There’s a lot of hype around hyper-realistic cakes right now. Earlier this year, YouTube was going wild with videos from some very talented bakers who’d made cakes that looked like, well, anything but cakes.
Soon, the internet was awash with bakes of bananas, houseplants and, appropriately, a bottle of hand sanitiser, that were all housing some deliciously sweet contents inside. A quick Google of the term results in pictures of cakes resembling all sorts of things – from other foods like lemons, a cut of meat and bags of crisps, to some flat-out bonkers things like sewing yarn, toilet roll and even a human hand!
Clearly, it seems like the only limit of what can be turned into cake is these extremely clever bakers’ imaginations. Combining an unreal level of artistry with some truly envious baking skills, it’s almost a shame to spoil these culinary creations by eating them.
Looking to wow your friends and family? With the help of a hyper-realistic cake maker, we’ll show you how you can make your very own toilet roll/crisp bag/hand/whatever cake at home.
Fondant: The hyper-realistic cake maker’s secret weapon
Obviously, the first thing that’s so noteworthy about these cakes is their stunningly realistic exteriors. The key ingredient in realising these uncanny cakes is fondant – a type of icing made from sugar, hydrogenated oils, glycerol and gelatine.
Fondant is highly malleable, making it kind of like moulding clay, while its stability allows it to retain its shape for long periods. This makes it more versatile than other types of icing and frosting, such as buttercream, which can be trickier to sculpt with.
But while fondant is the topping of choice for hyper-realistic cakes, there’s also an arsenal of cake decorating products that let home bakers capture the details of whatever household item, body part or other stuff they’re transforming into a cake. Things like edible glues, edible paper and lace, and icing pens with edible ink allow bakers to add the shading, colours and details that give their creations the impressive realism that truly makes them stand out.
With such a high level of artistry involved, getting to grips with fondant certainly takes time and effort to master. It’s easy an easy ingredient to get wrong, and using too much or too little can affect the texture of the final product.
While a mastery of fondant is essential in hyper-realistic cakemaking, these cake makers are talented sculptors too. One of the major players in the hyper-realistic cake game, Natalie Sideserf, holds a bachelor’s degree in art and originally had a career as a sculptor before transitioning into edible works of artistry. One look at her incredible Instagram page, and you’ll soon see just how much hard work and skill goes into making such incredible cakes.
Tips for making hyper-realistic cakes
We got in touch with expert cake maker Natasha Collins of neviepiecakes.com to ask her for some tips when it comes to getting these fantastic cakes looking so amazing, so you can give them a go yourself at home.
For starters, Natasha had a little secret in store for us: “Actually, a lot of my hyper-realistic creations are cookies. I make a lot of small items such as those in my Full English Breakfast or Christmas Lunch.”
However, if you do want to go the cake route, then Natasha says the carved and shaped base be should be covered with ganache or buttercream to create a smooth surface first. “Remember that the cookie or cake should be slightly smaller than the finished object,” notes Natasha, “the sugar paste will add almost 1cm of extra girth to whatever you’re creating.”
As for achieving that ultra-realistic look, Natasha always uses a reference when creating, whether it’s a photo or an actual object: “It helps to keep in mind the shape you are attempting at all times.”
When it comes to equipment, you don’t need any fancy, specially-designed tools either. Natasha says: “I don’t use any specialist equipment, just a scalpel or a small sharp knife, and I create lines or marks with a cocktail stick to add imperfections when I’m recreating certain things.”
Turning other foodstuffs into cakes is a particularly popular choice, and Natasha has few different tricks up her sleeve when it comes to adding those final realistic touches: “If I’m making roasted parsnip cookies, I’ll cover them with a light yellow sugar paste and then paint them with edible food colouring to create the texture of the roasting. I’ll always add some dark brown or black, as the real things tend to burn a little when roasted. Then I’ll paint in a few black spots to represent pepper sprinkled over the veg.”
Elsewhere, if you’re looking to recreate fungi, then to make the soil you’d see on a raw mushroom, Natasha suggests grinding up a chocolate cookie and then rolling the finished item in it. Looks gross, but tastes delicious!
Lastly, to achieve the sheen of roasted veg or fried eggs, Natasha suggests: “A spray-on varnish bought from specialist sugar-craft shops; it replicates the oil you see on these foodstuffs, and also works really well to replicate the shiny surface of cars or machines too!”
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