It’s more than just a cake. It’s art.
The cake-decorating members of the St. Louis Cake Artists are Botticellis of butter, Fabergés of fondant, Seurats of sugar.
They even use the language of art. Ask Liz Kraatz her specialty, and she will say, “I sculpt. I do a lot of realism.”
Kraatz makes representational art out of cakes — her efforts have included depictions of a monkey head, a pineapple (but it wasn’t a pineapple cake), a hair brush and, disturbingly, a young woman being grabbed by Freddy Krueger from “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”
The group, which formed this year, is a way for cake decorators, both professional and amateur, to come together and share experiences and ideas.
“When you’re working on a project, you may need help or advice,” said Deva Williamson of the Lace Cake, one of the founding members.
“Being a baker, you’re up late at night, and it gets lonely. When you get stuck at 2 a.m., it’s nice to be able to email someone else for help,” said Kim Jack of Kakes, Icing & More.
Monthly meetings may include discussions about menus, shared stories about what works and what doesn’t, and shared recipes. By learning from others, all the members can improve their art. It’s all about support, information and inspiration, Williamson said.
One way the members can inspire others is through what are called collaborations. A number of members are picked to create their best work, based on a theme. These cakes are then professionally photographed — member Cash Murray of 876 Cakes handles the chores here — and the pictures are shared with the other members and the public.
The St. Louis group takes these collaborations one step further by styling the photo shoots. The cakes are still the focus, but the bakers dress in costumes and they use props and people in the background. It makes the collaboration more of an event, a way to grab people’s attention while also putting the fanciful cakes in a context.
Eventually, the group hopes that these collaborations will draw attention from outside the area. The idea is to put St. Louis on the cake-decorating map, to build enough buzz about the cake artists here that decorators from around the country come to think of the region as a hotbed of cake creativity.
And with that recognition may come the ultimate goal: a cake show.
Cake shows are big business. They draw thousands of people who come to take tutorials and classes on baking and decorating cakes. Professionals come to show what they can do, and vendors are there with the hard-to-find necessities of top-level decorating.
And of course everybody loves the competitions featuring towering spires of cakes and inspired flights of baked, buttercreamed fancy. A competition in this summer’s New York show featured cakes depicting King Kong holding a Big Apple, an assortment of Broadway Playbills and the winner of the People’s Choice award, a rat eating a pizza.
A show in St. Louis would be good for the group, but also good for the area as a whole, they said. Like any convention, the crowds who come for the cakes during the day will want to will want to learn about and explore the city at night.
But for the time being, a cake show is still just a dream. For now, the group is focusing on building membership and creating a community of cake decorators.
“It’s about helping each other,” Jack said.
“It is also a social aspect,” Murray said. “It’s another component of community. We get people together.”