Cake Design: Granules of Sweet Inspiration

Frost in Translation

By Andrea Boudewijn
Although bakers are designing on a smaller scale, the process for coming up with unique and beautiful cakes is not that different from how event planners or interior designers approach design on a large scale. Of course other cakes influence us some, as does fashion, nature, and architecture, but many times there is a specific inspiration. It’s my hope that this exploration of what gave rise to certain cake designs for our clients will enable you to also see the granules of sweet inspiration in your own field.



1. Tile Work
The Adamson House in Malibu, California, is a legendary property decorated with Malibu tiles similar to Spanish painted tiles. What makes them “Malibu” tiles? They’re decorated in the style of tiles produced at Malibu Potteries in Malibu in the late 1920s. Contiguous designs across the tiles make for amazing murals of nature’s birds and plants — worth a visit to Adamson House for sure.
For this first cake, I photographed many of the meandering shapes and images on the tiles, then re-created them on sugar tiles with food coloring and mounted them on the base of this cake. It fit the wedding and locale perfectly, and we loved making it!

2. Put a Bird on It!
When Jennifer and David came in for their cake consultation, they had a very different cake in mind: Simple buttercream waves with natural flowers — a very sweet traditional treatment. They showed me some of their collateral for inspiration, and being a mid-centch-modern girl, I gravitated to their Save-the-Date. So when I drew up their sketches based on their ideas, I threw in a wild-card sketch based on this, and voila! It’s the one they fell in love with!


3. Sweet Art Nouveau Beauty
This cake was drawn from my love of Art Nouveau, specifically an invitation suite from the good people at Hello! Lucky stationers in San Francisco. The pale blush and green colors and look of the vines and flowers on this invitation called to me, so I created this hand-painted cake and sugar gardenias for a photoshoot by Hayley Young Photography.

4. Parisian Forties Glam
Krista Mason Photography asked me to come up with a cake for a glam 1940s shoot to be held at The Ebell of Los Angeles. I dug around for inspiration on Pinterest and Google and found a treasure trove of old 1940s Paris fashion magazine pictures. Fashion from that era was dictated by war time rationing and the usual practice of one sewing one’s own clothes. These patterns reflect an efficient use of fabric for not only the basic dress, but also the dress accents of same-fabric layered and flounced to add interest. I loved the dress you see here in the upper right corner — you’ll see how it influenced the sugar paneling, and the hat inspired the sugar fabric “fan” held with a sugar brooch on the cake.

Handpainted birds - Photo by Andrea Bricco, Cake by  Superfine Bakery

5. Bowled over by Berries and Birds
Hand-painted birds and branches along with sculpted marzipan berries on this cake were inspired by the large bowl the cake is sitting on. I found it in a floral shop and had to have it. If you look closely at the berries on the bottom tier, off to the right, you’ll notice they’re taken directly from the branch painted on the bowl below it! I love this pairing.

6. Beautiful Workplace + Beautiful Work
In our kitchen we use a lot of small tools for sculpting sugar flowers, rolling small pieces of sugar dough, and doing the fine detail associated with our work. Here is the caddy that holds those tools for us, designed by the fine folks at Faber-Castell. Why am I showing you a tool caddy? Look closely at the flower designs on the side. We interpreted one onto a cake, and it came out beautifully. See? Inspiration really is everywhere! Surround yourself with beautiful things and you’ll produce beautiful things.

green cakes

7. Modern Love
A local stationer called Paper Olive designed an invitation suite after the Hollywood Regency style of Santa Monica’s Viceroy Hotel, decorated by Kelly Wearstler in strong kelly greens, mirrored surfaces, white sculptures and black accents. The paper inspired a trio of cakes for a more modern couple.

8. Going Dutch
Artists like Rothko, Picasso, Dali, Koons, are my typical go-tos for art inspiration, but for this one we went way back to Van Gogh for inspiration. We were commissioned by Brooke of Orange Blossom Events to prepare a cake in the style of Van Gogh’s “Landscape with Wheat Sheaves and Rising Moon.” Rather than copy the painting onto the cake, we worked hard to echo the look with similar paint strokes done with royal icing. The color in the painting is divided in half horizontally in half, so we did the same with our cake, then transmuted the moon into glowing orange flowers to make the cake more wedding-appropriate

Hungry for more? To satisfy that craving for more sweet inspiration for a project, I suggest looking everywhere! Look at the floor tiles where you’re eating brunch. Note the graffiti on the wall you walk by on your way to work every morning. The pattern on a dress in a childhood photo. Wallpaper, leaves, church spires, old peeling paint. Anything can be made into something beautiful with a sharp eye, creativity, and perseverance.

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Andrea Boudewijn opened Superfine Bakery to bring the couture designs and modern looks of NYC and European luxury cake makers to Los Angeles-area clients. Her award-winning pieces are inspired by architectural details, fashion, modern art, nature, and opulent accents.

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