Saturday, February 9th, 2013
This past year we were invited to help celebrate many birthdays along with our usual weddings, and this special Carnivale-themed cake was made for a soiree designed by Hidden Garden in Santa Monica.
The California Club in Downtown L.A. was completely transformed: Large centerpieces of flowers, feathers and masks towered over the room filled with round tables. Each place setting had an ornate Carnivale half-mask (eyes only) of a variety of bright colors and glittery accents. I loved the room so much during delivery, I wanted to slip on a mask and try to blend in with the rest of the revelers, but the chef’s coat would have given me away ~:\ .
This confection was done in almond cake with pistachio icing (lots of nuts were lovingly salted, roasted and hand-chopped for this one), and stood four tiers high.
The bottom tier was covered in a diamond harlequin pattern made with five different colors in the warm shades the client preferred. Once the diamonds were applied, we loosely edged them in gold to give them an antiqued look.
Whenever we’re doing a geometric pattern like this, let’s face it, that math we thought we would never need comes in handy. If you don’t measure and apply the diamonds carefully, you end up with a wonky overlap in the back of the cake and really, who wants a wonky overlap? We don’t.
The three tiers on top featured sugar “splashes” going up the side, hand-painted in gold. A low patterned border at the base of each tier helped root the look of each color within the cake, and gave it an overall sense of visual stability.
Our favorite and most challenging part of the cake was likely the life-size sugar mask on top of the cake. It was our good fortune to start work in the month before Halloween, so it was easy for us to find a $.99 plain plastic white mask at the local craft store. We covered it with a very light layer of Crisco, then flattened plastic wrap over the top and cut out the eyes and mouth.
It looks pretty spooky (and maybe a little gruesome) at this stage, but I promise it gets better!
After we prepared the surface of the plastic, we laid a thin sheet of sugar paste over top and smoothed it down all the way to the edges. Some gentle repeated pressure over the lips, cheekbone, and nose areas helped us get good definition from the model underneath. A few cuts with an x-acto knife, and voila, we had the mask’s shape in sugar.
The sugar mask in its box, ready for delivery.
Left to dry for a couple of days, the surface hardened enough to remove it and place it on another surface to allow the underside to dry. It takes a long time — don’t think you can do this the night before! Once dried thoroughly, we pulled some pictures from around the web of other Carnivale masks and free-painted the surface with red, gold, and orange icing to match the cake. Yep, not only can you actually *wear* the mask, you can eat it! The final result was stabilized on top of the cake and the gold paint reflected the warm lighting all around the room.
We were honored to find, upon delivery, that the cake was to be the grand centerpiece of a long, winding 25-foot dessert buffet! We loved doing this cake and working with the amazing folks at Hidden Garden. Stay tuned for a full video tutorial on YouTube for the mask! And if there’s a tutorial you’d like to see from us, please comment and let us know.
Love from L.A.,
Wednesday, April 18th, 2012
I know I usually write about cake in this space, but I’m a Foodie. I love good eats and drinks, be they savory or sweet. Recently I’ve discovered some fantastic low-key, high-quality spots that might just rock your world as much as they did mine. Come with me as we drink, eat, and breakfast our way around town…
I was recently invited to meet friends on this chic rooftop lounge situated on top of the new Hotel Wilshire. I slid into this C-shaped seating you see on the left, and cozied up with seven or eight of the best and brightest in the event industry. Delicious and beautiful drinks were served (the bartender even rocked out my off-menu favorite: Champagne + St. Germain).
The food served alongside was created by Eric Greenspan, who worked in kitchens alongside Alain Ducasse, Ferran Adria at El Bulli, and Joachim Splichal at Patina. He’s been profiled in countless magazines, and spanked Bobby Flay during an Iron Chef competition. If you’re a foodie like me, his work is like going to mecca — you’ve never had bar food like this. The Grilled Cheese we were given blew my mind, so come prepared to have a few apps with your drinks. Definitely a perfect place to meet for drinks on Mid-Wilshire, right in the center of town. Easy, friendly, stylish, and delish.
