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December 17, 2001

How can it have calories if it’s art?
Posted by Teresa at 11:00 AM *

I suppose you could describe the mighty Earlene Moore as a middle-aged wife and mother who lives in Lubbock and runs a cake-decorating business on the side, but that would be just plain inadequate. Earlene is an exuberant American folk artist who happens to work in sugar. Here’s a minor example: A lot of cake decorators will do you a passable computer cake (compare: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5), but Earlene’s computer is something else again.

Here’s her armadillo. A labrador retriever and a prairie dog. A basket of leaves. A burger with a side of Doritos. Buddy Holly. Ulysses S. Grant. A giant bottle of Tabasco sauce. Assorted sporting goods, with several variants on the “basketball with strawberries” theme. Palladio’s Villa Rotonda, in detail (here’s the original). A two-page “how I did it” leading up to a fishing creel that has to be seen to be believed. And much more besides. She’s scrupulous about crediting the originator of any design she didn’t come up with herself, so I assume the rest are hers.

The wedding cakes are morphologically conventional (except for the Alice in Wonderland cake), but the execution is wonderful: tie-dyed fondant, lace overlaid with more lace, edible ribbon bows, and one draped-and-festooned confection that looks like something out of Edward Gorey. For pure technique, check out the photos here and here (scroll down). For good advice about coping with difficult moments, try here.

It’s a site that repays leisurely browsing. You’d think a link that says “Cake Show Hints” would just get you inside-baseball techniques for other cake decorators, but that’s where you find photos of the cakes Earlene makes when she’s showing off for other cake decorators — or as she puts it, cakes that take so many work hours that no one would ever pay you to do them.

More cake personalities and eye candy: Cliff Simon is a confectioner to the stars, and a raconteur. His cakes are to die for — Faberge eggs, Chagall knockoffs, Day of the Dead imagery, Matisse cutouts — but I like his stories even better:

I did a wedding cake for a couple who had each been married once before. They wanted something different. They thought it would be a dandy idea to have both of their portraits on top of their cake. Who was I to argue? I paint cakes, I am not an expressive aesthete. So I gave them what they wanted (It’s my gift. I always give people what they want. Some see this as wimpy behavior. But last week my therapist told me it’s a strength of mine. Then she asked for her check.).

The cake was very nice, such as it was. I myself was at the wedding (in disguise, not wearing an apron). The bride’s ten year old, hyperactive, somewhat precocious and manic little girl attended. She reminded me of me as a kid, except for the dress. So I took her under my wing, and tried to calm her down. I escorted her to my cake, thinking a point of focus will help this urchinette. She stared at it, and suddenly, it was like this enormous light bulb went off in her head. She had found her purpose, and she repeated it over and over again. Wherever she went that night, she said it. Buddhists say ohm (or do I mean electricians?), but she kept saying “I want to eat mommy’s eye. I want to eat mommy’s eye.” In between courses at dinner, we all heard it filtering through the wedding chatter. “I want to eat mommy’s eye.” And when finally it was time to cut the cake, there was no way on earth to refuse her her wish. And I can still see her, clear as day, holding that retinal piece of cake up to her mouth, with absolute relish and reckless abandon.

Charmaine Jones, alias the Cake Diva, is a six-foot-tall Afro-American drama queen with an MFA from Loyola and a long-term addiction to soap operas, so naturally the gallery of cake photos on her site is divided up into Soap Opera, Afrocentric, Extreme, Conceptual, Wedding, Novelty, and Corporate. There are even a few stories.

Oi Cheepchaiissara makes some nice cakes, but her forte is madly elaborate Thai fruit carvings. Really. Go look.

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