Paintbrushes in hand, the artists begin another masterpiece. But this is no ordinary work of art: Cake is the canvas, frosting is the medium, and a kitchen is the studio.
East Dallas resident Julie Richey and friend Laura Larsen are creating “art cakes” – edible reproductions of favorite works of art.
The two women use white and dark chocolate, fruit puree, liqueurs, gold leaf and other gourmet ingredients (as well as not-so-gourmet items such as fruit roll-ups) to reproduce fine art on the surface of cakes.
“We love the challenge of reproducing recognizable images in frosting,” Richey says.
“And people get a kick out of eating Renoirs and Van Goghs,” Larsen says. The women produce the cakes through their company, Oggetti, based in East Dallas.
The women began making art cakes to celebrate birthdays while both studied art history at the University of Dallas. Richey and Larsen enjoyed creating the cakes, and their friends enjoyed receiving them.
Past creations have included Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night”, Janet Fish’s “8 Vinegar Bottles”, and Auguste Renoir’s “The Boating Party”. The women also have reproduced the works of impressionists, minimalists, pop artists and others.
Richey and Larsen work diligently to match colors, textures and brush strokes. For example, they say, white chocolate produces a smooth, flat finish, while frosting is manipulated to produce a dimensional texture.
Time is another challenge for the artists, both of whom work full-time at other jobs. Artists who use oils and acrylics can take weeks, months or even years to create paintings. Art cakes must be completed in hours if the cake is to be fresh.
“It is quite a challenge to reproduce something in a day that may have taken DuBuffet six months to finish,” Richey says, noting that she and Larsen once worked 21 hours with no sleep to complete a gold-leafed art cake for a wedding.
Completed cakes are delivered to customers with a postcard of the original painting so guests can compare the two versions – providing an interesting topic of discussion.
“At one wedding, we finally had to force them to cut the cake. The bride just didn’t want to destroy Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss”,” Larsen says.
Guests may have been concerned about eating “The Kiss” because it was covered with 24-karat gold leaf, but they needn’t have worried: The gold was paper thin and edible.
Some of the ingredients may seem a bit unusual, but the women innovate to achieve the textures and styles of the original paintings. For example, fruit roll-ups – a favorite snack of children – make ideal stained-glass windows.
“The bright colors and transparency of the roll-ups give the feeling of light coming through colored glass. We used them to create a Gothic stained-glass, rose window on a groom’s cake,” Larsen says.
While many customers are concerned only with the cake’s image, Richey says the artists work to ensure the cakes are not only edible, but delicious. Carrot, Italian crème, white chocolate caramel and devil’s food mocha are some of their favorites.
Richey and Larsen say their business plans extend beyond the kitchen and into the garage.
“Oggetti means ‘objects’ in Italian. We started off doing jewelry and art cakes, but we didn’t want to limit the company to one specific line of products,” Larsen says.
The two women also create custom-designed marble mosaic floors, table-tops and other furniture.
But even as they venture into other artistic endeavors, Larsen and Richey will continue to let art-lovers have their cake and eat it, too.
For more information call Oggetti at (214) 824-8601. Cake prices start at about $150.
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