With our wedding fast approaching and a list the size of my arm of jobs to be done, I decided to add to the chaos by embarking on a creative project for decorating our wedding cake.
I’m pretty particular as far as weddings go, and didn’t want anything white and frilly in sight. The wedding was to be more of a loft-style party, loosely themed around an eclectic New York 70s disco scene. So there would be disco balls, ethnic throws, foil curtains, a jazzy band, African masks, tropical palms and lots of rich fauna. Random I know, but I had a vision and rolled with it!
I knew that there would have been no way of finding a wedding cake to fit into this strange theme, so my options were to either spend loads of money commissioning someone to make one, or to get stuck in and make it myself. Being on a bit of a budget, I chose the later, and grafted in the help of my talented older sister, Suzanne Clark, who has lots of experience in cake making.
Keen to produce something creative with artistic value, I begin to take inspiration from some of my favourite artists, one in particular being the Russian suprematist Malevich. Malevich’s work explores pure geometric forms and their relationship to one another, usually set against minimal backgrounds. The affect is simplistic geometric composition at its finest, and without the connection to objectivity as many artists before him had theorised. It was about geometry for its own sake, based on the feeling of constructing and combining the shapes, and no longer about shapes abstracting from objects. I was excited that this could be a direction for the cake... 3D geometric shapes on a simple white background, and the focus would be on how the shapes were put together.
I had heard about sugar art beforehand, a process used to make a glass-like material for cake decorating. I did a bit of research online and figured out how to make the stuff from some very simple ingredients; water, sugar, bicarbonate of soda, food colouring, and America’s favourite… corn syrup. You just have to heat these ingredients up to a certain temperature and stir very slowly for a few hours. How hard could it be?! Actually the process is really easy, but it takes a hell of a long time. I spent evening upon evening making these sugary pieces, in different shapes using silicon moulds, and then freezing them to prolong their lifeline. If you leave them out at room temperature then they get really sticky.
Each piece of sugar glass has its own identity. Some pieces have little air bubbles that have tried to escape from the surface, and others have a wonderful transparency when held to the light. The colours have a richness to them, a fiery quality in fact, that contrasts beautifully on a white background. Sometimes the pieces even look like little universes in your hand (not that I’ve spent hours admiring them or anything!). They are beautiful works of art and have a natural quality to them, similar to that of rock.
A few weeks later my freezer was filled with 3D geometric sugar glass shapes, ready to be arranged on the cake. It wasn’t going to be one of those cakes that you could decorate days before because the sugar glass would have melted and gone sticky. My only hope was to arrange them the night before and hope that they lasted until the next day.
My sister worked for days on making the actual cake, which was big enough to feed 120 people. After 32 eggs, icing rolled out to the size of a dining room table, and some very sore hands, the cake was delivered in its full glory to the venue the night before. It was seriously heavy too, it was a bit like a wooden plinth ready for its artwork.
It was time to start composing the form. For the next hour I was in the zone, carefully picking up pieces of the frozen sugar glass and assembling them onto the cake. It was important to get the right positioning first time round, otherwise the sugar glass would have marked the delicate white icing. It was a very therapeutic process, choosing from the little 3D shapes and building up an organic composition. I was careful not to overcrowd the cake, frequently stepping back to ensure that the white space was being used for optimum effect. Finally, I get to a point where enough is enough. Less is more, so I stop right there.
This is the final masterpiece…. weeks of hard work from both myself and my very talented and patient sister. Let us know what you think of our geometric wedding cake!
(so you can find it again)