Pillowy with buttercream and resplendent with pastel-colored glory, there’s a new breed of cake standing proud, overflowing with its own gentle garishness.
The creations come draped with plump, pristine piping, bedecked with candied cherries and adorned with fat, glistening edible pearls. Found in New York, Florida, London, and Seoul, watch out for a smile-inducing slice at a bakery near you soon.
A natural progression of the soft, nostalgic-for-the-80s-and-90s styles that Millennial women who grew up seeing flower crown-topped photo edits on the internet are very familiar with (think pastel pinks and blues, hand-drawn doodles, dark imagery made cutesy in a collage setting), these cakes’ existence is evidence that Tumblr girls have grown up and gotten into baking.
The creators view these cakes as more art than confectionery. Coven Bakery, based in London, was founded in 2018 by Harriet Gibson, 27, and Erin Luker, 29. “We didn’t set out to be part of anyone’s moodboard, but that’s what our cakes have become, as if they were sculptures,” Gibson says. “The designs started out simple and became more elaborate because that’s what people were reacting to.”
With a background in fashion, the pair draws inspiration from influences as diverse as the Molly Goddard dress featured in the BBC series Killing Eve, penny candy and crystalised fruit displays, and last year’s Manolo Blahnik exhibition at the Wallace Collection in London.
“We have a strong basis in traditional [cake decorating] techniques,” said Luker, the trained baker of the duo. “Just as you can’t make a dress without pattern cutting, you can’t make these cakes without knowing how to pipe. We’re starting from a very classical perspective.”
The founder of Brooklyn custom pastry maker The Gemini Bake was inspired by decades-old Wilton Cake Decorating magazines that belonged to her mother. “I have vivid memories of flipping through them as a kid,” said Samantha Raye, 29. “I can’t put my finger on what it was about them that I was so drawn to, but I was mesmerized. I’ve started collecting old copies up to the mid 90s, which is when fondant started replacing buttercream. That’s where I draw the line.”