Elton John's Eiffel Tower, Bob Hope's piano and Bernadette Peters' shoe have one thing in common: They've all become cakes from Cake and Art, a West Hollywood bakery that can seemingly recreate anything into a cake. From cars to sculptures, animals to accessories, from a bloody body to a family photo.
This was a revolutionary idea when Glenn Von Kickel founded the bakery in 1976. Three decades later, the crazy idea that Von Kickel, who died in 2001, and his business partner Tom Rosa translated into art has become a successful business.
“It basically comes down to an artist trying to find a new outlet,” Rosa said, “The outlet was cake.”
Kickel hired real artists to paint and sculpt on cakes — but hardly anyone knew how to do that at the beginning. The only people who were adept at it were those who liked to watercolor, because painting on a cake surface used a watercolor base. Sculptors were frustrated when their works fell apart midway, since cakes were nothing like clay.
“With cakes, it doesn't mold like that,” Rosa says, “You cut it in shapes and then ice it with icing, and use different tools to create the shape.”
Cake and Art limits the variety of cakes they offer and has kept the same recipe for 25 years. When the business first opened, there were only three types of cakes offered: chocolate, lemon and carrot. Even now, they only offer 15 flavors in the cupcake line (among them, chocolate, peanut butter and key lime).
But today more clients are requiring bigger and more outrageous cakes, so much so that Rosa says it's both a blessing and a curse to be one of the few cake artists in town. What Rosa and Kickel wanted to focus on, however, was their art. Rosa recalls frequent arguments with film producers about the color and lighting of the cakes, and says that requests for last-minute changes and results are often an issue. But for Rosa, the joy is to see their cakes on TV shows and in movies — including New Girl and, last night, Jay Leno's The Tonight Show.
Because even though cake art may seem maddeningly ephemeral, “You can always photograph it,” says Rosa. “So it always lives.”
Check out Nanette Gonzales' slideshow of Cake and Art.
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