The Roof on Wilshire at the Hotel Wilshire, 6317 Wilshire Bl., Los Angeles. 323.852.6002
Next, let’s head over to Studio City and eat at Ombra:
Peaceful and warm, Ombra's ambiance is only the first of many treats.
Chef Michael runs the predominantly Italian kitchen (there’s a nod to Spain here and there) at this modern tucked away gem, and he does it with an insightful, articulate palate. The creativity here does not turn over the graves of the old Italian masters with deconstructed platters and molecular gastronomy. Instead it honors the best Italy has to offer with seasonal, light twists on the real deal. Fresh. Clean. Perfect.
I was well taken care of from the moment I walked in. Arriving first of my party of three, I was seated immediately, then brought bread and an amazing fresh artichoke spread. And then three perfect little Arancini appeared (I only ate mine — though I was sorely tempted to clean the plate and have it taken away before my friends arrived). No salt, pepper, olive oil or butter on the table *because it’s not needed.* The food is that good.
Like me, the chef favors fresh, seasonal game, so I opened with one of the specials and split it with my dinner-mate: Rabbit terrine topped with white chunks of apple stewed in Muscato. Terrines are difficult to make — so much so that they’re a required element in MOF Master Chef competitions. Chef Michael’s had a sublime flavor, rich texture, and was unforgettable.
For my Primi I ordered Risotto in a different style than I’m used to: With fresh spring peas and shoots, called Risi Bisi. Very light and the veg was cooked to that exact moment when it’s softened, but still electric green. Easy on the eyes and fantastic to eat.
My Secondi was the first thing that caught my eye on the menu: Wild Boar Meatballs. Three beautiful meatballs about the size of large tangerines rested on a bed of soft warm polenta, and were a great, clean spring-time take on the more common heavily-seasoned meatballs drowning in marinara.
One last note: The wine list is spectacular. There isn’t a bad bottle in the bunch. The most robust selection is Italian, but if you’re in the mood for a French Pape or a Spanish Gavi De Gavi, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Thank you Chef Michael and the attentive staff at Ombra for an amazing dinner. We’ll be back.
Ombra: 3737 Cahuenga Bl., Studio City. 818.985.7337
Cut to the next morning: Jumpin’ Java, Studio City:
The Cinnamon Kiss: Not a breakfast for the sugar-sensitive.
If you have heart issues, diabetes, or are avoiding carbs, this is not the dish for you. However, if you want to reward yourself for something and have a friend you can share this dish with, I can’t recommend a more transporting breakfast than the Cinnamon Kiss pictured above.
The Cinnamon Kiss is pain perdu or French toast, battered and flattop cooked like the others you’ve had. The difference is in the sauce and powder sprinkled over top. I’m guessing at ingredients here, but the sauce seems to be sauteed sliced bananas and walnuts swimming in *salted* maple syrup. The bread is topped with the sauce, then powdered with a conconction of powdered sugar, fine cinnamon, and MORE SALT.
For me, a salt-a-holic in the first place, this was mind-blowing. Don’t even try to talk while eating it — you’ll only be able to manage groans. I think I popped a blood vessel in my right eye while experiencing the sugar rush, but it was worth it. Simply outstanding. Don’t think — just go.
Jumpin’ Java: 11919 Ventura Bl., Studio City. 818.980.4249
Friday, March 16th, 2012
Photo: Sara Allen, OneLove-Photo.com
I have a deep and abiding love of fonts, letters, and literature. Whether a clean mainstream font like Century Gothic, or an ornate hand-painted Japanese Kanji, the shapes of letters numbers and ampersands in their various fonts is an art form. I love text in my paintings too. Maybe it’s the English major in me, or maybe it’s my mid-century modern appreciation of clean form. I’m not sure. But fonts, typography, and their role in literature has always held a compelling magnetism for me.
I don’t participate in many photo shoots these days, but when Event Planner Kristeen LaBrot and Photographer Sara Allen called me to talk about making cakes for a typography shoot, I didn’t take much convincing.
