Cakes of Grace’s edible art
By Kendra R. Chamberlin
Grace Emden, the cake artist behind Cakes of Grace, has been cooking and painting all her life. Sculpted cakes have become her tailor-made medium of artistic expression. (Credit: Kendra R. Chamberlain)
“I’m not a wedding cake baker,” Grace Emden, owner of the cake business Cakes of Grace, said in phone interview last week. “I’m a cake sculpture artist.”
One look at her portfolio tells you the distinction is important.
“Wedding cakes are kind of boring. Some people love the delicate and tedious details of wedding cakes, but I don’t like it.”
Emden instead pours her creative energy into something she refers to as “themed cakes.”
A pot of crawfish, a plate of spaghetti, a giant shark – “Basically, anything that you want.”
“A themed cake – it never fails to be a huge centerpiece of a party,” she said. “People get really excited; they’ll call me. I’m pretty creative, and I’ll give them more and more ideas. Most of the time people give me free creative license. I’ll do consultations by email or in person; I’ll actually do sketches. I’ll work out the physics of the cake, and how to sculpt it.”
When she says “spaghetti cake,” what she is describing is a cake shaped like a giant plate of spaghetti and meatballs – really, it looks like a giant plate of spaghetti.
“The spaghetti cake was red velvet with a butter cream frosting, with a homemade fondant,” she explained.
In Emden’s art form, the cake can become an extension of the person celebrating, or being celebrated. It becomes an illustration of a person’s personality. The spaghetti cake is a great example: the birthday cake was for a friend’s Italian grandmother, who spent every Sunday cooking spaghetti for the family.
That’s not even the weirdest thing she’s ever made. From sculpted baby cakes – currently a baby shower craze – to a replica of Raymond James Stadium, to even certain risqué appendages, Emden has indulged the strangest of cake requests.
“Four-foot shark – that was a weird cake,” she said. “One of the weirdest requests was a giant clock with a polo symbol on each number. And the Grateful Dead bear holding a Swedish flag.”
“The shock value of cutting into the cake sculpted like a baby or a dog! People love it,” she said. “Of course, it takes a while for people to want to cut into it.”
Emden said her art form has transformed not only the way her clients look at cake, but even how she looks at the world.
“There’s not much that I don’t look at and think, ‘How can I turn that into a cake?’”
The process, she said, takes about six hours from start to finish. She starts with pans of regular round or square cakes, which she then cuts and builds up into elaborate shapes, using frosting, wooden dowels, and her own special home-made fondant – the lynchpin of cake sculpting.
“My fondant tastes like a marshmallow cream,” she said. “It doesn’t add or take away from the actual cake itself, and it’s impossible to do without it.”
“Everything is priced on a per-cake basis,” she said. “There’s not many people around here that do what I do.”
Emden, who has been cooking professionally since she was 16, is also a painter. But sculpted cakes are a happy marriage of her passions.
“That’s why cake is a perfect medium – because I could paint with the frosting, sculpt with the fondant, and cook. Every hobby that I had together in one medium.”
For more information on Grace Emden’s cakes, visit www.CakesofGrace.com