Table Talk: Cake decorating

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Gretchen Leddy is understandably happy about the popularity of cake decorating.

The co-owner of Cakes of Distinction in Powell and president of the recently formed Central Ohio Sugar Artists is one of several local bakers whose customers want their cakes to have elaborate designs.

No longer content with a few butter cream roses, show borders and cursive messages, people want replicas of everything from pet dogs to guitars. TV shows such as "Ace of Cakes" on the Food Network and "Cake Boss" on TLC have increased the fascination level and expectations.

Leddy said the extra detailing comes with a price.

"If you want the more modern, more sculpted cakes, you're going to have to have a bigger pocketbook," she said. "It takes a lot more time, a lot more ingenuity on the cake-artist's part."

"I think before people didn't realize these things were an option," said Brian Hotopp, owner of Piece of Cake in the Short North. "They didn't realize a cake could look like a Chanel hand bag and be edible."

Some people believe designer cakes look good but don't taste that way because of the use of fondant, a pliant material made of sugar, water and flavoring that helps artists sculpt intricate images. Hotopp says he stays away form the cheap stuff. He buys fondant imported from Switzerland that actually tastes good, he said.

A decade ago, traditional designs accounted for 95 percent of the cake business at his shop. Now it's about half.

"It's really turned around," Hotopp said.

Tiffany Besozzi, pastry chef at the French Loaf in Grandview, said she recently created a three-dimensional treasure chest surrounded by seaweed and sand and accented with a broken ship plank.

Besozzi, who studied at the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute, said she was taught some techniques in school but learned many on her own.

"It's just like any other medium. Some skills you have," she said. "You've got to understand what you're using."

And she's up to the test.

"Sometimes it's really great to be challenged," she said. "It makes it a more interesting day to have someone come in and say, 'We need a stadium.' "

The practice has become so popular that Leddy has begun offering cake decorating classes, for a fee, at her store, 258 W. Olentangy St. There are separate classes for novices and more advanced practitioners.

Jan Kish, an internationally renowned cake-maker based in Worthington, said she's worried that the cake is getting lost in all of the flourishes and modern touches.

"I think (conventional designs are) a dying breed because it's moving more away from the cake, the integrity of the cake and the artistic food design and going more toward bells and whistles," said Kish, the owner of La Petite Fleur. "Can you have both? Yes I think they can have both. But people are more into the wow factor than the flavor."

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