Photo: Sara Allen, OneLove-Photo.com
A monogram was the immediate, obvious treatment for the cakes, as they’re always in fashion, but I like to take something that’s a standard and spin it somehow. Reinvent it. Innovate. Why be just like everyone else, right? Sometimes it means going bigger, sometimes smaller, sometimes beyond the predictable space a wedding cake typically occupies.
Now maybe nine cakes is a lot for anyone to take on, but it was the only design that satisfied all my requirements: Typography, all edible, and something I hadn’t seen before. I came up with the bride and groom’s names, Anne and Adam, after learning one of my favorite actresses, Anne Hathaway, was recently engaged (congrats, Annie!). Plus their names were short — I really didn’t want to do this treatment for “Elizabeth & Remington.” WHEW — that cake table would have fed about 500.
This cake set feeds about 150 people and was featured on GreenWeddingShoes.com and includes the full set of photos including gorgeous florals by Gilly Flowers, a paper dress by couture dress designer Beane and Co., and gorgeous hair and makeup by Susie Chhuor.
The sugar flowers on the cake include bright versions of poppies, peonies, sweet peas, sugar ranunculus, and various buds and hydrangea. Here are closeups of the clusters on the first “A” cake and the final “M” cake:
Photo: Sara Allen, OneLove-Photo.com
The ampersand cake was also displayed in our booth at the recent Cream Event at the Book Bindery in Culver City. Thank you to Erin J. Saldana for this lovely shot taken in the booth, alongside our plates of the North Beach Torte set out for the masses:
Friday, March 9th, 2012
This month California Wedding Day magazine featured a long-loved design that’s lived in my head for two years or so. Inspired by the spaghetti-haired girls, plants and reeds of the Art Nouveau movement, we created this gentle homage to the era.
I was particularly excited about this feature because the focus is on flavor, and how the flavor reflects the colors and design on the exterior. The outer design features hand-painted reeds and gardenias and various shades of olive, lime green, and pink accents, all outlined in 18K gold. Sugar gardenias adorn the side of the cake and the table (yes, even those petals on the table are sugar!) and occur in a more figurative style on the cake, so we created the Pink Gardenia flavor for the interior: Pink Velvet cake layered with raspberry puree, whole raspberries and gardenia aromatic buttercream. Slight whiffs of gardenia along with the sweet soft cake and whole raspberries conjure a Summer-garden feel.
If you look closely at the plated piece of cake, you’ll notice the leaves under the raspberries are also sugar — yum!
Behind-the-scenes: Things frequently change during a shoot due to unforseeable circumstances. This time, the four-layer cake slice was *too long* for the plate, so the photographer had to carefully cut off the bottom layer! Luckily the way the image was cropped for publication, it simply looks like the cake continues off the page. Clever, no?
Floral flavors like gardenia (and more commonly lavender and rose) can be very polarizing: People either love them or hate them. I think they’re good if done EXTREMELY subtly. What are your thoughts?
Many thanks to Lara Burnap at CWD and to High Tea for Alice for the lovely vintage cake stand.
Thursday, February 2nd, 2012
We’re thrilled to announce that Superfine has been chosen as the exclusive wedding cake house to grace the floor of The Cream curated wedding show on March 1 at the Book Bindery in Culver City, CA! There will be GOOD gift bags, wine, Superfine cake, sudden bursts of confetti, delicious ice cream, jaw-dropping table designs, nouveau florals, perfect music, hott fashion, and unique furniture and decor all for rent at your event!!
The Cream is a curated wedding show featuring the latest stylings of the L.A.-based duo at Bash, Please, Kelly Harris and Paige Appel. The shows are recognized in national print and on-air media as the go-to for the engaged art & fashion set throughout the US, and having recently completed a successful fourth show in Austin, Texas, they’re bringing their magic back to Los Angeles.
The Culver City Book Bindery will be the largest of their shows yet. All previous shows have averaged a capacity of 300-350, but this one invites 800 lucky ticket holders to hang with the largest crop ever of hand-picked wedding vendors gathered for this event. All previous shows have sold out, so buy your tickets now!
