From collection to confection

I recently came across this article on Slate.com about a fundraising initiative created by Britain’s Art Fund. With Edible Masterpieces, the Art Fund sets forth a challenge to recreate works of art using food.

“Hmm,” I thought. “Someone should make a cake version of an object in PEM’s collection!”

Then, the overly ambitious corner of my brain took over that thought and turned it into:

“I should make a cake version of an object in PEM’s collection!”

Thanks, brain.

Although I did start daydreaming about possibilities that are way beyond my skill level — a marzipan nestuke rabbit, the swirling pink layers of the 1950s pleated turban rendered in fondant over a chocolate and raspberry layer cake, the vase by Sidney R. Hutter turned into a fragile sugar sculpture — the first piece that popped into my mind was Biren De’s You-July ’70, 1970, which will be on view as part of Figuring the Abstract in Indian Art starting April 5th.

Biren De, You-July '70, 1970. Gift, The Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection

Biren De, You-July ’70, 1970. Gift, The Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection

I love the colors, and the circular shape could fit nicely on the top of a cake, so I set to work planning out my sugary rendition. I knew I wanted to incorporate spices that would pay homage to the artist’s Indian heritage, and landed on a recipe for a cake spiced with cardamom and ginger. With only six ingredients, the simple cake would be an easy to manage blank canvas (bonus, it’s gluten free!).

Six simple ingredients, a LOT of egg whipping to get rise from the foam, and 30 minutes at 350°.

Six simple ingredients, a LOT of egg whipping to get rise from the foam, and 30 minutes at 350°.

Instead of the recipe’s syrup top, I needed a white base to go under the design. I decided on a no-fuss white chocolate buttercream (the only ingredients are white chocolate and butter!), which I thinned out, both in texture and richness, with a bit of coconut milk. Not being a fan of food dye, I then turned to my favorite source of color, fruit. Achieving the yellow, orange, and red swirls took four flavors of jam: seedless strawberry, apricot, lemon curd, and a last minute addition of cranberry to give the orange and red some extra vibrancy.

I made two cakes because I wanted to have a test batch. I also used leftover buttercream spread on parchment paper to help me play with the color mixing.

I made two cakes so I could use one for testing out techniques. I also used leftover buttercream spread on parchment paper to help me play with the color mixing. (Top center, that’s me not letting any of the buttercream go to waste.)

I used a biscuit cutter to outline the center circle, then a toothpick to sketch out concentric circles from there. I tried out a number of jam application techniques on my test cake: spoon, piping, toothpicks. The best, though tedious, turned out to be a very small cheese knife that I could use the apply the jam one little inch at a time. Once the circles were on, I ran a toothpick through from outside to center to create the dips in the pattern.

Top: part of my not-so-pretty test cake. Bottom: circles pre-toothpick-swirling.

Top: part of my not-so-pretty test cake. Bottom: circles pre-toothpick-swirling.

The final product isn’t perfect (the cake recipe without the syrup comes out a little dry and you can see where my patience started to wear thin with that outside jam circle), but I think I captured some of the essence of the painting. It was certainly a fun endeavor!

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Success!

With cardamom, white chocolate, and jam, this is artwork that smells delicious!

With cardamom, white chocolate, and jam, this is artwork that smells delicious!

The PEM staff got to enjoy the spoils.

The PEM staff got to enjoy the spoils.

 Ready to take on the challenge and create your own edible art? Art Fund has recipes on their site, and I’d recommend checking out Caitlin Freeman’s book, Modern Art Desserts.

Editor’s Note: For a further foray into India and food, swing by our hugely popular Sensational India Festival, April 5 and 6. Morning story time features Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth about one of the most well-known Indian deities taken on a journey led by his love of sweets. The beautifully illustrated book is by Sanjay Patel and Emily Haynes.

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Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth
10:30-11 am | meet at information desk
For families with children ages 3 and up

4 Comments

  1. gail spilsbury says:

    You, and your product, are works of art!

  2. Tamara G. says:

    How creative! And it looks delicious, too.

  3. bostonbeerman says:

    This looks awesome and I am sure it tastes delicious. I would pair it up with a Belgian style tripel ale that has hints of pepper, cardamom, and cloves.

  4. Elliot says:

    Love this! I’m sure it was a big hit!

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