Contrary to popular belief, the cakes baked by Unicorn Magic Baking Company do not contain actual unicorns.
"Eww. That's gross," says Dani Forlizzi, scrunching her nose. "We like unicorns. We don't want to eat them."
Forlizzi and co-owner Kaycee Wysaski do not chop or slice or grind or purée or otherwise process unicorns or other mythical creatures to achieve their signature rainbow-colored cakes.
No, the cakes are made from far less exotic ingredients (flour, sugar, eggs), the precise combination of which is top-secret.
Neither is the cake made for unicorns. Or by unicorns. At least, not physiologically — Forlizzi and Wysaski are both young women in their 30s, but they call each other unicorns as a term of endearment. For the most part, theirs is a strictly human operation: Forlizzi bakes, Wysaski decorates. Occasionally, interns come in to help dye frosting or scoop batter into cupcake wrappers or schlep catering equipment from place to place. They are called "internicorns." They work for scraps of leftover cake. Unicorn Magic Baking Company's fans, whose numbers are modest but growing, are called "friendicorns." At last count there were more than 700 of them on Facebook.
Oddly, Forlizzi has never baked a cake in the shape of a unicorn. "But it doesn't mean we can't," she says quickly. Cakes in funny shapes — footballs, ducks, top hats, roller skates, Jesus heads, what have you — are trendy right now. Forlizzi, though, prefers more traditional shapes. They are better for achieving a good cake-to-icing ratio. "You don't get a whole lot of cake with those funny-shaped ones. To form the three-dimensional shape, you have to use Rice Krispie Treats, which aren't cake. Above all, these things should taste good."
Taste, of course, is subjective. So while Unicorn Magic Baking Company specializes in rainbows, they're not the only offering on the menu.
"We do so many flavors," Wysaski says. "That's kind of our thing. We'll do whatever you want."
When someone asked for a peanut butter and jelly cake, they obliged. Ditto the alcohol cakes. People have been asking for those a lot lately. Wysaski and Forlizzi have baked Champagne cakes, and Guinness cakes, and mojito cakes. They made one with port wine ganache and another with tequila caramel frosting.
Some aren't alcohol cakes proper but rather are imbued with alcoholic potential. "Hey, Dani," Wysaski asks, "what do you think about a cupcake with a chocolate shot glass sunk inside it that people can fill with anything they want? Vodka or rum or whatever liquor they're drinking? Would they like that?"
"Um, yeah," Forlizzi says in a sarcastic way. "People would like that."
Chalk it up to the slyness of unicorn magic: The sunken chocolate shot-glass cupcakes found a home with an unexpected demographic — children. They've been slugging down shots of milk.
Wysaski and Forlizzi are loath to turn down orders, but occasionally they must. Like the time a guy wanted an opium-flavored cake. Or when another guy wanted a rainbow cake that tastes like chocolate. "In my world, chocolate is already a color," Forlizzi says. "It's brown. It can't be red and blue and green. People. It's, like, did you think about that before you asked it?"
Cakes must comply with the laws of reality, "even with the unicorn magic," Wysaski adds.
Or not. Perhaps the unicorn cakes possess strange, synesthetic properties. Perhaps customers are living in their own alternate reality. But people swear they can taste the colors in the rainbow cake. "Whoa! I can taste the red," they'll say. The blue, they believe, tastes like blueberry, and the purple tastes like grape. The pink, they think, tastes like strawberry or raspberry. This is pretty bizarre, since all of it is actually the same light citrus flavor.
"We also discovered if lemon frosting isn't dyed yellow, people won't taste the lemon," Forlizzi says, shrugging.
Cakes are only half of the Unicorn Magic Baking Company experience. Delivery is the other half. The official company song was born thus: One day, Wysaski woke up from a nap with music in her head. She took up the pen beside her and scribbled some lyrics on a piece of paper.
Unicorn magic is who we are,
We will travel near and far,
Baking up magic is what we do,
And so we're here bringing it to you!
Now, each time they deliver a cake, the women wear tap shoes, dance a routine and sing the song. "People always want to take a picture with us," Forlizzi says.
Once a month, she and Wysaski drive around the city in their van with cake and hand out free slices. Both women live on the Eastside but have driven as far west as Santa Monica. Tell them your address, phone number and bedtime and they will arrive promptly upon the scheduled hour to tuck you in. They'll do the song. They'll do the dance. They'll feed you cake. They keep driving, slicing, dancing and singing until the cake is gone. These evenings are called Tuesday Nights of Magic.
Two of their friends have even volunteered to wear unicorn costumes and prance around as part of the delivery process.
Once a woman cried when they delivered her cake. It was for her dear friend with a passion for 1960s furniture. Wysaski and Forlizzi baked a cake decorated with an Eames chair drawn in icing. How did they know?
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Wysaski and Forlizzi receive tons of questions, but they ask just as many. What is the cake recipient's favorite movie? Her favorite book? His favorite candy? How do they decorate their house? What is their favorite color? Not every question is answered. People seem to choose to answer the questions that most inspire them regarding the person for whom the cake is intended.
Baked with these answers in mind, the end product is an expression of a person's life at a certain moment in time — rendered in yummy dessert form. "People see themselves in the cake," Forlizzi says. "Then they eat it."
Turning a slice of a person's life into a slice of cake, as you'd expect, is a fairly labor-intensive proposition. Most of the money Wysaski and Forlizzi make goes right back into the business, and there are times when the two women are so stressed out about the pile of cakes in need of baking, they have to rub Wysaski's jade unicorn statue for luck. It presides over her kitchen like a little demigod tyrant.
"Unicorns," sighs Forlizzi. "They're such slave drivers."