Come by and say Hi to the chef (that’s me, Andrea, over there in the gold sequin shorts), taste some DECADENT cake, nosh on some of our wildly popular Fleur de Sel caramels, and pick up a secret code ONLY FOR THE CREAM ATTENDEES for 25% off our caramels when purchased from our Etsy shop!!
Hope to see you there!
One last thing: We have chosen the winner of our ticket giveaway. The lucky gal is Maria Valentin! Congratulations, Maria!
Sunday, January 15th, 2012
A little Art Deco with a twist of modern sugar succulents on top was just the ticket for Victor and Richard’s wedding on the 54th floor of the Wells Fargo building in downtown LA, also known as the City Club. A shimmery lilac decorated the whole event from the linens to the lighting, so I opted to create a lilac Art Deco pattern on their cake and brushed it with a little shimmer.
The Art Deco movement in LA is similar to the style that evolved in another coastal city, Miami. It’s softer shapes that echo clouds and waves, as opposed to the “Zig-Zag Deco” style popular in New York as expresssed with chevrons and sharp sculpted embellishments. Since this cake is in LA, I wanted to make it more architecturally relevant, so here we have the soft cloud motif.
The sugar succulents (yes, they’re all sugar), were made using life models bought at my local garden center. I bought a variety and copied them, all the way down to dusting the color on: Pale blue at the center, and light touches of green on the bottom leaves’ edges. Succulents are great to work on because they’re so varied and strange, some looking like plants from another planet. It’s impossible to make them look bad! I can’t wait to do more…
The stunning florals (like the arrangement above!) were provided by Meg McCarter of The Little Branch, event photography (and the portrait below!) by Leah Lee Photography, and event design was beautifully executed by Seth Matheson of Seth Matheson Designs. Congratulations, Victor and Richard!!
Superfine Bakery supports art programs in K-12 schools, groups involved in animal rescue, and marriage for all. In the spirit of love and marriage for all, we ran a contest on Facebook and Twitter offering a free wedding cake for the first same-gender California couple to get married under the new New York laws, and return to LA for their ceremony. Victor and Richard were our winners!
Saturday, January 7th, 2012
Staci and Rob chose an outdoor setting under a pergola at the gorgeous Ojai Valley Inn and Spa for their wedding dinner for 30, and wanted a rustic sweet cake to go along with it. She’s based in NYC, so we worked completely via email and phone. Staci sent fantastic inspiration pictures for me to draw from, so I created this pink sugar peony, a watermelon-red poppy, and an orange poppy (based on our California state flower!) to create the energy on this cake.
I love big bold flowers, but also believe they need some contrast in color and small detail, so I added a few groups of small green buds and bright yellow to offset the deeper sunset colors of the large-flower grouping. The buttercream exterior was really fun to detail, but after being so oriented to making things perfectly straight and flat, I have to admit it was *hard* for me to snap out of that mode and free up my wrists and brain to make something more randomly textured like this! I love the way it came out though, and can’t wait to do another cake like this for a very special birthday girl in April (hi Karina!).
I loved working with Ariel Yve of Ariel Yve Designs, and can’t wait to work with her again.
Big hugs to you all and happy 2012!
Saturday, September 10th, 2011
Campanile, one of L.A.’s top restaurants, is housed in a historic building constructed in 1929 for the one and only Charlie Chaplin. Owned and operated by a Who’s Who of chefs, it also happened to be the site of today’s Superfine wedding.
Simple and clean was the order of the day. Our bride, Hillary, ordered a white stacked cake with flowing sugar ribbons, and asked for sugar sweet peas and sugar hydrangea to match the other flowers in the room. Hillary also wanted a straight-up chocolate cake for the kids (although a few adults came over during set up to request a piece!).
The cakes we design for children tend to be on the cleaner, more sophisticated side (sorry, no Elmo cakes here . This one’s no exception: We made a smooth chocolate ganache surface to cover the Black Onyx chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream inside, and popped a small cluster of sugar hydrangea on the top to coordinate it with the main cake.
