I will embrace this trend. I don't know if the "surprise inside" cakes will end up in a "gallery of regrettable foods" forty years from now, but Cake Pops just might.

  • tsusan  on  February 18, 2014

    Darcie_b, I'm doing my best to be open-minded about it, but you might just be right about those Cake Pops!

  • Christine  on  February 19, 2014

    That much food coloring really turns me off! I definitely bake for taste, not for looks. Not that I never use decorative elements, but I think so many baked goods are attractive to begin with without all the fuss.

  • hillsboroks  on  February 19, 2014

    I agree with Darcie B and Christine that the taste of strong food coloring is awful. And I agree with Christine that taste is the most important element of any dish and then appearance. Too many times I have been served something that looks impressive only to find when I take the first bite that it isn't worth the calories to finish it. My first impression on seeing the photos here is that these people have way too much time on their hands! I cannot imagine finding the time to make these kinds of cakes and that alone may doom them to the back of the shelf of dusty rarely used cookbooks someday.

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