The main white cake was a stack of Red Velvet, Carrot Cake, and Vanilla with Three-Berry icing (the bride’s favorite). When I do sugar straps or ribbons like these on a cake, I don’t like to leave the back plain: Two straight ends that simply meet at a seam. So I usually take the opportunity to add secret detail that somehow enhances and reflects the mood of the cake and the event.
This white cake had loose flowing ribbons around it, so I ended them with a slant cut and rippled them like loose ribbon ends. I added small sugar buttons as a closure and varied the heights of the ribbons to add some visual interest.
Congrats to Hillary and Manuello, and all the best!
Sunday, August 7th, 2011
Imagine a large passenger ship something on the scale of the Titanic, but more Art Deco than victorian inside. “Waterfall” style built-in woodwork (rounded corners and edges), high ceilings, and copper and brass details to finish off the look.
|click for larger view
This is the interior of the Royal Salon aboard the Queen Mary, docked in Long Beach Harbor since 1967. It’s also the setting for this week’s wedding cake table designed for Margie and Morgen, two architects from New York.
The Royal Salon has a lovely built-in buffet with a copper back and half-moon shape across the front. It served as the perfect space for the six cake set up Margie requested: All in vintage style, made with buttercream but for one. The center cutting cake (pictured at left) would be decorated with fondant tiers and delicate ruffles.
Margie had little ribbon flags made with various ribbons in her colors, seafoam and coral, and sent them to me to insert in the tops of the cakes. For her central cake, she had a very special paper flag made: It’s been calligraphed with “Margie & Morgen.” (click the picture for a closer view).
The flavor for this one was a fresh almond cake layered with Pistachio icing. An upscale and beautiful choice for Margie and Morgen to feed eachother for pictures.
Alongside the main ruffle cake is a version of the currently popular Frill cake, seen just to the left and back a little. I first saw this design in Martha Stewart, and it’s beautiful done in vintage pastels like yellow or pink, or white as in this photo (the dark room makes it look a tad yellow, but all cakes were white
This one was a carrot cake, a flavor popular with guests young and old.
Under a glass cloche, a round buttercream cake decorated with simple coral sugar buttons is elevated from just a cake to a precious object. Fun to make and sweet to look at, this cake was a sweet lemon cake (flavored only with fresh lemon juice and lemon zest), iced with vanilla bean icing.
Below you’ll see that on the far right end of the buffet we placed a cake covered top to bottom with sweet buttercream rosettes, and situated it next to the cake that, around the bakery, came to be known as the “Tiki Hut.” Vertical fluting on the sides and top angle of the Tiki Hut cake created a great structural statement among the softer cakes surrounding it, and placing it under a second cloche added balance to the larger one over the button cake. The rose cake was our Pink Velvet iced with Three-berry icing, and the Tiki Hut was a small carrot cake, the bride and groom’s favorite flavor.
Last, but not least, is our sixth cake below, a sweet stack of lemon cake and vanilla bean icing featuring simple Swiss dots on the bottom tier. As any cake-maker will tell you, Swiss dots appear simple and easy, but in fact take a lot of measuring and a steady hand. The eye seeks order, and if one dot is even 1/4 inch off its mark, the pattern appears off and the effect is ruined. And this table is not about odd patterns: It’s about order and grace. The beauty of math.
Adorable calligraphy and intricate letterpress of the main flag by Betsy Dunlap and Blackbird Letterpress, respectively. The flowers were done by Rebecca of Holly Flora who had beautiful dahlias, roses and more to dress the bases of the cake stands as well as the whole room. Thanks Rebecca, for the gorgeous finishing touches to the cake table, and to Margie and Morgen: Congratulations!!
Wednesday, July 20th, 2011
Greg and I took a little vacation from our lives early this month, and got to know Rome, Florence and eachother again. Hot days were spent walking cobblestone streets, seeking out the best food and most interesting people we could find. Above is a shot of cocco (coconut) and limone (lemon) gelato, taken outside the reputed best gelato place in Rome, Giolitti.
Streets in Italy criss cross, meet at odd angles, and there’s something beautiful and interesting around every corner. Avoid anyplace selling pizza. It’s good, but it’s the mark of an overpriced tourist restaurant that likely also serves packaged pasta. That’s not what we were looking for.
I’m a fan of gnocchi, so I ordered it in two different places there on the first two nights. Both were packaged. I was expecting something fresh, made that morning. I’ve been spoiled by the restaurants here in LA like Mario Batali’s Osteria Mozza and Fabio Viviani’s Osteria Firenze, both of whom specialize in fresh, homemade amazingness straight from the heart of Italy. Greg and I are fast learners though, so we spent Night #3 hunting the real deal.
At home one of our favorite ways to eat is tapas style. Grazing. Meats, cheeses, cornichons, olives, apples, dried apricots, cashews, marcona almonds — whatever is in the cabinet and fridge. So one night in Florence we were delighted to spy a small brick cellar-like shop down thre stairs, below a large building. The door was open, the lights were on, and I could see the edge of a well-lit glass case that looked like it had some goodies in it. Two older Italian men in suits were having an animated conversation over aperatifs with the owner behind the counter, and I was a little shy to intrude on what was clearly a local, private evening ritual. But I wanted some of that cheese. And some slices off the salami up high on a shelf behind the counter. So I walked in, and began a conversation in my broken Italian, to ask for some goodies.
The owner spoke little English, but as soon as I said the word “picnic,” he knew exactly what I was doing. He never asked for amounts, just cut off enough cheese, salami, and buttery prosciutto for two, held up two breads for me to choose from, and let me point at the dishes of roasted peppers, olives, pickled anchovy (Greg loves the stuff — me, not so much), and packed it up for us. While I spoke to the owner Greg browsed the floor-to-ceiling wine racks behind us and picked out a nice bottle of something for us to share. We paid, took the goodies back to our room, and had our first great, authentic meal of the trip.
After our dinner we wandered out for sweets. There’s no lack of goodies in Italy, and the people are so kind and helpful, you can make your vacation what ever you like.
No trip to Italy is complete without a visit to the Holy Land: Parma. Home of the best prosciutto in the world, we paid homage with a trip to the Prosciutto Museum there where we could learn about the happy piggies, the tradition of prosciutto making, and see some of the old tools and racks used since 1920. We were the only ones in there. I’d like to think it’s because we’re big LA celebs and they cleared the place out for us, but ah, I think it’s just ’cause no one else was interested. Ahem. Moving on…
We had the best meal of the trip on top of our last hotel, the Raphael in Rome. The rooftop restaurant serves four-star cuisine in an idyllic setting overlooking the rooftops and churches throughout Rome. With a light warm breeze and a big waxing moon hanging in the darkening sky, it was a great place to finish the trip.
If you’re planning a trip there anytime soon, here are a few resources to get you started. If you’re heading back next August, we’ll see you there :
Recommendations in Rome (Roma):
Via degli Uffici del Vicario, 40
Open daily 7:00 – 2:00 a.m.
Advice: Pay at the cashier booth in the front FIRST, then get in line to order your gelato.
Largo Febo 2, Piazza Navona
Make reservations to eat on the rooftop. Ask for Clive who has been managing the restaurant for 12 years.
Restaurant: See Hotel Raphael’s Restaurant.
Recommendations in Florence (Firenze):
Hotel: Palazzo Vecchietti
Via degli Strozzi 4
Only 12 rooms, this place provides the ultimate in service, peace, and lovely communal morning breakfasts.
Restaurants: Osteria Belle Donne
Via delle Belle Donne 16
Casual atmosphere with outstanding food, have Jacinto (Ja-shinto) recommend your wines.
For Grazers, hit up our little cellar find:
No idea what the name is, but it’s on Via Parione, across the street and up the same block a little from the restaurant Trattoria I’ Parione.